William Perry was the 19th Secretary of Defense, serving in the Clinton administration from 1994 to 1997.

But in 1962, he was a 35 year old mathematician working in the defense industry and living in California. One day in October, his phone rang. It was the deputy director of the CIA who summoned him immediately to Washington, DC. He asked Perry to analyze photos of missile systems captured by a U2 spy plane flying over Cuba. And for 13 days in October, he did just that–believing everyday was going to be his last.

That story is how Secretary Perry begins his new book My Journey on the Nuclear Brink, and it’s where we start our conversation. William Perry is now 88 years old and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He discusses his childhood growing up in the Great Depression, his deployment to Japan following the end of World War Two, his work as a self-described “cold warrior” and how he learned to loathe the bomb.

This is a great episode and offers important insights into life under the threat of nuclear oblivion.

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