Bernanke jokes about own future in Princeton commencement speech

Sun Jun 2, 2013 2:02pm EDT

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke listens to opening remarks before testifying at the Joint Economic Committee in Washington May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke listens to opening remarks before testifying at the Joint Economic Committee in Washington May 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

(Reuters) - Never believe Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn't have a sense of humor.

"I wrote recently to inquire about the status of my leave from the university, and the letter I got back began, 'Regrettably, Princeton receives many more qualified applicants for faculty positions than we can accommodate,'" Bernanke said in remarks prepared for delivery on Sunday to new Princeton University graduates in his commencement speech.

"Note to journalists: This is a joke," said a footnote attached to the text provided to reporters.

Behind the joke, and Bernanke's care in making sure journalists didn't miss it, is the mounting obsession over who may take charge of U.S. monetary policy for the world's largest economy after January 31, 2014, when Bernanke's second term expires.

Bernanke has said little about his future at the Fed, where he took over as chairman in 2006.

Talk that he is reluctant to accept a third term has been swirling for months, and speculation that he plans to leave the post got a boost in late April when the Fed confirmed he will skip the annual Jackson Hole monetary policy symposium in August due to a scheduling conflict.

Bernanke's absence would mark the first time in 25 years that a Fed chairman has not attended the conference, which draws top central bankers from around the world and is periodically used as a setting to preview important policy shifts.

Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen is most often mentioned as his likely successor.

Bernanke, who led the Fed's response to the financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed, taught economics at Princeton before joining the Fed Board of Governors in 2002. His public service leave from Princeton expired in 2005. He became Fed chairman the following year.

Bernanke, who did not address monetary policy or the outlook for the economy in his speech, advised students to be on the lookout for the unexpected twists and turns in life.

"Life is amazingly unpredictable; any 22-year-old who thinks he or she knows where they will be in 10 years, much less in 30, is simply lacking imagination," he said. "Don't be afraid to let the drama play out."

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Diane Craft)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (15)
SanPa wrote:
This would be an excellent time to mount a grass-roots campaign against Yellen. Back to back dovish FRB Chairs would be a terrible thing for the dollar.

Jun 02, 2013 3:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
orlandojon2 wrote:
His job was to flood the market with currency and keep interest rates low just long enough for Obama to get reelected…once he stops pumping we are back to Jimmy Carter double digit inflation

Jun 02, 2013 5:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
davidkachel wrote:
Forget teaching, Bernanke. You have a date with a prison cell.

Jun 02, 2013 7:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Recommended Newsletters

Reuters U.S. Top News
A quick-fix on the day's news published with Reuters videos and award-winning news photography and delivered at your choice of one of four times during the day.
Reuters Deals Today
The latest Reuters articles on M&A, IPOs, private equity, hedge funds and regulatory updates delivered to your inbox each day.
Reuters Technology Report
Your daily briefing on the latest tech developments from around the world from Reuters expert tech correspondents.