Ted Turner tells Galloway students to make sure they’re not the last generation

By Maria Saporta

The theme of the Galloway School’s Speaker Series was supposed to be fearlessness.

So who better to ask that Ted Turner, Captain Courageous.

But when Turner was asked whether he was fearless, he quickly answered: “I was scared all the time. Fearlessness doesn’t make sense. You should have some fear.”

Later in the question and answer period, Turner came up with another line: “I was afraid of losing so much that I worked so hard that I won.”

Then Turner said one shouldn’t confuse fearlessness with a willingness to take risks.

And risks he took.

Turning a small UHF television station into a national SuperStation, buying sports teams, like the Atlanta Braves (“Doesn’t everybody want to own a baseball team?”), starting CNN, the Cartoon Network and other cable channels, investing $1 billion in the United Nations Foundation, creating the Nuclear Threat Initiative, becoming the largest private landowner in the United States, starting his own restaurant chain — Ted’s Montana Grill, and so on.

“The biggest mistake that was made was the merger with AOL. That was a disastrous but it wasn’t my idea,” Turner said. “I was skeptical.”

Yet when listening to Turner speak to an audience, there is one message that keeps coming through, especially when addressing young people. He was able to capture the attention of the youngest students, who had been fidgeting, when he began howling like a wolf. Quickly, the students joined in.

“This is going to have to be the generation that would do things right,” Turner said, adding that previous generations don’t have a great track record “We’ve been making progress on energy policy and climate stabilization. The previous generation hasn’t done that. If we are going to be fearless and not give a dad-gum, we won’t be here in a couple of generations.”

Turner was optimistic when talking about the likelihood of peace on earth.

“We are about to see war go away,” Turner said, appealing to the best in human nature. “Bombing people doesn’t teach them anything. Bombs just make people angry, and you end up bombing the wrong people any way. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I like to think of myself as a fighter for peace.”

Turner continued: “War has got to go away. With the weapons we have now, we don’t have the time and effort and resources to waste on war.”

Then Turner took on an even more serious tone.

“The reason I’m out here doing this; I came out here to share some thoughts,” he said, and then speaking directly to the students: “Determine whether there’s going to be another generation after you. That’s why I’m here.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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