Over the Christmas holidays there was a fabulous article about George Shultz. The name might not be familiar to you, but if you are old enough you will recall Shultz as President Ronald Reagan’s avuncular secretary of state. If you were a child of the 1980s you can probably just recall a balding, besuited man stepping off planes into China or the Soviet Union – that was him.
He is still alive. Now 97, he continues to lobby for recreational drugs, for action on climate change and for the UK to remain within the European Union. He is that rarest of beasts in this time of Trump and terror, a liberal Republican. The article about him in The New York Times, by David Leonhardt, could have focused on a hundred different episodes in this great man’s life – from serving in the Marines to helping Mikhail Gorbachev set up a new Russia. Instead it was all about something that Shultz did not do.
Shultz told Leonhardt that each week he would scrupulously seek out solitude for one hour, and sit with a pad and paper and nothing else. It was, he explained, the only way he could find time during some of the busiest and most frenetic weeks of the 20th century. He would leave specific instructions that only the President or his wife were allowed to disturb him. And with the door closed behind him he would engage in that most unusual of activities – he would think.