Today is an exclusive live video interview with Peter Georgescu for the interview series “Interviews with the Leading Edge.”
In this series of interviews, I engage with people who are on the leading edge of transformational change, doing work to further the consciousness revolution and how it is manifesting in culture, politics and spirituality, in order to help bring along a more enlightened society.
Peter Georgescu is the former CEO and Chairman Emeritus of the advertising agency Young & Rubicam, and is also the author of the recently published book “The Constant Choice.”
“The Constant Choice” is partly Peter’s memoirs; it is also a discussion of how we as humans can evolve towards focusing on the greater good.
Peter has had a remarkable life, and his saga is an inspirational tale of human potential and human evolution, and how it is possible for a person to transcend an extremely difficult childhood to become a force for good in the world.
Peter Georgescu was born in Romania in 1939, during the height of World War II. When he was very young, his father was put in jail by the Nazi-sympathizing Romanian dictator, and Peter and his older brother lived with his grandparents. After the war, with the Romanian dictator deposed, his father was released, and for the next year and a half, Peter had a more idyllic childhood.
But then the Soviets, under Josef Stalin, invaded Romania, and made Romania part of the Soviet constellation of satellite Communist nations, and again the people of Romania lived in tyranny. Peter’s parents were out of the country at the time of the invasion, and because his father worked for an oil company, were not allowed back in Romania. Once again, Peter and his brother went to live with his grandparents.
And then in the middle of the night, the Soviet military came in their jackboots to Peter’s grandparents house and took his 80-year-old grandfather to jail, where he was eventually murdered. Peter, his brother, and grandmother were taken from the house, moved around the country, and eventually were given a room to share in a house. They lived there for the next five years, in desultory conditions, with beds made of hay, and barely enough food to eat.
But the worst was yet to come. Peter and his brother were forced to work – eight, twelve, and even 24 hour days of hard labor, each and every day. They were basically slaves to the Communist government, working physically demanding jobs on infrastructure projects – digging ditches, cleaning sewers, working on high-powered electrical lines, and more. Day in and day out, for five years they did that.
Yet Peter kept going, buoyed on by a faith that good would prevail. He saw the Soviets as evil, and that his belief in God would carry him through all the dark days.
Eventually, events turned in Peter and his brother’s favor. They were finally let go, with President Eisenhower personally getting involved in his release. In 1954 he came to the U.S. to live, and was at last reunited with his parents, after eight years apart.
From there, many people lent helping hands to assist Peter in making his way in his new country. He went to Princeton and Stanford Business School, then landed in the business world, getting a job as an intern at one of the largest ad agencies in the world, Young & Rubicam. Working through the ranks, he went on to become CEO of the company.
Along the way, Peter had a burning question that needed answering, and it this question that frames the interview: What is the nature of evil?
He truly saw evil growing up: the Communists that ran Romania were no better than Hitler, Pol Pot and other despots that have destroyed countries and their countrymen in the name of some distorted and perverted vision they had. As a child, good and evil was very black and white: Soviet-style Communism was evil; his religious faith and belief in God was good.
But as an adult, and working in the business world, he realized good and evil wasn’t so black and white. He saw evil in the business world, in the actions and behaviors of colleagues and companies. He understood evil to be predicated on short-sighted actions rooted in the baser instincts of selfishness, narcissism, ruthlessness and greed.
And as he came to understand it even better, he realized that we can turn away from these types of behavior patterns, and move towards actions that impact the greater good. All it takes is becoming more aware of yourself and making the constant choice to be a force for good.
I met with Peter in his office at Young & Rubicam, on Madison Ave. in New York City. There, we had a very engaging, enlightening and inspiring conversation about his life and the themes that have informed him all these years, and that continue to inform him and motivate him: how we as humans can turn away from our base, primal instincts and move, by making the constant choice, towards the greater good.
This is a fascinating, enlightening and inspiring interview, and when you watch it, I’m sure you’ll agree. You may find yourself on watching it questioning your own life and wondering, “How can I be a force for good?”
For more information about Peter Georgescu, his book “The Constant Choice,” and his current work, visit his website, The Constant Choice.