An unprecedented thing happened on Sunday evening (March 30, '14). I felt inspired to send a fan letter to CBS.
The catalyst for this strange new feeling was 60 Minutes, which reported on the careers and successes of three extraordinary people. I’m comfortable calling them heroes. They represent everything I love about the United States. Their stories reminded me that there are still giants among us, and boy do we need them.
Brad Katsuyama was manager of a brokerage firm in Canada when he realized somebody was cheating his clients, and indeed most clients. This was a new, high-tech form of cheating, using fast computers and exploiting fractions of a second. A computer program detected that a buy-order was placed, jumped in front of that order to buy the stock, and then resold it to the original orderer at a higher price. All this happened in a millisecond, and was unrecorded. But Katsuyama was able to see the patterns, and then to find ways to prevent what is now called high-speed trading. But that was just the beginning. He left his million-dollar job to create a new Wall Street firm called IEX which is dedicated, according to the firm’s website, “to institutionalizing fairness in the markets.”
Why did he do all this? “Because it just didn’t feel right. Customers of pension funds and retirement funds are getting bait-and-switched every day….It felt like a sense of obligation."
The second hero is Elon Musk. Raised in South Africa, he moved to Silicon Valley and joined the tech revolution. He is an unusual mix of entrepreneurial genius and inventive genius. His first big success was PayPal, which was purchased by eBay. According to CBS News, “his share was $180 million and he bet it all on Tesla and SpaceX. But at the age of 37, he hit rock bottom. His first three rockets failed to reach orbit, and an early model Tesla roadster had quality problems.”
Space X was intended to continue the mission once pursued by NASA, before Obama killed the program. Meanwhile, Tesla was an attempt to build a “green car.” For a year or two, both of these ventures seemed doomed. But the fourth rocket was a success. Tesla began to get rave reviews. The only problem is that the batteries are still very expensive. Musk realized he had to build a $5-billion battery factory, which he is doing now. Musk said the reason he was interested in space was that in the future the human race might need to go somewhere else.
The third hero is Marcus Roberts, a 50-year-old music genius and piano prodigy, blind since the age of five. He can play virtually any song. More remarkably, he can play and interpret songs in any of the distinctive styles associated with the legends of American music. He performs around the world. During his interview on 60 Minutes, he said many wonderful, practical, indeed conservative things. He has had to overcome a lot of obstacles, so he is now an inspirational figure to music students, blind people, African-American students, and indeed everyone. Frankly, his story brought tears to my eyes. Genius is impressive but it’s his decency, his heroic decency, that is especially striking.
An hour before the program I was reading an article in the American Spectator about how Obama ignores the Constitution and conducts himself as if he is a king. I felt the smallness of his administration when contrasted with these three heroes.
Every student in middle or high school should see this program. It’s educational in all the most important ways. Children need heroes.
This review is my fan letter to CBS.
Video: Marcus Roberts plays "I got rhythm."
60 Minutes, March 30, 2014, video of one-hour show