Robert Reich on his undergraduate experience at Dartmouth

‘I had wonderful friends and lots of fun’

I have been a huge fan of Robert Reich since I first became aware of his work back in high school, when my economics teachers held a lottery for students to go to lunch with Mr. Reich. I didn’t end up winning the lottery, but I feel very excited to have been able to interview Mr. Reich.

Robert Reich graduated from Dartmouth summa cum laude in 1968. He went on to study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. Over the course of his career, he has served as the Secretary of Labor under the Bill Clinton Administration, published 14 books, contributed to dozens of publications, and taught at Harvard and UC Berkeley. Currently, Mr. Reich is a professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

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Robert Reich speaking at the Progressive Governance Conference

What are some of your fondest memories of your time at Dartmouth College?

Some extraordinary classes and seminars – art history, medieval history, the French Enlightenment, Drama, Psychology, Philosophy, a seminar on Henry Adams. As I write this I’m sort of surprised, because I had wonderful friends and had lots of fun. But the classes and seminars stand out.

What were your keys to academic success at Dartmouth?

Great professors, stimulating classes, terrific readings, lots of new ideas and ways of thinking. I was excited about what I was learning.

In what ways did your Dartmouth experience help to guide you along the pathway to more success?

Hard to know, exactly. I did a lot extracurricularly, including what we then called the “Dartmouth Experimental College” – an early form of free university where any student or member of the community could teach whatever they wanted, and anyone could take what was offered. That and other activities gave me a good grounding in institution-building. There was also a lot of politics. I got an internship in Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s office my junior summer, and I took off three months of my senior year to work for Eugene McCarthy in his presidential bid to end the Vietnam War. And I learned to write, and to think hard and critically. That I owe, again, to my teachers.

Where was your favorite place to study at Dartmouth?

Sometimes I tucked myself away in Baker Library. More often, my dorm room.

What do you hope to accomplish in the coming years?

I have no idea. I’ve never planned my life that way. I’ll continue to write. I’ve got a play that I’m hoping will be performed. I want to make more art. And, of course, I’ll keep fighting for what I believe in.

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Mr. Reich’s newest book

I would encourage our readers to follow Mr. Reich’s Facebook page. On the page, he provides witty political, economic, and social commentary on current events in the US and around the globe. Mr. Reich is a great example for all Dartmouth students to follow. We are grateful that he took the time to answer some questions about his Dartmouth experience, and we hope our readers can learn a thing or two from the interview.

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