Honoring Intellectual Honesty, Professional Integrity & a Commitment to Justice
Note: The following are excerpts from remarks delivered by Amy Gutmann on May 8th, 2008 in presenting the Inaugural Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize to Alice M Rivlin.
Everyone knows the story of President Kennedy describing a White House dinner gathering of 49 American Nobel laureates as “the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House – with the possible exception of Thomas Jefferson dining alone.” With the installation of our new Fellows – including Penn’s own Sam Preston – tonight’s historic gathering of the American Academy of Political and Social Science represents truly the most extraordinary concentration of scholarly expertise and public policy influence assembled under one roof, with the exception of any time that Daniel Patrick Moynihan brilliantly held forth on any topic.
Truly, this son of Hell’s Kitchen who became the gentleman from New York was sui generis. Start with burning intellectual curiosity, marinate it in principled public policy, flavored by flawless scholarly inquiry, fearlessness, and sprinkle some, no not some, a lot of Irish wit – and you have the essence of Moynihan. He was indeed that rarest of phenomena, a public intellectual who never compromised his integrity in the public arena, as well as a Senator who found time to write brilliant, captivating scholarly books on a wide range of topics. He was also, I can say from personal experience, already an icon when he was a professor at Harvard when I was an undergraduate there. He was just a man for whom evidence always trumped ideology and for whom the public interest, yes always, trumped self-interest and, indeed, partisanship.
I can think of no more fitting tribute to the Moynihan legacy than to affix his name to a prize that honors scholars and public officials whose careers manifest the principles of intellectual honesty, professional integrity, and, yes, a commitment to justice. Nor can I think of a worthier recipient of the inaugural Moynihan Prize than Alice Rivlin.
Respected by Republicans and Democrats, not all of course, because it’s an honor to be on some people’s hate list, but respected by Republicans and Democrats who know what respect for wisdom is, revered, absolutely revered, by social scientists and trusted by all, Alice Rivlin throughout her career has combined brilliant scholarly analysis with a steadfast commitment to the principles of fiscal responsibility and good government. Bipartisan commitments. In 1975, she founded the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, where she served as director for eight tumultuous years. The CBO has proved a godsend for accountability, an invaluable resource for Congress, and an institutional conscience for good government.
Having a profound impact on public policy is a trademark of Dr. Alice Rivlin’s distinguished career. As director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 1994 to 1996, she helped to convert massive budget deficits into $200 billion annual surpluses by the end of the decade. Boy, do we need you now, Alice. She then became a leading architect of monetary policy as vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board from 1996 to 1999.
Dr. Rivlin is the author or co-author of landmark books on public policy. Since she publishes one every year, I’ll only name a few: Systematic Thinking for Social Action; Reviving the American Dream: The Economy, the States, and the Federal Government; and Beyond the Dot.coms. More recently, she has edited and written for a series of books published by the Brookings Institution called, yes a wonderful title, “Restoring Fiscal Sanity.” As she has always done, Dr. Rivlin has studied the data. She has concluded that spiraling costs for healthcare and pension programs endanger America’s long-term economic security, and she has proposed sound and sensible reforms in the tax system, in Social Security, in Medicare and these reforms, I submit to you, could avert many crises.
As citizens, we are always haunted by the “What ifs?” What if Britain and the world had heeded Churchill’s warnings about Hitler during the 1930s? What if politicians of all stripes had recognized the logic and wisdom Pat Moynihan’s analysis of poverty? If the next President of the United States knows what is good for this country, he or she will do well to heed the counsel of Dr. Alice Rivlin. Please join me in saluting this wonderful new member of our Academy, someone who would make Daniel Patrick Moynihan mighty proud, Dr. Alice Rivlin.
Amy Gutmann is the President of the University of Pennsylvania.
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