John F. Lehman Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Managing National Security Policy: Conversation with
John F. Lehman, Secretary of the Navy (1981-87); April 16, 1991, by Harry Kreisler

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Background

Dr. Lehman, welcome to Berkeley.

Thank you. Great to be here.

How did you wind up going from political science to the practice of politics in the national security bureaucracy?

I studied international relations, diplomatic history, and political science, because I felt from my earliest time as an undergraduate that people in the government were doing so badly that I could do a lot better, and so that's what I wanted to do. I fashioned my undergraduate curriculum and then my graduate studies to aim at the policy community because I wanted to put my hands on it. "These guys are screwing it up so badly that anybody can do better than this" kind of thing.

Who were the heroes that you looked to before you actually went into government, in the days of your youth when you were still aspiring to enter the field?

I was not particularly politically conscious or involved in anything, except the politics of baseball and those kinds of things, until I was well into high school. I was not struck by any particular heroes. I was certainly influenced by strong personalities that were conscious role models, like my dad, whom I have a great respect for, and I had a couple of uncles who were pretty influential on me, again, very strong people that I looked up to.

I got to meet at an early age some very impressive professors who did motivate me in the international relations field -- Robert Strausz-Hupé at Penn, Heinz Cohn, and Bill Kintner, Jim Dockerty at St. Joe's -- people who were very insightful in what international relations were all about. So those were the principal interests.

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