Peter G. Peterson is an American entrepreneur, investment banker and politician. He served as United States Secretary of Commerce during the Nixon administration and was Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations Council on Foreign Relations until his retirement in 2007. Peter co-founded the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, in 1985 and retired in 2008 as its Senior Chairman. He is the author of the book Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It. Peterson was Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2000 to 2004 and is founding Chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Sure. I do a lot of traveling around the world, and in government I got to know other governments as well. It’s a remarkable country with regard to its absence of barriers, its resilience, its responsiveness. Just think of it. When my father started his restaurant in the 1920s, the restaurant was petitioned by the Ku Klux Klan saying, “Don’t eat with the Greek.” There were no blacks there, so I guess they figured the Greeks were the next most desirable target. Now we go from a situation like that to where . . . If anybody’s been prejudiced against me because I was Greek, I’ve been unaware of it. I worked in the 1960s with . . . when I was CEO of a company called ________ with Martin Luther King. And I went through the tragic division of races among the . . . of the ‘60s where blacks were formally and most often informally blocked from all kinds of participation in American life – business, social, political. And I look today to Barack Obama, and I think it’s quite possible today that a black could be elected President of the United States. And that’s taken place in a remarkably short period of time. So this is a country with limitless frontiers and very few barriers. And if you work hard, and you study hard, and you’ve got good luck, you can do very well in this country.
Recorded On: 7/26/07