The Naim Effect

Interview
INTO THE LIFE OF MOISES NAIM

WITH A REPUTATION FOR DEEP ANALYSES ON GLOBAL ISSUES, VENEZUELAN-AMERICAN THINKER MOISES NAIM HAS MADE A NAME FOR HIMSELF AS ONE OF THE GO-TO AUTHORS FOR WORLD LEADERS, AND AS SUCH, HAS TURNED INTO A GLOBETROTTING JOURNALIST AND LECTURER WHOSE INSIGHTS CAUSE AN IMMEDIATE EFFECT WORLDWIDE.

By Linda Marx

Moises Naim is a hard-working man with in-depth specialties and a peripatetic lifestyle. He is an internationally known lecturer, author, columnist and commentator on globalization, international politics and economics. His columns are published by the likes of Spain’s El Pais, Italy’s La Repubblica and Brazil’s O Globo.

With his vast knowledge in the fields of global finance, business and international politics, Moises Naim is a sought-after speaker around the world.

As a journalist, internationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and host/ director of the weekly DirecTV program Efecto Naim—which focuses on foreign affairs with input from fascinating newsmakers—Naim wants to keep his audience intrigued and educated.

“I tackle highly complex issues, then I talk to people on a layman’s level so they can understand,” says Naim, 63, who is a native of Venezuela but has lived in Washington, DC for the past two decades. “I need to appeal to a variety of audiences.”

His polished research skills, gleaned through years of experience, help him tackle tough subjects with knowledge and aplomb.

With dual citizenship, Moises Naim is constantly traveling through the Americas, Europe and Asia. He uses these trips to broaden his horizons through contact with people from diverse backgrounds. He recently returned from a speaking engagement in Portugal, yet just a few days later he was already on a plane for another lecture in another fascinating country.

His busy life in Washington is filled with twelve to fourteen hour work days, and involves researching, writing, meeting new people, hosting his TV show and staying on top of world news and politics. “The TV show really keeps my mind going all of the time,” he says. “I am always looking for something new and original with an innovative slant. I stay on my toes.”

Naim has written ten books on topics related to international economics, geopolitics and economic development. His most recent tome, The End of Power, is a thorough examination of how power is changing in the world. After reading it from cover to cover, former U.S. President Bill Clinton remarked, “It will change the way you read the news, the way you think about politics, and the way you look at the world.” Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg selected the title for his Year of Books Challenge.

The author’s 2005 book Illicit, a detailed expose on modern criminal networks, was selected by the Washington Post as one of the best nonfiction books of the year. It was published in eighteen languages and is the basis of an Emmy Award-winning National Geographic documentary. “I am lucky that my books do well,” he says. “I work hard and complete my research.”

He is currently researching another book but believes it’s too early to reveal the contents or much else about it, because he knows that when the book is completed, it will receive a great deal of attention.

As the former editor of Foreign Policy magazine (1996- 2010), who reshaped the venerable publication into a modern periodical on global politics and economics, Naim gained a great deal of international recognition.

His speaking and travel opportunities have also increased his profile and given him a wide-eyed lens to what is happening in the world. And what he sees is not all good. “I see climate change, fragile economies, radical Islam and inequality as the biggest issues we face today,” says Naim, who holds masters and PhD degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Things have worsened since Naim left his beloved Venezuela. Anti-government protests, coups and constant fear of violence plague people in his homeland, yet he hopes for change. “I am worried about my country,” he says.

While living there throughout most of his life, Naim served as its Minister of Trade and Industry, as Director of the Central Bank and Executive Director of the World Bank. He still loves and visits Venezuela where he sees many friends and family members. But his life these days is in the States. “I moved to Washington to become a member of the board of the World Bank,” says the author. “Washington is one of the world’s most electric cities. It’s like a house of cards.”

Moises Naim, also a Distinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, is fascinated with the city’s think tanks, medical research facilities, policy centers, financial institutions and intellectual life. He also finds its waterfront and harbor location quite beautiful.

When he and his wife Dr. Susana Feldman Naim, a psychiatrist in private practice, go out on the town, they enjoy dinner parties and movies. “We have an active social life,” says Naim, who plays tennis a few times weekly and runs nearly every day. “But the best part of my day is the feeling of accomplishment after finishing an article. I like the joy of satisfaction from a job well done.”

As the father of three children—a doctor, a marketing executive and a TV producer—Naim has advice to those young people starting out in journalism, a challenging field these days as digital takes over the world and print becomes less relevant.

Moises Naim says it is important to find a specialty, master it, and then go for it in a big way. “Get the best training in the world on the subject that interests you whether it’s economics, politics, food, or theater,” he says. “Then use that knowledge to write about it.”

That’s what he did…and it certainly worked for him.

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