Treasury Nominee Addresses Alma Mater

Goldman CEO stresses balance in personal and professional life

Vilsa E. Curto

Henry M. Paulson, Jr., CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs and Treasury secretary nominee, speaks to the HBS Class of 2006 yesterday.

Just 25 minutes before he was scheduled to address the Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2006 at its Class Day ceremony yesterday, Henry M. Paulson, President George W. Bush’s nominee for the next secretary of the Treasury, touched down at Logan Airport. The Business School, which had hatched several back-up plans in case the erratic Boston weather did not cooperate, printed out 1,000 revised Class Day programs and found a substitute speaker.

But as scheduled, Paulson, who graduated from the Business School with an MBA in 1970 and serves as the CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs, addressed a packed auditorium of graduates, friends, and family of the Business School Class of 2006.

Following a well-received speech by student speaker Jin H. “PJ” Kim, who received an enthusiastic standing ovation, Paulson took a less traditional route while addressing the graduates, speaking without notes and standing to the side of the podium.

Admitting that his delayed flight gave him a little more time to plan his speech, Paulson began his remarks by commenting on the state of the global market.

“What an extraordinary time to be leaving Harvard Business School,” said Paulson. “This is by far the best global economy that I have seen in my lifetime.”

But Paulson told the graduates that they cannot always expect a stable economy in their future, so they needed to be able to adjust to change.

He listed key pieces of advice—looking to the long-term, resisting the “hot job,” and maintaining “a moral compass”—and concluded that balance was integral to personal satisfaction.

Paulson, a Dartmouth College English major who grew up wanting to be a forest ranger, has devoted his life to finance.

When he first joined the Chicago Goldman Sachs offices in 1974, Paulson joked that his wife once threatened to leave him if he did not spend more time with his children.

From then on, Paulson said he would catch the 4:22 p.m. train home to give his kids a bath and read them a bedtime story.

Throughout his speech, Paulson stressed to the graduates that they maintain a balance between their jobs and their personal lives.

Paulson also explained his recent choice to leave Wall Street and accept his nomination last month as Treasury secretary.

“The decision to leave Goldman Sachs was a very difficult decision because I love Goldman Sachs,” said Paulson. “So I woke up one morning and said that I didn’t want to look back in five years and say I passed up the opportunity to do something for my country,”

Harvard Business School Dean Jay O. Light said after the ceremony that he was very pleased with the speakers.

“I think the students did a remarkable job,” Light said. “[Paulson] also gave a very moving speech.”

—Staff writer Madeline W. Lissner can be reached at mlissner@fas.harvard.edu.