2018 Zale Lecture Review: Kevin Warsh
By Ben Kaufman
The Stanford Public Policy Program hosted former Federal Reserve Governor and current Hoover Institute Visiting Fellow Kevin Warsh (B.A. ’92, Public Policy) on Tuesday, May 29th for the 2018 Zale Lecture. Since 1980, the Morris B and Edna Zale Lectureship, initially made possible by a gift from the Morris B. and Edna Zale Foundation, has sought to bring leading figures from a broad spectrum of public and private life for a lecture open to the Stanford Public Policy community. The Lectureship has hosted such distinguished speakers as George Shultz, Willie L. Brown, Mark McClellan, Robert Reischauer, and Christina Romer.
Mr. Warsh offered impressions, advice, and- as he called them- “war stories” from a career spent as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley, as the Executive Secretary of the White House National Economic Council, and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System at the height of the Financial Crisis. Warsh noted the frustration he has sensed among students at Stanford and beyond with public institutions, but encouraged those assembled to channel their feelings toward a redoubled commitment to public service. Passion, he noted, affects change, while anger does not.
Warsh went on to offer several “intuitions” he has developed regarding careers and life. This included that students should seek to be open to serendipity as they look to the future instead of committing themselves steadfastly to a linear path, that they should seek to gain meaningful subject matter expertise in an area (as he put it, to “know something about something”), that following the path of those around them without consideration of their own passions would be a surefire road to disappointment, and that they should take active steps to learn about what it means both to lead and be a member of a group before doing either.
In a wide-ranging subsequent question and answer session, Warsh encouraged humility in the realm of economic forecasting and beyond, challenged the view that the financial sector has been meaningfully reformed since 2008, and offered that time spent in the “real world” may be doubly valuable for those planning to work in the public sector.
Kevin Warsh’s deep commitment to public service and his thought leadership in the regulatory space make him a model recipient of the Zale Award for Public Service. He serves as a potent example of the potential for private sector expertise to sharpen policymakers’ abilities to act when they are most critically needed, and his tireless efforts to right the path of the American economy during his tenure as a Fed Governor are something for which the entire nation owes a huge debt.