今日推荐英文原文：《Why Albert Einstein Rejected Being President of Israel》
今日推荐英文原文：《Why Albert Einstein Rejected Being President of Israel “I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people”》作者：Ryan Fan
Why Albert Einstein Rejected Being President of Israel
“I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people”Albert Einstein was a man of many achievements. He made the famous formula that asserted the equivalence of mass and energy. He then won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for discovering the law of the photoelectric effect, which led to the whole new world of quantum physics.
What few people know is that Einstein could have added president of Israel to his resume of accomplishments if he wanted to. After the creation of Israel in 1948, the first president of the country, Chaim Weizmann, died in November of 1952. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, under pressure from a Jerusalem newspaper, offered scientist Albert Einstein the position of president. Einstein was living at Princeton university at the time. In Israel, being President is largely a ceremonial role, while the prime minister holds executive power.
Einstein, however, declined.
According to Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe, Einstein and Weizmann were close friends, and Weizmann helped bring Einstein to America in 1921. Weizmann, after all, was president of the World Zionist Organization. Einstein found the idea “awkward, very awkward,” according to a friend. He knew his answer right away, but the Israeli embassy sent him a telegram asking whether they could send someone to meet him officially — Abba Eban, Israel’s ambassador. Isaacson said the idea was both impractical and astonishing.
“Why should that man come all that way…when I only will have to say no?” Einstein said.Einstein and Eban would have a phone call. Einstein immediately declined, but Eban insisted on presenting him the offer officially.
“I cannot tell my government that you phoned me and said no…I have to go through the motions and present the offer officially,” Eban said.Eban sent a deputy to Einstein to give a formal letter asking Einstein to take the presidency. The letter made sure to note that Einstein would have to move to Israel and take citizenship there, just in case Einstein believed he could be president of Israel from Princeton.
Throughout Einstein’s life, he had been devoted to Zionist causes. His papers are featured by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In part, Einstein was responsible for the formation of the International Rescue Committee in 1933. Einstein advocated for a Jewish homeland throughout his life, which caused a rift for many American Jews during his visit to America in 1921. According to Isaacson in a 2009 article in The Atlantic, Jewish leaders like Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter wanted Jewish people to assimilate, not agitate for a homeland.
“Long before the emergence of Hitler I made the cause of Zionism mine because through it I saw a means of correcting a flagrant wrong….The Jewish people alone has for centuries been in the anomalous position of being victimized and hounded as a people, though bereft of all the rights and protections which even the smallest people normally has,” Einstein wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of IndiaHowever, while Einstein advocated for a Zionist state, he railed against the “Freedom Party” in Israel that gained prominence during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. Einstein was especially critical of Menachen Begin, calling him a “fascist element” in the New York Times. About half a year earlier, the Deir Yassin massacre took place, in which far-right Zionist paramilitary groups killed 107 Palestinian Arabs, including many women and children.
But as for becoming president, Eban wanted to reassure Einstein that he could continue his scientific work and be funded by the Israeli government. He could essentially do whatever he wanted, and Isaacson would note that the job “would require his presence, but not much else.” Eban told him that the offer was a testament to Einstein as a hero of Israel, since the offer:
“Embodies the deepest respect which the Jewish people can repose in any of its sons.”When Eban and his crew arrived at Einstein’s house, Einstein said he was “deeply moved” by the offer but couldn’t accept, and was “at once deeply saddened and ashamed that he could not.”
Einstein would respond in his note:
“All my life I have dealt with objective matters, and hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official function.”Einstein realized that it was a brilliant idea, but that sometimes, even a brilliant idea isn’t always a good one. He would go on to be grateful and say:
“I am the more distressed over these circumstances because my relationship with the Jewish people became my strongest human tie once I achieved complete clarity about our precarious position among nations of the world.”
TakeawaysEinstein essentially rejected being the president of Israel because he didn’t think he was a great people person, and he didn’t have the experience required for the job. Imagine if all politicians thought like that — wouldn’t the world be a better place?
Regardless, Isaacson also notes that Einstein didn’t want to just be a figurehead president. He had the role of establishing Hebrew University, and Einstein largely hated all the political maneuvering. He had also helped a group create Brandeis University and had bad experiences that led him to resign.
In short, Einstein didn’t want to be a figurehead, and as much as he advocated for political causes, he hated politics. According to Isaacson, he also hated administrative responsibilities throughout his life.
“Einstein’s brilliance sprang from being a rebel and a nonconformist who recoiled at any attempt to restrain his free expression. Are there any worse traits for someone who is supposed to be a political conciliator?” Isaacson asked.But part of Einstein’s brilliance was also his ability to say no when he knew the situation warranted it. Einstein was a genius in knowing what he liked, where his strengths lied, especially that late into his life. What we can learn from Einstein is also the ability to say no and know where our strengths are.
Einstein would die three years later, and everyone involved, from Ben-Gurion, Eban, and Einstein himself, would be happy the episode was behind them. Behind the scenes, Ben-Gurion was relieved and joked to his assistant:
“If he accepts, we are in for trouble.”