America protects our flag, and even our currency from degradation, but somehow we have not yet seen the wisdom of protecting the 1.5 billion people who practice an otherwise peaceful religion called Islam, both here and around the world, from the il-conceived and wrong-headed 'so-called' religious views of a recent local nutcase with a camera, here in the U.S.
As a friend told me, if someone in the Middle East published a film saying these same things about Jesus Christ, more than 20% of Christians would be standing on the edge of insanity, having to be talked down from their emotional ledge, and walked back from irrational actions. The most basic message from our Christian Bible is this, "do onto others, as you would have them do onto you." If we Just stop right there, and ponder that, everything else becomes crystal clear.
The result of all of this is we simply gave an excuse to another nutcase, halfway around the world, who was waiting and looking for an excuse of any kind to strike against America, and on 9/11 no less. And so now we have more pain, heaped on top of more unhealed pain. Thanks all, for this. Myself included. We are all in this together, and none of us are doing enough to solve the problem.
I was in the Middle East on September 10th, one day prior, after having spend an otherwise incredible, enlightening and even eye-opening week in Saudi Arabia along with my Operation HOPE team, launching a partnership to advance the lives of youth in Saudi Arabia. I had even considered extending my trip by a day, traveling to Egypt on 9/11. I didn't, but everything might have been different if I did. And so, the nutcase in America didn't just place American lives in the balance in Libya, ending the lives of four Americans there — one of them our esteemed and respected US Ambassador Stevens — he also put mine at risk. Along with countless other Americans in other parts of the Middle East, there trying heal rifts, build bridges, and move our world forward.
That said, the real problem was and is not the American nutcase, nor his Libyan counterparts — but rather the utter lack of hope, a legacy of poverty, a lack of opportunity and aspiration, and no new jobs throughout the Middle East.
Think about this — no real job growth, for a region that will soon be 60% under the age of 25. There is no larger national security threat that a region that is 60% under the age of 25, with no aspirations (at least not positive ones), no opportunity, no jobs, little exposure to the broader world, and too much time on their hands. This doesn't just 'not work' in the Middle East, it doesn't work here in the United States of America either.
In Saudi Arabia alone, you have approximately 300,000 youth graduating from high school every year, approximately 100,000 of them going on into college, and the rest not knowing precisely what they are 'going on' into. Over three years time we are talking about 1 million youth, with not enough vision for their contribution to country, and too much time on their hands for themselves.
What the Middle East needs now are not so different from what American inner-city youth need now, or what the poor and discouraged youth in Paris and European suburbs need now – and that comes down to aspiration, hope and opportunity. More specifically, JOBS.
RAINBOWS, AFTER STORMS
You can look at a population with 60% of youth under the age of 25 in two ways — as a crisis waiting to happen, or an opportunity. I see it as a massive opportunity. In an environment where the largest economies in the world are effectively growing 'older,' the Middle East is on a youth binge like no other. All they need to do is to plug these same youth into a plan that works; for them, for country, and the world over.
Their future plan is not just about jobs, but<em> job creation</em>. News flash: Al Qaeda doesn't create jobs.
Here are the numbers for the largest economy in the world, the U.S.:
300 million people in America.
27 million businesses.
Approximately 6 million create jobs.
Of the 6 million, less than 1,000 businesses have 10,000 jobs or more. Less than 1,000.
Of those that remain, 99% employ 500 employees or less.
What does this mean? It means that we are all looking for love in all the wrong places.
Saudi Arabia, with a population of 27 million, should not be standing up an entire generation to either work in government, or the massive oil industry, or to not work at all. They should launch a massive, countrywide campaign — call it Saudi Arabia 2020 — to spur a generation of young entrepreneurs, small business owners and self-employment projects.
This is the LOVE LEADERSHIP speech I gave while in the country last week to Saudi Arabia's business elite; inclusive of the chamber of commerce, the Young President's Organization and the World President's Organization, amongst others. This is the new version of 'freedom' I spoke about to anyone who would listen while there — "freedom as ones ability to possess and act on self-determination in their lives." I called it silver rights. From civil rights, to silver rights empowerment.
This is why Operation HOPE has partnered with SEDCO Holdings in Saudi Arabia, to teach college age youth financial literacy (the global language of money), and why what we believe comes next is a massive focus on nurturing entrepreneurship, through things like HOPE Business In A Box, powered by our Gallup-HOPE Index (a 100 year partnership with the Gallup Organization). I told everyone I met that they should read Jim Clifton's new book, THE COMING JOBS WAR. Many, already had.
The message was extremely well received, and the on-the-ground work — led by a team of volunteer leaders in and from inside the country — has already begun. And then the tragedy of Libya struck, and the world was reminded again of the only image it seems to know of the region; strife.
I know of another image. I saw a different reality, and experienced a different spirit. I saw hope, mostly untapped and unrealized.
Here is what I know. The book the THE TIPPING POINT by Malcolm Gladwell reports that with 5% role models, any community stabilizes
Hope is so powerful, you only need 5% of it to change our world.
I see a new 5% rising up in the Middle East, and their business card doesn't say Al Qaeda, it says Entrepreneur.
Onward and with HOPE,
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum. Mr. Bryant serves on the board of directors of Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation, an NYSE Euronext publicly traded company, and a division of $54 billion Ares Capital.