A high school newspaper landed an interview with Defense Secretary James Mattis after an aide inadvertently leaked the military leader’s cellphone number to the public.
Mattis’s cellphone number was visible in a photo run by The Washington Post in May. The Post removed the photo, but high school journalist Teddy Fischer saved it and called Mattis asking for an interview.
Mattis agreed to do the interview with Fischer and Jane Gormley of The Islander, the newspaper at Mercer Island High School in Washington state.
“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,” Mattis said about doing the interview.
The interview topics ranged from helping to repair the Arab world after ISIS to the role of nonprofits in foreign policy to what topics high school students should be studying.
Gormley, the paper’s editor in chief, wrote in a reflection piece that Mattis focused on the importance of history throughout the course of the interview, citing Mattis’s undergraduate degree in history and three years spent teaching the topic at Stanford University.
“I don’t think you can go wrong if you maintain an avid interest in history,” Mattis said. “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.”