The ambassador to the United States for the European Union (“His Excellency” John Bruton, former prime minister of Ireland), gave a Kennedy Center lecture at BYU yesterday.

He shared a lot of interesting information about the EU, how it functions, and why it is important to the US (e.g. over 70% of foreign investment in the US is from Europe). Two things stuck out in my mind from his speech. One is the imbalance of wealth in the US and EU compared to the rest of the world (Europe has 30% of world’s wealth with 7% of the world’s population; the US has 28% of world’s wealth wit 5% of the world’s population) – and ideally as a result the stewardship we should feel to make the world a better place (I know that is optimistic of me, but at least I can hope).

The second thing that stuck out to me, although I wish he would have gone into more detail, was when he mentioned the differences between Europe and the US.

In response to a question about public opinion in Europe toward the US, he said he would not talk to a US audience about it, but then he told us what he would say to a European audience. My paraphrase of the speech he would give to Europeans:

“Even if the president of the US changes, or even the party in power charge changes, don’t expect too much change from America. It always has had its:

  • Own special interests that it tends to cater for
  • Own sense of history, what works and what doesn’t work
  • Own political system with certain reflexes built in

We are different. It is OK that we are different. Just recognize the difference, try to understand those differences and respect them. Just like American’s should understand that Europe is different, and we have different expectations, reactions, etc.”

So the most obvious question is whether you agree that it is OK that there are differences between the US and Europe? I imagine that some differences obviously cause more concern than others (e.g. policy towards war vs. favorite foods).

But that is not where I want to start. I prefer to explore and try to understand what more of the differences are first before judging some of the most obvious and controversial ones. So I want to start by asking:

What do you think are some of the differences between Europe and the US? (your personal perception)

He didn’t go into that much from his perspective, but I wish he would have. Then I’d like to ask:

Of those differences, are they “OK” and should we just “understand” and “respect” them? Why or why not?