On Monday, January 12, Mr. James Olson came to Rockhurst to speak in an event sponsored by the National Honors Society. Olson, Ex-CIA Chief of Counterintelligence, shared some of his experiences with students about his time in the Central Intelligence Agency and how he became a spy.
Mr. Olson was on leave from the Navy and in his last year of law school at the University of Iowa when he received a phone call. He was told to meet at a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa to discuss further details. And he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about any of this.
Olson had been recruited to serve his country as a spy in the CIA. He was sent to a location in Virginia called “The Farm.” There, he was trained to kill with his bare hands, was introduced to special weaponry, and was taught everything he would need on his missions. He was even taught to speak French, Spanish, Italian, German and Russian. You know, just in case.
During his time in the CIA, Mr. Olson met his wife, Meredith, who was also a spy. Sometimes Mr. Olson would not know where in the world his wife was (literally) and what she was doing.
The couple occasionally went on missions together across the globe using the cover of international bankers. They didn’t have to worry about their three children being left alone because, as Olson said, “They were left with CIA nannies. And there are no nannies like CIA nannies.”
Students were in shock to hear stories about how Mr. Olson became fluent in foreign languages in only three months and how he had a belt buckle gun. But Mr. Olson only sees these things as benefits to serving his country.
Mr. Olson claimed he was proud to serve in the CIA because he knew that he was protecting millions of lives with the information he was able to obtain on his missions. He emphasized the point that students should be able to take pride in their work.
He advised students to find something they are passionate about and to pursue it. He feels that doing something honorable and helpful to others is the most noble thing a person can do.
Mr. James Olson is now teaching at Texas A&M University in the George Bush School of Government and Public Service. He often travels around the country to schools, like Rockhurst, to teach students about the CIA and advise them on finding a profession they are passionate about.