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Greenspan’s Harvard Commencement Speech

This page lists the six short-essay questions and provides links to any resources necessary to answer them.

Important! Make sure to include your name, email, and school with your final answers

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As you read through these questions, please remember that we’ll be looking to see the application of the ideas reviewed in the previous interactive activities. You will upload your answers in a single Word or PDF document in the next course section. If you have any questions as you work through the readings and assignments, please don’t hesitate to contact your tutor.

For each question, we first link to any required readings and then link to any optional readings or resources that may help you write your answer. However, you are not required to review the optional resources.

Question 1: Greenspan’s Harvard Commencement Speech

Required Readings:

Harvard University Commencement Speechby (then) Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan

Please focus on these four paragraphs:

[1] “I do not deny that many appear to have succeeded in a material way by cutting corners and manipulating associates, both in their professional and in their personal lives. But material success is possible in this world and far more satisfying when it comes without exploiting others. The true measure of a career is to be able to be content, even proud, that you succeeded . . . without leaving a trail of casualties in your wake.”

[2] “I cannot speak for others whose psyches I may not be able to comprehend, but, in my working life, I have found no greater satisfaction than achieving success through honest dealings and strict adherence to the view that for you to gain, those you deal with should gain as well. Human relations–be they personal or professional–should not be zero sum games.”

[3] “And beyond the personal sense of satisfaction, having a reputation for fair dealing is a profoundly practical virtue. We call it ‘good will’ in business and add it to our balance sheets.”

[4] “Trust is at the root of any economic system based on mutually beneficial exchange. In virtually all transactions, we rely on the word of those with whom we do business. Were this not the case, exchange of goods and services could not take place on any reasonable scale. Our commercial codes and contract law presume that only a tiny fraction of contracts, at most, need be adjudicated. If a significant number of businesspeople violated the trust upon which our interactions are based, our court system and our economy would be swamped into immobility.”


[a] Do you think Greenspan is being realistic about the possibility of business ethics? Cite specific language from his speech (in quotation marks) and explain your reasoning.

[b] Identify the core ethical values you plan to follow in your career.

Question 2: Lawyer Plagiarism

Required Readings:

Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Peter Cannon


[a] Why should judges care if attorneys submit plagiarized legal briefs or motions? Please explain your answer.

[b] The Iowa Supreme Court referred to another case involving attorney plagiarism (Iowa Supreme Court Board of Professional Ethics & Conduct v. Lane). In that case, the punishment for attorney Lane (suspension of his license to practice) was more severe than the punishment imposed on attorney Cannon. What distinction did the court make between these two cases? Do you agree with the court’s reasoning?

Question 3: Lincoln’s Depression
One of Abraham Lincoln’s greatest attributes was his ability to recover and learn from failure. The quality of perseverance seemed especially useful to Lincoln as he struggled with “melancholy” (what might now be called depression). For Lincoln, learning how to persevere also meant learning how to adapt.

Required Readings:
Lincoln’s Great Depression

Optional Resources:
An incomplete listing of Lincoln’s failures.


[a] Based on your reading of Shenk’s article, “Lincoln’s Great Depression”, please identify two of Lincoln’s most successful adaptation strategies (skills, habits, or ways of thinking) that helped him use his struggle with depression to accomplish worthy goals. Provide textual evidence (quotes) to support your answer.

[b] What idea or insight in the full article would you recommend to others (a friend, perhaps)? Provide a direct quotation from the article to support your answer.

*Important reminder: It’s essential to use quotation marks or block indentation when you incorporate any language from any source, including all IS readings. It’s equally important to avoid a “deceptive” or “patchwork paraphrase” (changing or adding occasional words, but otherwise using the author’s core ideas and phraseology without attribution). Click here for guidance from the University of Wisconsin on the difference between permissible and impermissible paraphrasing. Click herefor guidance from Harvard University on the kinds of “common knowledge” you are not required to quote or cite. If in doubt, it’s always prudent to include quotation marks and a citation. Contact the Integrity Seminar Tutor Team ([email protected]) if these instructions are unclear or if you have any questions.

Question 4: Statement of Gratitude
First, please read Book One of the Meditations of Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius (link below).

Required Readings:
Meditations (Book1)

Optional Resources:
Background information about Stoicism

Additional background for reflection: a philosophical perspective on gratitude…

“Aware only of his own satisfactions and his own happiness, hoarding them as a miser hoards his coin . . . the egoist cannot be grateful. Ingratitude is not the incapacity to receive but the inability to give back–in the form of joy or love–a little of the joy that was received or experienced. This is why ingratitude is so pervasive a vice. [Ungrateful people] absorb joy as others absorb light, for egoism is a black hole.”

–Andre Comte-Sponville, Professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne (France)


[a] Write a concise statement of gratitude (400 words or less) identifying the ethical and intellectual debts you owe to family members, teachers, or friends. Fictitious names are permitted, but the statement of gratitude should be genuine

Question 5: Shattered Glass

Please see the film Shattered Glass(Lionsgate, 2004). You should be able to find the film online here or on DVD. The rental cost is about $4. Most college library film collections have it too. Please contact the Integrity Seminar Tutor Team ([email protected]) immediately if you have any difficulty finding the film.


[a] What scene in the film made the strongest impression on you? Please describe.

[b] What habits did Glass develop that proved harmful to him? How can you avoid developing comparable bad habits yourself?

[c] What advice would you give to editors about how to avoid hiring someone like Stephen Glass? What kind of pre-employment screening do you recommend? Please remember see this related Integrity Seminars video

A word of caution: We’re not asking you to find outside commentary on this film. You’re being asked to think and write for yourself. Much of what we see online about the film is demonstrably wrong–and an invitation to plagiarism (we monitor two pertinent plagiarism sites in particular).
The more students appropriate someone else’s work and submit it as their own the less they expand their own capacity for creative thought. To the extent academic dishonesty becomes habitual, they’re diminishing the quality of their own education.

Repeatedly engaging in academic dishonesty is comparable to aspiring to be a top athlete, but hiring someone else to do all the practice and training. It simply doesn’t work. The failure inevitably becomes apparent on the athletic field and in the workplace. Meanwhile, when dishonesty is detected–as it often is–students are creating educational records damaging to their reputation.

Question 6: Retirement Banquet

First, without reviewing your previous answers to this question, please answer the question again (repeated below). This isn’t a memory test. Even if you do remember much of what you previously wrote, you’re free in this version to make any desired additions, modifications or changes in priority. You’re also free to retain your original answer without changes, if you prefer.

Please pretend you’re at a retirement banquet. This is a serious and formal occasion, not a “roast.” The person retiring is 65 years old and at the end of a long career. You know this person well–both inside and outside the workplace. It’s your job to say a few truthful, descriptive words about them. What character or personality traits come to mind?

Question for you to answer: (repeated): Pretend the person retiring is you. In short, we’re asking you to project yourself into the future and to identify at least five descriptive words you hope others would say about you at a comparable event. By “descriptive words” we mean single words or very short phrases. Please number each descriptive word or phrase and rank them in priority order ( #1 = the most important to you).

Three New Questions to Answer:

[a] Briefly identify any notable differences between your first answer and your answers to this concluding assignment. “Notable differences” would include a change in priority of answers (for example, #1 was moved to #4).

[b] Please identify any Seminar ideas, readings, or exercises that help account for those differences. How did they influence your thinking?

[c] How is a good life defined, and what is your plan to achieve it? Please refer to themes from the assigned readings to support your answer.

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