E-mail Exchange with Alan Cranston: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Alan Cranston's E-Mail Exchange with High School Students

Life History | Politics | Nuclear Weapons | Lessons Learned



"Retain your integrity..."

What advice would you give to younger politicians about dealing with criticism and opposition?

People who run for public office will always face criticism and opposition. That is part of the job. But a good candidate will understand that he is running so that he can be a servant of the public. You must decide where you stand on issues, and remain true and honest to your convictions. Retain your integrity, and you will be able to understand and cope with criticisms of your ideas and proposals.

What aspects of serving the public enable you to educate youth about important issues on government?

I am currently endeavoring to serve the public by educating our leaders and citizens about the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Young people, in particular, must be a focus of this effort. I have several young people who work on my staff at the Global Security Institute, and they are very aware that their peers do not think much about nuclear dangers because they do not remember the Cold War. But younger generations will likely inherit a very big problem re nuclear weapons, and it is my hope that many very bright young people will become involved with this issue.

How hard did you have to work as a Senator, because students today are very cynical and some imagine a Senator as a pompous old man who does nothing for the people? Were you able to preserve all the ideals that you had before your term in office?

There are many different types of Senators. There have been many whom I don't agree with on various issues. But I don't know of any Senators who don't work very hard to represent their constituents and their convictions. To be a Senator of the United States of America is a very important and powerful position, and I believe that most Senators feel a great deal of responsibility for honoring the importance of their role.

I worked especially hard in the Senate, because I was the Democratic Whip for many years. As whip, I was responsible for predicting how all the other Senators would vote on a particular bill, and then if they were going to vote the wrong way (in my opinion), I undertook to persuade them to vote the right way.

I also ran a committee on Veteran's Affairs following the end of Vietnam. I worked very hard to improve the poor medical and psychological care that our soldiers received when they returned home from the war. Representing California, the state with more people than any other, kept me busy and I worked hard because the issues a Senator deals with are so important.

Perhaps the hardest part of the job is making a decisions that are not popular, or which would not make one or another of my supporters happy. There is a maxim that guided me through many of those decisions: "What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right."

Life History | Politics | Nuclear Weapons | Lessons Learned

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