"Don't ever do anything that you can't explain to your worst critic," he told a crowd of nearly 2,500 Wednesday night at the
The keynote speaker said he kept that sentiment in his mind at all times during his two terms as chairman of the
"Whatever we did, I knew I was going to have to explain it to people who were not sympathetic to our cause," he said.
While at the helm of the Federal Reserve, Bernanke had to cope with the economic recession, bank bailouts, problems in the housing and mortgage markets and other crises.
A student of the Great Depression, Bernanke called the financial troubles of 2007-08, which predicated the great recession of 2009, "the worst financial crisis in American history."
During his 13-minute speech, he talked about the Fed's motivations in letting giant investment bank
Bernanke said many people have accused the Fed of favoritism in its actions.
In reality, he said, it came down to basic economics.
In fact, he said the Fed in
"Our concern was not about
In the end, however, there was no solution.
Lehman had too much debt and no collateral. So it went bankrupt.
"The consequences were as we expected," he said. "The market seized up, there was a tremendous panic."
Before the year was out, the Fed then used
"The two situations were fundamentally different," Bernanke said. "Lehman was insolvent. It didn't have enough assets to collateralize a loan ....
"AIG, on the other hand, was a big insurance company that had strong insurance subsidiaries that were worth something on the market."
Once again, he said, the fear was that if AIG collapsed, the ripple effect on the economy would be devastating.
That was the message Bernanke took to President
It took time for the plan to work, Bernanke said.
"The fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 were extremely bad recessionary quarters," he said. "But after that, the Fed, the Treasury, we all worked together and the economy began to recover, and it's been a slow, steady recovery over the last five years."
Looking forward, Bernanke feels optimistic about the future, so long as the country doesn't become complacent and believe that another financial meltdown can't happen here.
"As we've seen, it can," he said.
Following his 13-minute speech, Bernanke then sat down with
Bernanke said he sees a diverse business community in the county, which is a good thing.
"Health, education, manufacturing, construction - you want to have a diversified portfolio," he said. "If you have a city that's based on one industry, you're very vulnerable because you can lose it or jobs can be lost."
He also urged the county to develop a solid education system that teaches worthwhile skills needed in the marketplace.
Maintaining the rich cultural heritage that's already here is an imperative, he said.
"Culture is an economic thing," he said. "It affects the economic success of a location.
"So that triumvirate there - skills and education, diversified portfolio in industries, amenities and quality of life - it feels like you're doing a lot of that."
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