Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Now 76 years old, Wolfensohn (Voice of the World's Poor) has had a rich and varied life as an investment banker, chairman of Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, head of the World Bank, and finally advocate of peace as special envoy to the Middle East. The first third of the book is devoted to a fascinating chronicle of his early life growing up in a close-knit, middle-class Jewish family. His parents, who emigrated from Britain to Australia, faced tough financial times during the Great Depression and over-coddled the young Wolfensohn, expecting him to excel. Though he nearly flunked out of Sidney University, he ultimately earned a law degree and went on to receive an MBA at Harvard and become a U.S. citizen. He writes candidly of the mistakes he made during his long and successful career and the lessons they taught him. Married to his college sweetheart, with three children, he claims that the idea of writing this book, 'grew out of a desire to leave... a record of the events that shaped me' for his adult children, and in the hope that younger readers might be encouraged to 'follow at least some part of the path he has taken.'
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"In August, the World Bank redirected nearly a billion dollars in aid to Pakistan from development projects to emergency flood relief. Weeks of heavy rain had left millions of Pakistanis without food, shelter, clean water, or medical care. Media coverage was sparse, and private donors -- on vacation? fatigued from Haitian earthquake relief? -- few and far between. The World Bank, however, responded immediately to the disaster. While this might seem a natural role for a well-capitalized international institution, crisis intervention has not been the business of the bank for much of its history. The shift in recent years is due in no small part to James Wolfensohn, World Bank president during the tumultuous decade from 1995 to 2005." Georgia Levenson Keohane, The Wilson Quarterly
(Read the entire Wilson Quarterly review
The autobiography of the larger-than-life, visionary financier and humanitarian who led the World Bank through one of its most intense and tumultuous decades in the struggle against global poverty
About the Author
James D. Wolfensohn
was president of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005. He and his wife, Elaine, have three children.