OPINION

Dallas, it’s time to lead on global policy
We’ve built the infrastructure to offer thought leadership few other U.S. cities can
(Shaban Athuman/Staff Photographer)
By RICHARD W. FISHER

Dallas today is not the Dallas of old. We have enjoyed a rapid metamorphosis into a global city, with a pace of development and growth more akin to China’s boom cities than other American metro areas.

From American Airlines to AT&T and Frito Lay, we are home to some of the world’s largest companies. And some of the largest companies headquartered outside this country — Toyota, NTT Data, Alcon — have chosen North Texas as their American home. Our medical community has become internationally prominent. Our universities, private and public, are sought-after centers of intellectual achievement. Our population has ballooned through international immigration and with the diaspora from New York, California and the upper Midwest. We are today a global city.

Dallas has always dreamed big. We like the best, and we aim for the top. And now that we are in a global leadership position, it’s time to lead globally.

As our area began growing into a hub for multinationals and DFW International Airport made us a global port, it became apparent our business and intellectual communities lacked a forum where they could cross-pollinate and share the challenges and opportunities in the world around us — in Latin America, a fast-changing Asia, a post-wall Europe. In 1988, I was a founder of the Dallas Committee on Foreign Relations (DCFR), a nonpartisan network of members who pool their expertise and draw in the best analysts from around the world to inform Dallas’ leaders seeking wisdom in an always convulsive geopolitical and economic environment.

The DCFR helped put Dallas on the map by hosting Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Russia’s Boris Yeltsin, China’s then-Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, and scores of political and thought leaders from Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, Japan and Western and Eastern Europe. The committee served then, as it does today, as an intimate forum not for speeches but for meaningful conversations and exchanges with our carefully chosen membership. Those world leaders joined us here in Dallas, enlightened us and came away with a whole new perspective on who we are, what we know and what we are able to achieve.

Other international groups have joined this noble cause. The World Affairs Council invites speakers to address international issues for the wider public, and the Dallas chapters of various country-focused bodies such as the French-American Chamber of Commerce, the Canada-Texas Chamber of Commerce, the U.S.-China Chamber and several others give the many companies and immigrants from around the world a way to build community roots that in turn strengthen Dallas’ voice in the world.

The Dallas Regional Chamber has been a strong ambassador, transcending dated big-hatted stereotypes. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a big hat!) And forums at the Bush Presidential Center, the Tower Center at Southern Methodist University and our other universities have sprung up to enhance better understanding of the world around us and the world’s understanding of us.

The Dallas Committee on Foreign Affairs was founded to avoid our falling victim to what Winston Churchill identified as the “disadvantages and even dangers to us in standing aloof.” Now, over 30 years later, North Texas stands tall in the world. We are getting global recognition as a diverse, sophisticated, international hub.

Now, more than ever, business and thought leaders in North Texas who are engaged internationally should support groups like the DCFR and other international forums to ensure they get, and provide, a unique window on the world that isn’t formulated solely in New York, Washington (God help us), Brussels or Beijing. It is time for Dallas to exert itself into the thought leadership of global policymaking.

Richard W. Fisher is a senior adviser at Barclay’s and a former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.