Eliot Spitzer is a former Governor of New York State. He served as New York State Attorney General from 1998 until 2006 and as the 54th Governor of New York from January 2007 until his resignation on March 17, 2008. He is currently a Slate magazine columnist and professor of political science at City College of New York.
Question: Aside from moral issues, what insights have emerged from your personal reflection since resigning?
Eliot Spitzer: I think there are many ways to contribute and it is unclear to me whether one contributes more by being an elected official, being a school teacher, being an academic, working in not for profits that provide services to those who are in need and thereby creating opportunities for them, by being a technology whiz who creates some next step in some area I can’t even understand. There are so many different ways to participate in ways that are rewarding emotionally. Make one feel good about participating in our community so that we can focus as much as we often do, certainly as much as the media does on the politics. You ask me, and again, this goes back to the days of the ancient Greeks where the politicians – we remember Paracelsus, we don’t remember the guy who was the great teacher at the high school in Athens. So, we focus on politicians, perhaps too much. Those who really have changed society, however – I guess Paracelsus did, but at large politicians don’t, it is Einstein, it is Freud, it is Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, it’s people who are creative thinkers who really change society in a fundamental way.
Question: What has motivated your fairly early return to public life, and will you ever attempt a return to politics?
Eliot Spitzer: You know, it’s – I began simply by writing some articles for Slate. I enjoy writing whether people would be interested or not wasn’t clear to me. Interestingly, it had been a number of years since I’d actually had the opportunity to write because even though as Attorney General and Governor, I would speak quite often, rarely did I have the time to sit down and actually write an article, or a speech. And so, it was almost liberating to be in a position where I had the time to do that. And I enjoyed it. So, writing a few articles and then I was asked to provide some commentary on a few TV shows, and so bit by bit, I’ve accepted those invitations and spoken at a few venues. It has not been part of any preordained plan on my part. I have a day job, not only working in the family business, but teaching and now doing the writing, so I’m busy enough. So, this is not part of some scheduled return to anything, but I’ve enjoyed it.
Question: Where would you most like to see yourself in 10 years as a public figure?
Eliot Spitzer: Oh, I don’t know where, if anywhere, as a public figure. Ten years from now I’d like to see myself upstate with a little piece of property up there and – it is where I find peace and quiet, sitting there. It sounds, again, very kind of like a Hallmark card. You look up at the stars and you realize, okay, none of us is that important, but it’s where I love to spend time.
Recorded January 21, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen