He Looks At How Childhood Experiences Shaped World Leaders

Posted: June 13, 1993

Utopians, democratic socialists, anarchists, communists - all who believe passionately in an absolute system are probably unconsciously following youthful scripts that, once seeded, matured into adult beliefs.

So says Ted Goertzel, a sociology professor at Rutgers University, Camden. In his new book, Turncoats and True Believers (Prometheus Press), Goertzel explains how childhood experiences shaped the lives of George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, Fidel Castro, Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, Phyllis Schlafly and others.

"True believers, people like Ayn Rand or Fidel Castro, see themselves as visionaries," he said, "and they will continue to follow their beliefs to the end. They will stay with what they believe to be true, even if it means failure, because they'd rather be 'right' than succeed.

"Pragmatists with a belief system, people like Gorbachev or Bertrand Russell, can adapt and change their ideas if it means getting something done. But there is a paradox there.

"For example, Gorbachev really was a Communist, and he thought he could change and improve the party, perhaps even save it. He has a survivor's script, however, based on factual reality, not on doctrine. As he was attempting to transform the party, he actually hastened its decline. He survived that, too."

Goertzel, who has a doctorate in sociology from Washington University in St. Louis, said exploring the hidden motives and personal struggles of world leaders had led him to connect the psychology of ideological "types" with certain behaviors.

He said ideological scripts can help to explain why certain leaders behave in irrational and self-defeating ways. For example, he said, Woodrow Wilson spent a great deal of his life trying to prove himself to his father, and was unable to compromise to save his most cherished projects, including the formation of the League of Nations. Abbie Hoffman grew up during World War II and, Goertzel said, was embarrassed that his father didn't fight in the war; as a young man, he led the anti-war movement.

"It's interesting to speculate about the future of true belief and commitment in terms of today's politics," Goertzel said. "With the end of the Cold War and the end of the nuclear threat, more people have doubts about their ideological beliefs.

"There are marginal groups concerned with global warming, animal rights and so on, but nothing has yet filled the void left by the collapse of state socialism.

"We may be seeing the end of ideology and the beginning of pragmatism and skepticism, but that's disconcerting, too. People need something to believe in, something to feel passionate about."

Goertzel lives in Haddonfield with his wife, Lillian, a psychologist. He is teaching a course at Rutgers with his son, Benjamin, a mathematician, on ''Artificial Intelligence, Mind and Society." His daughter, Rebecca, an English teacher, lives in California and has two children.

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William W. Reynolds Jr. of Haddonfield expected to serve as host of the Haddonfield Civic Association awards dinner on May 5 as he has done, he said, ''forever." Not this year.

This year, he was the honored guest. Reynolds, 54, received the Alfred E. Driscoll Community Service Award for uncommon contributions to the people of Haddonfield. The honor reinforces a decision Reynolds made, with his wife, Mollie, in 1972 to return to Haddonfield to raise their children in his home town.

"I went to Haddonfield High School," he said. "I left to attend Lafayette College and then went on to Harvard to earn a master's in English. After that, I taught in New England for a few years, then came back to the University of Pennsylvania to earn a doctorate in education and public administration.

"I was the director of teacher education and assistant dean of education at Penn from 1965 to 1972. That's when I had to decide whether or not to go on the educational merry-go-round. That's the track where you move every three years and sacrifice your life to the career god. We decided not to do it.

"We wanted our children to be anchored; we wanted roots. Haddonfield was the place for us because it's a place where people care about each other and they care about the town. No single generation can take credit for this, it's just an evolutionary, ongoing force here."

After he left Penn, Reynolds became director of education at the Bancroft School and mayor of Haddonfield. In 1976, in another career move, he opened an educational management consulting firm; in 1980, Bob Schaeffer became his partner.

"We work with educational institutions and with nonprofits," Reynolds said. "We teach them how to market and promote their services."

In addition to his consulting work, Reynolds helped to found the Haddonfield Foundation, which provides seed money to local organizations. He is a trustee and former president of the Camden County YMCA and is president of the board of trustees of the Haddonfield Public Library. He also gives assistance to Interfaith Caregivers, the Night Ministry and the Haddonfield Alumni Society.

Reynolds lives with his wife and their three children.

Honorable Mention: Sandra and Arnold Kaminer of Cherry Hill were scheduled to receive the Israel United award today from State of Israel Bonds at a tribute dinner at Congregation Beth El in Cherry Hill. The Kaminers are active in the Jewish Federation of South Jersey, Congregation Beth El.

Joan L. Aiken received the New Jersey Historic Preservation Award for her book, Haddonfield Historic Homes. She is a founder and director of the Haddonfield Historic Preservation Society.

Gail Rene Mumma, a junior at Cherry Hill High School West, will participate in the 1993 Summer in Japan program. She will live with a host family in Japan for six weeks, studying and experiencing aspects of Japanese life. The program is sponsored by the Subaru of America Foundation.

Melanie Santos of Cherry Hill, the daughter of Jim and Rina Santos, has been elected president of the Rutgers College Governing Association. She is a junior majoring in political science, and an associate undergraduate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics on the Douglass campus.

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