Coming from New Jersey may account in part for the probably undeserved prominence that I give to the New York Times as the repository of truth as well as arbiter of value. Recently, however, I had to question their priorities on the treatment of the death of two significant people -- An Wang and Halston.
I do not believe that the position or length of the obituary in the Times is the ultimate test of the worth of one's life, but I did find it interesting that An Wang got a small mention on the first page referring the reader to the obituary page; whereas Halston's death received significant coverage on the first page.
From my admittedly prejudiced view (An Wang was a high tech entrepreneur and also happened to be a supporter of the Forum, having been a keynote speaker at the 1987 Fall Workshop), I felt they deserved at least equal attention. Dr. Wang exemplified the "American Dream" at its best; arriving as a poor immigrant, taking advantage of the opportunities this country provides and giving in return his genius, his energy and his hard work. Among his long list of accomplishments is the invention of core memory. His company was a pioneer in the areas of word processing and computing and for a time was enormously successful.
Certainly, his company's recent performance may have been on the editor's mind when allocating space or Halston's death may have come on a slow news day. In fact, the Times may be correctly reflecting the priorities of our society and therefore be absolutely right in its decisions.
In any event, I want to express my deep appreciation of Dr. Wang's accomplishments. Being an entrepreneur, I can attest from my own experiences and from others I know that it is not easy. The risks are very real and the pitfalls many. I, for one, hope Dr. Wang is remembered for his great accomplishments.
Reprinted with permission from The MIT Enterprise Forum, Inc. of Cambridge. The article first appeared in the "Forum Reporter," Volume 8, No. 10, May 1990.
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