A man reflects on his life and draws on his eclectic experiences to discuss the world’s future.
Hecht (Rubles and Dollars: Strategies for Doing Business in the Soviet Union, 1991, etc.) grew up in New York City, and learned powerful lessons about the value of working hard and overcoming adversity while living through the Depression. After a stint as a copyboy at a newspaper, he went to Cornell to study chemical engineering. His education was interrupted by World War II—he spent nearly two years in the military—and he ended up attending Georgia Tech and then Yale. While at Yale, Hecht met his future wife, Amy—a day he affectionately describes as the most important of his life—and before he decamped to Buffalo to start a new job, he proposed marriage to her. A significant portion of this book is a conventional memoir, recounting a life of work, family, and public service. But seamlessly interspersed throughout these remembrances are brief reflections on a wide spectrum of global problems and issues in public policy. For example, the author recalls his experience serving as the president of Housing Opportunities Made Equal in Buffalo for five years, and what he learned about the timely issue of low-income housing and racial disparity. (He wrote another book on this subject: Because It is Right: Integration in Housing, 1970.) After discussing his military service, Hecht recommends the creation of a Universal National Service. Sometimes, his unconventional perspective is refreshingly provocative: he examines the tensions between Israel and Palestine in terms of the former’s need to territorially control an aquifer that provides a significant amount of its water supply. And, after multiple trips to the Soviet Union, Hecht encouraged a kind of commercial détente. Ultimately, the author optimistically envisions the creation of a world government, possible partially because of a resurgence of religious belief globally. This is a thoughtful meditation, and Hecht skillfully mines his own experiences for contemporary wisdom. As a whole, the volume lacks a fully coherent structure, and seems to meander sometimes from disparate topic to topic. But this remains an inspiring book—Hecht suffered two extraordinary tragedies in his life: both of his sons died. Out of deep loss, he found the will to improve the world he inhabits, and this memoir is a testament to that philanthropically charged mission.
A sensible and optimistic consideration of the globe’s prospects for success.