Best I can trace it is, when I was very young, my father used to drive me around when he was clerking for foreclosure sales in North Dakota in the middle of the Depression. On the way there, he would talk to me about the hardship the farmers faced. That certainly was the beginning of it for me. It's a constant struggle to try to improve the lot of people around the world. A lot of people live in poverty and deprivation, and we have to be constantly alert to do what we can, to always feel we have done as much as we should.
Can the United States be an exemplar to the world without also insisting that the world be like us?
President Obama, who is going through a particularly difficult first year, made a major change that enabled us to once again stand out as a beacon. We have really adopted a policy of engagement rather than a policy of going it alone. I think that enables us to persuade other countries to take a course toward peace. It won't be overnight, and it will require us to demonstrate our leadership around the world. I see this approach beginning to pay dividends in places like Russia, Myanmar, perhaps Syria, maybe over time Cuba. Administrations always learn how painfully slow diplomacy is. It is the only way, but it does not result in overnight achievements.
Foreign policy issues rise and fall -- who thinks about Quemoy and Matsu anymore? Now it's terrorism.
A principal reason we are concerned about Afghanistan is, it was a breeding ground for terrorism before 9/11 and our aim has to be to prevent it from being a breeding ground once again. Unfortunately there are a number of countries standing ready to provide that same kind of breeding ground. The ability of terrorists to be born in one country and train in another country and be subsidized by a third country, only to carry out their endeavors in a fourth country, is something we'll have to cope with. It will require a vigilance that inevitably is somewhat invasive of the privacy we've enjoyed.
That's a difficult balance.
It is a difficult balance, a thing a president constantly has to ask himself -- have we gone too far?
Can diplomacy work when you're dealing with stateless people like terrorists?
Diplomacy can play a considerable role because it can enlist the civilized countries to stop that kind of terrorism and prevent it from marauding around the world. We are greatly advantaged by our allies in Western Europe, who have so many of the same standards that we do.
Do you consider yourself a Californian?
Oh yes, this has been my home ever since I came here in 1939. So I care a great deal about California. Even though I've been a bit nomadic, I've always wanted to come back, and I'm very glad to be back now.
How then do you see California's fortunes?
California is in an extremely challenging period, and we need a reform movement to move us beyond that. We have so many natural advantages; at the moment, we seem to be squandering them. I was glad to see the state Legislature pass a water plan. It brings back memories of the days when [former Gov.] Pat Brown provided such marvelous bipartisan leadership. We need an infusion of that, which is almost hard to remember now, isn't it?