PHILOSOPHY JUST PAYS OFF : When I arrived at Harvard  in 1956 as a freshmen, I felt overwhelmed academically.

Unlike many of my classmates who had gone to rigorous  private schools. I graduated from a Florida public school that in those days rarely sent kids to elite colleges in the North.

Even after four years of high-school French, I couldn't pass the exam to get out of the entry-level of class at  Harvard. In math, I was relegated to to the remedial course.

The dean tried to reassure us at orientation by noting that only 2 percent of the class would fall out. I thought my classmates were lucky : I'd somehow manage to fill the quota all by myself.

My tenuous feeling about being at Harvard would never fully dissipate. But to my surprise, and that of my advisers my grades were quite good at the end of the year.

The upside of entering Harvard with less academic preparation than many of my classmates was that it forced me to rethink much of what I thought I knew.

So, too, did Raphael Demos, Professor Demos, an authority on Greek Philosophy, was Harvard's  Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and  Civil Philosophy.

But to me, when I took a class with him my sophomore year, he was a genial little man with white hair and an exceptional talent for engaging students from the lecture hall stage, using an overturned wastebasket as his lectern.

Professor Demos would use Plato and other great Philosophers to demonstrate that proving any proposition to be true in the final and ultimate sense was impossible.

His approach to critical thinking planted a seed in me that grew during my years at Harvard and throughout my life.

The approach appealed to what was probably my natural but latent tendency toward questioning and skepticism.

I concluded that you can't prove anything in absolute terms, from which I extrapolated that all significant decisions are about probabilities.

Internalizing the core-tenet of Professors Demos's teaching - weighing risk and analyzing odds and  trade-offs - was central to everything I did professionally in the decades ahead in finance and  government.

The World Students Society thanks Secretary Robert E. Rubin Secretary of the treasury from 199  to 1999.

The Honor and Serving of this latest Operational Research on Education continues to part 2.


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