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Question: What is your legacy?

Jim Woolsey: I don’t know.  I don’t think my contributions have been important enough to be characterized as having a legacy.  I’ve enjoyed 22 years of law practice with a very fine firm as a litigator, mainly in arbitrations and before administrative law judges on things like technical subjects.  I have served in the government 12 years in these four different jobs.  The arms control work is still a little bit relevant, I guess.  It helped ease the Soviet Union down at the end of the Cold War.  Still in dispute to some extent, one of the things that Putin is today disagreeing with the west about is the terms of the treaty, the conventional forces treaty that I negotiated back in 1990.  But it’s hard to think of much of a legacy other than that – the arms control work.  I think that the energy work really looks to the future. If we handle this right, we can end up with innovations in energy such as plug in hybrids, and distributed generation of electricity from rooftops, and distributed production of things like cellulosic ethanol and renewable diesel, because you don’t need to do that in the Midwest where corn grows.  You can do it anywhere there’s waste or grass.  All of that I think would make our society a lot more resilient.  And that’s, I think, important; and resilient not only from the point of view of making it harder to attack as a terrorist, but resilient from the point of view of not producing nearly as much in the way of global warming gas emissions.  This chapter I just wrote for this collection in a book on global warming and national security has in it a dialogue between the ghost of John Muir and the ghost of George S. Patton.  I call them the tree hugger and the hawk.  It’s remarkable how much they agree on, and how much they want to do the same things, to their own surprise, for somewhat different reasons.  And I’m doing my best to point out both to my tree hugger friends and my hawk friends – and I consider myself both – that they have maybe different focuses and different historical interests; but what they should want to do overlaps a very, very, great deal.

Recorded on: 7/2/07


What is your legacy?

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