tv Eric Motley Madison Park CSPAN March 4, 2018 10:00pm-10:46pm EST
he actually quoted chief joseph who gave a speech in 1877. everyone here would be able to live together as one tribe and one son. there's much in his evolution that's in here that clarifies that question which i think is always the central biographical question. >> you watch this in other program @booktv.org. >> good evening everyone. welcome to the bookstore. we are delighted to host eric this evening as he shares his story with us.
we are glad cspan is here to film this event. introducing eric is donna. they're instrumental in setting up this event and are tireless advocates for getting the story out there. please give them a warm welcome. >> thank you all so much for coming to our invitation. we are thrilled to have eric visit with us and we are calling it his first visit. as i said, we are thrilled to have eric here visiting with us and i hope this is just his
first visit. we are members of the aspen institute and that's how we got to know eric and his leadership. he is the number two person maybe even the number one person. >> i had the pleasure of knowing him for 20 years. we were fellows at the aspen institute. it's recently gone through a transition it just makes you shake your head. with the desired tradition and no one could have handled it as well and many of us think that eric should have been the president and we expect him to be there at some point. we are really proud to have
him here with us today, a fellow southerner who tells and an amazing story in his book. >> we will let him tell it himself. thank you eric. it's a pleasure being here. this is one of the greatest bookstores in the country and it's a wonderful reminder of the origins of important ideas and how ideas bring us together and shape community. i want to thank jim and donna barksdale. i see some of you have been
tagging along. it was the most incredible experience. they were wonderful bright lights and to be here and celebrate this is absolutely incredible. i had a mentor who once said to me that you are very fortunate that the sum total of life is rem and you're probably thinking rapid eye movement or the group but really it's relationship and memories.
i have a book to sell a book for you to read. it's called madison park. it's a memoir. it's a memoir about place. i tell you two stories, the first is a place about madison park. a group of free slaves with nothing but a shirt on their back they were led by eli who could read and write and he invited seven other friends to join him in this great venture. my grandfather's grandfather was one of those. they purchased a plantation.
in the first structures they developed were gratitude for a god who delivered them to this new promise land and a new school. martin luther king once wrote we are part of the community tied together. what impacts you impact me. this is a group of people. the second story involves an individual named george washington motley. he was the grandson of of
founder john wesley motley. he remembers two things about visiting his grandfather in those early years. in the shotgun house there was a simple wooden cross he had developed with his own hands. reminder that in his coming he was created by something much larger than himself. over the back door was a picture of abraham lincoln that his great-grandfather had extracted to remind him that god uses individuals to bring about change. my story intersects because in the 1960s a little girl was adopted by george amy motley. the mother discovered she is dying of cancer and asked the
neighbors if she would consider adopting one of her children and how do you choose to select one of 14, i have the slightest idea but they chose her. she became barbara and molly. she was nine years old. she gave birth to a window of unformed possibility. that's me. she decided not only to embrace her all the more but to embrace this child. they had three great desires that this little child could realize he was no less. [inaudible] he had a right to be here and
was created by god. the second desire was that they would realize i was part of a community, something larger than the motley household, a member of the madison park community and with that came rights and responsibilities and i was also a citizen of this great country. the last great desire for me was that i might have the opportunity of enlightenment that only an education could provide. and so, everywhere they were they made it known to neighbors and friends that we have a little boy that we want to get a good education. we want to go to college. i grandmother could meet a guy in the grocery store looking at tomatoes and he could have a university of wisconsin sweatshirt on and she would go over and say did you go to university of wisconsin, i want my grandchild to go to college. could you talk to him and he would say mom i did not go to college, i've never been to wisconsin, i have the
slightest idea where it is. just talk to him. there are flexion points in all of our lives that we look back and remember. we remember them all the more. there individuals were there at every twist and turn. i know it was sent home in fifth grade of my academic failure. i was known as a precocious, interesting, interested kid. he designated me as the university kid. they called me little einstein. i'm not sure how many people knew who einstein was but it sounded pretty good. then i go to first grade and they informed her i had been demoted from the rabbits to the turtles. i grandmother is not one to discriminate and she phoned one individual who she thought can help. she called emma madison bell,
the great-granddaughter of ui madison she was a muscular lady in physique and principles and she came over to her house, a retired teacher 45 years and in her early '80s, all i could hear her say from the kitchen is we believe in resurrection. she me from the room and she and my grandmother started to talk. they invited me back in and she said we believe in resurrection. you will be a rabbit again, i promise. a couple days later in church they stood up in front of the entire congregation and said brothers and sisters, little eric motley with his grandparents is growing just a
bit damn. he was a rabbit but now he is eternal. we believe in resurrection. we can restore him to rabbit status. it's a story about community. there were two things that changed my life. i've decided to help them with their reading pride whatever you have i want you to bring it through the household this afternoon. for two hours my grandparents and i sat on the back porch and you would've thought of papered drive was taking place. someone walked by 1935 almanac protecting weather. in 1972 life magazine and jet magazine. volume l11 cyclopedia
botanica britannica. whatever you want to know that begins without, i am your guy. someone also brought by a volume of english verse minus its table of contents but richly shown with shakespeare and yates. there is a time when metal grove and stream and a every common site, apparel in the dream, as it is it no more than this i know for air i go there is passed away glory from the earth. they came by the molly house every day for two years to tutor a little turtle back into the rabbit hole. it began with four basic reception every day.
this is the house that your grandfather's grandfather built. he was a slave who believed in the american dream. you have to memorize the american constitution and the declaration of independence. the whole thing? we will start with a preamble. every day at the beginning of every tutorial i had just cite the preamble to the declaration of independence. we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. it's your precept your country, it's yours, you own it. then i would recite the apostles creed because we're methodists and then lift every
voice and sing as a reminder of where i was coming from. for two years, these retired teachers who had nothing except love in their heart and bulimia mind, mathematics, history and the basic precept. i tell you that story because it underscores the basic essence of this memoir that we are all a part of the inescapable network of mutuality and the madison park we were tied by destiny. it was a place that was inspired by those who had dreamed and aspirations to make america work and who believe that making individual sacrifices, one sacrifice at a time for good of the entire community was far better than individualism. i tell you the story because there are a lot of little eric motley's in the world who are designed to grow into their own personhood to realize their own aspirations and it's only through community that we
can experience the fullness of who we are collectively. we live in a very politically polarized, culturally confusing society where we are told daily what's wrong with america and what doesn't work. madison park reminds us that at best there are things that work and that community is one of those pitiful institutions that binds us together. it reminds us that there are principles and values and precepts that undergird our own sense of community. it reminds us that each of us have a part in being the bears of light and creating light wherever we go. i'll tell you wherever we go my grandfather had a great desire.
we take you to the mound, republic library some 20 minutes outside of our country my grandfather would sit in the pergamon for two hours. he was unable to go into a place that he was for bay to go into for so long. he wouldn't turn on his radio figuring it would run down the battery. we had no air-conditioning for the chevrolet impala and i would go in like i was going into a great library of alexandria and i would surround myself with books but on this one occasion, peering from the. made of books that had surrounded me, i looked up and
saw a very elderly white man in a wheelchair. it was a black ballet standing at his side, turning pages for him. i would look up and he would look down. i would look down and he would look up. we caught each other's gaze one or two times and then at the very end of the day the librarian said to me okay little boy, it's time to go and as i gathered my books and i got my satchel, i looked up and the elderly gentleman was staring at me. with a long pause he nodded as if affirming something. as i race out of the library to tell my grandfather who had just met, i said daddy you will never guess who i just met in the library. he said who, tell me who. george wallace himself.
history has a long arc. my grandfather wanted me too live in the realm of help, and understanding of history for sure an understanding of the complexities of history but to live in the promise of things that could be and in that library experience in 1982 while sitting there, i realize that history does have a long arch. the great social philosopher said nothing that is worth doing could be accomplished in a lifetime, therefore we are saved by hope. nothing that is good or beautiful makes complete sense in its immediate context of history. therefore we are saved by faith. nothing, no matter how beautiful and good and virtuous can be accomplished therefore we are saved by love. we are saved by community.
life is still filled with incidents, accidents and providence. all along the way, at every turning, i have been fortunate enough to meet teachers and preachers and local philanthropists and people who cared and teachers who stayed after school to help me realize my own potential who wanted to nurture the human material of life, to see it through to its execution. for that, mine has been a tremendous odyssey of grace and gratitude. thank you so much for being here. i hope you enjoy reading the book. thank you. i was just reminded i was supposed to read something. any questions from the floor.
i will tell you, i knew very little about george wallace but you can't drop not knowing him. i am knew he embodied everything that prevented me from going into that library. i grandfather, who i try to capture here in this memoir was a very edwardian type of individual. his sense of decorum is something that still inspires and informs the way i engage with people today. my grandfather, not wanting to incite anger but always wanting to create a frame began to explain to me the complexities around george
wallace and tell me who he was and helped him understand what had occurred. he framed it in such a way that i can appreciate that in 1880 these individuals who had nothing about hopes and dreams and their descendents were still living through the challenges of history, the formation of who we are as a people and a country and my grandfather want me too realize that much had changed. progress had been made. often times slow but progress had been made. that was worthy of acknowledgment. all that moment held for me in the future, for that i will always be grateful. when my grandmother, my grandmother was a housekeeper. the family happened to be at
scott fitzgerald. he lived right next door and cleaned house for family who lived next to the fitzgerald and got to know them as much as a housekeeper could get to know the fitzgerald's or anyone else and one of the daughters of this family went to washington d.c. on a trip and she brought my grandmother back a gift. the gift was a snow globe. it was a snow globe of the white house. my grandmother kept the snow globe on her dressing table and like every southern woman, my grandmother dressed up on sundays before church, on saturdays before weddings and funerals, and there were no bar mitzvahs so those were the principal occasions for a spread i would always stand at her side as she put on her lipstick and told me stories and i would always play with as little snow globe and she would say one day you can be in that snow globe and my first day of going into the white house, every now and then dream and fantasy meet reality. all i could think about was
going into the white house and thinking of my grandmother and standing at her side, holding the snow globe. my grandmother also was very fortunate to work for a woman who always some things home. your little boy needs to learn to read. send him to the new york times. and i was the only kid in second grade reading the new york times or trying too. on one occasion she sent home a crate of albums. in this crate of albums, maybe 15 or 20 long playing records, they were all albums that had wonderful pictures on the front and i will never forget my grandfather pulling up and going into the trunk and picking up this vegetable crate and bringing the crate of albums on the back porch and my grandmother telling me about mrs. peabody sending those. mrs. peabody said take these
records home, i'm cleaning out the attic, give your boy something to listen to. my grandfather said choose an album and he went inside and brought the record player out on the back porch and i chose an album, the woman in the photo on the front page of the album was in this glorious costume of color and great array and we put on the album and the sound was like anything i had ever heard before. it was jesse norman singing the last four songs of strauss. absolutely divine. the human voice performing somersaults in mid air. it was my first introduction to opera and i had turned up the volume so loudly that the kids next door, never had experienced anything like this, at most, mrs. rosebud in the church choir singing amazing grace but nothing like this. the kids across the street next door ran over asking what are you listening to.
too curious to ridicule, to open to ideas to poke fun, and it was one of those wonderful defining moments when you are introduced to a new idea that is beyond your comprehension that changes your life forever. mrs. donna has heard me tell so many of the stories, i had teachers all along the way, i went to samford university in alabama because i have a high school teacher who believed that i have the great potential to study literature and she stayed after school every day to help me with my applications. i got a scholarship, i went away to samford. the university president kept me into his arms and assured my grandparents that he would take care of me during my time at stanford. i get a scholarship to go anywhere in the world. little did i know there were no black people in scotland, one who i was always mistaken
for a shop in scotland on a scholarship and i have a lifetime of pleasure and learning. ththe president of the university pulled me aside and he challenges me. we had developed a beautiful relationship. his name was sir strother arnett. he said to me what are you going to do once you leave. i said i haven't decided just yet. he looked at me totally amazed. knowing my story and knowing the sacrifice and the commitment of all these people in this little place who believed in me, and he said this is the first time i think i have ever encountered you not knowing what was next. what you think about it and come back tomorrow. maybe for tea in the gazebo and the garden. i left, i returned and he looked at me and said if you are serious about your future,
then i will provide you a full scholarship to stay here in scotland in four years to do a phd. i want you to go back and not accept a job or an opportunity to fill in a quota but because you feel you are intellectually just as capable of everyone else who is applying for the opportunities that are before you. i stayed in st. andrews for another three years until i completed my degree. i had a wonderful expense there. on one occasion a classmate asked me if i would go home and spend a weekend because he thought i wanted to see another part of this countryside and he thought his mom and i would hit it off and he was a smoker and i thought boy this would just be a nightmare going home and he picked me up in the clean-shaven, we got into his car and we started to drive through the country's guide of scotland. i knew very little about his parents. except, his parents worked in
london but had a house in scotland and every three weeks he would come back to the family home. that's all i knew. so we were driving through the countryside where peter pan was written, beautiful scenery and we pass by this castle, the queen mother's birthplace and then we go around a great been an another hill and then we come to this great drive and i look at patty and i say patty, where i'm from it's against the law to trespass. patty looked at me and he said no, this is my home and i said this is your home? one of those godly moments and he said no that's the groundskeepers cottage and then we go down this winding path to another ten or 15 minutes and there is this great castle, chi chic,
everything that disney has informed you to believe that castle should look like, he gets out of the car, he runs in, valet comes out and helps me with my luggage and i turned to the ballet, trying to maintain composure and dignity like this was normal stuff for me, i turned to the attendant and i said i recognize this flag but what is the other flight. he said that his lord patrick's. lord patrick? you mean patty? i said oh yeah, that's patrick's father's flag. and the other flag. >> that is his office, and his office being, well don't you know he is board chamberlain,
that the protocol is. with a sense of southern duck oe koran i stand and take it all in. this woman standing to our side was most curious as to who i was and at the end of the ceremony after the greetings have been made and i had give it in the introduction, the ladies followed to claim back from the castle, stops and says to me why don't you come in for a cup of tea and the lady standing to the side turns and after having too much to drink sensibly as he and my date having too much to drink said botdrinksidedrinksaid don'e ambassador of nigeria when you see him? [laughter] all i remember saying is good evening your excellency. [laughter]
it was an incredible experience and i met incredible people that work in public service. president bush on one occasion while sitting in the office turned to me and said i know your story, i know the place you come from, i know your grandparents gave it everything they had for you. it is an honor to have you and i know you have heard it before, but to whom much is given much is required and throughout my life it's been a constant refrain to whom much is given much is required. on one occasion i was in the oval office and i was trained fixed looking at a painting on the wall and president bush as only he could say said what are you looking at. why are you looking at abraham lincoln. all i could think of was to tell
him the story that my grandfather had told me about his early visits to his great grandfather's house, that over the front door with a cross and over the back door with a picture of abraham lincoln and for a moment i realized how far i hav get come from madison par. the day that i was leaving to go to scotland is one that i will never remember. i was packing my suitcase is a bit heavy knowing that perhaps this opportunity as great as it was was not allow me the opportunity to see my grandparents live out their lives but one of them surely would probably die while i was away. could i abandon this couple that has meant so much to me and made such itmade such a sacrifice foy developing growth. thinking those thoughts and hurrying into the house to
finish packing my grandmother came in and said to me you need to come out, there is a lot of noise outside. all of the people that had given me jobs on the side to help me save for college, the retired teachers who have tutored me everyday after school, the ministetheminister for baptist n my own methodis own methodist ce there and my minister came up and gave me an envelope, a very thick envelope. i learned it was about $150 but the congregation had collected in a special offering just to support me as i went on to school. he gave me the envelope and another lady gave me a sacrificial container of colored greens in case they didn't have
them in scotland. [laughter] the minister said a prayer and after the prayer was said to doubt a map, leave it out and said [inaudible] and proudly i approached the car ready to show her scotland. i looked at the map and it was of montgomery alabama. she'd never been outside of montgomery alabama, let alone alabama, let alone the united states and it dawned on me by going to scotland to many of these people was like sending an astronaut to outer space and with me were going not only their hopes that their prayers and aspirations and dreams and imagining of the unknown and the ones that was before me and again i was reminded that to
whom much is given, much is required. a washington, d.c. friend found himself at a conference and in the company of a very successful attorney from montgomery alabama. my friend attempted to play a game. do you know him from madison park, the attorney politely replied no, i don't know him and where is madison park. he heard me talk about him so much over the last decade everyone in alabama native of madison park. telling me the story he added he looked at me as if madison park didn't exist as if it were invisible to the.
except for those that work in the government and public schools in montgomery or who know people or the story of our community. madison park no doubt to them is invisible. it is a living and breathing organism and to those that never heard of our little community it may not exist, back to the founders who bought the land and laid the cornerstone's into those with if they live there or not, it is as large as america. the seats were nurtured in the hearts and minds of the citizens over 135 years ago, and the people there have been trying ever since to make america work
for them. the same as people doing the less obscur obscure faces with e winds shine bright and all the roads are paved. madison's vision of the self-reliant and sustaining community where people could come and work to improve their state of life remains the vision of its inhabitants today. over the last decade as they publicly share the story of madison park and at washington dinner parties and meetings in the church, work and with friends, others have affirmed that they also once lived in a similar place. so in many ways madison park has come a metaphor of places that are either invisible or nonexistent. these places still exist, but are the days numbered plaques are they at risk of becoming extinct in the face of the increasing i can only hope not. despite the changing landscape of the encroaching city, the commitment to the community remains among the people of madison park.
it is planted deep in the earth carefully and powerfully cultivated by my great-grandfather and the freed slaves who became the community and gave it its name. the history is tied inextricably to the sense of who i am and it's a spiritual locus that continues to offer refuge, solace, instruction and most importantly meaning in the very ever-changing flux of daily existence. wherever i go, madison park goes with me. i am so grateful for the madison park community that sets m senta different path than those in my life in the absence of biological parents seem to predict the people bestow their gifts which i can never repay. life is like that.
blessings come at us so relentlessly we are ever in a position we never get all the things use or good guys properly said which leads us each one living with a burden of gratitude. for as long as i can remember, my indebtedness to others is a prison which my life experiences have been filtered. that's served tthat served to kt bay. for my first day i was taught by example to count my blessings though the total now runs so high i can no longer name them one by one. it is my most cherished possession, the abundance that i have found in life thanks to everyday mentors, gratuitous circumstances into prominence far outweighs what they might have earned or what i deserve. thank you very much. [applause]
it's one of those things that turns off a lot of people about donald trump is that he does seem to have a certain elder pro- vulgarity. the populism inevitably is bolder. >> today happens to be the anniversary of crossing the rubicon. caesar was a populist. was he bolder, no. i don't think it is linked to populism also those people that the old term populist would like to have us think so. i'm glad you mentioned that because it seems to me that one of the fundamental objections of donald trump is a he wears the
wrong kind of tie. the large part of this aspect of hysteria over populism as a matter of aesthetic or maybe a better word would be snobbery. >> you can watch this and other programs on linux booktv.org. thank you all so much for being here. i am the curator lectures, and on behalf of town hall and our partners at the university bookstore in the back of the room over there, i am so pleased to welcome you to tonight's appearance presented b