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The Daniel Ellsberg interview


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My mom, she just wanted me to go to a good school, and Cranbrook was a very good school, and as far as I know, still is a very good school, really excellent. When I went to Harvard, I found the classes relatively easy in a way because I had five years of quite strict academic upbringing, and a lot of homework. I was very well prepared for that.

The future that stretched before was that of a pianist, even though I became aware, I didn't think I was going to have the career of my hero, Vladimir Horowitz I just wasn't up to that. My impression then was that it is hard to make a living as a concert pianist unless you were in the very top, and I didn't expect to be there. In my last years at Cranbrook, my brother, who was 11 years older, my half-brother was quite radical, introduced me to economics. He actually bought me an economic textbook for my Christmas present in my junior year at Cranbrook. I got very interested in economics, especially in labor economics. I read books about the labor movement in Detroit. Walter Reuther was my hero, as a matter of fact. I remember very well being just thunderstruck when he was shot in Detroit during that period by what turned out to be, later, a coalition of manufacturers who hired several gunmen from Canada to come over and shoot him with a shotgun. It didn't kill him. It wounded his arm, forever.

I actually was regarded as pretty radical, for my interest in the labor movement, at Cranbrook. The non-scholarship students were nearly all children of auto executives from Bloomfield Hills or elsewhere, and were quite Republican or right wing. So, when I was interested in Henry Wallace, for example, my senior year there, they regarded me as very leftist. I also wrote a humor column for "The Crane," the Cranbrook newspaper, and I wrote a column every week anonymously, and loved watching people read it and laugh, and not know who the author was until our graduation. I was the class valedictorian.

Oddly enough looking back on it, I was voted "most likely to make a contribution to human welfare," which was interesting.

I think that happened. I think they were right.

Thank you. Anyway, I did what I could.

I took an SAT for a competition run by the Pepsi Cola Corporation, which had a foundation for sending two students from each state on the basis of tests to a college of their choice anywhere with all expenses paid. The Pepsi Cola Scholarship. It was based on two SATs, one for the state or one nationally, or something like that. I did well on both of those and was one of the two from Michigan who could go anywhere they wanted. I chose Harvard.

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