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What can lead to Success?(Excerpt)


What can lead to Success?

——An Interview with Former U.S. Secretary of State, Army General Alexander Haig (20 pages in total)

By Sha Bihong

“……once you got a chance, you’ve got to work hard and show a strong sense of responsibility. As a proper mindset, it is also required to take initiative rather than take caution during your work; otherwise, your ability will be limited… The more you experienced, the more you learned, and the more experience you accumulated. ”

——Haig’s comment on success

Here he’s coming.

No sooner had he and his assistants as well as his interpreter appeared in the lobby than I recognized him——the former United States Secretary of State, Mr. Alexander Haig.

Although Haig had bid farewell to politics and started his business career, his vigorous strides and his amiable expression full of confidence still showed his manner of military determination and statesmanship. It was not any exaggeration by saying that. We eased into the theme only a few minutes later, since his sharp and highly logical thinking, his eloquence filled with cadences alternated by a little tasteful humor all surely proved him a successor who bears nothing sophisticated as the burden but a lot of experience.

When comes to the topic that how to achieve success for a person without any support from his powerful family and great fortune, General Haig had too many feelings to say. Of course, he had solid reasons to be proud for he successfully threw himself into the political field and became a popular leading political official by his own competence and brilliance in a country full of fierce competition——the United States of America.

(1)Start from the Military

It is almost all known that, for anyone in the United States who wants to enter politics, besides wisdom and talents, money is a necessary backup. As to young Alexander Haig, it is nearly impossible to participate in the government election.

As a poor lawyer, Haig’s father was dead when he was in his early age, and didn’t leave any valuable property but three schoolchildren to his mother. When Haig was a little child, he was fully aware that, in the society of the United States, a man without the support of wealth faced huge difficulties in fulfilling his cause. After analyzing his own family background and personal competence, young Haig decided to begin his first step of future life——went into the military world and sought the opportunities for development in the army.

Haig graduated from West Point in 1947 with a great ambition at the age of 23. Since then, he had pursued temporary further study in the military academy for four times. In 1961, he finally earned the Master degree in International Relations from Georgetown University.

In the beginning of World War II, Haig was involved in Korean War and Vietnam War. He always held the view that the military career paved the good foundation for his political way. He said, the army was an excellent place for exercise and training, the youth would be grown up fast in the troops. Soon afterwards, Haig took the chance of promotion in the administration, served as military assistant of the army, deputy assistant of the Secretary of Defense, vice president of West Point. These posts could be all attributed to the good fortunate beginning from his entering the military. Haig was more diligent, more willing to use his brain and paid hard work than others. However, when hearing other people enviously talking about his achievements, he still chose to downplay his own efforts with a smile:”thanks to my luck as well.”

Undoubtedly, such luck was obtained at the cost of outstanding ability, talent, and endeavor. Beyond middle age, Haig had better “luck”.

In President Nixon’s administration, He was appointed to several public positions such as the assistant for national security affairs, the military assistant for the then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the deputy assistant for national security affairs, Chief of Staff of the Army, White House Chief of Staff. In the winter of 1974, President Ford nominated Haig as NATO commander and awarded him the rank of four-star general from the Army. After early retiring in June 1979, Haig once considered joining in running for president, but had to abandon the campaign plan due to funding and other problems.

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Haig once took command of the field (as the commander-in-chief) in Vietnam War. Witnessing the death in the war made him more deeply understand the value and commitment of life. Later on, Haig did great job in four years’ cooperation with Kissinger, acting as White House top officer in President Nixon’s administration and NATO commander. He also built up rich experience in politics and economics.

“Unlike engineer or doctor, politician shoulders the responsibility that links to the fortunate of the whole nation and its people, thus who has to be a person with unique inner quality. ”Haig commented on politician.

He asserts politician shall, first and foremost, learn from history.

Haig’s argument as follows:

History cannot replace one’s own thought, but it provides knowledge and rules that pose enough impact on the behavior of each individual, each nation and all of its citizens.

Therefore, if a young man is determined to carry on the political cause, first of all, he’d better work hard on history to cultivate his own quality of handling politics, and then find the opportunities in the government.

Once you got a chance, you’ve got to work hard and show a strong sense of responsibility. As a proper mindset, it is also required to take initiative rather than take caution during your work, otherwise, the scope of your ability will be limited. Not to be afraid of taking risk, you see, the more you experienced, the more you learned, and the more experience you accumulated.

I asked if there was a moment in which he took most pride in his long political career. His answer—with no mention of his experience as a senior White House figure or the sense of achievement as a US Secretary of State —was both unexpected and touching. He talked about only two things. One was the strong sense of responsibility he had as a field commander. He was ‘responsible for many lives – such young soldiers with such young lives’ – so that the only thing on his mind was to keep them alive, he said. ‘Is there a bigger responsibility than protecting lives?’ He implied with reminiscence to passing memory.

The other one related to the events after the Watergate scandal. General Haig was so confident for there was something wrong with even the Constitution at that time …

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….Her father was a close friend of General Douglas MacArthur. She herself is a pianist who likes to travel.

They met in Tokyo, Japan, where Mrs. Haig was holding a concert.

They had three children – two boys and one daughter – after marriage and all of them are very excellent. General Haig could not hold back his happiness and pride when he talked about his kids.

His elder son is a lawyer who currently works for him. He is married and the father of four boys. The other son, a major, is an important assistant of John Shalikashvili, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is married, too, and has three sons.

General Hague who was nearly seventy years old is full of happiness as the ordinary old people when he talks about his children and grandchildren.

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(4)Old but Vigorous

General Hague was born in Philadelphia of the U.S. on December 2, 1924.

Seven decades later and after the best part of his political career, Haig left politics for business. He is now the president of United Technologies and chairs the Atlantic and Pacific Council. He is also the chairman at Global Alliance, a company he launched in Washington.

This time he visited China as a businessman and met the important leaders of the CPC and the country.

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Asked about his impressions of China, Haig replied with sincerity: ’What has impressed me most is the advances of China’s modernization, as I have, since 1972, witnessed the development of the Chinese society, something that I feel delighted at and honored about.’

‘This time I come here to China as a businessman, enjoying the business activities the company has in China while bringing business engagements here. I am very glad and happy.

‘Some people criticize China for its problems. I think they are wrong. I witnessed the progress of the country’s modernization. One cannot dismiss the fact that China, after all, is advancing and in an increasing speed. It is also beyond dispute that China is the fastest-growing countries.’

Most would remember Haig’s China trip in the latter half of 1989, when he was bold to stand out in an effort to restore and improve US-China relations and extend unconditionally China’s most favored nation status granted by the US. His friendliness to China, I think, played a part.

General Haig was optimistic about China’s economic prospect, although he was worried about potential risks related with an economy that might grow too quickly. He shared the concern, he said, with some of the country’s top leadership, including Premier Zhu Rongji. China should focus on fostering market economy after the immense success in modernization, he believed. He hoped that China’s economy would continue with smooth and sound growth.

Still acute and voluble like a politician, Haig, now a businessman, was eloquent and free of any signs of senescence despite his age, approaching 70.

Finally, I asked how he felt about his current life.

He smiled modestly.

‘Going into business is a new start and you have to learn many things from scratch and learn a lot in the business, and indeed I have learned a lot. Experience may help me solve some real-life problem but business is different from the army or the politics. It is a new area and I am happy to learn something new.’

It appeared that past achievements never sent him complacent, relaxed or even indolent. He treated his work and future life with enthusiasm as if he had another 100 years to live.


As our conversation was drawing to a close, it was time for his next interview, with several Chinese staff already waiting for him. His assistant took a photo of us. He then hurried off for those waiting for him.

Gazing at the receding figure of this busy man made me wonder what led to his success. Opportunity, knowledge (and his judgment on himself) and hard work, as his experience has shown? It seems that the most important thing is left unsaid – something that, however, is within my grasp.

It is about perseverance and commitment. It is about a person’s passion for endless progress and enterprise as if he has no idea that life is destined to an end.

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After studying in Germany, she returned to China and worked from 1994 as the editing director of the program of CCTV, Women, Half the Sky and finished a range of documentaries that focused on women an

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