Give a Harvard Kid a Book

The July 2014 issue of Harvard magazine publishes a letter to the editor from Kenneth E. MacWilliams, an alumnus of Harvard College and Harvard Business School.  He recounts receiving a telephone call this Spring from a Harvard student who was calling on the University’s behalf, soliciting MacWilliams to make his annual gift.

“After he completed his task,” McWilliams wrote, “we chatted a bit.  When I asked him his major, he said economics, and that he is thinking of going to work in Wall Street after he graduates.  While talking further about economics as a career, I happened to mention John Kenneth Galbraith.  He hadn’t heard of him.  A bit later I happened to mention Paul Samuelson.  Never heard of him, either.  Then a bit later, I mentioned Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and this time I said, ‘You certainly must know of him?’  He said ‘Yes, I do.’  To which I replied, ‘Who was he?’ He sheepishly said, ‘I just said that.  I really don’t know.’”

Mr. MacWilliams, an accomplished businessman, finished his letter by taking a shot at Wall Street.  Implicitly, his letter is a shot at Harvard too, and at one (at least) of its students.

Reading the letter, I first joined MacWilliams in feeling curmudgeonly disgust.  On further thought, I felt the shot too.

I plan to—will—give more books.

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