What do you believe?

Ken Adelman is currently vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which conducts executive training through leadership lessons from Shakespeare. Ambassador Adelman began teaching Shakespeare in 1977 at Georgetown University, and later with honors students at George Washington University.

During the Reagan Administration, Ken Adelman was an Ambassador to the United Nations and then Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, accompanying President Reagan on his superpower summits with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Adelman was a philosophy major at Grinnell College and then attended Georgetown University, where he received a Masters in Foreign Service Studies and Doctorate in Political Theory.

He is the author of five books -- including co-author of Shakespeare in Charge -- and hundreds of articles, was for 20 years national editor of Washingtonian magazine, and for six years a member of the Defense Policy Board. 

While living in Africa from 1972 to 1975, Adelman translated for Mohammed Ali during “The Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship fight in Zaire, and participated in the Zaire River Expedition, venturing down the Congo River on the 100th Anniversary of Stanley’s exploration.

  • Transcript


Ken Adelman: I think that it’s more of a Greek philosophy that you have a . . .You have a lot in life. And Aristotle taught us that you take your. . . and you kind of realize where it is, and you try to fill it up as much as you can. And Aristotle also taught a very good lesson, that people like naturally . . . there’s something inherent about human beings about wanting to perfect whatever you do. And he tries to understand why this is, but he doesn’t get at it. And he says, “It’s clear. People like to perfect what they do.”

Now the second is far more . . . even more insightful. And that is people like to perfect complicated subjects more than easy subjects. So in a very simple analogy, no one becomes a fanatic on checkers. I’ve never seen somebody say, “Oh my gosh. I love checkers. I just think of checkers all the time.” It’s a simple game. But chess, you find lots of fanatics in chess. Their whole life revolves around chess. Why? Because chess is complicated. And so there you . . . to perfect it, it takes a lot of effort. So I think that there is a great attraction to taking something hard like Shakespeare, or like understanding the arts, and try to perfect that rather than take something simple and perfecting that. That’s why musicians are so stretched because, you know, it’s very hard to be a very good musician. Anybody in the arts has stressed a lot . . . stretched a lot because it’s complicated. And Aristotle would tell you that’s what makes it so much fun. And it makes it very frustrating because there’s not much margin for error.

Recorded on: 7/2/07