"I have succeeded best when I have let myself get out of step and found my own way"by Prospect Team / May 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
First news/historical event you can recall?
The assassination of John F Kennedy. It was a Friday afternoon about 3pm—I was five years old. I was playing in the yard and our maid came out crying.
The book you are most embarrassed you never read?
There are so many! The one most on my mind these days is Alexis de Tocqueville; I read the obligatory excerpts in high school, and that’s all. But one of the great pleasures of getting older is that you realise a real liberal arts education takes a lifetime to accomplish—and you can set your own reading courses.
One bit of advice you’d give to your younger self?
The past does not determine the future. When I was young I was so convinced that if I didn’t achieve this, or make that, or keep up with my contemporaries at every step, that would set my course for life. Not true at all! I have succeeded best when I have let myself get out of step and found my own way.
What is your favourite saying or quotation?
It’s impossible to choose only one—some of my very favourite are just things my paternal grandmother would sometimes say. But if I have to go all grand and choose a “quotation,” I’ll go with this, on thought and on action, from Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural address as president of Princeton: “We are not put into this world to sit still and know; we are put into it to act. It is true that in order to learn men must for a little while withdraw from action, must seek some quiet place of remove from the bustle of affairs, where their thoughts may run clear and tranquil, and the heats of business be for the time put off; but that cloistered refuge is no place to dream in.”