Today in New Delhi, India
Dec 13, 2018-Thursday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

There is a lot to learn from America

America upsets people for various reasons today, but you can?t help approving of the American work ethic.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 13:16 IST

America upsetspeople for various reasons today though it’s hard to resist their music, movies and much else. However, you can’t help approving of the American work ethic that made peanut farmers into Presidents (Jimmy Carter) and dirt-poor hillbillies from the Ozark Mountains into glamorous magazine editors who defined a whole way to be for working girls (Helen Gurley Brown). That’s just two examples of kazillion.

More, if you examine their upper class, the WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), those "Boston Brahmin" values were pretty sound, really. You had to study, you had to have accomplishments (music, ballet, foreign languages), you had to be outdoorsy for bodymind balance.

You had to work at something that added to the sum of human knowledge, you had to support museums, universities and good causes, grow gardens and practice serious philanthropy. And most appealing, you had to practice thrift: use money for graces, not for show.

An Austrian Jew who seems to have Americanised into WASPdom was Felix Frankfurter, star of the Harvard Law School, advisor to President Franklin D Roosevelt and Supreme Court judge. I love his ‘Advice to a Young Man Interested into going to Law’; it’s a life-bestowing mantra:

“No one can be a truly competent lawyer unless he is a cultivated man. If I were you, I would forget all about my technical preparation for law. The best way to prepare for the law is to come to the study of law as a well-read person. Thus alone can one acquire the capacity to use the English language on paper and in speech and with the habit of clear thinking, which only a truly liberal education can give. No less important for a lawyer is the cultivation of the imaginative faculties by reading poetry, seeing great paintings, in the original or in easily available reproductions, and listening to great music. Stock your mind with the deposit of much good reading and widen and deepen your feelings by experiencing vicariously as much as possible the wonderful mysteries of the universe and forget all about your career.”

First Published: Mar 10, 2006 13:16 IST