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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Medlin, May 24, 1999. Interview I-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reflections on Wachovia's bright future

Medlin reflects on the big picture, sharing his sense of optimism for the nation's future and the people who drive Wachovia's success.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Medlin, May 24, 1999. Interview I-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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I'm interested in as you take in the broad sweep of the forty years you've been involved with the bank and all of the experiences that you've had across the years in virtue of the leadership role you've had at the bank. I'm wondering if there's any trend line or evolution you could point to. Maybe it would be the fact that there hasn't been much change would be the interesting observation in your broad outlook on this state's prospects, on the region's prospects, on the society's prospects in continuing to make progress in certain social problems. I'm thinking to here with the rapid globalization of our economy and our culture, I suppose, just sort of how your thinking has unfolded broadly.
Well I think that today, 1999, we have a much better Wachovia, North Carolina, nation, world than we had in 1959 when I came to work here. I think the trend has been good on virtually all fronts, whether it be human rights or economic prosperity or standard of living or personal freedom, all those things that are important to mankind. I think the quality of service of a bank, the technological advancements that we have made that have been good for people as well as for efficiency. Good progress and good trend very much I think in a position to power forward on all those fronts to continue improving. One thing I have learned is pessimists most often are wrong. This is a nation and I think our bank, we're optimists. People with positive, creative views of the future are more likely to be right. While I think you can take some measure of worry in some of the things you see in society today on the moral front and those kinds of things, never the less I'm impressed by the young people that we have in our company today. I still see some, despite I'm retired, I'm very impressed with the young people I see and my grandchildren. So I think there's a great future for Wachovia, for America, for our society, and for our whole nation if we just continue to keep our eye on the values and fundamentals that have made life better will make life better. That could make life better in the future and not get too carried away with technology but continue to do those things, make progress on a scientific front where it has human benefits. One of the organizations I'm involved with is the National Humanities Center is trying to make sure that we put a few drops of humanity back into the mainstream of education and society wherever we can. So that maybe the next century we won't have the brutality and the things that we had during this century where many people have been murdered and slaughtered. That we can maybe have a twenty-first century that will be a little better along those lines. I think it can. I think it can.
Are there matters that you would like to spend a few minutes or as much time as you like talking about that we haven't touched on today that you think are important to these sorts of reflections and spanning the-
Well, one of the things that maybe I haven't touched on as much as I would like to and with as much passion I think is that an organization like Wachovia and one of the reasons I was sort of subtly attracted here and as dedicated to doing a good job as I was during my lower life and upper life in the company is that Wachovia has something of a heart and a soul and a spirit. We all feel, I know the present Chief Executive Officer, Bud Baker and I felt and my predecessor felt, Archie Davis and before him, it was very important to preserve. Going off and merging too far and too fast, you tend to lose that. There are people who have told me that the state of North Carolina would not have been able to meet its payroll and obligations during the '30s had it not been for Wachovia, which was one of the only banks that was available and had the money to step up when the times were really tough. We have a role in society like that. We have a very sacred trust with the people who put their money here and expect to get it back whether the Year 2000 works or not. I think that's an important note to close on too. There's something more than just a bank here. There's an institution. There's something that's important not just in North Carolina now, but to the other states that we have bought major banks in and likewise have a right to look to us the same way that North Carolina always has. The best way to ensure that is the kind of people we hire and the values that they have when they come to us and the values that we reinforce them when they're here. They don't get distracted by the transient and the expedient along the way. It's very easy to do at times, to follow the fashions and the fads in banking or whatever else is going on in society. That's one of the things that was passed on to me by people like Archie Davis and John Watlington and I think likewise to them by Mr. Robert Hanes and those people who were such an important part of our heritage. We've got a legacy here that's important to pass on in a stronger fashion than we took charge of it.