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If you like Ehud Barak's story, you might also like:
William McRaven,
George Mitchell,
Shimon Peres,
David Petraeus,
Colin Powell,
Norman Schwarzkopf
and Elie Wiesel

Ehud Barak can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Ehud Barak in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Global Conflicts

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Jewish Virtual Library

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Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
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Ehud Barak Interview (page: 8 / 8)

Former Prime Minister of Israel

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  Ehud Barak

What is most important to you, and why?

Ehud Barak: The dominating question of my youth, before I found the role of super navigator, was not a question of achievement but the question of meaning. "What is the meaning of this journey?" I remember when I first read the saying of John Maynard Keynes, "In the long run we are all dead." This is something that I felt from the very beginning. In the long run we are all dead, so we have to find a meaning. The real motivation of human beings has to do with the meaning of what we are doing.

I believe that I found from early youth that meaning could be found only in something that goes beyond your own kind of frame of skin and bones, and even self-interest. If something is serving you, if you can get the ultimate kind of domestic or self-indulgent situation, it will not satisfy you, I believe -- most human beings, I know for sure about myself -- for very long. It is only through something that seems to be important, meaningful, has to do with a wider group of human beings, and leave some imprint beyond your body, and in a way, beyond your time. That makes life meaningful. And that somehow -- I was born in a kind of mobilized society as I see it in retrospect, you know, it was a society shaping. A very strong feeling, unspoken feeling, that we are facing history, that we are fulfilling the dreams of generations of Jews, especially immediately after the Holocaust in my formative years when the remnants of the Holocaust were still coming.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

I still remember going with my father from the collective dining room that I mentioned in the beginning and asking -- pointing to one of these Holocaust (survivors), a young woman, that came alone from Auschwitz or Majdanek -- I do not remember -- and she was taking a loaf of bread under her hand every evening from the dining room. And I asked my father why -- Anka was her name -- why Anka is taking this loaf of bread? There will be breakfast tomorrow. There will be bread on the table. He told me what hunger passed in her life will make her to her last day on earth taking this bread. She will never -- could be convinced that tomorrow there will be bread on the table. And so we -- you know, it is to a young kid of five years old or four years and a half, it kind of haunted me since then, and later on through all these wars I realized that we --that Israel is -- that we were born about the middle of last century, slightly before. Our generation did not learn the Alamo stories of his nation in the history books. We experienced them personally. It's a formative, personal, individual experience, a formative collective experience of the Israeli society. The bringing about of a Jewish sovereign entity that can defend itself, stepping back on the stage of real history. Not as a spiritual kind of heritage but as a real way of life for a people that suffered so much. So it became the kind of mobilizing factor of my life, and it gave a certain kind of meaning that you could not think of it when you are -- have to be alert to touch the trigger a split second before someone shoots at you. You don't think about history and so on. But somehow it was a kind of shaping for the whole generation that I was a part of.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Ehud Barak Interview Photo
When I became older I told young commanders, "Right now, as young leaders, it's more complicated than in our time. We could assume that all our soldiers are the product of a society that is mobilized. We didn't even give it a thought. So we could take many aspects of their behavior, including behavior under fire, as self-evident. Now you should invest a lot of energy in convincing people that they should identify, that they give an account of themselves as a group." In a way, our society is maturing, but in our time decisions were simpler.

I believe that at a very profound level, something very similar happens in every society in every generation. The real essence of it is not about achievement. Achievement is a means for certain people -- that have this predisposition to become leaders in whatever arena -- to reach something more profound, which is meaningful. The need for meaning is something that connects them with the people they lead, and with every other human being that searches for the meaning of life, or in life. I don't know how to put it in English.

I think you just did. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

Thank you.

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This page last revised on Sep 22, 2010 14:42 EST
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