tv Book Discussion on Choosing the Hero CSPAN August 14, 2016 12:00am-12:46am EDT
know. we didn't get married for a long time. i was putting off so many things because i was kind of in their lives. so by the time i went to write "enter helen" i wanted to be immersed in it but have my own life. i would like to have my own life back, please. [laughter] so that's kind of how that -- it was partly, you know, a great subject and then also partly practical. something i could do.
[applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> when i tune in on the weekends it's usually authors sharing their new releases. >> watching not action authors on but tv is the best television for readers. >> on c-span they can have a longer conversation and tell them to their subject. >> look tv weekends, they bring you author after author after author and spotlight the work of fascinating people. >> i look look tv and i'm a
c-span fan. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> thank you all for being so patient. i am bradley graham, i'm the co-owner of potent and prose along with my wife lisa muscatine and on behalf of and hires staff thank you for coming out on this afternoon. a crook few quick administrative notes. now would be a good time to turn off any cell phones or anything anything that might go beep. when we get to the q&a part of the session because we are recording this for our youtube
channel and c-span booktv is here, we would appreciate it if you have a question if he you would step up to this microphone here so i can be recorded and also heard by everybody else in the audience and at the end for those of you have been to our offense before we like to ask you to fold up your chairs, well don't do that today because we have another event coming up. it's not often that we have a head of state here at politics and prose. in fact it's pretty rare and at the moment it's still. rare because she is not with us yet. [laughter] but she is on her way with an escort so she should be here shortly and we thought we should just get underway. we do feel very privileged when she is here to welcome president
sirleaf of liberia. it was just over a decade ago in 2005 president sirleaf became the first woman in modern african history to be elected head of state. she is widely credited with ushering her country into a state of peace after years of brutal civil war. educated in the united states including a master's degree from harvard president sirleaf was in and out of her native country several times earlier in her career as a result of the political upheavals there. she was minister of finance in 1980 and within a few months she went to exile and she turned out to be over years a series of international development positions with the world bank, citibank, hsbc and the united nations. returning to liberia in 1985 she ran for senate seat but after
speaking out against those military regime she landed in jail and again fled the country. back once more a decade later she ran unsuccessfully for president against the warlord charles taylor and then again when to exile with the transition to democracy in the general elections of 2005 and she ran the second time for president and one in a runoff. taking charge of a nation shattered by years of civil strife and grappling with burdens of widespread poverty. she was reelected in 2011, the same year that she shared the nobel peace prize with two other courageous women, all recognized for their quote nonviolent struggle, the safety of women for women's rights for full participation in peacebuilding work. her story is told in a new book, "choosing the hero" by k. riva
levinson who is also a featured guest here this afternoon and i'm happy to say is actually here at the moment. as head of cairo international communications and government relations she represents a daring interest and has served as a longtime adviser to president sirleaf. three of us those career as a strategist on international issues began redirected to go after she talked her way into a job at a political public relations firm founded by among others paul manafort, guess that paul manafort. at that initial and therefore -- interview she told mena forte and she has been globetrotting ever since. she has been involved in a number of complex and sensitive arctics around the world but much of her work has focused on africa. in choosing the hero she leaves her story together with president sirleaf's and offers
an instructive tale of an international friendship and achievement. by the way i would like to note that also here today is joyce bond bond of the former president of malawi. [applause] and liberia's ambassador to the united states. [applause] and now please join me in welcoming riva levinson. [applause] >> good afternoon. a great crowd, thank you for being here. madam president it's about five to 10 minutes or so we'll have to be a bit flexible. i'm going to start and stop so we will move that way. i wanted to say that it's an honor to be here today, introduced by brad graham and eventually alongside madam
president with my american family and my librarian family and in the company of so many friends and colleagues who i have worked with over nearly two decades and supported the people of liberia and allen johnson's sirleaf and special thanks to my husband jeff and my daughter kylie and my son andrew. you guys are everything to me and also to my work-family, k. r. allen treman national into the remarkable team that brought my book to life. there are so many reasons i wanted to write this book but i'm here today for the sake of time and running 30 minutes late i'm going to focus on three. the first one is that as brad said i. >> nearly three decades traveling the world to some of its most inhospitable places often in times of conflict,
somalia, angola, iraq and liberia. these were the frontlines of history and i bore witness and any of the people who i had come to know and befriend did not live to fight another day and i needed to make sense of it all. how might -- how would my work be judged and by whom? this book helps make sense of it all. second, i wanted the world to know allen johnson sirleaf who hopefully will be here soon not as madam president or the first woman elected to lead and an african nation, not as the presidential medal of freedom winner or the low bell -- nobel laureate that the person under all those titles underneath all of those accolades to know her humanity, to meet the grandmother, to meet the mom, the sister, the ant, the friend, the woman who i came to work
with in february of 1997 when everything was lined up against her. her own countrymen, the african regional players, the international community and yes the u.s. government was against her as well. even her own family who will be coming in with her including her grandchildren had hoped she would relent because rightfully they feared for her safety but she was seized with her mission in life, her calling to be bring peace to our country liberia. she was willing to fight no matter the cost, no matter the consequence. i hope to madam was going to be here because i'm going to say this woman is not perfect. she makes mistakes. she has progressed but she has been utterly consistent her whole life. it has always been the well-being of the liberian people that she decided their future and their promise that
she sought to advance. i met ellen johnson sirleaf when she was determined to return home from exile to her native liberia to challenge the rule of warlords. she was looking for someone to fight for in washington d.c.. i met ellen at a time when i doubted almost everything about my life choices and again i think brad shared with you how i started with the whimsical consulting firm back in 1985. it was ellen's faith in me that restored my belief in myself. the final of three i'm going to share and there are so many more reasons i want to do the dash demystify washington d.c. to draw back the curtain to show how things really get done, to demonstrate the importance of american leadership in the world and what happens when we get it
right and to shout out to those who are credit for much of liberia's supposed conflicts success which is select members of congress and their staff. so timing, is she on her why? she went back. all right. her motorcade is here? do you want me to do a reading or should i wait quick she is here. okay. i'm going to wait. who has read the book? somebody say something. president and a -- president bonda. i'm ad-libbing here, sorry.
>> she is coming. [applause] >> mathen you missed my introduction to the book. anyone want to summarize it? i am going to do reading now. i will share with you. i wanted to make you cry so i am going to do reading from the book. it's the close of the second chapter and then we will reverse and ask madam president to come
up. the year is 1996, july and i just met madam president for the first time. she was serving as the head of the undp for africa and she sat over the entire program and budget for the entire continent. i had just met her and these were my thoughts. how did i get here trying to sell theodore -- to allen sirleaf. i had the overwhelming sense of being at a personal crossroads. it's time to stop and examine what i'm doing and why. i need to put everything on the table and take a brutally honest look at my life. what difference that i really made? what lasting good have i done? what would all must say if she were standing here perform a? i wish with all my heart she was
would she think i was adrift? which he reassure me that all of this is a life's journey and i'm a cumulative experiences and lessons that will be applied with a meaning one day. would she think my trial so trivial the decision she had to grapple with in her lifetime coming from berlin. i'm sure of a few things, i know her to be right, i know her to be good. my husband jeff pianta.org kylie, my unshakable belief that there are people in the world dedicated and i want to be one of them and this is just beginning to take route and growth. ellen johnson sirleaf will make history. she will change the world. i don't know how she will do it, i don't know what it will entail but i know i want to help her, i want to come along in that journey, i want to work for ellen johnson sirleaf.
with the world. all right. go to it. and then i got the first draft out of 36, and that i called the riva and i said are you sure you want to write a book? are you sure you want to say the things you are saying? are you sure you want to disclose confidences? but she said you know this is my story and in a way this is your story and we think it got to be told. besides, there are lots of things in this row that i've traveled that people ought to know, the good side and the bad side, the thrills one gets from
following the work and also the agony that would happen from time to time when you run into obstacles. she did a little bit of tweaking here and there and a little bit of changes here and there and the book is a wonderful book. it tells a story of riva, some of the daring things that she did. it tells the story of courage, the courage to go into uncharted waters and to be able come out of it and to succeed and to have your goal accomplished. somewhere along the way of course because of her commitment to work with me, it tells the story, it tells my story in a
way and that too has hills and valleys, the good times and the bad times. so it's been a long road. let me say quite a few people in this room that writes similarly because they have been on the road with me and i can see many of them in the room that have shared those difficult days and those good days and leading us to where we are. i think one has to give a lot of credit to read the for doing this book in the midst of all the many things she was doing. although the difficult part was over and she could tell a story that and did in success, success
with my election and success with my taking on the task of joining to rebuild my country but still she continued doing that, to be a part of what we were trying to do, of trying to reconstruct our country and trying to rebuild a new something that has been so badly destroyed. she has always been there with us. i sometimes think that riva knows the country as well as i do a coast she is always probing and finding out and questioning and talking and sharing with people some of her own ideas. she is truly a part also of liberia and what she has contributed through the support that she has given me for us to
achieve what we have so to all of you who were here, to be able to share in this, i think you are at -- and that is the endgame, right? the endgame is to walk up to that shelf and buy a copy of the book and read it. [laughter] i hope each and everyone in here will participate in that endgame because that's the impetus not only to write the book but to share it and have some people read it and maybe after reading it you know you might want to write your own experiences. it could be just as interesting, just as captivating or you could be encouraged to start a journey of your own that journey and
identifying somewhere along the road something that you want to achieve and begin to pursue that , leading some day to be able to share your experiences after you have reached the goal that you said that to achieve. i could recognize quite a few people in this room. i know joyce is working on her own, aren't you joyce? okay. we are waiting for that one too. i know so many of us here have been part of that and i want to speak to all of you that have contributed to what we have achieved in liberia. that is because you have done their, because you have been
able if not directly, indirectly through the organizations in which you are part of, through the support that comes through your own government through so many ways, through the universities that we have had an opportunity to be able to speak to, to be able to work with them all of that has made our story the success story that it is. and so i want to thank all of you for being here and for being a part of it. i'm quite sure we are going to get to the second part of the show and that is when we really begin to have fun. as we begin to have the interaction and begin to listen to your side of the story, your comments, your views, your questions, sharing with us some
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> i think we will take questions and everybody lines up at that microphone right there but before i take the first question because madam president was not here for my opening, i just want to take the liberty of reading a paragraph from the afterward of my book which helps people understand what the meaning of the title is so if you will bear with me, just a single paragraph.
working with allen has taught me to follow my heart and to not fear being misunderstood or it i have come to see that certainty is a luck surry and destiny, journey. it's easy to stray off course to lose faith, to seek compromise the surrender, to kill judge, to feel isolated even abandoned but there's always something to hold onto, the belief that things will get better. i have come to appreciate that we need able to guide us those that we admire, those silly believe in, the heroes that we choose. [applause] >> thank you. so, questions? madam president.
>> madam president and riva it's a privilege to be here. i read the book. before it was even printed. and i went through line by line, but first let me congratulate you for writing this book and second, may i be allowed to say i was amazed at how the two of you found one another and how you provided support to the president throughout her journey , through thick and thin. i know how it is for you to have somebody that you can call anytime of the day and any time
of the night and especially here in america. i want to thank you on her behalf and madam president thank you for allowing us to see through your journey. the question i had was, take us through your life. you you've got there and you were not well and you asked yourself what am i doing here? take us through that. that's one chapter that i was trying to understand how you left your dear husband behind and children on the streets in iraq. thank you. >> thank you. i think i will take that question. madam president thank you and also thank you for the installation that you provided.
madam president was in london and she sends me a text, i totally don't get it. i was laughing the whole time. why is this relevant? and then iraq, she didn't get that one either but it's part of my story so it's part of madam president story through my eyes. i think i have a couple of friends here. some including francis brooks who came as well. to make a long story short i was a state department contractor to the iraqi national. i was hired by madeleine albright in 1999. i thought it was an easy assignment, i would go back and forth in the iraqi's were in exile and waiting press releases talking about saddam and then 9/11 happened and george bush
happened and then the imc when into baghdad and i felt that was my place. they need to go with set up their communications operations. one of the most fun and ridiculous chapters of my book, just when you think we are going to stay on afghan continent is kuwait city. it's pretty harrowing and at one point our vehicle is stoned. those of you who recall iraqi history, it was where private first class jessica lynch was kidnapped and she was raped and at that time to president bonda's point i was completely second-guessing my life and i was holding a card from my son andrew and it said mom, i love you because you take such good care of me. i'm thinking, i'm not going to
be able to do that anymore but i went there because i felt it was my application to help the ie and see set up the communication operation and despite all of the craziness, once i got there after 13 hours it was a remarkable period in history and that chapter defines that and it closes with a famous quote which he says so many times which is that winston churchill, he did challenge that. last year he said americans, francis, what is it again? it's something like we will eventually doing the right thing after trying every other poor option or something like that. and he liberia questions please.
>> i'm a college student here in the washington d.c. area and "choosing the hero" is one of the most meaningful books that i've i've read and i mean that with great sincerity. my question is, my question is as follows. what do you think is particularly important for future generations to take to harden to understand and believe regarding the main message of the book and why? >> do you want to take that? >> go ahead. >> be what you want to be. set your course, stick with it, do not be distracted by whatever you face.
stay on course and i think that's the best message. it will take courage, it will take commitment but if you stay on course you will get where you want to be. [applause] >> i wanted to remind people that one of madam president's most quotable quotes is that if your dreams don't scare you, they are big enough and i think that's probably one of the quotes and i think i would just second that and say to persevere and even when you think that everything is as bad as it can get just no there is always an opportunity to reach out and to step back up. >> i name is rachel and i. >> the past nine years living in
uganda and kenya working with journalists, helping them but the reason i wanted to come here today is the importance of female role models particularly for young african women who are in the nexus of culture and tradition and so many things that keep them from aspiring to reach this level. i am breathless here because of the history in this room. i would love to hear you speak to the need for perhaps mentoring, networks whatever will take to have a young african female in our lifetime to be able to see and aspire to be in the position of you to women. >> you know i can't say enough for networking. networking and reaching out,
getting to know others, understanding their culture and their tradition, identifying common causes and working together. i can tell you in this room i'm going to point at you people who have done this and done this successfully. debbie is one of them. joyce is one of them. so many of them that have been a part of this and what they have done is to be able to work together and bring together particularly young people and to talk about a world of people having shared use, a world of being able to work together in unity and so i would say all the young black women, college women
, don't just stay in the cocoon of where you are. reach out. maybe be a little bit courageous do something in some other places. it may be sacrificial to do it and it may take a lot on your part but go out. i'm glad you were talking about uganda and kenya. that's a great experience that you have to do wish he would take that experience and share with people in alabama. florida? places where perhaps you will not be able to identify where uganda is. i think you can inspire other young, you know african-americans to do some of the things you have done and
share your experience. i think you will find that will be a reaching event said. >> steve landy, it's a great and the -- honor to be here. if both of you have a different view in terms of the future, if you have an opportunity to be with our new president what it buys would you give them? president bush did a great job with the millennium challenge. i cannot go through the many programs that president obama has with power africa and the health challenge of liberia but what advice would he you give the new president as far as how we should, what should be his legacy? [laughter] what advice would you give my presidential choice in terms of what she would do.
[applause] [laughter] >> i have a two word answer. be presidential. [applause] >> i have got nothing to add. [laughter] >> good evening madam president and ms. riva. my name is germane dunn and i would like to ask a question about current politics in liberia. my question has to do with, i would like to ask madam president for her comment on recent bribery allegations with respect to senior people in the
legislature and other officials. these allegations having witnessed a well-known international nonprofit organization. thank you. >> there is nothing more to add to what you said. there's a report from an international ngo. that report makes certain allegations as you rightly said. we have asked her ministry of justice to look into it. they have determined that there are some people that need to be indicted in keeping with the rule of law. that's it, just a question of being able to ensure that we follow the rule of law, that they have an opportunity
innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. that is what our law says. that is the law i will follow. >> i think we have time for one more question. how appropriate. >> just going back a couple of questions to u.s. politics. what were your own experiences trying to become the first female president and africa and do you have any advice for hillary clinton trying to become the first female president in the u.s.? >> i think she is on the right road. i don't think anyone aspiring to be president of the united states needs any particular advice.
i think we live in a different environment. they have to respond to different constituents. there are commonalities in the objective of leadership particularly as we live in a global village these days and i think any of them aspiring will need to know that. they have got to be able to be a part of this changing global world that is very inclusive. so i will not be the one to --. >> i have been asked that question before by someone else. i think this is the last question. i just want to return back to my afterward in my comment when that was asked to madam was the advice you gave to me which is
>> flyover nation is that area between new york and l.a., when you are going from new york to l.a. or l.a. to new york or d.c. to new york or wherever that huge expanse of patchwork that looks like a quilt when you look down. you have no idea what's going on down there. small-town america and mom and pop shops and the people who are
middle-class america people who are farmers, people who are union workers. i have an uncle who works in the quarry. everyday people who aren't on the coast who value family and they have different values which i get into the book as well but it's really all of those people that don't get the attention of the beltway gets. [inaudible conversations]