How a High School Newspaper Scored an Interview With the Defense Secretary

Aide accidentally leaked his number, students took action
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2017 4:32 PM CDT
How a High School Newspaper Scored an Interview With the Defense Secretary
In this Monday, May 29, 2017, file photo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis stands in attention at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. during a Memorial Day ceremony.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

You wouldn't expect to see an interview with the secretary of defense published in a high school newspaper, but there it is in the Islander, the paper published by Washington state's Mercer Island High School students. An aide to President Trump accidentally released Defense Secretary James Mattis' phone number to the Washington Post in May, the Hill reported at the time; the number was visible on a sticky note in a stack of papers shown in one of the photos the aide released to the press. The Post replaced the photo with another once it was alerted to the issue, but not before high school journalist Teddy Fischer saved it, the Hill reports. Fischer called the number, asked for an interview, and Mattis agreed.

Interview topics included ISIS, foreign policy, the political climate in the US, the nature of American warfare in the years to come, and much more—including what Mattis thinks students should be studying (history) and what advice he would give to concerned high schoolers ("get involved"). Mattis also addressed his reasoning for agreeing to the interview: "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." Jane Gormley, another student who administered the interview, published a reflection on it in the Islander detailing how the interview was set up and noting how "bizarre" it was to get a call back from Mattis. (More Lt. Gen. James Mattis stories.)

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