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Thomas Friedman is a frequent visitor to the valley and was a speaker at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival.

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Foreign Affairs Goes Local

By Dipika Rai

Photo by Ralph Alswang

08.29.18

The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is a global citizen who keeps coming back to Aspen.

Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author, including The World Is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded, has a special fondness for Aspen, where his mother-in-law has a home. His hugely successful titles—partly written in Aspen—have comforted readers and helped them to explore and make sense of complex global trends. As a diviner of patterns, his books usually grow out of his reporting and columns. Digging deeper, he starts to see trends emerge within global perspectives, and when he sees enough such patterns, an explanatory framework starts to take shape—sometimes in the form of a book.

   His work philosophy—“If you don’t go, you don’t know. Going doesn’t guarantee getting it right, but it reduces the odds of getting it wrong.”—means that first-hand experience is irreplaceable. And it could well be a tagline for his discovery of Aspen. He was introduced to the town by his wife, Ann, who is also the person who reads his columns before they are submitted. They first visited in the summer of ’76, when there was still a Moroccan restaurant in the Hotel Jerome. As someone who likes to hike, golf and swim in his downtime, he is particularly fond of hiking up the Ute Trail and Hunter Creek Valley. In the winter, he also likes to hike Aspen Highlands and enjoys the Ashcroft and Pine Creek Cookhouse experiences.

   “The exercise and the great food are what keep me coming back,” he says. But it’s more than that, as the Friedmans have strong Aspen ties. His wife is on the boards of both the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Aspen Institute, where Friedman has given many talks and attended several seminars. “The Institute is a wonderful resource,” he says, “providing intellectual engagement that spices up the dialogue and enriches our lives.”

   Friedman’s latest project is about “climate” change in the broadest sense of the term that encompasses not only the environment, but the changes affected by acceleration in technology and globalization. According to him, these key elements will define and reshape our world and our politics. No doubt his forthcoming book will include Friedman-isms that will once again inform and reassure us.