Sunday, May 20, 2018

Footnote to History

Since we are in the midst of gubernatorial election season, here is a footnote to history that connects to UCLA:

Do you remember the 2002 gubernatorial election? Maybe not. Anyway, incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis was running for a second term in the midst of a major budget crisis sparked by the dot-com bust. In addition, he had proctored over a state electricity crisis that led to rolling blackouts following an ill-designed electricity deregulation scheme. In short, Davis was not too popular.

At that time, we had partisan primary elections, unlike the current top-2 system. So Davis' rival in the general election was definitely going to be whatever candidate the Republicans chose. Davis figured that former LA mayor Richard Riordan would be the most formidable opposition candidate, so he ran ads in the Republican primary attacking Riordan as a flip-flopper. Riordan won and an investment banker, William Simon became the Republican candidate in the 2002 general election. In the end, Davis won 47%-42%, not a very good showing for an incumbent seeking reelection and a foreshadowing of Davis' recall less than a year later.

So what's the UCLA connection. From the Bruin:

Economics professor Bill Simon receives My Last Lecture Award

UCLA professor and 2002 California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon often dresses up as famous economic figures like J.P. Morgan for his classes.

“A couple years after I ran for governor, a friend of mine asked me, what are you going to do now?” Simon said. “I said I’d like to get dressed up like Julius Caesar and go in front of a bunch of freshmen, slam my helmet on the table and say ‘veni, vidi, vici’ – I came, I saw, I conquered. If they start laughing, maybe I’m in the right place.”

Simon, a professor in the department of economics, received the My Last Lecture Award at a ceremony in De Neve Auditorium on Tuesday. The award, created by the UCLA Alumni Scholars Club in 2010, honors a student-nominated professor and gives them the chance to lecture on a topic they would want to talk about if it were their last lecture on Earth.

Simon structured his lecture around nine lessons that he’s learned in his life, from human nature to career advice, and talked about a range of topics, such as the importance of exercise, Mark Twain quotes and the role of self-deprecation when presenting...

Full story at


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