Category Archives: Conversations With Interesting People

In Conversation with Sara Lawrence Lightfoot

On April 11, 2013 Jonathan Fanton sat down with acclaimed sociologist Sara Lawrence Lightfoot for a conversation about her career and reflections on learning, culture, and relationships. To view the video, click here.

Sara Lawrence Lightfoot Introduction

Thursday April 11, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure you welcome you to a very special evening. Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself, hear world leaders like former Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, or talk presidential politics during our recent conference entitled Ike Reconsidered: Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century.

Tonight is different. I have been long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally. Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMA President Agnes Gund, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, philanthropist Rita Hauser, and, most recently, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio.

 

But tonight is a very special to me as I sit down with my friend and colleague, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot. Sara and I made common cause at the MacArthur Foundation when she was Board Chair and I President. She is the best Board Chair I know and I have known a lot. I learned a great deal from her — how to ask probing questions in a nice way, how to listen deeply, how to explain the foundation’s work through stories rather than dry statistics of impact. Sara knows how to build a community based on mutual respect, open but civil discourse, and deep personal relationships. She moves easily among disciplines, geographies, cultures, always eloquent, ever-inspiring. I have seen her in action from the Chicago board room to New York City neighborhoods, from Fiji to Nigeria to India and many places in between.

Sara is the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at Harvard where she has been teaching since 1980. She has written 10 books with titles that invite you in: Balm In Gilead: Journey of a Healer, I’ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation, Respect: An Exploration, Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free, and The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other.

My idea for this series of conversations was inspired by that book and I see each conversation as a learning experience for all of us here.

As you will see, Sara is a modest person, unpretentious, fun to be with. When you meet her, you feel the warmth, the empathy, the interest in hearing what you have to say. And always a desire to help. And yet, here I am facing a winner of the McArthur Prize Fellowship, someone recognized with 28 honorary degrees, a recipient of Harvard’s George Ledlie prize for “research and discovery” that make the “most valuable contribution to science” and “the benefit of mankind.” And that’s just a sample.

She is a devoted and gifted teacher. I know her students come first. And she is a thoughtful and productive scholar who has advanced our understanding of how personal development, family, community and pedagogy come together to create enabling learning environments.

But somehow she finds time for public service, Chair of the MacArthur Board, now Deputy Chair of the Atlantic Philanthropies, member of the boards of WGBH in Boston, the Berklee College of Music, her alma mater Swarthmore, the Coalition of Essential Schools, Bright Horizons Family Solutions and much more.

Let me close with a sample of her work, from her book Respect, which she sees as…

“Symmetric and dynamic.… (It) supports growth and change, encourages communication and authenticity and allows generosity and empathy to flow in two directions…. (It is) visceral, palpable, conveyed through gesture, nuance, tone of voice and figure of speech…. It is more than civility…. It penetrates below the polite surface and reflects a growing sense of connection, empathy and trust. It requires seeing the other as genuinely worthy…. Respect is not just conveyed through talk, it is also conveyed through silence.  I do not mean an empty, distracted silence.  I mean a fully engaged silence that permits us to think, feel, breathe, and take notice – silence that gives the other person permission to let us know what he or she needs.”

After Sara and I talk for a while we will broaden the conversation to include all of you.

In Conversation with James Lipton

On November 14, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with Inside The Actor’s Studio’s distinguished host James Lipton  for a conversation about his life and career.

James Lipton Introduction

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure you welcome you to a very special evening. Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Ira Shapiro’s The Last Great Senate, hear world leaders like former Chile President Michelle Bachelet who now heads UN Women, or talk politics with the likes of Ed Rollins, mixing it up with Roosevelt House Fellow Geoff Kabaservice on the state of the Republican party.

Tonight is different. I have been long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally. Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMA President Agnes Gund, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, and, most recently, philanthropist Rita Hauser. But tonight is very special to me as I talk with my model and mentor, James Lipton.

You probably know him as the creator and host of Inside the Actors Studio, the award-winning Bravo show that reaches 89 million homes in the US and is seen in 125 countries around the world. In 19 years on the air, Jim has interviewed over 250 actors, directors and writers. No one is better at creating safe space where Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, Kate Winslet and more open up about themselves and their craft.

And James has even interviewed one of Hunter’s own – Ellen Barkin, who majored in history and drama at Hunter and eventually starred in the 1987 smash hit, The Big Easy, opposite Dennis Quaid. Who knows? Perhaps one of the current 200-plus undergraduate and MFA students taking classes in Hunter’s renowned Film, Media, or Theater Departments is a future Inside interviewee.

One reason Jim is so good is that he has done it all in his own career. In the 1940s, he played the Lone Ranger’s nephew on WXYZ in his hometown Detroit. He was on Broadway in Autumn Garden in 1951, was a character in TV soap opera The Guiding Light, and a scriptwriter for The Edge of Night in the 1950s, wrote the lyrics for Nowhere To Go But Up and Sherry! in the 1960s, co-produced Tony award winning Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1978. But there’s more. He was the Executive Producer of Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala and 12 Bob Hope birthday specials.

He is author of the bestselling An Exaltation of Larks, published a novel Mirrors  and contributes articles to the New York Times Magazine and Paris Review.

So when famous actors, producers, musicians and writers sit across from his stack of blue cards they know they are talking with a peer – one who has done his homework.

I met Jim through his lovely wife, Kedakai, who served on the Board of Parsons School of Design, a division of the New School when I was President. Late one evening, after a Board dinner at the President’s House on 11th Street, Jim lingered to propose an idea. He reminded me of the New School’s distinguished history in drama electives. In the 1940s  Erwin Piscator had organized the Dramatic Workshop at the New School, drawing faculty from the Group Theater including Stella Adler with whom Jim had studied.

And then he made a bold proposal: let’s start a drama school in cooperation with the Actors Studio of which he was Vice President. And we could subsidize it with a TV interview show with members of the Studio. I like the idea and I respected Jim. But I wanted some due diligence. Was the Actors Studio really on board? “No problem,” Jim said, “I set up a meeting.” A few days later my assistant said Mr. Lipton and others were in my conference room at the appointed time. I walked in to find Arthur Penn of Bonnie and Clyde fame, Norman Mailer, Ellyn Burstyn and apologies that Paul Newman who was behind the project had a schedule conflict. The rest is history, well told in Jim’s biography Inside Inside.

So Jim and I will have a conversation for a bit and then open up for your questions.

 

In Conversation With Rita Hauser

On October 2, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with renowned international lawyer and philanthropist Rita Hauser for a discussion about her life and career.

A Conversation with Rita Hauser
October 2, 2012

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, the FDR Fellow and Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. This historic building, home to Eleanor and Franklin, and Franklin’s mother, Sara, is now the center of Hunter College’s Public Policy program. In addition to teaching and research, Roosevelt House sponsors programs that bring policy makers together with faculty, students, and the general public to discuss issues of the day.

Tonight’s program is a little different. I have long wanted to have a series of public conversations with the most interesting people I know personally, people I have met in my years as President of the New School and the MacArthur Foundation but also through civic activities such as Human Rights Watch.

My first guest was former Mayor Ed Koch. Our conversation, no surprise, focused on the local state and national political scene. Next was a conversation with Agnes Gund, former President of MoMA who is one of our country’s most articulate advocates for the arts and art education, a major collector and a builder of cultural institutions.  And last spring I sat down with Vartan Gregorian, historian, teacher, and writer, as well as a former president of the New York Public Library, Brown University and the new President of the Carnegie Foundation.

Tonight we welcome Rita Hauser, one of Hunter’s own who went on to earn a doctorate in political economy at the University of Strasbourg then studied law at Harvard and earned her law degrees at NYU and the University of Paris. But her higher education started as an undergraduate here and she remains deeply committed to Hunter and serves on the Roosevelt House board.

It would take the better part of our program for me to give her a full introduction so I will mention just a few highlights.

Rita was one of the first women partners of a major New York law firm and was a leader in building the international law department at Stroock, Stroock and Lavan.
There, she strengthened the department through her various foreign networks and contacts, advised and mentored a number of the firm’s female associates and pushed for an increase in the number of women partners in the firm.

She has always had an interest in international affairs. President Nixon, for whom she worked as a speech writer and campaign strategist, appointed her a US representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights 1969-72. While at the UN she advocated for Russian Jews to have the right to emigrate. As her network widened, she became deeply interested in conflict resolution in the Middle East. She was part of a group from the Center for Peace in the Middle East, invited by the Swedish foreign minister, that orchestrated discussions which led Yasir Arafat in 1988 to recognize the State of Israel and to renounce terrorism. These negotiations helped pave the way for the historic 1993 Oslo Accords, an agreement between Yitzhak Rabin, Yaseer Arafat, and Bill Clinton, in which the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organization agreed on territorial and self-governing matters and officially agreed to recognize each other.  Her public service continues through her membership on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

While pursuing an active legal practice and public service, Rita Hauser has somehow managed to be a leading member of many not-for-profit boards. To mention just a few: Chair of the International Peace Academy, Co-chair of the Advisory Board for the International Crisis Group, Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), the Rand Corporation, the New American Foundation, the Visiting Committee at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the Advisory Board at the Harvard Law School not to mention the Boards at Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic Society. And this is just a sample.

Eleanor Roosevelt, smiling down on us, would be pleased that we are having this conversation tonight in her house. While she attended Hunter, Rita met Eleanor, a major influence in the creation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and helped her organize her papers up at Hyde Park one summer. Rita Hauser embodies many of the  qualities we so admire in Eleanor Roosevelt: path breaking, loyal, a blend of resilience and principle, courage to challenge conventional wisdom and speak truth to power, and ability to elicit trust from those who do not trust each other, a commitment to opening opportunity to those in need, a fierce opponent of discrimination of any kind, a determination to pursue a more just and peaceful world – and an underlying optimism that humankind’s best instincts will triumph.

In Conversation with Bob Edgar

BOB EDGAR
April 24, 2012

On April 24, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with Bob Edar for a discussion about his work as head of Common Cause, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to increase transparency and accountability in American politics. For more information on Common Cause, click here.

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to our ongoing program on the election of 2012. Tonight we have a very special guest, Bob Edgar, who is President of Common Cause, a movement of over 400,000 members determined to improve our democratic form of government. Its mission statement is direct, powerful and inspiring: “Common Cause is dedicated to restoring the values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process.”

That statement resonates with one of Roosevelt House’s central themes: to encourage the Hunter community, especially students, to engage in the political process. Voter registration is available on the first floor of the Roosevelt House. And our Public Policy Program is helping first-time voters understand how to translate their views and opinions into informed votes whether for individuals or on issue referenda. Indeed, this is a theme of our ongoing series, The Road to November: Exploring America’s Challenges on the Way to Election 2012, which examines the key social, political, and economic issues preceding the November 2012 Presidential election. You might be interested in our next event in this series on May 8, when Jonathan Alter will engage Ira Shapiro in a conversation on his latest book, The Last Great Senate.

Surely, this series would impress Franklin Roosevelt, who said in one 1938 address to the nation that:
“The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.”

I am particularly pleased that Bob Edgar is part of this program. I joined the Board of Common Cause not only because I believe in its mission but because I think Bob Edgar is an extraordinary leader.

Trained in theology at Drew University, he was the United Protestant Chaplain of Drexel University until being elected to the House of Representatives in 1975. During his six terms in the House Congressman Edgar led efforts to improve public transportation, fought wasteful, pork-barrel projects involving the country’s water usage and supply and authored the community Right to Know provision of Super Fund legislation. After Congress, he was President of the Claremont School of Theology for a decade and then served as general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ.

Under his leadership, Common Cause has new energy and focus. He will tell us, I am sure, about the Amend 2012 campaign aimed at cleansing our electoral system of the pernicious influence of big money. And the Common Cause spotlight on redistricting programs, efforts to modify the filibuster system, improve government accountability and transparency, challenge the tax-exempt status of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), and much more.

A recent poll suggests increasing numbers of Americans distrust our political process and policy formation. A Fall 2011 Congressional Budget Office poll found that 89% of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing.  In a recent Gallup poll a record low 10% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and 86% disapprove. An April 2012 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 64% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track (washingtonpost, April 11, 2012).

That is a dismal and deeply disturbing commentary on the state of our democracy which was founded as a “city upon a hill” to set a standard for the world. No wonder that our Constitution no longer serves as the model for new democracies.

A recent New York Times article entitled “The Constitution Has Seen Better Days” notes that “Among the world’s democracies, constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall” since the end of World War II. Even Justice Ginsburg said in a speech in Egypt earlier this year, “I would not look to the US Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.”

This is not a state of affairs we should allow to continue. It is time for the American people to transcend party lines and engage with bipartisan organizations like Common Cause to get our democracy back on track.

Bob Edgar will share with us his ideas on what we as citizens can do. After his remarks, he and I will have a conversation for 10 minutes and then open up to your questions and comments.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Bob Edgar.

In Conversation with Vartan Gregorian

VARTAN GREGORIAN
April 17, 2012

On April 17, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with Vartan Gregorian to discuss his renowned career as an educator, scholar, and philanthropic leader.

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, the Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute.  This historic building, home to Eleanor and Franklin, and Franklin’s mother, Sara, is now the center of Hunter College’s Public Policy program.  In addition to teaching and research, Roosevelt House sponsors programs that bring policy maker together with faculty, students and the general public to discuss issues of the day.

Tonight’s program is a little different.  I have long wanted to have a series of public conversations with the most interesting people I know personally, people I have met in my years at President of the New School and the MacArthur Foundation but also through civic activities such as Human Rights Watch.

My first guest was former Mayor Ed Koch.  Our conversation, no surprise, focused on the local state and national political scene.  Next was a conversation with Agnes Gund, former President of MOMA who is one of our country’s most articulate advocates for the arts and art education, a major collector and a builder of cultural institutions.

Tonight is a very special evening for me as we welcome one of my very closest friends, Vartan Gregorian, a mentor who has taught me much about the world, different cultures, indeed life itself.  We first met when we both came to New York, he as President of the New York Public Library and I as President of the New School.  His appointment as a Professor of History at the New School accelerated the revival of the New School’s Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science.

Vartan has lived an amazing life.  Born in Tabriz, Iran of Armenian parents, he went to elementary school in Iran and secondary school in Lebanon before coming to Stanford in the late 1950’s where he earned both his undergraduate and Ph.D. in history.  He taught at San Francisco State, UCLA, and The University of Texas before coming to the University of Pennsylvania where he was the founding Dean of Arts and Sciences and then Provost.  We came to know him for reviving the New York Public Library in the 1980’s before moving to Brown University as Provost.  And I had the pleasure of being his colleague again when he became President of the Carnegie Foundation when I was President of the MacArthur Foundation.  We are both healthy skeptics of how large foundations work and so at the annual meeting of the big foundation Presidents we took care never to make eye contact lest we share a knowing smirk as one or another of our colleagues was going on about saving the world.

For all of his leadership accomplishments, Vartan is at heart a teacher and a scholar, one of those rare administrators who continued teaching.  His books on Islam and the emergence of modern Afghanistan have founded renewed relevance.  And his The Road to Home is the most honest and sensitive autobiography I have read.

Our mutual friend Bill Moyers describes Vartan as “an erudite charmer, a master of the handshake and bear hug, …..a champion of the public good.  His passion for education, philanthropy and friendship is contagious.”  And his colleague of many years, John Silber, said “He has the innocence of a baby, the integrity and dedication of a saint and the political skills of a Talleyrand.”

To that I would simply add that Vartan is the most loyal friend I know, always there to share the high points and cushion the reverses.  He manages to see the world in all its complexity, a realist but not a cynic, an optimist but not a romantic, confident but humble.

We are all glad that the road to home brought Vartan back to New York.

Vartan, you are our north star, brightening our lives, putting our institutions on a sure course, making a complex universe more comprehensible and humane.

A wise woman once said you don’t build a reputation or make a name for yourself on what you are going to do.  You just do it.

Vartan, your grandmother would be proud.

And I hope I have followed the advice she gave you as a youth: “Don’t insult a crocodile before you cross a river.”

So here we go.

In Conversation with Agnes Gund

On March 7, 2012 Jonathan Fanton sat down with Agnes Gund to discuss her career and the ways in which an engagement with the arts can enrich American society. Gund has served on the boards of MoMA, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Frick Collection. In addition, she is the founder of Studio in a School, a not-for-profit that brings professional artists into New York City’s public schools and helps teachers connect art with other academic subjects.

March 7, 2012

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, the FDR Fellow at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. This historic building, home to Eleanor and Franklin, and Franklin’s mother, Sara, is now the center of Hunter College’s Public Policy program. In addition to teaching and research, Roosevelt House sponsors programs that bring policy makers together with faculty, students, and the general public to discuss issues of the day.

Tonight’s program is a little different. I have long wanted to have a series of public conversations with the most interesting people I know personally, people I have met in my years as President of the New School and the MacArthur Foundation but also through civic activities such as Human Rights Watch.

My first guest was former Mayor Ed Koch. Our conversation, no surprise, focused on the local state and national political scene. Tonight will be different. My guest is Agnes Gund, a dear friend from whom I have learned so much about the arts and about life. She is one of our country’s most thoughtful advocates for the arts and art education, a major collector, a builder of cultural institutions and a force for shaping public policies that nourish our cultural lives. It is appropriate we gather under the approving gaze of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt who did so much to advance the arts during the Depression. Think of the Federal Theater, Writers and Arts Projects that nurtured photographers Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks whose work you passed as you came in.

Aggie and I first met at the New School through a great lady, Vera List. Vera asked Aggie to serve on a committee to collect art for the public spaces at the New School and to loan to students for their rooms. The committee helped create the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, which sponsors lively programs about the larger role of the arts in our society.

Aggie strongly supported the New School’s legal challenge to the Helms amendment that aimed to prevent government funding for art deemed obscene or indecent. The New School refused to accept the Helms condition and sued the NEA, a case that the NEA settled by dropping the Helms language from all of its grants. We would not have been able to take on this challenge without the support of Agnes Gund and her colleagues.

Agnes Gund has done more for the arts in our city and country that anyone I know. She has been Chair of MoMA, now chairs its International Council, has served on the Boards of the Getty, the Frick Collection, the Barnes Foundation, her home town Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland. And that’s only a sample. She has been honored with the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton, and the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. She is a leader in art and cultural policy in her role as Chair of the mayor’s Cultural Affairs Commission and the New York State Council on the Arts.

There is much more but I want to mention just one more thing, something I suspect may mean more to her than all of the above. She is Founder and long-time Trustee and supporter of the Studio in a School Association. She started that organization in response to a 1976 decision to cut arts and music from the curriculum of New York’s public schools to save money.  From modest beginnings in three elementary schools in 1977, the program is now in 160 schools, K-12. Aggie challenged the system to restore funding for art and music. And Studio in a School  now supplements the standard curriculum with opportunities to learn painting, drawing, and sculpting from professional artists, helps teachers incorporate art into their standard subjects, offers art workshops on Saturdays and during vacations, and provides teacher training programs for advanced students.

For all of these accomplishments and accolades, Agnes Gund is a humble, decent, caring person and a loyal friend. She understands how the arts enrich our lives, deepen our humanity, bridge cultural differences, call forth the best in us to imagine a better world. And fire our determination to work for a more just and peaceful society with opportunity for all. She has exquisite taste in art, a laser instinct about people, unstoppable confidence in the potential of young people, courage to say what she thinks and to express her values in action.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Agnes Gund.

In Conversation with Ed Koch

On October 24, 2011, Jonathan Fanton sat down with Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York City, to discuss his career, New York politics, and relevant issues in the country and city today. 

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, the FDR Fellow at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. This historic building, home to Eleanor and Franklin, and Franklin’s mother, Sara, is now the center of Hunter College public policy program. In addition to teaching and research, Roosevelt House sponsors programs that bring policy makers together with faculty, students, and the general public to discuss issues of the day.

Tonight’s program is a little different. I have long wanted to have a series of public conversations with the most interesting people I know personally, people I have met in my years as President of the New School and the MacArthur Foundation but also through civic activities such as Human Rights Watch.

I am delighted that my first guest is our former mayor, Ed Koch, who is a good friend and mentor. When I came to the city in 1982, Mayor Koch helped educate me about the mysteries and marvels of our city. He asked me to serve on a committee to review the state of the city’s homeless shelters, which was my first deep exposure to that challenge. And through my work as Chair of the 14th Street Union Square Development Corp., I saw how well the city worked under Ed Koch as I came to know his senior team like Parks Commissioner Henry Stein, Housing Commissioner Paul Crotty , and Deputy Mayor Alair Townsend.

As we became friends we had lunches and dinners together on a regular basis, occasions from which I always learned, not just about New York but about national and international affairs.

So what we are about to do is to bring you in on our ongoing conversations.

If there was ever a person who needed no introduction it is Ed Koch. Most of you have followed his career starting with the reform club Greenwich Village Independent Democrats through which he unseated long-time boss Carmine DeSapio as district leader.

A City Council seat came a year later and then in 1968 he was elected to the House of Representatives in a district that had not elected a Democrat since FDR’s first term. Among the marks he made in Congress, was as a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations where he proposed a cut-off of foreign aid to right-wing governments. Then in 1977, after winning a heated primary, he was elected mayor at a time when the City was on the financial rocks. He said, “We have been shaken by troubles that would have destroyed any other city. But we are not any other city. We are the city of New York and New York in adversity towers above any other city in the world.”

That deep faith in the people and institutions of our city, combined with hard work, courage, imagination, and a first-rate team, bought New York back from the precipice. And as the City regained control over its finances and its destiny, Ed Koch moved us from the defensive into a creative period.  After years of instability and looming fiscal ruin, Ed Koch put New York back on a sound financial footing. He balanced the city’s budget and encouraged the growth of business in New York. He implemented a merit-based appointment system for judges, passed ordinances barring discrimination against gays and lesbians, and introduced the most ambitious housing program in the nation that stabilized our neighborhoods.

Speaking of neighborhoods, it was under Ed Koch that the first Business Improvement District was created in Union Square. He showed us that government and the community could work together to revitalize places like Union Square. Now there are 66 BIDS in all five boroughs – and mayors all over the country have followed his lead.

And life after Gracie Mansion has been full: columns on politics and world events, the best movie reviewer I know, appearances in more than 60 films and TV shows playing himself, and nearly 20 books from memoirs to mysteries, including a touching candid exchange with John Cardinal O’Connor. Ed Koch has remained relevant, a force for principled discourse unconstrained by the bounds of political correctness.

So I have violated the “Needs No Introduction” rule long enough. Let’s get on with the conversation.