My wife and I recently had an enjoyable opportunity to spend some time with George Will, the long-time conservative television commentator and Washington Post columnist.
The Wall Street Journal has called him “the most powerful journalist in America.” He was the concluding speaker at the Sing Sing graduation ceremony that we attended on Wednesday, June 7, here in New York.
As many of you know, Sing Sing is known as a notorious New York state prison (now called “correctional facility”). My wife, Jo Ann, and I have been teaching there for over 10 years in a four-year college degree program through Mercy College. It has been very successful, with only about 1% of the graduates leaving Sing Sing and coming back. My son Tim did an award-winning documentary on the Sing Sing education program called “Zero Percent.”
Jo Ann Skousen, George Will, your editor and Kim Deen, Assistant Secretary of Education under former President Obama, attend graduation at Sing Sing.
Will gave a moving talk to the 37 graduates. He saluted them for changing their lives around and becoming “gentlemen,” not inmates or ex-cons when they get out. He quoted lyrics from the British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.” Thinking only of “now” got them into trouble with the law. But thinking about tomorrow will encourage them to be better citizens.
Afterwards, I probed his thinking about the future of President Donald J. Trump. “I give him four years,” said Will, who clearly is not impressed with Trump as the leader of the free world and as a foreign policy strategist to handle the current conflicts in the Middle East and North Korea.
What about the chances of his legislative agenda getting through Congress? “Very little,” he said. Because of the high cost of Medicaid, President Trump’s replacement of ObamaCare is going to be watered down. Corporate taxes most likely will be lowered, but not to the 15% rate he has proposed.
Will is more optimistic about his favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs. He is a fanatic about baseball and his book “Men at Work” is the #1 bestseller on baseball in the past 50 years.
In his book on the Cubs’ struggle to win a championship, he remained thoroughly pessimistic about their chances — and was shocked they won last year. Finally, they became the best team in baseball.
I asked him if his gloomy views extended to the stock market. I thought for sure he would be a permabear. But no, he surprised me by saying, “I’m a long term optimist.”
For a while, Will was a professor of political philosophy at Michigan State University’s James Madison College of public affairs and international relations before he moved to Washington, D.C. “Who is your favorite political philosophy?” He didn’t hesitate: “James Madison.”
As we were headed for the airport, I asked him one final question: “You’ve lived an long and successful career. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?”
Tough question, he mused. Will paused for a while and then opined one word: “Read.” He said that reading a lot causes the mind to be open to new and fresh ideas. (He told me he has over 20 books on his bed stand.) His lesson in life reminded me of this statement by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s business partner: “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time. None, zero.”
Sadly, a lot of young people don’t read anymore, but they do tweet!
As we said good-bye, I handed him an American Silver Eagle dollar, a good luck piece to remind him of his visit to New York in 2017. It is also our symbol of liberty and sound money at FreedomFest. He said he had never seen one before. Over 50 million silver dollars were minted last year, I told him. It seems they are all hidden away in the dark of safe deposit boxes, except for the ones I occasionally give away.
Merle Haggard sang a song along these lines that I thought George Will would appreciate:
“I wish a buck was still silver
It was back when the country was strong
Back before Elvis, before Vietnam war came along
Before the Beatles and yesterday
When a man could still work and still would
Is the best of the free life behind us now?
And are the good times really over for good?”
In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter from last week about the importance of learning sound economics in a school setting.
P.S. Charlie Munger’s quote above is one of hundreds found in “The Maxims of Wall Street,” now in its 5th edition. I sold a whole box at the Las Vegas MoneyShow last month. People can never get enough. I charge $20 for the first copy, and all additional copies are $10 each. Many subscribers have bought an entire box (32 copies) for $300. I pay postage for all books as long as they are mailed inside of the United States. To order your copies, call Harold at Ensign Publishing toll-free 1-866-254-2057, or go to www.miracleofamerica.com.
On Tuesday, June 13, at the Soho Forum in New York City, I will debate Barron’s economics editor Gene Epstein on “Should Adam Smith be Recognized as the Father of Modern Economics and Free-Market Capitalism?” I answer “yes:” Gene says “no.” Find out why I made Adam Smith and his “system of natural liberty” the hero of my book, “The Making of Modern Economics.” The price for the evening is $18 for adults and $10 for students. To register in advance, go to www.thesohoforum.org.
1,000 People Can’t Be Wrong
After the Memorial Day weekend, the next big holiday is July 4. And what better way to celebrate liberty than to join us at this year’s FreedomFest, July 19-22, 2017, at Paris Resort, Las Vegas. Over 1,000 people have already signed up for our 10th anniversary celebration.
Besides trying out virtual reality (VR) headsets, you can enjoy several “centennial” celebrations (1917 was a special year):
— 100 years of Forbes magazine with Steve Forbes, the magazine’s publisher Rich Karlgaard and billionaire columnist Ken Fisher.
— 100 years of communism with Lee Edwards, president of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Plus, attend a session on “Romantic Revolutionaries: Why Che Guevara Attracted a Following.”
— Panel on “War, What is It Good For?” after the 100 year anniversary of America entering World War I.
— 100 years of recorded jazz with Alex Green, Gary Alexander and Patty Farmer.
Plus, a featured event remains the special Saturday night banquet, which this year will honor Steve Forbes. Charles Koch, John Mackey, Larry Kudlow and many other celebrities will join us in honoring this patriot on his 70th birthday.
Sign up now and take advantage of our $100 discount. Use code FS2017 when you sign up at www.freedomfest.com, or call toll-free 1-855-850-3733, ext. 202, and talk to Karen, Jennifer, Heather or Amy. Our hotel block is almost full! Call the Paris Resort and book a room now before it’s too late.