Ross grew up in California, steeped in public service and activism.
Question: Where are you from and how has that shaped you?
Dennis Ross: Originally I was born in San Francisco, grew up in _________ County. So I’m a Californian. Many people have said that that explains why __________.
I don’t know that growing up in California per se shaped who I am. But I think growing up when I grew up shaped who I am. I grew up __________ child of the 1960s. My first political activity was in the Civil Rights Movement. The very first campaign I worked in was a fair housing provision in the mid-1960s. Vietnam shaped me dramatically in terms of mindset. The Kennedys, their sense of public service, also had an impact. My first serious presidential campaign was working on the Robert Kennedy campaign. So all of these, I think, had as much to do with shaping my attitudes, my instincts, a sense of passion for public service. All of it came from that more than coming from California per se.
Question: Who inspired your choice of profession?
Dennis Ross: I don’t know that there was a particular person who inspired it, but there were, I think, some . . . Well I would say the following. I would say one, I read Richard Wright when I was in high school. And this really had a profound impact on my sense not just of __________, but a sense that justice required certain kinds of behavior. And it also meant you couldn’t sit on the sidelines. You couldn’t just be an observer of this. And I think it’s in that context that when the Kennedys spoke about new responsibilities – and certainly when Robert Kennedy’s campaign came along – I think he was very much a symbol for me. I was coming much more of age at that time, and it was a kind of call to action that I saw in him. And he was quite inspiring for me.
Recorded on: September 12, 2007