What is your legacy?

The Honorable James Woolsey is the Chairman of Paladin's Strategic Advisory Group. He is a partner at Booz Allen Hamilton and from 1993 to 1995 was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  He endorsed Senator John McCain for president and served as one of McCain's foreign policy advisors.  In his government service, his law practice, and his service on corporate boards, Mr. Woolsey has focused on the practical application of innovative technology and on the legal and managerial requirements that are necessary to accomplish this. During the last two decades, he has served on the boards of fourteen companies; almost all have been significantly involved in using high technology to improve security as well as provide other benefits to private and public sector consumers. He was an early member of the board of directors of Yurie Systems, Inc., a provider of ATM access technology and equipment and access concentrators, which, in 1997, was named by Business Week as the fastest-growing corporation in the U.S. As Under Secretary of the Navy, as a member of the President's Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management (Packard Commission), the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the U.S. (Rumsfeld Commission, 1998) and as Director of Central Intelligence, Mr. Woolsey has been identified with promoting technological innovation in the interest of improving security.

Mr. Woolsey received his B.A. Degree from Stanford University (With Great Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa), and a M.A. Degree from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and an L.L.B. Degree from Yale Law School, where he was Managing Editor of the Yale Law Journal.

  • Transcript


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