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Sorkin entertains and informs at Anderson Chandler Lecture

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LAWRENCE ― The 2011 Anderson Chandler Lecture Thursday, Oct. 13 played host to Andrew Ross Sorkin, chief mergers and acquisitions editor of The New York Times, host of CNBC's "Squawk Box" and editor-at-large for the website Dealbook.

Sorkin opened up the lecture by walking right past the podium and telling the audience that he wanted it to be more like a conversation. The overall theme of the lecture was looking at where we are today in the economy. That brought us to a monumental moment in Sorkin's career: 2:30 a.m. Sept. 15, 2008.

This was the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and Sorkin penned an article about its collapse that ran on the front page of The New York Times. But that wasn't all. This event spawned an idea.

When he got home that morning, he wanted to talk to someone about what had happened, so he woke up his wife. As he was explaining the situation to her, he likened it to a movie. She corrected him, saying, "No, it's like a book." And with that he began to write what would eventually become The New York Times best-seller, "Too Big to Fail."

Throughout the writing process he was able to trace the fall of the economy and even look at other possible outcomes. Sorkin believes that although times are hard, they could be a lot worse. He distinctly remembers seeing a document that showed unemployment could have been as high as 24.6 percent 12 months after the collapse of the economy.

He talked about a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street; about how the public didn't realize the fragile state of the economy. Sorkin said this is because our economy is based on confidence. People must be confident in the security of the economy in order for it to survive. It's only when it starts to affect us that we notice the ripple effects.

Because of this he urges people to look beyond the numbers. He called the audience to change their thinking and look at the situation from a different perspective: maybe we have a new era where nine percent unemployment is the standard.

"We need a job plan for the next decade. We need to be patient, but we [Americans] are not very good at that," Sorkin said.

According to Sorkin, patience is key. "We're the ultimate A.D.D. society," Sorkin said, citing the fact that the average length of time a shareholder keeps stock is roughly 2.8 months and the average length of a CEO's tenure is 2.1 years.

"We talk about patience, a ten year plan; that's what it's going to take," Sorkin said. "I have a remarkable amount of hope that this country will become patient."

After the lecture, audience members were invited to ask questions, which ranged from bank lending to debt.

The Anderson Chandler Lecture Series began in 1997 and is made possible by Anderson Chandler. He is CEO, president and director of Fidelity State Bank and Trust Co. of Topeka, Kan. He received KU's Distinguished Service Citation from the Alumni Association in 2010 and is one of the first alumni honored, in 1998, with the School of Business Distinguished Alumni Award.

Chandler also established the Anderson W. Chandler Teaching Professorship in Business to recognize and encourage excellence in classroom teaching.

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