Al Gore at the Washington Ideas Forum

The former vice president announces a surprising business achievement, and both cautionary and encouraging political and environmental views.

Al Gore explaining his point (Max Taylor Photography)

As I previewed last night, this morning in Washington I had a chance to interview Al Gore at our Washington Ideas Forum. The full video is below, with some brief viewing tips after that.

The first 14 or 15 minutes, of the 25-minute total session, are about a previously underpublicized aspect of Al Gore’s post-vice presidential life. This constitutes the promised “news” of the session, and it’s what I explore more fully in a long article in the upcoming November issue of the magazine.

The short version of the news is: Over the past decade, Gore and his colleagues have developed and applied an unusual approach to investing in global stock markets, with a heavy emphasis on environmental sustainability. Ten years into this approach, they have results to report, and those results make them, startlingly, among the very, very most profitable asset managers anywhere in the world. You name your cutthroat financial expert, and Gore’s team will probably have come up with better returns.

That’s what Gore discusses in the beginning of our talk. The details of their approach, and the potential and the limits of the example they hope to set for the world financial system, are the subject of the upcoming article. You’ll get an idea of the pitch from this video.

Then there are five minutes of Gore’s overview of the state of the climate-change struggles around the world, which is both cautionary and optimistic; and then five minutes on political dynamics in the United States, including a non-Shermanesque declaration about his own options. The final two or three minutes of the session are as rousing a pitch about the positive possibilities of this political moment as you’re going to hear. [Update Now that I’ve watched the end of this version, I see that it cuts off just before that two-minute “we can do it!” peroration by Gore at the end. I guess you had to be watching the live stream.]

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I’m biased, but I found the substance of the discussion very interesting. What I’ll suggest that you note, beyond the substance, is the ease and jokeyness of Gore’s bearing. I talk several times in my article about the relaxed air of the circa-2015 Al Gore. For instance, from the forthcoming piece, about one of my interviews with Gore:

He seemed to be taking some arm’s-length amusement, in a way I had not seen him do during his competitive political career, at the spectacle of himself giving little lectures...

Halfway through our talk he asked politely, “Has anyone mentioned the metaphor of the spectrum, as a guide to our work?” I said that, as it happened, during my recent visit to [his financial company’s] headquarters in London, every single person had mentioned it to me. It was a core part of company culture. And I was actually holding in my hand a chart that explained the concept. And —

“Oh, that’s great!” he said, and sat looking a little disappointed for a moment. Then he brightened. “But this is important, so I’d just like to explain ...”

So now let me explain!

He had seen a preview of the article shortly before our talk this morning, and in the discussion he razzes me for this passage and some others. My main stylistic point is, this is a man who seems at ease, and who made important and provocative points.