Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes likes to write, “We watch so you don’t have to.” Well, the last two days I’ve gone to three lectures at Duke and UNC, so you don’t have to.
First up was “A Report Card on Obama’s Foreign Policy” by Seymour Hersh, who famously exposed the Mi Lai Massacre and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. This was part of the Provost Lecture Series at Duke, which has the theme “The Future of the Past, The Future of the Present: A Historical Record in the Digital Age.”
Hersh is one of the greatest journalists of our lifetime, but I doubt he even understood the connection between his lecture and the overall theme, so he didn’t even bother. Instead, he gave out one grade (an A+ to Obama for changing the tone in Iran), and then just started rambling (the Duke newspaper politely called it “loosely structured”).
He said that Iraq will have a civil war by 2010, and when Kurdistan eventually breaks off from the rest of Iraq, Turkey will then become involved as well. He also said that there’s a lot of infighting in the Pentagon, and some people are trying to actively undermine Obama, partly because of racism. The race card drew some gasps from the crowd, but Hersh said it’s there and he can’t ignore it, even if it makes him unpopular to say it. He also brought up this fact. I’m not sure if it’s relevent, but it’s interesting: When Bill Clinton ordered NATO to bomb Kosovo in 1999, it was the first time since World War II that the U.S. attacked white people.
Yesterday afternoon I was back in UNC’s campus for a talk by Jason Kilar, a ’93 grad who worked for Amazon early on and is now the CEO of Hulu. While I was underwhelmed by his attempts to offer advice to students (find your passion, branch out on campus), it’s always good to hear a success story.
His basic message was a quote by Wayne Gretzky, who said he didn’t go where the puck was, but he went where the puck will go. So while some people might want to go to established businesses (um, newspapers?), he tried to predict where the future will be. And his guiding principle was to think about what’s best for consumers. A Barnes and Noble will offer 150,000 books 12 hours a day, while Amazon offered 5 million books 24 hours a day, and cheaper.
There were a ton of students there (it must have been mandatory for some class), and they all were taking notes on their laptops. So anytime Kilar said something remotely interesting, you heard hundreds of clicking noises as people typed furiously. It was like instant feedback for the speaker, especially when he said something less profound and there was total silence.
My final lecture came from Coach K, who held court for an hour at Page last night. I got there late and caught the last 20 minutes. A student asked what the UNC game means to the coach personally, and K responds that it means the same as every other game, and he would quit coaching if one loss hurt more than another. Basically, you don’t become the best by not trying your hardest every time. Would you want your doctor to try his hardest only on certain days, or in certain situations?
I’m sure that’s why Duke has an incredible record against unranked teams, because they take everyone so seriously. And then I thought, but wouldn’t you get worn out if you tried your hardest all the time? And isn’t that what happens to Duke in the postseason? This exchange, however, was the highlight:
Student: Are we going to play more zone this year?
Coach K: Yeah, maybe if we played more zone we would have won 31 games last year (they won 30).
Coach K: What zone should we play?
Coach K: Do you have a favorite zone?
Coach K: Do you even know what a zone is?
Coach K: I think we just had a moment here.