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If you like Ted Turner's story, you might also like:
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Ray Dalio,
Michael Dell,
Michael Eisner,
Lawrence Ellison,
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Ted Turner is also featured in the Audio Recordings area of this web site.

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Ted Turner
Ted Turner
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Ted Turner Interview (page: 7 / 7)

Founder, Cable News Network

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  Ted Turner

Tell us about the creation of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Why do you feel that is so important?

Ted Turner: The Nuclear Threat Initiative? Well...

The Nuclear Threat Initiative was conceived of and created by Sam Nunn and I, who are the co-chairs of it, to try and see if we can reduce or eliminate the threat from weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. We want to see humanity survive and not commit mass suicide. That's why we did it, and why we're still working at it.

After the Cold War, I think we all imagined that there would be disarmament.

Ted Turner: Yeah, nuclear disarmament, anyway. I thought that, too.

That's the main reason why I started the Nuclear Threat Initiative, because instead of getting rid of the weapons, we had -- when India and Pakistan went nuclear, that was a real wake up call. I had let myself get lulled into going to sleep over it, because I had worked with the Russians in trying to end the Cold War -- the Soviets, I should say -- and we came up with the Goodwill Games, and I was right there when the Cold War came to an end. I thought, now that we have made it through the Cuban missile crisis and the Berlin Wall crisis and all the other crises, in a reasonably quick period of time, we'll get rid of the nuclear weapons and have a safer, better world, but it didn't happen. So that is why we started the initiative.

Ted Turner Interview Photo
So far, it hasn't happened. I still believe it will. Either we'll get rid of the weapons at some point, or they're going to get rid of us. Remember the story that was in last week's news about the B52 that took off from North Dakota with live nuclear weapons on it? By mistake, they loaded them on! We're just so lucky. They say they're safe, but I don't believe it. They say that airlines are safe too, but every week, one crashes somewhere in the world.

You've said that 95 percent of the population doesn't realize the threat from these nuclear weapons that are still facing each other.

Ted Turner: They're too busy playing electronic games with their thumbs, which don't require any brain power. It really worries me. We're lucky to be getting half the news that we should be getting, and we're playing these dumb games that don't exercise our minds. So what do you expect? I mean, we elected George Bush as President of the United States twice. Right? And he's struggling with the job. Joe Torre, even though he got eliminated yesterday, has a better overall record.

What do you hope the Nuclear Threat Initiative will accomplish?

Ted Turner: Nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination of biological and chemical weapons, as well as nuclear weapons.

That's very ambitious.

Ted Turner: Yeah, but it's easy. Nobody really wants to drop a nuclear bomb, except nuts, and that's the frightening thing. There are some nuts out there. There's more than one Osama bin Laden, and if they ever get their hands on a nuclear weapon, it's goodbye New York and maybe Washington, if they get two. If it's a Chechen that gets it, it's goodbye Moscow. Killing ten million people in five minutes, that will be a real tragedy.

So what's the next step?

Ted Turner: The next step is to keep working, keep trucking along.

It took a long time to get CNN to be profitable. It took me a long time with the Braves to get them to be World Series winners. It took me a long time to win the America's Cup. I mean a long time for a life. But I'm almost 70 now, but I'm still working hard on the things that I consider most important. I want to see a more equitable world. I'd like to see the Doha round of trade talks end successfully and the rich world cut the tariffs on the poor world's farm exports, so that the poorest people in the world will have a chance to make a decent living.

I'm a free trader. I believe in free trade. I think that even though it creates problems, it creates more opportunities than it does problems, that it's better than having all these protectionist devices. I think free trade works better, even though it's not perfect. There's no system that's going to be absolutely perfect. It would be nice if there was, but I don't think there is. But we can come as close to it as possible. We can get a lot further towards it, and we're better educated today than we ever have been before. Fifty years ago, half the people in the world were illiterate. Now it's only about 20 percent of the adults.

You've invested in renewable energy as well, solar energy. Do you see that as an important step?

Ted Turner: Absolutely. We haven't talked about that, but we've got to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as we can, because we're poisoning the atmosphere and turning the world into a hot house. Yesterday, across most of the East Coast, it was ten degrees hotter than it's ever been. Ten degrees, not one degree. That's just gigantic. I was in Washington earlier today, and it was so hot, you could barely go outside.

So solar power should help in that?

Ted Turner: Solar power will, wind power, in certain instances bio-fuels. Perhaps we'll have to take another look at nuclear power, but we've got to quit burning up so much Co2. Planting trees, we're going to have to do all of those things, and I'm trying to do them as much as I can now.

You never stop. Even having one business, there is another business. There is another great ambition. Is that a lesson for young people who might want to be entrepreneurs, to just keep looking forward?

Ted Turner Interview Photo
Ted Turner: Well, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you better get out there and hustle, because it's tough out there. There's a lot of other people trying to get to the top, too. So if you're going to be an entrepreneur, and if you want to be a success in life, you better be prepared to work hard and be smart and think a lot, at least I think so. Unless you're just a genius or you just are tremendously lucky. Every now and then, somebody wins the lottery with a two-dollar ticket, worth $20 million with a two-dollar ticket. You can do that. You can play the lottery, but I wouldn't recommend it.

What other lessons do you have for young people wanting to be entrepreneurs?

Ted Turner: There's a little saying that I heard a long time ago. It said the secret of success is "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise."

What does the American Dream mean to you?

Ted Turner: I don't think it's really an American dream. I think it's the dream of everybody. As I said at the beginning, I was told by my parents and society and my schools to work hard and be a big success, and that's what I did.

What are you most proud of?

Ted Turner: I'm most proud of my family. My five children are all doing quite well, and I'm proudest of them. Of my business accomplishments, obviously I'm proudest of CNN, although on any given day at any given time, the Cartoon Network's audience is about twice as large.

The Cartoon Network is a wonderful thing.

Ted Turner: I don't know about that. I liked it better when they ran the Hanna-Barbera stuff -- Yogi Bear and the Flintstones -- instead of all that violent Japanese anime.

Thank you for giving us this time.

Ted Turner: Thank you. The last thing I will say is what I'm putting on my tombstone. You didn't ask me that. The inscription on my tombstone is going to be, "I have nothing more to say."

That will be a sad day.

Ted Turner: No, it won't. It will be a relief. Well, thank you very much.

Thank you, sir. Thank you so much.

Ted Turner: You're quite welcome.

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This page last revised on Nov 20, 2007 19:05 EDT
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