tv Book Discussion on Breaking Ground CSPAN April 17, 2016 10:00pm-10:46pm EDT
they are dealing with the fact because the bathwater and glad so what does that mean? somebody made an economic decision to get water out of the river as opposed from going to detroit. they made a decision because they deemed these people that live in the community as somehow value with less so from the policing.
hello, everyone. i am the director of public programs and events. i'm happy today, thrilled to introduce doctor sullivan who is -- i'm going to have to read because his long list of things. he's a policy leader and minority health advocate and author and educator and serves as secretary of the u.s. department of health and human services under george bush and was the founding dean of the school of medicine and today he will be discussing his recent
memoir breaking ground by life in medicine. so, welcome. we are very happy to have you. [applause] >> this is a bit different because often i do fiction books, occasionally memoirs. but in your story there's a lot to talk about and i wanted to just begin -- it is a hard thing to say to somebody can use use enough size your life and all of two sentences but i want to just and some very brief way tell the audience what the book covers, then i will delve in and we will start going into the specifics and then build from there. >> guest: thanks very much. it's a great pleasure to be here with you and to be here at the
public library so thank you very much. i guess what i would say my autobiography tells the strand of my life story because i was born during the depression. my father was a life insurance salesman, was the second of two boys in atlanta. my father left atlanta and went to southwest georgia and georgia beyond about my father was a social activist because this was during the legally enforced segregation. in southwest georgia in those years it wasn't a very happy place. my father founded the first chapter of the naacp.
he filed suit against the county to overturn the primary because they couldn't participate in voting at this time. he also sought the annual celebration january 1 of every year to celebrate their emancipation by lincoln. my father was a lifelong republican who identified himself with abraham lincoln said he was quite a social activist. my mother was a schoolteacher and because of my father's activism to try to get the vote improving the economy of the retaliation was my mother never got a job teaching schools in the county. so, in that environment, fortunately for my brother who is a year and a half older, my brother went to savanna to live
with relatives for the year to attend school because the schools in georgia were not very good. we got to hand me downs. we from the school. when they got new books, we got their books. they had a band and we didn't have a band or instruments. my father was somebody that worked to address that is because he was serving in the community, the whites couldn't really bother. my mother in the 20 years they lived there from 1937 to 1957, taught in schools and other counties around their and interestingly enough, as i was mentioning earlier, she taught in some schools built by julius so for those that have seen the movie, some of the schools my mother taught him. i was stimulated by the one position in southwest georgia at that time doctor joseph griffin.
>> host: you met him when you were five and at that point you made a decision you are going to be a doctor because he was so miraculous, magic happened and he could actually cure people. i didn't want to cut you off but my first question was about the three men in your life. it's freezing. as anyone as cool as i am? please realize i apologize. i just -- i don't want you to jump ahead of the three men that seemed to be the most influential in your life where your father who was this amazing activist, this doctor who you met. i want to know if you saw him again once he somebody that you checked in with overtime and
said and told him about your interest in medicine and then third was benjamin maze who was the dean of morehouse who was also influential in your life so these three men am i right or that they are sort of the three pillars obviously your mother was influential but these were the three men that really helped guide you at the time it was a difficult time to decide to be a doctor, to decide to move as you did so far ahead in the time of segregation in the south. so the example was your father in many ways because regardless of what the environment was, he moved forward. >> guest: yes. the statement that my father and
my mother gave to me at the time was this wasn't the right system. we were going to do everything we can to change it and we expect you to do the same. there were no excuses. we expected to excel in schools and we would treat our elders with respect so there were many things we learned from our parents. and doctor griffin was someone who as i mentioned because he has magical powers other people didn't have and i wanted to be like him. i was interested in science and i loved birds and trees and bleachers and all that but he was the personification of someone who really was an expression of learning and as a service to the community because that's what my father and my mother were all about. so that was the influenzae and then when i went on to morehouse
college, he personified all those things and i am frankly all the students at the college wanted to be like doctor mays because he was elegant, he was in speech and he had great integrity, he was a sought after speaker around the country, he was always traveling that he would speak to the students every tuesday morning and he would bring another speakers to serve as role models. so the message that he was giving us was also you can beat the system. you must change the system. we need to do it by the democratic process in protest bringing complaints to the public etc.. then the students were expected to do that and of course the most famous graduates were martin luther king jr. who finished six years prior to to the time i finished.
>> did you feel -- did you feel you needed to make change or that you were working in the system to get what you needed to come out with in order to make the change? is it that you were working towards becoming a doctor in order so that you could implement change? or did you feel that along the way you were fighting every step of the way to make change and to get what you wanted which was to be a physician? >> guest: >> it was both. doctor mays on his weekly addresses to the students and would say things like this. he said whatever you choose to do in life you should do it so well that no man living, no man dead and no man yet to be could do it better. if you commit yourself to that, when they are looking for
someone in your field whether it is engineering or physics or medicine or business or literature, you are so accomplished in your field that they will have to consider you. it shouldn't be because they were prepared. so what he was telling us is prepared for the opportunities so you can make the change. the way you fight the system is excelled. >> so you've got to be you when you went to medical school and you were one of 76, you were the only black student. how -- and it's also the first time that you were in a non- segregated environment. you had grown up in the south. how was that? he became class president and you really did excel and
listened to his words. i'm wondering how it was. did you feel overwhelmed? how were you treated? how did you feel? did they get in the way? obviously not because he graduated from the top three in your class; am i right about that? >> yes, yes. >> did it get in the way -- how -- >> guest: for me this was a great period of suspense and in trepidation because i done well at morehouse but almost 21 living now for the first time in a non- segregated society and being the only black in my class, i had these questions. how am i going to do? am i going to do well? willing me to my current expectations? blaine eat my own expectations? and then in the sense i felt i
was representing the black community. so if i don't do well i will let everyone down. so that was that kind of experience and then talking about was the fact that most of my classmates had never heard of morehouse. i classmates were from middle very, harvard, princeton etc. and they all finished at the top of their classes, too. to make a long story short, first the examination was three weeks later and i did well because i was relaxed so from then on in terms of academic challenges i did well and second, my classmates were really very welcoming. i didn't get the hostility that i might get for being ignored or marginalized. so, it really was a very positive experience for me and also the faculty. so my experience in medical
school compared with what i wondered what happened was a very positive experience. >> what about boston at the time? >> boston was mixed, by and large i had read about paul revere and his ride and the election term and the constant battles and the boston tea party. and the first black to die in the revolutionary war. i read about him so i went to see the memorial. i soaked up the history of boston, and this was really quite interesting so, very positive. my experience in boston was very positive but in the late 50sfrom another member of the year i entered medical school this year that the brown v. board of education was the court's decision and so as this was implemented around the country problems were not only in the south but boston was one of those areas so my experience
was somewhat different than those that went in the late 50s. they found with the political shenanigans i still remember from south boston it became a very hostile environment of the community. but by that time i had really formed by friendship and relationship with my classmates and faculty and others i found myself sometimes explaining to the black youngsters coming to boston in the late 50s but this places and really the representation you get from the busing controversy etc.. so, boston really did undergo a change in its environment between the mid-50s when i entered in the late 50s when the busing controversy started. >> what about your relationship with andrew young, did that begin in georgia or did i begin
during -- when did you meet? because you have similar histories. you are four years apart, three years apart? >> guest: gave to >> id and began until i back to atlanta when he was a congressman from georgia and he was the congressman of morehouse college and the medical school was located so he took me to washington to introduce me to the members of congress to work to get federal funding. >> but that was the first time that you went from interesting. tell me -- you were the founding dean from the morehouse medical school. i was asking you backstage if this could be, or down the hall, i was asking about when you've created a medical school what was the sort of philosophy behind this and how you raised funds in that philosophy and how
you got a lot of people to back the medical school which during the time that it came to pass and everything it's just an interesting story so if you can talk about that that would be great. >> at the time there were 80 medical schools in the country. there were two that were african-american, howard and washington, d.c. which opened in 1868 and the medical college in nashville that opened in 1881. there always has been a shortage of black physicians and other minority positions in the country. there still is today. so, the rationale for the development of the school of medicine was as follows. first of all, as a country, we have a shortage of physicians. congress passed legislation in the late 50s and 60s to stimulate the development of the medical schools. so there were 80 medical schools
in 1950. we added 47 to those 80 by 1981. so there was a massive period of expansion in the medical education between 1956 and 1981. the morehouse school of medicine came along during that time but there was also the civil rights movement that started in the mid-50s. so, the rationale for developing the school of medicine was to work to train more positions. so the development of the school of medicine really was influenced by those two major events. expansion of medical education in general and the civil rights movement really showing in stark detail the many deficiencies in terms of the lives of blacks including having a doctor's and including having minority doctors as well so that's how that came about.
by 1970 i was a professor of medicine at the boston university. i'd become a research hematologist and thought i haven't really found my niche in medicine because i really loved hematology, loved, loved the research, loved taking care of patients with blood diseases etc.. but morehouse college, my alma mater decided they wanted to start a medical school to address the shortage of black physicians. the choice of the advisory committee and ended up being recruited to head the effort and that's what i am beyond. the effort was supported by not only the black physicians that the white as well and that's because again, the civil rights activities of the 50s, 60s, 70s had shown in stark detail the situations they faced so many blacks and other minorities. so, we had the support of the state chapter of the association and georgia as well as the state
chapter of the national association and georgia and a lot of support from the business community and the philanthropic communities as well so that enabled us to start in the third school in the country. >> and this then began your introduction into politics because didn't you ask -- didn't you ask ronald reagan too i guess cut the ribbon or whatever it is, to open the doors to be at the ceremony and it was the vice president george bush at the time who came and then he asked you to go on a delegation to africa; and i write? and then you are interested you became friendly with the bushes at that point and barbara bush was interested in education and reading and all that and then
when he became president and tried to try to move on, you then became involved in the political side. can you talk about what -- you were instrumental making sure the first woman president or the head of the nih under the command but also the surgeon general was the first latino woman. i mean you were instrumental in making sure there was diversity. this has always been your mission. but when you took over talk about just beating the bushes and then the next stage of your life. >> guest: yes, right. well what happened is this. we started the first class of morehouse school of medicine in 1978. the facilities on the campus of morehouse college the first building for the medical school
was dedicated in july of 1982. that's when vice president george h. w. bush was a speaker. he came and was scheduled to stay only a few minutes for a reception afterwards that but he stayed more than an hour. he was enjoying himself then andy young, john lewis, ed mcintyre, the black mayor of augusta and many others were there, democrats are getting their pictures taken with this republican vice president, so that was a great event. as he left then two weeks later he called and asked if i would go with him on a trip he was planning in november of 82. i said mr. vice president this is great but since i'm not a governor, why would you want me, what with my bowlby? he said to be honest with you, we don't have them andy young and our administration and i don't feel like i can go without a proper african-american and my delegation. so you would do me a favor but more importantly he would do the
country a service if you would be willing to do it. i appreciated his honesty and i went. on the trip was barbara bush. she was speaking to groups in zimbabwe, zambia, literacy groups. so on the way back after two weeks of visiting the eight countries in sub-saharan africa, i spoke to her on the plane and i said you and i are in the same business, different branches. you're in literacy and i'm a medical. you're a new school and we need someone like you on the board. would you be willing to consider and she accepted us as she came on our board in january of 83. then my wife and i were caught and we being invited to things at the vice president's home so we got to know them very well. one of my trustees wanted to be secretary and i was pushing him because i thought he would be a great secretary. but when bush was elected, rather than him taking my trusty he asked me to serve so that's how that happened. but when he asked me to serve i
said the things i really would want to have happen and i would like to know how do you feel about this i said we need more minorities and position in positions of authority. we need to have more and he said that's great. i support you. so when i became secretary, i pushed very hard and i should mention the first woman was the head of the nih appointed, the first woman surgeon general who is also a latina, the first black to have social security, glenn king, other programs to increase as well as programs to benefit the black community. so he was very supportive of that and one other thing most people don't know, the bush family has been involved in the united negro college fund since its beginning in 1946. george h. w. bush's mother was one of the first directors, a bush member of the family on the board continuously since that time. so come he convinced me come he
is supportive of education and diversity so it was a pleasure and an honor to serve. >> i also mentioned when we were talking but i wanted to talk about the current state of things. since you have lived in a segregated society, you were in boston in the late 50s when things were not so easy that you were in medical school when they were easier. there seems to me to be a way with gender issues, feminism and race issues that reminds me of 1968. there's an interest with black wives matter and what's really happening and there seems to be a swelling of political activity because people are protesting. people are angry and want to talk about it and i was wondering how you see this
because you have really seen for years you've seen this go up and down, you've seen the expansion of things. well you speak to what you think is happening now and why now? >> that's a good question. let me say one thing as a part of the framework. when i finished the boston school of medicine i was the first black intern in new york new york hospital cornell medical center. that was 1958, not so many years ago. but the changes that have occurred in the 60s and 70s really were very encouraging with the leadership of martin luther king and other civil rights leaders and i attended the march on washington etc.. so i am like so many other african-americans in very encouraged by all the progress that has been made. that's what has happened now
really is somewhat surprising and discouraging because it shows that progress is so fragile that it's like thin ice and what's happened now i think is not only it's not only surprising but disappointing when we have people being questioned but that if you're muslim you are not eligible to be president. all you have to do is substitute the word black or muslim. 20, 30 years ago it's the same. so we should be better than that as a country. all of us are immigrants. the only true native americans are the american indians and to have people who one or two generations ago were immigrants now speaking anti-immigrant and also the racial tones that are here are very discouraging and very disappointing. but i think most minorities the
only african-american and latino, we are not going to accept that. we have a country that's built on the premise that all men are created equal and that there is strength in our diversity that everyone has something to contribute. the culture has been enriched by the minority population. so, this is a phase that we haven't made as much progress as we thought. that progress is maybe just a quarter of an inch deep and maybe a mile wide so we need to work on that. people need to know that it doesn't mean you are an automatic threat. the threat for me when i was growing up was a clan lynching people when i was a child. so those were the means. when you begin to exclude people and the judge people as a class, i think that is a serious error. so we need to work to address that.
i think the movement of black wives matter is a reaction to that. i think that there is a focus as more of a general protest but i think it really is an expression from the community that we are americans, too. that's what my father was doing back in the 30s with this emancipation day celebration. so, we need to learn that we can benefit from different cultures come from different life experiences that people have had come and be a better and richer country because of it. the economic situation we have had and the fact that we have had a congress that hasn't been very active i think is added has added to the frustration, so i think a lot of people are not being rational and saying look at this. they are willing to listen to slogans that have absolutely no depth and no meaning to them. i'm confident that we will get beyond this. i as an american will do
>> >> i felt my story is to talk to any african-american my age you would get a similar story. many that are accomplished in business or medicine n or physics the tuskegee airman is a great example initially blacks were not taught to fly planes but they have a tremendous history to protect us and europe but we have an understanding that the differences are minor we have a lot to contribute so in that spirit i wanted to tell my story because of the
difficult circumstances, i was able to accomplish significant things that only because of hard work but the support of a large block dash a lot of people not only the black community but the white community as well so that is what i wanted to do. >> that is not inspiring for many reasons but if you would get your life it is incredibly impressive it is only appropriate in the library to ask a book question is there something you have read recently or a classic broader than i usually do go back time and time again something that you love that you can tell our audience about briefly?
>> yes. two books. him the title of born to rebel his life story is even more dramatic his parents were freed slaves and he went to bates college where he was the only black and valedictorian. he then went on to have a great career so that was a role model the other book written by french of tragedy and triumph of lyndon johnson a great book that covers my life experience is also with president kennedy's assassination in how lyndon johnson could use that period to push through legislation that only for
health care and medicare and education and how a masterful politician can use the system to accomplish a helluva lot of things in contrast to today's congressmen. he used every trick that he knew to make changes. >> we have a pop-up exhibit here the powerbroker about robert moses. that is incredible. is a trilogy of the john send biography? there are four. thank you berkowitz is to brief and to much to discuss but a glad we have the 30 minutes to talk.
i want to go to the audience to see if there are any questions for dr. sullivan? >> it was great this is your stories. a couple months ago and didn't skillion minute comment about a service to minorities as a college graduate have made to rethink leggett there because i'm black? that i thought that was untrue but then i thought of all the young people of color and i was wondering closely their reaction was
to ignore him but what did you think of that comment? >> i disagree in and find it condescending because from my perspective affirmative action is a technique to try to write many of the wrongs that occurred from slavery where whites got advantage because blacks were not allowed to compete but if you are white and a slave owner and became wealthy you could pass that on to your family to discuss for generations so from my perspective affirmative-action is a way to try to correct that injustice.
it is always a controversial topic but many people who have benefited tries to correct a historical wrong. those who did well. justice sotomayor in contrast to justice thomas said is very critical of affirmative action but she added to princeton because of affirmative action but then did bell subsequently. that is my response. in the medical surgery nine even in today published in the journal of science in 2011 shows black applicants have controls for level of
so with the enormity of the severity. so some babied taller than others. so it is a social construct and the life experiences the minorities have had shows that those that existed have long-lasting effects so people make assumptions that this is a biological difference rather than sociological differences from the children that come from families with college graduates are much more likely to be college graduates than it appears. so a lot of social factors
here address this. but the important thing for me is to get beyond that because frankly when i was in medical school by the end of my second month i was black after that. i was treated the same way. and who took me to his mother's home for the first time september 54. and that was an interesting experience so what we were gone is try to show that it
>> good question. frankly it is a lifelong experience. first of all, we need to be active politically. in error data office because they don't do their job or tolerate someone making a disparaging comment because of their race or religion or gender, etc.. we cannot leave it to the elected officials and to provide the initial support because they represent the that it is playing political games for officials to solve
problems not to take political potshots at each other because you are considered to be a trader that is foolish. was the election is over it is time to govern. that is the position in that i take it and used to be that way. back in the '50s and '60s they go out and have the cocktail at the end of the day. he worked being disloyal but all of us are are americans and have a country that has tremendous potential with the statements of our founding fathers. they were four white men but we expanded it to be for
everyone including women. i believe the the precept. but to be treated fairly so we can contribute. if we do that's we will be so much better. that is what we all want so they hate mongers we should tell them this is not the only art and i will not go for you. when you make those kinds of statements. [applause]