Life stories from Annette Gordon-Reed, Martin Karplus, Steven Pinker, E.O. Wilson, and many more, in the Experience series.
Though a farm boy at heart, talking politics and traveling to faraway places always fascinated Joseph Nye. When he graduated from Princeton in 1958, Nye figured he’d fulfill his military obligation in the Marines and then perhaps enter the Foreign Service. But a chance encounter with a professor in the college library led to a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics, and economics. Then it was on to Harvard for a Ph.D.
More than 50 years later, Nye is one of the country’s most important scholars in American foreign policy and international relations, and among the Kennedy School’s most popular and respected teachers.
Over that long career, Nye’s intellectual curiosity has taken him to East Africa during the independence movement in the 1960s, to weighing the ethics of nuclear weapons proliferation, to gauging the rise of Japan and China as economic and political players on the world stage. He is known for coining the term “soft power” to describe an alternative that leaders and nations can use to effect political outcomes, power that works by shaping preferences rather than using economic “carrots” or military “sticks.”
Nye served in the Defense Department during the Clinton administration and in the State Department during the Carter administration. He was dean of the Kennedy School from 1995 to 2004. A Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Nye will retire from teaching in June.
Q: Tell me little bit about your growing up.
A: I grew up in a rural area in northern New Jersey, and that left me with a strong interest in outdoors and farming, and I still grow vegetables. I have three sisters. … I was the only male other than my father.
Q: Did your sisters abuse their privilege?
A: No, no. But it did give me a deep appreciation for women’s positions and women’s rights, and it’s been something that I’ve tried to think about in all the jobs I’ve held — to make sure that I provided opportunities worthy of my sisters. I think one of the things I’m proud of, when I was dean here, was starting the Women and Public Policy Program and increasing the number of women students and women faculty. So, having sisters made a difference.
My father worked in Wall Street. He had never gone to college. He went to work as a messenger and worked his way up to having a seat on the Stock Exchange [as] senior partner of a company. He always used to joke with me about the fact that it took me 10 years to get through college by the time I finished all the degrees.
Q: That world didn’t interest you?
A: It did somewhat. He would take me in to Wall Street to see the canyons and to understand what was going on in the financial world, and that may have affected my interest in politics and economics. But I was always intrigued by the politics part of it as well. At times I was tempted to follow his footsteps and join in his company, but I wanted to follow my interests and my interests were this intersection of politics and economics. My mother had gone to Smith for a year and then dropped out for financial reasons in the Depression. She’d gone to work as a secretary and that’s how my mother and father [met].
Q: What was their attitude toward education?
A: They were pretty strict. My father ran and became chairman of the local school board because he felt strongly about education, having not had that much himself. And they obviously inculcated achievement orientation. But I think probably the most interesting thing was not the pressure to get grades in school as much as dinner table conversations. The family dinner was de rigueur. Dinner was always conversations — I mean arguments. My older sisters were coming back from college and they were repeating ideas that they had learned there and they were usually arguing with my father — arguing in the best sense of the word. They would make sure to bring me into the conversations and so a lot of being able to speak up and defend your ideas and being interested in ideas grew out of the family dinner table conversations. It was a Republican household. In those days, you didn’t get to meet many Democrats if you grew up in northern New Jersey in a rural area.
Q: What kind of student were you?
A: Well, I was younger. My mother put me in school — I’m a January baby, so she could either hold me back or put me in early. That meant that the other kids were better than I was at athletics by being a little bit larger and more experienced. I also lived in a rural area where there just weren’t other kids around, so a lot of my play wasn’t part of athletic teams because there weren’t enough kids to make a team. So a lot of it was doing things outdoors and working on the farm and things like that. When I went to high school — at Morristown-Beard School, it’s now called; it was then Morristown Prep — I sort of buckled down and did well in class and played on the football team. I was the center on the football team, the guy who hikes the ball and then gets knocked down [laughter].
Q: Why there?
A: There was no high school in the township. I think there were about 500 people in the township, so you either went to Morristown, which is about six miles away, or to a private school. My parents considered sending me to Andover, where my sister and brother-in-law were teaching, but I think they felt that it would be better for me to stay around home. So I went as a day student to Morristown Prep. It was small, and being small was probably good for me. It allowed me to be a big fish in a small pond, which allowed me to develop self-confidence.
Q: Did you have any ideas about a career?
A: I didn’t have very clear career plans. Believe it or not, at one point I thought of going into the ministry, though that didn’t last very long. Then I thought about maybe going into business, because that’s what my father did. I mean it wasn’t as though I had an early clear idea that I want to be a doctor or something like that. I was just curious and I was interested in travel. Our family took a trip to Europe and then a trip to Mexico and that got me interested in other areas.
Q: What brought you to Princeton?
A: I applied to two colleges. Yale was my backup. My sister said you’ve got to apply to Harvard. I said no, I’m not interested in Harvard. If you lived in northern New Jersey, Princeton was a magnet. … Everybody around this northwestern New Jersey area wanted to go to Princeton. As it turned out, it was a very good choice, because Princeton, particularly in those days, spent a lot of resources on undergraduate education with the precept system, which meant you often had classes of six or seven students that were being taught by a full professor. So the quality of the teaching that Princeton offered — turned out that it was a good choice for me.
Q: Was it there that you started to form an idea about what you wanted to do?
A: I didn’t. In those days, you had to go to the military. There was a draft. I graduated in 1958, past Korea and before Vietnam. So I’m lucky in that sense. I was healthy, so I wasn’t going to get 4-F. I just knew that I was going to spend two years in the military. My plan was to join the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course because one of my now-wife’s cousins had done that and he seemed to like it. I was in the library one day and I bumped into a professor I’d had who said, “Nye, what are you going to do next year?” And I said, “I’m going to join the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course.” He said, “Oh, that’s crazy. You should apply for a Rhodes.” And I said, “Well, I guess I could do that.” And so I did and I won it. So I spent two years at Oxford instead of two years in the Marines.
Q: Tell me about your time at Oxford. What was Exeter College like back then?
A: Exeter is one of the oldest colleges, founded in 1314. It’s not one of the richest colleges. There are some that are much bigger. But it was a well-established old college. It didn’t have the posh, Etonian style of, let’s say, a college like Christ Church, which was started by Cardinal Wolsey and is one of the largest colleges and richest colleges. Exeter had a smaller community. It had its Etonians and British public school boys and so forth, but it also had more people who had come from working class backgrounds. In those days, a lot of them had been in the military — because the British also had a draft — so they would do military before they came to college.
The rector of Exeter decided to put me in as a roommate in an old 18th-century building with a British public school boy, who is now a lord justice of the High Court of Justice, but at that time had just come back from being an officer in The Gambia. And he had the habits of a British schoolboy. Here I was, coming from the United States, freezing, and you had this little heater that you put a shilling in and the shilling would allow you to heat the room. And I’d sit in front of it, in a chair, with a blanket, trying to read. And my roommate would come in and say, “God, it’s stuffy in here,” and he’d throw open the windows. It didn’t cause a war; we became friends. But it was a different world. The difference between being a student at Princeton and Oxford is, [at] Princeton, I used to have a refrigerator where I would go out and buy milk and I’d bring it back and put it in the refrigerator. At Oxford, I had a servant — they were called scouts — and the servant would bring a bottle of milk to the door. But I had no refrigerator. And that was the difference between a labor-intensive and a capital-intensive economy.
Q: Who were some of the people you knew and studied with back then?
A: My main tutor was a man named Norman Hunt, who became Lord Crowther-Hunt. [He] became an important figure in the Labour Party and helped plan the devolution of government for Scotland and Wales, so he was a pretty well-known British constitutional political historian. I also had a philosophy don named William Kneale. I had not expected to enjoy philosophy, and it was, at that point, a required part of the PPE [Philosophy, Politics and Economics] degree. I was absolutely fascinated. Again, it was not because I sought it out. It’s because he would ask such interesting questions. Oxford philosophy then was going through a period of linguistic analysis. It was associated with A.J. Ayer and others — Gilbert Ryle — and I got quite intrigued by that. So intellectually, I became much more interested in philosophy than I expected. But I did philosophy, politics, and economics — all three.
Q: Those were separate concentrations with different requirements?
A: Yes. The PPE still exists at Oxford. You only have to do two of the three today, but in those days, you had to do two papers in each of the three fields. Among my friends was a fellow named Phillip Whitehead, who became president of the Oxford Union and went on to be a member of Parliament. I did a lot of traveling with some fellow American Rhodes scholars, like John Sewell, who became a major general in the Army, who was then a West Point Rhodes Scholar. We traveled to Russia in 1959, which was really early. When we would drive into a Soviet town, it was like being people from Mars. You might see somebody from Eastern Europe, I guess, but you were not going to see an American in Minsk or Smolensk or the other towns that we went to. It was a fascinating time to be there. We also traveled in North Africa and traveled throughout Eastern Europe, which was then all communist, as well as Western Europe. It developed my strong interest in international things.
‘What’s the difference between academics and government? It’s that feeling that you can change a policy. Here, I could write about it. There, I could actually do things that changed it.’
Q: Did your academic interest in Africa start there?
A: At Oxford, I made a good friend of a student from Ghana and we got into long discussions about the future of Africa. Was it going to create a new type of democracy, and what was going to happen? At that time, I thought I might go into the Foreign Service. That made me decide to come and do a Ph.D. at Harvard and to basically orient my Ph.D. work around Africa. I took a seminar in economic development from Ken Galbraith and Ed Mason. Mason had just come back from being the head of a World Bank mission to Uganda to advise them on what they should do for planning after independence. He said the big question is whether they were going to remain part of the East African Common Market with Kenya and Tanzania or not. He said he found that too hard for an economist to answer, and some political scientist would have to answer that. And I thought — bingo! — there’s my thesis topic. Because I knew I wanted to go to Africa, but I hadn’t quite zeroed in on a topic.
But more seriously, it was a chance to pursue a strand of thinking that had fascinated me, which is the relationship between politics and economics. At Princeton, I had majored in the Woodrow Wilson School, which does politics and economics and history. And then at Oxford, I studied philosophy, politics, and economics. Then when I came back here as a graduate student in the Government Department, I wanted to still continue to think through this question of how people reconcile what’s rational in economic terms and what’s effective in political terms.
So, I went to East Africa with a grant from the Ford Foundation and spent a year and a half [1962-64] studying the prospects for the East African Common Market. I got to interview leaders like Julius Nyerere and Milton Obote — Tom Mboya, who probably a year or two later would never have talked to a Harvard graduate student, but in these early days, you could get access. I got to see two countries become independent. I watched the independence ceremonies for both Uganda and Kenya. So it was an interesting time. But my prediction was that this was going to fall apart, which was too bad for the East African countries, but it was accurate analysis. I had hoped that it would succeed, but as an analyst, you had to call things as they looked and not as you preferred. So, I wrote my thesis on pan-Africanism and East African federation with a gloomy conclusion.
While I was in Kampala, Uganda, [at] the East African Institute of Social Research, I got a letter from the Government Department at Harvard saying, “We voted to offer you an instructorship for the next three years.” At the magnificent salary, I think, of about $6,000. And I thought, well, I’ll try it for a little while. The “little while” stretched longer than expected. So from ’58 to ’64, I was in graduate school. That meant that I never did go into the military, because by then, I had passed the age of likely being drafted and we had our first child.
Q: What was it like for you when you first arrived at Harvard to work on your Ph.D.?
A: I thought that I would probably do Africa, but it was that seminar with Galbraith and Mason that convinced me. When I came to Harvard, things were very much more informal in those days. They said, “We’ll give you a scholarship to come.” I did well in my first term, but I waited for my grades to come back. When I had all A’s, I thought, I’ll go into the Government Department and tell them that I’d like to renew my scholarship for next year. So I went in and I said, “I’ve got my grades finally, in February, and they’re good. Can I renew my scholarship?” And they said, oh no, the deadline was Jan. 19 or something like that. And I said, “But how could you possibly renew my scholarship? You didn’t know how I’d done in my first term.” They said it didn’t matter. It was a deadline just in terms of when we exhausted the budget, so there’s no money.
So, I said, “Well, what do I do now?” And they said, we’ll help you arrange to be a research associate and we’ll allow you to teach before generals. So I was about to get married, and I had to tell my wife we had no scholarship money but that I was going to work as a research assistant for Robert Bowie, who was then head of the Center for International Affairs, and teach a sophomore tutorial, so I wouldn’t see much of her. And she was going to have to work [laughter].
Q: How did that go over?
A: Well, we’ve been married for 56 years, so it worked out. But it was a tough year. Bob Bowie, who had been assistant secretary of state in the Eisenhower administration and had come back to head the Center for International Affairs, was a very tough taskmaster — but a very good person to work for because he made you pay very careful attention to what you were doing. I worked a lot for Bowie. My thesis supervisor was Rupert Emerson, who was a very genial man who did things related to colonial history and nationalism, imperialism, and so forth, so he shepherded the people interested in Africa. The person I probably was most influenced by intellectually was Stanley Hoffmann. I didn’t take his courses, but I used to sit in his seminars because he was so interesting. In those days, the Government Department at Harvard had two big baronies. You either were in the Friedrich camp, Carl Friedrich, or the William Yandell Elliott camp. And these two great barons of the system were Aristotelian and Platonist. I didn’t want to fall into either one of those, so I worked on these other areas with other people. But it’s interesting to think back to how different the Government Department was in those days.
Q: What were some of the political debates happening at that time?
A: The big issue in the early 1960s I remember writing about for Bowie was the crisis of Berlin and how you stood up to the Soviets and was there going to be a war. This was when Kennedy was running for president, the fall of 1960. The issue was, was there a missile gap? Were the Soviets going to overtake us? I had become interested in that because of travel in the Soviet Union. So the tensions over Europe and Berlin and U.S.-Soviet relations were a major issue: Were we going to blow up the world? Another was the independence of Africa — decolonization — and the fact that there were new countries becoming independent. We didn’t know which side they would come down on in the Cold War and there was intense competition.
Q: What was it like living and working in Africa at that moment?
A: It was fascinating because the British had created in East Africa — in all their colonies but particularly in East Africa — very rigid class and caste systems. So you’d go to a party at the Entebbe Boat Club near Kampala in Uganda and notice that here you were in a newly independent Africa and almost all the people there were white. And you’d say, “Why are there no African members?” And the answer was, “They’re not interested in boating” or “They’re not interested in golf.” Or you’d walk into a store —which would be owned and run by somebody from India who’d come to East Africa maybe a generation or two earlier — you might walk in and there would be several Ugandans there waiting to be served and you came in as a white person. The Indian would have you come to the front of the line. And if you hesitated or said, “No, no, no, that’s all right,” they would insist. It was a very racist, imperialist system and very distasteful, so I found this hard to get along with.
But what was interesting is that after the African leaders began to gain full control, instead of creating a new kind of democracy or inclusive liberal system, they began to expel people who disagreed with them. So if you were an Indian and you didn’t kowtow properly or if you were a former British civil servant who was there on contract and you said something critical, you’d be expelled from the country. I found that distasteful, as well.
East Africa is a wonderful part of the world. We loved living there and made a number of good African friends. But the nature of the social system was just very hard to take. Of course, the United States wasn’t all that great either. Many of the new African diplomats who wanted to go from New York to Washington couldn’t stop on Route 40 and use the bathrooms because of segregation. So we had our problems as well.
Q: Did you ever second-guess yourself about that course of study?
A: I figured that the most important thing was to follow your curiosity. There were just so many things that I was curious about. The other thing was teaching, which I really enjoyed. Trying to help students see the world differently or to expand their horizons or to think about things. So I liked teaching. And I found the research was fascinating. So, yes, anxiety is normal. I don’t know what human doesn’t have a certain amount of anxiety. But I never had a crisis of confidence. It was always, as long as I’m following my curiosity and learning — why not?
Q: You taught in the Government Department early on. What were students interested in then?
A: In the early ’70s, we had the disturbances that surrounded Vietnam. That involved a lot of students who were going through identity crises and political protests. Between civil rights and Vietnam War protests, the campus was in considerable turmoil. A bomb went off in my building, the Center for International Affairs, at 6 Divinity Ave. There was another invasion of a building in which the director of the fellows program was beaten up and had to be taken to the hospital. Another time, I remember being in my office, which had formerly been Henry Kissinger’s office. I had put a peace sign on the window … but it didn’t do any good because they threw bricks through the windows and took a pole and battered down the doors and came in and trashed the whole building, taking all my bookshelves and pulling them down and throwing typewriters through partitions and so forth.
Q: Was this happening across campus or was your department specifically targeted?
A: The student radical groups identified the Center for International Affairs with plotting of the Vietnam War because Kissinger had been there and because Sam Huntington had been there. It wasn’t true, but it became accepted wisdom. The Harvard Crimson at one point wrote an editorial urging students to burn down the center. It was a different period and people forget how radical that period was. The Government Department, as such, wasn’t targeted the same as was the CFIA. If you look at Niall Ferguson’s book on Kissinger, which came out last year, he has interesting descriptions of how Kissinger and Bowie didn’t get along but were regarded from the outside as co-conspirators in plotting this war.
I started teaching in ’64. And from ’64 until ’68, when I went on leave in Geneva, there were some protests and so forth, but it really didn’t heat up until about ’68, ’69. You had the occupation of University Hall. Then, with the Nixon administration, the bombing of Cambodia led to Kent State, which led to sweeping protests. So yeah, there were issues. [Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara came to visit and had to be escorted out of — I think it was Quincy House — through the steam tunnels, because students were protesting him. That would have been around ’67. So the Vietnam War was already creating some turmoil on campus, but it was after the occupation of University Hall and the bombing of Cambodia and Kent State that it really became extra nasty.
Q: As a scholar, you’re sometimes described as a neoliberal or an acolyte of transnationalism. Do you see yourself that way?
A: Wikipedia says that Robert Keohane and I were the originators of the theory of neoliberalism. And we did write a book called “Power and Interdependence” that has been seen as the origin of that theory. The book has stayed in print for over 40 years, which is rare in political science. But I’ve never thought of myself as — in my book “The Future of Power,” which was published in 2011, I call myself a liberal realist. I think pigeonholing of people in theoretical categories stops thinking rather than advances it. So I’ve never considered myself that.
Q: How do you feel about being known as the creator of soft power? It’s clear that the term has been sometimes misunderstood or misused over the years. Do you think its original meaning remains clear or has it evolved into some other idea?
A: Soft power to me was an analytical concept. I was trying to explain in 1989 why I didn’t think the United States was in decline. I looked at our military power and our economic power, and I said, there’s still something missing, which is the power to get what you want through attraction and persuasion rather than coercion or payment. And that I will call soft power. Gradually, the term got used more and more. I was in a meeting in China where I realized that they were using my term and that millions of people were using it, but it wasn’t the way I’d originally intended.
Q: Do you consider that your most important achievement as a scholar? It’s certainly the one you’re most associated with.
A: Well, it is the one that’s probably most associated with my name and I wish I had a nickel for every time it’s used. I think it’s important, but I also think that thinking through how power and interdependence related to each other and these changes of the growing role of economics and their relation to power in the ’70s — I think that work is just as important.
Q: It’s early, but is the U.S. in danger of ceding its soft power during the current presidential administration?
A: I think so. I wrote an article during the campaign saying that Trump had hurt America’s soft power because of the low quality of the political discourse. So even before he was elected, whether he had been elected or Hillary had been elected, the nature of the 2016 campaign had done damage to the image of the United States and our attractiveness. I think that’s just been reinforced by the low quality, for example, of the inaugural address or the idea of a president tweeting. I was at the Munich Security Conference, which is an annual thing that happens in February, the day after Trump’s [first major] press conference [Feb. 16]. Everybody that I talked to was asking, “What the hell is happening in your country?” So I think definitely Trump has had a negative effect on American soft power.
Q: You’ve been deeply involved in so many different intellectual areas. At one point, you worked on nuclear nonproliferation. Did you ever encounter any criticism from people who thought why don’t you just focus on one thing?
A: You’ve got to resist [people] putting you in a box. When I came back from Africa, I would get invited as a young instructor or assistant professor to go and present at a conference on Africa. But I had already become interested in the question: Can other developing countries create common markets where the Africans couldn’t? But the temptation is you get prestige and publication by sticking in the box.
Q: You spent time in the Carter and Clinton administrations. What did you learn from the transition between academia and government?
A: The most important thing you realize when you go from academia to government is that in academia you’re your own person. You try to sort out an idea. Time is not crucial. It’s getting the idea just right. And in government, it’s just the opposite. You have to play on a team and time is crucial. If you get an A briefing memo for the president or the secretary of state, but it comes in just after he’s met with the foreign minister that you’re preparing the memo for, it’s an F. So, better to get him a B+ on time than an A with an incomplete or late. … You have to learn to work with a lot of people and, indeed, you have to use soft power. You have to attract others to want to work with you and help you. And it’s much narrower and deeper. You’re constrained by your tasks and you have to get down deeper. In intellectual life, you can be broader. You’re unconstrained. You can follow your curiosity. They’re both very interesting, but in very, very different ways.
Q: Where did you feel you made the greatest difference?
A: When you’re in government, you have your hands on levers of power and you can affect policies that matter. I think that when I was running the nonproliferation policy, we made a difference. I can see on particular things where decisions I made changed things. Similarly, when I was in the Pentagon in the Clinton administration, I steered a policy toward Asia which I think made a difference. You come back and you write about these things. You hope that somebody reads your article, but it’s more trickle-down rather than pulling the lever yourself.
Q: You spent much of your late career studying Japan, China, and East Asia more broadly. What drew you to that part of the world?
A: It grew out of government experience. When I was in the Carter administration, I went to Japan quite a lot because of a dispute that we had with the Japanese about nuclear reprocessing. But the stronger part was in the ’90s, for the Clinton administration, I was assistant secretary for international security. But I focused very heavily on China and Japan. That grew out of a feeling that a lot of people had in the late ’80s that Japan was overtaking the United States. There was even a book written about the “coming war with Japan.” I thought this was nonsense. I worked with Ezra Vogel and Susan Pharr. We had a faculty study group and said, “How should we think about Japan and think about the future of Asia?” So I got the intellectual capital for thinking about that here at Harvard. But then when I was in the government, I was able to actually do something about it.
Q: You’re greeted like a head of state when you visit. Why do you think your work has resonated so deeply there?
A: I got the Order of the Rising Sun from the [Japanese] emperor, which is fairly rare. I think they felt that I had taken seriously the problems of the change in the balance of power in East Asia. I had helped to reassure the U.S.-Japan alliance, which was under some threat in 1992-93, so I think the Japanese appreciated that. On the China side, I think they appreciated that I was trying to find an equitable balance in U.S.-China relations in which we didn’t vilify China — took a firm position by reaffirming our alliance with Japan, but also made clear that we were inviting China into the international system, that it wasn’t exclusionary. So I get treated well in China as well as in Japan.
Clinton won the ’92 election on the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid.” When I first went into government, everybody was saying, “How can we now beat up on Japan?” And, based on this work I had done here at Harvard, I said that’s not the right way to think about Japan, and it’s not the right way to think about Asia. The rising country is China. We should be reaffirming our alliance with Japan, not thinking of Japan as a threat.
I asked Ezra Vogel, who was then teaching in Arts and Sciences, to come down and work for me as the national intelligence officer for East Asia. We tried to reformulate the way the U.S. government was thinking about Japan and China. And it did have an effect. We were able to have an impact on policy. And that goes back to what you asked about earlier: What’s the difference between academics and government? It’s that feeling that you can change a policy. Here, I could write about it. There, I could actually do things that changed it. Henry Kissinger once said that in government, you spend intellectual capital; you have no time to build it. So essentially, outside of government is when you build intellectual capital or develop ideas. If you take that into government, you can use those ideas to refresh policies. That idea of in and outer — which is a term that Dick Neustadt, who was once on this faculty, developed — argues for people to transfer ideas into government and then to refresh ideas in the academy.
Q: As someone who has spent a career studying and working on international relations, are you disheartened by the nationalist-driven threats to the European project and the potential shakeup of postwar world order?
A: I do think there is a problem. The European Union was a very interesting experiment. Europe, which had torn itself apart in three wars from 1870 to 1939, was re-creating itself as a union in which the idea of another war or a fourth war between France and Germany was unthinkable. That’s a huge accomplishment. And now, that’s beginning to erode. [With] the rise of populist parties and with the Brexit vote, Europe has been damaged. And I think that’s unfortunate. I think it’s bad for Europe, it’s bad for world order, it’s bad for the U.S.
Q: What are some of the most important things you’ve learned over the years — things that have shaped your life?
A: The most important thing in shaping my life has been my marriage. I’ve been married for 56 years to a wonderful person and we’ve had three great sons and now have nine grandchildren, seven of them granddaughters. I think of life as having an inner core, and that inner core is the ability to have human love. The next round around that would be being at one with nature. That’s why I spend so much time outdoors — fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing. And then the next round around that is a wide core of friends, and that includes students that I’ve known and taught over the years. And then around that would be the ability to be creative in terms of writing, thinking, and developing ideas. And then finally, the outermost of the cores is the ability to have some power to effect change, to make some differences. The reason I describe it in these concentric circles is that, if somebody said you have to give them up one by one, I would drop the outer veils and I would hold on to that inner core most tightly.
Q: You retire from teaching at the end of the academic year. What will be you be working on next?
A: I’m going to transfer from a regular professor to research professor, which is a variant of emeritus, but it means I’ll stay around the Kennedy School. I’ll continue to write and I’ll continue to do research. But I won’t be meeting classes on a regular basis. I’ll still see students from time to time. I have no idea how many students I’ve taught — probably 10,000. But it’s a great satisfaction when they come back and you have a chance to catch up with them or see what they’re doing.
I’ve been doing a lot of work on cyber, trying to understand cyber. I just joined a global commission on stability and cyberspace that was announced by the Dutch foreign minister at the Munich Security Conference. I’ll never be a cyber native, but I can translate between cyber technology and policy and international relations. I think we’re going to have to develop norms and rules for monitoring or governing and controlling conflict in cyberspace. I’ve just published an article in a refereed journal, International Security, on dissuasion and deterrence in cyberspace. I think I can bring accumulated knowledge to an area which is going to need [people who] understand how it fits in with things that have happened before.
Q: So you’ll still be very connected to this place.
A: Harvard is a wonderful place. It’s a great institution which has been at the center of my professional life, despite excursions. It’s hard to think of a place that has more good people and more interesting ideas, so I want to stick around here for a while.