The Liberal Arts and the Professions
March 6, 2020
(overlapping chatter) Good afternoon, and welcome to Washington and Lee and to the opening event of our inaugural festivities. Today’s panel on the Liberal Arts and the professions features four individuals with deep roots in liberal arts education and extraordinary professional accomplishments in a wide variety of fields. They will be led in conversation by our own Suzanne King, dean of the college. My role is just to introduce the participants to you and get out of the way. Kelly Evans Chemi is a familiar face, many of you remember Kelly from her time on campus, which was not very long ago, it’s a little alarming, both in the classroom and on the lacrosse field, where she was an all-state attacker and team captain, and many of you have watched Kelly on CNBC, where she is co-anchor of Closing Bell each weekday afternoon. Kelly entered W&L thinking she might major in politics and also considered romance languages before a summer internship at Bank of America piqued her interest in seeing the world through the lens of financial markets. She majored in business journalism and notes her good fortune to have attended a liberal arts university where that is possible. I’m especially pleased to see a number of philosophy courses on her transcript, including one on Wittgenstein. Kelly graduated magna cum laude in 2007 and joined The Wall Street Journal that same year, covering real estate and economics. Her first bylines appeared during a financial crisis that was treacherous for investors, but provided opportunities for young reporters to demonstrate their skill and versatility. Kelly quickly became the host of the Journal’s first online video cast news hub, she moved to CNBC in 2012, a winner of Washington and Lee’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award, Kelly generously shares her time and talent with her alma mater. She moderated a mock convention debate between James Carville and Ann Coulter in 2012, it takes a lot of talent. (audience laughs) And last winter gave a group of W&L students an insider’s look at The New York Stock Exchange. Kelly was raised right here in Rockbridge County and we are thrilled to welcome her home today. That’s very kind. (audience applauding) Bill Miller is also known to many of you as a member of the Washington and Lee family, Bill graduated in 1972 with honors in economics. After service as a Military Intelligence Officer, followed by studies in the PhD program in philosophy at Johns Hopkins, Bill became treasurer of the J.E. Baker Company before joining Legg Mason Capital Management in 1981. During 35 years at Legg Mason, Bill not only rose to the position of Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, but also achieved famed for beating the S&P 500 index for 15 consecutive years, from 1991 to 2005. The streak prompted The New York Times to call him the Joe DiMaggio of mutual fund investors. Fortune Magazine described his investing style as iconoclastic, noting that Miller had spent decades studying free-thinking overachievers and along the way, he’s become one himself. Currently the Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of his own firm, Miller Value Partners, Bill is also Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Fe Institute, an independent non-profit, whose researchers endeavored understand and unify the underlying, shared patterns in complex physical, biological, social, cultural, technological, and even possible astrobiological worlds. Considered one of the institute’s most adventurous supporters, Bill has funded The Miller Omega Program, which supports projects, individuals, and events that aspire to explore the frontiers of our understanding of the complex universe. He lives in Baltimore, cheers for the Ravens and the Orioles, reads Schopenhauer in his spare time, and owns Jake, the world’s smartest bulldog. World’s smartest dog.
Dog. (audience laughs) Dr. Harold Varmus was co-recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes, the genetic basis of cancer. Currently, he’s the Lewis Thomas University Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, and a Senior Associate at the New York Genome Center. He was formerly director of both the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. Although he entered Amherst College intending to prepare for medical school, he majored in english literature with a thesis on the novels of Charles Dickens, and was editor of the college newspaper, The Amherst Student. Harold’s deputy editor was none other than my father, Earl Dudley, his college classmate, in the audience today. Together they organized a demonstration at the White House in the spring of 1960 in support of the sit-ins to integrate Southern lunch counters, which landed them on the front page of The New York Times. Harold went on to earn a master’s degree in English from Harvard, where his focus was on Anglo-Saxon and metaphysical poetry, but the pull of science proved too powerful, and he opted to enter medical school at Columbia, rather than continue the pursuit of a career as a literary scholar. Harold was denied entrance to Harvard Medical School not once, but twice, causing him to observe, “There are more medical schools than Harvard. (audience laughs) “Harvard may not know that, but others do.” (audience laughs) Dr. Varmus’ honors and awards are legion, his research has been ground-breaking, and I suspect Harvard regrets its decision to this day, let’s welcome Harold Varmus. (audience applauds) Judge Gregory Woods graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in 1991 with a major in art history. He then attended Yale Law School, where he distinguished himself with prizes for best brief and best oral argument in the school’s Moot Court Competition. Greg began his legal career as a trial attorney with the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, where he focused on fighting fraud. He then moved to the private sector, rising to become a partner with the New York firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, where he served on the firm’s pro bono committee and the boards of several community organizations. Greg returned to Washington in 2009 to become Deputy General Council at the US Department of Transportation, before becoming General Council at the US Department of Energy in 2012. He was nominated by President Barack Obama in May, 2013, to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. During his senate confirmation hearing, Greg was asked which elements of judicial temperament he considers most important. He replied, “A judge should render objective, “impartial, and fair decisions, “a judge should also treat all who come before him “or her with dignity and respect. “I believe that the most important element “in judicial temperament is moderation, a moderate, “restrained temperament supports the judge’s ability “to render impartial and fair judgements “in all cases solely on the basis “of the law and facts presented in a case.” The full Senate wisely confirmed Judge Woods by a voice vote, I will always think of Greg as a college freshmen, which he was when we first met. (audience laughs) Our intrepid moderator, Suzanne Keen, is the Dean of the College and the Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English at Washington and Lee, where she’s been a member of the faculty since 1995. Suzanne received degrees in english literature and creative writing from Brown University, before earning a masters and PhD in english language and literature at Harvard. She taught at Yale prior to arriving at W&L, where her courses have ranged from contemporary British fiction to literary approaches to poverty. She has combined a long-time devotion to the novel with insights gleaned from recent neuroscience, developmental and social psychology, and the science of emotions. Suzanne is a recognized authority on literary empathy. She was instrumental in launching the Digital Humanities Initiative at W&L, a collaborative effort involving faculty, librarians, and information technology professionals. Prior to being appointed Dean in 2013, Suzanne served as the head of the English Department and Chair of several faculty committees, let’s welcome Suzanne. (audience applauds) And with that, Dean Keen, take it away. Thank you so much, President Dudley. It is a tremendous honor to be sharing the stage with these distinguished panelists on such a wonderful occasion, and thank you all for being here. A word to my panelists, I’m gonna choose one of you to direct the question to first, but then the other three may follow and answer after that first person has had a chance to answer, but you’re not obliged to. But the person that I choose first has to say something. (audience laughs) Alright, so the first question is going to be directed immediately to my right, to Dr. Varmus, to Harold, in my field, a prized form of analysis is close reading, which means careful examination of texts. But there are many other methods of analysis that we practice in our professions. Panelists, but starting with Harold, what are some of the fundamental modes of analysis, ways of thinking critically, that you find yourself relying upon in your professional lives? Did you begin to learn that way, or a related way of critical thinking when you were in college? Okay, I’m ready to, I’m game to be the first, and. Thank you. Fellow panelists, please feel free to interrupt at any point, so I could say a lot about the kinds of analyses we do today as cancer biologists, but let me go back to the original sin formula that you brought up, that is, how did we learn to analyze things, and to me, in the way I approach things, it all begins with the evidence, and I learned that message not in a science course, but through a course in literature in which I was exposed to the writings of I.A. Richards, a notable literary critic in the early part of the 20th century, who wrote a book called Practical Criticism, which emphasized the idea that when you think about poetry, you should not think about what others have said about that poet, or his work, or her work, but instead look at the words on the page, the words on the page are the evidence about what, of what the poet intends to say. He tried to explore that simple notion through experiments, something that now appeals to me in retrospect as a scientist, by asking students of literature to interpret these poems, and many of them, of course, fell back on received opinions, but the best comments always came from people who looked at the actual words on the page and tried to understand what the words meant. Today, as a scientist, or as a political scientist, someone who works with the government to support science, unlike many in our current government, we are highly committed to making decisions about what to do next and how to interpret the world by looking at the evidence, which may not be complete or totally convincing, but beginning with what is delivered through scientific essays or as words on the page. What a wonderful start. (audience laughs) I’ll say that as a lawyer, that one of the principal things that we do is exactly what you do, which is look critically at text. You know, we are looking and parsing through cases, statutes, regulations, looking for these minor differences in words, is the, does the jury instruction say you are to consider this simply for this purpose or solely for this purpose, they both begin with S and end with L-Y, but they have dramatically different meanings for the people that are looking at them. So we do a lot of textual analysis, which I learned in college, but I’ve been thinking about Will’s introduction and the fact I was an art history major in college, and we spent, in one of my classes, time looking at the Mona Lisa and talking about it from different analytical and philosophical perspectives. And I think that we do a lot of that, too, as lawyers, too, I’m like Dr. Varmus, we don’t always have absolute truth in the law, we’re sort of looking at different pieces of evidence from different perspectives, and that was something that I learned in college as an analytical approach, and it’s something that I continue to do in practice and in my job now. Let me just briefly disabuse you of the idea that scientists believe in absolute truth. That’s what my doctor tells me. (audience laughs) Well, I’m fond of the doctor. (laughs) No, you know, we make approximations, science, the scientific view of things is always changing and one of the dangers of science is that as scientists, we admit that there’s always more work to be done, and that often becomes the argument against accepting climate change, or accepting the idea that tobacco causes cancer, there’s always more research to be done, that’s not an excuse for accepting what we know now. Would either of the two of you like to jump in on critical thinking? Sure, I’ll offer it, with respect to the liberal arts and the profession that I’m in, and the profession is really security analysis, trying to figure out what, how to analyze securities and think about them, the father of that is Benjamin Graham, who was trained as a classicist, and he studied classics and mathematics and was, in fact, when he got out of Columbia, he was offered a professorship of, in either area, but chose to go into capital markets. And he created kind of the taxonomy of securities analysis, and before him there was no such profession, and now it’s a well-established profession. And one of the things that I think goes on in the profession that I’m in is the attempt to try and predict, what’s the economy going to do, what are companies going to do? And Benoît Mandelbrot, who invented fractal geometry, I think had a better take on that, where he said, he said, “Failure to explain is due “to failure to describe,” what we’re really trying to do is trying to describe what’s going on, and Danny Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in economics, it’s a statement about economics that a person who never took an economics course, Dan Kahneman, would win the Nobel Prize in economics, you would not find that in physics, for example, or in any other, probably other profession. But Kahneman noted in what’s called prospect theory, he said, “Probability is attached “to the descriptions of events “and not to the events themselves.” And so I think one of the things that has been most influential in the way that I’ve thought about things, I took a philosophy course, second semester, senior year at W&L, I never took a philosophy course before because this is in the late 1960s, early 1970s, and I thought philosophy was sort of a highfalutin way of naval gazing and not really anything much more than that. But I was curious and took the class in philosophy of language with Ramsey Martin, and it really opened my eyes in terms of rigorous analytical thinking, and one of the things that that has been, and then I went to grad school in philosophy at Hopkins, as Will noted. And one of the things that’s really interesting about the philosophical approach, or philosophical-analytical approach is that if you think about the way that, with the law, our legal system is constructed, it’s constructed in adversarial way, and so you’re trying to knock down the other people’s arguments, you’re trying to, you’re trying to defend your own. And in philosophy, the thing that, one of the things that you’re emphasized is that if you see an argument, and one of the great things about philosophy is that you learn in philosophy that there are really good arguments, really stupid, absurd positions, and so I think that one of the things that philosophy teaches you to do and you’re trained to do is try and figure out not what’s wrong with the other person’s position, but what’s wrong with it, but what can be made right with it, what’s the strongest possible argument that can be made for that position, and then see if you can weaken it. And that’s one of the things that I think you can exploit in capital markets, which is that most people who are arguing for positions about whether they like Amazon or what they think the economy’s going to do aren’t really, they’re really arguing for a position and really, (mumbles) very much so to confirmation bias and some other psychological issues like that. So I think a lot of what you learn in the liberal arts is directly applicable, in ways of thinking, to what I do. I would just add, you know, we talk about rigorous thinking and the news media these days, it doesn’t get a very good rap a lot of the time. When I started at The Journal, it was interesting that a place which has such a difficult and rigorous process for publication, you know, one that brought me to tears every day because it was, you know, not just, what’s this piece of information that you’re gonna write about and publish for the paper, but, you know, do you have an illustrative anecdote to illustrate that, and, you know, if not, you’d better go find one right away. You know, and several layers of editors who would come back and challenge, you know, your point of view on something, especially the more important the story, the more often that happens, so that certainly by the time something gets on the front page, it’s been subjected to a number of people pushing back against your assumptions and saying, “Are you sure, are you sure,” and, “Can you prove it?” And for me, one of the difficulties with that, ultimately, is that a lot of the times, it is very hard to prove it, so if we think about the types of stories we read, you know, if you’re gonna take The Wall Street Journal as one example, if I’m told ahead of the time, and you can think about how the process of getting something that results in the front pages works, you know, we might know a month from now there’s gonna be a jobs report out, and we want to focus on the middle class and how they’re doing, for example, so, you know, “Kelly, why don’t you take three stats “that give you a cross section “of how the middle class is suffering, “for example, after the financial crisis. “Pick a town or a community that best illustrates the nexus “of those things, and then find a family “who’s willing to go on the record and open up “and talk about how it’s affected them personally.” And that process can, it’s very difficult, obviously, and it puts the journalist in a tough position of having to really gain the trust of these people, and then basically broadcasting their inner detail to the world, so keep that in mind when you’re reading some of these stories, never take for granted that you’re able to get the inner workings of a family or a community, because it’s very difficult to do and it’s really important for all of us to be able to relate to something that’s happening. Anyway, so even when you get that right, the process is a little bit predetermined, and so one of the things that I like about journalism is not just, can you learn the craft, can you understand how to write a good story that’s impactful, that summarizes something that’s going on, but have you, as the journalist, come to the right conclusion. You know, are you bringing your assumptions into the story when you’re writing it, and the process I’ve just described, it kind of sounds like you are, it kind of sounds like you’ve decided, I’m going to write a story about the struggling middle class and just find a way to illustrate it. So you really have to think hard about, have I got the core assumption right? You know, because if you’re gonna put something like that on the front page, you don’t want to come back a month later and say, “Oh, no, no, no, never mind, actually, “the middle class is thriving, and here’s why.” You know, it’s not just your own point of view, you’re basically establishing a point of view for the newspaper, so a paper that takes itself quite seriously, like The Journal, wants to make sure that they’re getting it right. And one of the things that obviously 2016 has kind of taught everybody is that we need to think long and hard about whether the assumptions that we’re bringing into even the most mundane or seemingly anodyne of these stories are actually appropriate, and are the reporters and editors being creative enough to give people the assignments that will, that will produce the type of journalism that actually encapsulates what’s happening in the country. So, you know, for me, it’s more thinking critically about the task with which you have been given, pushing back on that, if you need to, and if you have a different point of view, being able to present evidence of why it’s right, and then knowing that you’re then going to put that point of view forward into the world and have the entire reputation of the paper, you know, that’s been around for 100 plus years, at stake, and that’s true, of course, in television as well, but actually one of the things that I find freeing about television is that you’re not so much producing one specific outcome like that, it’s a little bit more obvious sometimes that I’m just up there not, you know, it’s obvious when I might be presenting, you know, some earnings that have happened, it’s also obvious when we’re just being playful and bantering with each other on air about our experience using a talking Amazon device or something, so for me, there is a lot of close reading of text that is not so much even about what is the story I’m reading about, but what were all of the assumptions that went into this along the way that I need to be thinking about before I come to any conclusions. Just one quick comment in the interest of promoting conversation, that’s, I think you, Suzanne, you asked for that. Yes, indeed. And to try to bring this back to liberal education, when I think about developing powers of analysis, and you heard me give an example, it came not from a science course but from a course in literature, it seems to me that what really works to stimulate analytic thinking among students is to start by asking them to answer questions, and not by asking them to learn, to absorb something. I remember going to chemistry and physics courses at Amherst College and being told to repeat Newton’s law of cooling experiment, or to repeat the synthesis of some organic chemical. That was boring, I mean, either you got the right answer or you didn’t, but you didn’t really wonder about why you did or why you failed or not. But when you were asked a question, to which the instructor might or might not know the answer, him or herself, you begin to think in a way that resembles what Kelly was trying to say a moment ago. So I am going to address Greg. Okay. We don’t happen to have a professional artist or performer on this panel, though we could, at W&L we’re proud of our alums who have achieved great things in the arts. I think that the creativity fostered by exposure to the arts shows up in many professions. What do you think, is there a place for creativity in the professions that you practice? Absolutely. You know, as a lawyer, I actually, as a judge, I should say, I think I have a lot less room for creativity, I think part of my. (audience laughs) You’ll be happy to hear this, I think, in fact, my mandate is to be non-creative and boring. But as a lawyer, your job is to be creative, and it’s to be creative in terms of constructing arguments that benefit your client, which require that you come up with some of those good arguments of bad positions, sometimes, that Bill was talking about. But it’s more than just that, because if you think about, for example, what a trial is, or even just an intense negotiation, there’s a lot of theater involved in that and in presenting information to a jury. A lot of that is, frankly, visual, and a lot of the presentations that lawyers are giving to juries in my courtroom now, I have a trial starting on Monday, a lot of that is really visually oriented, and trying to communicate information in a way that simplifies it for people that it may be a very complicated concept. And so what you have to try to do is not just present it, but distill it and present it in a way that is engaging, and that people can understand easily. And so I think a lot of what lawyers do is creative, I also have to say that a lot of what we do for fun is creative, I was just over at the law school and somebody asked me if I had any hobbies, my answer was, “no,” but a lot of people that I work with really use it as an outlet. And so, for me, I enjoy going and looking at art, still, but a lot of people dance and sing and do all of those things which actually are really important as ways to relax the strain that comes from a lot of the serious work that we do, so it has a role both in the real work and then relaxing from the work. I’m gonna take off on that, because one of the things I liked in grad school was I took a course in the philosophy of law, and it’s interesting how somebody like Oliver Wendell Holmes completely changed the path of the law, which is one of his famous essays, but in his book, he starts out by saying, “The life of the law has not been logic, “it has been experience,” and up until that time, people thought of law as kind of a syllogistic thing. And just through his reading of actually the words and that stuff and thinking about it, changed that, and just recently, and you might want to comment on this, Judge Posner just is retiring, who, with his law and economics stuff, again, has changed very much the way that we think about law. So two very creative thinkers in that field. Andy Warhol said, as you may know, that, “Business is an art, as much as painting,” or as much as painting, and, or to come at it differently, Schopenhauer, Will mentioned Schopenhauer, Schopenhauer thought that art, that the arts were the highest form of human endeavor, and he pointed out that, well, he didn’t point out, but it has been pointed out that if Einstein had never lived or Newton had never lived, somebody else would have figured that stuff out. But if Mozart had never lived, or Dickens had never lived, no one would have recreated those particular, those particular things. Can I take issue with that concept? Sure. (audience laughs) You know, it is true that certain facts become apparent as a result of certain technical advances, but the way in which science is done is a creative process, and one example that’s been written about a lot is the way in which Watson and Crick, for example, unveil the double helix of DNA, which is portrayed in my tie, and that there is an art and an aspect of imagination that goes into the story, which makes the story of discovery particularly fascinating, and that, yes, we would have figured out the double helix, we would have figured out oncogenes by some other means in the long run. I want to mention, at some point, one of your great graduates here at Washington and Lee, Joe Goldstein is a Nobel laureate in physiology of medicine, who is renowned for his essays, in fact, there was a compilation of them in a book about art and science. Each year, when he is the head of the Lasker Jury, delivers the pronouncements, he always does so in the context of the arts and science. And then this year, he used, as the, the basis for writing about this year’s Lasker winners, by showing a number of intriguing paintings by Magritte, Velazquez, and Picasso, that illustrate a major point that he wants to make, that’s related to this question about creativity, that scientists love to solve problems, artists create problems, and that’s something worth thinking about. (overlapping chatter) Just, I would add, I don’t know if this is going to be a very popular view, but I don’t see the arts and creativity as sort of synonyms. I just see the arts as a different kind of discipline, like any, and I think within any discipline, you could have a genius like Mozart, or you could have a genius like Steve Jobs, and then you have plenty of people who are just imitating those who came prior, so to me, creativity and innovation are extremely closely linked, and it’s one reason why I love covering business journalism in the sense of, you know, who are the people that are creating these ideas that are going to change our physical world and our experience with it? And even a guy like Elon Musk, who we like to bashed for having an overpriced, you know, stock, is still out there coming up with ideas about creating a system of hyperloops and, you know, I mean, you name it, they have private space travel now, which again, that itself is not the innovative idea, but to be able to kind of bring that, society’s resources to bear upon that, took a lot of innovation and creativity in order to accomplish it, so I see all of these different professions as having some thinkers who are able to just kind of be extremely creative in a different type of way, and even something as mundane as television, you know, there’s a template, which we can follow every day, doing the same thing that everyone before us has done, or some of our best moments come from us sitting down and saying to each other, “Wait a minute, how can we actually do this better?” And what if we take this idea from a completely different field or discipline, or this word or phrase that I saw, and what if we come up with a way to do that, and bring this show together in a different way, so you know, again, it’s simple, but it’s creative and it’s innovative. And I think that there are people who worship those who have achieved that in business, the same way they would worship a guy like Mozart or some of the, you know, amazing legal and scientific minds, I don’t think there’s an reason why the arts themselves need to be overly obsessed with this idea that they’re creative. I think one of the points you are making here is that there are two ways to view arts and creativity, one is an activity you participate in while you have the other parts of your life to deal with, and you were alluding to that at one point. Right, right. And the other is the creativity that goes into just having ideas about what you do. I was reading an essay on the plane this morning about the question of bad ideas, famous scientist, and I think it actually was Einstein, ’cause he’s, every great idea is attributed to Einstein these days, but Einstein said that, “Every good scientist I know has “about 20 times more bad ideas “than good ideas,” and that the total number of ideas you have is probably more reflective of how well you’re gonna do in life than just scoring a high percentage of successful ones. Well, I’m going to move onto my next question, which is directed to Kelly first, and the others can then chime in. We like to say that a liberal education prepares a learner to be able to deal with change, to learn new things, how to do new things. Can you reflect on a time when you had to adapt to a whole new way of thinking, or executing your work, precipitated by a change, whether that change was unexpected or deliberately sought out, and I think this is a chance for the panelists to tell us their great stories. That’s a lot of pressure, but I think my husband, me and my classmate, Lindsay, over there can probably vouch for the fact that I’m a different person every day that I wake up, and that’s usually a good thing. And it’s usually, you know, and that’s why, so if anyone out there isn’t familiar with Charlie Munger and his writings, I would encourage you to get Poor Charlie’s Almanack, or get your hands on any of his speeches or, you know, any of his remarks that might be out there on Google. You know, one of the things that most struck me about Munger was when I saw what he talks about when it comes to inversion, and he says, “Whenever you reach, “or are in the middle of a very difficult problem “or personal situation, invert it,” and he’ll say, “invert, invert, invert.” And I love that because so many times in life, I found myself in these situations where I realize I need to have done everything the completely different, opposite way. And it’s very liberating for a guy who’s as wise and successful and learned as him to say, “Any year in which you haven’t changed your mind “on something major is a wasted year.” And, you know, for me, personally, the ability sometimes to just declare bankruptcy in my previous mode of doing things, and wake up and just try something different the next day has resulted in some of my biggest, quickest successes. I’m aware that it’s come from me doing it the wrong way first, having to have, be humiliated, whether it’s in a more personal way or a much more public way and say, “You know what, “maybe I should try a totally different approach.” I’ve done that so many times, I’ve completely lost count, I’ve probably done it five times already today. (audience laughs) Well, since we operate in a similar realm, I’ll take up on that, I can’t think of a time in the, since I’ve certainly been in capital markets and even before when I wasn’t trying to struggle to adapt to change, because that’s all about change. In fact, when I got out of W&L, 1972, the companies that today are the five largest companies by market capitalization in America, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, didn’t exist, so completely different. And then when I got into the capital markets world in 1982, that was after the 1970s big inflation, interest rates were 14%, there was generalized view among people that were in the money management business at the time that inflation would come back, oil prices would come back, and the people that held those dogmatic views and didn’t change were washed out of the business four or five years, four or five years later. 1987, the stock market crashed for the first time since 1929, and it was a unique event, and certainly the lifetimes of the people operating in the markets then and the general view from that is people looked back at history, looked backwards was, well, you have to go to cash because when stock markets crash, when they’ve had that, 1929 and most recently, then we have a depression, and so we’re likely to have a depression, so go to cash. Well, that was the case when trying to think through things, 1929 and 1987 were radically different in terms of their economics, and I won’t go into it except to say that that view about going to cash was 100% wrong. We had gone to cash before that, and then we put all our cash to work after the crash, and were fortunate enough to be the number one fund in 1988. And now recently, just recently, we’ve had interest rate at the lowest level in 5,000, in the 5,000 years of recorded history. Economists didn’t think that you could go below the so-called lower bound zero interest rates, but you’ve had, now you still have negative interest rates in many parts of the world. So if you borrow money in Switzerland to buy a house, they send you a check every month for borrowing the money, that was something that we’ve never seen before. So trying to deal with those sorts of things and trying to think through them is, I think, I think the stuff that you learn in a liberal arts education, that looking at things in different ways, the best analyst that I’ve had over the course of my career have not been by and large mathematicians or physicists or people like that, they’ve been liberal arts majors. A woman who was an American studies major at Yale, a guy who was an english major at William and Mary, and part of it is that, and it’s not peculiar, it’s not unique to liberal arts, obviously scientists and physicists can think creatively and look at things a variety of different ways, but one of the things is that if you’re trying to figure out, think about Moby Dick, you look at it this way, that way, this way, that way, and trying to interpret it, and there’ll be different kinds of interpretations and different kinds of descriptions, and one or more of those will fit things better, better or worse, and so right now, for example, one of the issues that you see dividing a lot of people in the capital markets and the economy is the issue of cryptocurrencies, bitcoin. So Jamie Dimon, who I have great respect for, made, said the other day that bitcoin was a fraud. Howard Marks, one of the greatest investors of our generation called it a Ponzi scheme about three months ago, he subsequently changed his view, Warren Buffett called it a mirage five years ago, and the great line that was made about Buffett, that somebody asked me about Jamie Dimon’s comment on bitcoin the other day, and I referred to Buffett and I said there’s a, Marc Andreessen, who basically invented the web browser, when asked about Buffett’s comment about bitcoin had the classic line where he said, “The record of old, “white men who do not understand technology, crapping “on new technologies that they don’t understand is 100%.” (audience laughs) So I’ll leave it at that. (audience laughs) Well, I’m, and in the interest of time, I’m just gonna speak very briefly to this issue, it goes without saying that if you’re a scientist, you’re operating in a world of change every day. If you’re not, if your own field is not changing, you’re in the wrong field, that’s a field in which there’s nothing to be learned anymore, or there’s, there aren’t tools available to do it. One thing that you may not be aware of is that what changes in the world of a scientist is not just new discoveries, it’s new technologies, and there’s no doubt that for those of us trying to understand certain fundamental questions, in my own case, the question most to my mind these days is how does a normal cell become a cancer cell, and what can we do to protect patients against cancer as a result of what we learn from that, and the answers to those questions are dramatically influenced by technology that’s available, so when it became possible to clone individual genes from cells, when it became possible to quickly determine the nucleotide sequence of DNA, when it became possible to take cells and go into live cells with molecular tools to edit genes, all of these have changed the face of research in a dramatic way. And if you don’t learn those technologies and learn what they’re good for, you simply don’t thrive. I would just say, you know, the world is always changing, but also we have the opportunity to change ourselves, like Kelly was saying, and through my career, if you heard Will’s introduction, it sort of sounds linear, it sounds like I went to law school and then I worked at the Justice Department and then I worked with a big firm. Each one of those jobs was really different, you know, litigating cases and then going to a big firm where I did a lot of corporate and transactional work, and then going into government where I was responsible for helping to run big legal departments, which is a management job, and also involved in regulation and lots of other topics. Each one of those job shifts required, I call it a lot of courage, to feel comfortable really jumping off of a ledge, I had my law degree, and that sort of basic set of skills that comes with that, I can read and talk. (audience laughs) But then to go in and plug it into different environments required learning something new and feeling comfortable with going in and teaching myself something new, which is really challenging, and I’ll say especially my last couple of jobs, at Department of Energy I work for a Nobel laureate, and, you know, for lawyers, we spend a lot of time trying to understand what it is that our clients do, or that their businesses do, and so we’re constantly having to learn what it is that we’re talking about. And, which is, you may not think that we’re getting there, but that is, that’s a real challenge, and I think that that’s, even within the job, especially within the law, we’re constantly having to try to master and adapt to different areas of, and fields. I’m gonna hazard a guess, based on the biographies of these panelists, that I’m sitting in the company of people who love books and reading, and the gentleman to my left, the technical term for him is he is a wringer, Bill, do you have any thoughts about the centrality of reading in the life of a liberally education person? I have a few views on that, yes. (audience laughs) Kelly mentioned Charlie Munger, and one of the things that Charlie said, he tends to be very provocative, he said that he had never, he’s 92 years old, he said, in his long life, he had never met a single wise person, not one who was not an avid reader. And, you know, his partner, Warren Buffett, likes to, reads, like, eight to 10 hours a day, and hired two guys to help him manage Berkshire Hathaway’s money, and he described them as “books with legs,” that’s their. But yeah, I mean, I think, I think wide reading is essential, certainly in the profession that I’m in, I can’t say I’ve never met a good investor who wasn’t an avid reader, I know of one, but she’s a complete maniac, and sort of an idiot savant, but everybody else that I know of in the, (audience laughs) in the investment business is a wide reader, and I think that, you know, the value of the liberal arts, people ask a lot of times about what, you know, what are the humanities good for and that stuff, and I really like the line that Stanley Fish had, where he said, he’s asked about the value of the humanities versus STEM, and he said, “Well,” he said that the humanities are good for nothing. He said they’re good in themselves, they’re not good for instrumental reasons, you don’t study them for something else, you study them because they’re good in themselves. And, but they do have instrumental value, many of you or some of you may have heard of Admiral Stockdale, who was the longest serving prisoner of war in the Vietnam War, had won the Medal of Honor and was the commander of all the prisoners in the Vietnam War and was seven years tortured, and when his plane was being shot down and he was, his plane was going down into north Vietnam, he said in his book, Reflections of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot, he said, he thought to himself, “I’m leaving the world of technology and entering the world “of Epictetus,” the stoic philosopher. And he had been trained at the Naval Academy and was, you know, was a technologist and was in graduate school at Stanford. When he walked by a classroom, there was a professor teaching philosophy and he had never heard anything like this, so he went and sat down and began to study philosophy, and especially stoicism, and in great, with great diligence, and after he got out prisoner of war camp, he said that, it was singularly responsible for him and the lives of all the people there, that, this study of philosophy. So, and I’ll just end, like you said about recommend a book or two? Yeah, I want a book recommendation. Okay, well, I’d recommend Stockdale’s book, I think that, I think that’s good. We talked a little bit earlier about Middlemarch, my son is an English professor and had urged me, when he was an undergrad and all to read Middlemarch, and I said, “Yeah, yeah,” and I never read it, and then when he, I said, “I’ll read it when you get your PhD,” so when he got his PhD, I just sat down and read it all the way through, and I think it’s an extraordinary, extraordinary book. I think Stanley Fish’s, his work, it’s very provocative, but I think it’s good, one of the latest ones is a book called Think Again. And then just a couple other ones, I think as a way to kind of ease your way into philosophy, anything by William James is fantastic. I think his book, his lectures, Pragmatism, I think are probably the most important intellectual document in American history, but his essays, On The Will to Believe, The Sentiment of Rationality, What Makes a Life Significant, are really, are really, really good. And then what I’m trying to do this year is kind of read through systematically stuff, because at my late age, I probably won’t read these classics again, so stuff that I haven’t read, so I’m trying to work my way through War and Peace right now, I read Moby Dick again this year for the, for the second or third time. And then I think, you know, there’s some little stuff, we talked, James Joyce’s The Dead, which is a beautiful little novella, and then there’s a provocative little book, I’ll begin on Charlie Munger and end on Charlie Munger, that he says is the best scientific essay that he’d ever written, that, it’s in a little book form, it’s called Ice Age by John Gribbin, who’s a physicist, and he just talks about how science uncovered the, we did have ice ages, but there’s some really interesting stuff about that as it relates to global warming that I think you would find interesting. I can just quickly add, yeah, I read voraciously, I wonder a little bit, because even just to do my job, I have to read so many different newspapers and different things every day, that there’s not really time for anything else, and I do wonder, even as I look around sort of the rest of the people in the news business, you know, how much content people are actually able to consume and how much of it is just sort of glancing through tweets and, you know, email highlights and all the rest, and how much actual deep reading is taking place. But my book background recommendation would be a book called One Summer by Bill Bryson, it’s about 1927, and this sort of dovetails with my one big regret about W&L, which is that I didn’t take more history. And no offense to Professor (mumbles) Richardson over there, but I wish that I had basically spent all my time over there in the history department instead, so I’ve had some catching up to do. I’m not gonna spend any time, yes, I love to read, but that goes without saying for all of us up here. I’m not gonna recite a reading list, but I would point out one, one or two things. Mr. Miller and I had a moment of agreement here, Middlemarch would be the one novel I say everybody must read in life, if not that, Anna Karenina, we can read both. And some people might be curious to know what I think would be a great introduction to science, and there are a lot of books I could mention, but one that you may not be aware of is a book called The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes, about science, especially astronomy and chemistry in the 19th century and its connection to poetry, The Age of Wonder, and the other I would mention is a book by, a book about the origins of molecular biology called The Eighth Day of Creation, a wonderful introduction, very accessible. I won’t give you a reading list, either, I’ll tell you my solution to the problem that Kelly’s describing, ’cause I read a lot everyday, I listen to a lot of books on tape, which is a great way to fill in those quiet moments with other information about what’s going on in the world, (mumbles). Better than talking to your wife while you drive, for example. (laughs) What’s that, I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. (audience laughs) I think listening counts, the, Homer’s first readers were all listeners. Alright, so this one is a bit of a tossup, but it has a W&L focus, so I think I’m going to turn back to Kelly to start us off. One of the things that I especially prize as a teacher in a liberal arts college is the way that our students engage in a process of self-invention and reinvention during the college years. This can happen in so many arenas, including extracurricular activities, such as varsity athletics, or community service. At W&L, one of the most enduring contributions to character formation occurs among students themselves as they own and operate our honor system. They internalize this sense of personal integrity through that investment, Kelly, what do you think the core aspects of a liberally educated character are? Thank you, by the way, I didn’t know what liberal arts meant, I think even when I graduated, I still wasn’t, wasn’t really, I mean, I knew basically I didn’t have to be, I wasn’t going into engineering school and that there were a lot of majors to pick from at W&L, but ah. You know, in retrospect, a lot of this makes so much more sense than when you’re 17 years old, looking for colleges, not with a defined vision of what I definitely wanted to do, but knowing that I needed enough opportunities, and wasn’t W&L a fantastic place because it really offered so much. I mean, for such a small school to have a business school and a journalism school and a science school, and, you know, just, I mean, music and all the rest of it, it was one of the things that attracted me, so in my mind, that’s kind of what liberal arts represented. And then interestingly enough, I ended up being a journalism major, which is much more of a trade-oriented thing, which, frankly, was a blessing because it got me into the workforce right away, and I’m very, very, very grateful for that. Which is all my way of saying that I actually think the most important thing about W&L is the honor code, and sort of the character emphasis that it places, it’s completely unique, and I can definitely say that living in New York, and, you know, interacting with tons and tons of people who didn’t go to Washington and Lee, and they aren’t from the south and maybe some of it’s cultural. But as as far as I’m concerned, you know, whatever happens with the number of majors that are offered and different general education requirements or not, the most important lasting thing is the honor code, and the speaking tradition, in particular, and I just think it’s a night and day difference, for me, between the types of interactions I might have with people where character formation is very important to them or has been an important part of their upbringing, and those for whom it has not been, and that chasm can be very difficult to bridge later in life. I would just add, I agree with that 100%, and I’ll make it tangible, because when I was at W&L, I guess I went up, I knew I was gonna go in the military, because it was during the Vietnam time and I got a terrible, low draft number, but I went up to actually look at some potential schools for grad schools when I got out, and so I went up to Columbia, the first place I went was New York City. I drove up there and I was gonna crash with a friend with mine who was at Columbia, and so I naively parked my car on Riverside Drive, and, but I locked it up, so, didn’t have to do that here at W&L, and so I locked it all up, but I made the mistake of actually having stuff in the car that could be, was visible, so when I came out the next morning, the windows were all smashed out, and suitcase was gone, books gone, everything was gone, so that, that was, that crystallized in my mind, I say that the benefit of the honor system, and just to, just to give you a little enlightenment about what liberal arts means, it comes from the Roman, a Roman word, the word– Listen, this is not pejorative statement about Columbia, I hope.
No, no, no. Oh, no. (audience laughs) No, no, no, I– I think, I think it’s just New York. It’s New York, I love Columbia. Well, that may have built some character in you. Yeah, it did, it probably did, it certainly increased my wariness, yeah. But it comes from the Roman word “liber,” which means free, and so I think part of what it, at least the implication is that liberal arts free you from your insularities, your prejudices, open you up to new things. I mean, character can get built in lots of ways, I don’t think it’s the job of a liberal arts eduction to build character necessarily, it might happen if the right tools are there and people have the right experiences, but I know an awful lot of people of esteemed character who never had a liberal arts education, but they had the experiences in other, maybe, experiences, parents, creeds, things that help build character, and can be, that can happen in any, any aspect of life’s activities. I agree with Harold, I was thinking, I sentenced somebody yesterday who was a career criminal, he’d been convicted 15 times before this time, and he stood up in front of me at the sentencing and he said, “Your honor,” you know, “I always before, “I understood, I thought I was just hurting myself, “but this time I understand that I’m hurting, “that I’ve been hurting the people around me.” And actually I believed him, and that’s one thing that I do see in people that go to liberal arts colleges, I think that people have a sense of what’s going on in the people around them, whether that then leads to great character, I don’t know, but it’s a characteristic that they have. So the development of an empathetic awareness, yeah. Good, alright, I’m turning a page. (paper rustles) Alright, so– God, we’re coming near the end. Oh, we’ve got so much to say. Oh, good. Don’t you worry. (audience laughs) So I’m just going to throw this one open, anybody can jump in or refute, if that’s your mood. How do you recognize liberally educated people in your walk of life, does a liberal education show? I can’t say it does.
No? Because of the sweatshirt. (audience laughs) Oh, you can buy a sweatshirt, Greg. (audience laughs) No, it doesn’t show? I don’t know, I don’t know if I can see that somebody has a liberal education, I can see if somebody, I can see if somebody has, is open minded, open to challenge, creative, but like Harold says, in the same way that you can develop character in lots of different ways, I think that you can learn those skills in lots of different ways, I think that a liberal arts education focuses on those things, so it may be more likely that somebody that has those characteristics is a liberal arts graduate, but I don’t think, Wow, this is a, you know, Washington and Lee graduate when I meet them– Or even an Amherst graduate. Or even an Amherst graduate.
Yeah, I mean you– I won’t tell you what I think when I see an Amherst grad. (audience laughs) No, this is, a Williams-Amherst thing, it’s really very boring, but we’ve gotta play this game. But I think the important thing is that we, when we, as we become acquainted with people, we learn about the breadth of their interest, the breadth of their sympathies, their analytic capacities, you can get those in a variety of places, I’d like to think, as a graduate of a liberal arts college like Amherst and as a visitor sympathetic to the goals of this college, that a liberal arts curriculum helps. I have been concerned, I have to say, in the way in which some liberal arts colleges, I don’t know much about your curriculum, but everything I’ve gathered from ambling around this campus today and spending some time in the science centers, that people do get broad exposures. But I have been concerned that in contrast to the days when Will’s father and I were at Amherst College and we were, everybody took calculus, everybody took history, everybody took basic English composition, we all had common experience of a diverse set of topics that, because of pressures on, for college admission, there is a tendency to advertise your school as a place where you, as an incredibly smart, young student, can decide which, what courses you’re gonna take, and there are very few, even area requirements in schools that are most competitive. I, I’m, perhaps now old enough to think naively that people should be, if not forced, at least deeply encouraged to diversify their experience, so that later on when any of us meet them, we think, this is a person of pretty broad exposure to a lot of things. What do you guys think, does liberal education show? Kelly’s already said no. Well, not that it doesn’t, but that, yeah, I just think there’s so many other markers that I can kind of identify somebody as being just kind of interested in the world, or not, and I’d like to think there’s a lot of overlap between those two, but it’s not that it would have especially jumped out to me. I would, I think that I draw a distinction, which might have been drawn down here, between a liberal arts education and being liberally education, and so I think that someone who can be, you know, a, I mean, I know Murray Gell-Mann, the great physicist who was a polymathic genius, but you know, but he, I mean, his expertise is physics, but he knows everything else and he’s very widely read, and I think, I think just in general, the characteristics of a, someone who’s liberally education is wide reading, intellectual curiosity, the ability to draw from different sources, art, music, philosophy, history, as well as science, I mean, all of these things I think can contribute to a point of view, and the more sources you can draw from, I think the better chance you are at hitting on something that makes sense. Well, it may seem entirely superfluous after all of the wisdom that has already been shared, but my next question is actually a question intended to be aimed at the students in the audience. So I am wondering what advice my four panelists would have for the students who are here, what would you advise them, as they go out into this world? Well, I just don’t believe in giving advice of a general sort to a lot of people. (audience laughs) Advice ought to be individualized, and the only advice I would give is, to any students who are here, is that you know how to get advice, that is, you know the person to go to, you know the kinds of questions to ask. You’re on a campus with a lot of highly motivated faculty who are interested in promoting your welfare, you go to classes, you hear them speak, you find some more attractive than others, and certainly at my somewhat similar college, Amherst College, one of the virtues of being on a fairly small campus is you can go to those professors, and not to a graduate student who runs your discussion groups, and you can bring to the person who seems sympathetic and well, and well-versed in something you want to know more about, and ask them for advice that they can make personal for you. I don’t mind just saying, as sort of a broad thing, and again, all this usually speaks from experience, but that, you know, I think, in terms of personal development, it’s just important to get in touch with, listen to, and understand the voice of your own conscience, and I think that can be very hard to do at times, especially, you know, in such a cacophonous culture and with so much social media and social pressure that has always existed, but I think that would be my advice, is to recognize the primacy and importance of that and try to cultivate that. I do have a, what I think is a general piece of advice that is somewhat useful, I think one of the things that would be helpful, if I had done this when I was a student, is if you look around your classmates and look at the people that you admire and you think are going to do well, and then generalize that out to people out in the world, people in history, people in, and make a list of why you admire them, what are the traits that they have that cause you to admire them, and then take, turn that and invert it and say, okay, now, let’s go the other way, who are people that I don’t admire, that I don’t, and what are their traits? And then try and cultivate the former and, and avoid the latter, and then maybe just more practically, for those of you that are going to, end up going into business, I gave a talk here some years ago that I was reminded of today, where I gave some advice, and the most pertinent piece of advice is that when you go into business, you have really one thing that you really need to do to be successful, which is please your boss. Make your boss happy, no one ever got fired because the boss thought they were doing a great job. And every person I know that’s every gotten in trouble, it’s because they and the boss have a problem, and they think that they know more than the, they know more than the boss, and how you please the boss, it’s also pretty easy, you do what the boss says, and you do it with a sense of urgency, a good attitude, and you try and bring some creativity to do an even better job, and maybe solve more of the problems, and then I’ll end on the flip side of that, which is one of the, you know, there’s all this advice that goes out to people about their career and all, and one of the worst pieces of advice that I’ve seen offered to people is they tell you that, you know, you’re in charge of your own career, you need to make sure that you get what you deserve and you get what you need and you fight for what you’re going to do. That’s a recipe for getting in big trouble. I mean, what you really want to do in your career is you want to make sure that you are always underpaid, and the reason you want to be underpaid, is when you’re underpaid, you’re creating more value than you’re being compensated for, and if the people, if your boss is rational, he or she will realize that, and you’ll be a very valuable person, but if you’re overpaid, then that’s very bad because you’re not delivering the goods, and they’ll figure out a way to get rid of you. (audience laughs) So I think that, I think being underpaid is one of the– This is great advice. Is one of the most undervalued things around. (audience laughs) That’s gonna be hard to follow. Yeah, I don’t know. (audience laughs) Sorry, the things that, just a couple of– You’re probably underpaid. I’m very much underpaid. (audience laughs) But all of you are paying my salary, so you don’t think so, just a couple of things which reminded me of what Bill said. He’s describing all those people that you see and you admire, one thing I wish that I had one when I was on campus in college was I wish I hadn’t been so intimidated by those people, I wish that when I was a college student, I had reached out more and engaged more, realized that sort of everybody puts their pants on in the morning, and make more friends with some of the people that Bill’s describing. The other thing I’d say off of what Bill said about please your boss, do what your boss says, I’d also say, do what your boss didn’t think to ask you to do, but he really, or she, really wanted you to do, that’s really useful. I’ll just say two other pieces of advice and then I have an entreaty, another piece of advice is to be courageous, put yourself in a situation that challenges yourself. For me, I frequently, I don’t know if I can do something, but I’m, you know, I’m willing to put myself there, and then see if you can do it, that forces you to grow, and I think it’s really good. I’d also say exercise and sleep. (audience laughs) Which I also– How about eating? Which I didn’t do enough, and eat well. And then my entreaty is read the whole paper. I’ve, my pet peeve recently has been that people get all their news from their news feed, and so you don’t necessarily see what’s going on in the things that are not being pushed to you, and I think that in order to be a good contributors to civic society, I think we need to have a broader perspective, which I think you get if you read the paper cover to cover, and I think it will help us be better citizens and better able to engage with others. You won’t have time to read Middlemarch, then. There is that, but I’m sure it’s on audiobook. (audience laughs) Harold, you like to give specific advice to specific people in specific circumstances, is that what I gather? In general.
Alright, well– For example, be the boss. (audience laughs) I have a question for you.
Okay. So we are here today because we’re inaugurating a new president at Washington and Lee, and one thing that I can tell you for sure about every single person in this audience is that we all care deeply about this university, about its students, about the people who were shaped by being here, and about its future, so given that circumstance, what advice would you offer to President Dudley on the occasion of his inauguration? Okay, well, I don’t know enough about Washington and Lee to make specific policy proposals to him, but I have run three big organizations, and the one thing that I think is a take-away message from those experiences is to lay out a plan that people in that organization, and I’m talking about elements of the National Institutes of Health, or Memorial Sloan Kettering, where I was president for 10 years, spend a few months, learn what the problems are, what are the deficiencies, what are the strengths, what do you want to do? Choose three, four, or five things you’d like to achieve, tell everybody in a town meeting in this, in a hall like this what you want to do, in what order, and how, and why, and keep track of that, don’t try to do too much, make a five, a plan for five or 10 years, and unless you are extremely unusual, plan to be out of that job in five to 10 years. Anybody else want to take that one? Advice for our new president. (audience laughs) I will answer it this way, to say that I avoid giving advice on subjects I know nothing whatsoever about, and running a university is one of those subjects. But I wish you all the best. And of course, he is the president. (audience laughs) He is the boss. I wish Will the best here, I mean, I’ve never run a university, so like Harold, I’m not gonna give any specific advice, but I’ve managed big groups of people, and that’s the one thing I would say, is just to focus on the human beings that you’re working with and leading, and understand what their strengths are, and try to entice the best from them. Alright, well, then we have done a magnificent job, because we have reached the point at which you all now have a chance to ask questions of our panelists, and I understand from John Lindbergh that somebody out here has a microphone, is that right? Okay, right there, and that person will travel to where you are, and if the microphone itself can’t reach you, you can speak to that person and your question will be repeated into the microphone so that everybody can hear it, and then we’ll know who’s being asked the question, and we’ll hear what’s next, so let the games commence. Any question for any of our panelists? There’s a willing– Yep, there you go, couple, a couple up in the back. Thank you. (audience laughs) In light of what’s happening in this country recently, what advice do you have, or not so much advice, but what ideas do you have about the possibility of changing the name of this institution to make, to be a politically correct name and drop the name Lee? We thought we might get this question. (audience laughs) Did we?
We did. Let me just say one thing, which is I was at a dinner just a couple of weekends ago with politician types and a lot of New York and New Jersey people, and I just was telling people a little bit of the story of Washington and Lee, and, you know, they aren’t really familiar with the details of it, we are familiar with it, we’ve heard it, we’re surrounded by it, we know it, but I think, especially from a communications point of view, I think it’s really important that W&L tell its story, and tell the story of what Robert E Lee did here, and who he was, and, you know, some of the things that he started, and kind of just remind everybody who we are, how we got here. And, you know, as it goes in the media, you can kind of flood the zone. I don’t think think you need to stay on the defensive and think, oh, we don’t need to talk about these things, I think you talk about them, and I think you talk about how they came to be this way, and, you know, bring, just like we would always say, bring a variety of people’s different viewpoints to the surface on that, but I think, you know, sort of trying to hide it or be ashamed of it is, you need to tell people what it’s all about, and there’s a lot that nobody has any clue about, and I think educating people on all that is really important. (audience member mumbles) I think I’m reminded of something that Eric Greitens wrote that’s on this general topic. He is, as you may or may not know, the governor of Missouri, the youngest or second youngest governor in the country. But he was a Navy Seal, Rhodes Scholar, PhD in politics from Oxford, and in one of his books, he said that, he said, “For people that we admire “or that we, that we put up statues to,” he said, “it’s childish to believe that they have to be flawless.” And he said, “And we can admire them “for the things that they did that are great, “while not condoning what they might have done otherwise.” And he mentioned Thomas Jefferson, he said Jefferson owned slaves, he impregnated someone, probably raped her, he said, but we can honor Jefferson for his services to the country while condemning that. And I think, and he mentioned, he mentioned Richard Wagner, and he said, “We can all acknowledge the great genius of Wagner “as a composer while denouncing his anti-Semitism.” And so I think, my personal opinion about Lee is, well, two things, one of them is I think it would behoove everybody to get some perspective by reading The New York Times obituary of Robert E. Lee when he died because obviously The New York Times is no friend of Lee, nor no friend of the south, but I think it’ll open your eyes. Now, what was I gonna say, I forgot what I was going to say about, oh, I think I, I think we can honor Lee for what he’s done for this university, and I think that’s, that’s appropriate. I do have, though, the, if it comes down to changing the name, I do have a proposal for the Board of Trustees, which is, if it becomes so difficult and the pressure is so great that the name has to be changed, then the Board of Trustees should say that they acknowledge that the time has long passed to honor George Washington and Robert E. Lee, and we need to change the name of the university, and we need to honor different people, and so, henceforth, we will honor Booker T. Washington and Bruce Lee, and honor the, honor the. (audience cheers) The accomplishments of our, you know, African American, of Bruce, and Booker T. Washington, I’ve told you, was born close to here, anyway. But anyway, it would save us a lot of money in changing logos and stationary and stuff like that. The black law students say Denzel Washington and Spike Lee.
Yeah, yeah. (audience laughs) Is there another question that we can get the microphone to? Hi there, my name’s Hannah, I’m a senior at Washington and Lee University, and my question stems from a sympathy to all of you who studied very different fields, science and poetry, philosophy, and economics, business, and journalism, as a major in two different fields myself, my question is, how did you settle on a career path? Did you feel in control of your future when you were graduating from a liberal arts university with very different interests, and what advice do you have to liberal arts students with specific regards to a career path? I’ll, let me just volunteer that after my, so I went to Rockbridge County High School, and so, but, sort of sophomore year I was eager to get out of town, so I took an internship early on at Bank of America in Charlotte, which was alluded to, and immediately was thrown into this world of business and finance that I had no idea existed, and came back to campus, declared business journalism as a major, and I’m skipping a few steps, but I basically realized I had a huge competitive advantage as a journalist if I was gonna be a business journalist than if I was just a couple million journalists in the country who would be graduating into the job market every year. And so that, for me, was a, it helped that it was also my interest, but it was also a tactical decision, and it really opened sort of the whole career path for me, pretty much right form the get-go, and worked out really well. Let me give just a somewhat different perspective. I’m a believer, at least in my own case, in the idea of a prolonged adolescence, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was about 30, and I think that’s okay. Life is long thanks to advances in medical science, and. (audience laughs) And– That’s a relief, ’cause I’m still not sure what I want to do, so. (audience laughs) And I think I prospered because I did spend years doing things that actually are not even particularly applicable to the professional things I do today, they were enriching experiences, and the fact that I wandered from one field to another for quite a few years until I found my true love in doing basic science, well, that all built a repertory of, a repertoire of skills and interests, and I don’t think anybody needs to feel they’re in a huge rush to settle on a career path. Any other takers on that question? Alright, is our microphone person on the move? It looks like there are hands. Thank you, I’m a lawyer, I went to law school here at Washington and Lee, but I also was a philosophy and English major here as an undergrad. As we have more and more demands on our schedules, I am struggling with my desire to read, read philosophy, read literature, and the time. As we heard Judge Woods talk about audiobooks, I sort of feel like I’m cheating when I do that, and I can’t get mustard and ketchup on the book, and then page back 100 pages and see what was said, it, how do you all view it as a vehicle to absorb in this fast-paced society, should we, do you prefer the audio if we can’t, so I guess I’m asking quality versus quantity, and how do you view that? I want to know, has Bill gone to audiobooks? Are you an audiobook guy? No.
Oh. So I listen to audiobooks all the time, I do it while I’m exercising, it’s a great way to read if you can’t otherwise spare the time, I’m sure you’re reading a lot during your day job. I hope it’s fine, there’s some books where I. (audience laughs) I’m gonna say it’s okay, I’ll tell you, there are some books, you know, thinking about the conversation about Robert E. Lee, I listened to the Shelby Foote Civil War books, which I think are fantastic, they’d be on my list of great history books, and I bought all those in the hard copies, because I wanted to flip through and look at the maps and stuff. So I think that that’s, that is an option, or you could buy it, just put ketchup on it. (laughs) I think the bigger debate is about iBooks and books in hard copy, now I listen to quite a few books in the car, because we have a place in the country, I drive up there, my wife and I listen to all kinds of interesting things, and if they’re well-read, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s a way of making efficient use of time. But I think the bigger question, in my mind, is whether we’re going to move away from books in hard copy to a world in which almost everything is simply read online. I’m still very happy lying in bed with a real book that I can mark up and I agree, going back and forth can be cumbersome, if you’re reading complicated histories and you want to look at genealogies, or even Anna Karenina, if I want to look at family constellations. So there’s still a lot for me in the hard copy, but when I go on a trip and I don’t want to take 10 volumes, putting my iPad in my suitcase is a good thing. So I just think it’s nice to live in a world where all these options exist, and they suit different people at different times in different ways. And by the way, this is an innocent question, the current debate that I’m hearing is, is it okay to listen to my audiobook on 3x speed, or. (audience laughs) Or should, is 2x too, is one and 1/2, you know, is regular, there, I know so many people, I’m agnostic on this, but I know so many people who consume so many audiobooks and podcasts at fast speed, it is so common, I don’t understand it. Maybe in a few years I’ll be doing the same thing, it sounds like helium-speak to me, but, you know, people swear, I guess it’s the equivalent to, you know, there’s different kinds of reading, obviously, for what you’re describing, it sounds like you need, whether it’s the audiobook or the traditional reading experience, but if you’re effectively skimming the newspaper by skimming around through audio content, for example, I guess hearing it super fast is not so much different, but that’s something else that people are doing. I do have a tip for you on that, if you’re a competitive person, as I am, then one way to deal with that is, so, for example, Ron Daniels, who’s the president of Johns Hopkins, he and I were talking about books earlier in the summer and explaining what books we wanted to read, and so we decided, okay, we’re gonna get together at the end of September and see if we actually read these things, he’s trying to read Ulysses and War and Peace at the same time, so you don’t want to lose, right, you don’t want to show up and say, “I didn’t do my assignment.” So I think that’s a useful thing, is to set a goal and then see what, with somebody else, and see if you can meet it. Alright, I felt sure I saw other hands in the air. There’s one right there. Yeah, there’s one right there. We can try to reach Mason. (overlapping chatter) Yeah, I do that sometimes, too. They might be able to hear you. Can I just talk really loud– Yeah, we hear you.
Be really loud. So you all are obviously in really impressive careers, I wonder how you interact with people in your professional setting who went to public school, and have been your very, very, very, very expensive liberal arts education to them when now you’re at the same stage in your career. I’ve never been accused of having had it, I mean, I don’t, what’s the defense? The money, the expense of a liberal arts education has skyrocketed. Ah, well, that’s another question, that’s not defending our own choice to do this, if you’re, I think the question of how we control the costs of education has, a lot of it comes back to what schools are going to be able to do to provide income-free admission and provide scholarship support for students who otherwise couldn’t afford to go there. And that’s, you know, is a raw fact of life here, having to do with the fact that education is expensive. But I, I don’t feel that we have to defend the system so much as we have to fix it, and so that, so that more people have more access to the kinds of learning that you get here. Yeah, I can’t say that I would tell a young person today, “Oh, you have to go to a pricey liberal arts school,” in fact, I’d probably tell them the opposite. I mean, it’d be an atrocity for me to tell somebody, “You have to saddle yourself with “that much debt before you’re starting out.” I had a lottery ticket, I had a scholarship, and it meant that I could take a post-grad internship in New York City with no sense of whether I’d get hired or not, ’cause I didn’t have to worry about servicing my student loans right away, and I could take a little bit of a risk. And I think that’s really important for people, and I don’t think it really matters where you’re coming from, I think it matters where you’re going. I think we have time for one more if that microphone person can reach, I feel sure there were hands that didn’t get caught. Well, perhaps we have subsided into a sense of satiation. (audience laughs) I’m just still pondering what it would be like to listen to Middlemarch done by Alvin and the Chipmunks. (audience laughs) Really frightening, really frightening. (audience laughs) So in that case– You know that George Eliot does comment on the speed of a squirrel’s heart beating. True.
So. (audience laughs) Maybe there’s something in that. So I think this is our moment to say thank you to these wonderful panelists for having joined us on this occasion. (audience applauds)