Martha L. Olney's HomepageDepartment of Economics
University of California, Berkeley
Office: 691 Evans Hall
Phone: 510-642-6083; Fax: 510-642-6615
Mailing Address (click here)
Office hours (Spring 2016):
(Economics of Discrimination Seminar)
Econ 140/141 is absolute pre-req.
Words of Inspiration and Hope
|Textbooks by Martha Olney
Errata sheet: Micro/Macro as a 2nd Language
| There are thousands and
thousands of hardworking people who have helped you get
to this point, people who are celebrating with you
today, who are praying for you every single day, and
others who couldn't be here, for whatever reason.
I want you to think of the people who sacrificed for
you: family members who worked a third job to get you
through, who took on the extra shifts to get you
through, who put off doing something important for
themselves to get you to this day.
And think about the friends who never
got the chance to go to college but were still
invested in your success -- friends who talked you out
of dropping out, friends who kept you out of trouble
so that you could graduate on time, friends who forced
you to study when you wanted to procrastinate.
Most importantly, though, think of the millions of kids living all over this world who will never come close to having the chance to stand in your shoes -- kids in New Orleans whose schools are still recovering from the ravages of Katrina; kids who will never go to school at all because they're forced to work in a sweat shop somewhere; kids in your very own communities who just can't get a break, who don't have anyone in their lives telling them that they're good enough and smart enough to do whatever they can imagine; kids who have lost the ability to dream. These kids are desperate to find someone or something to cling to. They are looking to you for some sign of hope.
So, whenever you get ready to give up,
think about all of these people and remember that you
are blessed. Remember that you are
blessed. Remember that in exchange for those
blessings, you must give something back. You
must reach back and pull someone up. You must bend down and
let someone else stand on your shoulders so that
they can see a brighter future.
First Lady Michelle Obama,
UC Merced Commencement Speech, May 16, 2009
|One summer, walking along
Telegraph Ave in Berkeley, I crossed paths with a former
student. He had always been a very upbeat and
enthusiastic guy. He had graduated about a year
before – near the height of the Silicon Valley boom –
and gone directly into a job he enjoyed. But when
I saw him, he looked about as glum as a boy who had lost
his puppy. “Hey, how are you? What’s up?,” I
asked him (in the middle of crossing Durant
Avenue!). He had been laid off and hadn’t had any
success yet in finding a new job. He was terribly
depressed, feeling – as I suspect most unemployed folks
feel – that he was somehow responsible for being
unemployed. If only he had worked harder, more
hours, more diligently. If only he hadn’t been
sick for three days one time. If only he were
smarter. If only . . . I listened for
awhile and then reminded him of what he’d been taught:
unemployment is due to insufficient aggregate
demand. “It’s not about you,” I told him.
“It’s about the economy.” Yeah, he supposed, but
it sure felt as if it was about him. “But it’s
not. You’re part of the rising unemployment in the
Bay Area, and that’s not your fault.” Yeah, he
began to acknowledge, maybe that's right. He gave
me a hug, thanked me, and we went our separate ways.
And that is why I teach economics.
During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one:
"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"
Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name?
I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.
"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello'."
I've never forgotten that lesson.
(Taken from a listserve, mid-September 2001)