TIFFIN - Porter Goss, who unexpectedly stepped down as CIA director Friday, introduced himself as "a recovering politician" yesterday at Tiffin University's commencement, at which he was the speaker.
That oblique reference was one of the only remarks he made that could be linked to the White House shake-up that topped the national news the previous day.
He did not meet with the media - at least 20 news organizations were at the commencement, compared to the usual two - and security officers repeated, "No questions!" as they walked him through the hall of the university's Gillmor Student Center, where he spoke.
Mr. Goss stopped short, however, of advising the 238 university graduates to conduct themselves similarly.
"If this were a graduating class of CIA case officers, my advice would be short and to the point: Admit nothing, deny everything, and make counter-accusations," he said.
But that might not translate well beyond the world of the clandestine service, he said, before going on to share more typical wisdom.
"Planning only goes so far," he advised. "The Soviets were big on planning, and look where it got them."
Mr. Goss, whose bachelor's degree from Yale is in classical Greek, said his own career, which has included running a small business, helping start a newspaper and a bank or two, and becoming a mayor, a county commissioner, and a congressman, has not always followed a logical sequence.
His very start in the CIA was almost completely by luck. As a student, he saw a sign with a list of recruiters on campus that included the company that employed his father.
He thought he would have a little fun with whoever was working that desk. But he became engaged in conversation with a representative from the CIA, which he said was "a lot more secretive back then, and I only had the faintest idea of what it was or what it did."
That chance encounter was the beginning of what led to more than a decade as a CIA agent in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
"The best thing to do is not to worry too much about having a plan," Mr. Goss said. "Just be sure to know yourself and to be ready when an opportunity arises."
Mr. Goss said that he wanted to leave them with two points:
"First, understand what brings you joy in your work," he said. And if a job doesn't provide that, don't be afraid to move on, he added.
"And second, don't let others define success for you," he said. "Follow your own definition of what makes life rewarding. Take full advantage of the freedom you have as a citizen of this great country. You live in a world whose promise greatly outweighs its dangers. So go for it!"
Last fall Tiffin University invited Mr. Goss to speak at graduation. The university's link was a new assistant professor of criminal justice and security studies, Tom Newcomb. He had worked with Mr. Goss on the House Intelligence Committee from 1997 to 2000, when Mr. Goss was chairman of the committee and Mr. Newcomb was the subcommittee staff director and counsel.
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