A Conversation with Former Senator Tim Wirth

FM sat down with the former Senator of Colorado Tim Wirth '61 to chat about politics, Harvard life, Gov 1310, and of course, Hillary Clinton.

FM: Can you single out the biggest change at Harvard since you graduated?

TW: Well, you know women being so integrated. Everything that’s here, having a Kennedy School. There was at that point a Littauer Center, but it was very abstract, not connected with the College at all. Having the Kennedy School here is fantastic...it’s a wonderful opportunity for young people, I think, to get engaged in government and politics.

FM: You’ve been a proponent of environmental reform throughout your career. What do you think of the movement here at Harvard to divest from fossil fuels?

TW: Oh I think theoretically it’s the right thing to do. But how you do it is a much more complicated issue. Endowments are not invested as one thing...endowments are much, much more sophisticated interests. Harvard probably has 22 different baskets, I will bet you something like that. Large cap, small cap...national, international. Just a whole lot of different things. So what you’re doing is you’re picking baskets, you’re not picking individual stocks. Harvard can’t go to a manager of one of these funds and say we like 19 of the things in your fund, but we don’t like the twentieth one. You just can’t do that. But I think that the pressure and the intention...is a very good thing to do. I think at the same time, Harvard should put, and I’m sure is putting, a major emphasis on how the university operates. What doe the university buy, where’s it buying, what’s the university’s efficiency look like, what is the university doing in terms of renewable energy. You know, all of those examples of what it’s doing, seems to me, are exceedingly important. And maybe more important than divestiture. I would hope that the Harvard board would say, yeah we’re for divestiture from fossil fuels when we can do that. And make that statement; that’s a good statement to make. Even though, you understand, that you still might be invested in fossil fuels because they’re part of one of these funds. But overall, we’re going to try to avoid fossil fuels and we’re going to try to avoid gambling, and we’re not for drug trade, drug trafficking. There’s certain things that the endowment would say they’re opposed to.

FM: What do you consider the biggest development of the [United Nations Fund] since its inception?

TW: Maybe we’ve had the biggest impact in terms of measles. We began the global effort on measles twelve years ago...measles was the greatest killer of children in Africa. More than malaria. And that is now almost totally eliminated in Africa. Same thing in the Indian subcontinent: it’s now taken on the measles campaign. We began all of that, we launched all of that. So that was...in terms of very specific, measurable results, that’s been extremely important.

FM: What gains do you hope the United Nations Foundation will make going forward?

TW: The most important thing that we have an opportunity to make a dent on is climate. It’s exceedingly important to do. And deliver family planning services to every woman in the world who wants them.

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