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Student Gets More Than Expected When He Finds Mattis’ Private Number

Young eyes could see opportunity when The Washington Post inadvertently published a photo with Defense Secretary James Mattis’ phone number in it.

The May photo, which was removed form the paper’s website soon after, was up long enough for Teddy Fischer, 16, a sophomore from Mercer Island High School in Washington state to text Mattis an interview request.

“I called it to see if it was him, because I was pretty curious if this is actually his number or is it kind of a joke,” Fischer told King 5 local news, saying that he recognized the voice, but was too shy to leave a message. Then he sent a text.

“I never really thought it would work,” he said.

It did. Mattis called back, and not only scheduled the interview, but also spoke with the student for 45 minutes.

The high school’s student newspaper, The Islander, published the transcript of the wide-ranging interview, in which Mattis encouraged students to study history.

“The human condition, the aspirations, the dreams, the problems that are associated with being social animals, not being a hermit and living alone, but having to interact with others, whether it be your local school district, your community, your state, your county, your national, your international relations, history will show you not all the answers, but it’ll tell you a lot of the questions to ask and furthermore, it will show you how other people have dealt successfully or unsuccessfully with similar type issues. I wish now looking back on it, if I’d known what waited for me in life, I would have put a lot more attention into history,” he said.

When asked what young people should do who are fearful of the future, Mattis recommended action.

“Probably the most important thing is to get involved. You’ll gain courage when you get involved. You’ll gain confidence, you’ll link with people, some of whom will agree with you and some won’t, and as a result, you’ll broaden your perspective. If you do that, especially if you study history, you realize that our country has been through worse and here’s how they’ve found their way through that,” he said. “Here’s what leaders did, here’s what educators did, here’s what business people did, here’s what soldiers did, here’s what politicians did, and you can sometimes see, by weaving together that tapestry, how to go forward. You lose your paralysis, you lose your, I would almost call it unproductive worry, and you replace it with productive action.”


Last, Mattis explained why he called the student.

“Whenever I can, I try to work with students who are doing research projects. I was at Stanford University for a little over three years after I got out of the Marines before I got surprised by this request I’d come back and be the secretary of defense. So, I’ve always tried to help students because I think we owe it to you young folks to pass on what we learned going down the road so that you can make your own mistakes, not the same ones we made.”

“Any advice for graduating seniors?” Fsicher said, sneaking in one last question.

“I would just tell you that there’s all sorts of people that are going to give you advice and you should listen to the people you respect, but I think if you guide yourself by putting others first, by trying to serve others, whether it be in your family, in your school, in your church or synagogue or mosque or wherever you get your spiritual strength from, you can help your state, you can help your country, if you can help the larger community in the world, you won’t be lying on a psychiatrist’s couch when you’re 45 years old wondering what you did with your life,” Mattis answered.

Fischer came away with more than just an interview. He also learned a major life lesson.

“It never hurts to ask anybody anything,” he said. “Even if they seem like they’re a distant figure, even if they seem like a powerful figure. There’s a human side to politics and people are much more approachable than you think.”

Read more at Western Journalism:

Photo: Washington Post

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