Peter Blair Henry, a UNC alumnus and dean of New York University’s Stern School of Business, spoke to a group of students and adults Thursday about how his personal background has informed his economic opinions.
Henry’s speech focused on his new book “Turnaround: Third World Lessons for First World Growth” in his presentation at the FedEx Global Education Center Thursday evening.
Henry discussed the ways his life experiences shaped the economic worldview outlined in his book. He argued that third world countries that went through debt crises in the 1970s and 1980s recovered by applying the basic principles of discipline, clarity, and truth.
He said first-world countries helped guide the struggling ones through economic hardship.
“What struck me is that we have forgotten all of these lessons and that’s part of the reason why we’re struggling,” he said.
Henry was born in Jamaica and moved to the suburbs of Chicago when he was eight. He received his bachelor’s degree from UNC, where he was a Morehead-Cain Scholar, and then went on to become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He later received his PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I started writing because there’s a story that I wanted to tell about the connections between the third world where I’m from and the first world where I now live,” he said.
Samer Khatib, a senior business and economics major, said he really connected to Henry’s personal story. “My parents are from Jerusalem and that sense of education and hard work and determination is something that really struck me about Mr. Henry,” Khatib said.
The presentation, hosted in the form of a conversation led by UNC alumnus William B. Harrison, Jr., focused on Henry’s new book and on his general economic views and principles.
“This is a really thoughtful, market-based and disciplined book in terms of how you think about a lot of the problems we see in the world and ones we see in this country, which he captures very nicely,” Harrison said.
Ryan Leary, a UNC graduate student majoring in economics, said the discussion was helpful because it offered a new perspective.
“I think maybe we’ve been looking in the wrong place for inspiration, and I thought that was very interesting,” Leary said.
Henry also said that students need to be prepared to participate in what is an increasingly global economy.
“We used to talk about open economies and closed economies,” Henry said. “Today there is really one global economy.”
Among the audience members was a group of students from Carrboro High School. Led by their social studies teacher Matt Cone, these students came as part of a school requirement that they pursue academic interests outside of the classroom.
“There are so many good things at UNC that it’s criminal not to tap into it,” Cone said.
Leah Adams, a sophomore at Carrboro High School, was a student in one of Cone’s classes last year.
“I am really interested in global economics, global policy, and global health, so when I heard about this talk through Mr. Cone, I decided I should come,” she said.
“We’ve gotten into the mindset that emerging economies do well at the peril of advanced economies. And that’s a zero-sum mentality. The point is that global growth is good for everyone.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.