Dworken, Mort - Oral History Interview
MetadataShow full item record
Mort Dworken 68 (family name of Lithuanian origin ancestors came through Ellis Island and went to Cleveland, OH) recalls being in junior high school and being very interested in international affairs, something he thinks he got from his parents who were engaged in current events. His father was a Naval Officer and his mom was a driver for the U.S. Army and they both lived in Arlington. Mort was born in 1944 in DC at Columbia Hospital for Women. In his formative years, he saw a lot and did a lot with his family that related to foreign affairs (including extensive travel). He also had high school teachers that were mentors to him who influenced his interest in international affairs (and was part of the model UN). In college (Yale), he began majoring in chemistry, but very quickly changed to a major in political science. After four years at Yale and one summer overseas (with AISEC internship swapping program), he came to SAIS (note: other summers he was a camp counselor in Indiana). He applied to several schools: Fletcher (Tufts), SAIS and Columbia. He was also accepted into the Peace Corps to go to Niger as well as the Foreign Service (he got sworn in but could defer status). Since he wanted to go back to school, though, he chose to attend SAIS (specifically due to its mix of academicians and practitioners). He also wanted to be in Washington, D.C. and to study French through its language program. He has quite a few memories of being at SAIS. At the time, the Nitze Building was almost brand new. His first living space was about a block and a half away, behind the Brookings Institute. At the time, P Street was all row houses. He moved around to several different places between here and Columbia Road (Adams Morgan). In life, Washington was a place he returned to several times. At the time, he remembers the area being a lot more green. He has fond memories of the faculty and appreciated their practical experience and academic orientation. He focused most of his effort in the National Security area, though kept a fondness for West Africa. In the end, most of his attention was on East-West relations (e.g. Soviet Union Warsaw Pact, NATO, the strategic balance overlaid with a lot of interest in Vietnam). Historically, he recalls walking across the 14th Street bridge in 1968 for the demonstration against the Vietnam War and was concerned that the surveillance was filming everyone marching across the bridge. He was certain that his profile picture was going to be singled out and matched against his profile for the Foreign Service and that that would have him dismissed from the Foreign Service. He remembers several of his professors at SAIS some of who were: Robert Tucker, Bill Lures, Robert Osgood, Francis Wilcox and George Liska. After SAIS, he went into the Foreign Service (first assignment in Vietnam and second assignment in Laos). He also did years of work related to Russia and the Cold War, base negotiations in the Asia Pacific and in the Indian Ocean area (related to Diego Garcia) and did several jobs here in the U.S. related to military and economic assistance. He also worked for the Under Secretary of Financial Security Affairs on arms control and export control. After he retired from the Foreign Service in 2003, he thought he would find part-time work with an interest group (related to his FP work), but he also heard about a job in Tampa, FL with the U.S. military and took that job. He remarks on the fact that SAIS today has grown in size, it has new faculty, new buildings, more students, greater internationalization (with the addition of the Nanjing Center and prior to that Bologna). He still thinks that SAIS is uniquely positioned as a judicious mix of practitioner and academic grounding, and he is pleased to know that it has kept its salience in the Washington, D.C. area there is a great deal on which SAIS has its name and he is pleased to be associated with it. He says that there are more foreign students here today and that this is all for the good. In terms of advice for current SAIS students, he recommends having an openness to assignments that dont necessarily match exactly what one is planning to do (either in content or location).