tv Immigrants and American Opportunity CSPAN July 4, 2015 11:05am-11:41am EDT
the immigrant sometimes is the one who best understands the concept of freedom and what america is all about. tell us about your experience as an immigrant. how did you get here, what did you feel? mike: thank you. for allowing me to be here. the conversations have been so unbelievable that i am over the top already, doing something that we take for granted, these discussions, these conversations. it is unbelievable. so go back to 1958 back in cuba and i was at that time maybe 13 14 years old. i was fine. i was a teenager, doing my thing, going to school, minding my own business. there was no thought of ever
leaving cuba. my dad, he owned the lumber mill which he worked hard at. that is where i learned my work ethic from. get up at 5:00 in the morning and work until 5:00 in the evening. but it was a good, comfortable life. then all of a sudden, things changed. it was kind of topsy-turvy. all of a sudden you thought was yours is no longer yours. it has been deemed to be taken over and shared with others, and that happens in all industries, all private property disappears. then as i was -- even the schools, the schools that i was going to, they got shut down because they were changing the
curriculum from the curriculum that we had to one that was more communist-oriented. for a two year. -- a two year period, i did not have much to do except intentionally get in trouble. -- potentially get in trouble. that is when my parents decided i needed to get out of cuba. walter: what age? mike: the process started when i was 15. it took about a year to get everything going. i brother and sister were much older than i. i was a surprise of the family. my brother was a civil engineer and they would not let him out because he was a professional. my sister was a teacher so they would not let her out. my mom and dad said, you have got to be the one to get out because if they draft you, then
we will all start here. if you go out, we might find ways out. this is a 1961. when the process started, they were letting kids go out by themselves, without any major concern. the process started and just to show you -- we were talking earlier about how sticky people can get. when my parents put an application for my passport and i was ready to leave, it was august that i was going to leave. a group of, i do not know who they were, but they were some sort of authority. they were in uniform. they came into the house and inventoried my room because
everything that was in my room at that time had to be there when i left. we could not dispose of it, even though it was not mine. it was my parents'. a 16-year-old did not own much of anything. that is kind of the power-hungry that people get. finally, we get a telegram that says, you got an exit for the day after tomorrow leaving in san diego, cuba -- santiago cuba. we had to go to havana so we have to hightail it. my parents drove me off to the airport. -- dropped me off at the airport. they would not let them go in so i walked into the airport, went through check in, and i left landed in miami. fortunately, there was a group
of churches and organizations that had gathered together, and they were the ones that were collecting all these cuban kids who would come out themselves. at 16, i was on the older side of the kids that would come out. there were some that were 5, 6 7, and they would try to find a place for them to stay and to be placed until the parents or their relatives would come out. so that was, i still remember walking out of the airport -- out of the airplane, and somebody is asking me, do you have any family in miami? i said no. come over here. there were about five or six of us. there were some boys and girls and the girls went on one van to some camp and the boys went to another van to another camp. walter: you ended up being very
successful. explain how that happened. mike: fortunately, things just happen. we went through within three weeks of being in this camp, i get a call to come to the office. i walk into the office and there was a suitcase with a heavy bolt on top of it and i said, i am in trouble. and an airplane ticket to philadelphia. i was going to wilmington, delaware and they were giving scholarships to cuban refugees high school in wilmington, to go to high school. so i landed in philadelphia. there was somebody waiting for me, took me to wilmington, and i went to high school in wilmington, delaware. i graduated from bank, and it is just -- i graduated from there
and it is just one thing after another. we as parents sometimes think kids listen to what we are telling them -- do not listen to what we are telling them, but they are. i did not have my parents telling anything to do. i kept going back and saying, what would they tell me to do? if you are a young parent, just keep doing what you are doing. some of it will stick, i can guarantee you. so eventually i went to finish high school and eventually i went to albuquerque, new mexico, where they were also giving scholarships at university to cuban refugees. i graduated from there. i'm that my wife and the rest is history -- i met my wife and the rest is history. walter: tell us about the role, what made you passionate about the role of education in creating opportunity? mike: when i graduated from high
school, i did not have my mom and dad to tell me, you have got to go to college, so it was up to me. i thought with coming to america with a high school degree, what else do you need? that was until about a year and a half into some tough jobs i decided, maybe i need to go to university. the decision was -- and after having done that and obviously you are in the middle at that point, i did not realize how important it was. it was years later in looking back, having that education is something that once you have that, nobody can take it away from you. they can take your property, they can take your cars, they can take your business, but that education is yours to do with it what you want and utilize it. it became something that both my
wife and i and our kids are passionate about. education. walter: we have been talking about rights, liberty, freedom the economic rights, liberty. the political rights and freedoms. as somebody who left a place where suddenly those were withdrawn from you, when did you first become withdrawn -- aware of the american system of rights and liberty, and how did that affect you? mike: i became aware very early on. the moment we started placing our kids in public schools, it became a realization that my gosh, public schools in this country are an institution that i do not think, it is not
duplicated in very many places. it is an unbelievable gift we have and we do not really think about it. we take it for granted here. in most other places, you have to be of a certain economic class or have a certain job in order to get an education. the amazing thing about -- one of the amazing things this country offers is education for everybody. unfortunately, there have been some bumps along the road but it is there. walter: do you think we are moving away from that notion of education being the great equalizer? mike: we have been moving away from it, and there is no reason for it. there is absolutely no reason for it.
that is one of the driving forces for us in our family foundation, is to try to get act -- get back to leveling the playing field. you guys talked about it earlier on. as long as the opportunity is there -- and this is what i had -- this is what i found -- i had the opportunity given to me in this country. whether on purpose or by fewer luck, it worked -- by pure luck, it worked for me. i want to make that available for as many people as i can remove as many obstacles as possible from having that same opportunity that we all had. walter: how are you using your philanthropy and other things to do that? mike: the foundation -- i will give you a quick background --
just back up a little bit. my oldest son, jeff, we lived in columbia and i was there with work. we get a phone call from him saying, i'm thinking of opening a bookstore on the internet. i need some money. we said -- he had a sweet sweet job on wall street. it was a wonderful job. i said, why? what is the internet? [laughter] mike: that was kind of the second question. his mother said, can you do this on weekends and nights? do not quit your job. we were fortunate enough we have lived overseas and had saved a few pennies, so we were able to be an angel investor, and the
rest is history. when that became, when we were blessed with that fallout, which was one of the things that jeff did tell us is, i want to -- i want you to know how risky this is. being in business, startups fail 80% of the time, but he said, i want you to know how risky it is and i want to come home for dinner at thanksgiving and i do not want you to be mad at me. fortunately, it turned out quite well. [laughter] mike: so he is invited for thanksgiving anytime he wants to come. [laughter] mike: going back to your question, the one thing that became obvious, we formed the foundation. we have three children. there are three spells as. my wife and i are the directors
of the foundation and when we formed the foundation, there was no question as to the fact that education was going to be the primary focus. and we zeroed in from age zero to 18. that is our sweet spot, with a great emphasis on 025. we really feel that if we can get it right in 0 yto 5 many of these issues we have been talking about -- incarceration for one thing -- will not go away but will be reduced. that is what we are trying to do . we have many different programs throughout the face, the ages of zero to 18. we also get involved in teaching colleges, high-quality teaching colleges with good teachers
coming back into the pipeline. that is our involvement in education field. again, it is public schools which charters are included. that is how we are kind of thinking in terms of making it as available to everybody as we possibly can. walter: let's go back to the emigrant experience. how did you feel about the way the united states is debating and handling immigration these days? mike: it is probably not any different than the way it has been handled many times before. i remember in the 60's when the cubans were coming in, trying to get away from castro. same thing was going on in south
florida, what are we going to do with all of these people coming in? a lot of us do not want to be there to start with, but that is where we ended up. so the conversations about immigration has been around for a long time. my problem is not so much how people get to this country. what i am concerned is what we do with them once they are here. they are here, the last thing we want to do is keep them down. i think that what we need to do is for them to become as american as i am, as american as everybody else is. that is what i believe that we need to do. i will let others worry about how they get here, either they should have, should not have, all that. walter: tell me your thoughts with the opening to cuba. [laughter]
walter: you have family there you keep in touch. mike: i do. walter: you have not been back. mike: i have not. it is funny, since last december when the major announcement about approaching cuba was made the first questions were for my own kids. what do you think? i told them, give it time, it is too early. ask me this question in a year and then we can discuss it. i still feel that that is way too early. we have not seen anything on the other side. it has all been one-sided. it has all been from the united states side, the willingness to open up. you can open an embassy, there's nothing wrong with that. i think that is well-founded. we need to see what the reaction
is from those in power in cuba and whether what is going to happen, what is going to be done is going to be done for the right reasons. whether it is going to be done -- it should not be done for getting american tourists in cuba to smoke cigars and drink rum and dance to cuban music. that should not be the reason for it. the reason should be to create a better way for those folks that are still left behind. once we get to that point, i am all for it. there is no reason why not. i just wanted to mention that i was thinking about this the other day. when i was in high school in wilmington delaware, it was
right after -- i left in october of 1962 during the missile crisis. i could not go back to cuba, my parents could not come out. we did not see each other for a number of years. during the missile crisis, everybody in my civics class at high school -- that is when we had civics class -- everybody in the class had a subscription to u.s. news & world report. if there was anything about cuba in that magazine, it was given to me to read it and then to stand up and give a report. the same thing is happening now. [laughter] mike: i need to get back up. i do not mind at all but, yeah. walter: move back to education. if you could list the seven or
eight, or five or six things we could do to improve 0-18 education, what would they be? mike: oh my goodness. one of the things in 0-5, that we are trying to do is to reach the parents. we have done a lot, we have funded a lot of brain research on babies, nonintrusive, high-quality brain research using an e.g. machines -- meg machines, that registers depending on how the babies are reacting, what parts of the brain are being engaged. as an example, they have this baby, eight months old or nine months old in this huge thing.
it looks like a hairdryer from mars. the babysitting there. the parent is right in front of the baby interacting so the baby is not threatened in any way. from the baby looking at a screen where there is someone doing puppets or talking on a tv screen. the baby is just fascinated, looking at that monitor glued to the monitor. they are registering what is happening in the visual and auditory, and how those connections are being made. then a couple of days later they bring the baby back, but this time they bring the person from behind the monitor and sits in front of the baby. they go through the same
interaction. but the results are unbelievable. the brain activity is manyfold in terms of the connections that are being made, the synapses that are being connected. it is unbelievable. we are using that brain research to demonstrate that if we can get -- not to demonstrate, but to convey to parents who are too busy to have this information that they are brain builders from the minute that that baby is born. a lot of things that we as parents have taken for granted the way we raise our kids, there are a lot of parents, the parents that we are trying to reach that do not have that information. they themselves have not been brought up that way. they feel like, there is nothing i can do. the babies will learn when they
go to school at five years old. by then it is way too late. that is where there is a huge gap. they are finding out that the gaps begin when they are 18 months old, in terms of the number of words. it is not the number of words it is the quality of words that are spoken and interactions whether you are looking at the baby in the eyes, you are touching the baby. we have come up with a way for a busy parent that has two jobs and we say, you do not need any more time, the time you have is all you need when you bathe the baby, change the diaper, feed the baby. these are the interactions you need to have with the baby so that is what we are trying to do at that age. obviously, at different stages of the curriculum, we have
different programs. as you know, in high school, our emphasis is in leadership. the programs we do with the aspen institute, we think those high schoolers, we just do not challenge them enough. just mentioned he was fascinated by how well they reacted when you ask them to do something. the problem is we do not ask them. we just say, you do not want to do it, do not do it here it i think that is part of -- i'm not answering your question, not giving you one, 2, 3, 4 items. i am just saying that high schoolers, we need to challenge them and make sure that they get involved, that they put their education to work, that they can see what they are learning is going to yield something. they a result right away, and
that is where the aspen challenge is designed to do. it is one, we will help you along the way, you pick a challenge and we will help you. i am jumping around, but it is like water quality or constitution, whatever. walter: different projects? mike: different projects they have to work on as a team. one of the first things they have to learn to do is compromise, work as a team, select which challenge, decide which way -- which is the best way. we are trying to teach them a little bit of what real life is like. but at the end of the project, it is amazing the transformation
, the quality of the projects they come up with. in terms of helping or training concept, an idea to the local community, the neighborhoods or the school about that particular subject, they did a great job at the end of the process. they only have seven weeks to do this and this is in addition to their regular schoolwork. these are regular kids. these are not selected. they are very random, randomly selected. walter: for my last question i want to try to tie together a few things i heard you say. and see how, to you, it ties in to what america is all about. in your last answer you talked about making not just good projects but making civic leaders, kids who thought about something a little bit larger than themselves and had to work
together for the civic in common good. likewise when we talked about education. he talked about the opportunity for everybody to get more involved instead of starting off with an unequal playing field. in some ways, throughout it all you have talked about this notion of what a civic society is. we do not teach civics anymore but in some ways that is what this whole day has been about. what is civics to us? what is our civic, and? how do you think about all of that having come to america and getting involved with making sure the next generation can have the opportunities you had? mike: i think it was also mentioned earlier, to me civics disability. -- civics is civility. it is being able to understand that even though we are, we have differences and we have different desires, we need to be
aware that our private feelings do not get in the way of others' feelings. we have to have it like it or not we are in this together. how to get this done is something that is not easy. it takes a little training, if you will. we have to train ourselves. i think we complain about the lack of movement in washington, d c, in terms of getting things accomplished. a lot of that happens, starts at the kitchen table. if we have a conversation at the kitchen table in front of our kids that says, it is very
one-sided, that child is going to pick up on that and is also going to be one-sided. so at the kitchen table we need to be aware that there years -- their ears are listening to what is going on. it goes all the way from that point as they grow up. by example, we are the ones who need to lead that effort. again, i am not sure that i answered your question specifically but it is getting along and knowing to compromise. i think there is a lot of that that needs to be done. which i to get that into the kids' minds as early as possible. walter: michael bezos, thank you very much. [applause] mike: thank you.
>> your times chairman and publisher arthur sulzberger junior and executive editor discuss the times future in the digital age. about half of the newspapers' subscriptions are solely for digital con -- content, a major shift for a company that began offering electronic subscriptions only four years ago. mr. sulzberger said times needs to change traditional practices in journalism. >> let's put over here the debate over trend versus digital. journalism is better today than it ever was. i grew up in new orleans. i grew up around newspapers, and i only had access to one newspaper. the same kid who grows up in new
orleans now has access to as many newspapers as you can push a button for. he has access to video and access to the whole world. we should not get so caught up in the debates that are foreign and we should not get so caught up into the romantic aspects of journalism -- which believe me, i grew up in. to forget is better. we are in a mode now of testing learning, and adapting. if you do not have the courage to try new things and grow, you're going to fail. that is just the reality of the world we are in. and so i actually applaud what dean and his colleagues did just to increasingly say, let's put the story out when the story is ready. and there are some people who are going to read it then, and other people who will read it later in print.
but it is not about the device. when i say "device," i mean print as well. as you so eloquently stated some decades ago. we must be platform a gnostic. go to where the people are, and increasingly that means mobile. >> the future of the new york times and the digital age with chairman and publisher arthur sulzberger junior and executive editor dean the cake, tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span. >> lucy hayes is the first first lady to earn a college degree and during the civil war husbands serving in the civil war called her husband the regimen. she caused her husband to switch from the whig party to the anti-slavery republican party.
lucy hayes, the sunday night at 8:00 eastern. examining the women who filled the position of first lady and their influence on the presidency, from martha washington to michelle obama. sundays at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3. >> earlier this year, ucla released a report about the challenges facing undocumented undergraduate students in the u.s. the report called "in the shadows of the ivory tower" came as a result of a survey of undocumented undergraduates who migrated from 50 different countries. it is the largest study of its kind. the authors joined a panel in april for a discussion. this is one hour 45 minutes. >> good morning. it is a pleasure to welcome you and for those of you who live in new york, you know this is a
rare example of sunshine in the morning. it is not even freezing so it is a great pleasure to welcome you to the steinhardt institute for higher education policy. i was thinking about our session this morning and thinking about how when i started this institute 12 years ago i kept looking up the word "policy" in the dictionary. if you ever do that, you discover it is a difficult word and hard to get a good definition. i think that is appropriate because when we think of policy, each have an image in our mind right definition as if we are looking in a dictionary. one of the misunderstandings about policy is that policy is rules and regulations and laws and we think of the government. but policy is also what institutions do, and i think that that is a misunderstood part of policy. the institutions, whether they are public or private, small or large, have a fair amount of
latitude about how they behave and what kinds of positions they take and services they offer. one of the things we need to do in the policy world's focus much more directly on how should institutions, and also other kinds of social organizations think about policy. what kinds of interventions, services guidelines accents at every level of our experience? that is why it is an especially happy moment to welcome the authors of the study that you have read about and we will hear more about this morning, which really looked at the questions racing undocumented students and looked at those questions from every vantage point, including and especially the student experience. it is a unique and of study in that regard, and one i think we will all find fascinating as we learn more. when you look at our secrets --