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Commencement | Barbara Krumsiek Address to Kogod Graduates

Commencement Address
(as delivered)

American University Kogod School of Business

May 12, 2012

Barbara J. Krumsiek
CEO, Calvert Investments Inc.


Thank you. Thank you. Well, this is a tremendous honor. Good afternoon, greetings, and congratulations to the class of 2012 at American University's Kogod School of Business.

President Kerwin, Senior Vice Provost Peres, Dean Ginzberg, distinguished faculty, family and friends of the graduates, it is an honor to be here today. I want to add a special greeting to the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts of the graduates, on this Mother’s Day weekend, and a special greeting as well to all those who have nurtured, supported ,and applauded these terrific students in the class of 2012 as they have pursued their paths and today achieve their educational goals. I think that encompasses everyone in the room. Happy Mother’s Day!

In a few minutes, the class of 2012 will cross this stage and receive the recognition they so richly deserve. A degree from Kogod School is certainly a formidable Mother's Day gift. But that doesn't let you off the hook for a card and flowers tomorrow. This is a day of celebration, but more importantly a day of transition.

To the class of 2012, I am honored to share this which with you to be very brief in saying a few words with you, from my perspective as a person who has been through many transitions personal and professional, and from my perspective as CEO of Calvert, an investment firm that has been a pioneer from its founding in the field of sustainable and responsible investing.

Today you move from your role as a student, to your role in the larger world, or back to the role in the larger world. Whether you choose to enter the corporate world, the world of not for profits, advocacy organizations, organizations devoted to community development, or the institutions of government and public policy. Wherever you go, you have the gift of being able to influence and effect real change because of this unique moment in time and your unique preparation. I know that Kogod has made an effort to prepare you for a role in any of these sectors, and more broadly has prepared you by educating you in an environment that values diversity, human rights, and dignity.

I find it very impressive and very moving that your school's mission statement affirms a commitment to “preparing leaders who are broadly educated, spiritually deep, passionately engaged, and capable of translating in a complex environment the lasting values that are hallmarks of a humane and civilized world.” You have been told to bring your values to the workplace. You have not been told to “check your identity at the door,” as we have seen in so many corporate settings.

And I am a fan of your distinctive new advertising campaign that is hard to miss around Washington. I understand that you are all wonks. Now that's engaged wonks, committed wonks, activist wonks, and that you are taught to use knowledge to tackle big issues. This is an invaluable insight and a critical skill set.

There may be no bigger issue in our world today than the state of our domestic economy, and as we have seen this week again in the financial markets, the state of the global economy is chaotic. Economic and business issues affect the health and wellbeing of quality of life in aggregate of all of us who share this planet. We can certainly use people like you in the business world today who understand interconnectedness. Not the first time you have heard that word today.

What I would like to talk to you about is how important it is for you to bring your values, as well as your intelligence and hard work, to your new career. How important it is for you to maintain a strong moral compass as you enter the business world. During the years you have spent here at Kogod you have had a front row seat in Washington, D.C., as two administrations, Congress and an array of regulators, have struggled to manage through the worst financial crisis in the United States since the Great Depression. You have witnessed behavior in some financial services organizations that perhaps has raised serious ethical questions, if not legal questions. Major investment banks that encouraged clients to buy securities that they themselves were betting against in their own portfolios.

The good news is that we are emerging from these crises slowly, but at long last, and the job market is looking up. Now that's really good news, but from my point of view the challenges still exist. The emphasis on governmental solutions has been on increased regulation as a driver of good corporate behavior. While smart regulation is a good thing, more regulation is not. Calvert's philosophy of investing emphasizes investing in organizations that embed environmental sustainability, governance, human rights, and social values into business strategies and corporate operations. We believe investors are more likely to thrive and deliver shareholder value than by investing in firms like this. We look for increased disclosure and transparency.

But increased regulation? I don't think it works. We cannot write a long enough code of ethics to incorporate all the aspects of ethical judgment necessary for good decision making. Just look at J.P. Morgan's $2 billion losses yesterday. Jamie Diamond called those investments stupid. Regulation doesn't help stupidity. Back to ethics. At Calvert Investments, I personally signed three codes of ethics as required by the necessary step. Not sufficient. I was pleased to hear one of your co graduates speak of the heart. No code of ethics can cover the hundreds of decisions that you will make daily in your roles in business and society. Your code of ethics has to come from your heart, not a compliance manual.

You have been well trained here at Kogod. You bring a very special set of qualities to whatever employer is lucky enough to have you on their team. You bring your hearts and you bring your intellects. I believe that, in the years to come, your university's vision will become the standard, that businesses will see the value of morally engaged, ethical employees, and that schools will respond by incorporating sustainable business practices into the core of their curricula.

I'm very pleased to read about your new master's in science in sustainability management. I understand this is the only graduate level that integrates business, environmental science, and public policy into a rigorous interdisciplinary program. Members of this program's first class will be attending the Rio Plus 20 summit next month in Brazil, as I am, in my role as co chair of UN's Environment Programme Finance Initiative. If you're going to be there, please meet up with me in the reception. I'd like to buy you a drink in Rio.

At Calvert, we have, for more than 30 years, worked towards two goals: Success in business and positive social change. It's not easy to achieve both, but we firmly believe it can be done. We're going to need you to help us do it. It will take all the brainpower, all the insight, all the hard work and commitment of your generation to create a sustainable world.

I would like to end by sharing three personal lessons drawn from my own life and career, my academic training in mathematics, my professional career on Wall Street and as CEO of Calvert, my 25 year marriage to my husband, Bart Leonard, and my relationship with our two daughters, Claire and Veronica.

First: Compassion and competition can coexist if you visualize your career as an obstacle course and not as a ladder. I don't mean to suggest that you can be naive in assessing the competitive business landscape. Be guided by your gut as well as your intellect and use positive politics whenever necessary. But you can succeed in your career without knocking others off the ladder on your way up. I believe that if you visualize an obstacle course you can see your career as a landscape with many other people on the course at the same time. And importantly, the success of one person running the course does not impede the success of others .You can even stop to help others along the way.

The second lesson is: Yes, you can have it all. The wonderful secret I have discovered in leading Calvert these past 15 years is that it is indeed possible to achieve your professional goals while having a satisfying and committed personal life. At Calvert, we work hard and we have clear expectations of our associates. But we have created a workplace that strives to enable personal development. As a woman CEO in financial services and a working mom, I get confused and sometimes angry when writers and experts say women have to compromise to have it all, or it's either or or they have to be superwomen to have it all. I wonder, whose definition of “having it all” are we using anyway? Several years ago I heard a woman executive say “I declare my life balanced." My advice to you, develop your own definition of having it all that is yours and yours alone, and strive to realize it. I declare my life balanced.

Finally, my third lesson: Be brave. Everything that I have talked about here—acting with integrity, working to bring sustainable and just practices into the forefront in our business, government, and policy institutions, and reaching your personal and professional goals—requires uncommon vision and commitment. To sustain that vision and commitment requires bravery. Have the courage to fully embrace your values and your deepest passions, and bring them to work with you every morning and take them home with you every night. Don't check your identity at the door and respect others who don't either. Live your values. That is what I mean by bravery. Act with generosity, patience, discipline and wisdom.

Class of 2012, I see you today and I'm filled with a renewed sense of optimism. You leave this campus to create the future for all of us. I know you will be brave. I know you will be successful. Congratulations, and to all of you, good luck.