Jack Matlock Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the End of the Cold War: A Diplomat Looks Back; Conversation with Jack Matlock, 2/13/97 by Harry Kreisler

Photo by L. Carper

Page 10 of 10

Advice to Students

One final question. If students want to prepare for a career in global affairs, what would you recommend that they do?

Number One, get as wide a liberal arts background as possible. Everything human is important to the diplomat. You're dealing with human beings, you're dealing with cultures. Second, make sure you're comfortable in cultures other than your own. It doesn't mean that you have to adopt all of the things, but you've got to understand them and if you feel like a fish out of water, this is not the profession for you. Expect change: if you find the unexpected and change stimulating then you may make a fine diplomat. If you find that it disorients you (these are not moral qualities, these are different kinds of human beings), and that you really want stability in your life and predictability, then diplomacy is not for you because you're going to get a new job every two or three years, usually there are going to be serious things wrong, either with the place or with your boss or something else.

I would say also a very high degree of optimism, an optimistic nature. You need to combine a certain realism, you can't get so idealistic that you lose a grip on reality. But at the same time you do have to maintain an attitude that what you're doing is important and that it's not just a matter of routine work, although there may be a lot of routine involved.

Finally, for heaven's sake, don't come in with some idea that you're going to change the world. You're not. Or that if you have some theory about the way things go, your job is to convince your government that your theory is right, regardless of the way things are. I think this would make you a disastrous diplomat. Better to be a theoretician and to be read by other specialists if that's your temperament.

Ambassador Matlock, thank you very much for spending this time with us for this fascinating tour of the events that you were involved in and of your life work in diplomacy. Thank you very much.

Glad to be here.

And thank YOU very much for joining us for this "Conversation on International Affairs."

© Copyright 1997, Regents of the University of California

See also the interview with Alexander Yakovlev.

For further discussion on the Weimar analogy, see:

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