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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,[…]

Democracy depends on an informed citizenry.

Question: What inspires you? 

Robert Hormats: First, I see enormous opportunities out there for me, for many people to help to make this country [USA] and this world a better place. No one can do it alone. No one should think they can. But working with other people and trying to figure out ways of supporting the kinds of positive change that I’ve been talking about.

I’m very interested in medical research. I play a very active role in a number of pro bono groups that are supporting medical research on a variety of things. I think that’s critically important just from the point of view of all our lives.

I feel an obligation to work to deal with homelessness in New York and elsewhere. I feel an obligation to try to reach out to people who are uncertain about the future of their lives.

For instance, I spend a lot of time with younger people at Goldman Sachs and elsewhere, and try to mentor them and give them some sense of how they can steer their own lives in a productive direction.

And I also think that the key ingredient to a lot of the issues that this country face is to encourage a level of integrity and candor in the political process, and a forward thinking character to the political process that I don’t see there on display in Washington [D.C.] or many other parts of the country. 

I think there is a lack of willingness in many parts of the country and the political process to come to grips with tough issues. And I think democracy depends on informed citizenry. It depends on citizens who are told the facts, who are told about the challenges the country faces. If you don’t have a robust dialogue and educated citizenry, a debate which enables citizens to feel that they are able to think about these issues and formulate their views, you’re not going have a very vigorous political or social system down the road.

I worry that politicians like to tell people what they want to hear, but are much more reluctant to – particularly when they look at the polls – tell them the kinds of issues that they have to address as a society. And I’d like to focus on those, and try to focus on those in my conversations on television, or with politicians, or simply with friends and others.


Recorded On: July 25, 2007