Dearest Charlotte, members of the Shultz family, Secretary Blinken, Governor Newsom, distinguished guests, and Bishop Swing—
I am honored to welcome you on behalf of President Marc-Tessier Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell, and on behalf of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, to this celebration and commemoration of the life of our extraordinary friend and colleague George P. Shultz.
No words said here today will ever fully capture the impact of George’s one hundred years here on earth. He was the consummate public servant, serving our country with dignity and skill, from his days as a young Marine, to the cabinet posts that he held—secretary of state, secretary of the Treasury, secretary of labor, and director of OMB.
All of us who followed him in that service saw him as a North Star for integrity and for patriotism. George was a highly regarded businessman who brought a belief in the power of markets to his successful leadership in the private sector. And George was a thinker, a believer in the power of ideas. That fueled his academic career in economics as a teacher, and as a dean, but it was the combination of these gifts and experiences touching so many aspects of our national life that made George unique.
It is fitting that we gather here in Memorial Church on Stanford campus. Those who will follow me today will talk about many of George’s contributions. But if I may, I just want to say a word about George Shultz and Stanford University. It was a terrific match.
George of course spent that last chapter of his career making the Hoover Institution a stronger and more impactful place—pushing the envelope on ideas from nuclear disarmament, to environmental sustainability and energy policy, to defending the values of democracy. George never stopped learning. He believed that intellectual pursuits were the key to an active mind, and a long life. All of us at Hoover and Stanford gained energy and strength from George in that regard, and we wanted to follow his example.
And the dinners! Oh the dinners, curated by the incomparable Charlotte at their home a few minutes from here. These were a fixture of our intellectual life. George always insisted on one spirited conversation around the table. He enriched us with his insights, and with those of the many extraordinary guests with whom we dined.
But perhaps fewer know the impact of George on our students. The dinners in the dorms, the guest appearances in classes. Our students loved being in the presence of this great man. He inspired them to public service at a time when so many in the academy and in the country questioned its value.
And there was more—on any given Saturday, there was George in his very red jacket, cheering on the Stanford Cardinal football team. I can’t help but think that he loved last Saturday’s improbable win over Oregon. I can almost hear him saying, “Now that was some game!” And then on Thursday nights, you could catch George at Maples pavilion, hanging on to every minute of Stanford basketball. And then every spring, sponsoring the Shultz Cup golf tournament, to benefit men’s and women’s golf. After dinner though, the true George came out—he would give a tour de force, circling the globe, almost always without a single note, and then he would sit until the last question was asked by the last student golfer about the future of the world.
George inspired young people because he loved and respected them. He was so proud of his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren, particularly among them the Stanford students—now alumni. And we must never forget that George worked to support educational opportunities for the underserved, at St. Elizabeth Seton’s and beyond, so that college was also in their reach.
George belonged to and in the University. After all that he had accomplished, shaping the future of the world on the global stage, he was very much at home shaping the next generation as an inspirational mentor and example.
Now, I know that George was always loyal to Princeton, and he had a tattoo to prove it. I know his impact at the University of Chicago, and the great minds Friedman and Becker, and all of those scholars and students who would follow. But I am so grateful George P. Shultz adopted and loved Stanford, and that he lived out his exceptional life here.
George was a great mentor, and loyal friend. I already miss his office drop-bys to talk about the news of the day. I miss the roundtables he convened to share ideas and seek answers to hard problems. I miss his smile. His sense of humor. His kindness.
But like all of you gathered here today, though I miss him greatly, I feel so lucky to have been a part of his consequential life—and so blessed that he was a part of mine.