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tv   Book Discussion on The King Years  CSPAN  December 14, 2013 8:00am-8:46am EST

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10:00 a.m. and 6:00 eastern on c-span. >> you are watching c-span2 with politics and public affairs, weekdays featuring live coverage of the u.s. senate, weeknights watched the public policy events and every weekend the latest nonfiction authors and books on booktv. .. >> gigantic implications of the
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potential of conflict. we're at a crossroads. we're at one of those really hinge points in history. one path could lead to an enduring resolution and international communities' concerns about iran's nuclear program. the other path could lead to continued hostility and potentially to conflict. and i don't have to tell you that these are high stakes. >> this weekend on c-span, secretary of state john kerry on why house members should not impose additional sanctions against iran as talks continue on freezing parts of iran's nuclear program. watch this morning at 10 eastern on c-span2's booktv, dick cheney and his longtime cardiologist jonathan reiner talk about the former vice president's history with heart disease and recent advances in cardiology, tonight at 11. and on c-span3's american history tv, a look at the free african-american men and former slaves who fought for the union,
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sunday at 13 a.m. eastern. >> and now on booktv, taylor branch, author of the multi-volume "america in the king years," presents his thoughts on key moments in the civil rights movement. this is about an hour, 15 minutes. [applause] >> thank you, jeffrey, and thanks to all of you for coming. i finish this is a very exciting time, and i hope to use the civil rights history to look forward, rather than backward. because i think all of you as citizens own an equal share of this country devoted to the idea of equal citizenship and that we should aspire to the model of the civil rights era in which even 8-year-old children who were denied the right to vote advanced freedom and democracy by studying its basic principles
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and taking risks to make it real. [applause] so i think the civil rights movement is about our past, but it's also about our future which has a number of implications for those of us who are not students. one of them is that we should be concerned when our schools are teaching only reading and math because history if america, the only country in the world founded on an idea, is how we learn what citizenship means. [applause] our citizenship to some degree is paralyzed by the age of gridlock, and i think that we are to some degree responsible for it ourselves. and i'm going to try to challenge you with a little bit of that along with we normally get inspiration from the civil rights era, and it is there. but it is also sobering, the
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degree to which the comparisons between now and then leave us a little bit behind as far as be applying those lessons toward the future. this little book, my compact book, is dedicated to students of freedom and teachers of history. the reason that i did it and shed so much blood by eliminating 90% of what i had written over 24 years was because teachers over the years have complained to me that it's half right. my trilogy was half right. storytelling is what makes history accessible to students. they learn things through human stories, not through abstract categories and argumentation and labels of analysis linked to dates. they get involved with stories. and, therefore, that's good. however, 900 pages of stories is a lot even for a college
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teacher. [laughter] let alone for a high school teacher. and so they said try to preserve the stories and give us something that is a little more compact introduction to this era if you believe that it is so vital not only to our past, but to our future and that it is crucially misremembered. we in the united states have a terrible history of misremembering our history when we don't want to remember it. we can turn it upside down. i was born and grew up in atlanta, georgia, and it was in my textbooks that the civil war had nothing to do with slavery, that the slaves were better off here than they had been in africa and that the people who restored white rule in the south were known as the redeemers. that's still true. it's a religious word for terrorist. so we have to be very careful, because race and citizenship and
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freedom are tricky. and we are in a tricky era. right now. i'm using this book to try to teach students now. we had an experiment last spring at the university of maryland. i live in baltimore. to teach a seminar on the basics of civil rights history and citizenship to a seminar classroom in baltimore with online students from russia and the solomon islands and all around the world. we're going to do it again for credit. our goal is to cut the tuition costs for students by 90% and open to up to the world people who can, who can with some skin in the game and some prospect for credit gain access to the mastery and the lessons of civil rights history for the world. there's a revolution coming this higher education. in higher education. just like the revolution that
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has come in newspapers and that made detroit a shadow of itself, and that has affected the book industry itself. this new, short book has something called an enhanced e-book edition that i can't read myself, my own book, because i don't have an ipad. you can read along on the e-book for a fraction of the cost of the regular book, and when it says president kennedy had an interview about vietnam and civil rights right before he was killed, you can click on it and actually see the interview. not just the interview, the outtakes. when he and walter cronkite stand up in their rocking chair and start gossipping about sailboats. enhanced e-books are amazing. there are revolutions coming in all kinds of aspects of american life, in some respects they are thrilling, in other respects they are chilling. because none of us wants to be a part of the industry that gets made obsolete. and half of our politics is
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saying that's what black people are for. they're the ones that should be in the industry that's obsolete, because they've been used to it for 200 years. blue collar work went out of work, farming went out of work. all of the brunt on that fell on black people who have been behind. the great lesson of our future is to what degree we are willing to look to the inspiration and the discipline of american history to form public policies and public trust together to help us have rules and public policy that will advance and help us address the very, very serious problems that we face be the way they did in the civil rights era. when an invisible minority that was 10% of the population with none of the traditional tools of politics -- no armies, no newspapers, they were not in the paper, the newspapers wouldn't even put most of their social
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events, they wouldn't even refer to them by name. they had no banks. they had no police force. all they had was a willingness to study and sacrifice for the basic principles of american freedom to lift the rest of the country toward the professed meaning of its own values. and they did it. and it's an amazing story. and it's accessible to children today in part because it was children in that era who were leaders in it, who confronted problems that made adults mumble. and stare the problem in the knees rather than in the eyes. you had college students and in 1963 in the freedom can rides and in the sit-ins at a time when we were so addled by the prospect, it was such a foreign concept that the first sit-ins were dismissed as panty raids. young people, particularly young
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black people can't be addressing serious problems that have befuddled the united states and make the president of the united states -- at that time dwight eisenhower -- sound addled. but they were not addled, they were confronting it. and by 1963 when the rest of the country was saying, essentially, this race problem of segregation in 17 states that takes basic freedoms away from a whole segment of our population is wrong and somebody should do something about it but not me, not now, and i can tell you that i myself growing up in atlanta, it had finally worn me down. i'd been trying to avoid it my whole childhood, and i said when i get really impossibly old, like 30 -- [laughter] i'm going to stick my toe in this race problem. no sooner had i said that at 16, i turned on the tv, and there were little children in birmingham marching into dogs and fire hoses singing the same
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songs i sang at sunday school and not running from the dogs and fire hoses and not waiting until they were 30 and not waiting until they had any of the advantages i had growing up middle class in atlanta. and it was so stupefying to me, that eventually it changed the direction of my life's interests against my will. where did that come from? it was their activity, this stupefying gambit by martin luther king when his whole movement was about to go down the tubes, buzz condemned -- was condemned by every political figure in the united states from george wallis to robert kennedy to malcolm x. to use small children in those demonstrations as young as 8 and 6 years old by the thousands when they could only get the conditions in the movement in birmingham were so intimidating to black adults that they could only get 10 or 12 with the greatest martin luther king i have a dream speech and sermon, they were terrified, but they
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got 1,000 kids to march on may 2nd, and they got another thousand to march on may 3rd. and it melted the emotional resistance to dealing with the fundamental issues of american freedom as presented by race not only across the united states and not only in me as a 16-year-old, but all around the world. which is one of the reasons that the civil rights movement is a greater inspiration outside the united states today than it is inside. they were singing "we shall overcome" when they took the bear be lin wall down -- berlin wall down, when nelson mandela calm out of prison and said the answer to apartheid is not armageddon, but a multiracial democracy at great risk and great effort to all of us. this inspiration has gone around the world, and we have opinion to some degree -- we have been to some degree trapped in it, and i'm going to give you two reasons that i think we're trapped in it.
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>> i mention them, by the way, thank you for jeffrey brown, but with i mentioned them to gwen ifill on the "newshour" the other night and got a real double take. i said that the greatest unexamined question in american politics today is to what degree the underpinnings of partisan grid lock are racial. what -- [applause] and as we came out of -- she kind of danced around that a little bit, and we came out, and she says do you mind if i ask president obama if i get to interview him whether he thinks the underpinnings of gridlock that he's suffering with so much and that's threatening to shut down our government so much are
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racial? i said, of course not. she said, well, i'm going to throw you under the bus. sure enough, the very next day she got an interview with obama and said this historian says this, and obama danced all around it. [laughter] it is dangerous, it is delicate, but race throughout american history has been the gateway to the advancement of freedom and to the block an of freedom. -- blockage of freedom. it's the gateway where we go through. two ways of looking at it. 1963, 50 years ago, segregation ruled 17 states. george wallace had just been inaugurated governor with his famous speech segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever. he talked about nothing but race. fifty years ago in september this month, he flew to baltimore -- my home city -- and announced that he was going to run for president and never
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mentioned race. he never mentioned segregation again. he turned on a dime when the march on washington and those birmingham demonstrations made it obvious that in the future overt segregation was no longer going to be respectable. he switched his message adroitly. he said he was running only to restore local government against big government by pointy-headed bureaucrats, tyrannical judges and tax-spend legislators. and that he had never denigrated the race of any person or group of people if history. and people wanted to believe it. and that's the beginning of misremembering history. and that's the beginning of the vocabulary of modern politics x. if you don't believe that big government opposition today and that the notion that what makes me safe and makes me free is not all of the painstaking ties that we've built up over two centuries of democrat for our
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economy and for our politics, but the pistol that i carry into starbucks, if you don't believe that that's not driven b -- [applause] by race, ask yourself why is it that big government is only a slogan and never analyzed? what part of big government, the big government in the pentagon, the big government if foreign pill -- in foreign policy, the big government in the homeland security agency that frisks you whenever you get into an airplane? no. it's only the big government that could con sue my -- conceivably put you in a position with somebody that makes you fear beful or makes you anxious. that's big government. that's where it comes from. [applause] that's why obamacare works only as a slogan that mentions obama and, therefore, a racial signal. and obamacare and a piece of legislation without anything about it and doesn't address the
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fact that the if you got rid of it, the presumption is we would have a any van that system. -- nirvana system. our medical system works miracles, but it also is by far the most expensive one in the world, and we have convinced ourselves that it is a rational system to route every checkup, including dental, through vast decisions of profit-making insurance companies. [applause] so the notion that we are imprisoned in a system that is a choice between obamacare and an unspecified nirvana that is not really nirvana is a measure of our gridlock, and it is driven by irrational fear and p apprehension that is similar to the fear and apprehension that all of us face about things that confront us in this, in the modern world. you and me in the book business. my book business is dissolving
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in respects, so we all have to adapt to that. now, lastly, and i want to take some questions because i'm trying to essentially say that our democracy is as simple as these wonderful stories of the 8-year-old girls marching into the dogs and fire hoses. but it's also basic and challenging as democracyist. and we're not be -- democracy itself. and we're not dealing with it very well today. it's easy to say that gridlock all belongs on the other side of people who are fearful and who are cussing big government and transmuting their latent fear and hostility on racial grounds to the government itself. which, among other things, is anti-patriotic. our whole government since the very beginning has been about what we can build. the tea party was a purely destructive movement. it's great that you go back to basics, but it was about revolting against a foreign government that had allegiance to the king. the hard work began after that. what kind of government are we going to build? and everybody from george washington to abraham lincoln to
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martin luther king is saying we're going to build something together by -- through government of the people, by the people, for the people. that's what's patriotic. that's what they have in common, that's why i call the modern civil rights movement modern founders. they were doing just what they did. our side, the people who appreciate the movement, is complicit. in our gridlock for two reasons. and they're not easy to talk about. but i want to throw them out because i think we need to get out of this, out of this notion that the only hope we have is for the other side to drop dead. [laughter] [applause] the people who appreciate the racial aspects of advancement in american history historically from the very beginning of our republic through the civil war, through the progressive era, through the civil rights era and
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now today down to obama, the people who appreciate the racial aspects talk only about race. they don't enlarge -- they don't pay attention to the lesson that martin luther king and the civil rights movement all talked about the larger premise of judgment and of justice and use race as a doorway to talk about it. the people on the other hand who showed up at the march the other day -- and this was, to me, the most hopeful thing about the 50th anniversary march -- you had representatives from all the collateral movements that benefited from the civil rights era; the senior citizens, the gay rights movement, the women's movement, the disabled movement, on and on. stood up and said i am standing here because of what the civil rights movement did. that's half the formula. make race legal conclusions the -- relations the doorway to things that benefit everyone. dr. king said famously in the
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line that is the first to be forgotten that when the civil rights movement got rid of segregation in the south, some of the chief beneficiaries would be white southerners because their whole system was imprisoned psychologically, economically and politically in a system of selling regeation that -- segregation that depended on trying to keep people degraded. it degraded everyone. and when segregation went, what did you hear about? the sun belt. you never heard of the sun belt when it was segregated. it was the hook worm belt. we were poor. my mayor, ivan allen in atlanta, said as soon as the civil rights bill passed not quite 50 years ago, the city of atlanta built a sports stadium on land it didn't own with money be it didn't have for a team it hadn't located and lured the first professional sports team, the atlanta braves, from milwaukee to atlanta. it opened up the whole world. every politician in the south who cusses the civil rights
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movement stands on its shoulders for its prosperity, for the hopes and dreams of their daughters who now can go to princeton and yale and even my university, the university of north carolina, that only admitted nursing students when i was there in the 1960s. we take all this for granted. we need to have an open-minded discussion where we're all more comfortable about talking about, in talking about race. but we're not paralyzed in talking about race only. we're not fearful that we're going to insult some spokesman for a different racial group that we are diminishing them by talking about things that they set in motion that liberated everyone. the larger justice. so let us all, the reason that civil rights education so valuable is because it's accessible to children, it's because it addresses issues of freedom that affect all of us. it makes race the gateway to the
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promise of democracy and when you recognize the deficiencies of democracy today in race, in our jails, in our poverty rates, in our school to jail, in our drug wars, it is not imprisoning you there in the race issue and in hopelessness, but it is going through that that you realize the larger connections and possibilities that the civil rights movement once opened with less resources, less hope facing more difficult problems. when an audience like this in my lifetime would have everybody's palms sweaty just for fear that a mixed audience would draw either the klan or police or would have somebody's father lose their business because the customers thought they were race mixers. that kind of terror is gone. in every breath that we draw. our gratitude for that kind of terror -- for that kind of freedom should never be taken
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for granted. through this history we not only regain the balance of what it means to be an american devoted to freedom, but we regain the tools, the habits, the literacy, the cross-cultural genius at the heart of america to address the problems before us. thank you. [applause] thank you. thank you. that's very, very kind. i was trying to mix in a little scolding with inspiration, but -- [laughter] i appreciate that anyway. i just don't want us to be complacent. this stuff is too serious.
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so if we're not thinking about what we're doing wrong, we're not -- as my old football coach said, if it's not hurting, it's not doing any good. [laughter] so we have time for questions until they stop us, and i've raised some difficult ideas, but the questions don't have to be on any of that. you can ask -- this is a vast subject. first question the other day was plaintively, is it really true martin luther king was only 5-6? [laughter] yes. the next question. yes, sir. >> i want to compliment you on a gorgeous, eloquent speech full of wisdom really. one just has to listen and be totally impressed. and i think the most ironic thing with your speech is that the people who can benefit the most who work about 300 yards from where you are speaking are not here to listen as we did to
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a beautiful speech. thank you. >> thank you. [applause] just one quick comment on that. members of congress didn't show up at the march on washington 50 years ago either. there were only a couple. in 1963 what they did instead was that they had a quorum call to spread upon the pages of the record the names of anybody who was not there, because they wanted to attack anybody who showed up at this march. never be convinced that the march on washington 50 years ago was a warm and fuzzy event. there were riot troops stationed all around. they canceled elective surgery, and to me, the most amazing -- and they eliminated, they banned liquor sales for the first time since prohibition, they were so scared of this thing. but to me, the real kicker is that major league baseball -- which has played right through floods and world war ii and everything -- a week before the march on washington postponed
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not one, but two washington senators games the today of the march -- the day of the march and the day after for fear we'd still be cleaning up the results of armageddon. those are the unspoken signals of race. most of us who deal with race deal with the 99% subliminally. before we deal with the concepts that we frame. it's not to say that framing con is sents is not -- concepts is not and dealing with it and adjusting and governing ourselves is not our highest duty. but we're kidding ourselves when we hi we're in complete control over in this thing, and all of us to some degree are not racialized. racist is a difficult word because it means overtly organizing your whole life around a system. but we are all racialized, and the question is what are we going to do about it and how much of our minds, souls and inspiration we're going to apply to it. >> hi. my name's sylvia henderson, and
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i wrote a book a few years ago, and it was about the questions i got asked by my peers because i learned to speak well. i guess. [laughter] >> speak white. that's all right. >> when i was interviewed a couple -- few years ago during the don imus debacle? >> yes. >> i gotted, a comment was made about you just explained some things to us on the radio in a way that made talking about race safe, for lack of a better word. so as i listen to you now and agree with a lot of what you say, what strikes me is we need some kind of language, we need to learn how to speak about race so that it is not threatening to either side, any side, all sides, whatever. how do we learn that language in a day of antagonistic internet
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comments? the moment somebody says something and the world we live in? >> yeah. very difficult because, because people when you try to raise the subject at all in toed's media age, people are only listening for the first spitball. >> right. >> and when they get the first spitball, the conversation is set because it's going to be trying to get a spitball going back the other direction. and that is our at tofied -- atrophied public discourse. but the thing is, the civil rights movement never took the -- they faced that problem too. they couldn't get stuff in the newspapers, but that wasn't the end of it, that was the beginning of it. well, what are we going to do about it? do we have to write down the names and addresses of all reporters and start badgering them and send them what we think these stories are? are we going to have to amplify our words with witness and sacrifice? you know, we need to make -- the real challenge is never to take any stumbling block in racial
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dialogue as the final stumbling block where we give up and say, you know, they have to drop dead. i think the key, which you probably it sounds like you already have, is that every conversation about race as it has affected american democracy should begin with the premise that talking about race makes us bigger. it enaverages the story. it does not pigeon hole the story. and haas not to say there are not some people who talk about race who only want to use it as a grievance to bang people over the head and who are not opening up. but we need to displace those people by conversations that say this is the gateway historically and every other way, the gateway to a larger freedom for everyone. there are no magic answers, but i think the first answer is to never, never take today's failure as the end. it's the beginning of the question how do we get around it. thank you. be yes, sir. [applause]
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>> thank you very, very much. you know, you are nothing but -- you're like a ball of fire, man. half half you're a ball of fire. [applause] i mean, sir, you inspire me. you really do. and i think i more white people need to learn to talk like you do. [laughter] [applause] because if they did, we'd open up this conversation. and i'm on the faculty of the university of maryland, and we are in college park, and we're taking on this issue especially in the area of health and health disparities. we believe this is where jim crow was still hiding out. and i hope that one day you'll take this on to expose the tentacles of racism and discrimination that have permeated our society. my question is this: there's sometimes pain when we delve into the story, and what haunts me is some of the photos and the images of that period when we
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would see black men hanging, being lynched, but there would be a picnic, there would be a festival with children. who were those people? who were those children who are now adults? what fear do they have in going into that history? that's deep, man. >> uh-huh. >> how do we deal with that? that trauma that we have all experienced as a people. >> get through that trauma to get to the healing side? >> well, that's a tough, that's a tough question, but you open up one part -- i can't tell you how many people i interviewed in mississippi going back 30 years or more now, how many black folks said that they were raised being told in their household do not talk about emmett till. why? it's dangerous, and number two, it's embarrassing. the story is dangerous, it is
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painful, and it is revealing of our helplessness. so the notion of avoiding a racial discussion is not just a white issue because you're afraid you might offend somebody or display your ignorance or that sort of thing that you need to get over. the great model for that is robert kennedy who was as naive and silly about race as anybody, but he kept banging away at it. he was existential. he would do something to somebody, and then he'd feel guilty about it, and he'd talk to them, and he'd ask why, and he grew doing it. i think that's what we need tooo have. but the images of lynchings, they are very, very difficult issues for both races. but to me, they are, they are little emblems of how quickly people can in the future those people will adjust to those memories, and we remember about race what we want to remember. and you can -- to the degree
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that you can turn it upside down. and that's what we really have to guard against in all of our conversations, to go through that pain and say there's something bigger and better on the other side, but it's part of the courage that it takes to be a democratic citizen in a country that says the people are the ones who are responsible for the government. if the government's screwing up, it's not just the people in the government, it's me. diane nash, diane nash is one of my favorite people from the civil rights era. some of you may know her. but she was a leader of the sit-ins, the freedom rides, everything. she was -- her family was harassed by the fbi, and in one of my interviews with her i said, diane -- i showed her some of these fbi document withs about what they'd done, petty little things. and she is says, oh, i don't bother with that, that was just hoover. i said, what do you mean? that's the fbi. and she said, yes, but i blame us for hoover. we left him in a position of
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arbitrary secret power for 50 years, and anybody who studies american government in the sixth grade should know you're going to get just what you got, an autocrat whose world was small and wanted to run things. i blame us. so here's diane nash, who's black and not vote herself, but she's assuming responsibility for j. edgar hoover instead of a sense of victimhood. and so that is an amazing example, to me, of the kind of wisdom l that these young people -- she was only 23 years old when she's doing all this stuff with j. edgar hoover. so there's a lot of wisdom here, and there are no easy answers, but it really does make our history just enthralling, i think. thank you. >> thank you. and keep on keeping on. [applause] >> yes, sir. >> so on the subject of this national gridlock, i was contemplating maybe we could ask ward dietrich to develop a party-specific plague for one side or the other, i really
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don't care which. [laughter] but absent being able to do this, what do you think is the path forward on how to solve this stupid, crazy gridlock? >> you've got to apply all your heart, soul, mind and body to trying to detach some people on the other side from the irrationality that they're trapped in. the anti-big government side, it does seem to me, has pretty much reached a cul-de-sac because there's a larger and larger body of the people -- it appeals to fear, anxiety, but also pride in the sense of saying, well, if i didn't have all these public obligations and people asking me to, you know, pay a small amount for food stamps, i'd be better off. i don't need any of our, of our public conveyances, anything that we have. i'd be better off digging my own plumbing. and that appeals to people's pride, but it's not true.
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and we have to figure out ways to show people that if they had the same initiative, the same education, the same genius in sudan or in uruguay, they wouldn't have the same -- we get an awful lot about, from what we build together. our checks clear, our roads meet, the public space is a glorious example of our cooperation, but it's all invisible, transfer, can be taken -- transfer, can be taken -- therefore, can be taken for granted, and it makes people susceptible to politicians who are saying you'd be even better off if you listen to me and strangle the government in the bathtub. and we have to figure out ways to peel off people -- because some people are that way. very, very wealthy people are lobbying and spending a lot of money to, basically, have the government pay them. but they rely on great masses of people who are deluded by propaganda, and we have to figure out how to address that. yes, sir. >> yeah.
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i wanted to get back to the kids you were talking about. [applause] are we getting a generation of teenagers to, say, 8 or 9-year-olds who are going to be capable of doing what those kids did then? and particularly with reference to the common core in an effort to really force feed competence in this generation coming up, are we losing any way of inculcating them in the history and the culture that they're going to need -- [inaudible] >> less and less, and that is dangerous. to me, that's one of the scariest things, that we are de-emphasizing american history and citizenship in our core curriculum in the united states. you could turn it around and say if you're in my generation and you have benefited -- because i think that the breakthrough in birmingham in 1963 opened up doors for equal citizenship for our whole generation far beyond
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what they did -- we're indebted to them. we could repay young people. young people did something for us. we need to do something for them by helping to restore that education and by really studying and not approaching young people on the basis of what we may have heard. some young people are far more liberated and natural in their views and our antiquated prejudices and they're free of them, but some of them are still getting trapped in them, and they're also not getting educated. so we have to encourage the good part and try to rescue our education so that it makes the kind of citizenship example from 50 years ago more pertinent to today. thank you. >> have we got teachers to do it? [applause] >> have we got teachers to do it? we have some. our best teachers today, i think one of saddest things -- i'm not an expert in education. i've just met enough teachers who were heroic to me.
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gosh, i met teachers in idaho, the lerman institute sent me to idaho, mormon teachers who were teaching civil rights history at 10:00 on sunday night, they're googling diane nash to try to find something to present manager to their students the next day that would be accessible. they're heroic, but they're really upside manned. in -- undermanned. in respects we are slipping into a notion that we accept the idea that being a teacher is more or less like being a military draftee was in the 950s. -- 1950s. you can only do it for four or five years, and then you're going to be burned out. so they are heroic, but we do not as a whole society treat teaching and both the content and the professional core and life of it with the seriousness that it deserves if it really
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governs our future in the information age. [applause] >> could i ask you to restate your question for the president? [laughter] >> thank you. yeah. >> over the years dr. king has been repackaged in a lot of ways by corporations, you know, a mcdonald's placemat, a day of service. how do we go about reclaiming dr. king and making it clear this was one of the key progressive voices of his time? >> great question. did everybody hear that? dr. king has been repackaged by everybody, how do we go about reclaiming the genuine? first of all, i do believe that personal stories are the key to that. if you reduce somebody just to a concept or an idea or a label, then it can be refuted with another label. and you can have ralph reid, like he did the other day, say that dr. king's whole career was about saying that it's only the content of your character and that it was a movement about families and not about politics
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and public change when anybody who's studied martin luther king's career for five minutes knows that i have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its greed delivered on, you know, on the mall. he came to the mall to do that. this is about our public purpose. so to say that, you know, that he's, that he's an anti-government person too, um, is preposterous. but that's what happens when you -- we and they reduce everything to sound bites. the stories are key. you have to pick the right stories that people relate to. one of the reasons that i was obsessed to try to put down a storytelling record of this whole period is that storytelling things, things that are human are harder to refute. that's why we are all eternally grateful that in the depression that the roosevelt administration took those oral histories of slaves, the few
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remaining slaves who could talk from personal experience about what it was like. otherwise, slavery was an idea. and it was as vulnerable to anybody else's counteridea that they were well off, and they were all happy. but you had, you had personal testimony, perm testimony matters -- personal testimony matters, and what the rest of us need to do is to find a bit of personal story about martin luther king that illustrates the part of him and his public ministry that you want to pass on and preserve. it's there, but we just need to do a better job of passing it along. to me, the greatest thick about martin -- thing about martin luther king was that he could speak about religion and politics in every speech constantly and was never accused of mixing church and state. which is remarkable. and it's because he did it with such an amazing adroitness. he'd say you want equal souls? fine. you want equal votes? fine. they both lead to the same place. they both lead to justice, and
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they go through race. and he's not trying to subject one to the other, which is how you get in trouble with that. and there are examples of that. so i think the best general notion about how you refute the tendency, it's a proven historical tendency to distort and even invert lessons from race to make them more compatible with what you want to believe is to preserve personal stories that have the truth in them. and that's all the time we have. i'm sorry. [applause] thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at
8:45 am or tweet us at >> peter schweitzer argues that contrary to popular belief, big money interests do not control politicians. he says that it's the politicians who extort money from corporations and other wealthy groups, noting that members of congress often introduce legislation for no other reason than to get donations from groups that will be impacted by it. this is about 50 minutes. [applause] >> thank you for that warm introduction. i actually got originally involved at young america's foundation, i had an interest in national affairs which i still have and, actually, ran across a very important news item today that, i guess, was encouraging. apparently, the cia has


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