A Global Life: My Journey Among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bankby James D. Wolfensohn
As president of the World Bank for a decade, James Wolfensohn tackled world poverty with a passion and energy that made him a uniquely important figure in a fundamental arena of change. Using a lifetime of experience in the banking sector, he carved a distinct path in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe for the institution that serves as the major lender to the world's poor.
In A Global Life, Wolfensohn tells his astonishing life story in his own words. A man of surpassing imagination and drive, he became an Olympic fencer and a prominent banker in London and New York. An Australian, he navigated Wall Street with uncommon skill. Chairman of Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center for many years, he is also an amateur cellist. But it was his tenure at the World Bank that made him an international force. While at the helm of this controversial institution, Wolfensohn motivated, schemed, charmed, and bullied all the constituencies at his command to broaden the distribution of the world's wealth. Now he bluntly assesses his successes and failures, reflecting on the causes of continuing poverty.
Much more than a business story, this is a deeply reflective account of a fascinating career and personality.
Kirkus, August 15, 2010
“The author’s candor … is refreshing, as is his frank assessment of his own strengths and shortcomings…. An often engaging memoir that is especially strong in its insights into global poverty.”
Kofi A. Annan
“A Global Life is an eloquent and moving memoir of one man’s journey to make a difference in the world. In his typically candid and refreshing style, Jim Wolfensohn describes the milestones in his life which led him to believe that unless we tackle the core issues of development and poverty, we will not create a peaceful world for our children. This is a book that will inspire all those who see the need for change in this world, and wish to make a contribution.”
“Jim Wolfensohn is not only a hero to the world’s poor, but a preeminent global leader in politics, philanthropy, business and finance, the arts, international security, and even sports. He is a force of nature; there is no one else like him; and this elegant and absorbing book gives us the inside story of how he did it all. Anyone who seeks to understand the global history of the last half-century should be sure to read it.”
“This is an absorbing memoir written by an extraordinary man who has lived through extraordinary times. The arc of James Wolfensohn’s career has spanned the globe, from Australia to England to the U.S., building the Global Life he writes of in these pages with great eloquence and honesty. Wolfensohn’s utter commitment to living a life of dignity and to promoting equity and social justice resonate through every page of this volume. It is a must-read.”
Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.
"It's a long way from Sydney, Australia to the pinnacle of the world's public and private sectors. Jim Wolfensohn made the journey with courage, confidence and ability. A Global Life is instructive, inspiring, powerful."
“As Jim Wolfensohn’s vivid and powerful story makes clear, he is a rare and in many ways unique citizen of the world—a man for all seasons and all regions. He was a transformative president of the World Bank, and his indefatigable (and hitherto undervalued) efforts on behalf of peace the Middle East could not be more relevant to today’s headlines from those troubled lands.”
The story of the author's unlikely ascent from middle-class Australian Jewish upbringing to Wall Street wealth, president of the World Bank and Middle East peace negotiator.
Born in 1933, Wolfensohn rose above his modest upbringing to earn a law degree at the University of Sydney and MBA at Harvard University. Always curious and talented, he learned fencing well enough to compete in the 1956 Olympic Games, served in the Royal Australian Air Force and became a talented cello player. He found world finance fascinating, especially as he tried to figure out the global wealth-poverty gap. The first half of the book frequently reads like a family album, as the author and his wife Elaine and their three children move among the cities of London, New York and Washington, D.C., because of his job shifts. The author's candor about people he respects and dislikes is refreshing, as is his frank assessment of his own strengths and shortcomings. The memoir picks up noticeably in 1995, when Wolfensohn won the approval of President Clinton and other leaders to become president of the influential and controversial World Bank. Since the end of World War II, the World Bank had tried to help impoverished nations with infrastructure such as roads and dams, and had also played a role, along withitsrelated agency, theInternational Monetary Fund, in curing the economies of debtor nations. Wolfensohn tells of resistance he faced inside and outside the World Bank as he tried to emphasize the elimination of poverty, improved treatment of subjugatedwomen and environmental degradation in dozens of nations on multiple continents. The author served his second five-year term as bank president during the George W. Bush administration, and in general contrasts that administration unfavorably compared to Clinton's. After leaving the bank presidency, Wolfensohn served as an envoy trying to broker Israeli disengagement from Gaza, an effort that went poorly by his own admission, in part due to the doctrinaire positions of almost everybody involved.
An often engaging memoir that is especially strong in its insights into global poverty.
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Meet the Author
James D. Wolfensohn was president of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005. He and his wife, Elaine, have three children.
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