Bill Clinton: A Bad B-School Theory

by John A. Byrne on

Former President Bill Clinton delivered the commencement address at NYU's 2011 graduation.

Clad in a violet robe, Bill Clinton told thousands of cheering graduates at New York University’s commencement that there have been “two bad ideas” that have taken hold in the U.S.

“I believe America has been hurt badly in the last 30 years by adopting two bad ideas that serve the interests of people serving atop the various totem poles in American today.” One of those “bad ideas” has to do with what he believes is taught in most business schools today.

Speaking before the NYU graduating class of 2011 at Yankee Stadium on May 19th, Clinton said, “I was probably the last generation of Americans until the present day who could have gotten an MBA, if I went to business school instead of law school, with the prevailing theory being that American corporations had obligations primarily to all their stakeholders.

“Ever since then we’ve been teaching our young people that your primarily obligation is only to the shareholder. The problem is if you do that you ignore the other stakeholders. That could be why wages have been virtually stagnant for the past 30 years, because the workers are stakeholders.

“It could be why communities haven’t been able to undertake economic transformations in many places, because communities are stakeholders. It could be why customers don’t care so much what the source of their purchases are, they’re stakeholders.
“I think we have to move back to a stakeholder not just a shareholder-only society in the U.S. and throughout the world.”

His comments, made from a grandstand erected at second base, won loud applause from the audience on a rainy day.

The second bad idea? “The second wrong idea is that the only problem America has is that the government, especially the national government, messes everything up that it touches. It would mess up a two car parade.”

“There is no such thing as a good tax, no such thing as a bad tax cut. No such thing as a good regulation, no such thing as a bad deregulation. That contradicts the evidence in the United States and every other country in the world that only truly successful countries have both strong economies and effective governments, and a public/private partnership to share the future.”

DON’T MISS: INSPIRATIONAL WORDS FROM B-SCHOOL COMMENCEMENT SPEAKERS

  • klughing

    Am I not understanding this correctly or did Bill Clinton just tell the NYU MBA graduates that they were taught these bad ideas in the school you just paid a lot of money for?

  • klughing

    I mean “they” not “you”

  • Horace Greely

    3rd bad idea: Blow jobs in the Oval Office from an overweight intern and then prevaricating. At least she didn’t get pregnant and wasn’t the Guatamalan maid.

  • VV

    Not such an offbeat message. I think Jack Welch just said the same thing. Google it. I know that the CEO of the F100 company I work for says basically the same thing all the time.

  • Guiseppe

    The speech was given to NYU’s entire graduating class (undergrads from other faculties), not exclusively to Stern MBAs.

  • Bruce Vann

    Nullifying Glass-Steagal, that was really the worst idea.

  • Arthur Featherstonehaugh Dullsworthy

    good one, Bruce

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