How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

How JPMorgan's Dimon conquers his critics

May 18, 2010: 3:09 PM ET

by Patricia Sellers

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon is getting plenty of practice handling protesters lately. "Stop the loan sharks" read the T-shirts worn by some protesters hovering outside the company's annual meeting this morning.

Dimon assuaged the shareholders--he predicted a rise in the dividend to 30-40% of earnings "later this year or early next year" if U.S. unemployment goes down and credit improves.

The crowd was tougher, potentially, this past Sunday at Syracuse University. Some students there had fretted about the choice of a Wall Street titan--a beneficiary of the bailout, no less!--as the 2010 commencement speaker.

The protest scheme called for students to disrobe during Dimon's speech.

But classic Dimon, he embraced the controversy.

As he explained to 4,000 grads at Syracuse's Carrier Dome, he dialed up one of the leaders of the disgruntled group, a student named Mariel Fiedler, He heard her out and basically told her: "Good for you for speaking up."

Dimon advised the Syracuse grads to do the same. Learning, he told them, comes from listening to arguments that you don't agree with. So, he said, Socialists should read Milton Friedman, capitalists should read Karl Marx, and Republicans should listen to Democrats--and vice versa.

Of course, Dimon couldn't avoid the issue that drives him crazy these days: public rage against Wall Street. "To categorically and indiscriminately judge (CEOs) as all equal is simply another form of prejudice and ignorance," he told the graduates. "It's not fair. It's not just. It's just plain wrong."

He drew applause at that comment and got a standing ovation at the close. Reportedly, only 11 grads took off their robes. Not bad for a first-time commencement speaker--who, say folks at JPMOrgan, wrote his speech himself. Click here to see a clip of Dimon in action.

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