Robert Mundell

Banquet speech

Robert A. Mundell’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 1999.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been very lucky in my career. I was lucky first of all to find a profession that suited me. As an undergraduate at UBC in Canada, I fell in love with economic theory. It was the right choice for me.

I went to the University of Washington in Seattle. This was a very good place to study, and I learned a lot. But it wasn’t the right place for my PhD. So I asked three professors for advice: One said: “Go to the place where you can get the best fellowship.” A second said: “Go to the best place and borrow whatever money you need.” The last one said: “Marry a rich girl and let her support you!”

I took the advice of the professor who said to go to the best place and borrow. I went to MIT and borrowed, took three courses, passed my doctorate exams, and lived happily ever after.

In the spring of that academic year, I got a Canadian Scholarship, named after the former Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, which let me study wherever I wanted. I decided to go to the London School of Economics to write my thesis for MIT, under James Meade, Nobelist with Bertil Ohlin in 1977. I took a ship to Italy, passed through Siena where Valerie, Nicholas and I now happily reside every summer, and hitchhiked to Stockholm, where I spent a splendid week. That was the summer of 1955, and I knew I was destined to return to Sweden!

How much we owe to good teachers, good education, and good advice! But caveat emptor! I shall not tell my two-year-old son Nicholas to do what I did, but to do things his own way!

As the song says:

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing;
And then, when tears subside,
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And, may I say not in a shy way,
Oh no, oh no, not me,
I did it, my way.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1999, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 2000

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1999

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