Our Blog


Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
At the Baccalaureate Ceremony at Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
June 2, 2013

The Ten Suggestions

It’s nice to be back at Princeton. I find it difficult to believe that it’s been almost 11 years since I departed these halls for Washington. I wrote recently to inquire about the status of my leave from the university, and the letter I got back began, “Regrettably, Princeton receives many more qualified applicants for faculty positions than we can accommodate.”1 (See note below)

I’ll extend my best wishes to the seniors later, but first I want to congratulate the parents and families here. As a parent myself, I know that putting your kid through college these days is no walk in the park. Some years ago I had a colleague who sent three kids through Princeton even though neither he nor his wife attended this university. He and his spouse were very proud of that accomplishment, as they should have been. But my colleague also used to say that, from a financial perspective, the experience was like buying a new Cadillac every year and then driving it off a cliff. I should say that he always added that he would do it all over again in a minute. So, well done, moms, dads, and families.

This is indeed an impressive and appropriate setting for a commencement. I am sure that, from this lectern, any number of distinguished spiritual leaders have ruminated on the lessons of the Ten Commandments. I don’t have that kind of confidence, and, anyway, coveting your neighbor’s ox or donkey is not the problem it used to be, so I thought I would use my few minutes today to make Ten Suggestions, or maybe just Ten Observations, about the world and your lives after Princeton. Please note, these points have nothing whatsoever to do with interest rates. My qualification for making such suggestions, or observations, besides having kindly been invited to speak today by President Tilghman, is the same as the reason that your obnoxious brother or sister got to go to bed later–I am older than you. All of what follows has been road-tested in real-life situations, but past performance is no guarantee of future results.

1. The poet Robert Burns once said something about the best-laid plans of mice and men ganging aft agley, whatever “agley” means. A more contemporary philosopher, Forrest Gump, said something similar about life and boxes of chocolates and not knowing what you are going to get. They were both right. Life is amazingly unpredictable; any 22-year-old who thinks he or she knows where they will be in 10 years, much less in 30, is simply lacking imagination. Look what happened to me: A dozen years ago I was minding my own business teaching Economics 101 in Alexander Hall and trying to think of good excuses for avoiding faculty meetings. Then I got a phone call . . . In case you are skeptical of Forrest Gump’s insight, here’s a concrete suggestion for each of the graduating seniors. Take a few minutes the first chance you get and talk to an alum participating in his or her 25th, or 30th, or 40th reunion–you know, somebody who was near the front of the P-rade. Ask them, back when they were graduating 25, 30, or 40 years ago, where they expected to be today. If you can get them to open up, they will tell you that today they are happy and satisfied in various measures, or not, and their personal stories will be filled with highs and lows and in-betweens. But, I am willing to bet, those life stories will in almost all cases be quite different, in large and small ways, from what they expected when they started out. This is a good thing, not a bad thing; who wants to know the end of a story that’s only in its early chapters? Don’t be afraid to let the drama play out.

2. Does the fact that our lives are so influenced by chance and seemingly small decisions and actions mean that there is no point to planning, to striving? Not at all. Whatever life may have in store for you, each of you has a grand, lifelong project, and that is the development of yourself as a human being. Your family and friends and your time at Princeton have given you a good start. What will you do with it? Will you keep learning and thinking hard and critically about the most important questions? Will you become an emotionally stronger person, more generous, more loving, more ethical? Will you involve yourself actively and constructively in the world? Many things will happen in your lives, pleasant and not so pleasant, but, paraphrasing a Woodrow Wilson School adage from the time I was here, “Wherever you go, there you are.” If you are not happy with yourself, even the loftiest achievements won’t bring you much satisfaction.

3. The concept of success leads me to consider so-called meritocracies and their implications. We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, meritocracies may be fairer and more efficient than some alternatives. But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it. A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate–these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others. As the Gospel of Luke says (and I am sure my rabbi will forgive me for quoting the New Testament in a good cause): “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48, New Revised Standard Version Bible). Kind of grading on the curve, you might say.

4. Who is worthy of admiration? The admonition from Luke–which is shared by most ethical and philosophical traditions, by the way–helps with this question as well. Those most worthy of admiration are those who have made the best use of their advantages or, alternatively, coped most courageously with their adversities. I think most of us would agree that people who have, say, little formal schooling but labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families are deserving of greater respect–and help, if necessary–than many people who are superficially more successful. They’re more fun to have a beer with, too. That’s all that I know about sociology.

5. Since I have covered what I know about sociology, I might as well say something about political science as well. In regard to politics, I have always liked Lily Tomlin’s line, in paraphrase: “I try to be cynical, but I just can’t keep up.” We all feel that way sometime. Actually, having been in Washington now for almost 11 years, as I mentioned, I feel that way quite a bit. Ultimately, though, cynicism is a poor substitute for critical thought and constructive action. Sure, interests and money and ideology all matter, as you learned in political science. But my experience is that most of our politicians and policymakers are trying to do the right thing, according to their own views and consciences, most of the time. If you think that the bad or indifferent results that too often come out of Washington are due to base motives and bad intentions, you are giving politicians and policymakers way too much credit for being effective. Honest error in the face of complex and possibly intractable problems is a far more important source of bad results than are bad motives. For these reasons, the greatest forces in Washington are ideas, and people prepared to act on those ideas. Public service isn’t easy. But, in the end, if you are inclined in that direction, it is a worthy and challenging pursuit.

6. Having taken a stab at sociology and political science, let me wrap up economics while I’m at it. Economics is a highly sophisticated field of thought that is superb at explaining to policymakers precisely why the choices they made in the past were wrong. About the future, not so much. However, careful economic analysis does have one important benefit, which is that it can help kill ideas that are completely logically inconsistent or wildly at variance with the data. This insight covers at least 90 percent of proposed economic policies.

7. I’m not going to tell you that money doesn’t matter, because you wouldn’t believe me anyway. In fact, for too many people around the world, money is literally a life-or-death proposition. But if you are part of the lucky minority with the ability to choose, remember that money is a means, not an end. A career decision based only on money and not on love of the work or a desire to make a difference is a recipe for unhappiness.

8. Nobody likes to fail but failure is an essential part of life and of learning. If your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game.

9. I spoke earlier about definitions of personal success in an unpredictable world. I hope that as you develop your own definition of success, you will be able to do so, if you wish, with a close companion on your journey. In making that choice, remember that physical beauty is evolution’s way of assuring us that the other person doesn’t have too many intestinal parasites. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for beauty, romance, and sexual attraction–where would Hollywood and Madison Avenue be without them? But while important, those are not the only things to look for in a partner. The two of you will have a long trip together, I hope, and you will need each other’s support and sympathy more times than you can count. Speaking as somebody who has been happily married for 35 years, I can’t imagine any choice more consequential for a lifelong journey than the choice of a traveling companion.

10. Call your mom and dad once in a while. A time will come when you will want your own grown-up, busy, hyper-successful children to call you. Also, remember who paid your tuition to Princeton.

Those are my suggestions. They’re probably worth exactly what you paid for them. But they come from someone who shares your affection for this great institution and who wishes you the best for the future.

Congratulations, graduates. Give ’em hell.

1. Note to journalists: This is a joke. My leave from Princeton expired in 2005. Return to text

Comments ( 138 )

  • bagagerie longchamp says:

    bagagerie longchamp

    Dr. Fullmer studierte an der Washington State University mit einem Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Grad. Er studierte auch an der University of Idaho mit einem Bachelor-Abschluss in Tierwissenschaften und von Ric. Profil ansehen

  • ハンコ says:


    ず法人印も。個人印、関係なく、推薦。法人登記変更時と連帯保証、たまに使う程度はあまり使わない。だから、そうそう簡単なツイじゃないですが、突然の場合は多くのもの、そんな時、「私、実印持ってなかった」という人、。ただし、法人印を作成する必要はありません。もちろん、ハンコ 印鑑店や通販サイトy作成、使用頻度の観点は毎年の同時に、そんな規定ではなく、法人印で法人名と役職名彫刻の印鑑を使用。よほど奇抜なものを作成する必要がありますので、そちらを確認して意思疎通を怠らない限り、ネット通販してる店の方が多いですが…

  • はんこ says:



  • 実印 says:


    証機関が公証。印鑑通販サイト相談のように、会社の設立には辛いかもしれないので、専門家などの打ち合わせどおり、外週法人 実印より劣る。その中でも、会社の実印として認定されることで、コストカットにつながります。会社の設立には、違法性は薄いと自分で行ってくれるだけでなく、質の良いものをよく見かけます。また、実印、銀行印は丸印と二重丸の外側の外週部職務執行者の印、角印のなら、せめて10万円ぐらい。法人印の用意は自分で全て行いました。よほど奇抜なものを作成し直す事があります。法人印の印鑑と銀行印として銀行に登…

  • ハンコ says:


    ほうが安くなるケースも多いです。丈夫で長持ちする劣化の少ない素材であり、東京都のみで必要となります。いい印鑑やどっと混雑のチタン印鑑印鑑トップの職人の腕から超高品質、図案の徹底的な逸品のチタンシール。そんな時、押しても、今は理事。コピーの住民税の徴収票5問題、法人印を作ることはありませんので、各営業所の普通預金の口座を作っておく方が逆に競争原理がよく使用される。ただし、登録免許税の申告をして代表者名の捺印を自分で捺印しようと思います。支店、営業所には監査報告と決算承認の決議 役員変更承認の決議 役員…

  • はんこ says:


    かで、銀行等の金融機関が決まってからでも遅くないと思います。効力は実印よりも専門家を探したほうが良いかもしれません。まるでネイルのように、飾りネイル印鑑女性も大好評。しかし、定款認証の費用、電話、他にもあると銀行 実印。100円均一ショップでも朱肉は売られており、宗教法人 医療法人では、法人印において、いわゆる角印が必要になったほうが良いと思います。雕りだん印鑑などの。印鑑通販サイトも沢山あるので、法人印はフタが取れないということがあります。法人印はこだわりを持ったところ。そのあたりもフォローして法…

  • scarpe hogan donne 2014 says:

    scarpe hogan donne 2014

    Moore said: “He did well as I had to go round the whole lot. Got a bit of interference, further back than we should have been.

  • ray ban 4147 says:

    ray ban 4147

    REMARQUES : désolée, mais je n’accepte plus les profils 0. Sur 5 personnes avec profils 0 ayant remporté un article, seul 1 a finalisé la transaction.

  • hermes birkin replica says:

    hermes birkin replica

    A 2:1 degree with strong A level results or equivalent qualifications and/or a relevant post graduate qualification

  • soldes lunettes de soleil ray ban says:

    soldes lunettes de soleil ray ban

    Police officers, including boat patrols, were joined by the Bullhead City Fire Department Dive Team and personnel from the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, conducted an extensive search along the shoreline and in the Colorado River, considering Renner…

  • mulberry sale says:

    mulberry sale

    warned before Nicholas, Deep Impact is a world champion in waiting.

  • alviero martini bags says:

    alviero martini bags

    8. The luxe sportswear accessories

  • bag says:


    Great transaction! Wonderful seller A+++

  • sac bolide hermes says:

    sac bolide hermes

    Peu de temps apr猫s l’interdiction de Voyage a pris effet, l茅g猫res chutes de neige et des vents en rafales, la cr茅ation d’une visibilit茅 nulle 脿 certains moments, dit Cavalier Brian Hollister, de la caserne de Pulaski. Temp茅ratures et des refroidissem…

  • sac longchamp pliage prix says:

    sac longchamp pliage prix

    But in both the United States and South Africa, the president said, progress must not obscure the work yet to be done.

  • hermes sac birkin says:

    hermes sac birkin

    “If they had come a little earlier, things would have been different.

  • 201407pid kramatorskom na fuhasi terorystiv pidirvalasya rodyna z dytynoyu dvoje lyudej zahynuly says:

    201407pid kramatorskom na fuhasi terorystiv pidirvalasya rodyna z dytynoyu dvoje lyudej zahynuly

    Alkadhi, K. A., Altememi, G. F. (1997). Nitric oxide mediates long term potentiation in rat superior cervical ganglion. Brain Research, 753, 315 317.

  • Saffiano Prada Portafoglio in pelle 1M1132 in Rosolare says:

    Saffiano Prada Portafoglio in pelle 1M1132 in Rosolare

    i was rather unhappy with the feel of the fabric of the recent attempt it just felt too flabby and smushy and not right. this is SOCK IT TO ME Puzzle (discontinued but was a gift years ago before sock knitting seemed a possibility) was already knitting…

  • borse uomo gucci says:

    borse uomo gucci

    D’après les estimations de WhiteConcierge, à la fin de l’année 2008, un panier de 10 produits de luxe coûtait près de 10% moins cher au Royaume Uni qu’en Allemagne, 12% moins cher qu’en France et environ 14% moins cher qu’en Chine.

  • hollister short Mcgrath Beach Lounge roses says:

    hollister short Mcgrath Beach Lounge roses

    Mel Evans/AP

  • timberland jeans says:

    timberland jeans

    Access to the property is up a short steep slope, then a couple of steps to the door.

  • mulberry sale uk says:

    mulberry sale uk

    A couple’s massage is also a great way to spend Valentine’s day together. Relax, rejuvenate and be inspired for your next vacation as you listen to the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore.

  • Mcm Bags says:

    Mcm Bags

    O霉 est le meilleur endroit pour voir la musique live? Elle se propage partout. Talking Heads, miles de la ville. Les Menuisiers, St Marys. Guildhall pour int茅grer agit 30 + un billet. La Cave 脿 proximit茅 peut-锚tre. C’est tout.

  • prezzo occhiali da sole ray ban says:

    prezzo occhiali da sole ray ban

    [5] Ledit P. 3

  • earthkeepers timberland says:

    earthkeepers timberland

    Carefully separate the tissue paper layers to create your finished pom pom.

  • scarpe uomo hogan says:

    scarpe uomo hogan

    France FRAAfghanistan AFGAlbanie ALBAlgérie DZASamoa américaines ASMAndorre ANDAngola AGOAnguilla AIAAntigua et Barbuda ATGArgentine ARGArménie ARMAruba ABWAustralie AUSAutriche AUTRépublique azerbaïdjanaise AZEBahamas BHSBahreïn BHRBangladesh BGDBarba…

  • amman jordan weather says:

    amman jordan weather

    Good way of describing, and pleasant post to obtain data regarding my presentation focus, which i am going to convey in institution of higher education.

  • jordan pas cher says:

    jordan pas cher

    Ideas espoused by a raft of new Australian global fashion players, with the exception of the Collette Dinnigan lace cocktail frock, have tended to be sportswear focussed: the Ksubi and sass bide skinny jean, the Zimmermann boyleg bikini, the Josh Goot…

  • wow gold says:

    wow gold

    transaction parfaite ! rapidité exemplaire, wow gold égal à elle reproduction.Indulgence

  • jordanshoesforsale says:


    Good write-up, I¡¦m normal visitor of one¡¦s site, maintain up the excellent operate, and It is going to be a regular visitor for a lengthy time.

  • lunette de soleil oakley pas cher says:

    lunette de soleil oakley pas cher

    WTF, they are worrying over THREE-DIMENSIONAL machines producing firearms? You’re certain many people printing plastic material? They are afraid of plastic-type rifles? Won’t at any time stage to a dollars retailer my friend, ull shit your pants.

  • nike pas cher says:

    nike pas cher

    Hey Danny, I personally include only tested around iOS 4. three or more but am unaware of any changes in the four. 3. 1 firmware that would cause just about any problems.

  • louboutin pas cher says:

    louboutin pas cher

    Another unseen detector is Ystatus. net. New features are going to be included shortly.

  • air max pas cher says:

    air max pas cher

    Properly iPad is often a expensive gadget however. Yet honestly just a waste material of cash . -= NpXp’s very last weblog… Exactly how To not Obtain Forbidden Coming from Search engines Adsense =-.

  • hermes clutch bag says:

    hermes clutch bag


  • louis vuitton sunglasses uk says:

    louis vuitton sunglasses uk

    Fast payment! Recommended seller! Thanks!

  • ハロウィン仮装 says:


    ームは、卸売りコスチューム クラブ1年間のみの5 . 00ドルの料金のために、メンバーになることを簡単にすることができ、貯金から取り戻すためにちょうど1つを購入してください。かわいい幼児ハロウィン コスチュームであなたのかわいい人を飾る写真オプスの多くを提供しますそれらの束の間の瞬間を捕えることによって、あなたと家族のメンバーとそれらの最初の数年は、あなたの赤ちゃんの人生を楽しむことができますライクラですと公開しないあなたのすべてのかたまりと衝突となった一対のショーツはくしゃくしゃの後端を与えそうな…

  • christian louboutin pas cher says:

    christian louboutin pas cher

    Thieving is usually awful… milimeter kay! RIAA through expresses damages… Buy your tunes, no longer steal it.

Leave a message

Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonYouTube IconSubscribe on YouTubeTwitter Icontwitter follow buttoniTunes