11/03/2013 02:34 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

What I Have Learned From Jerry Brown

I am always looking for examples of effective leadership.

Shortly after his record setting election as Governor of California in 2010, Jerry Brown spoke at a charity function I happened to attend. After he delivered his brief speech, he was preparing to dash out before the dinner.

A boy, accompanied by his mother, intercepted the official as he headed toward the exit. The child was too shy to approach him, so the mother asked, "May we take a photograph?"

"That'll be $5," answered Brown.

The family didn't know what to make of the reply.

"I'm just kidding -- come on," Brown added after they had stood there in surprise for long enough.

Whereupon the child posed with his hero, while the mother snapped a shot with her phone.

Afterward, I thought I might have a moment as well. I introduced myself as the head of the University of California Hastings College of the Law, and I invited the Governor to visit campus at his convenience.

"No time. Gotta run. Gotta slash and burn," he said, as he turned to enter the elevator.

That is the true story of my encounter with Governor Jerry Brown.

His victory was the best political comeback in California history. Dubbed "Moonbeam" more than a generation ago by the late columnist Mike Royko, who came to regret the moniker, Brown famously studied in a Japanese Buddhist monastery during his years in the wilderness. "Desires are endless," he has said, quoting a Zen koan. "I vow to cut them down," he has declared.

Yet his two stints heading the wealthiest state in America are marked by continuity. There has never been doubt that he is as he presents himself.

The eight words he shared with me, he in fact has followed up on. The fiscal crisis he described was real; his remedies have been successful.

As an admirer of his candor and his policies, I wonder if it is possible to emulate his style. Probably not. He is unique, but perhaps he serves as an inspiration. The candor advances the policies.