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The world got a little dumber last week

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Three remarkable individuals left their earthly bodies last week. Charlie Munger, age 99, Henry Kissinger, age 100, and Sandra Day O’Conner, age 93. All three were remarkable intellects.
 
• You may not have heard of Munger, unless you follow the financial markets closely, was the close partner to Warren Buffet, chairman and founder of Berkshire Hathaway, the enormously successful and huge financial holding company.  

Munger was number 235 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans. Munger was frugal. Buffett said Munger’s idea of traveling in style was a bus with air conditioning. Munger lived in the same house for 70 years. He also drove himself; no chauffeurs here. Munger was about more than just money; he wrote a long essay titled, “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment,” which you can find on YouTube and on Google in a transcribed form.  

Investors in public markets must be good at understanding other humans and Munger was excellent. Mr. Munger died on Nov. 28.

• Henry Kissinger left us on Nov. 29. Very much an intellect, the reviews on Kissinger are mixed, for he was in the middle of the Cold War with Russia for most of its existence. Kissinger was secretary of State and national security adviser for Presidents Nixon and Ford. He unofficially advised every president since then up to and including President Biden.  

Kissinger arrived in America with his family at age 15 in 1938 as they fled Germany. He became a naturalized citizen – no Rio Grande crossing for him. Like Mr. Munger above, Kissinger spent some time in the halls of Harvard. 

There are many quotes by Kissinger. Here are a few of my favorites:
    
“A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone.”
    
“Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.”
    
“To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.”

“For other nations, utopia is a blessed past never to be recovered, for Americans it is just beyond the horizon.”

• Sandra Day O’Connor, 93, passed on Dec. 1. She was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Reagan in 1981. She did not go to Harvard, as did our other two subjects this week. She went to Stanford.  

Although some may argue she was a conservative, she would better be described as a pragmatic who tried to see both sides of an argument and strike a tone that was balanced.  

However, her vote in 2000 with the other conservative justices at the time to stop the vote count in Florida when George W. Bush was ahead sullied her reputation (she later said she wanted to retire, and she wanted to retire under a Republican president).  

I like this quote: “The power I exert on the court depends on the power of my arguments, not my gender."

Three people, a financier, a diplomat and a judge walk into a bar … No, that is not where I was going, but these three, again, a financier, a diplomat and a judge, affected all our lives, no matter if you live on Golden Pond or Pondlick Road, in ways we cannot yet comprehend.  

For better or worse? You be the judge.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.

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