Noam Chomsky on Life & Love: Still Going at 86, Renowned Dissident is Newly Married

March 03, 2015


Noam Chomsky

world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years.

At the age of 86, Noam Chomsky remains as active as ever in his work as a world-renowned political dissident and pioneering linguist. He has also opened a new chapter in his life, recently celebrating a one-year anniversary with his new wife, Valeria Wasserman Chomsky, his second marriage. Chomsky discusses the joys of newfound love and why it is a "privilege" for him to help people make sense of a very difficult world.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, you’re headed off on a Latin America trip right now for a month. You’ll be in Brazil. You’ll be giving talks in Argentina. When you go to Brazil, you’re going to be meeting your new family.

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: And I was wondering if you could talk a little about that?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we’ve been talking about a variety of things that range from unpleasant to horrific, but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the world has some wonderful things in it, too. And I got an unexpected, wondrous gift from Brazil that fell into my arms not long ago. We’re now—Valeria—we’re now about to celebrate our first anniversary and off to Brazil to meet Valeria’s family.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is that like for you? You are seen around the world, by many, as—not only as a person who shares incredible political insight in the world, but really as a role model. And so, can you talk personally about your own life?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I’m a very private person. I’ve never talked about my own life much. But, you know, I’ve—personally, I’ve been very fortunate in my life, with—there have been tragedies. There have been wonderful things. And Valeria’s sudden appearance is one of those wonderful things.

AARON MATÉ: You said, after your first wife, Carol, died, that life without love is empty—something along those lines. Can you talk about that?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I could produce some clichés, which have the merit of being true. Life without love is a pretty empty affair.

AARON MATÉ: And your own tireless schedule, keeping up with your lectures, writing extensive articles, and still tirelessly answering the emails, from correspondence from people around the world—when I was in college, I remember I wrote you several times and got back these long, detailed answers on complex questions. And there’s people across the globe who could attest to a similar experience. Do you feel a certain obligation to respond to people? Because nobody would fault you, at the age of 86 now, if you took more time for yourself.

NOAM CHOMSKY: I don’t know if it’s an obligation exactly. It’s a privilege, really. These are the important people in the world. I remember a wonderful comment by Howard Zinn about the countless number of unknown people who are the driving force in history and in progress. And that’s people like—I didn’t know you, but people like you writing from college. These are people that deserve respect, encouragement. They’re the hope for the future. They’re an inspiration for me personally.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned your daughter Avi being an expert on Cuba, among others. You have three children that you and Carol raised, now broadening your family to Valeria, as well. Can you talk about your philosophy of child rearing in a very politically active family? You have said in the past that you thought, because of your opposition to the war in Vietnam, for example, you might spend years in jail.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Came very close, came close enough so that by 1967, '68, when resistance activities were at their height—and I was an unindicted co-conspirator in one trial, and the prosecutor announced I'd be the leading person in the next trial, but—

AMY GOODMAN: In which trial?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Pardon me?

AMY GOODMAN: In which trial?

NOAM CHOMSKY: These were the so-called trials of the resistance. The first was called the Spock-Coffin trial, although—a lot to say about that. The next ones were called off, mainly because of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, which convinced the American business community that the war is going to drag on, and they—in a rather significant power play, they compelled Johnson to start backing off. And one of the things they did was end the trials. But it was serious enough so that my wife Carol went back to school after 16 years to get a—finish up with her doctoral degree, since we had three kids to take care of. But during those years, although I was extremely active—I mean, there were times when I was giving seven talks a day and going to demonstrations and so on, but I always managed—took care to spend as much time as I could, quality time, with the kids when they were growing up.

AMY GOODMAN: So what gives you hope?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Things like what you described, also the wonderful things in the world of the kind that I mentioned, like my wife.

AMY GOODMAN: MIT professor, world-renowned linguist, dissident, author, Noam Chomsky. To hear part one of our interview yesterday, when he talked about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today, you can go to our website. This is just a clip.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Basically, a joint effort by Netanyahu and mostly Republicans hawks from the United States to undermine any possibility of a negotiated settlement with Iran. Neither Israel nor U.S. hawks want to tolerate a deterrent in the region to their violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky. To hear both of our hours of interview with him, go to

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