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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Question: What inspires you?

Jeanne Shaheen: You know I think seeing the difference that I can make. So whether . . . As governor it was being able to go to a new kindergarten that was being built because of work that I had helped lead, and seeing the excitement on the faces of those five year olds as they went into that public kindergarten. It's working with the students here at the Kennedy School and at Harvard and seeing how idealistic, and energetic, and optimistic they are about their futures; and thinking the world is in good hands because we've got those future leaders who are committed to making a difference.

Question: To whom do you look for inspiration?

Jeanne Shaheen: Well I think there are a lot of them. One person that I always talk things through with is my husband. If I could go to somebody to talk to them about a difficult problem, I think my first choice would be Abraham Lincoln. I think for Lincoln to have been able to believe strongly enough in keeping the union whole; to be able to see so many of his constituents die in that process must have been so hard, that I think his knowledge and his values would be something I would really love to hear him talk about. It’s been wonderful to read some of Doris Kearns-Goodwin . . . her recent book “A Team of Rivals” which talked about Lincoln and how he dealt with people, and how he was able to keep things together through what was just an awful time for this country.

Recorded on: 6/13/07

 

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