WORCESTER – Despite a host of challenges America faces on the world stage, there is no reason not to remain hopeful about the country’s future, former ambassador R. Nicholas Burns said Wednesday before an address to the Worcester Economic Club.
Mr. Burns, a career diplomat and U.S. ambassador to Greece who traces a wide swath of his family tree to Worcester, came to the College of the Holy Cross to give the keynote at the 553rd meeting of the Economic Club.
He said there’s a lot of pessimism about the state of global politics and economic forces, but in fact, the global economy is in good shape, and we’re living in a time that has seen the greatest alleviation of poverty in the last 30 years. Diseases like polio are close to being eradicated, and the promise of the digital age is delivering, with artificial intelligence and human genome breakthroughs making lives better.
And geo-politically, Mr. Burns added, the world has avoided military conflict on the level of the world wars of the last century.
America has played, and continues to play, a role on that global stage, he said.
“America matters to the world,” he said.
Its economic and military power still influence decision-making across the globe, but that sense of leadership that positioned the United States so well over the past 70 years is being challenged, Mr. Burns said.
Political pressures and electoral sways domestically have given way to a pulling back in foreign affairs. He said the U.S. has retreated from some important alliances and has abandoned trade and climate agreements. He said President Donald Trump has not been a strong leader at a time when there are challenges to democracy in Europe, while at the same time autocratic regimes in Russia and China exert their growing influence. And his stance on immigration goes against the ideals on which the country was built, Mr. Burns said.