Tag Archive: Master’s Teas

  1. Author speaks about giving to charity

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    Kevin Salwen, a former editor for The Wall Street Journal who co-wrote “The Power of Half” with his daughter Hannah, came to Yale on Thursday to speak about why his family decided to sell their house and donate half the proceeds to The Hunger Project in Africa. Before making his scheduled appearance in Dwight Hall, Mr. Salwen sat down with the News and shared his experiences as a philanthropist and agent of change.

    Q What motivated your decision to sell your house and donate half the sales to charity?

    A What triggered this whole project was our daughter’s recognition of and anger about the disparities of the world. She recognized that we had a lot — more than we needed — and she wanted us, well, prodded us to be a family who didn’t just talk about doing things but instead was out in the world doing them.

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    Q How have people reacted to your decision?

    A In two large buckets. Most people have been great. They may think we’re a little weird, but we’ve had a ton of people who’ve said, “I’ve started my own project. I’m inspired by what you’ve done.” We’ve had prisoners in two different prisons send us letters saying, “This was inspiring to me.” We’ve had a couple in Hawaii send us a blank check, with $50 written into it saying, “Use it any way you want to. I thought what you guys did was really cool.” On the flip side, we’ve had people call us everything you can be called … People have ripped us for being yanked around by our daughter who’s never worked a day in her life. Some of these used to bother us, but now they don’t.

    Q You and your family have been to Africa a few times. Can you tell us more about what you’ve done there?

    A We’re working with an organization called The Hunger Project. All of the work done in the communities is done by the people there. There’s none of that, “We’ll show you what to do; we’re from the West, and we’ll do it for you.” The most important thing we do for the people there is listen to them and tell them that we came 5,000 miles to hear their stories. We give them a sense of achievement that goes far beyond digging a well or building a school.

    Q What are some things that Yalies, who often do not have a lot of independent money, can do as well?

    A That’s a great question, because we all have more of something. It could be money, stuff, but more often, it’s time. If we all watch four hours of TV a week and cut it down to two, then we now have a new resource: two hours a week completely free. Maybe we could go to the local school and teach kids how to read. Maybe we could go to the nursing home and sing to the residents there or play bingo.

    Q Where do you envision yourself in the future?

    A You mean like tomorrow? [laughs] Well, right now, Hannah and I are giving 100-110 talks by the end of the school year. A lot of these are to school groups and nonprofits, but the message is always the same: Be out there in the world for others. We are evangelists for good, and we don’t even define good for you, because we think you know it. I don’t know where that puts me in five years — probably a tired old guy repeating the same message that nobody is listening to anymore.

    Q Do you have any advice for the younger generation?

    A Be out there in the world for others; the world needs what you have. Everyone on this campus should realize that they have the power to make a change and, more importantly, the power to help others make a change. And I’m not just saying that because I’m sitting on a lovely, fake leather couch in Dwight Hall.

  2. Professor: Financial crisis was a gift

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    The 2007 financial crisis should be seen as an opportunity to humanize the financial services industry, Hirokazu Miyazaki, professor of anthropology at Cornell University, said Wednesday at a talk titled “The Gift of the Global Financial Crisis.”

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    During the two-hour lecture, Miyazaki focused on the conclusion of his forthcoming book, “Arbitraging Japan: Traders as Critics of Capitalism,” for which he spent more than 10 years researching derivatives trading at a major Japanese securities firm.

    Financial logic can be applied and connected to the entire world, Miyazaki said, adding that the 2007 financial crisis confirmed that conclusion. It also gives the world a reason to make the financial services industry more humanistic and realistic, he said.

    Derivative trading is a specific branch of the economy dealing with “an agreement between two people or parties that has a value determined by the price of something else,” he said.

    Miyazaki said finance, especially derivatives trading, has ties to the occult, hypnosis and predictions, partially due to the fact that derivatives trading is such an abstract and intangible activity, he said.

    “The logic of finance can be productive and self-cancelling,” says Miyazaki. “It can seem like everything is arbitrage and nothing is arbitrage.”

    Miyazaki said Japan was the ideal location for his research because its financial culture was less bonus-centric than Wall Street. As a result, he said, the derivatives traders focused less on the money they were making and more on the logic behind their work. He said he concluded from his research that policy makers should take a more anthropological view of humanity as they rebuild the financial system.

    More specifically, Miyazaki said legislators should consult traders and other financial experts about future financial reforms.

    “We ought to enlist them in our debate about what to do with financial markets and their regulation instead of treating them as inherently greedy people we need to control,” says Miyazaki. This hopeful perspective is essential to Miyazaki’s belief in the “gift” of the financial crisis.

    About a dozen people joined Miyazaki in Yale’s Department of Anthropology on Sachem Street for the talk. Four attendees said the talk was thought-provoking, but difficult to understand.

    Miyazaki began researching the anthropological effects of finance and trading after receiving his doctorate in anthropology in 1998 from Australian National University.