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tv   QA Lillian Cunningham  CSPAN  April 30, 2018 11:34am-12:37pm EDT

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modern era. >> in my world we have the u.s. not regulating even when we see pretty bad problems. the eu regulating a lot. even more than i think they should. what we have not had is a good enough imagination of what could be in between. >> this week in prime time on c-span. ♪ >> this week on q&a, lillian cunningham host and creator of the washington post presidential and constitutional podcasts. >> lillian cunningham of the washington post. podcasts werehink worth spending a lot of time on?
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thought i kind of wasasts, just a podcast worth spending a lot of time on. i had no intentions of going into podcasting. i was a journalist at the washington post for several years as a print reporter primarily. i had this idea in 2015 four a big presidential project. it seems like podcasting was the perfect medium for this massive quest i was going to go on. at the time i really knew nothing about podcasting. i kind of happened into it just because of the medium felt right for the nation i had and the stories i wanted to tell. brian: what is a podcast? lillian: a podcast is kind of like a radio program except you can listen on-demand. from the presidential podcast and constitutional podcast i have done, we create about 45
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minute episodes. you can download them on the "washington post" website, and there are a bunch of places online like itunes. stitcher. all of these sites when they go to live in perpetuity for free, and anyone can listen to them at any time. people listen in their cars or while they are cooking dinner. it is kind of like the audio version of netflix. brian: you have sponsors. lillian: we did. for "presidential," we went a couple of months without a sponsor, it was just a project the "post" felt was worthy even if it did not have that support. after it started doing really well, a sponsor came on for the rest of the run, and then i did a second podcast that also had a sponsor. brian: the "presidential," what
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was it and when did you start it? lillian: the "presidential" podcast was this idea i had in 2015 and it actually came out of a gap in my presidential knowledge. i was the leadership editor and reporter at the "washington post" at the time, and i knew the election-year was coming up, i knew as a someone who wrote about leadership and did profiles of people in power, i was going to spend essentially the course of 2016 having to write about and analyze all of these candidates on the campaign trail, and i thought, oh my god, i don't actually feel like i know enough about presidential history to put this in context and to put these figures and their styles and approach to leadership in the right context. so actually, i went out there
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looking for a podcast i could listen to, to brush up quickly on the presidents, i thought wouldn't that be great if i could take half an hour, 40 minutes, and learn more about truman? and then do the same with eisenhower and work my way up. i realized there was nothing like that out there. it started as an idea, a service i wished someone else would provide. a public service i wish was out there turned into a personal mission to create this body of 44 episodes where i started, in the first week of january 2016, with george washington. and every week i picked up president by president, and the math works out perfectly so that by the time i got to president obama, we were a week before the 2016 election. the very final episode went out
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the day after the election in 2016. over the course of almost a year, i learned more about presidential history than i can honestly say i ever thought i could have learned in 44 weeks. brian: i know, because i have done it myself, you can get on the "post" and listen to these podcasts. what is the best and easiest way for somebody who has never done this before to get to your podcasts? lillian: the easiest way is to go to, or\constitut\constitut\constitut\constitut and that will take anyone directly to a page where all of the episodes live, and all you have to do is click "play."
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you can start with george washington or skip ahead to whichever president is most interesting to you. brian: you did something special with george washington and with donald trump. you say, especially in the donald trump one, i got out of my chair and walked over to the white house. explain what you did with george washington and donald trump. lillian: for the very first george washington episode i did, we have the privilege of living in washington, d.c., and having so much history around us. i started the quest to learn > more about the presidents by going to mount vernon, which is a short drive from a washington, d.c., along the potomac river. it was the middle of winter. i went down there, it was nighttime, they had a little event going on at mount vernon. i started the podcast with an actual journey to the first president's home, and kind of set me up on the mission for the
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year ahead. brian: have you been there before to mount vernon? lillian: i had been there years before, and in a very different mindset. i went the way i used to go to a lot of historical sites, which is kind of follow the tour and listen to the tour guide and kind of soak it in, but frankly forget a lot of what i learned. but this time was very different. i had a mission, which was part of the framework of the podcast, it was that i was very genuine about the fact that i was not an expert, i was coming to this with real questions about the
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legacy and life of each of these figures. what i did for every episode was reach out to all of the best historians and biographers and experts i could find, to help tell that story. so i started at george washington's home, and to book end that, the final episode, the morning, actually probably at 2:00 a.m., right after donald trump was declared the winner of the election, i left the "washington post" newsroom where i was working on the final episode and i walked out in the middle of the night to the white house to see if a crowd had gathered. it turned out to be something
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kind of ideal for audio, there were people out there playing bagpipes. you could hear, sort of hear that november, empty nighttime sound with this almost wailing of the bagpipes, and the crowds gathering and gathering, some in support and some not in support. and, that was essentially how the series ended, with another actual journey to a place where history was unfolding in the moment. brian: i know you answered this specifically, but how many people or times did people come to your podcasts, both the presidential and constitutional series, since it started? lillian: so, "presidential" has had about 15 million downloads
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by now, which is incredible to even hear myself say. i would say about 9, 10 million of those were in 2016, and another five or six were in the year or so that followed. i still get emails from people who say they just now heard about it and they are starting to listen with george washington, and they think -- i never anticipated there would be such a listenership, but i did hope i was creating something that was an evergreen resource. the episodes are not at all about the 2016 election. each episode really stands on its own as the story about that
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president. and so it has been great to see that as people today are trying to better understand the moment we live in and come up phrase we -- and a phrase we hear a lot now is about the presidency now, so i think a lot of people find it helpful to go back and learn about previous ones. brian: this is audio only, let's dip into one. this is the gerald ford presidency. you are talking to stephen ford, his son. [audio clip] >> i was only 16 years old, dad did not know that grandpa ford was not his father. dad was working at lunchtime getting money in high school, flipping hamburgers at a burger joint across the street from the high school. a man walked in and said, is
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there a leslie king here, and my dad had never heard that name. he said, is there a gerry ford here? and my dad said, yeah that's me. the man said, i am your real father. he was his biological father. he did not know that story. grandpa and grandma ford and they had never told him. [end audio clip] brian: how much of this was new to you? lillian: all of that was new to me. to hear his son tell it, i think it comes across a bit here, and certainly in the full episode, there is something just so powerful and intimate about hearing a son talk about his father's story, and actually one of the things i had my eyes open to across so many of these presidencies was that so many of them have stories sort of similar to this.
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they had difficult childhoods, so many of the presidents, really difficult childhoods. a number of them had fathers who died right before they were born, or alcoholic stepfathers or -- you know, abandonment. it was -- it was striking to me how -- how much of a pattern there was. brian: what is your own background? where are you from originally? lillian: i was born in new york city. my mother is from new york and my dad is from alabama. i lived there all my life until college. i went to the university of chicago, and grad school at northwestern, also in chicago. then back to new york and down to d.c. and, you know, i feel lucky i had a great education my whole
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life, it was something my parents cared so much about. and yet, i think i am like a lot of people who may have gone to a wonderful college and been a really dedicated student and yet still felt like i had some big gaps in my understanding of american history. brian: what kind of work do your parents do? lillian: my mom is a nurse and my dad for a long time owned a racquetball club. brian: are there other kids in the family? lillian: i have a younger sister. brian: what did you study at chicago? lillian: it took me a very long time to decide. the university of chicago is one of those schools with a massive core curriculum where you spend almost your first three years in there taking some version of required courses. i eventually was an english
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literature major, but along the way i was pre-med, i was an anthropology maybe major. i took russian for three years. it is sort of what led me to journalism, i felt like i could never quite not take something. i always wanted to keep my options open and i always wanted to study more. brian: another president, they are all there -- by the way, as you get into the podcast, there are little statuettes by each one, were those made? lillian: they are these little figurines about this big and they were made by a toy company called marks toy company out of erie, pennsylvania.
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decades ago, they were in business and created little figurines for every president, and every time there was a new election, they would create a new figurine. at the time, they were sort of cheap collectors' items. the company since went out of business, and now they are rare, more valuable collectors' items. you can find a set on ebay, which is what we did. someone at the "post," the art director, found an old set of all of the presidents, and we did a little photo session where we set each figurine up and took a photo of it against the backdrop and those became the artwork for each episode. brian: how many people helped you do these podcasts? lillian: for "presidential," i did it by myself. brian: all of it? the audio and all of that by yourself? lillian: yes. i learned a lot.
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i did not know how to do any of that before, but i taught myself how to use audio equipment to go out in the field in record the interviews. we also have a studio at the "post," and i taught myself with the help of someone who operates the studio there how to run all of the boards and record interviews in person. people would come into the studio. then i taught myself audio editing. i watched a lot of youtube videos on how to edit audio. you can tell, actually, i think in the podcast that it is a sincere, homegrown effort, and the quality gets better and better after a couple of weeks. i sort of have the system down.
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by the end of it, it was sounding pretty polished. but it was, in addition to my presidential education, i had an education in how audio is produced. brian: here is 30 seconds with you and someone who writes for the "post" talking about william henry harrison. [begin audio clip] >> i feel like presidential history would have suffered a great loss if harrison had not died. his death is ironically one of the things that brings presidential history to life. >> i agree. i think he also serves as a valuable cautionary tale. the trend toward longer and longer inaugural speeches can only be stopped when someone literally dies in office. whether or not that is actually correlated to the speech, it is a good thing to point to and say, you don't want to wind up like william henry harrison. [end audio clip] brian: she does some humor writing for the "post," how did she get involved in the podcast? lillian: she is very funny. part of what i did with a
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podcast was my main effort was to bring in historians and biographers to tell the story, but what i also tried complement that with was a cast of journalists from around the room at the "washington post," who either their beat intersected in some interesting way with their -- a president i was covering that week, or in the case of alex, she grew up in indiana, i believe her aunt worked at the benjamin harrison museum and her family has had this lifelong fascination with benjamin harrison, so she appeared on the benjamin harrison episode later, but i thought it would be fun to have her come on and do the grandfather's episode.
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brian: this is about grover cleveland's illegitimate child. [begin audio clip] >> there is a minister in buffalo who tells a local newspaper that cleveland fathered an illegitimate child. >> the story had a lot of potentially sordid elements to it, and the reverend embellished what was already there and made it a huge scandal. of course, here is this person known for his incorruptibility and trustworthiness, and now he is confronted with the scandal being presented as an ethical lapse. >> the news starts to spread through more papers across the country and seems to be swaying voters. there is a famous editorial cartoon that comes out with a baby screaming, where is my pa? [end audio clip] brian: i think there is more to that, it says "gone to the white house, ha ha ha!" the question i have for you, given grover cleveland's life, he married a 21-year-old when he
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was in the white house, and then this story, what would have been the coverage of that today and how does that relate to what we are seeing daily in the news? lillian: sure. grover cleveland was really one of the first presidents or candidates to have that type of salacious, sexual scandal kind of emerge on the campaign trail. but you know, we see it with a number of candidates as we move through history. certainly the way news is disseminated today and the speed with which it travels has made scandals like that or rumors like that blow up in much bigger ways for candidates today. in cleveland's time, voters knew about it, but is sort of
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depended on where you were in the country, how much you are hearing about it, how much the local paper decided to focus on it. i think like today, the thing that really threatened his candidacy about it as michelle pointed out, was the hypocrisy. and this idea that the image he was presenting of himself and the platform he was running on caps on corruptible was undermined i his actions. i think that today and 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 70 years ago, whether it is a sexual scandal or not, that has always been at the heart of the scandals that have risen to a point where they jeopardize a candidacy. brian: when you did your podcast, did you have somebody listen to them before they went out to the internet?
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lillian: not all of them. i listened to them 100 times in before they went out, but depending on the episode, different people would, and part of the thing was that -- and for the record, i wish more people had listened to it before it went out into the world. but part of sort of the beauty and challenge of the podcast was the enormous time constraint of it. it was essentially like producing a documentary film every week by myself. and so i would publish an episode on sunday night and start fresh monday morning with the next president and sprint, really sprint to get to the following sunday evening to
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where i could publish the next one. mondays were usually huge research and reading days. into tuesday, i would be lining up guests, and wednesday, thursday and friday would be interviews. saturday and sunday would be stitching it all together and editing it. there were a lot of times i was in the room by myself at a desk in at the "washington post" at 3:00 a.m. on a saturday night, and the only one to listen to it who could listen to it was me. brian: csx sponsored part, they were not there in the beginning, of the presidential podcast. in wordpress did the constitutional one. do your bosses look at you and say, that made money for us?
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lillian: i think they do. it is not something that we talk about much. they do talk in more general terms about a sense of the success of the podcast. brian: is it the most successful podcast at the "post?" lillian: yes. i mean, yes. i don't know -- to be fair, i don't know anything about advertising numbers. i have never heard anything about how much money a podcast has brought in from advertising, but i know in terms of downloads and listenership that "presidential" has been the biggest podcast the "post" has done. brian: where did you get the idea for "constitutional" and where did they start? lillian: the idea emerged out of "presidential."
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i mentioned to you, i felt when i started "presidential" this was just an interesting and worthy idea, i had to detour from my regular job to do for ay regular job to do for a year. at the time i had no intention of continuing podcasting. i just thought, we needed this "presidential" podcast in the world, i will do it, then i will go back to the sort of reporting i was doing before. but i got to the end of "presidential" and i loved it. i had such a wonderful time making it, and listeners started sending me email after email saying, what are you doing next? what is the second podcast? so it all, it felt like even though that was not the plan originally, that was the right thing to do.
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just to pick another topic where i and a number of people out there in the world felt like we wished we knew more about that part of american history. so the idea for "constitutional" was actually an idea that several of the listeners of "presidential" wrote to me as a suggestion. they said, how about a podcast on the bill of rights, or how about a podcast on the history of the constitution? what i sort of settled on, i took that idea and the way i made it my own was to really focus on figures who shaped constitutional history. that started with the original framers of the constitution in 1787, but then sort of moved up in time to focus on, you know, people who helped with the
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passage of later amendments or people whose cases went to the supreme court and that changed the interpretation of language in the constitution, had a real effect on our society. brian: how many people have come to you and listened to the "constitutional" podcast? lillian: i haven't looked at those numbers too recently. it is somewhere around, maybe 7 million or something. it is a little hard to say with the numbers, because as with "presidential," people can start these podcasts at any time. "constitutional" i just recently finished. "constitutional" was a project i started in 2017 and finished in mid-february of 2018. so the numbers are kind of changing all the time.
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as new people find it. brian: how many episodes are in "constitutional"? lillian: only 17. brian: have you started a new one? lillian: not yet. brian: this is one of my favorites of all of the things you have done. it is a guy named gregory watson. what was it and how did you find him? lillian: this was part of the "constitutional" podcast. there is an incredible story behind the most recent amendment that we've passed and ratified -- or the most recent amendment we have ratified, the 27th amendment. the story is it was actually an amendment proposed by james madison way back with the rest of the bill of rights was going through. congress passed it, and not
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enough states ever ratified it, and it was an amendment that said congress cannot essentially give itself an immediate pay raise. that if they want to change their pay, it has to go into effect the following congress. it was supposed to be a restraint on people in power giving themselves more money. a pretty logical amendment to put in there, james madison fought hard for it. when it did not get enough state ratifications, it just kind of sat out there. years passed and people forgot this was out there until a man, gregory watson, a young student at the university of texas at austin, in the 1980's. he was doing research for a
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political science class he was taking and he came across an old book in his library that mentioned, oh yes, james madison proposed this amendment, congress passed it, not enough states ratified it. and as he describes it, he got almost like an electric shock that went through him, thinking, we could still ratify this, couldn't we? it turns out that he was right, or he made that right, because he started writing letter after letter to different state legislatures to push the ones who had not ratified it centuries ago to sign off on it. brian: let's listen to him from your podcast, just talking a little bit about how he found all this. [audio clip] >> i was in the library downtown
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here in austin, and i was in the stacks looking at books about the u.s. constitution. >> he pulled a book off the shelf, thumbed through its pages and came across a chapter on unratified amendments. that is -- >> amendments congress had proposed to the states for ratification. >> but that not enough states ever approved to be part of the constitution. [end audio clip] brian: how did you find this story? he is talking as if you are in austin. did you go to austin to interview him? lillian: we did this over the phone. i was in the studio in washington, d.c. he went into a studio in austin and we coordinated to have a recording of his end of the conversation. i came across his story just
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reading some old newspaper clippings of the final ratification of the 27th amendment. in the early 1990's, it was finally officially ratified. there were some writeups at the time about this young student who had really spurred the campaign. i just went digging for where he was. it turned out he had gone on to work for the state legislature in austin, and at the time i found him, was out of a job, but so passionate still about the story and average people getting involved in the process of government. and it was just kind of a wild goose chase of tracking down contact info for him. brian: where does he live now?
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lillian: he is still in austin. brian: not working at the moment. lillian: at least as of last summer. brian: when you interviewed him, was he working then for the state legislature when you interviewed him? lillian: no, they had budget cuts and he was let go along with a slew of others. brian: here is an excerpt -- he was preparing a paper, as you say. he was 19 years old at the university of texas and this is what he says happened when he submitted the paper about what he was finding. [audio clip] >> i wrote the paper and i put a lot of tender loving care into it. i turned it in and got it back a few days later with a c on it. that made me very angry. >> he went to his professor and appealed the grade. >> a few days after that, she returned to the classroom and kind of physically tossed it at me and said "no change" and walked away.
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i decided, i'm going to get that thing ratified. [end audio clip] brian: without gregory watson, would the 27th amendment have been ratified? lillian: no, i really don't think so. it had gone 200 years almost without anyone touching it. no, that is all gregory watson. brian: there is a lot more to the story, you can listen to it on the podcast. when you were doing this, did you know you had a pretty good story? lillian: oh, yeah. he, you know, the story seemed just brilliant and touching and wonderful and kind of unbelievable to me when i read through it and old writeups about it.
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and certainly talking with him, you get a taste of it here, but he was such a dynamic, interesting, dedicated guy that certainly after speaking with him, it felt like, you know, what an opportunity and treasure to tell his story and in his voice. brian: you might remember this, the original second amendment of 12 of the bill of rights, and two of them did not get passed. this would have been the second had it passed. lillian: right. brian: how did you approach the constitution from a story angle? did you have a background for any of this? lillian: the way i approached it was a bit different than "presidential." i contemplated at first.
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the logical thing seemed to do 27 episodes on the 27 amendments. that was the first idea, it fit the format of "presidential," a very clear order. but i had done that with "presidential." i was not interested in just having kind of a schtick for the way i did podcasts. the more i thought about it, the more i thought i could tell the best stories i could tell, i needed to throw off that constraint and needed to focus instead on themes and topics that lend themselves to these vivid stories. it is pretty subtle, but the organizing principle i had for the podcast was to follow the preamble of the constitution.
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the way i thought about the episodes was, you know, let's start with these values and goals that were set out and let's sort of use that as a way into exploring how we have worked over time to better embody those ideals. the first few episodes are all, in my head, they kind of hang around the concept of "we the people," so it was an exploration of gender, race, nationality, ancestry. then we sort of move into the idea of a more perfect union, and there are a couple of episodes about justice and defense and it ends sort of with a culmination with the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our
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posterity and what does that mean. a lot of the episodes are about the passage of different constitutional amendments, but for example, the three amendments we got right after reconstruction, 13th, 14th and 15th, they all had to deal with race and equality, those all fused into a single, major episode on reconstruction and race in america. brian: what i am about to show does not come from your podcast, although you do an episode on this in your podcast. we have a contest every year called studentcam. a middle school group right here in washington, eastern middle school in the maryland suburbs, won second prize with a vignette, a little documentary on gideon versus wainwright. i just want to show a little bit, this is what an eighth
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grade group did earlier this year. [video clip] >> on june 3, 1961, an unknown man broke into a pool hall and stole liquor, cigarettes and $25 in coins. clarence gideon was arrested and charged solely on witness accounts. he could not afford a lawyer, and because of the law at the time, he, a man of an eighth-grade education, was forced to defend himself against a trained prosecutor. >> so, when gideon was brought to his trial, he said i am too poor to hire a lawyer. the judges said, i am sorry we cannot appoint a lawyer for you in the state, it does not permit it. >> he lost the trial and was sentenced to five years in prison. to gideon, this was unjust. he believed that under the sixth amendment, he had a right to counsel, the right to an attorney even if he cannot afford one. [end video clip]
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brian: first i want you to talk about -- you put all this together with no experience and had all those people come to you. these kids, they would be 12, 13 years old put together a , very attractive small documentary. as you are doing this and having such great success, what is going on in your head about the future of communication? lillian: i mean, that clip you showed, what a beautiful presentation. for the "constitutional" podcast, i should also say, i did end up with some help for the "constitutional" podcast. a great producer who works at the "post" was my partner on it and i think really elevated the production quality of "constitutional." and part of what is wonderful to see with that clip he played and -- you played and that i have been feeling with the "presidential" and
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"constitutional" podcasts, is there are so many teachers who have reached out to me and said that podcasts and focus on figures like clarence earl gideon have given such a rich way for them to sort of guide students into history. because i think the idea of studying the u.s. constitution feels, can feel daunting, dry, sort of dusty. and then you realize how alive it is every day and every generation. and people like a prisoner in florida who wrote that letter to the supreme court, i think that students today and always connect with human stories and it helps them feel the importance of history and have
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it come alive for them. brian: how did you do gideon versus wainwright? was that one episode or part of one episode? lillian: it was one full episode. it was part of the establishing part of the podcast, but it was a full episode devoted to his case. i see that they interviewed people, it was wonderful to get firsthand accounts. that's essentially what i tried to do, as well, to talk as much as possible. gideon is not still alive, but some of the lawyers involved in his case are. i spoke to another lawyer who is still down in florida, bruce
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jacobs, who had argued against gideon and has since gone into public defense himself. he has essentially become a product of gideon's efforts to change the way the justice system in america works. i did something sort of similar. firsthand accounts, along with historians and constitutional law scholars could put together a portrait of why this story mattered and why this man and his individual story changed the story for so many people in this country. brian: this is only 22 seconds, sarah gordon of the university of pennsylvania, on a first amendment jehovah witnesses case. [begin video clip] >> jehovah's witnesses are more famous today among constitutional lawyers and scholars than in the broader
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society, because those people who study constitutional change think of the witnesses as true heroes, having brought into existence a new constitutional world. [end clip] brian: how did you go about this one? lillian: this was one of the very final episodes i did for "constitutional." it was an episode all about the first amendment, and in part i saved it for the end because i thought it fit really well under this idea of blessings of liberty, and it was also such an important topic to save for the finish. and partly, i pushed it off because i needed more time to come up with what i was going to do for a single episode about the first amendment. it felt daunting to narrow it
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down. what i eventually landed on was to tell a narrower story about the role, as sarah mentioned, jehovah's witnesses played in shaping first amendment rights in this country. it was a story i did not know well beforehand. it is a story, like many of the episodes, it is sort of like, you know, actually going on a quest where the first person you talk to, you ask that person, who is the next person i should talk to? you ask that person, what is the next place i should look for clues? the idea of doing an episode on jehovah's witnesses came from someone i had spoken to earlier in the podcast, who planted the seed in my head, and this group had an incredible slew of cases in the 1940's that touched
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freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press. and so it became a way to talk about several aspects of our first amendment freedoms. but the amazing thing for me about this story was how up until these cases that the jehovah's witnesses brought, the first amendment didn't really hold -- it was first, but not for a reason, just by happenstance, its positioning. today we think of the first amendment as a crown jewel of the constitution, many of us do, certainly in journalism we do. but it took a group really advocating for those rights to be cemented for us as a nation to sort of uphold it in a
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more meaningful way than we had for most of our history until the 1940's. brian: we're talking about your podcasts. if people want to go listen to presidents,s, 44 on 17 on constitution, what is the best way to get to them? lillian: go to the "washington post" site. you can type in -- l. you can click play and listen to any episode you want. you can also just do a google search. you will find them. brian: this is another interesting one on the constitution, about george cassaday. the bootlegger.
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let's listen to a little bit of this. you set up the story and then i will get you to finish it. [begin audio clip] >> he was clean shaven, baby faced, in his late 20's, early 30's. he was smartly dressed. tie, vest, fedora. shined shoes that clicked on the marble floors. he had keys to congressmen's offices and his own stowaway spot in the canon house office building. he was a bootlegger. he supplied congress with illegal liquor during prohibition. [end audio clip] brian: how much illegal liquor? lillian: a lot of it. he was essentially the main supplier for a very hefty percentage of congressmen during prohibition. we are right here, we are steps from capitol hill, where it all
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took place. and talk about hypocrisy. i mean, the story of the man in the green hat, as he came to be known, is one that reeks of the hypocrisy of congressmen who have all passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol, and then have set up their own little shop inside the capital for their own supply. brian: as you look back on these episodes, both groups of podcasts, was there when the got -- one that just got more attention than the others? lillian: one episode? brian: yeah. if it is not that, was the one -- there one you got more emails saying you messed up on that fact? lillian: fortunately, i did not get that at all. but i would say, for the "constitutional" podcast, one of
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the episodes that i think, the story surprised the most people and touched the most people, was actually the second episode i did, which was on chief standing bear. it's the story of a native american chief in the late 1800's, who, his tribe had been kicked off of their reservation, his son died in these malaria filled camps where they had been moved by the u.s. government, and all that the chief wanted to do was to take his dead young son and bring him back to where their secret burial grounds were. and he went on this trek across the plains during the winter to return his son's body and bury it.
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he was arrested by the u.s. government, who said he had no right to leave the reservation. and that case ended up being a crucial case, and it is hard to think this was even a question, but the question was, do we as the u.s. government, are we going to treat native americans as human beings? do they count as human beings and do we need to afford them the same rights to a trial, redress of grievances, that we would any other human? his story is just heartbreaking and important, and a story that i think most of us have never heard in our history classes. i got so many letters and emails after that episode. but those are the kind of stories we need to hear more.
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brian: back to the presidents in our remaining minutes, this is a question you ask often, and this is julie miller talking about a blind date with george washington. here is julie miller. [begin audio clip] >> you would have found that he was extremely charming. if you went to a dance or something, a really good dancer, beautifully dressed. at that time, he was ordering lots of really fashionable clothing from england to wear. he really liked that sort of thing. he would've looked really good. george washington. [laughter] >> but one thing you would have wanted to be aware of is that he was not a particularly rich person and he was anxious to expand his holdings. and if you were a rich widow, he would definitely be interested in your money. he would be interested in you, but he would definitely be interested in your money. [end audio clip] brian: who is julie miller?
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lillian: julie miller is a historian of the library of congress. she is actually the keeper of all of george washington's manuscripts at the library of congress. brian: why did you start asking the question about, would you like, or what would it be like to have a blind date with a president? lillian: i asked that question, the very first episode i did, i started with george washington, and it occurred to me to ask the question -- i think i was just curious what would happen and what would be revealed in the answer. julie is a very dynamic, engaging person. but i had this fear going into the presidential podcast, i was worried it could too easily get too dense and dry and academic, and i wanted to make sure the
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historians i spoke to were bringing these figures to life. i thought, i will try it out on julie and see how it goes. i said, what would it be like on a blind date with george washington, and her first response, which you can't hear on this is -- "you can't, he is married." i said, i know he is married, he is dead. [laughter] lillian: i am not going on a blind date with him, but walk me through what it would be like. brian: here is what michelle of the library of congress told you about a blind date with lincoln. [audio clip] >> he did not dress well, he was not fashionable. he still had a little bit of that backcountry way about him. he was very awkward around females. he was not particularly comfortable with them in social situations. he was more someone who is comfortable being one of the guys.
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>> was that out of a certain shyness or awkwardness? >> i think in some ways it was a kind of shyness. he was not a good dancer, for example. mary lincoln once told the story that lincoln came up to her when they were courting and said i want to dance with you in the worst way, and she said, he did, in the worst way. [end audio clip] brian: how often did you ask that question? lillian: every president, every episode. brian: do you remember who got the biggest positive reaction? lillian: you know, a very positive response to that was for eisenhower. the historian i asked that of said he thought he would have made one of the best blind dates you could have with the president. intensely charismatic and interested and made everyone, walked into a room and lit up the room and would have done the
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same in the blind date context. brian: what are you thinking now? we have half a minute. what are you thinking about next possible podcast you could do? lillian: again, after "presidential," after "constitutional," i have gotten a ton of ideas from listeners. what i want to do, i'm not sure of the exact topic, but i would love to stay in this american history space and ask myself the question, what right now could many of us use to know more about and see where that takes me. i'm open to ideas. if you have them or people watching this. brian: how can they get a hold of you directly? lillian: it's i would love to hear from them. brian: lillian cunningham works
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at the "washington post" and has done podcasts that millions of people have listened to. thank you for being with us. lillian: thank you. ♪ [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] announcer: for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q&a programs are also available as c-span podcasts. ♪ >> next week on "q&a," we are joined by author of "rocket men," which tells the story of the 1968 apollo eight mission to the moon.
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you can see "q&a" sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. withdent trump is meeting the nigerian president at the white house today. they are meeting for lunch, then they will will a joint news conference this afternoon, schedule 1:30 eastern. we are planning to bring it to you live on c-span. later today, a review of the summit between north and south korea and how it could affect the security of the korean peninsula, the u.s., and china. our coverage will start right after the joint news briefing with presidents trump and buhari. later this afternoon, campaign managers will discuss their experiences and the realities of running opposition campaigns in russia. c-span's live coverage from the woodrow wilson center start at 3:30 eastern. tonight, on "the communicators." >> this seems to be a lot of net
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neutrality fatigue, from what i can see. >> one of the reasons this debate generated so much heat and arguably less light, but so much heat, was because it was viewed as the good guys versus the bad guys. google and facebook were the good guys and verizon, at&t, and comcast for the bad guys. the zeitgeist right now is they are all bad guys. >> watch "the communicators" tonight at 6:30 on c-span2. >> tonight at 7:00 p.m., james comey will be live on book tv on c-span2 in primetime with his best-selling autobiography, "a higher loyalty." he will discuss several of issues he face as a ,ei director -- as fbi director including his views on president trump. watch james comey live on book tv on c-span2 in primetime
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tonight at 7:00 p.m. eastern. c-span, this week in primetime, tonight at 8:00 eastern, executives on challenges facing hospitals and the seat of american health care. for screeningo more effectively when they have insurance, so it has driven down the death rate on all three of those cancers because people got identified, diagnosed earlier. >> tuesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, the wife of facebook's ceo discussing the couple's philanthropic efforts. >> we are working at really -- we take a whole child approach in thinking about what each student needs to succeed. >> wednesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a conversation with supreme court justice clarence thomas and justice stephen breyer. >> have a criteria. and the criteria is almost
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always did the lower courts come to different conclusions on the same question of federal law. >> thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, a look at how the criminal justice system handles people suffering from mental illness. >> since 1980, the people -- number of people going to jail has tripled and their sentences have increased by 166%. onion andl back the you try to figure out what in the heck has happened, what you'll find is most of this is due to untreated mental illness and substance use disorders. >> friday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, legal experts discussed surveillance and privacy in the modern era. >> and in my world, we have to u.s. not regulating, even when we see pretty bad problems. we see the e.u. regulating a lot, even more than i think they shou.


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