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Robert D. Hormats is the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs. He was formerly vice chairman of Goldman Sachs (International) and managing director of Goldman,[…]

Hormats talks about his book, The Price of Liberty: Paying for America’s Wars.

Topic: A History Lesson for Business 

Robert Hormats: Well I’ve just finished a book called The Price of Liberty: Paying for America’s Wars. And in that book I went back and had the opportunity to read about and write about many of the great leaders that this country has produced.

You’ve got George Washington who was a man of enormous character and talked constantly about not just what was good for his generation, but what was good for posterity. The founding fathers talked a lot about their posterity. They were building a system not just for themselves, not just for their children and grandchildren, but for decades and decades of generations to come. And they understood that they were in the building process. They were trying to establish something that had a great degree of permanence and would benefit people for hundreds of years really. They saw this as laying the groundwork for a new country which would have enormous benefits for the future.

And I think that’s one of the things that’s a very important part of the process today. And people who think that way, I find very inspirational.

It wasn’t just Washington or Alexander Hamilton who thought that way, or Jefferson, but Lincoln felt that way. He was preserving the Union not just for the people who were alive in the 1860s. He was preserving the Union for us. He understood this. He had a sense of vision about the Union for people who were going to come 100 years after him.

More recently, people such as Franklin Roosevelt, or [Harry] Truman, or [Dwight] Eisenhower all understood they were doing something, not just for their own generation, but something that would have a permanence and strengthen our society and our country. I think those people are people of great vision.

I think Martin Luther King, largely because again he was not just establishing or leading the Civil Rights Movement because he thought it was good for people at that point. He understood this was important for the country for the next thousand years.

And there are people like that who see the world not just in narrow context of what’s good for me and what’s good for our society at the moment, but how you can build a stronger, more robust society which is more inclusive, which give people more opportunities. And almost every leader who is truly great, or can be labeled as truly great, was thinking not just about the next election or the next poll, but what kind of legacy can I leave that will be remembered 50 years, 100 years down the road? What will I be leaving to the future? And I think if you think about people in that sense, they’re the people who inspire me and I think many others as well.


Recorded On: July 25, 2007