Why the Freshman Reading Program? Why Hot, Flat, and Crowded?

Siegel-croppedToday’s guest post is by our Dean of Freshmen, Fred Siegel.   Dean Siegel lives and works on the Mount Vernon Campus.  When you meet him (and 2013 – you will) wear a Red Sox cap, a University of Michigan jersey and hum some classical music.  You’ll make a fast friend.


Each year, GW invites the incoming freshman class to read a book and to participate in discussions about what they have read.  It is an opportunity to share ideas, encourage open-mindedness, and foster substantive dialogue even before the transition to the college classroom is complete.  The Freshman Reading Program unites students from different backgrounds by engaging them in discussion about common themes and by encouraging them to use their varied experiences as a catalyst for healthy debate.

This year’s selection, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman, was chosen to create for the Class of 2013 an awareness about a number of issues facing today’s generation.  In his book, Friedman explains the recent convergence of three global phenomena: climate change, globalization that has led to a worldwide middle class, and rapid population growth.  In summary, the world is now hot, flat and crowded.  And, because of this, Friedman challenges America to step up to the plate and tackle some serious issues:

[Green] is the new red, white, and blue: because it is a strategy that can help to ease global warming, biodiversity loss, energy poverty, petrodictatorship, and energy supply shortages – and make America stronger at the same time.  We solve our own problems by helping the world solve its problems.  We help the world solve its problems by solving our own problems (173).

What does this mean to you, the newest members of the GW community?  To me, it is a call to action for your generation to become active and engaged citizens, for you to share your passions and opinions about today’s world.  It is not the time to sit back and watch the world go by, regardless of your political leanings.

No matter your opinion about these topics, it is time for you to take a stand in what you believe.  Get involved in this discussion.  Do your part to be a passionate citizen of your generation and for the Class of 2013.  Write about why this generation, and Americans in particular, has the responsibility to act; ask questions about Friedman’s assumptions and stimulate debate with your classmates and others in the GW community.

Make a decision and act on it – care enough to take a side.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Please also remember to share your reactions to Hot, Flat, and Crowded with me by e-mail to fsiegel@gwu.edu by Friday, August 21.  The authors of the best responses will be invited to a dinner with me and other special guests.

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