For many years, my father’s family operated a small country store in Glenarm, Illinois—along Route 66, midway between Chicago and St. Louis.
It was a past generation’s view of a mini-mart or rest stop. They sold comic books and soft drinks and lunch meat by the slice. There were two gas pumps out front and four rental cabins in back.
Day after day, my Dad’s family pumped gas and served up Coca Cola in bottles to weary travelers. Sometime in the late 1950s, the state built a new highway, Interstate 55. And there was no off ramp leading to the store.
Their business declined. One day they were filling up gas tanks and tidying cabins; the next, the highway passed them by.
Today, nearly a half century later, this same scenario seems commonplace. Many Americans who thought they would follow their parents into factories and foundries now find those businesses closed. High-tech workers in the U.S. look over their shoulders at increasing competition from overseas professionals.
Many Americans feel vulnerable and uneasy as they look to a future that seems dominated by forces beyond their control.
For others, change has brought great promise and opportunity. My dad, Edward Murphy, left the family store to become a lawyer and taught in the law school at this university for 37 years. More recently, average Americans find themselves conducting business on a daily basis with people in countries all over the world. Some multinational corporations, small companies and entrepreneurs are experiencing remarkable growth and prosperity. Others are trying to reinvent themselves for survival.
One thing is for sure. With technological advances and the acceleration of global trade, the future will hold more change—not less.
This issue's cover story deals with the challenges of globalization. Weighing these issues from Notre Dame, let us be mindful of what the U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote in their pastoral letter on the economy in 1986: “Our faith calls us to measure this economy, not by what it produces but also by how it touches human life and whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person. Economic decisions have human consequences and moral content; they help or hurt people, strengthen or weaken family life, advance or diminish the quality of justice in our land.”