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tv   2016 Gaithersburg Book Festival  CSPAN  May 21, 2016 4:00pm-5:16pm EDT

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most recently you saw that in libya and syria, where we have had air campaigns but -- and we helped overthrow gadhafi but then we didn't do anything to resolve the fundamental political structure, and in syria it's so screwed up now it's hard to tell what policy we have. and in iraq, we invaded and then allowed the shia to dominate the government. so, i'm not suggesting that we open a colonial office like the british did where they had -- they actually had people who governed the world. ...
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>> if you gun large scale -- begin large scale special forces impact, you are going to have an impact on that country. so what are you doing about the political impact you are having on that country. so -- >> follow up. what -- global warming, that our whole focus is going to change too. >> yeah. >> we're going to lose interest. >> yeah. >> that's going to come pound
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it, we're going -- compound it, we're not dependent on oil anymore finish. >> right. >> and maybe that is the solution. >> yeah. >> and i was concerned, you know, we need some sort of, somebody who understands the culture -- >> right. >> how do you handle that. >> yeah. >> i mean, it's something we, we have -- we're not well versed into what works. >> right. >> you know, whether it's helping people with their, you know, their hospitals or -- >> right. >> -- or dealing with water problems and -- >> right. >> i think we buy a lot of goodwill with that. >> yeah. >> and we have more, that kind of instead of threatening and intimidating people -- >> yeah. >> -- you buy goodwill. but that's only one approach. we need somebody, a cultural approach that accommodates that. >> yeah, i agr. and the trick is how do you do that without looking like you're starting an empire. >> we handled that with the cold war.
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>> yeah. >> we were sort of, we knew that eventually the soviets would collapse. there was an internal -- >> right. >> it was eventually going to happen. >> right, right. >> he was off by a few years, but he basically got it all right. we just need that sort of cultural -- >> right, right. that's a great question. so one more quick thing. so if you had to pick partners or evaluate partners in the middle east, is this either side of the shiite/sunni split which is more likely to be able to deal with the west as a co-equal interest in the world, or are we dealing with, to some extent it feels at times, people who don't feel they can live on the same planet peacefully with us. >> right. >> so is there -- how do you parse that? >> it's very complicated today.
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we have, as a country, we are not really -- we're trying to avoid taking sides in this sunni/shia cold war. but both sides, but because we're not doing that, both sides distrust us. you know, when we signed, when we reached this nuclear agreement with iran, the saudi arabia and the sunnis immediately felt like we were selling them out. and then when we worked with the saudis in yemen, you know, that upsets the other side. so, you know, we are playing a really difficult balancing game that is -- i'm not -- i don't know how long we'll be able to sustain it, you know? >> well, i think we're at the end of our time, and i just really want to thank you. >> thanks for having me. >> this has just been, i think, a really fascinating discussion. [applause] again, thanks to the city of gaithersburg for doing that, and
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thank all of you for coming here and sitting and listening to this. and if you're interested in book signing, he's going to be signing books in tent a following this event. so thank you all. >> thank you. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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>> in about ten minutes, or the last panel discussion live from gaithersburg, maryland, will begin. it's a look at two women who cleared the way for female advancement in journalism and law. >> at a university or in the western world, not just the united states, if you believe that god created heaven and earth, that god is the source of thou shalt not murder -- not just reason -- you are considered a dummy. and that, that foolishness -- and that truly is foolish, because the deepest people i have ever met have
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overwhelmingly had a god-centered understanding of the world. that is now taken as a given, that if you believe something like that, you are intellectually suspect. so that's what's happened. >> host: when you hear somebody say i'm spiritual but not religious -- [laughter] >> guest: how do you know to ask me such good questions? i have done hours of radio just on that subject. it is, with all respect to people who say it, it is meaningless. it means i contemplate my navel in a sophisticated manner. it doesn't mean anything, i'm spiritual but not religious. what does it mean? if you have no religion, what do you have? spirituality? what does spirituality mean? that you believe that flowers are beautiful? that you believe that animals are loving? what does it mean? it doesn't mean anything. i know to the individual making it, it means something.
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but without religion, without a code -- religion gives you a code. religion gives you a set of beliefs. i don't care if you reject them, but at least you have to grapple with them. remember israel, which is the founding group of the old testament, means "struggle with god." and i take that seriously as a believer. i do struggle with god. when i see all the suffering in this world, the unjust suffering, when just thinking for a moment forgetting the obvious of your neighbor had pancreatic cancer at 32, but a whole country could north korea which is -- called north korea which is a human concentration camp, the way people live there and the hundred million of world war ii? i mean, you know, these things bother me. so i understand struggling with god as a believer. but i want the atheists to understand you have to struggle with god too. it's not enough. i was invited, to the great
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credit, the american atheists, they invited me to their annual convention, which was to their credit. and, to debate their head on god's existence. at one point i looked at the audience who were completely, by the way, decent to me and -- i can't complain at all, they were just fine. but i said to them at one moment would you raise your hand if you have ever seen a child born or listened to a bach partita or a mozart symphony or seen a van gogh painting or seen a sunset and said, you know, it's hard to believe that just happened on its own, maybe there is a god, not one hand went up. and then i looked at them and i said, you know, if i were to ask any religious audience have you ever seen a deformed baby and
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doubt canned god -- doubted god, raise your hand, everyone would have raised their hand. we believers struggle more than you atheists do. and you think you're the questioning ones. we're the questioning ones. >> you can watch this and other programs online at [inaudible conversations] >> we've been live all day from the seventh annual gaithersburg book festival out here on the city hall grounds. the final author talk begins in a few minutes live. we'll be right back. [inaudible conversations]
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>> here's a look at some upcoming book fairs and festivals happening around the country. the san francisco chronicle is hosting the bay area book festival in downtown berkeley, california, on the first weekend of june. later in june we head to chicago for live coverage of of the 32nd annual printers or row lit fest featuring seymour hirsh and sebastian younger. then in hyde park, new york, it's the roosevelt reading festival held at the presidential library and museum. and this year's harlem book fair will be held on july 16th. for more information about the book fairs and festivals booktv will be covering and to watch previous festival coverage, click on the book fairs tab on our web site, booktv according. >> here's a look at some authors recently featured on booktv's "after words," our weekly author interview program. don watkins, fellow at the ayn rand institute, argued that
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measures to alleviate income inequality actually end up hurting low income americans. peter marks remembered the career of the late aig ceo bob men mow shay who turned the company around during the height of the financial crisis. and aol co-founder steve case told us how emerging technologies are reshaping the internet. in the coming weeks on "after words," tamara drought will talk about america's new working class and their potential political power. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell will discuss how his political philosophy has informed his time in the senate. also coming up, senator barbara boxer of california will look back at her life and career in politics. and this weekend we weigh in on criminal justice reform and recall 19 years in prison. >> you know, what i try to get people to understand is really this book isn't about making excuses for the decisions i made. it's really about explaining
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what is happening to so many young men and women in communities where we don't talk about child abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse and the things that lead to us taking a path that we take. so i really wanted to be clear that this isn't about making excuses and to blame my mother would be the make an excuse. you know, i don't blame her. ultimately, i was the person that pulled the trigger or that night. >> "after words" with every saturday at 10 p.m. and sunday at 9 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous "after words" programs on our web site, [inaudible conversations] >> next up, live from the city hall grounds in gaithersburg, maryland, learn about two women who led the way for others in their field.
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>> good afternoon. this is going to be an exciting panel, and i'm glad you're here. this is the seventh annual gaithersburg festival. thank you, c-span, for covering it,ing and thank you to you all who braved the rain and the cold weather with even though we're almost in june. i'm cheryl kagan, and it's my honor to be the senator for gaithersburg and rockville in the state senate. on social media if you're following along at home, young tweet and we're also on instagram and facebook, so i'm delighted to have marlene trestman and john norris here. so our country is at the brink
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of possibly electing a first woman president, and none of that would be possible without some trailblazing women like the two who have been profiled in these wonderful books we're going to be talking about today. i had never heard of betsy before reading this book by marlene trestman. you're going to enjoy hearing more about her, about marlene and about betsy. she was a trailblazing lawyer, and you will hear over and over the first-ever or the only. beth is city manager -- betsy manager lin argued before the supreme court more than almost any other woman in the 20th century, she fought for overtime, for fair labor laws, for reasonable pay, against child labor. she also was at the tennessee valley authority working to bring jobs and power, electric power to the rural south. she went to work for the labor department.
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she went to nuremberg to help prosecute nazi war criminals. her story is incredible, and it started in an orphanage. and it started with some real challenges in her life. and her story would have been lost to history if it weren't for her protege, marlene trestman, who herself is an attorney in baltimore. she worked for three different attorney generals, attorneys general in maryland and actually helped transition our current attorney general, the wonderful brian frosh. she's done some remarkable work in the community, and this is her first book. it's new, it's hot off the press, and so i hope you all purchase both of these books. so i'd like to maximize our time with our authors. each of these two are going to talk a little bit about their subjects, talk a little bit about their journey, then i've got some questions, and then we'll open it up to audience questions. and so without further ado, i'd
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like to turn this over to first-time author marlene trestman. welcome. >> thank you, senator kagan. [applause] and it's -- thank you. thank you. and thank you all for braving the weather as well. i'm quite honored to be at the gaithersburg book festival as a first-time author, even to say that is quite exciting. and to be here in the presence of such wonderful and impressive authors. betty margolin, i'll start off by telling you a little bit about her. because to read something from my book would be meaningless when so few people have ever heard of this amazing woman. i like to think that we've all heard of and many of us love the notorious rbg. well, before there was a no to have yous rbg, there was an audacious betty margolin. and she was raised in a jewish orphanage in new orleans where she learned powerful lessons in
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social justice that shaped her into one of the 20th century's most influential attorneys. beginning in the 1930s, she earned rare law degrees for a woman from both tulane and yale and went on to leave her mark on some of the biggest issues of her day. she was the only woman on the brilliant legal team that brought and kept fdr's new deal alive. she was the defending the -- she was defending the constitutionality of the tennessee valley authority which was challenged as, basically, socialist by the, by the power companies who believed that government had no right in robbing them of their power, literally, over providing power to some of the most impoverished americans in the tennessee valley. from there she went to the labor department to give birth,
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essentially, to the brand i new law that had just been enacted, the fair labor standards act of 1938, and she was one of the i few women -- the few women, she was the only woman from the labor department who shepherded that law through the courts. and she was there in the labor department as every facet of that law was being challenged. and as we know, much of it continues to be challenged to this day. her only real time away from the labor department was six months when she was compelled to join a brand new and exciting legal pursuit. justice jackson had stepped down from the supreme court to become the u.s. chief prosecutor for nazi war crimes in nuremberg. bessie was drawn to this new and exciting challenge, and during those six months in nuremberg, germany be, following world war
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ii, was credited for drafting the rules under which more than 200 prosecutions were held -- trials were held, fair trials, of some of the second tier nazis, often the people that you've seen in movies. this is the stuff that the subsequent proceedings were made of. these were the doctors, the judges and the industrialists. she, at the labor department when she returned, she -- when ruth bader was only 12 years old, bessie had already argued and won her first case at the supreme court and went on in her career to win 21 of 24 cases that she argued at the supreme court all to protect the wage and hour rights of american workers. and she was one of only three women in the 20th century to
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argue two dozen times at the u.s. supreme court. she also championed equal pay. she oversaw the strategyings and -- strategies and personally argued the first appeals in those cases and was a founder of n.o.w. she knew all about the feminine mystique and how to lean in long before those books were ever written. and if you think she had, if you think she was all work and no play, think again. [laughter] bessie's penchant for passion sparked a federal investigation and likely cost her a federal judgeship. but the story that i bring to this is a little more personal. i got to know bessie margolin. she was a friend and, in many ways, a mentor to me. i was orphaned at age 11 and was
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a ward of the very same jewell fare agency -- jewish welfare agency that raised bessie. and because of that, i got to know her during my time in college, law school at gw and into my own legal career with the state of maryland protecting public health. so i'm thrilled to restore her to her rightful place in history, and i'm happy when we're done to answer any questions you have about the process and more about her. in short, the two things i'd like you to know about the book are that, one, it really is a tribute to government lawyers and government employees. many people believe that laws are simply enacted, and the battle is done. and with all due respect to our legislator who is our moderator -- [laughter] but those in government service understand the incremental baby
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steps that occurred only after a law -- occur only after a law is passed to put it into action and that no law is ever stronger by its failure to be enforced. so in many ways, i hope that all federal employees, government workers appreciate that bessie margolin represents excellence in public service. so thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you for writing a book about a woman, a hero that a lot of us would never have heard about without your hard work. marlene is on twitter @marlenetrestman if you'd like to follow and tweet about her. and john norris. john underscore norris, not as easy to find, but worth finding and worth reading.
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as much as bessie margolin is a new name to a lot of us, mary mcgrory is not. i'm not sure how many of you, like me, grew up following mary mcgrory's pithy, incredibly insightful, well-written columns in, first, in the washington star and then in "the washington post." she was great at educating, enlightening and holding accountable our government leaders and others. she also wrote about squirrels and cooking, and she had a whimsical piece, side of her as well. in -- i just have a very quick personal story because in 2001, the summer of 2001 i was talking to my friend, bob asher, and singing mary mcgrory's praises, and he said, well, you should call her up and introduce yourself. i was in the house of delegates at the time, and she generously invited me to lunch. and i was so nervous because i just didn't know what to say to
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the awesome mary mcgrory, that i invited a reporter friend to go with me because i thought he could handle the conversation if i got too tongue tied. so i have wonderful memories of having had a lovely lunch with her in july of 2001. and so it was really a treat to read john norris' book about mary. john norris is the executive director of the sustainable security and peacebuildinging initiative at the american progress, so that's long enough that i just wanted to read that. he's been an author as well as a policy guy. he has been published in "the washington post", in politico and elsewhere. he, he had to go through 166 boxes of mary mcgrory's papers at the, in the congressional archives at the library of congress and interviewed countless people. he had a lot more resources than marlene had when she was starting her book. and so john norris, welcome. thank you, and tell us more
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about mary mcgrory, please. >> thank you, cheryl. it's a pleasure to be here today. it's great to appear with marlene. the subjects of our biographies actually have a lot in common once you kind of dissect them a bit. by almost any accounting, mary mcgrower was one of the most important -- mcgrory was one of the most important journalists of the last hundred years. she was the first woman to win a pulitzer prize for commentary. her columns appeared in 200 papers around the country for the better part of a half century. she was one of the most important liberal voices in american political debate. she appeared on nixon's infamous enemies list with two stars and an asterisk by her name -- [laughter] which she always said was one of the greatest honors she'd ever been accorded during her lengthy career. [laughter] so there's a lot there to begin with. but as with marlene and bessie, one of the things that really struck me about mary was almost the virtual impossibility of her emerging as the person she
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became. she grew up in a lower middle class family in boston. she was the first one in her family to graduate from college. she grew up in boston at a time when if you were a bright, young girl, your career choices were you could be a nurse, you could be a teacher, or you could be a nun. [laughter] and that was really about as wide as the horizons were expected. when she said that she wanted to go into the newspaper business, she fell in love with a cartoon character, jane arden, that ran in comic strips around the time, kind of the forerunner to brenda starr, and people thought it was just unacceptable, that newspapers were not the place for a proper young woman. as the author, eric halterman put it, journalists were seen as a career for those with insufficient imagination to be winos or gangsters. [laughter] but mary kept at it. she broke into the book review department at the boston herald
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traveler. she labored away in the book review department both in, at the traveler, then the washington star here in washington washington, d.c. for a good number of years, for 13 years. she wanted to cover politics. and for anybody who had the pleasure of meeting her later in life, it's fairly amusing that her editor at the time said, well, mary, we think you're too shy to cover politics. [laughter] which i imagine the presidents whom she subsequently terrorized fairly regularly with her columns would find that somewhat ironic. mary got her big breakthrough with the army mccarthy hearing. her editor at the time sat her down, and asked her a question that would send any head of a modern human rights or human resources department running from the room screaming. he began the conversation by saying, mary, you don't plan on getting married or having kids anytime soon, do you? because if you're not, we might
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give you more to do here at the newspaper. she said she'd like to at some point, but didn't have any immediate plans. so her editor asked her to add humor and flair and color to the news pages and sent her to cover the mccarthy hearings. it was an amazing step onto a very big stage. she produced a column for every single day of the hearings. it became a national sensation almost overnight be in large part because mary's style was really extraordinarily brave. this was at a point when mccarthy had destroyed the career of innumerable journalists and state department officials and people in the u.s. military. mary could have played it safe, she could have played it easy. she described mccarthy as a bully. she said that she'd seen his like at weddings and wakes back in her hometown of boston her whole life and called it like she saw it. she did so in tones and a
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writing style that was really revolutionary for the time. it was very conversational. she had a wicked sense of humor. she poked fun at people, and she talked about the politician and personalities of politicians as easily as we talk about relatives and friends around the kitchen table at the end of a long day. and that was really unheard of at the time. she combined what we think of traditional column writing with a style of a police beat reporter. she was relentless in making the rounds. she would be out there on the campaign plane, she'd be out there at congressional hearings. she insisted if she couldn't see a subject with her own eyes, she couldn't cover it properly. and it became very much of a lightning rod for opinion in this town. she got, in just a couple of weeks of covering army mccarthy, she got more letters than she had in her entire career as a book reviewer.
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people wanted to take her out to dinner, people wanted to bring her home, people wanted to denounce her, throw her behind bars, they questioned her ancestry. it was really a remarkable reaction. shortly after that she was featured in time magazine. and, again, to speak to the sexism of the day, there's a fascinating back and fort in the correspondence, she had to go to extraordinary lengths to talk the time editors out of not describing her as washington's top news hen. and they couldn't really understand why a woman would not particularly want to be described as a top news hen. she did eventually, she went into syndication not long after. she was offered a job at "the new york times" by famed washington bureau chief scotty resten. but scotty resten, when he offered her a job, unlike the male reporters, he wondered if perhaps she could help cover the phones in the morning. she was somewhat insubstituted -- insulted by that and stayed at the washington star, understandably. it was a time when marriage was
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a career-ending proposal for reporters. there were a number of women at "the new york times" who went so far as to conceal their marriages to they wouldn't be fired as reporters -- so they wouldn't be fired as reporters. and again and again it was made clear to mary she had a choice, she could get married or have a career. she chose to have a career, but it was a very difficult choice for her, and i think it really speaks to her importance as a trailblazing columnist and a trailblazing woman. she covered the kennedy years with incredible verve. she knew jack and bobby very well. they were friends. they came from boston. she loved them. they butted heads. it really felt like a family relationship in a lot of ways. her kennedy -- her column on jfk's funeral, the series of columns she wrote after his assassination are still some of the finest columns we've seen in american political writing in the last hundred years. they're still taught in
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journalism classes as really an example of how to get your opinion across and do it well. you know, and mary -- because she was a somewhat nontraditional columnist -- her work usually appeared on the first or third page of the newspaper. and she saw it as her job to blend commentary and hard reporting in a way that we're quite used to now but was really revolutionary at the time. and she had remarkable access throughout her career. she was behind the scenes, she was in the hotel suites of presidential candidates. she became one of the leading voices speaking out against the vietnam war at a time when the eastern establishment was fairly mum on it. she became a hero to the youth movement and the student movement opposed to the war. they really were amazingly odd bedfellows, that they didn't know what to do with this woman with perfect diction who wore chanel suits and spoke in almost
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victorian english. but she loved their cause, and they loved that she was highlighting their cause. she became really instrumental in trying to push bobby kennedy into the presidential race in 1968 to stand up against vietnam there was an amazing transcript of her interview with bobby in november of 1968 that really highlights she really crossed a lot of boundaries of what we'd think of from a traditional journalist. she sat down and instead of asking bobby do you plan to run she said point-blank, bobby, you need to run. you need to end this war, you need to stand up to president johnson, and you need to speak out. they had a very difficult conversation. bobby said that -- well, most of his family agreed with her. he couldn't do it, he thought it would split the party. and mary became quite close to gene mccarthy in his insurgent campaign against johnson after that. but one of my favorite exchanges between mary and bobby came the
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day of the tet offensive. bobby had held a press breakfast in washington, d.c. where he made his famous somewhat shermanesque statement where he couldn't imagine any situation where he would run against lbj. bobby was not aware that at that exact moment the tet offensive was unfolding. so when the story ran in the newspaper later in the day, it made it sound like bobby was saying despite the tet offensive, there were no conditions under which he could imagine running against lbj. mary, incensed at seeing this in the newspaper, sent bobby kennedy a telegram that said, in full: apparently, st. patrick did not drive all the snakes out of ireland. [laughter] you know, and this was the point where bobby was the most feared political enforcer in the united states. and mary was absolutely comfortable going toe to toe with the guy and telling him exactly what she thought. one of bob pie's aide -- bobby's
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aides said, well, that's it, we've lost mary. and interestingly, bobby said, no, no, this is a family thing, this is an irish thing, we'll get it sorted out. and they did in the end, in a way. but mary had a remarkable career spanning more than five decades covering every presidential campaign during that period. she was an incendiary talent. she changed how we write, how we think about politicians and what we expect in terms of coverage. and she led a fantastic life that i think as a writer you're attracted to good stories, and you're attracted to really good lives, and mary certainly led one. thanks. >> thank you, john norris, marlene trestman, for those great -- [applause] glimpses into these two remarkable women. both of these authors knew their subjects personally, and so i read them both as really love letters to these two dynamic, amazing women. so when we talk about women trailblazers, i was struck by a couple of things.
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first off, they were both important and hampered by both their gender and their faith. mary mcgrory was catholic when that wasn't so common and, obviously, the jfk, you know, as our first catholic president. and then bessie margolin because she was jewish. so they both dealt with both faith and gender issues. but i'd love to know for all of their accomplishments during their time at the cutting 'em, i wonder if you could give just one or two brief examples of the impact that their work has had on impact today. and, marlene, why don't we start with you. >> absolutely. thank you. there's so many ways. very specifically in the law bessie argued and won the first equal pay act case that went to an appellate court, and it set the standard that continues to this day. and that is that work need only be substantially equal and not
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identical to warrant equal pay under the act. that seems so common sense, and that was a piece of litigation that took years of hotly-contested litigation to establish. in other ways bessie was a real supporter of men and women of talent. and the people whose careers she nurtured and helped and shaped continue to this day. one of her most important proteges, karen klaus, went on to become the first woman labor solicitor. and i remember when bessie introduced me to her when i was in law school. so i, too, personally have been shaped by the kind of inspiring life that bessie led. she literally opened courtroom doors for every woman who followed. she at the time, especially in the tennessee valley authority
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in the 1930s, there was fierce opposition to a woman appearing in a courtroom. and the opposition would come not only from lawyers, but from the bench, from the judges and often from witnesses who did not take kindly to having a woman there. so opening those doors. and she did it with such dignity and elegance. there she was representing the people in the jobs that make our lives; meat cutters and log cutters and vegetable packers. and she did it in well-tailored suits and finely-manicured nails to make sure that these people's jobs and the law that congress passed would be respected. so there are very many ways. >> john -- [inaudible] >> yeah. in mary's case i think, clearly, without mary's work and her career, you know, we wouldn't
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have enjoyed the samework from molly ivins and gayle kohl license and maureen dowd, anna wind lin, a whole generation of really good yous. -- writers. i think for a lot of editors the idea that a woman can write as well as a man, if not better, and cover politics as well as a man was really shocking. you know? and newbie noise of the washington star took a lot of grief from his fellow editors and colleagues at ore newspapers that he would send a woman out to do this work. but again, they both are -- both our subjects had a penchant for looking quite stylish and being very pulled together. but at the same time, mary could -- she liked to drink scotch, she smoked cigarettes, and she could talk politics like an old boston hand. and i think that rather favorably impressed her subjects, that she could recite yates from memory -- cretes from
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memory and was quite literate in her writing style. one of the editors at the star laughed after one of mary's columns saying it was the first time per cleese has made it on the front page of the star in some time. [laughter] but the fact she was out there day in, day out, she wrote 3,000 columns -- 8,000 columns in her career. that is an amazing amount of production. for those 8,000 columns she missed a grand total of one deadline when she was stuck on a tarmac, you know? and i think there is not an editor alive who wouldn't take a really good political reporter who can produce 8,000 columns and miss one deadline. >> thank you. i was just going to follow up, if i could. i think the other thing that both mary and bessie had in common and had to was that they were able to endear themselves to the men around them. the only reason that they were able to succeed was that they could win the respect of people around them by, perhaps, doing more, doing better.
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and just like mary, bessie played at the tva weekly poker games. she was, certainly, no -- she was well acquainted with a cocktail. and those were important ways to make sure that she was where conversations were being had, that she could be at the table and be given the assignment and the trust of people she needed to champion her to get assignments for the supreme court and to be in the places she was. >> so both mary mcgrory and bessie margolin were at the cutting edge. quick research, i found rather than just one in even newsroom, 37% of journalists are women, and 34%, according to the bar association just a couple years ago, 34% of lawyers are women. so so we're making progress, and it's in large part in thanks to women like this who helped lead the way. i wonder if each of you could tell us about the choices each
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of them had to make, and each of you referenced it a little, between their personal lives and their professional lives, the sexism they encountered and the choices they had to make in their personal life and their career. and they dealt with it quite differently. john, why don't you go first? >> yeah. as i said, it was very much a choice, career or romance, for mary. she was extraordinarily secretive about her romantic life both because she saw it as a potential jeopardy to her career and also because she was quite religious in a lot of ways. and i think it was always very hard for her. for one of the reasons, it's till very hard today that, you know, a lot of men would be intimidated by the idea of romancing a woman whose byline was bigger than their own. [laughter] and that sense of having to get along with the men and kind of be charming and flirtatious really was important. and i think it's very hard for a lot of modern feminists to kind of understand that these women
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figured out a way to the get by with the hand that they were dealt. and for mary that moment a lot of times talking to politicians and saying, you know, could you help me understand this, senator, a little better? this is so complicated, you know? and then the senator would open up the paper the next day and be, like, oh, my god, i can't believe i said that to her. [laughter] and again and again they would fall for the same trick. >> [inaudible] >> it does totally serve them right. you know, and that combination of being beguiling and being one of the few women out there and being literate and being able to drink and smoke made mary enormously attractive to a whole generation of politicians. and one of the most famous incidents was manufacturely was at home in her -- famous incidents, mary was at home and she got a call in the early evening. the person identified themselves as secret service and said that
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president johnson was just about to stop by. mary naturally assumed it was one of her colleagues yanking her chain and said, sure, sure, president johnson's going to stop by. she looked out her door, and there were two agents posted at the elevator. she furiously cleaned up her apartment. they had a couple drinks, and then president johnson in what, for me, will go down as some of the worst pick-up lines in human history -- [laughter] said to mary, you know, i'm craze i city about you -- crazy about you, i want to be with you. i know you loved jack kennedy, now you should love me. you know, i can't really see that working on a lot of people -- [laughter] but it definitely would not work on mary mcgrory. so so this identity and wanting to be attractive and engaging to men knowing that you had to keep them at a certain arm's length, i think, really played an enormous role in her life and career. >> from bessie's perspective, an
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interesting link is, as john talked about mary being essentially asked to pledge that she would not marry to get the job at the post, bessie very similarly in 1933, to get the job that she had, you know, a doctorate in law from yale. she was top of her class at the tulane. she had references from the future supreme court justice william o. douglas who was her professor at yale. but to get the job at the tva, one of her big supporters at yale wrote a letter and said what he knew tva needed to hear to hire a woman, its first, and what would be its last woman for the next 20 years, woman lawyer, was that she would not be deflected by considerations of marriage. and so she began a federal government career with a pledge that she would be married to her job instead of a woman. but as it turns out with bessie,
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interestingly -- and maybe this human quality that endears her to me and certainly nothing be i knew when i knew her personally -- was this penchant for passion. having decided the only way to be a woman lawyer in the 1930s when 2% of america's lawyers were women was that she could not be married. but the men she was most attracted to were men of her intellectual capacity, men who shared her progressive spirit, their attitude toward the new deal and who were they? the people she worked with. and most of the people she worked with happened to be married and probably had children. so in her case, this very human decision to fall in love with her boss at the tva later became fodder for a very nasty congressional investigation of the fcc where her boss later went to work.
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and it's interesting that the mccarthy time period gave rise to some of mary's most challenging as well as her biggest supports and her challenges. but it was all caught up in that same fear of reds and congressmen who accused the fcc as being a nasty nest of communists. but what saved her -- and, again, the interesting overlap, and we'll have to talk more about this -- it was actually lyndon johnson and sam rayburn, young congressman at the time, who saved bessie and her boss, larry fly, when rayburn and lbj got word that this congressman was going to be asking her boss publicly, in congress, about their affair which was to be alleged to be costing the government honeymoon trips, the word got back through lbj and sam rayburn, quote: there
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anticipate going to be no sex in -- there ain't going to be no sex in this investigation. there's too damn many of us that are vulnerable on that score, end quote. [laughter] [applause] so the investigation and the romance had other repercussions including what i think may have cost her a federal judgeship. she had other challenges including her age which was really a more gender and age combination because although a young white house staffer said that her age, 58, might tend to disqualify her from consideration for a federal judgeship, she watched as men were placed into 15 federal judicial vacancies and 6 of them were older than she was. so lots of challenges and amazing that both of these women got as far as they did. >> and we would both like to thank lbj for just being so
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fantastically quotable throughout. [laughter] >> i have a lot more questions that i'd like to ask, but i want to make sure that we have an opportunity for our audience members. so while you continue to think, i'm going to toss one more question out there, and then we'll take questions from the audience. in the meantime, for those following along at c-span or here in the audience, @gburg book fest is newly on twitter and i'm sorry gram. so please feel free to tweet your thoughts. i would like to ask the two of you to speak as authors for a moment. you had very different challenges. marlene, you had almost no original source materials to work with and, i don't know, you had such -- and, john, you had such a plethora of it. i wonder if each of you could talk about the process, the challenges in writing these books, how long it took you and anything you were surprised to learn.
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marlene, why don't you start this time. >> i'll try to to do this quick. as i just told john, the first time i ever spoke publicly about bessie as someone important in my life was in 1993, and that was a long time ago. it wasn't until about 2005 when i had failed to find any real author or biographer to do this work that i realized it was going to fall on me. for bessie, she never gave an oral history. i could never find that she was ever asked to give one, although almost every counterpart at the tva and at the labor department and in her other facets had been, had given them. she may have declined, but i never found an indication that she gave one, and she didn't give one. she kept no journals. she had no scrapbooks. and so what i had were her, essentially, papers that came home with her from the labor department that her nephew who
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later became the executor of her estate had kept and a small collection of personal papers, many with addresses ripped off so that i couldn't tell who they were from or to. and often where the writer would use an initial for a name. but by scrutinizing handwriting and figuring out the dates and the context, i put those together. the last thing that saved me were wonderful people eager to talk about bessie margolin and her legacy, a all of whom felt a debt of gratitude to her. and then finally, i had to look and was lucky to find bessie's needles in famous people's haystackings. so in william o. douglas' papers, it's not as if there was a, hi, i'm a bessie margolin file, but in the miscellaneous correspondence m, i just kept looking and hoping there'd be a
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margolin, and i found that in the papers of earl warren, robert h. jackson, on and on. so needles in haystacks. >> [inaudible] be clear for those who may not know those two names. >> yes. >> it took me about five years to write the book. got a full-time job and three little kids in addition, so i think that's certainly defensible. yeah, and i suffered the opposite blessing, as it were. 162 boxes of materials in the library of congress, 8,000 columns. mary responded to every letter she ever received as a columnist as long as it did not include profanity. so there was enormous material there. 60 or 70 interviews. at one point when i was midstream, i had a book that was three times length that it ended up. and, you know, it did allow me a certain luxury in being able to really find those stories that i thought were most indicative of her as a person and really illuminated her story.
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and she lived til she was in her mid 80s, so it covered an enormous swath of not only journalism, but contemporary american history and a lot of changes for women in the business. so trying to boil it all down to its essential elements was one of the real challenges in writing it. >> thank you. let's take a question or two from the audience. we've got a mic here that can come to you if you want to raise your hand. of course it's going to be all the way across the way. >> sorry if i missed this, but i'm curious, john norris, who led you to write about a female journalist. >> yeah. you know -- >> [inaudible] >> i had the good pleasure to know mary when she was alive. we weren't best friends, but i went to a couple of her social gatherings. they were a total hoot. people drank too much, and it was a mix of senators and anchormen and copy boys and nuns and really eclectic mix. like lots of folks, i got dragged into helping do
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volunteer -- volunteer in quotation marks -- work at a local orphanage. she helped out at st. anne's orphanage for over 50 years, almost every week of her 50 years of volunteering there. and the more i got to know her it just struck me as a wonderful story of somebody who had ridsen up from -- risen up from very humble beginnings but also the strength of her personality. every single person was like, oh, of course you're writing a biography about mary, you should do that, which helped convince me i was on the right track. >> over here. >> so, actually, one of my questions -- if you all want to keep thinking -- one of my questions was actually about the orphanages, because it was an instrumental part, a fundamental part in both these women's lives. bessie grew up in an orphanage and was very shaped and given leadership opportunities. she and her brother and sister or were both there. and then mary's devotion to the kids at st. anne's orphanage,
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even bringing the kids each year for a christmas party and to hickory hill at robert kennedy's home and elsewhere. can you talk about how you think that shaped each of the women? marlene? >> in bessie's case she was very fortunate that when misfortune struck and her mother died when the family was living in memphis, that there was and had been for nearly half a century or more a jewish orphanage in new orleans that accepted children from throughout the south. and so bessie's life there was not in the dickensian sense of ap orphan life. this was an extraordinary institution where some very well-established jews in new orleans really doted on these children. they wanted them to become american jews, patriotic, self-sufficient, american jews
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that would actually bring honor to their prosperous benefactors. so very little was spared for these children. bessie was given the finest education, one of the most prestigious schools to this day in new orleans was founded to educate the jewish orphans in this home. and bessie, fortunately, excelled in every academic subject, was on the debate team, was girls' student council president, and it shaped her both in terms of giving her these opportunities, but also with instilled this be her and many other of the children who lived there a sense of social justice. they were raised in reformed judaism which has as its backbone a mission, essentially, of repairing the world and of social justice. even though bessie did not in adult life practice what many would think are the rituals of
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traditional orthodox judaism, she very much identified culturally in her judaism and fulfilled that social justice mission. she also, i think, took to heart very closely what was going on in nuremberg to bring to justice the nazi war criminals she, the first american-born daughter of russian jewish immigrants. >> yeah. and for mary helping out at st. anne's was, it was the right thing to do. she cared about the kids, in some ways it almost became a surrogate family for her. she read to the kids, she made very large charitable donations as a percentage of her salary. she helped the taffe there go on -- the staff there go on to get educations of their own. she just poured her heart into it. she dragged her entire circle of friends in to help out, and it was really meaningful for her. one of my favorite bits came when richard nixon decided that
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he was going to crack down on his enemies, and he had made the decision that he would sic the irs on a number of people including mary. mary's returns were audited for three years in a row x. in a sign of how badly richard nixon misunderstood his challengers, mary ended up getting a larger refund because she'd understated her charitable giving to an orphanage, you know? [laughter] what better clash of cultures can we ask for than that? >> we have a question from the audience. sir? >> yes. it seems to me there's a common thread that's running between the two people that are being discussed, and at the same time, i have read some of the writings of bessie from the standpoint of legal documents and that kind of thing which are not easy to glean the personal writing styles or anything else except competency.
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and mary mcgrory, she apparently went into the competency and dug into the ability to, you know, know people, get the stories and some of the things that you indicated. and as authors yourself, it seems to me the core thing that held these two people in esteem, high esteem -- and, yes, they were females -- but the thing that held them in high esteem was their ability to write, their ability to the communicate through the written word versus just the social graces that they had in their different areas. now, as authors, i'd just like your thoughts on whether or not that was some of the core idea. >> thank you, sir. >> yes, thank you, that's a very interesting question. bessie's best writing as a lawyer did not have a style other than excellence.
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everyone who worked with her talked about how she would make them sweat over finding the right word and the simplest word. her oral communications, for example, at the supreme court as well. interestingly, she was no great, smooth orator. she often edited her sentences as she spoke. but the justices listened to her because they knew and appreciated her meticulous preparation. and with each case, her growing encyclopedic knowledge of the fair labor standards act and every legislative bit of history that went with it. i wouldn't say she had a style other than powerful and met as a lawyer the needs of that case. but her speaking style was one that was quite comfortable, very
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>> other thing that's important about her writing and not only help her survive but really flourish is an opinion writer is i read 8,000 clums of hers not one ended with on the other hand.
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not one ended with only time will tell. not we shall see. you knew what mare thought when she wrote. there was no real reliance on anonymous background quote. it was all very above and very clear, and you came away knowing exactly where she stood on an issue. and her famous columns about richard nixon and impeachment and loss about the california race, kennedy funeral. september 11th were all public events things that we can see with our own eyes, and that we recognize. but she still was able to take things that we saw with her eyes and breathe life, and life and understanding into them. that's a real skills as a writer. >> in the audience -- yes, ma'am. >> hi. friend of mine when she worked to the general office, i have
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read your book now. i'm looking forward to yours. one thing that i notice somewhat in reading about especially was that she didn't seem initially to really be into the feminist people pay so many things that i'm a woman and -- she delft developed into that and speak on that. >> that's right even though reading -- following her life, she epitomizes the feminist movement she was a woman who simply wanted to be the best lawyer she could be. that's the ultimate goal of every feminist to be treated equally. it really didn't become an issue as to what she was until she was enforcing the equal pay act and people started asking her where she stood. and even after she helped found now, she would tell the press, i've never been a feminist but i'm becoming one now that i see
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the discrimination that women face in their pay, i had no choice but to become one. it is interesting she alwayses was one, and for someone who had such a flair for words, i find it funny that she never really stopped to think as many people -- often fail to do as with what does the word mean? they're reluctant to proclaim themselves a feminist without ever really understanding that it's equality. >> you know, i think this is true for a whole -- series of women trail blazers that they don't tend to identify themselves necessarily as feminists. you know, i think there's some really goods reasons for it. you know, certainly in mary's case, if there was another woman being brought into the newsroom, for a good chunk of her career, she was probably concerned that there would be brought into replace. you know, the columnist anna
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quindlen preserved of a newsroom quickly figured out there was a quota for women in the newsroom and that was one. so if another woman showed up, pretty good chance that she was there to -- for an editor to position her to take your job, and fact that they were pitted against you have often. trail blazers is guyses, gals because that aloud them to peak on that landscape. you know, what, i think that they're so focused on having to do what they do at a higher level of performance in the men that they're around that kind of weighing in on a whole generation of landscape eve women access to their field. feels extraneous something that might further be held against you. you know, mary had was approached by bella in the early 70s, very pioneer feminist
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congresswoman from new york, and have said that she was forming national woman's coalition and eager to have mary join and mary said that's great. thing we need to do is go on on the war. we're worried because that would alienate some of the particularly republican women and mary said if they're not going out against the war what good is a group of women for so there are questions about how they saw them in their place but for me the bottom line wases you know it's easy to look back and say that women particularly in roles should have been more outspoken and should have kind of -- spoken out more heavily in favor of their gender. but i think anybody who gets there first and does it really well, you've got to respect them for that. >> funny story -- more questions i want to make sure are there more questions in the audience? i'm really curious about
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venturing and best city and mary as a mentor and protege, you wrote about being curmudgeon but she had a fun spot. bessy was your mentor speak about that. why "don't ask, don't tell" you start? >> within mary wasn't a mentor e classic sense. she wanted to see young writers do well. she did kind of provide safe haven to a whole generation of boston political writers who relocated to washington if you were a good boston irish special place in her heart had for you. but you know, that she expected particularly women in the newsroom, to do well. to work hard. that she would send nice notes speak out on their behalf . she was more of someone who could demonstrate what needed to be done than necessarily somebody who would take you under their wing, i think for a whole generation of women
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reporters who worked around her for worked her at the star. you know, sheftion she was more of a mother superior figure than nestle them under her wing. toll someone who didn't know her impurous in her demeanor and when board proved herself or o part of her appellate in litigation section that had they earned her respect. she did, however, really extend herself to training and development of lawyers. she not only positioned herself to be the in-house person who would bring up new attorneys on both appellate advocacy and brief writing and there are countless lawyers that i interviewed who each would say
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they learned everything they know about brief writing and appellate advocacy, oral advocacy from bessy but she to others who department know her one gentleman wrote it was years before she acknowledged him passing in the hall in labor department, and it was only when he was assigned a brief to write that they began a relationship, and she would address him by naming. i actually thinks it was on her part she was not a frivolous person and wouldn't extend herself without reason. but she wases quite generous. my relationship with her was far more personal and friendly. it was very little other than some wonderful introductions to other lawyers. and i was reminded in her paper, that she actually wrote two of my reference letters. [laughter]
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two letters to become admitted -- [train] [laughter] to maryland in d.c. bars. but i do think there was a soft side to her. she saw a little bit of herself in me as that little girl from new orleans and i'm going to stop now to let the train pass. [laughter] >> there another audience question? okay. so we're going to wrap up in a couple min minutes but i'd like each of you to take the opportunity to tell your favorite story that you haven't referenced yet like one a piece. think about that. john norris why "don't ask, don't don't you lead off. >> a lot to use from with mary. one of my favorites was that she was at a washington gala convention center thing. a young john kerry and vietnam
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war protester back fresh from vietnam. she was eager to kind of hustle them across the room, and she was stopped by an administration official who kind of wore on and on as she was trying to get out of the building. finally she said you were a secretary of transportation are. where are the elevators? you know, and mary is willingness to pop the balloon of the gray and mighty in washington is something that we all appreciated. >> of course they all escape from mind at that point. but i'll relate that one of her earliest supreme court arguments and this became sort of a moment for many of her protege in the labor department she became assigned her second and third argument largely because -- [laughter]
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[train] because of the laryngitis the last minute laryngitis of the lawyer from the solicitor general office who is scheduled to argue. bessy had written the brief an shaped the brief. she got a call, 10 a.m., the morning of the supreme court argument. she knew she was arguing one case, and so importantly she was wearing the appropriate attire which otherwise could have been a for her going forward that day but told at 10:00 that morning that two hours later she'd be arguing a second supreme court argument that day. she won that case as it turned out and lost the other. but what had it showed was that she forever used that as an argument to her lawyers always be prepared.
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>> the great story we have two minutes left, i wanted to thank everybody for being at the 7th annual book festival. please check john norris hold it up please about crime, journalist mary, john is at twitter welcome at john underbar 8 underbar norris on twitter and the book about mary the delightful read about history and journalism. and marlene is at marlene trestman on twitter about bessy will inspire you, and cause us to all be indebted for places that we are now injustice in our labor law, and elsewhere because of her long career. so check out their book. check them out on social media. come next year to at cburg book fest and come here in personal.
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maryland is a great place to visit, to live, to work and to read books. thanks to you, thanks to john norris and marlene for this wonderful book. [applause] ♪ [inaudible] >> and that's it for the 7th annual gaithersburg book festival on booktv. you can watch everything you saw again here tonight starting at midnight. or o online at >> c-span, created


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