Bok Speech Marks First Return Since Retirement in '91

In his first speech at Harvard since stepping down last June from the University's highest post, former President Derek C. Bok criticized the pursuit of financial gain as the cause of declining ethical standards.

During the speech, titled "Money, Markets and Motivation," Bok also announced that he will return to the Kennedy School this fall as a part-time instructor in public policy.

Before approximately 100 observers gathered at the Kennedy School's ARCO Forum, Bok railed against the "prevailing ideology of money and accumulation of wealth."

He focused almost exclusively upon "competition" and "market forces" as the principal agents or mechanism that precipitated the decline of ethics and trust.

"Making money was a key incentive...raising it to a status of official ideology," Bok said.


The trend began in the 1960s with the failure of the government to effectively manage its programs, according to Bok. He contended that significant wage and salary increases in the private sector drew the "best and brightest" away from careers in education and public service.

The "shift of our best people to the private sector" deprived the government of its ability to arbitrate between the public and private interests, and subsequently started a new ideology centered on personal interest over public good, Bok said.

Reflecting on the decline of charity and volunteerism, Bok said that "In the last 15 or 20 years, we have seen a disappointing record of generosity," and he indicated that individuals with the most to give have contributed the least.

He identified a decline of moral standards in the medical and legal fields, and said that "Every profession depends on ethical standards.. in recent years we have seen a dramatic declinein these standards."

The former president proposed a "market"oriented solution in which teachers' salarieswould be increased by 13 percent. Higher wageswould attract more qualified individuals to theclassroom--the second-most important battlegroundfor ethical teaching after the home, according toBok.

Bok's address was the 57th annual Edwin L.Godkin Lecture. The lecture series was endowed in1903 by the founding editor of The Nation.Past speakers have included other former Harvardpresidents and outstanding thinkers and writers,including Bok's father-in-law, Gunnar Mydral