Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, sits down with the Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Ron Chernow to discuss his best-selling biography of former President Ulysses S. Grant. Chernow, whose previous work inspired the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, tells Blankfein why he chose to write about Grant and why Grant’s successes as a Civil War general and two-term president should give hope to any “late bloomers” in life. Finally, they talk about how Grant’s legacy impacts current events, particularly around race relations in the United States.
On why Grant is Chernow’s favorite work yet: “In many ways, this is my favorite book because we all admire accomplishment, but we all identify with failure. There’s a lot of failure in this book before Grant begins to soar and soar.”
On why Chernow chose to write about Grant: “When I decided to [write about] Hamilton, he was really fading into obscurity. To the extent that he was remembered, he was demonized. It was the same impulse that drew me to Grant. I felt that he was a much, much bigger and important figure than people realized.”
On Grant’s lasting impact on race relations in the U.S.: “When [people] talk about Grant’s presidency, they talk about the scandals, the corruption, and all of that happened, but I think the lasting story of Grant’s presidency is what he did to protect those four million blacks in the South from the ravages of the [Ku Klux] Klan.”
This Talks at GS session was originally streamed on Facebook Live.