I'm now regretting that I decided to take this, my first, OCON slowly and not pay for too many classes. After the first class of Craig Biddle's Moral Rights and Metaphysical Law (also attended by Dr. John Lewis who threw in added historical insights -- did you know that Hobbes' first published work was a translation of Thucydides, and that this, combined with the fact that he lived during the English Civil War of the 1640's helps to explain his malevolent view of human life?) I'm kicking myself for not registering for more optional courses.
Greg Salmieri talked about Atlas Shrugged on the Role of the Mind in Man’s Existence, and it started off a bit slowly. I wasn't familiar with Salmieri at all, and at first he seemed a bit shy presenting to his first large OCON audience. At first. After about 15 minutes, he and the audience were fully engaged, I ended up furiously taking notes and jotting other ideas that his talk made me think of, and he nailed the Q&A session with quick wit, humor, and insight backed by voluminous detail.
John Allison, was, well, an inspiration. He gave the talk that he has apparently given many times before to his BB&T executives about the Objectivism-based core values of the bank. I read these core values a few months ago, and struggled with how they would apply in a corporate setting, where I have seen how useless most mission statements are, and how these particular Objectivist values would work for a non-Objectivist audience. Allison's talk cleared that up right quick. He explained how these 10 core values are fully integrated -- "Fail at one, and you fail at all of them" -- how they are based in reality and the requirements of man's existence, and how they ultimately lead to professional and personal success. I'm sure nearly every person in that room wished they were working at BB&T right then. I certainly did, and do.
In between Salmieri and Allison's talks was lunch. As we three bloggers, LB, Stephen Bourque, and I, discussed where to eat, we were graciously joined by Betty Allison and her son William. We proceeded to walk down to a sandwich shop, via a back way through the WTC and a giant exhibit hall being set up for the Sail Boston tall ship event, where we were summarily kicked out by a large security guard. Once at the restaurant, delightful conversation flowed. William, who will be attending freshman year of college in the fall, mentioned that he has been coming to OCON since 1996. Imagine! Stephen asked Betty if her husband had been speaking a lot because of the financial crisis and she said he definitely had, and relayed a particularly amazing story.
On Friday, May 8, 2009, John Allison gave a keynote address at the Federal Reserve Board of Chicago conference titled "Reforming Financial Regulation." In front of the members of the Fed and a few hundred attendees, he gave essentially the same talk that can be seen here called "The Financial Crisis: Causes and Possible Cures." If you've seen it, you know how damning it is toward the Fed's role in the crisis. (For a journalistic report on this talk in Chicago, see this article at a financial trade website) What was particularly fascinating about hearing it from Betty was her description of the audience reaction. At the end, she said the entire room of hundreds of high-powered financial people gave a rousing standing ovation. While the members of the Fed sat motionless.
"What courage it took to give that speech in that place!" Stephen said. Indeed.
I have a few more thoughts to write about from yesterday, in particular a conversation I had with a young blogger who was born roughly around the time I first read The Fountainhead, and our very different experiences on 9/11. I'll try to get to it today, because it was, from my perspective, a fascinating contrast that recalled some similar experiences from my youth. But I'll leave it at that for now...