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tv   2019 National Book Festival  CSPAN  August 31, 2019 1:59pm-4:00pm EDT

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justice. >> host: what do you think of the movies mad but your dad and family. >> guest: i loved "42". felt they understood the determination versus -- i felt the original jackie robinson story, which is made in 1950, and -- >> host: as dade audrey davidson and ruby dee. >> guest: my dad plays himself in that movie. black and white, of course. but i -- even as a child -- i was a child when this was made and watching it in day camp. didn't recognize my dad because of the way he was directed. so it was -- you can direct somebody to sort of -- people came away feeling he had the personality that he could handle that adversity as opposed to someone who is so determined and see the larger mission and is pushing forward, and sort of holding back some natural
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instincts for some of the reactions. so i loved " 42" because chad was a strong actor and understood jackie robinson and showed him as a powerful, strong man, who was on a mission. >> host: sharon robinson is our guest, the fir call from laura. >> caller: hi. thank you so much. i'm thrilled be able to talk to you. and here's my question. you're talking about the 63 march. i was 16 in 1959 and went on the ought march it grated schools then and i'm degree to know if you know anything about that because your dad was there some and so was i and i've been trying to find out more information about it. was going to get in touch with your mom but now i have you. do you remember anything?
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>> guest: i remember that my dad did aing you march in 1959 but i also would like to hear your memories. so you can reach me through the jackie robinson foundation, based in new york city. and please call and leave a message that you're trying to reach me and i'll -- we'll talk. >> host: sharon, from dublin, ohio, go ahead, sharon. >> caller: hi. i was wondering how long did is tike you to write your book and where do you live now? ...
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2 years of research, it took a year and a half to write and the editor and then, you know, process to the end but it -- a number of years. you know flows back and forth. my mom lives in new york. >> i'm a writer who works best with structure, laptop, story arts, on her bed and my bed? >> she travels with me still.
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>> she's a dog. >> 5-pound yorkie. >> you like to edit on the beach? >> i like noise that's why i go to a dinner and this particular restaurant right across the street from the beach and they allow me to sit there for hours and i can see the water and i sit in upper level and look up and see the water. i don't know why that is. >> next call, larry from georgia >> hi there. >> hello. >> i enjoyed watching the film and wonderful experience. i've been so many times and lived through all the players at
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the stadium so many times that i just had some wonderful experiences there and i enjoyed seeing and not only in ballpark but downtown area also. and -- jackie robinson has always been one of my heros and i want to say thank you for that good movie and everything and i know it was -- i think you said previously that it was very accurate and i thought it was too. >> yes, it was. >> enjoyed watching them and everything, i remember the integration of stadium, at one time he pitched here and so many african americans that came to watch him pitch, they really didn't have any choice but to
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integrate in the stadium because had been made to sit in third-base side. >> right. >> larry, do you remember -- do you remember hearing from people who were opposed to the integration of baseball and the integration of the stadium, et cetera, et cetera? >> oh, yes, yes, yes. very much so. >> what were some of the comments, what were some of the comments? >> well, you know, they went through -- they got -- started with the schools and they protested that and then they would make comments like, you know, they can't be happy, you know, now they want to integrate baseball park and now they want to -- now they want to integrate
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in the army and stuff like that, you know, so it was really sad but i like to say we are over that now but we did go through that period of time here, it wasn't a good time but it was, you know, a dark part of history. >> american history. >> what kind of work do you do and how old are you? >> i'm 72 and i'm a librarian, retired librarian. >> thank you, sir, i appreciate your tom, chat with larry. >> i heard that and that he experienced the change and that there was, you know, the other party didn't say that white people didn't want to sit next to black people in a stadium and you know do know unfortunately
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we are experiencing similar attitudes today, i mean, one of one of the things my dad told me we were fight to go change laws, he said, you know, you can't legislate hate, you know, hate will be around and will be a constant struggle. i don't think he was -- i don't think he we wanted to say that schools are resegregated in many places in america and lessons we can learn from 1963 or the civil rights movement from the mid-50's and we passed the civil rights act in 1954 but we still are living in a very divided world. >> you talked about the family
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and robinson family. >> yes. >> did your parents have to walk that line quite a bit knowing in a sense that they were cultural icons, at least your father was cultural icon and have personal feelings as well? >> my father never stopped advocating for equality and justice. even politics, he was always a voice out there. once he retired from baseball, he -- activism was in his blood and the movement was heating up and he jumped right in there and got every way he could to continue to use his voice.
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>> what about his endorsement of richard nixon in 1960? >> it was a mistake. [laughter] >> and i told him i was 10 year's old and, you know, my first discussion with him about politics. i had to go find out who my father was voting for. i knew who my father was voting for. i didn't have self-confidence doesn't matter who my father is voting for, i was voting for kennedy. i went and had the discussion about my dad and i learned about integrity and commitment and he made a commitment to richard nixon but thankfully did not support him the second time around and learned that nixon wasn't going to listen to him early in the campaign, he met with kennedy, did not look him in the eye and explain to me about trust and how you, you know, establish trust with somebody and kennedy voting
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record was not, you know, he had a chance to work on equality and justice issues as senator and he hadn't done it, so, you know, that was -- we continue to have those discussions right until the -- until goldwater. >> '54. >> my family went out to san francisco. >> republican -- >> republican convention, the entire family went and dad was rockfeller and they lost and they had to regroup and we literally stopped off at rockefeller's ranch so he and dad could sit on the porch and say the republican party is going in a different direction and they met and regrouped and then my dad, you know, from that
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point on, he didn't live that much longer but he voted for kennedy, people he felt regardless of party were -- >> what year did he pass? >> 1972. in october, he was actually 53. >> and the reason? >> my dad had types diabetes and heart disease. he had a massive heart attack. >> you two brothers. >> yes. >> what happened to jackie, jr. >> jackie died in a car accident when he was was 24. >> what do you remember about him? >> i remember that he was -- i loved my older brother very much and i remember he struggled, he
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struggled from a young boy, he struggled in school academically. >> he struggled being jackie, jr., he was named jack robinson, jr., there was no hiding place for him, though he acted out in early age, he also didn't have the confidence you get from being successful in school, he was very good baseball player, but, you know, he couldn't be himself, he was constantly being compared, he dropped out of that, he struggled in school, finally dropped out and went to vietnam and entered addiction and came out and died in car accident. it was a very hard years for my family. so in my book in 1953 we just, you know, how adolescence and
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how tram -- traumatic on the family as well. my first theme of the book which was my birthday, january 13th, 1963, i wrote it and everybody was home, my dad was home, my brother was home, and then i would go, wait a minute and i would go back and do research, you to research in your own story, you have to go back and research and that's my dad was in the hospital, jackie was home, came back to boarding school and i had to rewrite scene and showed me right then the trauma that was happening in our family, so jackie literally ran away to california the day my dad comes home from the hospital. >> younger brother as well. >> my younger brother david is
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-- we are very close, he's a father of 10, close with all of his children and he's a coffee grower, businessman, you know, work international for dodgers, incredible. we see him 3 times a year, my mother and i used to travel to see him but now he comes to new york and spends time with us and, you know, he and i -- he he's not an independent farmer, he's part of a cooperative and all goes back to our -- how we were raised and the kind of work our dad told us, fine -- find work that you love, stay commit
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today your family, so we've been mission driven from our childhood and it shows in the kind of work that -- >> next call jenny in maryland. >> thank you for this opportunity. sharon, my sister used to go to school years ago in the seventh grade and one of the friends mary lou robinson, god daughter to your dad. i was a tomboy, i'm watching this broadcast and i thought this is the time to ask this question about mary lou? >> well, i have no idea who mary lou is. [laughter] >> this is in connecticut? >> no, we live on east side of
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manhattan but my sister and mary lou were at wagner junior high school on 76th street at the time. this is going back a long ago -- >> yeah. >> 74 years of age. >> wow. i don't know because, you know, seemed that we would have some family association and i don't recognize the name at all. i can't help you. i don't know. [laughter] >> go ahead, pamela. >> hi, thank you for the opportunity. i love the book festival. i'm from mississippi. i'm a summer of '64 baby.
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>> okay. >> so i watched the documentary the other night or early morning , when i was growing up in mississippi and we always started children, why are people from new york coming down to mississippi, we appreciate your parents, we appreciate with what you have sacrificed and i was curious, my friends from the north are afraid to come to mississippi now, why did you and celebrities like your dad, why did black new yorkers connect and did your father feel apprehension coming down to alabama, because my friends are afraid of the states now. >> yeah. >> thank you, pamela. >> all great points.
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my dad was a fundraiser for the civil rights movement and he traveled the country and then what the activities, the whole point of them going down south was to help bring visibility to the civil rights movement, the only way we had -- was the children's march and the activities in birmingham that got the attention, finally got the attention of president kennedy and that was after outrage from people all over the country who watched dogs being unlearned -- threatened with children that were matching peacefully and fire hoses that were knocking the children over, tumbling into teach other, some went over cars, so they needed visibility so they tried to get
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celebrities to help give visibility so we could have change in this country and also the celebrities have raised money because all of these marchs, you know, they went to jail and they had to be bail money raised so like my dad in new york city, they were hosting to raise money or the jazz concerts that i talked about that we had in our house. yes, i was apprehensive about my dad going down south, they did what they had to do in order to change laws and bring equality and justice to american citizens. >> sharon robinson according to your book the church bombings hit you hard. >> yeah, it did. you know, again, children that
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were marching and it's interesting because i told you back of jazz concert and in the speech he talked about sacrifice including death and so, you know, i understand why kids had to go to jail and why are marchers went to jail and how that raised the visibility of the movement, but you didn't think about children dying, you know, and children died, they were going to sunday school and they died, you know, they were -- it was children's day and that was devastating to me and my dad sat with me, he allowed me to talk about everything and he sat with me, here is what i'm
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going to do and you have to make a choice in life essentially, when something happens you get that or do you fold, do you give in. >> several photos in your book of your family, just going to hold these up quickly to really see them. >> yeah. >> how many of these are posed photos, publicity photos? >> all of those are posed. when i went to look for photographs i had some that were this big. those were actually poses. >> this happened a lot in your childhood? >> yeah. >> the dodgers, somebody would want, we need a family picture? >> absolutely. so the one that always got me was the one of my -- where i was
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born and taken in brooklyn and my parents were on this looking beautiful and posed and my brother jackie who is now a toddler and acting out, he's drinking glass of milk and he takes the glass over. [laughter] >> i was like right on, jackie. >> yeah, retirement. [laughter] >> everyday occurrence in the robinson family. >> not every day but like i said, we understood that we were a public family and photographs were part of the publicity. >> let's hear from arletta in charlotte, north carolina, hi arletta. >> good afternoon, thank you so much, sharon for this opportunity and congratulations.
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>> thank you. >> i am absolutely fascinating to be speaking with you for a couple of reasons, in pittsburgh, pennsylvania that's when your brother -- [inaudible] >> and so why would he avoid see your dad play, so many special memories in my life and grandson you may know -- >> i foe him very well. absolutely. >> yes. absolutely, my question though your thoughts on your society and you talked a couple of questions about divisiveness in
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our country and what can lea learn from your memoir, what are your thought about and how it applies to today? >> thank you, i'm very close to the roberto family. i love hearing about roberto. one, get an education, that will offer them options as they move forward in life but the other thing is we talked a lot about voice and finding your voice. child development a voice at age 13, i started to lift my voice and i was part of the protests generation, so i certainly marched from everything from women's issues to apartheid in
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south africa, so i'm hoping the children will be encouraged to continue to lift their voice and building self-confidence and know that someone is listening to them and -- and they'll fight against this division that we have in the country and very different times where there's a lot of division but the kids were growing up in a time where there was a lot of diversity in their experience, more so than we had in our childhood, so i'm hoping that diversity will help them get to meet people from different cultures and religions and speak different languages and, you know, they'll feel more comfortable so as adults they will not be as threatened by people who don't look like them. it's about having dream, encouraging all of us to not just accept status quo and not
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to accept troubling times but to fight back. that's what my parents told us. you to fight back, it's ongoing process, just because it -- things have changed, we have to continue to believe and have hope that we can continue to move forward as country or move forward again. >> juanita from florida. >> hello. >> hi, i'm good. [inaudible] >> we are family friends going back to brooklyn, so they live in horse farm. i've visited many, many, many times. >> oh, that makes me happy. well i'm calling me because i was changing channels and i saw
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you up there and my mother used to tell us story and she told us that jackie robinson was first cousin, now her name was jane brian, did you have an uncle name james brian? >> you know what i have a lot of relatives in the south, in florida, my brother was from georgia and so i come from jacksonville, i don't remember, but that doesn't matter, we have a lot of robinsons out there that are family and i don't know all of them. >> so you've met a god daughter, you've met an uncle, first cousin now. >> part of my family. [laughter] >> very large robinson -- >> there's another part of your book that i do want to mention since you mentioned that your
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family friend was part of your life. >> so important. >> it was given to my brother and but i had been researching and wanting a horse for a long time so it was given to both of us and we shared him. i tell people today, you know, dave and i worked so well together around my mother today because we had to share a horse and be totally responsible for horsemen, we were kids, so he was my movement and he gave me the confidence that, you know, a lot of teens don't have and diamond gave me that. i road diamond with saddle, he was very important to us. >> do you still ride today? >> i wish i could. i used to go farm.
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after one riding, i said, steve, it is not worth it. it took me a week to recover. [laughter] >> the riding gets a lot harder when you age on your back. [laughter] >> well, you have 30 seconds to talk to sharon robinson. >> hi, yeah i just wanted to share the story with you briefly. i do live in country right out of baton rogue. i found out recently -- [inaudible] >> my brother and i were, we were raised by our grandparents, just found out about it.
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>> we are going to have to cut you there. >> okay, ralph, thank you for calling. >> any comments to ralph? >> we will leave it. >> he didn't tell his whole story. >> i know, i apologize. sharon robinson, memoir of 1963 and she's been our guest here on book tv, thank you for your time. >> thank you, peter, it's been wonderful. i loved all the callers too. interesting comments and questions, yeah. >> our coverage of the national book festival continues and off we go to the main stage area and this is new york time's columnist talking about this book, second mountain for moral life. ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪
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[applause] >> okay, how many people here are from the washington area? how many from outside of washington? how many have never been to the book festival before? how many have been to all 19 of them? [laughter] >> okay, well, we will have a very interesting conversation today with one of the country's i say intellectuals and columnists and tv commentators and authors, the new book is second mountain, how many people read the book? okay, how many people are going to read it after it's over? okay, all right how many people will get autograph copy from david today. so, david, thanks for doing this, so let's go -- before we go into this book, second mountain which i've read, i would like to go over your
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background, you grew up in new york? >> my parents were somewhat left wing and so the story i tell about my father when i was 5, hippies would go just to be. and one of the things they did was they threw their -- they put the garage can -- garbage can on fire, i saw 5-dollar bill in garbage can and i reached in the fire and grabbed money and ran away. that was my first step to the right. at age 8i read a book calling paddington the bear and decided that i wanted to become a writer and i've been writing pretty much every day since and in high school i wanted to date a woman named bernice and she wanted to date another guy, i was like what is she thinking, i write
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way better than the other guy. >> what did your parents do other than being hippies? >> 1950 progressives but my father was teaching at nyu, scholar of victorian literature and my mother scholar of victorian history. the phrase was think british, act british. so what they did was gave their kids names, super english names like norman, irving, milton, sidney thinking that no one would ever they they were jewish. >> so your last name jewish names, brooks. >> brooks was changed in world war i because it was too german. i was a b minus student. >> how did you get in the university of chicago? >> in those days university of
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chicago admitted 70% of applicants and i went to chicago because the admission's officers at colombia decided i should go. >> you didn't get in. what did you want to study? >> political theory, chicago in retrospect, chicago was the turning point because of great culture, the best thing about chicago is a baptist school atheist and i took the common core, i wrote 16 papers, i probably wrote 20 and we had in those days professors that were refugees from germany and they -- when they taught you books they taught you as keys to the kingdom, how to live if you studied the books well and read them seriously, if you burn with enthusiasm people will come from miles to watch you burn and the
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professors had the enthusiasm and so they really introduced us to the great world ecologies and taught us to take reading really seriously and then they taught us and if you live in washington and seeing the world, most of what you see world in distorted way and there's a quote from john, says the older i get the more important -- the more i think the most essential thing in life is to see something and say what you saw clearly in a short passage, millions can talk and millions with think and millions can think for one who can see and author that told story, just see the world clearly and disciplined us to try to do. >> how did you in the university of chicago? >> i did better there. there's a certain point where you learn to work. i learned to work. >> so how did you decide what it was going to be, did you know you were going to be a writer?
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>> i knew i was going to become a writer, i didn't want to be academic because i'm not good at abstract thinking? >> you didn't want to go to investment banking? >> there's a higher calling but i would have had to been able to do addition and multiplication as i understand. >> when you were an undergraduate you met william, how did that change your life? >> i was school columnist for the newspaper and came to campus and i wrote a vicious parody of him, buckley, one called the buckley review which he merged to form buckley buckley, a juñ -- bunch of jokes about that and he came to campus and gave speech to student body and at the end of it, david brooks if you are in the audience he said i want give you a job and that was the big break.
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>> he gave you a job? >> sadly i was not in the audience. [laughter] >> i was literally out, i was hired by pbs to interview and if you go to youtube, you will see 21-year-old with big glasses and show socialist, i argue the point, he destroys in about 6 words and the camera lingers on my face as i try to think of something to say. >> what did you do when you graduated? >> i worked for a year, best job i ever had and then i covered chicago politics for something called the city news bureau in chicago journal, that was harold washington, first black mayor
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come in, the council wars. >> did you get a job at buckley eventually? >> i covered poverty on the south and west side and i thought i was seeing a lot of bad social policies ahead of unintended consequences of making probably worse and that may be more conservative and i called buckley up and said is the job still there and he said yes, and moved to new york. >> worked for national review? >> totally shock, you forget how buckley was, he lived a lifestyle that was unimaginable, you're a kid and suddenly on park avenue and they put a finger bowl in front of you, you have, why is soup so watery. >> had you been conservative? >> i think by that time -- i was happy when thatcher won, but mostly in chicago they assigned me a book revolution of france and at the time i hated, i
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loathed the book, i wanted to create new ideas for myself and this is a guy that said distrust your reason. conservatism is based on modesty. the world is a really complicated place, be careful how you think you can change it, do it gradually, incrementally and as if you were operating on your own father and what i saw in chicago social change gone badly and seem to confirm and i wasn't conservative as national review was but suddenly -- >> sometimes when you get close to people you idealize and you see faults, did you see faults in buckley or did you idealize him? >> his son wrote a book and showed some of the dark father
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of father, add, his father couldn't sit still when christopher graduated from yale at the commencement and he left, christopher had to have lunch after own commencement alone and that side of buckley i saw, he couldn't slow down, he simply could not slow down. on the other hand, he asked me questions about everything, he took me to concert, he took me yachting, surrogate father for 18 months and what i saw in awesome capacity for friendship. estimated that he wrote more letters than anybody else in 20th century, any other american because he was constantly staying in touch with his friends and great thing is that conversations at his home were almost never about politics, they were about ideas and literature, he was not primarily a -- >> how long did you stay at the national review? >> i did that for 18 months. >> that's it? that was short. >> seemed long at the time. >> what did you do next? >> i came down here and i began
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two, mui -- movie critic. >> did you have a background on movie critic? >> i went to the movies every night. [laughter] i had seen a lot of movies. being movie critic was fun, i got to meet and best interview of my life with jackie, i was sitting in a hotel room and wife walks in and plays music, and then jackie walks in and goes like this and it's just me and him in a room. [laughter] >> hilarious story after another. the one i remember is he's outdrinking with joe demaggio and bets a thousand bucks that he can race him around the block and beat him, for those who are younger than 40demaggio was a
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professional athlete, and jackie weighed approximately 2,000 pounds. as demaggio turn it -- turns the corner. they take off, they run around, they turn, and once again, he gives him 2,000 bucks and half an hour later back in the bar, demaggio says we raised around the block but we never crossed the bottom side. >> so all right so your movie criticisms were well received or not? >> i think well enough. i will say that being critic ruined credible of movies, you can't get lost in the movie anymore, when you meet the people making
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the movie you can see financial decisions on each scene. >> what did you do next? >> by then i was at the wall street journal and became correspondent, they sent me in early 90's, this is the part of the world you will cover from iceland, from scotland to cape town. in those days i covered nothing but good things, i covered the independence of ukraine, the berlin unification, mandela coming out of prison in south africa, peace in the middle east, it was all good news. >> did you ever go to greenland or no? >> no. i put in a bid for it. [laughter] >> so, okay, you so you did that for a while, you're a foreign policy expert, what did you do next? >> i should say i had the best interview of my life in russia,
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there was a coup against regime and stood up in tank in russian parliament building and ran into 90-year old woman, first husband had been killed in civil war, second husband and boys were killed in battle and her third husband was sent away and disappeared, she was sent away with her people and ended her life hanging out sandwiches in front of russian parliament building, she had personally experienced event of soviet history and it was one of those burning moments that you see history right in front of you. >> what happened next? >> i came home and i saw that american culture had changed. i grew up -- i went to high school in place in pennsylvania
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and when i left people wore green pants and buck ties and when i came back it had the first anthropology, i never thought that a story would come to pennsylvania. new culture had come into being and was first chapter of my book. >> when did you write that? are. >> that came out in 2000. >> the theme was? >> 60's value with 90's money, basically i came home and looked at new york times writing page, mergers and acquisition page, it was like goldman marrying mckenzie, you couldn't have -- the tensions would be too great and they wanted to prove they were not money hungry so they had a code of
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consumption to prove that they were authentic progressives and so, for example, one of the code was you can spend money, as much money as you want used by the servants. you could spend a lot of money on kitchens, you had the nuclear reactors, stoves, nubby fabrics, you had a whole code that i basically made fun of. >> when did you began writing for "the new york times"? >> so i went to work at weekly standard, make the republican moderate and reasonable and -- [laughter] >> how many years were you doing that? >> i was 9 years. well, i really began to figure out what i actually thought and in 2003i got a call from gail call -- collins and i took the train up and on the way up i said, no, no, no. my best length is 3,500 words,
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850 words are not my best length and she asked the question and before i was going to say, no, has anybody ever said no to the question do you want to become a new york times columnist and they said no one ever said no and i had failure of courage and i said, yes. >> all right, what year was that that you began? >> 2003 and you've been writing how long? how many columnists did you write a week? >> two a week, that's 100 a year and it's a lot. i joke about being conservative communist, not a lot of company there. >> how long does it take you to write a column? >> it can be 2 and a half hours and it can be 20 hours. the length of time i spend working on it has inverse correlation on how good the column is.
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>> do you say i don't have anything? >> not, that's not allowed. that's not the way it works. suppose you write something that's 820 words, you need 30 more, where do you get the extra 30, you to fill out 850? >> character. [laughter] >> were you surprised of the leadership that you produced with those columns, how many people now read them and i assume you're pretty well known as a result of those columns? >> i don't know. well, i will say that the joke columnists tell about their job, seems good for the first two weeks, you have to keep producing. [laughter] >> but i actually -- the first 6 months on the job were the hardest professional. >> you spent time with the other columnists or people on "the new york times" or are you at home and send them in?
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>> i'm on the dc bureau, 3 other others are on the road so much that -- we don't see -- >> do you ever have trouble coming up with an idea or do you have plenty of those? >> i have desperate trouble. so i used to think like it's just sheer desperation, i used to think if i got hit by a bus and i lived i could get a column out. my only desire is column ideas. i remember fantasizing about winning the lottery, testify not the money but get column. >> when did the pbs series start, news hour. >> news hour started in 2001. >> how frequently you do that? >> every friday and two most wonderful men i know. >> every friday you have to show up in washington or wherever, you can't be anywhere else?
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>> right. that does pin me down because i'm here every friday. the segment is called shields and brook, we wanted to call brook shields. [laughter] >> something intensely proud to be part of, we have a certain demographic who is our core demographic which we call season youth and so if 98-year-old lady comes up to me in the airport, i know what she's going to say, i don't want your show but my mother loves it. >> so you're supposed to be the conservative on that and is that a fair column, lacterrization? >> supposed to be but frankly over the years i've -- it's been a struggle to call myself a conservative. i think now i call myself a moderate. it's more accurate to say i'm a moderate. >> now that you're well known for tv show and also the
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columns, do high school friends call you up and say i really knew that you were going to be successful, are people calling you that didn't call you before. >> i dated a lot of people's sisters, in all cases these are women that would have had nothing to do with me. i would say, no, i went for same summer camp for 15 years and that was my childhood, and i have few friends from high school and they treat me as they always do. >> jewish camp somewhere? >> it was unlikely to be jewish camp. [laughter] >> so, okay. let's talk about your second book, what was your second book? >> that was called on paradise drive and that was a post 911 book and capturing spirit of america and how it showed out in everyday life and in the middle of the book i saw quote from said that every book is possible
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to write except the book about the spirit of america. i was like, oh, damn, he's right, basically i was -- people who live in dc area, i spent a lot of time in german town, springfield, and i thought these were the fast-growing places at the time and i wanted to show the spirit of america with energy, movement and really paradise. >> right. >> was behind a lot of the moves and so i wrote about big box malls and, you know -- >> right. >> they would all have the suburban theme restaurants and the highway, which were chili's olive garden. i was obsessed with that part of america that nobody was writing about. >> they take time off to write a book, do you take time to write a book his or -- or how do you ?
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>> i have done twice, id -- it did not accelerate the time of the book but spent more time with your garden. >> how long did it take you to write the book? >> 4 years cycle, i'm doing other stuff. it takes forever to structure book, my books are always somewhat personal, somewhat public and to get that structure it takes me forever to do it, to figure out what the book is about and the odd thing is you get these complexed book structures and then after 4 years you get down to simple structure and you think why didn't i get a simple structure first but it takes you 4 years to get to simplicity on the other side of complexity. >> third book social animal. what was that about? >> yeah. neuroscience but about emotion and me trying to understand emotion because it's not something -- i always say washington is the most
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emotionally avoiding city on the face of the earth and i might have been the most emotionally person in the city, writing book about -- [laughter] >> but neuroscience is showing, patients had legislations in the brain and could not experience emotions and you would think that they were super smart, in fact, they couldn't function in life because emotion is not the opposite of reason, emotion is the value device that tells us what we want, the foundation of reason and so people who are emotionally intelligent are also intellectually intelligent, the two go together. so i really we wanted to write about how we educate through art and literature and how we refine our emotional life through relationship with one another.
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in the course of writing the book and this is years ago now taylor swift was on 60 minutes and she was asked, you write a lot of sad songs, actually 23 different kinds of sadness, your boyfriend dumps you sadness and lose your dog different set of tune, your mom is mad at you is different set of tune. if you're aware of 25 different kinds of sadness and different kinds of joy is a better way to live and a better that gives you the capacity to see others deeply and know what's going on in their own emotional lives. book was an attempt to write myself into some capacity for that. >> and you wrote a fourth book before you wrote this one, road to character, what was that about? >> what i learned from that book was that books -- a friend of mine had said this but i didn't appreciate it. magazine article can be about many things, books have to be about one thing, people immediately can grasp.
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and so i had throw away passage in the book saying there are two sets of virtues, there's the things that make us look good in our job and eulogy after we are death, courageous, honorable, capable of great love and we spent a lot of time preparing people with virtues but we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, how do you develop those? so that one phrase eulogy virtues carries the book and sense that people share that culture is overpoliticized and overprofessionallized and underimmorallized, not really talking about how we become better people and that's sort of watching 10 people, 10 of my heros, how they went from being human disasters at age 20 to really magnificent people. >> do you write book, do you do
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it longhand or computer? >> i have bad memory, i have notebooks in my pocket, got one right here. write down ideas and xerox a lot of stuff and as i would research a book, collect thousands of pages of notes and what i do is i can only get them straight geographically so i put great piles on the floor with the notes in the right pile and when i where a column it's only 150 words but they'll be 14 piles on the floor because a pile is a photograph and -- paragraph and i write the note. it's crawling around on the floor of my living room organizing my piles. [laughter] >> actually you do go on computer? >> i tell my students by the time i sit and put it in the computer your paper should be
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80% done, writing is about management, structure and organization and if you don't get the structure right it won't flow, getting the structure right and then the process of organizing the piles is the process of creativity, sparks start coming. >> some people that are writers would like to say i write some amount a day, are you that way? >> not as crazy as some writers. but i do have to write every day, when we got married breakfast conversation but i could not talk to other people and do 800 or a thousand words. we have routine, i think it was
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tina morrison she had hotel room in her town where she kept typewriter, desk, brandy and a bible and she went there every day to get her thing. .. >> what's the first mountain. >> the narrative is we get out of college and we think we want to establish identity, career. we want to play the godmother of the meritocracy, and we start launch off, and sometimes we
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succeed, and find it unsatisfying, sometimes we fail, sometimes a bad thing happens that wasn't part of the original plan, cancer scare or the loss of a child or something terrible. and dudley you're in the valley, and when you're in the valley you realize the desire thief ego which propelled you up the first mountain were unsatisfying and then you're ready for a bigger, charger life, which is not building ego but descending interest your heart and soul and it's a shift from one consciousness our culture rares. >> you're racing occupy the first mountain forthpart of your life. >> i ay achieved so far beyond my dreams, it was crazy. remember, think four of my books have been best sellers and each time he get the call i'm surprised how flat it is. it's nothing. and i'm the poster child for career success doesn't make you
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happy. and so there were part of the make tackcracy, and that tells lie, the fit one is success makes you happy. the second lie is you can make yourself happy if you get better at yoga or a little thinner, but when you talk to people at the end of the-under live is at not the time they were self-supplement it's the time they were utterly unsufficient and completely dependent upon other. another lee of the marry took contraction life is an individual journey. we give our kids books, the places you'll go the dr. seuss book and it's about a kid graduating from school can alone, on a path to success no, front family, and ran into a sociologist who says the gets the book to kids who are immigrantings and heighth hate it because it doesn't reflect live as the know the is relationships. identity lie of our curl tour and it's a pernicious lie, it
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that people who achieve more are somehow worth a little more than everybody else. and we pretend we don't tell the lie but we do in our actions. >> so, the second mountain is the concern about community and other kinds of things like that. >> it's more a fault -- i'll tell it in my own apex own life. so, i ran -- 2013 my life crashed. not the column but my kid had left home, leaving home. my marriage had ended. i had most of my friendships in the consecutive movement and i wasn't -- -- on newark street, and i'm all alone. and i had weekday friends, guys i could -- men and women i could take to lunch and talk politics but no weekend friends and my weekends withvast expanses of silence and i would good on runs and i'm in the best shape of my life, but the way of the symbol
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of that period for me is in my kitchen i wasn't entertaining, nobody was coming over, when you open the drawer where there should have been any kitchen forks and silverware there was just post-it notes because i was working all the time. and where there sheave a been plate there was station merry and like any -- station merry. i tried to aid void emotional and spirit tour cries by working out there it and eventually it crashes so i went through a period where the pain crashes you into yourself. paul tillic has line in this he thin is suffering is an interruption of life and reminds you you're not the person you thought you were. it forces you to crash to the under of what you thought was the basement of your soul and reveal razz cavity below that and it carves through that and reveals a cavity below that. and so in those moments of suffering we see deeper interest
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ourselves than we ever thought imaginable and we realize only spiritual and emotional food can fill those places. the different between the first sing mountain is not just selfishness verse prudent, it's having an experience that causes you to crash into yourself and come deeply into contact with your soul. and i say this, i'm not a religious writer. i don't care if you believe' god or not, but i do ask you to believe you have a soul, that there's some piece of you that has no shape, size, color, or weight, but gives you infinite value and dignity. and that rich people don't have more of this than poor poem, old more than your. our soul where is our equality comes from don't have equal brain or muscle power but the level of souls is equill and infinite. [applause] >> and so what the soul does it yearns for goodness. we all want to lead good lives.
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>> you're in this period of time and how did you get to the second mountain? what got you up the second mountain? >> i learned a few things. first thing i learned is that freedom sucks i had total freedom. the income of a 52-year-old and the openings open options of 22-year-old and the m married friends were projecting their taken tises on me, you're swinging and that's great and i learned freedom sucks and the second thing i learned you can't solve your problem on the same level of consciousness you created it. and then the third thing learned was that you can't pull yourself out of the valley. somebody has to reach down and pull you out. and so i get a very lucky -- to deover to a house of a couple named cassie and david and i was accepting all invitations at
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this opinion and i walk in the door, and kathy and david had a kid in the d.c. public schools, and that kid had a friend who had his mom helped him with issues and stuff, and so james, this kid, often had no place to eat or stay. they said james can stay with us. and then jamessed a a friend and that kid had a friend and that kid had friend and so by the time i in to dinner there in 02015 they have the 40 kids around the dinner table and 15 sleeping in the house. i walk in the door, reach out the shake a kid's hand, and he says, we really don't shake hands here. we just hug here. and so i -- every thursday night since then i've been with those kids. not the huggiest guy on the face of the earth but they taught me how to do it. what the kids given us is emotional transparency. and they demand it from us.
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and they turn and look at you like they're flowers looking to the sun for love. and i tack my drawer and came out and said that's the warmest place i've been. took a by the name bill who has been doing youth work and said i've been doing youth work for 50 years and never seen a program turn around a life, only relationships turn around lives. and toso that's what is happening here. and so i'm writing but social i'd layings and fragmentation and hatred on a national level and thursday night at dinner, i'm seeing the solution. and so it was through that -- that was -- several experience but one experience was suddenly an hour assistance on how to behave and live better. >> so part of this you get married again. >> i get married again, which is another good thing. and that was to have a hip
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marriage is like win thing lottery times a thousand. >> okay. so, today, you would say you're happier than you have ever been? >> i've -- raising my kids were a happy period but i'm blissfully blissfully happy. >> in your book you write about a new religious experience you hatched born in one religious and now sort of in another relation? >> it's complicated the student joke i made once now i have to live with forever is i'm religiously buy sexual. but i grew up jewish and went to -- got a bar mitzvah for most of my adult life kept co-sher and id and yeps a jewish holiness and that's not in my -- my line is that every church service i go to is more spiritual than every synagogue service but every friday night shabbat meal is more spiritual. and when he family is gathered
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and the blessing are said it's like there's a feeling of loving kindness, and it's like 18 poem -- people around the table and 18 people are listening to 17 other conversations, all talking at once and correcting the 17 other wrong things that have just been said and that's sort of the jewish goodness and -- but then i grew up -- went to the school in new york called grace church school, episcopal school and went to a camp and there i saw another kind of goodness. which was there was a guy there, for example, name west who had a -- he was love, like a man child, holy child, who just radiated joy. he spoke in whistles and always interrupting himself and laughing, and he did -- saw horrible things in his life, became a episcopal priest and work in honduras and then women suffering from domestic violence
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in annapolis and yet radiated a sort of holy joy that was unconditional antibiotic to me. dory day has a lynn that christians should act in a way that doesn't make sense unless god exists and wes was like that. so i saw two different kinds of goodness which were inspiring to me but wasn't a problem because didn't belief god so it was like two things. but then over the course of a number of years, at a friend of mine says, reality overflew the category is had to understand it. you have certain moments of transcendence, moments as i described earlier where you become aware of other people's souls. and if you're a journalist, you're writing stories about people that can't just be but a bag of genetic material. the only reason we work hard at journalism is if other people have souled that have the consequence, and from there it was just the most boring dish started reading religious stuff. if you start going ton a
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religious journey people send you books. so i get 750 books in course of three or four months, only 4 on-which were mere christianity by cs lewis. and then so i'm sitting in my apartment and jesus comes through the wall. i'm kidding. that did not happen. i just became aware that i was a person of faith. >> so you know are both religions. >> well, my jewish friends say, no. that's not allowed. and so -- but i feel more jewish than he ever did because now when i read "gentleman or exodus i think the covenant is real. so i feel more jewish than ever and yet the sermon on the mount is a glimpse at a celestial beauty that lingers and i can't unread matthew. >> so, why should somebody --
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now that they've seen what you have written about and heard what you have written, why should they buy this snook what's a good reason to buy the book now that they heard about it? will the launch more buying the book than they just heard? >> it's a really good status item. [laughter] >> the book is partly about the first and second mountain but the second mountain is a life of commitment. and so there's -- it started as a class -- actually the book started -- i was single and dating and it was first going to be called the marriage decision. how to decide who to marry. and then -- -- the next 20 years of their life. most to spouse and family to a community, vocation and a philosophy and faith and my view the second mountain life is the life where you make maximal
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commitments to those things. don't just have a career you have a vote case, not a contract marriage trying to be happy. you have a covenantal marriage and try to surrender yourself to your as joy and i tribe describing in the book what it looks like to live a life of maximal commitments. we live in a hyperindividualistic society, and we're not going back to the 1950s. but we can join our society together by making promises to each other and then trying to stay faithful to the probable millions and the lot is the practical nuts and bolts how to choose a vocation, how to choose a marriage partner, community. >> in other words, you'll live a happier life if you buy this book. >> actually, that's -- i was teaching a kid, a wonderful kid, who was -- bill a roads scholar, and he -- a rhodes scholar and he said your class has made me sadder, and i was like, that's a
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win. so -- it's better to be a sad spiritual person than a happy achieve atron. >> recently you have taken on new project tet as spend institute. >> called weave the social fabric project and it's start -- i wad writing columns columns ae symbol here, on social isolation, fragmentation, suicide has risen 30% since 19199. teenage suicide has risen 0% 2011. a rise of distrust, problem being solved at the local level by people we call weaver who are building community, and we thought we go out, learn from their example and try to nationalize their effect and i do this now every week, go somewhere the country and i meet people who are really living for relationships, not for self, and building communities, and a lot
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of them are second mountain lives. a woman i met a while ago in new orleans called lisa fitzpatrick, a health care executive, driving one da and i saw two kids, 10 and 11, and they looked terrified, and they had something in their hands and they held it up and it was a gun, and they shot her in the face. and it was a -- they had to do a gang initiation killing to get into the gang. and so she recovers from this, and she realizes, i wasn't the victim here if was collateral damage. those two little boys were the victims because they had to kill somebody so they could have a family. and so the now devotes herself to gang work in new orleans and works for the city, and a lot of our weavers have had something negative happen in their life and they try to fission what happened to them. >> you were doing this with aspen weekly, riding two columns a week, you're on pbs on friday night, writing one book a year and teaching at yale and you're
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married and have have to kids. do you have in the free time for anything? >> i actually -- this is the sad element of my life. people ask me what is my hobby? and i say -- i use to say i good out to din with friend offered kids and now i'm trying to take up tennis. i want to have a hobby. you should have some pleasure in your life. >> you spend a lot of time on television talking politics when you writing a column, you were fairly critical of i think it cass candidate trump, my president trump. i can't remember. you were critical of maybe both. what is your view on the likelihood of president trump getting re-elected. >> i have actually a cheerier view a lot of my democratic friend. i think the guy is at 40% and offended 60%. i mean i take it stupidly. that's not good. and so i am more optimistic that he will lose than loot of the democrat is hang around with.
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>> when you write in critical articles him do you ever hear from him, call you and say i don't like that article. >> he used to tweet about me but i've never had any contact with him. very happy not. to really don't want to be in the same room with the guy. >> what is your view on he likelihood the democrats will retain control of the house or get control of the senate? >> as i say -- i do think the democrats -- when we see what i think is a pretty big advantage for the democrats, knowing the party of the main question is, i wonder how they'll find a way to screw this up? and so i -- if i were advise the democrats which i'm sure it's advice they'd love to get, would say just go with the bland. the number one job is to get trump out of office. and you view is the likely democratic nominee is who? >> if i had -- i -- my earlier answer to that question was
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kamala harris, i think she has a force of -- a force, and if you think can who can stand up to trump she had personal character force, a forcefulness to her if thought would be a good match. i'm now looking at the race and i'm thinking, it could well be elizabeth warren. [applause] >> and i must say, i don't know her well and -- but i spend some time with her and i've never get the likability charge. find her very warm. like law professors, granted, but i -- and if you looked at what she has done, over the last three or four months, she has steadily climbed up the ranks and now has a higher favability rating than any other democratic and taking 45,000 selfies. that's retail politics. and so i am sort of very -- when you're covering a campaign like this, you're like a scout, scouting a baseball pitcher, who
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has good stuff? and i would say in substance i don't agree with that but just as a candidate i think she is a strong candidate. i'm known biden for a long time and i think he's a very lovely, very lovely man. >> but you don't think he'll get the nomination. >> i'm very impressed by his strength. his strength i thought may fade but he has a real strength of support. and so those are the three i think are most likely. >> okay. and so as you look back on what you have done with your life, how old are you you. >> i turned 58 years old. >> that's a teenager to me. would you say your most proud of you have achieved. >> anybody is going to say your kids. >> once you get past that. >> well, i think what i would -- i wrote a become only humility so i shouldn't talk about how great i am. i would say it's continually being on the move and trying to
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continually learn more. i just wrote a book about a book coming out next week by general jim mattis called choose and he as a guy who just keeps going to learn more to be a better marine and did that his whole life. a great quote he says if you haven't read hundreds of books you're illiterate because your own private experience is not enough get you through life. >> did your parents live to see your success, professional success. >> my father is still alive mitch mom died two and a half years ago and when my mom died i lost my toughest critic. i would send her my back manuscripts and she would -- this is garbage on the top of the page. she -- my mom was blunt and direct. so i missed her for editing this back but my emotional stability is a little -- >> and your father, is he -- >> my father is still alive and doing great, and he is right now
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ump in the botanical gardens of the bronx its. >> you children are writer. >> no. they're on -- my daughter waked about a hockey rink at age 5 and suddenly felt at home. they mentioned i discovered i wanted to become a writer at seven. i called these the enunciation moment, the moments early in life that prefigure what is going to happen she waked into a hockey rink and fell at home and now teaches hockey for the anaheim ducks in california. and she is happy in life. >> your other children? >> my youngest is a college student at the new school, 200 feet from where i went to elementary school. and my oldest is a boy, grew up here and then went to college and then served in the israeli army for three years and now back. he decided he likes protecting people ohio going to go into law enforcement. >> the message you would like to leave all these people with
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today is what? what was the main message you like to convey to people not just about your book but about life? what was the message you would like to convey to this audience. >> the one distinction i found useful and it's in the book, is the difference between happiness and joy and that happy this is self-expansion, it's -- we feel happy when we taste a good meal, win a promotion, when our team win this super bowl, when we feel bigger. joy is when you erase the self, when you involved in some moment so delicious that your sense of your own self fades away and so for example, i'll tell two stories. the first is me. i'm driving home from in the news hour when hi kids were littler and i driving home in bethesda and i pull into the house and i see in the backyard and my kids were then like 12, 9 and 4, playing a little ball, and they were kick it up in the air and racing across the yard to get and falling over each
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other and tickling each other and giggling and laughing, a scene of perfect family happiness it and was summer sun coming through the trees for some reason my lawn looked perfect. and it was one of this moments where reality just spills outside its boundaries and i stared it out there the windshield, and just was enveloped by joy that was better than anything i felt at work and which i knew i could never have deserved. and parents have all had that. and there are moments where ju just are overawed by the way the universe has blessed you and that's joy you're not think but yourself at all. you have dissolved. i have a friend named chris, poet who teaches with me at yale, and he -- when he talk to which is but his early life he is often in different cities because there's a woman there so like what did you learn in buffalo? there's a woman there so he was living in prague because there was woman there, and he was
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writing poetry and the kitchen table, and a falconland on the windowsill, and he turn to it -- the falcon was scanning the street and he was just struck by the beauty of the bird. and the called to to this grandfather who is taking a shower, and he says to her, come here, you got to see this. she runs out of shower and standing there dripping wet and they're just looking at this bird, and the falcon turns its head and looks eyes with chris. and when chris says a he looked into the bird's eyes he felt something crumble inside like look he to centuries. like those experiences we feel in nature where we are just lost in it. and his girlfriend was -- knew the power of moment and said, make a wish. and he wrote a poem about it later and one of the stanzas and i wish and wish and i wished that the moment would not end. and just like that it vanished. but those are the elusive
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moments of joy that we experience and it's not about the self-and not about the ego. it's surrender, and then there's some people we meet, i meet them with some regularity who were where joy is not a moment, just an outlook. just radiate joy all the time. i work through weave with yo-yo ma. that guy just radiated joy all the time. every human being, it's like this is the first human being he has ever met. these creatures are amazing. it's like -- and here i was at a panel -- a luncheon at a think tank, and i sat next to dalai lama, and that guy just -- didn't say anything vary profound which was a disappointment to me, but he just laughed all the time. and just radiated a joy that comes from decades of iter to all -- >> you said in your book he laughed and you didn't know why but you were laughing because you -- >> i wanted to be polite. those -- that oren attention if
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you point toward happiness, that's good i'm recall for happy in but if you point toward joy you're heading in the right direction. >> i want to thank you for a very interesting and emotional conversation. i hope i'm sorry this moment has to end but thank you, david, and i assume you're signing books somewhere, you i am. >> thank you very minute. >> thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> in the national book festival is hell at the washington convention center for many years it was held on the mall. until it moved inside a couple of years ago. and about 200,000 people are expected to be here. still coming up. david mccullough, henry lewis gates, and a couple of call-in opportunities with rick atkinson and m.i.t.'s thomas malone. check you program guides on your tv or for a full schedule. live coverage continues and this is an author discussion on immigration. one of them pete featured rain in grande, her book is called a
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dream called home, a memoir. live coverage of the national become festival on booktv. of [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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>> good john and welcome to the -- brought to you've by the library of congress, the festival is free of charge thanks to generosity of donors large and small. i if you 2009 make a donation do so on the festival app. we appreciate your support for this great celebration of books and reading. we hope this day inspires you to make use of the incomparable resources of the library of congress. your very own national library. you can visit news person on capitol hill or on the can be amount we're thrilled to announce the library's brand new national book philadelphia presents seize which will extend the reach of
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the festival with more exciting book event ted library targeting next month. please jeck for update on all the programs, for children as well as adults, and ticketing for each one. we welcome your questions at the end of the next presentation but if you have one for the authors make it brief and to the point. you are giving us permission to use it for the webcast and finally i ask that you please turn off your cellphones. thank you. [applause] >> good afternoon. my name is carlos, the nonfiction book riddic at -- crc at the "washington post" the post is a charter sponsor for the festival and will be a long time to come. it's my great pleasure to be here with these three authors and let me briefly o'dues them. reyna grande is a fiction and nonfiction author, her books include across hundred mounts, dance beings but replies the
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memoir, the distance between us which is a finalist of the critics book circle prize and her become a dream called home is a momentum hero and had received many awards. born in mexico, and came the united states as a child. aleksander hemon writes memoir the author of multiple books, nowhere man this lazareth project. and a dual memoir called my parents, an introduction/this does not belong to me. it a one over the most sort of innovative binding and cover designs i've seen in a while. he is recipient of the guggenheim fellow inand was born in sarajevo and came to the united states in 1992 when he was unable to return as planned through the violence that had present out at home. and suketu mehta is an associate
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professor of journalism at nyu. his latest book i would u.s. called this hand is our land, an immigrants manifesto and came to the out from india in his early teens. so, it's always fun when you have a group of writer you can just kind of have an extended conversation. to start us off, i was hoping you could briefly describe what led you to write this book. how you nye was as story you wanted to tell or argue. you wanted to make, and also, share with us a passage you think exemplifies that effort. >> hello, everybody. thank you so much for being here today. it's such an honor for know share the stage here with these wonderful authors and thank you carlos. so, a dream called home is a
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sequel now previous memoir, the distance between us, and in the distance between us, i write but my experience of growing up in mexico without my parents, because they both immigranted to come here to look for work and i try to wry what it's like to be a child in this situation of not having my parents, being left behind and not knowing if we would ever be reunited again. and then i write but my own border crossing, coming here at nine years old, running across the border to be reunited with my family. so, when i wrote a dream called home, i wanted to continue writing but my experiences of growing up here in the united states, first as an undocumented immigrant, and then going on to become the first person in my family to go to university, and
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hi father only went to the third grade and my mother to the sixth grade. so for me going to university was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, and i wanted to write about that experience of being a fir first generation university student, especially coming from my own background of being low income, become an immigrant, firstgen. so, one of the reason that motivated know write about this is because i feel that they're not a lot of books about latinos in college. and i wanted to capture that. that we do good to college. but we -- we are working professionals. and to me that was one of the most important thinks i was trying to capture in the book. i also right about my dream of wanting to be a professional writer and all the obstacles i had to overcome to make that dream a reality. but the book is called a dream
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called home because the theme of the book is my search for a home. and my search of trying to really find a place where i felt that i belonged. so i'm going to read a brief passage that kind of explores that idea more. >> i didn't know that a 13 years old i had turned to writing as a way to deal with my traumatic experiences before, during and after migration. because i was a child immigrant, my identity was split. i always felt loose-ran outcast for not being completely mexican and not physically american, either. the border was still inside of me. basically i have crossed it. but psychologically i was still running across they no man's lan, still caught back there. and so were my parents. because the throughout was we were never the same after we
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crossed the border. we all changed. perhaps it was because we had left something of ourselves behind, the way migrants leave a shoe, an empty can of tuna, a plastic water bottle, shirt. what we each left on the border was piece of our soul, our heart, our spirit, clinging to the branches of a bush, flapping in the wind. depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder., these words were not part of my vocabulary so i never used them to describe how i felt. i express my feelings through stories, while my father drown his in a can of beer. i turned to writing to save myself to record and remember, to give meaning to my experiences. writing was an act of survival. it wasn't until i was in college that i discovered it could be a possible career option.
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having green up never reading any latina writers issue thought latinas didn't write and bill clintonside had assumed i couldn't either. i had thought i could pursue a career in wright until i met my english professor. if she can do it, you can do it. if eyen dray, do it, you can do it, she would say to me while handing me a copy of their latest book. usually my stories were about mexico. i had not lived in the u.s. longer, only through my writing could i hold on to my native country and keep it from note interesting the myths of my memory. with -- me mist of my memory. with writing could claim mexico in a way i couldn't in real life. despite everything i had gained by immigrating i also lost things. my relationship with my sweet maternal grandmother, my aunts
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and unkilled, my cousins, my friends, and my native country itself. the mexican way of life is so different now midst spanish was prepare. my catholic religion almost nonexistent. i knew little but mexico, just piece of its history. its customs, its geo graphy. it was in anyone ways a mystery. look my parent mid native country was full of lo and they had mistreated and abused me and yet i still loved and clung to mexico with childish hope and optimism, dreaming of the day it would change for the better. in the same way i hope my parents would change. on my first return visit to mexico three years earlier, everyone treated me like a foreigner because i had been corrupted by being americanized. so the people who had seen me degree up, i was no longer mexican enough but in the u.s.,
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i wasn't american enough either. for year i had struggled to fit in to learn the language and culture to find my way, but no matter how hard i tried, i still felt like a foreigner. so i took refuge in my writing. the word is put on the page created a bridge that connected beth countries, both languages, both cultures. i hope some day to write my way into a place where i finally belong. where i finally felt i was enough. thank you. [applause] >> well, thank you for having me here with these wonderful people. talking but something that has defined me life and the life of my family and just about everyone i know. this books sometimes in 2014 or so when the images of migrants
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and boats were -- trying to get to europe were being broadcast and one of the things that troubled me then is the representation of immigrants and migrants and refugees as the faceless mass driven by some kind of obscure hunger and the discourse around it, so just they want what we have, whoever we may be and this kind of dehumanization of immigrants. the erasure of their stories and individualalities and history and that's appalling and very basic moral level and from the point of view of a -- my writerly life. it is something that i thought i might be able to do something about, and so i just as donald trump announced his candidacy and announced his racism in the same take, i decided to write three books and then i add one more for some reason, and so two
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of those are in this volume. one is about my parents, and the overarching idea behind all these projects is giving -- allowing people to have histories and stories. or telling the stories and histories of people. people are who are most familiar to me starting with the people who are most familiar to me and those are my parents. i my parents left bosnia in the spring of 92, left sarajevo and then wondered around the region for a while and eventually emgreated to emigrated to canada, luckily canada where they have health care. imagine that. and so canada is kind of -- kinder than this country to immigrant its think but not entirely kind. always fascinating to me is that how they maintain coherence in their individuality and thinking
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and morals and ethics, my parents, and my assumption is always that all immigrants to this. it's a complicate can traumatic thing to migrate from one place to another. and what people carry over and this is most amazing and interesting,s is that ethical system or -- and so i wanted to write about that. i wanted to think through the thinking of my parents about the world and before and after, and during their transition. so, the become is not a memoir strictly speaking. more like series of elves says about my parents. and this is from a part about catastrophe. >> my father likes to talk to people, ask the questions, tell them stories and hear theirs. sometimes when i read or watch tv or just silently stare into space, he sis next to me and orders, talk. true. bricele and end up talking.
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it's knot just that he cannot -- it's his curious can i undamped by hi image everyone he assumes has some story to tell, not least his professional story telling son mitchell father expects other people to engage with the world which has somehow delegated him to probe you and conduct conversations. silence is a death of story telling and thus of love. in 2007 any wife terry and i and our new born daughter went to visit her parents in florida for christmas. and my parents came along from canada. terry and i had met in paris that year which is men why parents encountered hers and get some splendidly along with them. now in pensacola, beach, my parents spend time with teary's extended family which frequently gets together and features untold number of aunts, uncles and cousins, including friends of the family who have been over
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time on absorbed me parents quickly saw the essential structure and proofs an african-american family were much like those of our's known ones and -- bosnian ones and like. that one thing that was lacking terry's family didn't do as much as what the family did they didn't spend a another love time telling story. the history for whatever reason was not entirely available by way of collective public narration, thuses we walked along the splendid white sand beach toward fort pickens the great geronimo died in prison, and sea breeze over our heads, my father said to my wife, terry, tell me about your family. what bad happened? terry was gracious but do could not fully satisfy his curious it. apart from the general and everlasting calamity of american
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racism, applicable to an entire population, there were few particular historical and family disaster. my father found that per mex, even a bit disappointing for if nothing had happened it was hard to imagine hour any seniors could be forthcoming. i if nothing bad happened what do we have to talk about. if nothing bad happen what was it that happened? what is the story of nothing happening? terry knew that my parents had failed to experience the siege of sarajevo and were refugees in canada. she new well that bad things happened in the i history of the hemons, the most recent one being the war in bosnia about but my father's question is a moment i felt compel to explain my parent today in good wife to establish their foundation of their thought system, to strung her and nip willing to submit and listen, on the ways in which trauma alters the structure of reality. for instantly understood why any
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father would ask a question like that. i recognize the compulsion. the what bad happened was short hand for catastrophe. he asked it her no legal i thank you the history of her family outlining the rupture that he do find it for that's how he would tell the story of our family. this wars, injuries, displace little, losses, struggles of, moments of danger and despair could be know history without cal strife, through to outline a history one had to anywhere that it disasters to formulate one's position any world, one had to define one's self in real estate show the experience catastrophed. and that which could not be anywherated could not be comprehended. a family without a catastrophe could not be conceptualized because it was an inpossible proposition. if catastrophe is a dramatic event that initiates the plot, this is in the thierry of tragedy-then its absence suggests a possibility the -- a
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catalanotto strife might be a trap but a allow no narrative escape. i you've survived a catastrophic plot twist you get to call the story. you must tell the story. thank you. [applause] . >> thank you all so much for coming and again really wonderful to be on this panel with such excellent writers. i wrote my book, this lands our land, out of rage. rage at the way in which immigrants today are depicted all over the world as robbers, rapists, murderers. i've been in cuss country for 42 years and never heard immigrants depicted in such horrific terms. by one of the most powerful
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people in the country and this is true all over the world. i've been writing a book beaut new york for a long time but on the first tuesday of november 2016 i decided to write something else in response to the present emergency. a lot of conversation about migrant around the end world, human migration caused by climate change will be the defining human phenomenon of the 21st century. immigration might be the issue on which the next presidential election will be decided. it's the single most important issue for americans in recent polls. so a lot of of connotation about immigration, but what is left out the immigrants perspective. why are they moving in with what cause somebody to take their
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baby in the arms and cross the mediterranean or across central america, risk death and rape and assault and cry to make over a fence on the other side of which they're going to take your bear aim from you. what cause people to move? so what i say in my book i'm connecting the dots. true colonialism, war, ion quality and climate change, the rich countries have stolen the future of the poor countries. people are moving, not because they hate their home or family but because the west, the rich country, have left them no choice. an excerpt from the beginning modify book which just gets into this matter. one day in the 1980s any ma personal grandfather in a back in london. and elderly british mam calm up to him and wagged a finger in
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his face. why are you here? the man demanded. why are you in my country? because we are the creditors, responded my grandfather, who was been in india, worked all hi life in colonial den ya and now retired in london. you took all of wealth, our diamonds, now we have come here to collect. we are here, my grandfather was saying, because you were there. these days, a great many people in the rich countries complain loudly about migration from the poor ones. but as the migrants feared the game was rigged. rich countries colonized us and stole our your and approximate recented us from building industries after plundering us for centuries they left, having drawn up maps in ways that ensured restroom strife between communes and then brought us to the countries as guest workers as if thaw knew what the world
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guest meant in our cultures but discouraged from bringing families. having built up the economy with our raw material and labor they asked to us go become and were surprises when we did not. they stole our minerals and corrupted our governments. for the corporations would continue saling resources, defile the air above us and the waters around us, ma ick or oceans liveless were aghast when the poorest myunges arrived at the border, not to steal but to work to clean that shit and ck their men. stale they needed us needed to us fix computers and heal their sick and teach their kids for the took our best and brightest, those who had been educated at the greatest expense of the struggling states they calm from and seduced us again to work for them. now again they ask us not to come. desperate and starving, thai have rendered us because the richest among them needed a
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scapegoat. this is how the game is rigged today. my family has moved all over the earth from india to kenya to england to the united states, and back again and still moving. one motor vehicle grandfathers left rural for cal cut could -- calcutta in the salad days to 20 in century system other grandfather left soon after for nairobi. in calcutta, my paternal grandfather joined his old are brother any jewelry business. in nairobi my maternal grandfather began his career at 16 sweeping the floors of is un:'s conditioning office. thus began my family's journey from the village to the city. it was i now realize less than 100 years ago. mobility, surviveol. i am now among the quarter irbillion people living in a country other then one they were been in. and one of the lucky ones.
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nearly three-quarters of a billion people want to live in a country other then one day were been in and will do so as soon as they see chance. why do we move? why do we keep moving? thank you. [applause] >> these are books about family. certainly in the case of reyna and aleksander and there's moments of sort of memoir that appear in yours as well, suketu. which are unique challenges you faced in write bought your own families, something so personal and why does it seem to many immigrant reflection end up being thinking about and questioning the choices your
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parents made. >> that's a great question. when i set up to write my memoired didn't want the story to be just but me because when we talk but immigration, immigration is not just about the individual immigrant. it's the entire family. and what happens to one person in that family affects the entire family unit. so my book is wanted to cap tower that. i wanted to capture the journey of my family across the border and everything we went through during our journey. so, i was very aware of writing about my family, about our journey, and of course, the journey began because of the choices that my parents made. and i explore those choices a lot because through the years, i have learned dish have leonard to see things differently than when i was a child. when i was a child, and my
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father came here, when i was two years old, and then my mother came here when i was four i was left behind in mexico, i didn't understand why they had left. i had no concept of the fact that we were living in the second poorest state in mexico. i wasn't aware of the national debt crisis, the peso devaluation, lack of job. didn't know about those things so i didn't understand why my parents immigranted and what i field wag that they had left because they didn't love me enough to stay with me or to take me with them. so it took me a long time to understand why they had made those choices. but i had to live with the consequences of those choices, and that meant i was greg up without a father or a mother, because they had to leave me in order to take care of me. so, i didn't understand those things, and writing these
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memoirs helped me to understand mow about my parents and the situations they found themselves in and why they made the history that they made. for a long times was very resentful of my parents for leaving and for putting me through a childhood where i spent many years being afraid of being forgotten, afraid of being abandoned, afraid of being replaced by u.s.-born siblings and i was so resentful of them for putting me through that situation. then when i go back to mexico, to visit my relatives who still police in live in the same poverty we escaped i understand. understand that even though to this day i'm still suffering from the trauma of separation, i knew that was the only way that i could get to where i am today in life.
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that if we had stayed in mexico, i would be living the life that my relatives are living there, still earning four or five dollars a day, and trying to get by in a place that is full of corruption and oppression and very limited opportunities. so now i can look back and forgive my parents for putting me through what they put me through, and i forgive them because now i am able to provide for my children in a way my parents couldn't provide for me, and now as a parent, i don't have to walk away from my kids just to good try to find a better life for them. i also don't have to put my life -- my kid' lives at risk the way may father had to put my life at risk by crossing me across the u.s. border. i don't have to do that as a parent, and to me i feel that was one of the greatest gift
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mist parents gave me, was now as a parent, i don't have to be in the situation that they were in. [applause] >> i think reyna is absolutely right when she says that families affected even by just one member of the family migrating. the whole structure of the community is altered, even the best case scenario when one part of that structure goes missing. i lived with my parents well interest the 20s in a very small socialist apartment with my sister until the war and then we broke up and ended up in canada, my sister lives in london, england. what happened is before the migration in our case, before the war, subsequent migration, my parents were refugeed. dot


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