Jerome Powell recalls the moment that changed his life forever: ‘A little initiative can make all the difference in anyone’s career’

Jerome Powell recalls the moment that changed his life forever: ‘A little initiative can make all the difference in anyone’s career’
Jerome Powell recalls the moment that changed his life forever: ‘A little initiative can make all the difference in anyone’s career’

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell made a pitch for public service to recently minted graduates at Georgetown University Law Center, his alma mater, on Sunday.

The former investment banker left the practice of law a few years after receiving his degree, but he emphasized that his education opened up many potential paths, including the opportunity to work in government.

“Each of you has the capability to achieve success in any field you choose; it is important that you also consider how to give back and use your gifts to make a difference,” he said in prepared remarks, encouraging the graduates to “think beyond yourselves.”

The Fed chief delivered the address by prerecorded video at the school’s commencement ceremony in Washington, after testing positive for Covid-19 late Thursday. A spokesperson said Powell was experiencing symptoms and isolating at home.

Taking Initiative

Powell recounted how, as a junior employee at investment bank Dillon Read & Co., he mustered the courage to tell his then-boss Nicholas Brady that he was eager to serve in government if the opportunity ever arose.

Brady later sought Powell’s help defending an oil company from a hostile takeover attempt, he said, and spent two months traveling back and forth to Washington. When Brady became Treasury secretary several years later, he asked Powell to join him there, “which opened the door for me to higher levels of public service.”

“The point is this: if I had not forced myself to get up from my desk, taken the stairs up to the 15th floor, and presented myself to his office that day, the rest of my life would have been very different, and I “would not be standing here today,” he said.

“Mustering that little bit of initiative changed my life,” he said. “A little initiative can make all the difference in anyone’s career.”

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