On writing papers and what it means to be a professor

Professor Buchanan’s comments on my papers followed a somewhat predictable format.  He would always start by saying something positive about the content, perhaps focusing on how well the paper was written, if lost for positive comments on content. He would then add his incisive comments, which sometimes forced me to set the paper aside.  But on one paper I remember well that he didn’t start with his usual positive remarks.  He wrote to this effect: “Dear Dick, we all write good papers and bad papers.  With some papers we pursue publication.  With others, we trash them.  In the process of writing any number of papers, we acquire great wisdom in deciding which papers are which.  You will acquire great wisdom in deciding what to do with this paper.”  I didn’t need for him to say more, which he didn’t.  I never tried to revise that paper.

Today, I am pleased to call James Buchanan my professor for pressing on me a remarkably simple but important point that escapes so many colleagues across the country:  Being a professor is a privileged position.  It demands scholarship, but it also demands that you give of yourself in ways that will never show up on your resume, or in your obituary.

From here; the entire thing is a must-read.

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