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Robert E. Rubin, The Yellow Pad: Making Better Decisions in an Uncertain World, with David Litt

Thursday, November 2, 2023 - 6:00 PM | Members' Room | open to the public | $15 per person | registration required

Robert Rubin, former secretary of the Treasury and co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, shares thoughts on decision-making developed over more than six decades in markets, business, government, and politics, and offers readers an astute and original guide for navigating uncertain times. In this special event, he discusses his book and its relevance to current events with author and speechwriter David Litt.

In 1958, as a college sophomore, Robert Rubin took a class that changed his life. The class was introduction to philosophy, and the professor, Raphael Demos, instilled in his students an idea that was simple yet profound: There is no such thing as certainty. For Rubin, this led to a critically important question: How can we make sound decisions in a fundamentally uncertain world?

While serving in some of the most significant roles in markets, business, and government, Rubin has grappled with that question. Time and again, when faced with a high-stakes decision, he turned to his most trusted tool: a simple yellow legal pad. Rubin’s yellow pad (or more recently, his iPad) became an expression of a larger decision-making philosophy that has both lasted and shaped a lifetime. In The Yellow Pad, Rubin lays out that philosophy with depth and detail, and presents a compelling intellectual framework for confronting some of the most difficult issues we face today.

The Yellow Pad contains a former Treasury secretary’s approach to economic policymaking. A former Goldman Sachs senior partner’s approach to personal investing and understanding risk. A former director of the National Economic Council’s approach to managing people in both private- and public-sector organizations. And much more. Yet despite his lifetime of experiences, Rubin remains refreshingly open-minded, interested in exploring ideas rather than promoting ideologies. With its combination of wisdom and relevance, The Yellow Pad is an essential guide for anyone looking to make better decisions in life, work, and public policy.

Robert E. Rubin served as the 70th U.S. Treasury Secretary from 1995 to 1999, after serving as the first director of the White House National Economic Council. In these roles, he helped achieve the first federal budget surplus in a generation, address international financial crises, and resolve a debt-ceiling standoff, among much else. Rubin is the author of In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington, a New York Times bestseller. He spent twenty-six years at Goldman Sachs, rising to co-senior partner, and was a senior counselor and board member at Citigroup. He currently serves as counselor to the independent investment advisory firm Centerview Partners, as co-chairman emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and as chair of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Rubin is a founder of The Hamilton Project, at the Brookings Institution, which promotes broad-based economic growth. A former member of the Harvard Corporation, he graduated from Harvard summa cum laude and from Yale Law School.

David Litt is the New York Times best-selling author of Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years and Democracy in One Book or Less: How It Works, Why It Doesn't, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think. From 2011-2016, David wrote speeches for President Obama, and was described as "the comic muse for the president" for his work on the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Since leaving the White House, he served as the head writer and producer for Funny Or Die's office in Washington, with a focus on improving youth turnout in the 2018 election, and developed a sitcom based on his life in D.C.  He frequently appears on CNN and MSNBC to discuss current events.