Sweet smell of success

The Washington Post has edited its interview with Dartmouth President Jim Youg Kim into the video below. Paul commented on the video here and here. It’s a thought-provoking video.

President Kim quotes his father and cites his father’s role in his his professional accomplishments. President Kim’s father was an immigrant unbound by the constraints of political correctness. Steering his son away from the study of philosophy as an undergraduate at Brown, President Kim’s father dramatically told Kim that “a Chinaman” needs to acquire a skill “to make it in this world.” Nowadays talk like that would be enough to get a student on most college campuses in trouble. It is interesting to hear President Kim transmit it with pride and without hesitation.

President Kim says he dispenses the same advice regarding the imperative of acquiring a skill to students at Dartmouth. The implication is that if you want to be a benefactor of humanity, as President Kim is in his medical work, you need to move beyond the traditional claims of a liberal arts education.

Yet Dartmouth College holds itself out as providing an outstanding liberal arts education to undergraduate students. Apart from my parents and my own family, I would say that going to Dartmouth is the best thing that ever happened to me in precisely this respect. I bet President Kim would say the same thing about his experience at Brown. It would be interesting to hear him defend a liberal arts education on its own terms.

Later in the interview President Kim cites the great leaders in whose presence he has been. “You can smell” the quality of great leadership on them, President Kim says. Based on his personal exposure to them, he cites GE chief executive officer Jeffrey Immelt, Freddie Mac chief executive officer Ed Haldeman and Bill Clinton as such leaders. The first two are members of the Dartmouth College board. President Clinton is the one and only.

I wondered about other members of the Dartmouth board whom I know but whom President Kim did not mention in the video. I was a classmate and friend of Leon Black. Leon is the founder, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Apollo Global Management, LLC and a managing partner of Apollo Management, L.P. He is an incredibly successful businessman. He ain’t chopped liver.

T.J. Rodgers is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Cypress Semiconductor. T.J. was a Sloan scholar at Dartmouth, where he graduated as salutatorian with a double major in physics and chemistry. In President Kim’s terms, he acquired a skill or two at Dartmouth. Wikipedia also helpfully adds that he is known for his public relations acumen, brash personality and strong advocacy of free enterprise. At Dartmouth, he is known for his support of free speech on campus. Indeed, he has played something of a leadership role in making the campus safe for free speech.

Peter Robinson is the former Reagan speechwriter who now hangs his shingle out at the Hoover Institution. At Dartmouth Peter studied English literature under Professor Jeffrey Hart, a teacher who opened and sharpened the minds of a few generations of Dartmouth students.

Peter put his Dartmouth education to especially good use when he drafted the speech in which President Reagan demanded that Gorbachev “tear down this wall.” He therefore had a direct hand in some history that benefited humanity.

President Kim, over to you.

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