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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Queen Noor

Aired July 16, 2003 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, her majestic Queen Noor, a beautiful American girl, who won the heart of a King and became a queen, but her fairy tale life has also been touched by tragedy. The two men she loved both taken away from her. In depth and personal, her majesty Queen Noor, the widow of Jordan's King Hussein, on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always a great pleasure to welcome Her Majesty Queen Noor to LARRY KING LIVE. She's the widow of His Majesty King Hussein, author of the runaway "New York Times" bestseller, "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life."

We're not here to discuss politics tonight, later on in the show we'll do some overviews of the situation. We're here to discuss the life and times of Her Majesty Queen Noor.

And I'm surprised you're here, because your father, Najeeb Halaby, passed away, so...

QUEEN NOOR, JORDAN: He did, and I, in fact, debated whether it would be appropriate to carry on with the interview that we've planned for so long, Larry, but he was so looking forward to it, and I know he would have been so upset if we had postponed again.

So, in fact, I'm here in part as a tribute to him and all that he worked so hard for in his life, and because what my book is about was a great part of what he tried to promote in terms of understanding between our cultures and focus on the humanitarian aspects of peace- building and peace-making.

KING: I interviewed him many, many, many years ago when he ran Pam Am. And then he also ran, what, the Civil Aeronautics Board?

QUEEN NOOR: He was the director of the FAA...

KING: Federal Aviation.

QUEEN NOOR: ... the Federal Aviation Administration, under Kennedy, and went from there to Pan American, but had been an aviator from childhood and one of the first -- a Navy test pilot and made the first transcontinental jet-powered flight. So, he was a pioneer, but also demonstrated in every aspect of his life an enormous amount of courage and an indomitable spirit.

KING: As I have often said, he was one of the handsomest men. He was a great looking guy.

QUEEN NOOR: Even in his illness he was mesmerizing handsome. What a shock of...

KING: He never lost that hair, right?

QUEEN NOOR: Never lost his hair and it glowed even in his illness. But more importantly, he had an extraordinary spirit and intense optimism and idealism...

KING: Did he drive you a lot?

QUEEN NOOR: Did he drive me?

KING: I mean, did he ever...

QUEEN NOOR: Not only did he teach me to drive literally, but his optimism, his idealism, his commitment to public service and his extraordinary faith that we can constantly improve ourselves, and in doing so, enhance our ability to contribute to the world. And he was so curious and interested in so many different areas that in fact I think my work, which is -- and my interests, which I shared with him, not only in humanitarian and social issues, but also in peace-making and international affairs, was very much the result of his involvement in those areas.

I don't know if you realize, and I didn't realize until his obituaries, but in fact not only did he break ground as an Arab- American in the U.S. administration, but in fact he promoted minorities in the aviation industry, in the airlines, desegregated U.S. air terminals and ensured that minorities would advance in the workplace, mostly Hispanics and African-Americans. But, of course, he was an example for the Arab-American community as well.

KING: Was he as strong in favor of your husband and as great attempts at peace given -- peacemaking?

QUEEN NOOR: He also -- he contributed in every way that he could, in trying to bring together people from different sides of the issue, here in the United States, and also as chairman of the American University of Beirut, and involved with the U.S. Save the Children Fund which he was chairman of as well, and at something called the Jordan Society we established after my marriage. He worked very hard to promote the human relationships among students, among officials, among non-governmental organizations and others, that really sets the foundation for building peace.

KING: Did he have anything to do with your meeting your husband?

QUEEN NOOR: He was present, and I...

KING: Present when you met the king?

QUEEN NOOR: Yes. I had been working in Iran after I graduated from university with an architecture in urban planning degree.

KING: You went to Princeton, right?

QUEEN NOOR: I was in the first class of women at Princeton. I worked for a year in Australia, then worked in Iran for almost a year.

KING: Doing?

QUEEN NOOR: With a British urban planning firm. I had been working in Iran and was passing through towards the United States -- passing through the Middle East at the time my father was coming to Jordan. He said, why don't you meet me in Jordan. It happened that, while I was there, a ceremony was held to receive the first Boeing 747 aircraft to Jordan. A huge step forward for the airline and for King Hussein's vision of building an airline that would connect the Arab and the Muslim world with the rest of the world, not only Jordan, but the rest of the countries.

KING: So, you're at this ceremony.

QUEEN NOOR: We're at the ceremony. I describe it in my book, and my father -- the king began to approach us, because he had asked my father years before to consult with the airline and to be an aviation adviser for him. So, he knew him well, started to walk towards us. My father thrust his camera at me in the most horrifically embarrassing scene at an airport in a public ceremony. "Take my picture with the King," he said.

And my mouth wide open, I can't believe this is happening to me. Nonetheless, stepped back and caught a photograph of my father and King Hussein, my husband-to-be a number of years later. The first moment I met my husband was...

KING: Was there anything...

QUEEN NOOR: ... not recorded, but the moment before.

KING: Was there anything, any kind of turn-on feeling? Or was it just...

QUEEN NOOR: Oh, the king was incredibly warm. My mother, years before when she had come back from a trip to Jordan, had described the king as having the most extraordinarily kind eyes, warm eyes. And I was struck as well, as I write in the book, not only by the brief exchange we had just in greeting and the warmth of his face and the way it welcomed and embraced everyone, but the way he handled the crowds and all of the people surrounding him, his entourage and so many others hanging on to his every word or his every step, with humility and dignity and compassion and extraordinary warmth.

KING: When did you meet him again on a more serious point?

QUEEN NOOR: Well, a year or so later I had completed -- well, less than a year later I had completed the work in Iran. And my father at the same time, watching me as I was applying to graduate school in journalism at Columbia University and jobless for the moment while I was waiting to hear from the university, suggested that I help him out in Jordan. I agreed to go back, because it would be a chance to learn more about the Arab world.

KING: The romance continues right after these words. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Queen Noor. Her book is "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life." Certainly she didn't plan to be a queen.

By the way, did you have any trepidation about relationships with your parents being divorced?

QUEEN NOOR: I don't know that I did. I had more trepidation about marrying into a royal environment than I did...

(CROSSTALK)

QUEEN NOOR: I had never been fascinated by royalty. I had wanted to join the Peace Corps as a child, and I wanted...

KING: OK, so what happened in Jordan?

QUEEN NOOR: In Jordan, I was working -- I agreed to help my father's company out briefly. I wanted to be independent of my family, but on the other hand this was an opportunity not to be missed to discover more about the Arab and the Muslim world, my roots if you will. And in the course of my work, I often ran into King Hussein at the airport, who was, as I mentioned earlier, absolutely devoted to this building up of an airline that could serve as a bridge with the rest of the world.

And so, in those encounters, we would just exchange a few words and move on. But on one...

KING: He was how much older than you?

QUEEN NOOR: He was 15-16 years older than me. And he was a figure that I admired increasingly as I witnessed and learned more about his role in trying to promote peace in the Middle East, as I watched the way he dealt with everyone from a lowly airline maintenance person to a president of a big corporation, even foreign leaders. There was no difference in the way that he treated people.

KING: When did the sparks start?

QUEEN NOOR: Well, for me, it took me a while. I was somewhat dense about what was taking place. But one day he asked me to come up and help him assess some of the problems that he was having with the palace that he was living in, his residence. It has been completed a year or so before, and it had a number of serious engineering and other defects. And I came up for the meeting. It lasted quite long, mostly talking about his family, meeting his children and a variety of personal issues, after I had explained to him I wasn't qualified to solve the problems. He needed a proper engineering firm and I might be able to suggest some.

From that day on essentially we had dinner almost every single night, and I spent a lot of time learning about his children, spending time with them.

KING: So, it was quite serious.

QUEEN NOOR: And we had long conversations about the politics and the cultures and the people of the Middle East. I learned a great deal from him, but more than that, we discovered how much we had in common. We were both idealists. We were both optimistic and convinced that each individual can make a difference, even to making peace in the Middle East. And he only reinforced my belief that every one of us can make a difference no matter what.

KING: How did he ask you to marry him?

QUEEN NOOR: Over a meal, and...

KING: You just had dinner?

QUEEN NOOR: It was. In fact, he began by saying that he'd like to -- he needed to meet with my father, he hoped to meet with my father, and he repeated this several times in different contexts. And it slowly began to sink in that he hoped to meet my father to ask for my hand in marriage. And...

KING: Did you give it any thought? Or was it an immediate, sure?

QUEEN NOOR: Oh, no, I gave it a great deal of thought. And I write in the book about my concerns that at that moment in time there was so much -- that the struggle for peace in the Middle East had created even a great deal of concern and suspicion on the part of some about American -- the role of the United States in the Middle East. And I didn't want the fact that I had grown up and had been raised in the United States, albeit as an Arab-American, but nonetheless grown up as an American to in any way inhibit or provide any kind of obstacle to those efforts.

KING: What year was this?

QUEEN NOOR: This was 1978. So, I debated that, whether I was suitable. I had lived a very independent life. I was a working woman. I had to do that. This was just part of my makeup at what I'd been raised to believe I have to contribute...

KING: Also, did you want to be a queen?

QUEEN NOOR: And being a queen wasn't really an issue. Being a queen I understood, even then, was probably what I would make of it. And so, I wasn't thinking about being a queen as much as I was thinking about...

KING: That didn't concern you?

QUEEN NOOR: ... the kind of partner he would need to draw people together rather than the possibility that marrying me might serve as a divisive factor.

KING: But you were in love.

QUEEN NOOR: And I grew to love him very, very much. Not only to admire and respect him as I had from the outset, but to love him as a man, as a human being. And it was on that basis that we married and I said yes.

KING: And you were married on...

QUEEN NOOR: I said yes to another -- to a man that I loved, not to a king.

KING: What did your father think?

QUEEN NOOR: My parents were very concerned. And when we made that phone call -- because a visit to the United States that he had assumed would take place that spring was not able to be planned, he called my father on the phone once I had said yes and asked for my hand in marriage over the telephone. And my father was quite taken aback, as you might imagine, because they had not been aware that...

KING: Oh, they didn't know anything.

QUEEN NOOR: ... we had become so close. And then asked to speak to me -- gave his permission and asked to speak to me and said, you know, I'm concerned, you're going to so far away, and this is -- you're going to be marrying into a very complicated environment. And I said, 'Don't worry, we love each other, and that's enough, and I know what I'm doing.' I had a lot to learn, but I did feel I knew what I was doing.

KING: What was the wedding like?

QUEEN NOOR: It was very simple, probably the simplest royal wedding ever, perhaps, in that...

KING: You went to Vegas.

QUEEN NOOR: We did not have long to plan it, and we had a simple ceremony. The wedding ceremony was very simple, and then a reception, in which many people came to my mother-in-law's house, his mother, Queen Zein, and said congratulations and shared a brief moment of cutting a wedding cake in a very traditional fashion. And then we made off.

KING: Where did you go?

QUEEN NOOR: And we went down to Aqaba, which is a seaside place where the king had a very modest house that became really an oasis for us during our marriage and had been throughout his life and for our children.

KING: Did he have a home then in the United States or was that due to marrying you?

QUEEN NOOR: No, he -- No, it wasn't due to marrying me either. Some years later, Blair House, the official guest residence here in New York just opposite the White House, underwent what turned out to be a very long renovation. And during that period of time, my husband's security felt he would be more secure in a -- not in a hotel environment, because there were constant threats and security concerns for him, perhaps the preeminent Arab leader searching for peace and working so closely on a variety of American and other international initiatives to that end. So, he decided to buy a house that had been recommended by an adviser.

KING: The Potomac, right?

QUEEN NOOR: Out in Potomac.

KING: Did that make you happy to have a home in the United States?

QUEEN NOOR: Well, actually I dreaded the thought. When he first told me -- and I describe in the book, that one day he said, what do you think about our, you know, getting a place? I've been shown this house -- or material about this house near Washington. What do you think? It would be, you know, more secure and a working base for us there. And I looked at him and said, 'Oh, no, you must be joking.'

We had been working on trying to renovate the homes that we had lived in, in Jordan. We had moved out of one and then another and then another old family homes of his in the course of the first years of our marriage. I was constantly packing and unpacking and exhausted by it all. And I said, now, well, you have to have a look at it, get a surveyor, make sure you know the condition this building is in before you consider buying anything like that.

And then he confessed that he had already bought it, and it turned out to be a remarkably peaceful and productive working base for us during some very difficult trips here, and also a place where during his treatment for cancer he was able to come back to his family.

KING: We'll be right back with Her Majesty Queen Noor and find out about life as a queen right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Queen Noor. The book is "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life."

It wasn't all wine and roses, was it? Or didn't you once want to come home?

QUEEN NOOR: There was no wine, and...

KING: Didn't you once want to come home?

QUEEN NOOR: But Jordan is known for its roses, let me just add that. There were a few moments, one moment on our honeymoon when, for reasons I describe in the book, just an enormous amount of pressure and the impact of people gossiping to me about my husband's past and friends. And suddenly... KING: He was a dandy, wasn't he?

QUEEN NOOR: No, it wasn't that. It was simply -- it was my first encounter with gossip, and often vicious gossip. And it was eating away at me because I just wasn't -- and I didn't know what the facts were. I didn't know a lot of the people that were being gossiped about. And it wasn't that I was looking for it. It was simply that a couple of the people working closely with him that he had asked to initiate me, if you will, or to be with me during those early stages were just -- that was their nature, sadly.

And on top of that the lack of privacy. One of the first challenges I say I had -- I write that I had to face was the fact that we were never alone, except in the most inner -- in our bathroom. When we would begin and end the day together was the time when we could have truly private conversations, when our small children weren't coming in and out, because our family life began with three small children from his previous wife.

KING: Yes, I know.

QUEEN NOOR: So, there were a number of challenges. And I remember calling up my mother at one point after -- in the middle of our honeymoon, which didn't last very long. And while it was a wonderful time, it was just -- it was too much of -- too little of just quiet private time for us and too much negative energy...

KING: You wanted to be alone?

QUEEN NOOR: ... not from him, but from some of the surroundings. And I said, you know, I just don't know if I -- I feel like coming home. And she knew that I didn't really mean it, and as I say, she made it clear she knew that I was not a quitter. And probably every new wife goes through something like that.

KING: By the way, he didn't have to make you queen, right?

QUEEN NOOR: He -- we never discussed it before it was announced on the day of my wedding. Apparently, there had been endless discussion in the media and among people in Jordan and elsewhere, because he had -- one of his wives had been made a princess and the other two had been queens. And those were basically for political and for a variety of reasons.

And so, we hadn't discussed it, and it wasn't really an issue for me. And it would have been the same. Whether I had been given one title or the other, I still would have been his partner and working with him to advance development. It would have had no impact whatsoever on the role I would have played.

KING: Did the people of Jordan accept you readily?

QUEEN NOOR: I felt embraced immediately, and as I write in the book, I felt -- I already knew the Jordanians to be an exceptionally hospitable and warm and kind and welcoming people. But I also knew that the reason I was being welcomed with such enormous affection was because of the love that the people of Jordan had for the king. And they were happy to see him happy, and they welcomed me as his choice.

Now, there would have been those who would have had reservations perhaps because of my background or for any reason whatsoever. But I felt the warmest possible of welcomes, and I wanted to earn it in my own right over time, and I hoped and prayed I might.

KING: What was it like being queen?

QUEEN NOOR: It was an extraordinary opportunity, and it required a lot of learning at the outset, learning not only the history and culture, which I had begun learning from the time I had -- I had moved to Jordan two years before, so I had friends and I had an understanding of contemporary issues and some of the history and the culture. But I wanted to steep myself more in Islam, and I wanted to steep myself more in the issues that were facing us. Jordanians had efforts to combat poverty, the aspirations of youth, of women, the needs perhaps that I could help fill some gaps in programs, trying to address these problems.

KING: You mentioned earlier that you didn't particularly like royalty, and...

QUEEN NOOR: Well, I didn't say I didn't like royalty, but I wasn't fascinated by it.

KING: So, were there things about it that turned you off?

QUEEN NOOR: Well, as I said, the lack of privacy. Being a public figure -- whether you're a president or a king or someone who has made an illustrious career such as yourself -- is always, I think, a challenging experience, because you do become public property in many people's eyes.

KING: Do you like being called "your majesty?"

QUEEN NOOR: People had enormous expectations. I describe in the book that it took me a while to adjust to being called "your majesty." It took awhile to adjust to people standing up when I entered a room. It seemed natural for that to take place for King Hussein. It was something I had to adjust to. It was a tradition. And, again, I needed to earn that, I felt, in my own right, so that people would feel that in fact...

KING: But the lack of privacy was the biggest thing you didn't like.

QUEEN NOOR: It was the first striking adjustment that I had to make, the lack of privacy and the gossip that can surround public figures as well.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Queen Noor. Her book, a runaway bestseller, "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Queen Noor.

Did someone teach you to be a queen?

QUEEN NOOR: No.

KING: I mean, are there things -- what are queenly things?

QUEEN NOOR: I think the most important thing -- and this is my own opinion and I learned this over time -- first of all, King Hussein, yes, he was a king. He was a Hashemite. He was a descendant of the prophet -- a direct descendent of the prophet, Muhammad. So, he had a very important political role, but he also had a spiritual role as a descendent of the prophet, Muhammad, and therefore one of the preeminent Muslims in the world.

And he, nonetheless, as I said earlier, was one of the most humble, compassionate and warm and welcoming personalities imaginable, and he reached out to and tried to bring out the best in everyone he met, whether other heads of states or ordinary people working in the simplest of jobs.

I learned very quickly that, in fact, through him, that to be open, to be accessible, to be available to as many people as possible, to try to restrict whatever barriers, even protocol, would place in between us. And to try and -- I brought perhaps my own values that I had grown up with of trying to reach out and partner with as many people as possible, just as one equal partner with many other Jordanians who I looked up to, because they knew so much more than I did about so many different issues.

KING: What was it like when you came to the United States and met up with old friends from school? And these are people who didn't call you "queen," and now they've got to call you -- I mean, what was that like?

QUEEN NOOR: They didn't have to call me "your majesty." They called me Noor -- my old friends and my family do as well. I didn't have a chance to see many friends, except just in passing in official receptions in the first many years of my marriage. The first 10 years of my marriage I never made a personal trip to the United States, only official working visits.

KING: Really?

QUEEN NOOR: And so, my friends, it was -- there was so much to be done, not only to learn, as I said earlier, but there were so many critical issues taking place in the region that involved both a struggle to provide basic human needs in Jordan for Jordanians who were suffering the economic repercussions, of the lack of peace in our region, to try to contribute, to promote understanding about the conditions of people, particularly of the Palestinians in the region, to try to promote a more balanced perspective of the history and the cultures and the realities of people in the region.

KING: You took all of this on.

QUEEN NOOR: Well, I took it on simply as...

KING: He took it on.

QUEEN NOOR: ... yet another partner with my husband...

KING: Were you as...

QUEEN NOOR: ... and trying to help...

KING: Were you as even-handed as he was with regard to -- I mean, you grew up a Palestinian, right? Arab-American? Your father was a Palestinian?

QUEEN NOOR: No, he was -- my grandfather was a natural Assyrian.

KING: OK. But you were very (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Palestinian state and the like. What I mean was your husband. I remember one historic night on this show when he was on with Arafat...

QUEEN NOOR: Yes, yes.

KING: ... and...

QUEEN NOOR: He took enormous risks for peace.

KING: ... Yitzhak Rabin, who he loved.

QUEEN NOOR: He believed that by promoting dialogue, direct contact and communication that that -- and by promoting understanding through that kind of dialogue, that was the only way to achieve peace.

KING: And you shared that.

QUEEN NOOR: And that that had to be broadened to include everybody, not just political leaders talking, but also that the people of our...

KING: And you shared that.

QUEEN NOOR: And I shared first of all his faith that peace was possible, an absolute passion and conviction that by promoting understanding, by bringing people together, by trying to make clear to, for example, people in the United States, other countries that have a special role to play in Middle East peace-making, the historical and human realities of both sides. And my book is an attempt to try to make clear how important it is to understand the history of what the Palestinians have suffered. So, the book...

KING: But it's not an anti-Israeli book, is it?

QUEEN NOOR: Oh, not at all; on the contrary. The response to the book from Israelis and Arabs, from Jews and Muslims and Christians, has been so overwhelmingly positive. Of course, there are going to be hard-line critics out there, but from all of those groups I've had, thank you for helping to create a resource, a modest one I'll say, but nonetheless a resource for helping people to better understand why people feel the way they do today, what they have suffered, what everyone has suffered in our region. And perhaps through my husband's example and other examples in the book, how in coming together we can make significant inroads into breaking the vicious cycle of violence that has...

KING: Did you like Rabin as much as he did?

QUEEN NOOR: I valued Rabin's partnership with my husband...

KING: That was a sad loss.

QUEEN NOOR: ... and what they were able to accomplish together. He could see beyond...

KING: Yes.

QUEEN NOOR: ... the bitter history. He could see beyond the politics. He and my husband together helped reinforce a vision of what could be in the Middle East if -- most of all they understood that there could only be security and any kind of hope for the future for anyone in the Middle East, Arab or Israeli, if all were living in peace based on justice, based on mutual respect and understanding.

KING: Later, I want to get in our closing moments whether you still have that optimism.

How about the family relations, the complexity of stepchildren and your own children?

QUEEN NOOR: I write about that in the book as well.

KING: Is that hard to deal with?

QUEEN NOOR: The book is a mix of the personal, the historical, the political, the cultural and, of course, of Islam. And I write about our family in part because I feel that both King Hussein's devotion to his family, even as the pressures of his work minimized the amount of time he could spend often, he nonetheless focused absolutely when he could on all of his children. He loved them all and saw in each one enormous potential to contribute to Jordan, to play a role in it.

KING: How did you handled step-parenting?

QUEEN NOOR: I married eight stepchildren, if you will. In other words, in marrying my husband...

KING: They ain't easy.

QUEEN NOOR: ... I became a stepmother to eight. And then we had four children. So, our family was 12. And there were times, incredibly joyful, relaxing, wonderful times when we could all join together in places like Aqaba for celebrations, family celebrations and others in the capital and elsewhere that were moments of extraordinary hope for the future.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

QUEEN NOOR: And there were challenges as well...

KING: Oh, I bet.

QUEEN NOOR: ... as there is in any family, let alone one that reflects so much personal history.

KING: Our guest is....

QUEEN NOOR: But the joys outweigh...

KING: The joys outweigh.

QUEEN NOOR: The joys outweigh the challenges.

KING: Because step-parenting ain't a walk in the park.

QUEEN NOOR: No.

KING: Our guest is Her Majesty Queen Noor. The book is "Leap of Faith." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Queen Noor.

How did you handle it when your husband first got sick?

QUEEN NOOR: Well, we had had one, thank God, minor moment about six, seven years before, in 1992, when some abnormal cells appeared that were the first terrifying confrontation until it was resolved that it was a problem that could be taken care of. It wasn't cancer. They were pre-cancerous, and surgery resolved that problem and it never recurred. But at the time it was the first confrontation that so many people, millions of people around the world, of course, encounter on a daily basis, which is...

KING: What kind of cancer did he have?

QUEEN NOOR: ... an ugly word that seems to have no clear solution.

In 1998, he was diagnosed after months of suffering fevers that had shown -- given no evidence, no clues to any real problem. He had several checkups. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a very common cancer, one that has an increasingly high survival rate. And we always felt throughout the treatment, which is debilitating -- a cancer treatment of any sort is incredibly painful and difficult -- but that we hoped we were contributing -- he was contributing to medical science.

And the best of what was available in this country, and I'm sure in the world, was brought to focus on his case. And we knew that whatever the outcome would be that we could take some satisfaction from perhaps his case contributing to saving someone else. KING: How did you take it?

QUEEN NOOR: I -- the first day I felt I had to be strong for him. But I -- when the doctor first shared the news with me after they had done some exploratory surgery to -- after some initial blood tests that were of concern, when he shared the news with me, he had been with us since 1992, and he broke down because...

KING: The doctor.

QUEEN NOOR: ... he felt such affection and respect and love for my husband.

KING: Did he tell you and your husband together?

QUEEN NOOR: No. He told me. I was upstairs with some of our children, and my husband was just coming out of surgery and had not yet gone into the recovery room. And once he turned around and left, after I had comforted him, and said, you know, we can fight this, can't we? And we will. I then turned and had to spend what felt like an eternity composing myself before I went in to tell the children that I was going to go down and be with their father in the recovery room.

And the operation had gone well. In other words -- and it had. There was no question of surviving the operation. But I couldn't -- I had to wait to find the right words and the right moment to sit with them and explain to them what we were facing and what it might mean.

KING: Who told the king?

QUEEN NOOR: I was down in the recovery room with him as he came out of anesthesia, and he turned to me and said, "How did it go?" And I said, 'Thank God, the operation went well.' I was trying so hard to compose myself.

The anesthesiologist, who was also in the room with us that had been through the previous operation with him in 1992, was also there, and he turned to him and said, "Well, how did it go? What's happened?" He said very professionally and to the point, "Your Majesty, you have lymphoma," you know, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. And I had wanted to wait until he was out of the anesthesia and a little bit more clear-headed than you are, less emotional perhaps.

But in his inimitable way, he said, "All right, well, what do we do next?" And he began to focus on the battle that we would wage with that disease.

KING: They say, "You die like you live." Did he die with the class he lived?

QUEEN NOOR: Oh, he demonstrated so much courage and faith, acceptance of God's will, whatever that might be throughout this period, so much compassion and reaching out to comfort others around him, and as he always had in his life, demonstrating what are such important leadership qualities of rising above your own personal discomfort or pain or worry or fear and focusing on the ways in which he could help those around him...

KING: Did he ever (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

QUEEN NOOR: ... and comfort them and continue to search for peace in the Middle East...

KING: I know.

QUEEN NOOR: ... which he did. As you know, he left his hospital bed...

KING: Looking terrible and bald.

QUEEN NOOR: ... at great risk -- I didn't think he looked terrible. I thought he looked beautiful.

KING: Well, he looked drawn (ph).

QUEEN NOOR: He looked to everyone, who had not been following so closely as we had his day-to-day struggle with the disease, he took everyone's breath away. I'll never forget, I describe in the book, at Wye River the Palestinian delegation breaking down emotionally when they first -- when he first entered the room to meet with them, with President Clinton, as they tried to solve the stalemate that had occurred at Wye between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

KING: Well, he had the cancer.

QUEEN NOOR: They, you know, these were men who I think, you know, had respected him, as he had deserved, as a champion of peace in the Middle East and of justice for the Palestinians throughout his life, but who had also fought with him and struggled with him in different ways over how to achieve that. But they, as so many others at the White House when he officiated with President Clinton at the signing of that agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, were absolutely shocked by his appearance.

KING: Let me say that he had cancer.

QUEEN NOOR: But I think...

KING: He had that cancer look.

QUEEN NOOR: Well, he may have, but within his eyes, those extraordinary eyes...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

QUEEN NOOR: ... and in his words and in that spirit that he brought to the Wye negotiations to really play an absolutely vital role in breaking that logjam, and at the White House later, and to the moment that he passed away, he brought, you know, that commanding, if you will, hopeful and emphatic message that peace, as he said so eloquently in the White House, that it was time to move beyond ourselves. It was time to focus on the next generations and what we could leave for them as a legacy of peace and understanding. KING: What now for Queen Noor? We'll be back with our remaining moments after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Are you optimistic?

KING HUSSEIN, JORDAN: I am optimistic. More so than every before.

KING: Why?

KING HUSSEIN: I believe that experiences -- there is no alternative, there is no other way than for us to carry out our duties to the future generations and give them an opportunity to leave with peace and dignity and security, and to combine their efforts and their talents and bring about the future that is working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We have a few minutes remaining. Now are you still optimistic about your area?

QUEEN NOOR: Like my husband, I am an optimist by nature, and I have seen over the years and to this day young people come together from our region. You know the program, Seeds of Peace. I'm still hoping that one day we might be able to bring some of these seeds together, because they are so compelling in the way that they speak about their conviction that they can live together, work together, that they understand one another so much better today than they did before they had the personal contact that this program provided them.

They can see clearly what Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein and so many others in the region have seen, and what the majority of Arabs and Israelis believe...

KING: Nobody wants to die.

QUEEN NOOR: ... to this day believe and can see. But their voices have not been heard enough, not reflected well enough in policies that have continued to perpetuate a vicious cycle of hatred and violence and...

KING: No mother anywhere -- Palestinian, Jew, Arab, Chinese -- wants her child to die, nowhere.

QUEEN NOOR: Every mother wants her child to live in security and to have a chance at a better future.

KING: And a better life -- and a better life than they had.

QUEEN NOOR: Absolutely right.

KING: Why can't it happen? QUEEN NOOR: It can, and I've seen it happen among young people. I've seen it happen among professionals. I've seen it happen even in the response to my book. I'm very modest. I'm not putting myself on the level of the enormity of what needs to be accomplished, but I've seen it happen when people come to understand a little better the other point of view, and their common humanity, our common spiritual values as children of Abraham, whether we're Jewish, Christian, Muslim, whether we're Arab or Israeli, we are all children of Abraham. And those of us who originally came from the region of the Holy Land, we're all Semites together. And we can either...

KING: Yes, you are.

QUEEN NOOR: ... live in peace or we can continue to live obscenely, if you will, confounding the messages of our faiths, and they all teach us to live in peace and tolerance, compassion and justice.

KING: What is your life like personally? Would you marry again?

QUEEN NOOR: Would I marry again? I can't conceive -- I have no plans to marry again. I -- right now am living sustained by the love of my children, by the love of friends and family, and...

KING: But you're a young, vital, beautiful woman. Right?

QUEEN NOOR: ... I have been -- my life has been dominated by this book and continues to be dominated by work for a multitude of humanitarian organizations, the King Hussein Foundation -- the proceeds of the book will benefit that foundation -- and by my efforts to promote peace-building in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

KING: Do you miss a companion?

QUEEN NOOR: I have so many companions in the work that I'm undertaking. I miss the...

KING: Romance.

QUEEN NOOR: I miss so much of what King Hussein and I shared in terms of not even having to speak about what we were thinking and feeling and imagining as possible in our work, in our family lives. I mean, that's...

KING: How is anybody going to compete with a king?

QUEEN NOOR: ... an extraordinary kind of love, and then -- you can say that, can't you? Is that what your wife says to you every day?

KING: Who is going to compete with the king?

QUEEN NOOR: No, I have been blessed and privileged, and...

KING: Thank you, Your Majesty. QUEEN NOOR: Thank you so much for your interest in "Leap of Faith."

KING: She's the widow of King Hussein of Jordan. She's the author of "The New York Times" bestseller, "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life." She's an extraordinary lady. She lost her father last week. Thanks for joining us. For Queen Noor and yours truly, good night.

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