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Walter J. Hickel discusses politics

BROADCAST: Oct. 18, 1971 | DURATION: 00:54:26

Synopsis

Discussing the book "Who Owns America?" and interviewing the author Walter J. Hickel, who became Governor of Alaska and Secretary of the Interior.

Transcript

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Studs Terkel In a time of so much mediocrity, and double talk, and double thinking, official- officialdom, it is so refreshing and exhilarating to come across someone who speaks his mind, and certainly the most surprising figure, ex-figu- ex-administration figure is the former Governor of Alaska, Walter Joseph Hickel, who was Secretary of Interior. And some would say, brings back memories of Harold Ickes, but Governor Hickel will speak of differences, no doubt. His most recent book- his book is called, and has a title that's quite revealing, "Who Owns America?" The question. W.W. Norton, the publishers. And Governor Hickel, I'm delighted that you're a guest here to speak your mind. I was thinking you're talking about this country, and the resources, and the land that you try to save for those who own this country, the people. I was in Eastern Kentucky, a couple weeks ago, and the strip mining is destroying that land. And a man on the porch of a small town, Blackey, Kentucky, in the- near the Cumberlands, near the Virginia-Tennessee border, is talking about what's happening to his land, and then the other man takes over. The owner of the store Joe Begley, he starts talking- we hear their voices

Walter J. Hickel and Great.

Studs Terkel We'll hear your voice-

Walter J. Hickel Great.

Austin We have- they have this big road goes about 600 feet, you know, 'bove it. And they cut these big trees around the hill, and then this dirt all goes over [then?] the trees. To hold it for a certain period of time, and then after these trees rots out, water gets behind it, why, it all slide down cover your home up. And that's almost all of these auger jobs, they call 'em, strip mine jobs-

Studs Terkel Auger jobs

Austin Auger and strip mine. They cut these big trees and lay 'em sideways around the hill, and then dirt just piles up, pretty soon it's gonna rot out, cover everybody up that lives in below it-

Studs Terkel you mean a- like a landslide.

Austin That's right.

Studs Terkel Now, what are the companies? The operators use- strip mine outfit- the they- they just leave it right there.

Austin They just pull out and leave. You don't even know maybe- maybe you don't even know whose the company's name is-

Austin They operate under many different names, you know. You just can't keep up with them. After they pull out and leave-[machinery passes]

Austin [you lost the house?]. Get in a law suit, you won't even know who to law to start with.

Studs Terkel So are you live- you've lived there most of your life.

Austin No, I've been there about 20 years-

Studs Terkel 20

Austin Something

Studs Terkel But in this area.

Austin Oh, yeah. Better than 30 years.

Studs Terkel And so where you live, there's- there's all this dirt that may any moment slide down.

Austin 'At's right. Sometimes takes 'round three or four years for a tree to completely rot, and then, when it rots, dirt's gonna nicely come right on out of there, straight down the hill.

Studs Terkel So you really don't know who- who to challenge on

Austin No. No, you don't know. They change names, and this company'll buy another out, and they just, swap around. [machinery passes

Austin I think it's done mostly ta dodge lawsuits- damage suits.

Studs Terkel I'm thinkin' as we came down the big highway [unintelligible] the Mountainside Parkway and mountain far- you have the Highway [machinery passes by] 15. We see the road and we see greenery, we don't quite see where the [spire?]

Austin No.

Studs Terkel Right behind- right behind-

Austin Yeah they get way off in the roads, the main roads- they- [machinery hum intensifies]

Studs Terkel So the wayfarer never gets to see it-

Austin That's right.

Studs Terkel There-

Austin The people that don't know it's there, don't know [its a good way to?] to look for it. But I do know why, I've covered a lot of this country-

Studs Terkel In hearing the man on the porch here talk, Mr. Begley, what he's saying, I suppose, is pretty much happening all over, isn't it?

Joe Begley What Austin was talking about there was the operators avoidin' coming near the highway. What they are doin' is wrong, and the operator knows that it's wrong and if he can avoid the the highway where people can see what he was doin', that's what they try to do. But we've had so many counties now, they beginnin' to get into the place, and such a demand for coal, they don't give a damn who sees it-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Joe Begley And it's really bad. You take Knott County, we have a representative in Washington D.C., that's his

Studs Terkel But it turns out to be not the representative, and Walter Hickel, the very opening of your book is almost an epilogue to the voices we heard. As you read it.

Walter J. Hickel Well it goes like this: "We are at a time in our national history when mistrust of the responsib- responsiveness of government to the popular will has reached a critical point. A point in which increasing numbers of Americans feel denied and even robbed of the power to influence public policy. A point in which the cry is, 'Return it to us.' This mood is not the property of any age or class, and it can be a good and healthy thing, if those in government will listen. But if no one will listen, the lack of communications causes frustration and fear. And fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. What America wants returned to us is a sense of care, a sense of ownership. We want renewed assurance that we have some control over our physical assets and our spiritual destiny. We want to know that the important decisions affecting our lifestyle and our very existence will not be made by some anonymous them, who may have no suitable consideration for our wishes. The public is asking for a larger role in the direction of its fate."

Studs Terkel And thus begins "Who Owns America?" And Walter Hickel, Governor Walter Hickel of Alaska- former governor. Better known to most Americans as the former Secretary of Interior. Your thoughts on hearing these two men, the Cumberland speak. Those voices are familiar to you aren't they [unintelligible]-

Walter J. Hickel Very familiar. You know, since I've left Washington, I spend about one week a month traveling to a section of the country. North or south, east to west, the Midwest. And those voices we heard are really expressing a mood in America today that no- knows no age or class. It's north and south, it's rich and poor, black and white. And what they're saying is maybe- maybe someone is confused free enterprise with free society. And I say in my book, that, you know, freedom ends when it infringes upon someone else's rights.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel And these rights can be things that we will always own, 200 million

Studs Terkel Who who is the- who is this, "them." "Them" that these two guys talk- "them" who are doing-

Walter J. Hickel

Studs Terkel Well- the stripping, and the polluting, and the predatory work?

Walter J. Hickel Well, you see, that when I talk about anonymous "them"- you know, I said it in the book. They were saying it live, on their porch-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel Because "them" they can't put their hands on. You 'member? He said, "we can't put any lawsuits on because we don't even know who to law."

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel I thought that was good.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel Because "them" are people that make their decisions only for short-term monetary reasons, and they look at humans as markets. Now, as soon as government treats people as humans insteav- instead of as votes, then a- America will respond. And as soon as industry looks as people as humans instead of as markets, then we'll truly have a free society.

Studs Terkel Yeah. Well the question about Walter Hickel is, how did you get this way? Here you were a member of the Nixon administration. When you first came to Washington, you were attacked by those who consider enlightened. You were given the business, you know, whether it was Drew Pearson, or McGovern, or Gaylord Nelson, and they didn't know you. Who- well how'd you get- who are you? How did it begin? Where do we begin?

Walter J. Hickel Well it really began, probably, as I- in my book, you know, I- I- I remember my earliest thing I remember was when I was about three years old on a farm. A team of mules called Pete and John. And my- my- I was of German parents, and German American and my father was a tenant farmer. And-

Studs Terkel Kansas.

Walter J. Hickel We- yes, in Kansas. But, you know, we never were poor, we just didn't have any money. You know, and there is a difference. And I think that possibly it was my religious training and my parents' training that was strict in the sense of not-stubbornness, but strength. And yet I had all the freedom on earth because they told us the difference between right and wrong, and then hope that we would understand it and do right. And so, possibly, in those years, and then the fact that it was the Dust Bowl, and we really didn't have an awareness that the land was dying. You knew something was wrong. You didn't know what. When when mom had to hang the sheets across a window to to keep the dust out, so you could literally, you know- so you could breathe. Well, something- something happened, and so from there I went to look for a country. I knew I had to find a country. And, because I had so many things I wanted to do- not that you couldn't have made a living in Kansas, that's not the point, and my brothers and sisters, most of 'em, are all still there. And- but I guess it- I always had the vision of- of something that I could get my hands on and- and do something about. I didn't feel like I could do anything about that, where I was at.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel I was really headed for Australia, which is at the bottom end of the Pacific. But I ended up at the top of the Pacific in Alaska, and then, there was those hardships, but they weren't hardships, I always thought they were- every day was a great day. It didn't have anything do with money, had to do with an attitude of life. And what- what he- what was you trying to do? And I guess- I guess it started out I just wanted to solve a problem. Whenever I saw something that had to be done, that no one else was doing, I'd go do it, hoping it'd work. And then if someone else followed me and did it, I'd go do something else. And I guess the challenge of my life has been to find solutions to things that- that hadn't been approached or tried, and I guess I carried that right on into Washington. Because in Washington, I was looking for problems to solve. I went to Washington to do a job, not to get a job. And I think the answer to so many of our problems, whether they're very personal in nature, at home, or in a business, like you're in, or even in the top of government. The answer is an attitude. You and I can say the same words, but ya gotta mean it.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel You're g- your- you have to want

Studs Terkel [laughter] Well, somebody, obviously the administration, misread you or misunderstood you because the President [heard or?] Richard Nixon said, "this man Walter Hickel is gonna do a great work." But apparently you and he was speaking two different languages, what was meant by great work.

Walter J. Hickel Well, he- when he introduced me in the cabinet, he- he expressed well, I think, the background as he saw- saw me. He talked about the vision looking cross the horizon. He said he will bring a new excitement to the Department Interior, maybe he didn't mean that much excitement.

Studs Terkel [Laughter].

Walter J. Hickel [Laughter].

Studs Terkel We come to the question- of course, the name of your book is "Who Owns America?" and this is what your life, certainly these last several years have been about. All your life probably, but we didn't know it. Senator Ernest Gruening, quite a remarkable man- former Senator Gruening, backed you all the way from the beginning, even the others misunderstood you, didn't know who you were. They just thought you were a creature of the Nixon administration.

Walter J. Hickel That's right. Well, you see, the senator's a great guy. Here's about 85 years old. He is 85 years young. I know- I know men in their 20s that are older than Senator Gruening. And I know of no man 80- 84- 85 years as young as he is.

Studs Terkel And one of

Walter J. Hickel He's an optimist, you know. I had dinner with him not too long ago, and he talks about the things that- he says "why, in the next 20 years we have to do this." And I think it's great. Now my point. He knew me. And the other people, the other senators on the Interior Committee that were holding my hearings, they really weren't any hearings, they were quite an inquisition. They were tough. But they didn't know me, and so the lack of knowledge brings in fear. And then they- and then I was from Alaska and that, way up there someplace, that most people haven't been and so you had the Jack London approach, and the Ice Palace approach, and the exploiter approach, and, that kind of a rough and tumble thing, and so that- that's what you are. But you know the reason I could go through that without- well it was difficulty, but knowing I was gonna win is because I knew Wally Hickel. And so, knowing that gave me the strength to just sort of say, "well, look. Someday you'll find out the truth." And I never blamed him for that. If I wouldn't have known anymore about-

Studs Terkel Yeah

Walter J. Hickel Wally Hickel than I read the newspapers I'd've been against

Studs Terkel They just saw a stereotype, a successful businessman, appointed by Nixon, and that was it. And then you came to Washington. You were Secretary of Interior. And now we- we come to it don't we, the- one of the first begin though- the- there was the notorious Santa Barbara oil spill.

Walter J. Hickel Yes, that- that was a disaster that happened four days after I took office, and it was- it was the disaster, in many ways, but first, I never had the opportunity to organize my office like the rest of the cabinet because I wasn't even confirmed with the rest of 'em. The hearings weren't over, and so I didn't have that month of time in- before that, to really get organized, so I had to literally take what was there, which many cases was good. And it was a disaster, we all realize that. But it also gave me an opportunity to act, with my heart and conscience, the knowledge of what hap- had happened. And really to weigh the decision that the government had made in the face of what the Santa Barbara people had expressed 15 years before that. And the state of California had acknowledged, and they set aside this marine sanctuary- just a small little section of the beach that they wanted preserved for values beyond their lifetime. Well lo and behold, the federal government went out in front of that sanctuary. See, the state only has jurisdiction out three miles, so then the federal government beyond that. So they went out in front of that sanctuary and sold those leases-

Studs Terkel To oil companies.

Walter J. Hickel To oil companies. And I'm sure, and this is one of the problems regardless of administration or political parties, they made a sh- they made a short-term decision for narrow, political-economic reasons. And- and the Santa Barbara people weren't challenging up and down the channel- it's miles and miles. They were only challenging that little part. Well that platform right in front of that oil- or, marine sanctuary, blew out. And the people of Santa Barbara did have a right to holler because they were hollering before the fact. 15 years, literally, before the fact. And so I- I said- man had made a- made the wrong decision because, how do you put a value on a on a beach? How do you put a value on pleasure boating and sports fishing? What's the value of the right to roam? What's the value of a sunset? It's something you can't buy on any New York Stock Exchange. But there's real value there. And, so, in this area, and that's what my book about, its who owns America. In this area that we, 200 million Americans, will always own. The Federal Government has a responsibility to do the best job it can for its stockholders, not for just short-term reasons, but for long-term things 'cause we will always own it. We're never gonna sell our part of the ocean.

Studs Terkel Not some few stockholders.

Walter J. Hickel [Laughter].

Studs Terkel No, so we come- isn't this the point then? Then you- then you did something and it obviously astonished, disturbed the administration. You threatened to shut down the

Walter J. Hickel Well I finally found the reason. I mean I finally- I did shut them down. I was told I couldn't, and that they would sue us, and I said, "well can't we change the lease to make the regulations more strict?" And they said, "well they're- they're operating according to the law. They're not breaking any law." "Well," I said, "then obviously something's wrong. If they're doing everything right and this can happen, something's wrong." And so, my solicitor who is with me said, "well, you know, the Bureau- the [budget?] will be very upset, if you took any action even if you had the legal right, and we have- we don't think you do. And, besides that, if you did anything on your own like that, they have a right to sue you." And I said, "well"- I just said, "get that man outta here." I mean I didn't want him around

Studs Terkel [laughter]

Walter J. Hickel And I pushed a button right then and I was- I was frustrated-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel -but I was setting there all alone. And it's getting kind of late, and I just pushed the button and I said -I'se got me Dick Kleindienst, Deputy Attorney general, and I knew him. And I says, "Dick"- I told him the story and I says, "I've got to find a way to close- to shut down this drilling so I can upgrade these regulations. We've got a problem." And I was so sure he was gonna to find something, that I already ins- I hung up, and instructed my staff to- I says, "type out a press release, we're going to do it," 'cause I- we're gonna- I just knew he was gonna find a way. But the ironical thing was this: that the old solicitor was somewhat right. We- there wasn't any rule by which I could close down that drilling for polluting the waters, but they found something, and this is what's interesting about trying to make things happen. They knew I wanted it to happen. They found a regulation that stated that, if anybody is wasting a natural resource, the Secretary of Interior can step in. That's what I used to start the- [trilly?] in Santa Barbara-

Studs Terkel Well, now, of course. Were you aware then that you were going to offend some pretty powerful, how shall I put it, contributors

Walter J. Hickel I never gave that a thought-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel I never allowed my mind to be cluttered up by what somebody might do or think. I always had the attitude that if you do a job for 200 million Americans, you ultimately help the few, but if you just make a decision to help a few, the general public won't know about that for a moment, but ultimately they pay for it. And with that attitude in mind, I- we did more than clean up the problem in Santa Barbara. That was really a small part of

Studs Terkel That was the beginning and I-

Walter J. Hickel we really cleaned up a relationship between industry and government. And- and that's what I wanted-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel To do. Because, in reality- industry as a general practice, they wanna do the right thing, but it's a very competitive thing. And so you have to set down rules and regulations that are fair to all. It's only when you give someone in this society- competitive society- a distinct advantage, that the other guy can't compete, and he fights.

Studs Terkel So- so that's what it was. And so, from there- the thing about Secretary of Interior- when you were Secretary of Interior, Walter Hickel, you went to all these places yourself to look at things. And so, Governor Rhodes of Ohio I saw you- was you fighting pollution there, and Mendel Rivers, South Carolina- these are pretty powerful guys, and you are going right into the areas there.

Walter J. Hickel Well, you know, the Mendel Rivers situation had to do with that chemical plant at Hilton Head.

Studs Terkel In South Carolina.

Walter J. Hickel Yes. And in reality, nothing was wrong yet. And I didn't have any authority, but I could see that if the- the chemical plant was going to be built according to the plans that was presented to me, it would pollute and damage the oyster beds of Hilton Head and all that beautiful seashore. So, in reality, I couldn't act until after- after we had a problem. So I wrote a letter to the president the company, and I said, "if you build according to these plans, I would have no choice but to act when it happened." And so what I was really doing- it'd been real easy for me to do nothing- they could take two or three years to build the plan. Nothing we- prob'ly wouldn't hurt the bay for four or five, and I might be gone. I'm gone now. But I- I didn't think that's the way you should do it. You should hit the problem before it happens. And so, Mendel Rivers called me and he told me that, you know, he knew more what was good for his people than I did, and I agreed with him on that. I didn't argue that. I says, "Mr. Congressman, all I'm trying to do is prevent the problem from happening." And he was qu- very, very upset. In fact, the- one time the White House staff told me that he would be the one that would stop any action I tried to take in buying back those oil leases in Santa Barbara. But, you know, lo' and behold, about three weeks later, after I took my action on Hilton Head, a shrimp boat came- sailed up from Hilton Head to Washington. Took 'em about eight days. There's about 12 crew on board, both Black and white, and old and young, and it was just great. And, as they were docking at the Potomac, I went down to meet them. Didn't know why they were coming really. And they just wanted to thank me for my action in Hilton Head. And they presented me with boxes of signatures, approximately 45,000 signatures in boxes, thanking me for my actions.

Studs Terkel Oh, yeah.

Walter J. Hickel Well, I heard no more from Mendel Rivers.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel He understood that.

Studs Terkel The votes.

Walter J. Hickel Yes.

Studs Terkel And then you went Florida. Florida Power and Light, and here you simply said, "return the land as you found

Walter J. Hickel Re- return the water.

Studs Terkel Return the water.

Walter J. Hickel Yeah. That was the case- and I think, this is the whole- this is the real thrust of what has to be done in America, and I wanna talk on that in a different vein, after I answer your question. And that is about people saying we have too much government. When the case of Florida Power and Light, it was- they're wanting to use water outta Biscayne Bay. And I didn't object to that. I don't now. And I said, "look, if you do it the way you're going to do it, you're going to destroy the marine balance of Biscayne Bay." And I said, "beside, that water belongs to 200 million Americans. It belongs to the public. I'm saying- I'm not saying you can't use it." That was the case I made. "And I'm not even saying we're gonna to charge you for using it. You use it for nothin'." But I said, "Return it like you found it, that's the cost of doing business." And that case is finally won just a couple of months ago. But see that's- that's the point. These factors where America owns it. You know, like the air that blows across the water. And who owns the water in the Mississippi River? It doesn't mean you can't use it privately, oh that's not it at all, but it's got- the government has to set down regulations so you don't abuse it privately, because it really doesn't belong to you, it belongs to all. And on this point of government, you know- you've heard it, I've heard it. The left have said it, the right have said

Studs Terkel it- Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel The Republicans, the Democrats, they've all said we have too much government. Well, you know, there might be too many people in government. I wouldn't argue that. Or it might be misdirected.

Studs Terkel Well you're talkin 'bout the nature of bureaucracy

Walter J. Hickel Yes. Yes, I- I- But- but, it- I'll argue as long as I can talk, that it's the lack of government in this area where the public owns it all that causes the problem. It's the lack. And it's generally those who want to use government for private reasons that say we have too much government.

Studs Terkel In a way, as you're talking, I'm reminded of something. This is exactly- you bring back memories of that old curmudgeon Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior under FDR. And, there again, Ickes used his muscle and his thought and his nobility too- as you do. But, you said something very funny before we went on the air, that Ickes' considered an asset of the government, where you were considered an adversary of

Walter J. Hickel Well, today, yes. The different- they were different people evaluating the situation. You see, in many- in many cases, Ickes was a strong adversary, too. But he was considered a friend in the House because he was pointing out the problem. Well, in my house, as a physical thing, my home, or in my business or in my life, as private or public, I consider an adversary within the house, within the family, as a friend. Because if I do something wrong, and you keep telling me it's okay, I'll never know it's wrong, and I'll get in trouble. And so, I considered mysel- self a real friend in the adversary position. Well the president, when he talked to me- when he was firing me- or no, no, no- before that, it was right after the letter. He talked about the adversary, but he was- he indicated very clearly that an adversary's an enemy. And, see, that's the difference of thought I don't-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel I just didn't consider an adversary an enemy.

Studs Terkel You're really talking about an open society or a closed society, is you're talking about-

Walter J. Hickel that's

Studs Terkel An adversary open society is obviously a friend-

Walter J. Hickel Well, especially what I call within the family-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel Within the house.

Studs Terkel Yeah. So this- your book- the book, "Who Owns America?" was written by my guest Walter J. Hickel, former Governor of Alaska and, more recently, Former Secretary of Interior. This book with W.W. Norton is published-

Walter J. Hickel No it's Prentice Hall.

Studs Terkel What? I said-

Walter J. Hickel Yeah.

Studs Terkel Well

Walter J. Hickel Prentice Hall publish that,

Studs Terkel It is

Walter J. Hickel That's right.

Studs Terkel Prentice

Walter J. Hickel There's another book, at the- that- that 'un's

Studs Terkel Well we come to- it's a bill- it builds up. It's a- it's a deceptive book. It builds up- a guy, Walter Hickel, is doing his job for 200 million people. And you can see the tensions building up, and you seem to be coming into a sort of a state of isolation. That is separate from other members of the- of the administrative family. We'll come to this in a moment and the Chevron case. We'll pause slightly. Walter J. Hickel is guest. The book is "Who owns America?" Prentice Hall, the publish- we'll return in a moment. Return to Governor Walter Hickel. And the tensions, now, that were building. The Chevron case, now this is something that, here again- what is this case?

Walter J. Hickel Now that wasn't an- that was still an oil case but entirely different from the Santa Barbara case. The Santa Barbara case was really an accident, and accidents can happen. And that was a drilling disaster in Santa Barbara. The want- the case in the Gulf of Chevron- that was in the Gulf of Mexico. That was a- pardon me, that- yeah, the one in the Gulf, that was a production fault. But that one was more manmade, the one in the Chevron case. They had taken a storm choke out, which is an automatic device in case of an accident that will shut off the flow of oil. And this is what happened: they had an accident, and the storm choke was out, and so, consequent- consequently, we had that great disaster down there that lasted a long time, both pollution-wise and moneywise. And so I- I personally went down there. I sent my geological people ahead, but I went down the Gulf, and I searched it out myself. I went out in the bayous, I talked to the men, and it became very apparent to me- and they admitted it, that they took the storm chokes out to increase production. And also that the storm chokes sometimes sand up, and they cause a little maintenance problem. But it's such- it's such a small amount of money compared to the hundreds of thousands or millions that are spent after a disaster. And so, I wanted to really clean up this problem. This- this one was one that no one would sweep under the rug. And so, I got my facts together, basically myself with my solicitor. And after I- after I got the facts, I realized, well if I- if- if thi- if i just took this thing to court- we had to do something. And I wanted to do it right. It might drag on for years, and with all the corporate attorneys that are available, they could postpone until men that were in government at this time were either gone or no longer cared about it. And then, that's what happened, and so, I found out the grand jury was in- was in session in New Orleans. And, so, I asked my solicitor about it, and he told me the possibilities of doing that. I said, "great," because here- here- here's what happens: in the grand jury, they have the right to subpoena your records. And I wanted this thing out into the open. If I'm wrong, I want the public to know I'm wrong. That's OK, then I'll go away. But if they're wrong, the public should know that. It should get it out in the open. So we took that- I made the decision to take it to the grand jury. I- I call John Mitchell who was key Biscayne, and I ask him for the brightest young attorney he had. And that case went to the grand jury, and it set a precedent because of the expeditious way it was handled. It was settled in a matter of months. And Chevron was indicted for 900 counts. And- and if we did that again with an attitude, very important. Not with wanting to hurt a company. That wasn't the point. But to keep that company, whoever it might be, from hurting 200 million American. That was

Studs Terkel So this goes on, continues. Your book deals with this great deception that you were trying to penetrate and get through. And there was the Alaska pipeline, and of course the fisheries and the oceans and trying to save the-

Walter J. Hickel

Studs Terkel The The whale, and the muskox, and the seals and- it's all connected, isn't it?

Walter J. Hickel Yes.

Studs Terkel You saw it as all related didn't-

Walter J. Hickel It is. It's all a fabric of life, and it gets down to the point of this, and I call it the obligation of ownership. And the Federal Government has to have the obligation and the care of those things that we will all own. The whale's a perfect example of no one caring. If no one owns it, no one cares. And so out in the vast ocean, no one owns it. It belongs to all, but no one's responsible. And here- when no one's responsible, nations go out there to exploit that to beat another nation to it. They have destroyed- literally destroyed a species. You take the great blue whale, the largest mammal on earth. Just a matter of of 40 years ago, back in the early '30s, they were harvesting up to 30,000 blue whale a month- a year. Now, the low number of those that are just left are as low as 600, some even get lower than that, and a maximum of two or three thousand. I- we don't even know whether there's enough left to- to that we bring the species back. My point is, that if that would have been managed right rather than exploited, we could have harvested 10,000 blue whale a year forever. See that's the secret of wise use without abuse. So someone has to care about it. If no one cares about the water in the river, or the water in the ocean, the air and the land is- it's exploited and it- it's desecrated.

Studs Terkel But something very remarkable is happening in the reading of your book, "Who Owns America?" and in your life- in the Life of Walter Hickel. You are now adding things together, it seems. Everything was connecting, your relations with the Indians, too. At first, the Indians thought, too, you were the enemy because of

Walter J. Hickel That's right.

Studs Terkel Eisenhower's termination policy-

Walter J. Hickel Right.

Studs Terkel And then the Zunis, and then you saw the automobile, and the railroads and the- oh, the SST matter-

Walter J. Hickel Right.

Studs Terkel But it all was adding up in your mind there was- that there were certain kinds of men-

Walter J. Hickel That's right.

Studs Terkel The the predators.

Walter J. Hickel Well, really, I- I- I don't- a certain kind of men that were abusing-

Studs Terkel [Well?] companies or what?

Walter J. Hickel Yes

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel In a time of so much mediocrity, and double talk, and double thinking, official- officialdom, it is so refreshing and exhilarating to come across someone who speaks his mind, and certainly the most surprising figure, ex-figu- ex-administration figure is the former Governor of Alaska, Walter Joseph Hickel, who was Secretary of Interior. And some would say, brings back memories of Harold Ickes, but Governor Hickel will speak of differences, no doubt. His most recent book- his book is called, and has a title that's quite revealing, "Who Owns America?" The question. W.W. Norton, the publishers. And Governor Hickel, I'm delighted that you're a guest here to speak your mind. I was thinking you're talking about this country, and the resources, and the land that you try to save for those who own this country, the people. I was in Eastern Kentucky, a couple weeks ago, and the strip mining is destroying that land. And a man on the porch of a small town, Blackey, Kentucky, in the- near the Cumberlands, near the Virginia-Tennessee border, is talking about what's happening to his land, and then the other man takes over. The owner of the store Joe Begley, he starts talking- we hear their voices and Great. We'll hear your voice- Great. We have- they have this big road goes about 600 feet, you know, 'bove it. And they cut these big trees around the hill, and then this dirt all goes over [then?] the trees. To hold it for a certain period of time, and then after these trees rots out, water gets behind it, why, it all slide down cover your home up. And that's almost all of these auger jobs, they call 'em, strip mine jobs- Auger jobs and- Auger and strip mine. They cut these big trees and lay 'em sideways around the hill, and then dirt just piles up, pretty soon it's gonna rot out, cover everybody up that lives in below it- you mean a- like a landslide. That's right. Now, what are the companies? The operators use- strip mine outfit- the they- they just leave it right there. They just pull out and leave. You don't even know maybe- maybe you don't even know whose the company's name is- [engine They operate under many different names, you know. You just can't keep up with them. After they pull out and leave-[machinery passes] [you lost the house?]. Get in a law suit, you won't even know who to law to start with. So are you live- you've lived there most of your life. No, I've been there about 20 years- 20 Something But in this area. Oh, yeah. Better than 30 years. And so where you live, there's- there's all this dirt that may any moment slide down. 'At's right. Sometimes takes 'round three or four years for a tree to completely rot, and then, when it rots, dirt's gonna nicely come right on out of there, straight down the hill. So you really don't know who- who to challenge on this. No. No, you don't know. They change names, and this company'll buy another out, and they just, swap around. [machinery passes by] I think it's done mostly ta dodge lawsuits- damage suits. I'm thinkin' as we came down the big highway [unintelligible] the Mountainside Parkway and mountain far- you have the Highway [machinery passes by] 15. We see the road and we see greenery, we don't quite see where the [spire?] No. Right behind- right behind- Yeah they get way off in the roads, the main roads- they- [machinery hum intensifies] So the wayfarer never gets to see it- That's right. There- The people that don't know it's there, don't know [its a good way to?] to look for it. But I do know why, I've covered a lot of this country- In hearing the man on the porch here talk, Mr. Begley, what he's saying, I suppose, is pretty much happening all over, isn't it? What Austin was talking about there was the operators avoidin' coming near the highway. What they are doin' is wrong, and the operator knows that it's wrong and if he can avoid the the highway where people can see what he was doin', that's what they try to do. But we've had so many counties now, they beginnin' to get into the place, and such a demand for coal, they don't give a damn who sees it- Yeah. And it's really bad. You take Knott County, we have a representative in Washington D.C., that's his county- But it turns out to be not the representative, and Walter Hickel, the very opening of your book is almost an epilogue to the voices we heard. As you read it. Well it goes like this: "We are at a time in our national history when mistrust of the responsib- responsiveness of government to the popular will has reached a critical point. A point in which increasing numbers of Americans feel denied and even robbed of the power to influence public policy. A point in which the cry is, 'Return it to us.' This mood is not the property of any age or class, and it can be a good and healthy thing, if those in government will listen. But if no one will listen, the lack of communications causes frustration and fear. And fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. What America wants returned to us is a sense of care, a sense of ownership. We want renewed assurance that we have some control over our physical assets and our spiritual destiny. We want to know that the important decisions affecting our lifestyle and our very existence will not be made by some anonymous them, who may have no suitable consideration for our wishes. The public is asking for a larger role in the direction of its fate." And thus begins "Who Owns America?" And Walter Hickel, Governor Walter Hickel of Alaska- former governor. Better known to most Americans as the former Secretary of Interior. Your thoughts on hearing these two men, the Cumberland speak. Those voices are familiar to you aren't they [unintelligible]- Very familiar. You know, since I've left Washington, I spend about one week a month traveling to a section of the country. North or south, east to west, the Midwest. And those voices we heard are really expressing a mood in America today that no- knows no age or class. It's north and south, it's rich and poor, black and white. And what they're saying is maybe- maybe someone is confused free enterprise with free society. And I say in my book, that, you know, freedom ends when it infringes upon someone else's rights. Yeah. And these rights can be things that we will always own, 200 million Who who is the- who is this, "them." "Them" that these two guys talk- "them" who are doing- Well- the stripping, and the polluting, and the predatory work? Well, you see, that when I talk about anonymous "them"- you know, I said it in the book. They were saying it live, on their porch- Yeah. Because "them" they can't put their hands on. You 'member? He said, "we can't put any lawsuits on because we don't even know who to law." Yeah. I thought that was good. Yeah. Because "them" are people that make their decisions only for short-term monetary reasons, and they look at humans as markets. Now, as soon as government treats people as humans insteav- instead of as votes, then a- America will respond. And as soon as industry looks as people as humans instead of as markets, then we'll truly have a free society. Yeah. Well the question about Walter Hickel is, how did you get this way? Here you were a member of the Nixon administration. When you first came to Washington, you were attacked by those who consider enlightened. You were given the business, you know, whether it was Drew Pearson, or McGovern, or Gaylord Nelson, and they didn't know you. Who- well how'd you get- who are you? How did it begin? Where do we begin? Well it really began, probably, as I- in my book, you know, I- I- I remember my earliest thing I remember was when I was about three years old on a farm. A team of mules called Pete and John. And my- my- I was of German parents, and German American and my father was a tenant farmer. And- Kansas. We- yes, in Kansas. But, you know, we never were poor, we just didn't have any money. You know, and there is a difference. And I think that possibly it was my religious training and my parents' training that was strict in the sense of not-stubbornness, but strength. And yet I had all the freedom on earth because they told us the difference between right and wrong, and then hope that we would understand it and do right. And so, possibly, in those years, and then the fact that it was the Dust Bowl, and we really didn't have an awareness that the land was dying. You knew something was wrong. You didn't know what. When when mom had to hang the sheets across a window to to keep the dust out, so you could literally, you know- so you could breathe. Well, something- something happened, and so from there I went to look for a country. I knew I had to find a country. And, because I had so many things I wanted to do- not that you couldn't have made a living in Kansas, that's not the point, and my brothers and sisters, most of 'em, are all still there. And- but I guess it- I always had the vision of- of something that I could get my hands on and- and do something about. I didn't feel like I could do anything about that, where I was at. Yeah. I was really headed for Australia, which is at the bottom end of the Pacific. But I ended up at the top of the Pacific in Alaska, and then, there was those hardships, but they weren't hardships, I always thought they were- every day was a great day. It didn't have anything do with money, had to do with an attitude of life. And what- what he- what was you trying to do? And I guess- I guess it started out I just wanted to solve a problem. Whenever I saw something that had to be done, that no one else was doing, I'd go do it, hoping it'd work. And then if someone else followed me and did it, I'd go do something else. And I guess the challenge of my life has been to find solutions to things that- that hadn't been approached or tried, and I guess I carried that right on into Washington. Because in Washington, I was looking for problems to solve. I went to Washington to do a job, not to get a job. And I think the answer to so many of our problems, whether they're very personal in nature, at home, or in a business, like you're in, or even in the top of government. The answer is an attitude. You and I can say the same words, but ya gotta mean it. Yeah. You're g- your- you have to want to [laughter] Well, somebody, obviously the administration, misread you or misunderstood you because the President [heard or?] Richard Nixon said, "this man Walter Hickel is gonna do a great work." But apparently you and he was speaking two different languages, what was meant by great work. Well, he- when he introduced me in the cabinet, he- he expressed well, I think, the background as he saw- saw me. He talked about the vision looking cross the horizon. He said he will bring a new excitement to the Department Interior, maybe he didn't mean that much excitement. [Laughter]. [Laughter]. We come to the question- of course, the name of your book is "Who Owns America?" and this is what your life, certainly these last several years have been about. All your life probably, but we didn't know it. Senator Ernest Gruening, quite a remarkable man- former Senator Gruening, backed you all the way from the beginning, even the others misunderstood you, didn't know who you were. They just thought you were a creature of the Nixon administration. That's right. Well, you see, the senator's a great guy. Here's about 85 years old. He is 85 years young. I know- I know men in their 20s that are older than Senator Gruening. And I know of no man 80- 84- 85 years as young as he is. And one of a- He's an optimist, you know. I had dinner with him not too long ago, and he talks about the things that- he says "why, in the next 20 years we have to do this." And I think it's great. Now my point. He knew me. And the other people, the other senators on the Interior Committee that were holding my hearings, they really weren't any hearings, they were quite an inquisition. They were tough. But they didn't know me, and so the lack of knowledge brings in fear. And then they- and then I was from Alaska and that, way up there someplace, that most people haven't been and so you had the Jack London approach, and the Ice Palace approach, and the exploiter approach, and, that kind of a rough and tumble thing, and so that- that's what you are. But you know the reason I could go through that without- well it was difficulty, but knowing I was gonna win is because I knew Wally Hickel. And so, knowing that gave me the strength to just sort of say, "well, look. Someday you'll find out the truth." And I never blamed him for that. If I wouldn't have known anymore about- Yeah Wally Hickel than I read the newspapers I'd've been against him- They just saw a stereotype, a successful businessman, appointed by Nixon, and that was it. And then you came to Washington. You were Secretary of Interior. And now we- we come to it don't we, the- one of the first begin though- the- there was the notorious Santa Barbara oil spill. Yes, that- that was a disaster that happened four days after I took office, and it was- it was the disaster, in many ways, but first, I never had the opportunity to organize my office like the rest of the cabinet because I wasn't even confirmed with the rest of 'em. The hearings weren't over, and so I didn't have that month of time in- before that, to really get organized, so I had to literally take what was there, which many cases was good. And it was a disaster, we all realize that. But it also gave me an opportunity to act, with my heart and conscience, the knowledge of what hap- had happened. And really to weigh the decision that the government had made in the face of what the Santa Barbara people had expressed 15 years before that. And the state of California had acknowledged, and they set aside this marine sanctuary- just a small little section of the beach that they wanted preserved for values beyond their lifetime. Well lo and behold, the federal government went out in front of that sanctuary. See, the state only has jurisdiction out three miles, so then the federal government beyond that. So they went out in front of that sanctuary and sold those leases- To oil companies. To oil companies. And I'm sure, and this is one of the problems regardless of administration or political parties, they made a sh- they made a short-term decision for narrow, political-economic reasons. And- and the Santa Barbara people weren't challenging up and down the channel- it's miles and miles. They were only challenging that little part. Well that platform right in front of that oil- or, marine sanctuary, blew out. And the people of Santa Barbara did have a right to holler because they were hollering before the fact. 15 years, literally, before the fact. And so I- I said- man had made a- made the wrong decision because, how do you put a value on a on a beach? How do you put a value on pleasure boating and sports fishing? What's the value of the right to roam? What's the value of a sunset? It's something you can't buy on any New York Stock Exchange. But there's real value there. And, so, in this area, and that's what my book about, its who owns America. In this area that we, 200 million Americans, will always own. The Federal Government has a responsibility to do the best job it can for its stockholders, not for just short-term reasons, but for long-term things 'cause we will always own it. We're never gonna sell our part of the ocean. Not some few stockholders. [Laughter]. No, so we come- isn't this the point then? Then you- then you did something and it obviously astonished, disturbed the administration. You threatened to shut down the oil Well I finally found the reason. I mean I finally- I did shut them down. I was told I couldn't, and that they would sue us, and I said, "well can't we change the lease to make the regulations more strict?" And they said, "well they're- they're operating according to the law. They're not breaking any law." "Well," I said, "then obviously something's wrong. If they're doing everything right and this can happen, something's wrong." And so, my solicitor who is with me said, "well, you know, the Bureau- the [budget?] will be very upset, if you took any action even if you had the legal right, and we have- we don't think you do. And, besides that, if you did anything on your own like that, they have a right to sue you." And I said, "well"- I just said, "get that man outta here." I mean I didn't want him around [laughter] And I pushed a button right then and I was- I was frustrated- Yeah. -but I was setting there all alone. And it's getting kind of late, and I just pushed the button and I said -I'se got me Dick Kleindienst, Deputy Attorney general, and I knew him. And I says, "Dick"- I told him the story and I says, "I've got to find a way to close- to shut down this drilling so I can upgrade these regulations. We've got a problem." And I was so sure he was gonna to find something, that I already ins- I hung up, and instructed my staff to- I says, "type out a press release, we're going to do it," 'cause I- we're gonna- I just knew he was gonna find a way. But the ironical thing was this: that the old solicitor was somewhat right. We- there wasn't any rule by which I could close down that drilling for polluting the waters, but they found something, and this is what's interesting about trying to make things happen. They knew I wanted it to happen. They found a regulation that stated that, if anybody is wasting a natural resource, the Secretary of Interior can step in. That's what I used to start the- [trilly?] in Santa Barbara- Well, now, of course. Were you aware then that you were going to offend some pretty powerful, how shall I put it, contributors in I never gave that a thought- Yeah. I never allowed my mind to be cluttered up by what somebody might do or think. I always had the attitude that if you do a job for 200 million Americans, you ultimately help the few, but if you just make a decision to help a few, the general public won't know about that for a moment, but ultimately they pay for it. And with that attitude in mind, I- we did more than clean up the problem in Santa Barbara. That was really a small part of the That was the beginning and I- we really cleaned up a relationship between industry and government. And- and that's what I wanted- Yeah. To do. Because, in reality- industry as a general practice, they wanna do the right thing, but it's a very competitive thing. And so you have to set down rules and regulations that are fair to all. It's only when you give someone in this society- competitive society- a distinct advantage, that the other guy can't compete, and he fights. So- so that's what it was. And so, from there- the thing about Secretary of Interior- when you were Secretary of Interior, Walter Hickel, you went to all these places yourself to look at things. And so, Governor Rhodes of Ohio I saw you- was you fighting pollution there, and Mendel Rivers, South Carolina- these are pretty powerful guys, and you are going right into the areas there. Well, you know, the Mendel Rivers situation had to do with that chemical plant at Hilton Head. In South Carolina. Yes. And in reality, nothing was wrong yet. And I didn't have any authority, but I could see that if the- the chemical plant was going to be built according to the plans that was presented to me, it would pollute and damage the oyster beds of Hilton Head and all that beautiful seashore. So, in reality, I couldn't act until after- after we had a problem. So I wrote a letter to the president the company, and I said, "if you build according to these plans, I would have no choice but to act when it happened." And so what I was really doing- it'd been real easy for me to do nothing- they could take two or three years to build the plan. Nothing we- prob'ly wouldn't hurt the bay for four or five, and I might be gone. I'm gone now. But I- I didn't think that's the way you should do it. You should hit the problem before it happens. And so, Mendel Rivers called me and he told me that, you know, he knew more what was good for his people than I did, and I agreed with him on that. I didn't argue that. I says, "Mr. Congressman, all I'm trying to do is prevent the problem from happening." And he was qu- very, very upset. In fact, the- one time the White House staff told me that he would be the one that would stop any action I tried to take in buying back those oil leases in Santa Barbara. But, you know, lo' and behold, about three weeks later, after I took my action on Hilton Head, a shrimp boat came- sailed up from Hilton Head to Washington. Took 'em about eight days. There's about 12 crew on board, both Black and white, and old and young, and it was just great. And, as they were docking at the Potomac, I went down to meet them. Didn't know why they were coming really. And they just wanted to thank me for my action in Hilton Head. And they presented me with boxes of signatures, approximately 45,000 signatures in boxes, thanking me for my actions. Oh, yeah. Well, I heard no more from Mendel Rivers. Yeah. He understood that. The votes. Yes. And then you went Florida. Florida Power and Light, and here you simply said, "return the land as you found it"- Re- return the water. Return the water. Yeah. That was the case- and I think, this is the whole- this is the real thrust of what has to be done in America, and I wanna talk on that in a different vein, after I answer your question. And that is about people saying we have too much government. When the case of Florida Power and Light, it was- they're wanting to use water outta Biscayne Bay. And I didn't object to that. I don't now. And I said, "look, if you do it the way you're going to do it, you're going to destroy the marine balance of Biscayne Bay." And I said, "beside, that water belongs to 200 million Americans. It belongs to the public. I'm saying- I'm not saying you can't use it." That was the case I made. "And I'm not even saying we're gonna to charge you for using it. You use it for nothin'." But I said, "Return it like you found it, that's the cost of doing business." And that case is finally won just a couple of months ago. But see that's- that's the point. These factors where America owns it. You know, like the air that blows across the water. And who owns the water in the Mississippi River? It doesn't mean you can't use it privately, oh that's not it at all, but it's got- the government has to set down regulations so you don't abuse it privately, because it really doesn't belong to you, it belongs to all. And on this point of government, you know- you've heard it, I've heard it. The left have said it, the right have said it- Yeah. The Republicans, the Democrats, they've all said we have too much government. Well, you know, there might be too many people in government. I wouldn't argue that. Or it might be misdirected. Well you're talkin 'bout the nature of bureaucracy itself. Yes. Yes, I- I- But- but, it- I'll argue as long as I can talk, that it's the lack of government in this area where the public owns it all that causes the problem. It's the lack. And it's generally those who want to use government for private reasons that say we have too much government. In a way, as you're talking, I'm reminded of something. This is exactly- you bring back memories of that old curmudgeon Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior under FDR. And, there again, Ickes used his muscle and his thought and his nobility too- as you do. But, you said something very funny before we went on the air, that Ickes' considered an asset of the government, where you were considered an adversary of the Well, today, yes. The different- they were different people evaluating the situation. You see, in many- in many cases, Ickes was a strong adversary, too. But he was considered a friend in the House because he was pointing out the problem. Well, in my house, as a physical thing, my home, or in my business or in my life, as private or public, I consider an adversary within the house, within the family, as a friend. Because if I do something wrong, and you keep telling me it's okay, I'll never know it's wrong, and I'll get in trouble. And so, I considered mysel- self a real friend in the adversary position. Well the president, when he talked to me- when he was firing me- or no, no, no- before that, it was right after the letter. He talked about the adversary, but he was- he indicated very clearly that an adversary's an enemy. And, see, that's the difference of thought I don't- Yeah. I just didn't consider an adversary an enemy. You're really talking about an open society or a closed society, is you're talking about- that's An adversary open society is obviously a friend- Well, especially what I call within the family- Yeah. Within the house. Yeah. So this- your book- the book, "Who Owns America?" was written by my guest Walter J. Hickel, former Governor of Alaska and, more recently, Former Secretary of Interior. This book with W.W. Norton is published- No it's Prentice Hall. What? I said- Yeah. Well Prentice Hall publish that, you It is Prentice That's right. Prentice There's another book, at the- that- that 'un's Prentice Well we come to- it's a bill- it builds up. It's a- it's a deceptive book. It builds up- a guy, Walter Hickel, is doing his job for 200 million people. And you can see the tensions building up, and you seem to be coming into a sort of a state of isolation. That is separate from other members of the- of the administrative family. We'll come to this in a moment and the Chevron case. We'll pause slightly. Walter J. Hickel is guest. The book is "Who owns America?" Prentice Hall, the publish- we'll return in a moment. Return to Governor Walter Hickel. And the tensions, now, that were building. The Chevron case, now this is something that, here again- what is this case? Now that wasn't an- that was still an oil case but entirely different from the Santa Barbara case. The Santa Barbara case was really an accident, and accidents can happen. And that was a drilling disaster in Santa Barbara. The want- the case in the Gulf of Chevron- that was in the Gulf of Mexico. That was a- pardon me, that- yeah, the one in the Gulf, that was a production fault. But that one was more manmade, the one in the Chevron case. They had taken a storm choke out, which is an automatic device in case of an accident that will shut off the flow of oil. And this is what happened: they had an accident, and the storm choke was out, and so, consequent- consequently, we had that great disaster down there that lasted a long time, both pollution-wise and moneywise. And so I- I personally went down there. I sent my geological people ahead, but I went down the Gulf, and I searched it out myself. I went out in the bayous, I talked to the men, and it became very apparent to me- and they admitted it, that they took the storm chokes out to increase production. And also that the storm chokes sometimes sand up, and they cause a little maintenance problem. But it's such- it's such a small amount of money compared to the hundreds of thousands or millions that are spent after a disaster. And so, I wanted to really clean up this problem. This- this one was one that no one would sweep under the rug. And so, I got my facts together, basically myself with my solicitor. And after I- after I got the facts, I realized, well if I- if- if thi- if i just took this thing to court- we had to do something. And I wanted to do it right. It might drag on for years, and with all the corporate attorneys that are available, they could postpone until men that were in government at this time were either gone or no longer cared about it. And then, that's what happened, and so, I found out the grand jury was in- was in session in New Orleans. And, so, I asked my solicitor about it, and he told me the possibilities of doing that. I said, "great," because here- here- here's what happens: in the grand jury, they have the right to subpoena your records. And I wanted this thing out into the open. If I'm wrong, I want the public to know I'm wrong. That's OK, then I'll go away. But if they're wrong, the public should know that. It should get it out in the open. So we took that- I made the decision to take it to the grand jury. I- I call John Mitchell who was key Biscayne, and I ask him for the brightest young attorney he had. And that case went to the grand jury, and it set a precedent because of the expeditious way it was handled. It was settled in a matter of months. And Chevron was indicted for 900 counts. And- and if we did that again with an attitude, very important. Not with wanting to hurt a company. That wasn't the point. But to keep that company, whoever it might be, from hurting 200 million American. That was the So this goes on, continues. Your book deals with this great deception that you were trying to penetrate and get through. And there was the Alaska pipeline, and of course the fisheries and the oceans and trying to save the- The The whale, and the muskox, and the seals and- it's all connected, isn't it? Yes. You saw it as all related didn't- It is. It's all a fabric of life, and it gets down to the point of this, and I call it the obligation of ownership. And the Federal Government has to have the obligation and the care of those things that we will all own. The whale's a perfect example of no one caring. If no one owns it, no one cares. And so out in the vast ocean, no one owns it. It belongs to all, but no one's responsible. And here- when no one's responsible, nations go out there to exploit that to beat another nation to it. They have destroyed- literally destroyed a species. You take the great blue whale, the largest mammal on earth. Just a matter of of 40 years ago, back in the early '30s, they were harvesting up to 30,000 blue whale a month- a year. Now, the low number of those that are just left are as low as 600, some even get lower than that, and a maximum of two or three thousand. I- we don't even know whether there's enough left to- to that we bring the species back. My point is, that if that would have been managed right rather than exploited, we could have harvested 10,000 blue whale a year forever. See that's the secret of wise use without abuse. So someone has to care about it. If no one cares about the water in the river, or the water in the ocean, the air and the land is- it's exploited and it- it's desecrated. But something very remarkable is happening in the reading of your book, "Who Owns America?" and in your life- in the Life of Walter Hickel. You are now adding things together, it seems. Everything was connecting, your relations with the Indians, too. At first, the Indians thought, too, you were the enemy because of That's right. Eisenhower's termination policy- Right. And then the Zunis, and then you saw the automobile, and the railroads and the- oh, the SST matter- Right. But it all was adding up in your mind there was- that there were certain kinds of men- That's right. The the predators. Well, really, I- I- I don't- a certain kind of men that were abusing- [Well?] companies or what? Yes Isn't But- a Yes.

Studs Terkel similar mine that was doing it. The-

Walter J. Hickel

Studs Terkel Yes. big

Walter J. Hickel Well, here- here- here-. See I said earlier that, you know, when we went from an agricultural society to an industrial society at the end- at the turn of the last century, the whole emphasis was on just rolling and- and developing, and all this, and it wasn't wrong at that time. But we put our total emphasis on making a living, or on the monetary thing. And boy, that's important, but that's not the total- the total gain. And we really got to the point where we confused free enterprise with free society. And that's the difference. Free enterprise allowed to run totally free would destroy itself on account of the competitive nature. And, so, it can really operate more freely with strong government regulations at the top, on a national approach. Now, let me make a point here about- say this- this- let's just take the state of Illinois. Supposing it wants to have strong regulations as relates to the things I'm talking about in my book: air, water, land, the whole thing. Well an industry'll say, "well, we want to move across the line." And, so, they threaten you with that. That's why I disagree with those say, "well, we got too much federal government." It really takes a national approach to these problems, so you make it fair to all. So the guy can't move from Illinois to Ohio or wherever it is. It's fair there, too. Then you really protect those things that 200 million Americans'll always own.

Studs Terkel Instead of a buccaneer society.

Walter J. Hickel Yes-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel Right. That's the whole thing.

Studs Terkel I think that SST thing is worth- you wrote a letter- the President, President asked you for your advice on SST. [Laughter]. You wrote a letter, I think, he did not quite expect. And they insisted you cut a couple of paragraphs

Studs Terkel That's right.

Studs Terkel Would you mind recounting

Walter J. Hickel Well, it was, that. He wrote a letter wanting to know our our opinion, and I wrote it back. And I was asked, you know, to delete a couple of paragraphs, which I print both letters in the book. But, in essence it- here was my thought: when we're talking about spending public money for the SST, we're talking about moving people. And I was questioning whether spending public funds for the SST was the best way to move people. And after we had spent eight hundred million dollars on- on the SST, why couldn't- if it was such a great thing, why couldn't private industry complete it. I really didn't argue about the environmental problems on the two prototypes that they were gonna build. Two wouldn't hurt. I was arguing a principle as to the expenditure of public funds. And I was arguing, is this the best way to spend money in behalf of the public to move people? Well, obviously, I think the answer would be no because we could take that same amount of money and help so many more people just moving people with Mass Rapid Transit away from airports. I mean to- to get 'em to an airport quicker and cause a congestion isn't to solve the problem. That was my approach.

Studs Terkel Of course you were de- but they- they cut out those

Walter J. Hickel [Laughter] Yeah. But- I mean I- [unintelligible]-

Walter J. Hickel He [mean?] want your opinion, did he want you just simply back his opinion?

Walter J. Hickel But it was- I is dealing with the staff, and I a- I said, "Look, if you want- if you want my opinion, there it is. Now, don't ask me for my opinion if you don't want it. Now if you want to write the letter, go write it.

Studs Terkel [Laughter]

Walter J. Hickel [Laughter]

Studs Terkel I'm thinking- you spoke of mass transportation, too, when you speak of the need for this and your talk of the automobile lobby, and the great need for railroads and how they, too, have been handled, too.

Walter J. Hickel Yes, you see-

Walter J. Hickel This is

Walter J. Hickel It's- it's also- it's all part of this whole picture-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel Of, what is the best use of energy? How do you- how do you get the maximum benefit out of those resources that are depletable? Now, the trucking industry is important. It- it's got to- you've got to- you've gotta have it, and you gotta have the automobile. But it cannot have the total priority. Freedom indicates some kind of a choice, let me make that as a perfect example. But how- what choice do millions of Americans have that live in urban society of going from their home to work other than an automobile? And it's really the most inefficient way to move people, and the frustration that's involved. And with the technology that we've had for 20 years- Japanese used it on the Tokyo Express. The elevated rail road, it's really the Tokyo Express, runs between Tokyo and Osaka with one stop in Nagoya- I've ridden it many times. It's 350 miles and they do in about three hours and 15 minutes.

Studs Terkel Why can't we do it here?

Walter J. Hickel We could- we could- any place within 500 mile radius, you could go faster with mass rapid transit elevated than you could by airplane. Downtown to Downtown. Now, these are the opportunities, and these are the things I'm talking

Mr. Begley Here's Walter Hickel, a most unusual man in Washington at this time, causing a great deal of trouble. You are causing, to use a popular phrase, causing waves. In fact Hickel's disease is a phrase that was used as speaking about certain things that are not supposed be talked about. And you did it. And-

Mr. Begley Well-

Mr. Begley This raised them- [unintelligible] end. So now tensions were mounting. And you spoke of high-interest rates, and Secretary David Kennedy was sh- was shot.

Mr. Begley But, you know- probably, you see as- we started early in this program, you asked what- what made the person, and and I said, "I really see problems then I want to solve them." But this isn't Monday morning quarterbacking. Here we are in October of 1971. But in my book I talk about going to see then-citizen Dick Nixon in New York in 1967. And, all I want to see him about basically was the financial situation. I saw this thing coming forward, and I said, "if we've got to do something with the fiscal policy and high-interest rates." I said, "Or, ultimately, we'll become a nation of renters of money. All you're doing is pay high-interest rates, you never acquire an equity." And so, after that- right after we got in office, I raised that point again. I said, "tight money and high-interest rates cause inflation. They can be in a- they can contribute to it. And if we keep going down this road, we're going to end up with the with the worst of both worlds. We're gonna to end up with inflation and unemployment." Now I'm not going to say that after the fact, I said it before the fact.

Studs Terkel Were you aware of a coolness around the table as you were raising these points-

Walter J. Hickel awareness of coolness

Studs Terkel continuously.

Walter J. Hickel I- it- it just about as cold as an Arctic night.

Studs Terkel [Laughter]. And you know Arctic nights very well.

Walter J. Hickel Yes.

Studs Terkel Can we- so then you also had a feeling about the Arctic- you mentioned the Arctic- you wanted to- you had an opposite member in the Soviet Union, and you and he had something worked out to visit, and then somehow it was vetoed. He didn't get to do it.

Walter J. Hickel No, I didn't. They had- they had- they named practical reasons why, but I was invited to visit the Soviet Arctic by my counterpart. And I mentioned to him at that time, I said, "I'm not going to Moscow to a cocktail party. I want to go and visit the Siberian section of Russia," which is larger than the United States and very rich. And they're ahead of us in technology because they lived with the Arctic. And, so, it was one of of mutual benefit if I could visit their Arctic and they could visit ours. There's nothing difficult about it. And, so, they made an official invitation to me, and the Ambassador Dobrynin was with my counterpart, and- and then it was it was stopped by Dr. Kissinger for reasons of his own, and, so, I was never allowed to make the trip to the Soviet Arctic. The reason I did that- here's something people don't know: that two-thirds of all the continental shelf, that you and I and two other- 200 million Americans own. Two-thirds of all we own are in the Arctic and subarctic. Half of the public lands that we own are in the Arctic and subarctic. And, so, we have to gain more knowledge of that, and I've had the benefit of living most of my adult life in that kind of an area. So I understand it. So it would be a- it was a great plus. Why send the guy from Georgia over there-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel Something like that. Not that that wouldn't work. But we had the natural advantage of living and knowing, and, so, that's why I wanted to go, but I never did get to go.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking of Walter Hickel, here, adding things up and then came the Cambodian invasion- the announcement. And here comes a key moment in your life, and I think in the life of our country too.

Walter J. Hickel Well, I had thought we had turned the corner with the American people in Vietnam. I was proud of the President's decision to wind down the war and the efforts by which he was doing that. And- and I- I- I didn't- I didn't agree, not personally. But I didn't agree with the philosophy as was being expressed by the Vice President. And that's not saying I'm right and he's wrong, I'm just saying I disagreed with his approach. And then came Cambodia and Kent State, and I felt that would be violence in Washington that weekend. I just- I- it was it was so strong in me, that I felt I had to get to the President. And there and there had been indications that he would be going out of town that week. And I- I just couldn't even think of anybody thinking that. I'm not sure the President thought that, but I was told that. I went to see Bill Rogers, Secretary of State. I said, "Bill, you've got to help me on this," and he agreed. And so when I was unable to see the president that day- and I could understand his being busy that day. And couldn't see John Ehrlichman on account of he wasn't in town. I decide to write the President a letter. I wrote every word of that letter, and I meant it. And I meant it because I was trying to not only help the President but to help America.

Studs Terkel Well this is the letter of course. This is the celebrated letter that appeared- boy, this the letter that led to the break, quite obviously. Perhaps you- I think, Governor Hickel, you should read that letter. It's in your book. Page 247.

Walter J. Hickel Well, it's been published many times, but if you want me to read it-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Walter J. Hickel Do you wanna read it,

Studs Terkel No, you read

Walter J. Hickel Well, okay, I'll read it. I- [since?] you asked me. and it's- it's a simple letter. "Dear Mr. President, I believe this administration finds itself today embracing a philosophy which appears to lack appropriate concern for the attitude of a great mass of Americans, our young people. Addressed either politically or philosophically, I believe we are in error if we set out conscientiously to alienate those who could be our friends. Today our young people, or at least a vast segment of them, believe they have no opportunity to communicate with government, regardless of administration, other than through violent confrontation. But I am convinced we, and they, have the capacity, if we will but have the willingness to learn from history. During the Great Depression, our youth lost their ability to communicate with the Republican Party, and we saw the young people of the '30s become the predominant leaders of the '40s and '50s, associated not with our party but rather with those with whom they felt they could communicate. What is happening today is not unrelated to what happened in the 1930s. Now being unable to comete- to communicate with either party, they are apparently heading down the road to anarchy. And regardless of how I, or any American might feel individually, we have an obligation as leaders to communicate with our youth and listen to their ideas and problems. About 200 years ago, there was emerging a great nation in the British Empire, and it found itself with a colony in violent protest by its youth. Men such as Patrick Henry, [Tophet]- Thomas Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, to name a few. Their protest fell on deaf ears and finally led to war. The outcome is history. My point is, if we read history, it clearly shows that youth and its protest must be heard. Let us give America an optimistic outlook, an optimistic leadership. Let us show them we can solve our problems in an enlightened and positive manner. As an example, last December 16, I wrote to you suggesting that April 22nd, Earth Day, be declared a national holiday. Believing this would have been a good decision, we were active on university campuses over the Christmas holiday with a program called SCOPE: Student Councils on Pollution and Environment. It was moderately successful, and it showed that it was possible to communicate with youth. I am gratified that, on April 22nd, I and approximately 1000 Interior employees participated in Earth Day commemorative activities all over the United States. I felt after these meetings that we had crossed a bridge. That communication was possible and acceptable. Likewise, I suggest in the same vein, that you meet with college presidents to talk about the very situation that is erupting. Because before we can face and conquer our enemies, we must identify them, whether those enemies take physical or philosophical form. And me- and we must win over our philosophical enemies by convincing them of the wisdom of the path we have chosen rather than ignoring the path they propose. In this regard, I believe the Vice President initially had answered a deep-seated mood of America in his public statements. However, a continued attack on the young, not on their additives- attitudes so much as their motives, can serve little purpose other than to further cement those attitudes to a solidity impossible to penetrate with reason. Finally, Mr. President, permit me to suggest that you consider meeting on an individual and conversational basis with members of your cabinet. Perhaps through conversations, we can gain greater insight into the problems confronting us all, and most important, and to the solution of these problems. Faithfully yours, Wally."

Studs Terkel That was the letter. 'Course you- you were thinking about that for a great deal of time, and you- you point out in your book that the idea occurred to you, the thought that when you wanted some hook for it, and you raise the youth. The youth of Jefferson. The youth.

Walter J. Hickel Yes.

Studs Terkel Of

Walter J. Hickel I was really- they really came to me that I was really talking about a period of history and time.

Studs Terkel What led to also was your children- I know there w- there was a gir- the daughter of one of your aides, too, called up the-

Walter J. Hickel Yes.

Studs Terkel [Straw?] after Kent.

Walter J. Hickel That was- yes. My solicitor's daughter from the University of Utah called and said she was very upset. She thought there might be violence break out in her campus. And the- in reality, whatever happened to me is not important. I think that the mood in America was somewhat cooled down by that letter. And I stated, on that Wednesday night, I said "well-" I said, "the- we will have a quiet weekend and the young will go away, but the mood of America

Studs Terkel But there was something else, see- you you you were hoping that the President would stay in Washington, to be there with that- during that monumental-

Walter J. Hickel But he finally stayed there-

Studs Terkel or, memorable day.

Walter J. Hickel

Studs Terkel

Walter J. Hickel In a time of so much mediocrity, and double talk, and double thinking, official- officialdom, it is so refreshing and exhilarating to come across someone who speaks his mind, and certainly the most surprising figure, ex-figu- ex-administration figure is the former Governor of Alaska, Walter Joseph Hickel, who was Secretary of Interior. And some would say, brings back memories of Harold Ickes, but Governor Hickel will speak of differences, no doubt. His most recent book- his book is called, and has a title that's quite revealing, "Who Owns America?" The question. W.W. Norton, the publishers. And Governor Hickel, I'm delighted that you're a guest here to speak your mind. I was thinking you're talking about this country, and the resources, and the land that you try to save for those who own this country, the people. I was in Eastern Kentucky, a couple weeks ago, and the strip mining is destroying that land. And a man on the porch of a small town, Blackey, Kentucky, in the- near the Cumberlands, near the Virginia-Tennessee border, is talking about what's happening to his land, and then the other man takes over. The owner of the store Joe Begley, he starts talking- we hear their voices and Great. We'll hear your voice- Great. We have- they have this big road goes about 600 feet, you know, 'bove it. And they cut these big trees around the hill, and then this dirt all goes over [then?] the trees. To hold it for a certain period of time, and then after these trees rots out, water gets behind it, why, it all slide down cover your home up. And that's almost all of these auger jobs, they call 'em, strip mine jobs- Auger jobs and- Auger and strip mine. They cut these big trees and lay 'em sideways around the hill, and then dirt just piles up, pretty soon it's gonna rot out, cover everybody up that lives in below it- you mean a- like a landslide. That's right. Now, what are the companies? The operators use- strip mine outfit- the they- they just leave it right there. They just pull out and leave. You don't even know maybe- maybe you don't even know whose the company's name is- [engine They operate under many different names, you know. You just can't keep up with them. After they pull out and leave-[machinery passes] [you lost the house?]. Get in a law suit, you won't even know who to law to start with. So are you live- you've lived there most of your life. No, I've been there about 20 years- 20 Something But in this area. Oh, yeah. Better than 30 years. And so where you live, there's- there's all this dirt that may any moment slide down. 'At's right. Sometimes takes 'round three or four years for a tree to completely rot, and then, when it rots, dirt's gonna nicely come right on out of there, straight down the hill. So you really don't know who- who to challenge on this. No. No, you don't know. They change names, and this company'll buy another out, and they just, swap around. [machinery passes by] I think it's done mostly ta dodge lawsuits- damage suits. I'm thinkin' as we came down the big highway [unintelligible] the Mountainside Parkway and mountain far- you have the Highway [machinery passes by] 15. We see the road and we see greenery, we don't quite see where the [spire?] No. Right behind- right behind- Yeah they get way off in the roads, the main roads- they- [machinery hum intensifies] So the wayfarer never gets to see it- That's right. There- The people that don't know it's there, don't know [its a good way to?] to look for it. But I do know why, I've covered a lot of this country- In hearing the man on the porch here talk, Mr. Begley, what he's saying, I suppose, is pretty much happening all over, isn't it? What Austin was talking about there was the operators avoidin' coming near the highway. What they are doin' is wrong, and the operator knows that it's wrong and if he can avoid the the highway where people can see what he was doin', that's what they try to do. But we've had so many counties now, they beginnin' to get into the place, and such a demand for coal, they don't give a damn who sees it- Yeah. And it's really bad. You take Knott County, we have a representative in Washington D.C., that's his county- But it turns out to be not the representative, and Walter Hickel, the very opening of your book is almost an epilogue to the voices we heard. As you read it. Well it goes like this: "We are at a time in our national history when mistrust of the responsib- responsiveness of government to the popular will has reached a critical point. A point in which increasing numbers of Americans feel denied and even robbed of the power to influence public policy. A point in which the cry is, 'Return it to us.' This mood is not the property of any age or class, and it can be a good and healthy thing, if those in government will listen. But if no one will listen, the lack of communications causes frustration and fear. And fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. What America wants returned to us is a sense of care, a sense of ownership. We want renewed assurance that we have some control over our physical assets and our spiritual destiny. We want to know that the important decisions affecting our lifestyle and our very existence will not be made by some anonymous them, who may have no suitable consideration for our wishes. The public is asking for a larger role in the direction of its fate." And thus begins "Who Owns America?" And Walter Hickel, Governor Walter Hickel of Alaska- former governor. Better known to most Americans as the former Secretary of Interior. Your thoughts on hearing these two men, the Cumberland speak. Those voices are familiar to you aren't they [unintelligible]- Very familiar. You know, since I've left Washington, I spend about one week a month traveling to a section of the country. North or south, east to west, the Midwest. And those voices we heard are really expressing a mood in America today that no- knows no age or class. It's north and south, it's rich and poor, black and white. And what they're saying is maybe- maybe someone is confused free enterprise with free society. And I say in my book, that, you know, freedom ends when it infringes upon someone else's rights. Yeah. And these rights can be things that we will always own, 200 million Who who is the- who is this, "them." "Them" that these two guys talk- "them" who are doing- Well- the stripping, and the polluting, and the predatory work? Well, you see, that when I talk about anonymous "them"- you know, I said it in the book. They were saying it live, on their porch- Yeah. Because "them" they can't put their hands on. You 'member? He said, "we can't put any lawsuits on because we don't even know who to law." Yeah. I thought that was good. Yeah. Because "them" are people that make their decisions only for short-term monetary reasons, and they look at humans as markets. Now, as soon as government treats people as humans insteav- instead of as votes, then a- America will respond. And as soon as industry looks as people as humans instead of as markets, then we'll truly have a free society. Yeah. Well the question about Walter Hickel is, how did you get this way? Here you were a member of the Nixon administration. When you first came to Washington, you were attacked by those who consider enlightened. You were given the business, you know, whether it was Drew Pearson, or McGovern, or Gaylord Nelson, and they didn't know you. Who- well how'd you get- who are you? How did it begin? Where do we begin? Well it really began, probably, as I- in my book, you know, I- I- I remember my earliest thing I remember was when I was about three years old on a farm. A team of mules called Pete and John. And my- my- I was of German parents, and German American and my father was a tenant farmer. And- Kansas. We- yes, in Kansas. But, you know, we never were poor, we just didn't have any money. You know, and there is a difference. And I think that possibly it was my religious training and my parents' training that was strict in the sense of not-stubbornness, but strength. And yet I had all the freedom on earth because they told us the difference between right and wrong, and then hope that we would understand it and do right. And so, possibly, in those years, and then the fact that it was the Dust Bowl, and we really didn't have an awareness that the land was dying. You knew something was wrong. You didn't know what. When when mom had to hang the sheets across a window to to keep the dust out, so you could literally, you know- so you could breathe. Well, something- something happened, and so from there I went to look for a country. I knew I had to find a country. And, because I had so many things I wanted to do- not that you couldn't have made a living in Kansas, that's not the point, and my brothers and sisters, most of 'em, are all still there. And- but I guess it- I always had the vision of- of something that I could get my hands on and- and do something about. I didn't feel like I could do anything about that, where I was at. Yeah. I was really headed for Australia, which is at the bottom end of the Pacific. But I ended up at the top of the Pacific in Alaska, and then, there was those hardships, but they weren't hardships, I always thought they were- every day was a great day. It didn't have anything do with money, had to do with an attitude of life. And what- what he- what was you trying to do? And I guess- I guess it started out I just wanted to solve a problem. Whenever I saw something that had to be done, that no one else was doing, I'd go do it, hoping it'd work. And then if someone else followed me and did it, I'd go do something else. And I guess the challenge of my life has been to find solutions to things that- that hadn't been approached or tried, and I guess I carried that right on into Washington. Because in Washington, I was looking for problems to solve. I went to Washington to do a job, not to get a job. And I think the answer to so many of our problems, whether they're very personal in nature, at home, or in a business, like you're in, or even in the top of government. The answer is an attitude. You and I can say the same words, but ya gotta mean it. Yeah. You're g- your- you have to want to [laughter] Well, somebody, obviously the administration, misread you or misunderstood you because the President [heard or?] Richard Nixon said, "this man Walter Hickel is gonna do a great work." But apparently you and he was speaking two different languages, what was meant by great work. Well, he- when he introduced me in the cabinet, he- he expressed well, I think, the background as he saw- saw me. He talked about the vision looking cross the horizon. He said he will bring a new excitement to the Department Interior, maybe he didn't mean that much excitement. [Laughter]. [Laughter]. We come to the question- of course, the name of your book is "Who Owns America?" and this is what your life, certainly these last several years have been about. All your life probably, but we didn't know it. Senator Ernest Gruening, quite a remarkable man- former Senator Gruening, backed you all the way from the beginning, even the others misunderstood you, didn't know who you were. They just thought you were a creature of the Nixon administration. That's right. Well, you see, the senator's a great guy. Here's about 85 years old. He is 85 years young. I know- I know men in their 20s that are older than Senator Gruening. And I know of no man 80- 84- 85 years as young as he is. And one of a- He's an optimist, you know. I had dinner with him not too long ago, and he talks about the things that- he says "why, in the next 20 years we have to do this." And I think it's great. Now my point. He knew me. And the other people, the other senators on the Interior Committee that were holding my hearings, they really weren't any hearings, they were quite an inquisition. They were tough. But they didn't know me, and so the lack of knowledge brings in fear. And then they- and then I was from Alaska and that, way up there someplace, that most people haven't been and so you had the Jack London approach, and the Ice Palace approach, and the exploiter approach, and, that kind of a rough and tumble thing, and so that- that's what you are. But you know the reason I could go through that without- well it was difficulty, but knowing I was gonna win is because I knew Wally Hickel. And so, knowing that gave me the strength to just sort of say, "well, look. Someday you'll find out the truth." And I never blamed him for that. If I wouldn't have known anymore about- Yeah Wally Hickel than I read the newspapers I'd've been against him- They just saw a stereotype, a successful businessman, appointed by Nixon, and that was it. And then you came to Washington. You were Secretary of Interior. And now we- we come to it don't we, the- one of the first begin though- the- there was the notorious Santa Barbara oil spill. Yes, that- that was a disaster that happened four days after I took office, and it was- it was the disaster, in many ways, but first, I never had the opportunity to organize my office like the rest of the cabinet because I wasn't even confirmed with the rest of 'em. The hearings weren't over, and so I didn't have that month of time in- before that, to really get organized, so I had to literally take what was there, which many cases was good. And it was a disaster, we all realize that. But it also gave me an opportunity to act, with my heart and conscience, the knowledge of what hap- had happened. And really to weigh the decision that the government had made in the face of what the Santa Barbara people had expressed 15 years before that. And the state of California had acknowledged, and they set aside this marine sanctuary- just a small little section of the beach that they wanted preserved for values beyond their lifetime. Well lo and behold, the federal government went out in front of that sanctuary. See, the state only has jurisdiction out three miles, so then the federal government beyond that. So they went out in front of that sanctuary and sold those leases- To oil companies. To oil companies. And I'm sure, and this is one of the problems regardless of administration or political parties, they made a sh- they made a short-term decision for narrow, political-economic reasons. And- and the Santa Barbara people weren't challenging up and down the channel- it's miles and miles. They were only challenging that little part. Well that platform right in front of that oil- or, marine sanctuary, blew out. And the people of Santa Barbara did have a right to holler because they were hollering before the fact. 15 years, literally, before the fact. And so I- I said- man had made a- made the wrong decision because, how do you put a value on a on a beach? How do you put a value on pleasure boating and sports fishing? What's the value of the right to roam? What's the value of a sunset? It's something you can't buy on any New York Stock Exchange. But there's real value there. And, so, in this area, and that's what my book about, its who owns America. In this area that we, 200 million Americans, will always own. The Federal Government has a responsibility to do the best job it can for its stockholders, not for just short-term reasons, but for long-term things 'cause we will always own it. We're never gonna sell our part of the ocean. Not some few stockholders. [Laughter]. No, so we come- isn't this the point then? Then you- then you did something and it obviously astonished, disturbed the administration. You threatened to shut down the oil Well I finally found the reason. I mean I finally- I did shut them down. I was told I couldn't, and that they would sue us, and I said, "well can't we change the lease to make the regulations more strict?" And they said, "well they're- they're operating according to the law. They're not breaking any law." "Well," I said, "then obviously something's wrong. If they're doing everything right and this can happen, something's wrong." And so, my solicitor who is with me said, "well, you know, the Bureau- the [budget?] will be very upset, if you took any action even if you had the legal right, and we have- we don't think you do. And, besides that, if you did anything on your own like that, they have a right to sue you." And I said, "well"- I just said, "get that man outta here." I mean I didn't want him around [laughter] And I pushed a button right then and I was- I was frustrated- Yeah. -but I was setting there all alone. And it's getting kind of late, and I just pushed the button and I said -I'se got me Dick Kleindienst, Deputy Attorney general, and I knew him. And I says, "Dick"- I told him the story and I says, "I've got to find a way to close- to shut down this drilling so I can upgrade these regulations. We've got a problem." And I was so sure he was gonna to find something, that I already ins- I hung up, and instructed my staff to- I says, "type out a press release, we're going to do it," 'cause I- we're gonna- I just knew he was gonna find a way. But the ironical thing was this: that the old solicitor was somewhat right. We- there wasn't any rule by which I could close down that drilling for polluting the waters, but they found something, and this is what's interesting about trying to make things happen. They knew I wanted it to happen. They found a regulation that stated that, if anybody is wasting a natural resource, the Secretary of Interior can step in. That's what I used to start the- [trilly?] in Santa Barbara- Well, now, of course. Were you aware then that you were going to offend some pretty powerful, how shall I put it, contributors in I never gave that a thought- Yeah. I never allowed my mind to be cluttered up by what somebody might do or think. I always had the attitude that if you do a job for 200 million Americans, you ultimately help the few, but if you just make a decision to help a few, the general public won't know about that for a moment, but ultimately they pay for it. And with that attitude in mind, I- we did more than clean up the problem in Santa Barbara. That was really a small part of the That was the beginning and I- we really cleaned up a relationship between industry and government. And- and that's what I wanted- Yeah. To do. Because, in reality- industry as a general practice, they wanna do the right thing, but it's a very competitive thing. And so you have to set down rules and regulations that are fair to all. It's only when you give someone in this society- competitive society- a distinct advantage, that the other guy can't compete, and he fights. So- so that's what it was. And so, from there- the thing about Secretary of Interior- when you were Secretary of Interior, Walter Hickel, you went to all these places yourself to look at things. And so, Governor Rhodes of Ohio I saw you- was you fighting pollution there, and Mendel Rivers, South Carolina- these are pretty powerful guys, and you are going right into the areas there. Well, you know, the Mendel Rivers situation had to do with that chemical plant at Hilton Head. In South Carolina. Yes. And in reality, nothing was wrong yet. And I didn't have any authority, but I could see that if the- the chemical plant was going to be built according to the plans that was presented to me, it would pollute and damage the oyster beds of Hilton Head and all that beautiful seashore. So, in reality, I couldn't act until after- after we had a problem. So I wrote a letter to the president the company, and I said, "if you build according to these plans, I would have no choice but to act when it happened." And so what I was really doing- it'd been real easy for me to do nothing- they could take two or three years to build the plan. Nothing we- prob'ly wouldn't hurt the bay for four or five, and I might be gone. I'm gone now. But I- I didn't think that's the way you should do it. You should hit the problem before it happens. And so, Mendel Rivers called me and he told me that, you know, he knew more what was good for his people than I did, and I agreed with him on that. I didn't argue that. I says, "Mr. Congressman, all I'm trying to do is prevent the problem from happening." And he was qu- very, very upset. In fact, the- one time the White House staff told me that he would be the one that would stop any action I tried to take in buying back those oil leases in Santa Barbara. But, you know, lo' and behold, about three weeks later, after I took my action on Hilton Head, a shrimp boat came- sailed up from Hilton Head to Washington. Took 'em about eight days. There's about 12 crew on board, both Black and white, and old and young, and it was just great. And, as they were docking at the Potomac, I went down to meet them. Didn't know why they were coming really. And they just wanted to thank me for my action in Hilton Head. And they presented me with boxes of signatures, approximately 45,000 signatures in boxes, thanking me for my actions. Oh, yeah. Well, I heard no more from Mendel Rivers. Yeah. He understood that. The votes. Yes. And then you went Florida. Florida Power and Light, and here you simply said, "return the land as you found it"- Re- return the water. Return the water. Yeah. That was the case- and I think, this is the whole- this is the real thrust of what has to be done in America, and I wanna talk on that in a different vein, after I answer your question. And that is about people saying we have too much government. When the case of Florida Power and Light, it was- they're wanting to use water outta Biscayne Bay. And I didn't object to that. I don't now. And I said, "look, if you do it the way you're going to do it, you're going to destroy the marine balance of Biscayne Bay." And I said, "beside, that water belongs to 200 million Americans. It belongs to the public. I'm saying- I'm not saying you can't use it." That was the case I made. "And I'm not even saying we're gonna to charge you for using it. You use it for nothin'." But I said, "Return it like you found it, that's the cost of doing business." And that case is finally won just a couple of months ago. But see that's- that's the point. These factors where America owns it. You know, like the air that blows across the water. And who owns the water in the Mississippi River? It doesn't mean you can't use it privately, oh that's not it at all, but it's got- the government has to set down regulations so you don't abuse it privately, because it really doesn't belong to you, it belongs to all. And on this point of government, you know- you've heard it, I've heard it. The left have said it, the right have said it- Yeah. The Republicans, the Democrats, they've all said we have too much government. Well, you know, there might be too many people in government. I wouldn't argue that. Or it might be misdirected. Well you're talkin 'bout the nature of bureaucracy itself. Yes. Yes, I- I- But- but, it- I'll argue as long as I can talk, that it's the lack of government in this area where the public owns it all that causes the problem. It's the lack. And it's generally those who want to use government for private reasons that say we have too much government. In a way, as you're talking, I'm reminded of something. This is exactly- you bring back memories of that old curmudgeon Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior under FDR. And, there again, Ickes used his muscle and his thought and his nobility too- as you do. But, you said something very funny before we went on the air, that Ickes' considered an asset of the government, where you were considered an adversary of the Well, today, yes. The different- they were different people evaluating the situation. You see, in many- in many cases, Ickes was a strong adversary, too. But he was considered a friend in the House because he was pointing out the problem. Well, in my house, as a physical thing, my home, or in my business or in my life, as private or public, I consider an adversary within the house, within the family, as a friend. Because if I do something wrong, and you keep telling me it's okay, I'll never know it's wrong, and I'll get in trouble. And so, I considered mysel- self a real friend in the adversary position. Well the president, when he talked to me- when he was firing me- or no, no, no- before that, it was right after the letter. He talked about the adversary, but he was- he indicated very clearly that an adversary's an enemy. And, see, that's the difference of thought