Keynote address by Carl J. Schramm, President and CEO, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
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Uploaded on Nov 28, 2011
At the Conference on Small Business and Entrepreneurship during an Economic Recovery, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D.C.
Carl J. Schramm, President and CEO, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
November 9, 2011
CARL SCHRAMM: Thank you Bob, and it is certainly a pleasure to be back here in
Washington, particularly since I got here from Korea, and it's nice to have a Federal Reserve
lunch, something without rice. Um, anyway. Well, already you can see I'm sort of smiling,
happy to talk, and I have to remind myself I'm in Washington. This is not a city of humor. This
is actually America's least fun city. Look at the buildings. I was just looking out the window
here. There's the State Department, looks as if it was designed by Mussolini, and in fact, even the
Federal Reserve Board itself across the street looks like a very somber palace.
My very first encounter in Washington was next door at the National Academy of Sciences where
I had once upon a time as a young professor bamboozled a competition committee and became a
post-doctoral fellow at the National Academy, and it was there I heard my first of three
Washington jokes I'd ever heard in my entire life in this city, and I thought I'd tell them to lighten
up the crowd here.
So, it turns out the customs inspector of the Port of New York had died and he had an urgent
request for the President, President Roosevelt, er President Wilson. So he called the White
House, it was a much smaller city in those days, and insisted he speak to the President, and the
White House operator said, "It's 2:00 in the morning. Who is this?"
"I'm the Deputy Collector of customs of the Port of New York and I have very important news
for the President. I have a very important question." Well, he pestered and pestered, to cut the
joke a little short, and finally she connected him with the President at 2:00 a.m.
The President says, "Who is this? It's 2:00, this better be important."
And he said, "Yes, sir, it is, I'm the Deputy Collector of customs for the Port of New York. The
Collector has just died."
He said, "Yes, well I'm so sorry to hear that. Why did you call me?"
And he said, "I was wondering if I could take his place."
President Wilson said, "If it's OK with the undertaker it's fine with me." (laughter)
So, anyway (laughter continues) with that type of response in Washington I declare this, I'm on
And, what I was going to do next was show you a three-minute cartoon, but this being very
serious Washington it hadn't gone through the censors yet so we couldn't do this on the fly. But
if you saw it, it would actually talk about what entrepreneurs do. In three minutes, you can go to
Kauffman.org and find it, it's actually called Three Things Entrepreneurs Do. And I was going to
show it and you would find it very captivating because it's the front end of graphics and voiceover
and design. It's called a sketch book, and actually our having invented this has made a little
teeny company in Chicago go from, six months ago, anticipated revenues this year of $175,000 to
now having well over $1.2 million worth of business on the books. So I think of us as Kauffman
as the angel foundation of entrepreneurship in this particular case.
Now, as an economist, I can now say very seriously, assume you've seen the cartoon, (laughter)
and I would then say the reason we talk about what entrepreneurs do in a cartoon fashion in 2011
speaks volumes of why I'm here today and why this conference even exists. This is, in fact, a city
-- apart from our current situation, this is in many ways a city that John Maynard Keynes created
-- the architecture, the static nature of the legislation that moves through here. In fact, the humor
itself -- think of Keynes -- the reason I reference that is that this is a city, where the economics
that prevail in this city, are all big-firm economics and have been forever.
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