Gifford Lecture Series: Rick Steves!



I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Rick Steves speak for the Gifford Lecture Series on March 15th.  The FFL has many of Steves’ books in the collection and if you would like to learn more about Steves’ perspective, stop by the library and check them out!

The essential message of Steves’ lecture was simple: broaden your perspective. He believes that people should travel to get out of their comfort zone in order to see what’s truly happening in the world.  He directed the audience to bring that information back to the US and challenge ourselves and our neighbors to ‘do it better’.

Steves stated that it is important to learn from travel and that the only way to do this is to meet and interact with people. In his lecture, he pointed out that it can be a powerful experience to spend time with people who see life from a different perspective.  Steves suggests that many Americans’ travel experience includes fitting five meals into one day and still making time to snorkel (cruising) and Steves is adamant that this is NOT traveling.  It may be fun but it is not traveling.

Steves also discussed how American media has affected our travel. “It’s charming to think news in America is news… it’s entertainment.” He emphasized how reporting news has become all about money and ratings that are accomplished by creating hysterical news programming.  Steves thinks that it is important that we not let this kind of news shape our perspective about the world and cited his recent trip to Greece as an example.  News media has been reporting on the riots and anarchy there for months; from his personal experience, Steves said this is simply not the case. There are some protests and the occasional anarchist group that takes advantage of having a news crew around to film them, but he emphasized that Greece is not falling apart.

Steves reiterated that he is not an ‘America-Basher’; he loves this country and would not want to live or work anywhere else.  During his lecture he said that every country has its own dream, it just may not be the ‘American Dream’.  Steves pointed out that many people around the world love individual Americans, they just do not like our trade policy and perceived militarism.  Steves noted that our country represents four percent of the world’s population and yet we have more money and resources invested in our military than the remaining ninety-six percent of the world. This fact affects the way people from other countries view America. Steves said, “America has a brand problem, an image problem.”

Steves believes that Americans shouldn’t stay home and avoid traveling because of terrorism.  He stated that it is important to realize that those who peddle fear (e.g. politicians and the media) also have an agenda. He said, “the flip side of fear is understanding.”  He believes that we should travel more to fight terrorism because it is harder to demonize people you know.

Steves concluded his lecture by stating that the most powerful souvenir you can bring home from a trip is a broader perspective and that we should refuse to be “dumbed down” by news media. He believes that it is essential to go out into the world and get first-hand experience if we are to be engaged world citizens.

For more information please check out:
The Gifford Lecture Series
Find Steves' books at the library