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Bailey: Students should care about the world expo

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. 

What do Ferris wheels, IMAX and cherry Coke all have in common? They made their debut at world’s fairs.


World’s fairs used to be a huge deal. Like the Olympics, they were an opportunity for cities to get the world’s attention and gave a great excuse for public works to be created in the fair’s honor. One such public work was the famous Eiffel Tower at the 1889 expo in Paris.

Companies unveiled grand inventions at these fairs, as well as new foods. In 1893, at Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition, Pabst beer got its blue ribbon, and of course in 1984, Coca-Cola introduced cherry Coke in Knoxville, Tennessee.  

World’s fairs changed American culture every time we hosted. The idiom “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was born from a speech made at the 1904 world’s fair in St. Louis by John T. Stinson.

So you have to ask: What happened to world’s fairs? Why’d they stop? Well, the short answer is they didn’t, but America did. 

World’s fairs, or world expos as the rest of the world calls them, have continued on every couple years like clockwork. The United States even still sends people to them. So a better question to ask is “Why don’t we care anymore?”

The expos aren’t as flashy as they used to be, but they’re arguably more important.”

Growing up, I never heard about the world’s fairs or anything that came out of them. Learning about the 2008 world expo in Zaragoza, Spain, surprised me for two reasons — the expo’s main focus was the responsible use of water, and the U.S. didn’t participate.  

Water is one of the world’s most precious resources and is the center of all life on Earth. Us all agreeing on how to use it and maintain it — especially fresh water — is very important. In my opinion, a nation the size of the U.S. should have been there. As a country that constantly tells everyone else how we’re the “greatest country on Earth,” I don’t think we get to pass on showing up to a world expo.

The expos aren’t as flashy as they used to be, but they’re arguably more important.

The last few expos and the coming few have had sustainability at the center of their concerns, and while not as flashy as the Eiffel Tower, sustainable power and technology are critically important to the continued survival of our species.


Is now not — in the shadow of this crisis — the perfect time for a pitch of world unity? COVID-19 has been a tragedy that has affected all citizens of the globe. From this, we can come together in one place that is prebuilt for us at the world expo. 

The next expo is actually this year, hosted in the United Arab Emirates in Dubai. It starts in October, and its theme is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.” The world’s largest solar power project is set to launch with the expo. No one is expecting you to fly to Dubai and spend all your savings to stay there for the three to six months of the expo. It just needs people to pay attention.

The United States doesn’t have the greatest reputation worldwide. Part of that is our tendency to mostly pay attention to things within our own borders.

We, as the youth of our nation, should watch some of the expo, read about it, write about it, tweet about it and whatever else we can do. Not only will that empower the stage of the world expo to do greater things, but it will also give our nation a little better standing worldwide. At the very least, it can show that the youth of America care about the environment and sustainability more than our elders, which will annoy boomers.

Fynn Bailey can be reached at or on Twitter @FynnBailey.

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