"I have succeeded best when I have let myself get out of step and found my own way"by Prospect Team / May 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
First news/historical event you can recall?
The assassination of John F Kennedy. It was a Friday afternoon about 3pm—I was five years old. I was playing in the yard and our maid came out crying.
The book you are most embarrassed you never read?
There are so many! The one most on my mind these days is Alexis de Tocqueville; I read the obligatory excerpts in high school, and that’s all. But one of the great pleasures of getting older is that you realise a real liberal arts education takes a lifetime to accomplish—and you can set your own reading courses.
One bit of advice you’d give to your younger self?
The past does not determine the future. When I was young I was so convinced that if I didn’t achieve this, or make that, or keep up with my contemporaries at every step, that would set my course for life. Not true at all! I have succeeded best when I have let myself get out of step and found my own way.
What is your favourite saying or quotation?
It’s impossible to choose only one—some of my very favourite are just things my paternal grandmother would sometimes say. But if I have to go all grand and choose a “quotation,” I’ll go with this, on thought and on action, from Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural address as president of Princeton: “We are not put into this world to sit still and know; we are put into it to act. It is true that in order to learn men must for a little while withdraw from action, must seek some quiet place of remove from the bustle of affairs, where their thoughts may run clear and tranquil, and the heats of business be for the time put off; but that cloistered refuge is no place to dream in.”
Where do you want to be buried/have your ashes scattered?
In Sanguineto, overlooking Lago Trasimeno in Italy. But much more important, it is the place that my family and I have been going for 25 years and where we are happiest in the world.
If you were given £1m to spend on other people, what would you spend it on and why?
Building a network of rural and urban community nodes in the United States. In each node, people with diverse backgrounds and divergent political views would sit down, break bread together, talk about their families, their work, their hopes and dreams. I would create a template for such a group, build a starting network, and then create the conditions under which that template could replicate, like TED X or Alcoholics Anonymous. My new book discusses how to build such a replication network. We desperately need to remember that we are all one people, all human beings who are both good and bad, rather than partisans convinced of our own truths.
What have you changed your mind about?
So many things! Perhaps of greatest consequence, at least politically, came from the experience of the Libyan intervention. Although I remain committed to “responsibility to protect,” the doctrine that commits the international community to stopping a government from committing genocide, crimes against humanity or systematic war crimes against its own people, I would not now support a humanitarian action against a government that did not include extensive plans for the post-military phase. I would also want to be clear-headed in advance that deeply distasteful compromises with the same government may be necessary.
Are things getting better or worse?
They are getting much better for some of us and much worse for others of us, all at the same time, which is itself an enormous political, economic, and moral problem.
Anne-Marie Slaughter is a foreign policy expert and former adviser to Hillary Clinton. Her latest book, “The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World” is published by Yale University Press