Summary of That Used to Be Us

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That Used to Be Us book summary


9 Overall

8 Importance

8 Innovation

9 Style


In this self-styled “wake-up call and pep talk,” award-winning journalist Thomas L. Friedman and professor and foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum offer their diagnosis of what they see as America’s decline and set out some ideas to arrest its fall. In the first part, they largely succeed, detailing with illustrative, eye-opening stories and studies the depth of the problems Americans have ignored for too long: globalization, technology, national debt and climate change. However, they lose some steam in their prescriptive section where the challenges they outline seem to call for more than a pep talk – although their ideas are worth considering and are great fodder for debates on real issues. Be prepared: Parts of this book make you want to cry; others make you want to scream; some pages do both. getAbstract suggests this bestseller to those in education, business and the public sector who want to understand the magnitude of America’s challenges before rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on solutions.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What four primary challenges face America today,
  • How the “five pillars of prosperity” established America’s past success,
  • How they can renew the nation’s sense of purpose and
  • Why today’s political dysfunction requires an innovative alternative.

About the Authors

The author of five bestsellers, Thomas L. Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at The New York Times. Michael Mandelbaum is a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and directs the university’s American Foreign Policy Program.



Diagnosis: Critical
Americans of all types and stripes know in their gut that something’s wrong with the US. Many share a pervading sense that the nation’s “best days are behind it,” and that the future belongs to emerging powerhouses like China. Americans have become increasingly accustomed...

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