John C Williams: Connecting theory and practice

Remarks by Mr John C Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, at the Hoover Institution Monetary Policy Conference, Stanford, California, 3 May 2024.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
06 May 2024

As prepared for delivery 


Good afternoon. It's wonderful to be back at Stanford-especially with John Taylor chairing this panel. John was my advisor during my studies here, and he hired me as his research assistant in the early '90s. It was an extraordinary privilege to have those two most wanted positions.

Based on some of my past speeches, you may expect me to give a few pop culture references from the '90s that capture my time at Stanford before I move on to the substance of my remarks. But the truth is, I was so focused on my studies that there wasn't time to rollerblade, listen to R.E.M., or go to the arcade just for fun. Instead, like many in this room, I chose to forsake fun for the study of economics. As a result, I am simply useless when it comes to '90s trivia.

What brought me to Stanford back then was a sense of purpose. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, I witnessed the toll that economic turmoil, high inflation, and slow growth took on families. By the time I arrived at Stanford in the fall of 1989, the Federal Reserve under Paul Volcker had tamed the very high inflation of the late '60s and '70s. But, the work was far from done. Inflation was around 4 percent-a level, I should note, that is well above today's 2.7 percent. And it was not yet clear how the lessons of the past would shape the policies of the future to ensure economic prosperity and stability.

But change was afoot, and it was an exciting time to be thinking about economic policy. With the advent of inflation targeting, the practice of monetary policy was on the cusp of a revolution. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand led the way in December 1989, and the Bank of Canada and Bank of England soon followed suit. I recall seeing the excitement around this change when I was a student, as I listened to policymakers from New Zealand and Canada describe their new frameworks.