On February 17, your Chamber executed on a fabulously successful Annual Meeting. It was so wonderful to see so many of you in person, and the energy throughout the evening was palpable. As you know, our keynote speaker was General Paul Nakasone, the Director of the NSA and Commander of US CYBERCOM. Looking back, the timing – and our speakers’ much bigger responsibilities – gives me pause. Up until the very day of the event, we were preparing for the potential of a virtual appearance from the General. Now we know why, don’t we? Despite the international crisis that subsequently ensued, General Nakasone still chose to take the trip to Minnesota to talk to you. I find that extraordinary. His message: business is vulnerable to cyber intrusions, take steps to protect your business.
And today? All eyes are focused - with horror – on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. No one more so than our Minnesotans with Ukrainian ties. The juxtaposition, one week to the next, grips me.
To add to my ruminations, last week I read a commentary by The New York Times communist German Lopez, Putin vs Democracy. Lopez speaks to the “global retreat” of democracy worldwide for the past 15+ years. The invasion of Ukraine — the largest war in Europe since World War II — is a significant escalation even among the world’s increasingly ruthless authoritarian leaders. The country’s fall would mark a violent end to one of the world’s democracies. “Maneuvers like Putin’s, as well as insufficient pushback from other governments, have fostered this global democratic decline, experts say. Just one in five people now live in countries designated as “free,” down from nearly one in two in 2005, a new report from Freedom House found.”
Freedom House is the oldest U.S. organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world. It originally was established in New York in 1941 to promote American involvement in World War II to fight against fascism. Its current president, Michael Abramowitz, said to The New York Times in that same article, that the invasion of Ukraine is “a taste of what a world without checks on antidemocratic behavior would look like.”
Note that President Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday at 9 p.m. I will be watching to learn more about the U.S. and world response.
See you in the trenches.
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