SYRACUSE, New York (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) Chief Executive Jamie Dimon told Syracuse University graduates on Sunday he was confident the United States would see a recovery in the short term, but the country’s condition over the longer term was in the hands of the next generation.
Speaking to thousands of students graduating as U.S. unemployment hovers just below 10 percent, Dimon, 54, talked for just under 20 minutes, often interrupted by applause, on the theme of accountability.
He began his address by discussing the protests that marked his appointment in March as the speaker of the commencement ceremony.
Some students had lobbied for a replacement speaker, arguing that Dimon represents an industry that caused the worst financial crisis since the Depression, but there was no obvious protest from students at the ceremony, beyond some booing when he first took the stage.
Dimon seemed to win some of the skeptical students over when he said he talked to a student who was leading the protests following his appointment in the spring and he was proud of her for standing up for what she believed in.
“It takes courage to be accountable,” he said. “Have the fortitude to do the right thing, not the easy thing.”
His answer to the tough job market he acknowledged students are facing? New graduates should learn from any failures and take inspiration from others who have tackled adversity, such as Nelson Mandela, he said.
Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor introduced Dimon as “the government’s banker of last resort,” referring to JPMorgan’s acquisition of troubled investment bank Bear Stearns and failed Seattle thrift Washington Mutual Inc in 2008.
Dimon, who was named “Banker of the Year” by a trade publication in 2009, has frequently spoken out against some elements of the U.S. government’s efforts at financial reform. While he has said he believes some reform is necessary, he has criticized proposals that he worries could end entire businesses, when it is only parts of those businesses that need reforming. For example, he has said he does not agree with forcing the exchange trading of all derivative instruments, but he does agree that some derivative instruments could be traded on an exchange or centrally cleared.
In what could be read as a reference to the face-off between politicians and bankers over financial reform, he told students, “It’s OK at times for us to blame and be dissatisfied with others ... it should not be acceptable to denigrate entire groups.”
After he finished by congratulating the class of 2010, he received more than a minute of applause. Some members of the audience and students stood up, while other students, still seated on the field, threw beach balls, orange balloons and a blow-up doll that were later removed by officials.
JPMorgan last year opened a technology center at Syracuse University and the New York-based bank also offers internships to Syracuse students. Dimon, who received an honorary degree from Syracuse on Sunday, graduated from Tufts University and Harvard Business School.
Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Diane Craft