Whiteman, Greg - Oral History Interview
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Greg Whiteman 69 had always planned to be in the field of International Studies and appreciated the opportunity to attend SAIS. He received his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth and majored in International Relations. For graduate school, he applied to Tufts, Harvard, Columbia and SAIS. He came to SAIS because the school offered him money (as did Columbia). He chose SAIS mainly because he wanted to live in Washington, D.C. He went straight to SAIS from Dartmouth as that is commonly what people did then, but he also came as a result of the draft (Vietnam War) educational deferment helped him avoid the draft for two years. His first memories of SAIS include being in the new building on Massachusetts Avenue, across from the Brookings Institute. He recalls having trees around it and generally being in the midst of the international community. He also remembers SAIS not having a campus, but rather just being a building. He remembers the whole Dupont area was much rougher than it is today (and recalls the riots of 1968 being just passed 17th Street down the road). He remembers Professor Sonenfeld (he received his degree in Soviet Studies) as well as Professors Liska, Holborn and Tucker. He remembers the oral exam being extremely challenging (but was glad that there was no thesis). He learned German while he was at SAIS (passed his Orals), but does not remember much of it today (he did practice it a bit, though, while he was visiting Switzerland a few years ago). He also remembers that Bill Nitze used to have a big party, one Saturday each year, where all students and faculty got together in his back yard. With regard to his career, he had every intention of going straight into the State Department after SAIS, but ended up doing something completely different. Due to the draft and because the State Department would not admit him from the list for two years (with the exception of a position with the Foreign Reserve in Vietnam), he took a part-time job with the U.S. Postal Service. He originally chose a job with the U.S. Postal Services due to the supreme quality of their training programs (and it was the best offer he had at the time) and though it would be difficult, it would allow him possible deferment. He wrote a long letter to the Selective Service explaining why he thought he would better serve his country by staying in his current job and not joining the infantry in Vietnam. The letter he got back was from General Hershey saying, Over my dead body. As that did not work, he sent the letter to his local draft board who then granted him occupational deferment. Interestingly, many of his friends tried to use the same letter and were not successful. After spending three years with the Postal Service, he decided to stay with them and has made a 30-year career of it in the business and marketing units of the organization (using similar skill sets it all ties to Foreign Policy). He advises current students to keep an open mind and to not create self limits. He encourages them to see all the various options available given their various skill sets. Also, he encourages students to learn how to manage themselves, interpersonally, in a large organization (i.e. understand the expectations).