Peter Thiel (44 years old) is the former CEO and co-founder of PayPal, which was sold to eBay in a billion dollar deal.  Additionally, he is a managing partner in The Founders Fund (an investment firm) and is president of Clarium Capital (hedge fund).  It seems that Thiel’s overarching philosophy is that he wants to do something that will change the world. His goal with PayPal was to revolutionize the method in which money is transferred, and to do so in a basically free way.  Thiel has historically gone against the grain, consistently investing in areas that Wall Street thinks are doomed, or supporting ideas that the majority think are a waste of time.  Additionally, it seems that he has a tendency to speak his mind, with little regard for the consequences his words might produce.  For example, he has claimed that a company’s initial success is highly correlated with low CEO pay – a position that many CEOs in the corporate world would be none-too-pleased to hear.  Thiel’s platform is that we live in a world where there is a race between technology and politics, and that it is only technologies that will enable people to do things outside the sphere of the state.

Despite some appealing qualities, such as his tendency for controversy, I actually don’t think Peter Thiel would be a good speaking for the Bucknell community.  First and foremost, he and the people he has chosen to surround himself with are notoriously anti-higher education.  So much so to the point that Thiel funds the Thiel Fellowship, which encourages people under 20 years old with entrepreneurial tendencies to drop out of college and instead pursue more refined areas of interest. Within the group of people he works with most closely, it seems that Thiel is one of the very few with a college degree.  He believes that higher education restricts knowledge rather than inspiring it.  Additionally, while his biography is a good success story, that’s about it; there is no particular hardship or obstacles he overcame.  It is not the story of someone who battled and succeeded in life, it is simply the story of a very smart man who knew what area he wanted to work and invest in.



3 responses »

  1. jmg051 says:

    This would undoubtably be an interesting speaker, for the reasons you mentioned. However, while the administration and/or parents may not want a speaker suggesting that dropping out of school is a good idea, it would be interesting to see students’ reactions to this. Controversy always makes for an entertaining speaker, and Thiel would definitely be controversial.

    His personal opinions aside, however, he is an incredibly smart and business-savvy guy that would be beneficial for us to listen to. While his story may not be one of overcoming adversity, it’s still a good success story about someone who was smart enough and dedicated enough to launch what became a billion-dollar company. While I think some of the others on our list may be better choices than Thiel, I think that he would give a very entertaining and knowledgeable talk.

  2. idalbello says:

    I think Peter Thiel would be an amazing speaker to have at Bucknell. His views on the upper education system are interesting and novel. He promotes people to pursue their own passions instead of the majors with the highest salaries. As mentioned earlier that dropping out of college probably isn’t the best answer, Peter Thiel is trying to promote individuality in a world that is turning ordinary. He also possesses great entrepreneurial skills that would be beneficial to anyone that is considering running their own business.

  3. clr020 says:

    I agree with the previous comment. I actually think its more interesting to attend a speaker that is not directly in line with the schools beliefs because it presents new ideas that are not tainted by the school’s philosophy. Have contradicting thoughts displayed enable everybody to think more deeply and big picture on the issue. Also, the focus of the conversation may not have to be directed at the role of higher education. His financial experience may also be of interest to a lot of Bucknellians.

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