By Michael Goings
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” — William Shakespeare
Undoubtedly the most famous and prominent individual with family roots in Dillon is Dr. Ben Bernanke, the very astute and accomplished Chairman of the Federal Reserve. We have no other person who hails from our locale who wields such national and international power and influence as Dr. Bernanke. Being that he has only a few days left of his tenure as the head of the Federal Reserve, I believe it is appropriate to comment on this iconic and influential Dillonite, who in my estimation, has achieved greatness and in the process left our economy in a very stable state of recovery. The nation, the world, and perhaps generations unborn owe a debt of gratitude to this “Cool Hand Luke.”
I graduated from Gordon High School in 1970, which was the last year of segregation. I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Bernanke. During his senior year, he was the top student of both the first totally integrated Dillon High School, as well as in the State of South Carolina due to his Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores in 1971. I do remember seeing and being greeted by him in Jay Bee Drug Store (which was owned and operated by his father and uncle) when I would frequently stop there in my early adolescence to purchase Marvel and DC Comics.
It has given me much joy and pride as I have traveled to various parts of the nation in my duty as a Bishop to tell people that the Federal Reserve Chairman is a hometown boy who grew up in Dillon. There are several facets of the life of Dr. Bernanke that have thrust him into the orbit of being an iconic figure. He has accomplished many great things through his brilliant academic ascent as a student, scholar, professor, and Chairman of the Federal Reserve. What has made this man from our locale a truly great person? I, as well as others, believe his legacy will go down in history as one of our most effective Federal Reserve Chairmen who was able to keep our economy stable and secure during one of the most tumultuous economic crisis since the Great Depression.
“I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial…” — Winston Churchill
The first ingredient in Dr. Bernanke’s recipe for success and fame can be attributed to his brilliance, and to a certain degree, his innate intellect. Almost everyone is aware, to some extent, of his triumphs as a student and scholar throughout the stages of his matriculation at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). However, genius alone does not assure success, nor will it determine greatness. History, as well as academia, is congested with people of elevated IQs, textbook proficiency, and the ability to score high on tests; however, they were regrettably unable to transfer their skills and abilities beyond the classroom. What has made Dr. Bernanke successful and great in his field has been his devotedness to study and to research all available knowledge in the area of his profession. He is reputed to be the greatest student on the causes and catalyst of the Great Depression, barring none. Adequately described by Winston Churchill’s quote, Dr. Bernanke’s drive to excel helped to prepare him to become the Federal Reserve Chairman and to hold back an economic tidal wave equal to or greater than that of the Great Depression.
“Cowards die many times before their death. The brave experience death only once.” — William Shakespeare
There is another quality that has adorned Dr. Bernanke in the gown of greatness. This quality has afforded him entry into the hallowed halls of history where he will join the likes of Chief Justice Earl Warren, J. Edgar Hoover, Alan Greenspan, and quite a few other great Americans who were appointed to their position and not elected, yet served this nation in a heroic way during their tenure. This quality is most assuredly his bravery during the time of crisis. He knew that his every move or decision as the Federal Reserve Chairman (especially any regarding the interest rates) would have a disastrous effect on the nation and the world’s economy if he did not hold firm to the reins. He exemplified both caution and courage and led the United States through the storm into a season of stability and optimism. Things are indeed looking better and brighter now because of the wisdom and bravery of Dr. Bernanke.
“Make no display of your talents or attainments; for everyone will clearly see, admire, and acknowledge them, so long as you cover them with the beautiful veil of modesty.”
— Nathaniel Emmons
“A great man is always willing to be little.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
The most prominent quality that has made Ben Bernanke an iconic figure and household name throughout this nation and certainly parts of the world is his modesty. Perhaps because he was reared in a small, southern town where hospitality is in sufficient supply, and where his parents themselves were unpretentious, courteous, and accessible people. Ben acquired this most treasured attribute through his upbringing. It is evident in his manner of dress, his humble demeanor, and his way of talking and explaining things on a level that both the educated and illiterate; the sophisticated and crude; the rich as well as the poor; those in East Dillon as well as those in South Dillon (New Town); and others in various cultural groups and walks of life can understand. As I observed and listened to what well might be his last speech as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve to the public on C-SPAN (January 3, 2014), a sense of pride gripped me as to how indeed fortunate we are in Dillon. We are fortunate to have a man like Ben Bernanke, who has played such a pivotal role in the universal scheme of things, to count Dillon as his home. Truly, some good things can come out of Nazareth! Dr. Bernanke has made an indelible mark on our nation. It is good and fitting that we have named an intersection after him; however, it is far better that we seek to perpetuate his legacy by striving to imitate what has made him great: his application and discipline of preparedness, his bravery to hold to his conviction in times of crisis, and his modesty that has always outshined the star of his celebrity.