High school journalist nabs interview with Defense Secretary Mattis

Gabby Kaufman
Reporter

A high school sophomore scored an interview with Secretary of Defense James Mattis for his school newspaper after the Washington Post published a photo that inadvertently revealed the retired Marine’s cell phone number.

In May, the Post ran a photo of President Trump and his bodyguard, who was seen toting a sticky note with Mattis’ name and cell phone number jotted down. Teddy Fischer, a rising junior at Mercer Island High School in Mercer Island, Wash., called the number and recognized Mattis’ voice on the outgoing message. He didn’t leave a voicemail but later texted Mattis to request an interview on foreign policy. The secretary of defense returned Fischer’s phone call and agreed to be interviewed for the Mercer Island High School Islander.

“This whole thing is just a miracle after miracle,” Fischer told King 5, an NBC affiliate based in Seattle, of connecting with Mattis.

The interview, now nestled on the Islander homepage alongside articles on the senior sleepover and the study body elections, touched topics such as the quagmire in the Middle East and the role of the military in conjunction with diplomacy. But Mattis, known to be a voracious reader and a student of history, also repeatedly exalted formal education. Mattis cited education, as well as economic opportunities, as the most effective way to combat dangerous ideologies around the world.

The secretary of defense also lamented coarsened American political rhetoric, saying, “I get very, very concerned when I hear people start characterizing their opponents as stupid. I still understand that because politics is a little rough and tumble at times, but I don’t buy it and when they start calling each other either crazy or evil.”

Mattis left the Islander with advice for graduating seniors.

“Go out of your way,” he said. “Not everyone has to join the military, it’s not for everyone. For one thing it’s scary as all get out at times, but whether it be the Peace Corp or the Marine Corps, whether it be serving on your local school board when you’re still not even 30-years-old, by running for office and trying to get a good education for the kids in your community, just try to put others first and it will pay back in so many ways that you’d be a lot happier in life.

“So just look for ways to help others all the way along, Teddy, and you’ll never go far wrong if you’re always looking to do that. You won’t get all caught up in your own problems if you’re out helping others overcome theirs.”

Despite his scoop, Fischer told King 5 he didn’t know if he would pursue journalism after high school. Still, he said he learned something: “It never hurts to ask anybody anything.”

“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.”

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