Tuesday, May 25, 2010

John Lewis

The NY Times reports today that John Lewis has died. Not John Lewis the Congressman and civil rights leader – John Lewis the economist.

John headed up the US AID program in India in the 1960’s. I met and came to know John when I was Ambassador Chester Bowles’ assistant during those years. Before coming to India he had been a professor at Indiana U. and a member of the Council of Economic Advisors.

John Lewis was a very decent and good man. He argued that aid was a necessary component of foreign policy and that the rich had a moral responsibility to assist the poor. In that regard he was the perfect economic complement to Bowles’ view of the world.

In 1969, with the change of administration in Washington, we both headed home. John had been named dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs at Princeton. I was looking for a job. He asked me to accompany him to Princeton and be his assistant. I was honored and tempted by his offer, but chose to decline in favor of going to New York to join Ed Logue at the Urban Development Corporation. I felt I didn’t have the academic merit badges (specifically a PhD) to rise to the top in academia.

Even though I haven’t been in touch with John for many years, from time to time he’d come to mind. When that happened I always remembered him with fondness and respect. The world is a better place because John Lewis was here.


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