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tv   Book Discussion on Chasing Chaos  CSPAN  December 25, 2013 1:15pm-2:11pm EST

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johnson appointed kennedy to a boston dredger committee and sen heavy received the letter saying he was making the committee. so there was a leery competitive relationship. but johnson respected kennedy in the end. didn't think he was a heavy hitter on policy, but a compelling political figure. >> john shaw, did president kennedy's senate career benefit him as president? >> i think he understaood the issues very well. he developed an appreciation for how congress worked. he spent 14 years in the congress. and was clear thee he wanted to move on the to the presidency. before him, the only senator was harding in 1920 and since
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kennedy obama is the only one to do this. the senate isn't a natural jumping off point but kennedy found a way to use it. 'jfk in the senate: pathway to the presidency' is the name of the book. the author is john shaw. >> jessica alexander shared her examples of working for international countries like rwanda and darfur. this hour long event is next on booktv. [ applause ] >> hi, thank you darwin and thanks you to books on the common and the richfield library for having me. and thank you to everyone here. it means so much to be here in my home town and see so many
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familiar faces. i am sure some of you are my dad's patient and he may have threatened to stop treatment if you did not come. it is wonderful. especially the ridge field high school crowd where i learned to write and read good books. i want to tell you about myself. even though some of you know me. i have been working in humanitarian aid for 13 years. this book takes place over a decade of my life. and the in and out part of the title really has to do with as darwin says i talk about coming home and reintegrating as well.
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there are chapters that take place abroad and back here and a lot of times it is back here in richfield. it was a great place to come back and we don't appreciate it until you are away from it and in other experiences. i want to give a few cav oughts before i start reading. i am not the spokesperson for the field committee. i worked as i said about a dozen year and sp -- some -- people have worked twice or three times as long. these are my personal views and
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observati observations i had. there are a number of different paths this career can take. some people work in one or two country for many years or one agency for years. i jump around a lot. but there are a lot of different career paths this profession can take. and a lot of people have said aren't you young to write a memior and yes, hopefully this isn't the end of my career or life. the reason why, or the idea
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started when i would come home and i would have trouble r reintegrating and trying to explain to people what i was doing overseas and i could not articulate it. i didn't have sound bytes to talk about what it was like working in darfur. and i wrote about how different people thought it was. and i wanted to take away the p p perceptions the media gives you. i wanted to sort of pull the curtain back on the industry that we are not all saint or
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hippies. we are professionals doing the work. and the industry. it is a multi billion dollar industry. some people call it a coming of age story. it does take place from when i graduated college until you know just a few years ago. so that is like spanning by 20's and 30's. so i did grow up in the backdrop of these massive events. and with that, i know people are standing so i feel bad carrying on. i will going to read four passages. the book starts out with a
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flashback in north darfur and then new york where i just graduated from college. and then rwanda where i was an intern at a un agency there. and then back to new york. two chapters in darfur again. and then go to the tsunami and then coming back to new york and going to the middle east and then haiti. i will read from rwanda where i started out and i was totally green and naive and idealistic. and then i will go to darfur. then i am going to new york and haiti.
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so i will read a few pages from those. this part i am reading now about rwanda is when i first arrived and i was having a hard time to find a place to live. people assume you come and get housing. and sometimes you do. but this was nine years after the genocide and rwanda was a stable country at the time. it still is. so the organization said you can come for an internship and find your own housing. i plopped down and i was staying in the hotel but i was on an internship budget that was running out and i needed a place to live. none of the ex-pats were helping me. they lived in multi-story compl complexes and i was asking
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around and everybody was like good luck. you can imagine my sadness. but i fell into a local family to took me in and that is where this starts. but finally, through friends of friend i found gloria. she lived downtown and ran a local organization for widows of the genocide and said meet me at my office after work. she shook my hands and said you are jessica. and i said it is nice to meet you. she wasn't a chitchat person. she wore a perfectly taylor -- tailored dress. she had a driver, a boy in her teens, she opened the passenger
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door and pushed the front seat forward. skinny ladies in the back she said. my seat didn't say upright so i supported myself holding on to hers. she introduced the driver. she said he doesn't speak english. have you been to ramera yet? i didn't know what that was. a restaurant? school? that is where we live she said. it was a neighborhood. after 15 minutes of driving, she pulled on to a side street and slowed down at the gate and beeped. her guard opened it. she said come on. holding the front seat forward.
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i entered her small house. the living room held a long black couch with an entertainment counsel and the cabinets held an old radio. they had a dining room table with plastic on the shares. things were tidy and things were placed deliberate. we passed a small dark kitchen area and gloria opened the door to what would be my room. one woman at the widow center made this. she reached up to open the small window close to the ceiling. she offered me tea.
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i accepted and she said you will eat with us and you will be part of the family. i moved in that night. she wasn't married but had two daughters who went to private school. gloria was a prominent women in the community and was rich by all standards with a car, driver, maid and a guard. bety didn't speak a word of english but i was at ease. the first night betty and i sat in silence. we looked up and smiled every once in a while. on the wall were photographs and
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i pointed to them and said who are they. she looked up and motioned to herself and pointed to the ground. those are betty's children. they were killed in the genocide. i looked back at betty. they are filled with the walking and talking reminder of her children's death. her two grandchildren who she is raising. we could hear them bouncing around. i pulled out my family pictures. i pointed to my brothers. she pointed to she and said this is you? she shouted in french. she said you are very pretty gloria said. sure i looked pretty at the
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photograph with my brothers wedding. she pointed to my mother and father and smiled. i wanted to say how do you say my mother died in french. but i pointed to the picture and to the ground and she just knew. that was in rwanda. this one, this next bit is taking place in darfur. and i wanted to read this one because it kind of captures this feeling that a lot of us, i think, in this industry feel and you are confronted with needs
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all around you. you are forced to block out the individuals because that is not how we work. we work on large scale projects that help thousands. it is hard to devote energy to single individuals when there are thousands around you just like them. so it is a constant internal struggle you face there. i am still young and naive and this is a part where i am confronted with an individual who needs help and i have a personal connection with this person. it clouds my professional judgment. i was leading a camp in darfur. so there were 24,000 displaced people there. and my job was, it sounds
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impressive, but you know, really there are 20 or so organizations that work there doing water, sanitation, health and schools and i am the messenger between the camp and aid community. if the water breaks in block 20 i get the information and tell people. i have a lot of close personal relationships because i am the interlock and everybody is pissed off at me all the time. this fell off. i guess i am being too animated. anyway, i was closest with a camp leader name acmet. after months of weekly camp meading, the camp committee leader -- meeting -- and i were friends. it was hard to know how old he
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was. his head was wrapped in a black turbine and body wrapped up. he carried himself with the wisdom and authority of as an elder. we had an unspoken understanding. sometimes i knew what he was saying without speaking. one day after a camp meeting with the usual agenda, overcrowding in the schools, food distribution disputes, he approached me. my niece is sick. can you some see her. i said i am not a doctor. and he said i don't know what else to do and suggested taking her to the clinic. he said he already did that.
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i was meeting with a group on where the cattle should graze. they were feeding in the spot where the prayer was taken place. i saw him and remembered his niece. he piled into the vehicle and drove to his apart of land that was larger than other families. he planted shrubs around the fence. he pulled back the sheet to the tent and we slipped inside. his sister sat on the floor with a pillow. she pulled back the towel. underneath was her infant
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daughter. her head looked like a balloon. her nose was disorted. her neck twisted awkwardly and too weak to support the body. she let out gasp. i felt sick. have you taken her to the hospital? they can not do anything for her. he covered her head again. she has to get to cartoon to get the surgery. yes, we have to get her there. we will get her there i said. i said again looking at his sister who is sitting on the floor and went back to the office. none of the doctors were there. i called the only doctor i knew i could reach: dad.
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she has swelling in the head. they usually catch it in states before being born. he was sitting on a lounge chair in new england. will she die? if she is not treated he said. her head is huge, how much time? it is hard to know from here. but she needs treatment. there was urgency. the attacks, the rain storms were out of my control, but a sick child i could do something about it. i went to mark there is a girl with swelling of the brain. her head is huge. she needs treatment. the family exhausted all of
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their options. we have to get her to cartoon. and he said the world food organization will not let people on the flight. and i said can we pay for her family to get on a commercial flight? and he said we cannot pick and chose. and i said okay, i am pick up the tab. i called the cartoon office and asked them and got the same response. there were heart patients last month that needed to go and we could not send them. we cannot send some and not others. i talked to the health coordinator and she said the same thing. people with lung issues couldn't
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go. what happened i asked? two of them died. i have not been confronted with this degree of clinical detachment. how could i tell him there was nothing he could do and he would have to watch his niece die? i spent the next few days arguing with people who would not agree to get the girl on the plane because that wasn't in their mandate. larger scale operations provided little to many and working on an individual level wasn't what we have were in the business doing. i sat across from a logistic officer from the world health organization. it had to be in their mandate. if we took up every request we
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could not operate. i know it is sad. but we cannot set this president. how do we tell the next sick person we cannot fly them? shouldn't we be flying them for treatment? we cannot save everyone. i think understand their argument in the abstract, but my personal relationship was shading my view. but giving soap and food was the total of the operation. this was the best we could do? trucking us around to help and this was it? don't bother, let this one go. it isn't going to happen. don't worry your head about it.
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all of the time your spending on this one girl, you could be helping a lot of people. but i refused to rationale path. i was going to get this girl to surgery. i had heard no many times before as a camp coordinator. when we couldn't buy crucial equipment or couldn't transfer people because of an impossible road. but i found bending rules and mandates were the only ingredient required requirement to turn possibility into
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reality. you will have to read to see what happens. you can imagine coming from that situation to coming back home. that was a bit jarring. so this little writing part takes place i went to darfur to sri lanka and then i came home and this is after after i came home. i returned home three days before the wedding shower of my best friend from my school. i looked forward to the party but by the time i got home i was dreading it. i want today lie in bed and watch television. that is all i wanted to do. law and order reruns were particularly good at making the
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time pass. i wasn't prepared to put on a dress or make small talk but i was a brides maid and had lines to read. i took the train to washington, d.c. and i followed the long staircase. flowers were on the table and everyone was perfectly dressed and i had on the only shoes i could find that morning. this was the first time i had seen rebecca since 8 months before. she lost weight and her body was overwhelmed by of the attention. i hugged her and she said it is so good to see you. you too, you look amazing.
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how are you she said? and i said i am having a hard time stroking my hair she said. and she said thanks jess and i am so glad your here. around me women were mingling near the bar. the bench was staffed by with gifts. waiters in tuxes passed by with glasses of campagna. i could nod not remember the last time i saw these women and spotted an old classmate i kept in contact with. she said jess, had you are you and hugged me trying not to drop her drink or potato puff. i said i am good.
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had you are you. and she said whatever i am fine, i want to here about you. what was it like? it was hot. and hard. darfur is in bad shape and the tsuanmi response is complicated. she might have been interested, but she didn't have the words. she wanted to know how i was doing. i was struggling to put sentences together. i didn't have answers i could rattle off. most mornings i had trouble getting out of pj's. how are things with you? good, but it is nothing to compared to what to you. a school acquaintance came to greet me.
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i heard you were in sri lanka. how was it? fun or devastating? a question like that about one of the most publicised event coming from harvard law says this i don't know what to say. i didn't have the slightest clue how to respond. she opened her gift and we awed. we ordered coffee and nibbled on su sundays. how do you say so thin a friend
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says? she lives in ethopia that is how. i laughed and never bothered to tell them i didn't go there. this was one is from haiti. and haiti is in the backyard of the united states. there were tons of very well intentioned people who came down to help out after the earthquake. and so this is about some of those people who were there. and myself as well. look at those people a colleague said to me in port of prince pointing to a group of americans wearing matching blue shirts and khaki pants and cameras from their face. we need to stop encouraging everyone to come down here. if if were you and your family
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would you want amateurs coming? it is like giving shotguns to people and sending them to afghanistan to fight the war. the flight landed in a war zone did stop the would be huma humaneitarian people coming. we saw flux of americans sporting shirts from the trips they were. the haitians knew why the people were there. so the shirts were only there to remind the people what good people they were. haiti relief 2010 june 16-june
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22. most were worn my missionary people. angel missions. relieve recovery. love haiti keeping hope alive. and church of the brother, i am headed to haiti, were are you going. the vegan relief team are collared hats. all of the groups cleared rebel, said prayers except for the vegans. on a flight from new york i was joined by firefighters. after the baggage port in the port of prince stalled for another time the firefighters were getting annoyed. i told you it is like a forth
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world country here. you have to be patient. the native heard him quite well. the best part of the trip people staying with me said was the orphanage. it felt normal handing out candy to the kids and noble. they may have thought they were doing good putting smiles on the faces of children and creating lasting bonds i imagine the kids who left behind who had formed attachment to the stampede of people that ran through the building every day. real aid workers hated these trip. they are on spring break. this trip is for them. they are here to have a story
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when they go home to feel good about themselves. seriously. all you need is a good heart and a bible and you can get away with anything. another friend told us about a group in cambodia. you can pay to go on the group and hand out food to poor people. i arrived to check on the infant feeding program and saw tourist wandering around. they photographed everything. they looked like a tour group in the disney land. i was surprised there wasn't a coach bus waiting for them. claud, can we go back? i cannot go here with this going on. point to a group of white woman
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taking photos. claud smiled and i wonder what he thought of all of these people stomping through this country there to make a difference. i was probably just another white face no different than the others. i still knew i recognized myself in them. perhaps my motives for coming were not so different than theirs. these groups wanted to see haiti and touch and be part of an experience. so did the people i worked with who updated their facebook statuses. why should claud have been able to tell a difference from me and everyone else working there? that is it. [ applause ]
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>> we have time for a few questions. so wait for leslie to give you the magic. >> you mention god only in your first story. >> who? >> a guard. >> i thought you said god >> i want to say what that aspect was like. the need of a guard. >> you have guards everywhere. >> in all of the places? >> where ex-pats live, you do. yes. >> i have a follow-up question. do you think that americans graduating from high school would see the world in a different way if they had a chance to live overseas and work as in the peace core or maybe not eligible for that, but some kind of service and stay put so they learn in-depth the nature of living down there?
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>> absolutely. i think, yes. and your point about staying put and being there for more than a week like the people i just talked about. which isn't condemning them. but for people going you want to make a time commitment. and you know go because you want to be there for a long time. not just to see it. so yes, absolutely. and i think that would be the best thing for people who are considering going into the this year and being exposed to the world and living there for a while. absolutely. >> you know, you have these rapid fire experiences, and how did you go about the jobs that are not rapid fire? >> my dad can speak to that better than i can probably which
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is like having breakdowns every time i come home. it was much more difficult when earlier on. i wrote about that and i wrote about the difficulty of the transition. but i think you get used to it. just like you get used to being a doctor and seeing horrible things. you become detached. it is part of the job. it sounds callus, but i used to get involved in people's individual story like i read about in darfur and you cannot do that if you are going to be effective. >> hi. >> obviously you're an american and people around the world have a point of view i think about
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american, but what did the europeans think about the bush years or 9-11? did you engage and have to explain who we were and what we were about? >> we live in a republican town, i know. but it was more africans would be like, american is so amazing that is so wonderful especially with obama as president. they were like obama is so wonderful. but my european colleagues had disstain for americans. i remember introducing myself as
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canadians some times. i had an american suit case and i took the label off because i don't want to announce it because there is distain out there for america. >> you write in the book about the contradiction between the aid industry being dependent on donors but your clients are desperate people are no resources. and you talk about how it is hard to serve and please donors because sometimes it means you cannot do what you want to do for the people you are trying to help. you want to comment on that. >> this is sort of my accountable debate within aid. on the one hand we need to be transparent is accountable to donors. and donors means not only you
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all writing checks to the red cross but governments giving multi-million grants. and they have a project proposal we have to implement. but the end user is the effected person. and they don't have a choice. this is pre-ordained by a donor and it is take it or leave it relationship with the people on the ground. we come in. it is top down approach that says we want to implement a school here and put water here. and you know, those program plans and projects have been determined and you know, it is like sort of after the fact we ask people is this what you need. and this is what you want. we don't work as they could put us out of business. we should. we should say we are save the
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children i want to work as though if you had a child to save the children and oxvan showing up you would want end the children to show up but that is not how it works because the end user doesn't have the say. >> i am sure there were times when you were luckily enjoying good health, but should you become sick, does the thought of access to quality you are acustomed here enter your mind, would the doctor be good enough, would the medication you need be there? was this a problem? >> i have used the internet a lot and a room full of doctors to diagnose myself. i got a horrible rash. and he said it is something in your water and i said i know it is something else.
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so he had an internet connection and i said can i use your computer. and i went on web md and took pictures and it was confirmed. there are plenty of doctors who i have gone and i have gone to doctors who are fine. if you know, you never need real something you get med vacked out of there. >> from the times you question the value of your service and if so, how did you sustain commitment? >> i think all of us do. change is slow. as i read from my story in here, you are working on, you know,
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very little to thousands and you don't see the results immediate immediately. but you know you are making a change in a large industry. and that keeps you motivated. and the relationships you form. so being in a position to help, if i could, is great. the victories are few and far between at an individual level, but the little rewards are what sustain you. ...
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i hear you work for her united nations at the moment he had is that correct? >> i do. >> i used to work for the united nations. i spent eight years in indonesia, five weeks before the genocide and three months in haiti in 1985 for u.s. government. so to hear someone without cynicism and enthusiasm and personal observations talk about three countries that are close to my heart.
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>> thank you. >> we have presented it is distinct because you mix the important information with the lights low, personal observations. have you seen the movie can't do governor? >> yes. >> you could be the one who played that role. [laughter] and it's not now, maybe in the future. congratulations. >> thank you so much. thank you. [applause] >> i think be commended for the efforts you put in based upon if you could wave a magic wand, make it different to you her think improve it. but public ip? >> well, i think there would be two things. one i touched on was a question
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about putting effective people at the heart of the response. and if i could do it, if you could read do humanitarian aid from scratch, making affected people, local government, local civil society the ones who own the response and not a top-down western or northern response where we know the solutions and our commitment to help you. i would do it that way. but getting better at that, by the way. the two recent natural disasters that have been digging yet in the philippines, those are middle-income countries where they have been asked for international support, which is great because the government, the local communities are owning the response. either way, there are was the first responders. you know come your neighbors and friends and people around you. they are the ones who know what needs to be done, and know how
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get it and nobody more resilient than we are coming down the mic i can't deal with electricity. they are the ones help me. so that would be, if i could redo the aid from scratch, it would be bad. but also, one thing we are also doing a lot more were talking a lot more about these days is investing in preparedness because a lot of these events are cyclical, so they are cyclical storms, cyclical drought that caused a lot of suffering and high-tech tools. we can predict spam, yet we don't invest in preparing and reducing risk before the emergency happens. it's a lot easier to fund raise for the school collapse to rebuild a school event the reinforcements in the school if and when it does collapse. so i could ask you, you know,
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for $100 to help the starving child because there's been a drought and now he or she -- it's hard to say give me $100 before that happens so i can stop the climate change that may have been. so we are great at reacting. this industry is a reactive industry and we perfected that machinery. but preparing a son and we don't always do, but we're starting to more now. yes. >> is someone who wants to be a humanitarian aid worker, what recommendation would you give to people who want to make a real difference? >> i would say are your college? are in high school, okay. i would say learn a language and learn a language that is used in the developing world. so french and arabic would be to cook languages. i would say volunteer here and work on some domestic issues to see whether you like social service and this kind of work
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because a lot of the issues you'll see and places here and nonprofits here would be similar issues you'll see an international context as well. i would say get involved in world affairs. read about it. read books, read articles. advocate with your congresspeople about issues here about. go overseas. as he sat, for a period of time, volunteer for a while. but make a real investment and commitment there. and try to get an internship when you're in college. over the summer for something related and take classes obviously in the subject. i would say also, you know, get a scale because motivation is wonderful and that's really great. it takes more than motivation to be in the field.
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a lot of times either the technical skills are your public health worker or a water and sanitation engineer or a shelter expert and you know the dimensions of rebuilding or you're just a manager and you're managing multimillion dollars budget and you have to deal with her care maintain h.r. and a lot of asic management issues. so then i scale that will work in humanitarian context. >> one final question. >> effector comment on this. i understand the dalai lama said the world will yield by western women. when you mention corruption. i'd love to talk about good and evil and in the worst situations you see the best people. i've heard other professional
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women say go around the world and see how they treat their women and you can deduce by some of the problems we have him around the world are at the way they are. have you found so that. >> well, i don't know. yeah, i see some amazing western women in the field that i work with. i don't know that the corruption i talk about in the book is endemic to places that don't treat women well. i think that has to do with way more resources coming into a place that people have ever seen before. anyone anywhere would do that. if it's you and your family and you need to -- you need some major surviving people who have sent things you can fetch the
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system that the two got more coming or going to do it. we've seen that happen in katrina. i don't know so much about seeing me, but happens everywhere. in this particular case, i talk about this a bit later. you have these i.d. cards and that gives you access to get food. we did biweekly distributions of food and whatever. people from either the talent or the sister camp would falsify these cards. they recount to try to get sued as well. but the ordeal that we put them through to get the silly cards online would have to wait for 10 hours. that 10% that people who may not actually be eligible really need that stuff, too. i actually didn't have a problem with distributing it to people
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who weren't the exact beneficiary than we thought they would be. i was talking about with a colleague of mine because i was having trouble deciding how to deal with it. the lists are a hand written and there's 24,000 people. how are you going to determine who's who and what's where? he's a. he says i was on welfare when i was in my 20s. i was a really eligible for it, but of course i cannot give 100 pounds extra every month. but i really needed that 100 pounds. i would wait on line and call and it didn't mean anything anymore. so just put it in perspective i have everyone does it a bit. i mean, it's not like it's a much money. it's an extra sheet they can sell in the market to get so
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they can buy food for their kids. so, yeah. >> just logistics. this has been tremendous. you've got a lot of people who want your signature. we put you in the main library. go when that door. bill simon maher. when you go into the door come what prompted up infamous adult trip. if you're buying a book, by here. help yourself and simon maher. >> okay, thank you so much. [applause] [inaudible conversations]


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