>> so the spec tack tailors search of isis was the direct result of the sectarian as an entity bean sectarianism, the civil war and the arab peace is the security vacuum that exists in other states and the deception that somehow the arab spring of the collective action could not really change the existing order. that is the leader of isis, who basically replaced zarqawi is basically his motto is that change would come not through the electoral box, but through the dialogue to come. ..
>> guest: ing their opinion means a lot. so they have the ability to have their voices heard and acted upon in our great democracy, but they don't take advantage of it. so we have this really incredible democracy that gives the average person power and the average person does not vote. it's, i think it's a shame that of all the developed democracies in the world, the united states is last in voter participation.
that really bothers me because if we don't keep our eyes on the prize and if we don't understand how we have to constantly be monitoring what's going on and taking the steps to rectify any problems, these problems are going to multiply, and we end up like we are now, very divided and at each other's throats. that should not be the case. but unless the people want to participate in this democracy, that's what's going to happen. >> host: you're calling for new arguments or new ways to look at old arguments. how so? >> guest: well, i'm calling for new arguments, the founding fathers really understood that they had their own biases and their own idiosyncrasies and maybe they didn't get it all right, so they gave us a document, the constitution, that allows it to be amended.
and tweaked so that it can deal with problems as they arise. that was, i think, the genius of what the founding fathers did. and at this point in the life of our democracy, the average person is not engaged and not involved. and if that happens, we end up with a mess like we have right now. >> host: so in your view is the cream not rising to the top when it comes to politics? politicians? >> guest: i think people are asleep at the wheel with regard to using their vote. they need the use their vote to punish the politicians who ignore their needs. so many politicians are more interested in getting re-electioned than they are -- reelected than they are in dealing with the needs of their constituents. they get elected, they start asking for money from wealthy people to get reelected, and they forget about the people that they're supposed to be representing. that's a real problem. and unless the people who are
suffering from that lack of attention, unless they do something about it by using their vote, this is going to continue. >> host: one of the issues that you address in "writings on the wall" is the education system. what would you like to see changed? >> guest: well, i'd like to see the money that is spent on education actually go to employing competent teachers and making a good education accessible to all americans. that has changed drastically. our public education system used to work for everybody, and now it doesn't. now we have exclusive schools that are able to produce elite students, and then we have other schools like in the inner cities where it's just a joke. the kids don't get educated, and they suffer for it. we have to change that. we have to get everybody involved. we also have to get parents
involved, have them participate in the decisions that are made in our school boards and everything. and that, again, requires them being involved and caring and using their vote. or using their vote for city councils and people who are going to be elected to the school boards. all of these things are very crucial to getting the results that you want which is an excellent education for all of our students. >> host: you write that there's much inequality in america, but the most destructive inequality is economics. >> guest: absolutely. i think people who do not have the opportunity to support their families end up dealing with desperate measures to support their families, to support themselves. we have so many people who can't afford to raise their children the way that their children need to be raised, and they give up.
we have a whole lot of abandonment of young people because the system does not accommodate their needs. we have to change that. >> host: one of the new arguments, kareem abdul-jabbar, that you put in your book is an argument over the r word. we've all heard about the n word, but you talk about race as the r word. why? >> guest: well, race is really a very artificial construct. from what we can understand from what anthropologists and sociologists tell us, people look differently because they evolved in different physical circumstances. people who evolved under the bright sun at the equator got darker skin than people who evolved away from the equator. but we're all homo sapiens. we're all the same species.
but just the nonessential, physical differences that we have seem to put people in a situation where they think that they are different from other people. we're all the same. and in america we see what that means, because all of us are able to contribute to our democracy with our intelligence and our hard work to equal degrees. so we have to forget about the whole idea of race and understand that it's all about who you live with, you know? the people in your community. that's, that's so much more important than what you look like in terms of your physiology. >> host: your book is semi-autobiographical as well, and you write that you've been writing for 40, 50 years. >> guest: yes, i have. >> host: what's changed? what's gotten better? >> guest: i think the whole idea
that people are starting to see, even people who don't look like them are starting to understand that these are your fellow americans. so in that sense, we are part of the same group. our ancestors came from various different places, but we're all here now, and this is our country, and we've got to do everything we can to make it the greatest place in the world. >> host: from your book, i was called an n in high school, i was called an n when i played at ucla, and i was called an n last week by someone who didn't like an article i wrote. >> guest: i put that sentence in there to let people know that racism is still an issue, it's still a problem. the election of president obama did not eliminate the racism and the systemic racism that we have to deal with here in america.
a lot of our institutions are racially fragmented, and there is bias at the heart of a lot of different institutions in america, and we have to understand that and try to eliminate those problems when we can. >> host: kareem abdul-jabbar, are you a role model? >> guest: whether i like it or not, i am a role model. the fact that i was able to achieve what i was able to achieve as an athlete and hopefully as an author, it makes me a role model. i'm a parent, so i have to be a role model. all parents are role models. so i don't think that any of uses escapes -- us escapes that burden. for some it's a burden, for others it's a joy, but we all end up in that position. >> host: are you a national role model? >> guest: well, i guess so. i'll have to accept that -- >> host: is that a good thing? >> caller: it can be a good thing.
i have to make it a good thing. it's up to me to decide what i can do with it and how to use it. so i've been trying to use it in a positive way. >> host: and you write that i have a complicated relationship with the media. i've used my celebrity to take political positions. >> guest: i think that i've tried to use my celebrity in a way that enables me to say things that need to be said. and i'm glad to see there are other athletes that are getting in line with that. when tamir rice was killed so unnecessarily in cleveland, lebron james came out and said something about it. i think that was very important to me, you know, the fact that lebron -- despite his incredible celebrity and achievements as an athlete -- he was concerned about the killing of a young person in his community that should not have been killed. that was awesome. i was happy to see it.
i'm glad that whole tradition of activism has not died in our community. there were a couple of members of the cleveland browns also who came out and said something, and some of the guys on the police force seemed to have an issue with that. these guys were parents, and they could see easily how their kid could have been tamir rice under the same circumstances. so their concerns were valid, and they voiced their concerns, and i'm happy they did that. >> host: is it controversial, is it harmful to a professional athlete to take a political stand? >> guest: it can be harmful to a professional athlete, but i think we have to take that risk if the issue is that important and that meaningful to you. it's worth taking a risk. >> host: when did you start writing? >> guest: jeez, i started writing when i was in grade school really.
i'm still in touch with the nun that taught me in seventh and eighth grade, and she wrote me and said that she remembered she entered me in an essay contest while i was in the eighth grade because i was the best writer in my class. so it's something i've enjoyed my whole life. >> host: but books and looking in research, when did you start into that? >> guest: research, oh, i enjoyed research, i enjoyed being a historian. you know, just finding out what happened and understanding how that affects what's going to happen. if we don't learn from the mistakes that we've mearksd we are condemned -- that we've made, we are condemned to repeating them. so knowing what happened is a crucial issue for anybody who wants to understand what's going to happen. >> host: you talk in "writings on the wall" about your conversion to islam and what it's meant to you and what it's
meant other people. >> guest: well, i think my convergence to islam really was something that was personal to me. it was a religious, a religious event in my life. people have tried to make it political, but really it was a spiritual thing for me. and i think islam has given me a moral anchor that has enabled me to differentiate between right and wrong and understand life in those terms. so, you know, my conversion to islam was, is something that was very personal. it ended up becoming political, but i didn't want it to be like that. i probably would have done it different if i had had a chance to go back. i'd do it a little bit differently. i didn't necessarily have to be so public with it. but it was important to me, and it was a way for me to assert my
own identity as a black american and not have to be portrayed as somebody who was fitting, jeez, a stereotype that was not actually me. so it end abled me to -- enabled me to define myself. and as such, it was very important to me. >> host: where'd you grow up? >> guest: i grew up in manhattan, new york city. i was born and raised in harlem. had a great time growing up in manhattan. i wouldn't have traded it for anything. >> host: what'd your parents do? >> guest: my dad was a police officer, my mom was a seamstress. she did alterations and made dresses and stuff like that. >> host: and you mentioned a catholic nun as a teacher. you went to catholic school? >> guest: i went to catholic school up through high school, and then i went to ucla.
>> host: in your book you talk about rules, following the rules of the nuns, following the rules of the coaches, following the rules of dad. >> guest: yeah. i've had a lot of coaching, i've had to understand discipline from a lot of other people's vantage point. so i'm happy at this point in my life that i'm following my own path. >> host: what are you doing these days? >> guest: these days i'm writing, i'm spending time with my granddaughter, i'm a new grandparent. i have a beautiful granddaughter. and just trying to take in what's happening in the world -- >> host: what about your charity? >> guest: my -- i have a foundation. my foundation tries to get kids from the inner cities to understand what s.t.e.m. education is all about, science, technology, engineering and math. so we send them to camp for five days and four nights and give them an opportunity to be
exposed to s.t.e.m. education. and that enables them to get an idea of where all the good jobs are going to be in the 21st century. so i think it's, it's a good thing to get kids to understand what the possibilities are. so many kids especially in the inner cities, they all want to be denzel washington or beyonce or lebron james. they don't understand that there are so many great jobs out there that require them to be well grounded in science, technology, engineering or math. so by giving them an insight as to where the jobs are at the right time in their lives, i think that that makes it possible for them to take a good path toward achieving their goals. >> host: does writing come easy to you? >> guest: writing, i think writing does come easy to me. it's something i enjoy, and i'm
able to organize my thoughts in a coherent way and get them out there. so, yeah, i think writing is something that, it's a natural avocation for me. i seem to enjoy it. >> host: is it easier than being out in public? >> guest: at times, because you have time to think things through and make sure that everything is what it needs to be so that your message is coherent. you can't have your thoughts organized and present them in an intelligent and organized way, people aren't going to get what you're all about. >> host: kareem abdul-jabbar, you recently penned an op-ed in support of hillary clinton. why? >> guest: well, i'm supporting mrs. clinton because i think she has the thoughts and the concerns about the lower classes and middle classes that are,
have been ignored by so many politicians. and i think that, you know, her focus on trying to make the government and make the political system work for the average person, i think that's very worthwhile, and i support her in that. >> host: if somebody said to you i'm a donald trump supporter, do you come to an immediate, do you have an immediate picture in your head of who they are? >> guest: no, i don't. i have an idea of who they are. so many people now are being motivated by fear. so, you know, the whole idea of what mr. trump said about immigrants and everything, trying to make us afraid of mexican immigrants or muslims, i think is reprehensible and certainly not an accurate portrait of immigrants or muslims or any of the other issues that he claims to be so knowledgeable about.
so i think he's really showing everybody how ignorant he is, and it's unfortunate, but that's what's happening. >> host: in "writings on the wall," you talk about reaction and reacting from fear. how do you -- what's your prescription? >> guest: i think the only way that we can get over fear is through knowledge. becoming familiar with the issues that we seem to be afraid of, once you get an idea of what is actually happening, you can figure out a solution that does not involve building walls a across the mexican border. we can fix a lot of these issues if we have an honest and rational approach to it. i don't think we're going to solve anything by fear mongering and demonizing people. that doesn't work. >> host: is it time, in your view -- we talked to bill ayers yesterday, and is it time, in your view, to try a brand new system?
>> guest: well, i mentioned earlier the founding fathers gave us the means to tweak the constitution and to make the adjustments that need to be made as we move forward. because there are new issues and new problems that the founding fatherrings did not foresee. so they gave us the means to deal with it, and we have to just use the tools that we have. too many people are ignorant of the fact that we have these tools. and that's a shame. once we get that idea across to people, i think a lot of people will calm down and do what they have to do to the affect meaningful change. >> host: one more issue you brought up in "writings on the wall," political correctness. what does that term mean to you? >> guest: political correctness really just has to do with trying to be polite to people. i don't see it as a big problem. just trying to be respectful to
other people and not offend them by the way you depict them and talk about them. trying to be gracious, you know? that's all it's about. i don't think it's a big political issue. but some people want to make a big deal of it. i don't think it's a real problem. >> host: if somebody says i'm not politically correct, what does that mean to you? >> guest: i think to me it means maybe they have some things that they want to say about people that they're kind of annoyed that they have to watch what they say. but, you know, being polite is a social grace that a lot of us could use some instruction in, you know? >> host: where did this book come from? >> guest: this book came from just how i feel about what's going on in my country.
it's my attempt at trying to talk about some solutions that might work. that's all it is. >> host: and it's your, what, fifth, sixth book? >> guest: my 11th. >> host: 3 -- 11th. kareem abdul-jabbar, "writings on the wall," it comes out august of 2016. you're watching booktv on c-span2. >> booktv tapes hundreds of author programs throughout the country all year long. here's a look at some of the events we'll be covering this week. on monday, syndicated radio host dana lash is at our studios in new york city for a taping of our weekly author interview program, "after words." in her new book, she argues that the united states is dividing itself into two countries; coastal america and flyover america. she will be in conversation with fox news contributor guy benson. tuesday at baltimore's library,
the nation magazine's michael smith will discuss his life and political education as a young black man in america. then on wednesday at brookline booksmith in brookline, massachusetts, former "newsweek" white house correspondent clara bingham will recall the social and political upheaval that took place in the united states from 1969-97 p 0. 1970. and on thursday at the offices of first things journal in new york city, mary ebber stat will argue that people of faith are experiencing widespread discrimination because of their beliefs. that's a look at some of the author programs booktv is covering this week. many of these events are open to the public. look for them to air in the near future on booktv on c-span2. >> i want to tell you about the mark twain that not everybody knows about. most people think of this witty author of huckleberry finn who
fought racism and imperialism. that's all true. but he was also an eternal bad boy. he liked to drink, smoke and curse. he married an her rest who paid the -- hare's who -- heiress who paid the bills. all these traits eventually caught up with him. i mean, can you imagine being the comedy kingpin of the united states and at age 60 losing it all? i mean, he was dead broke in 1895, and he had lost all his money and all his wife's money. and i just can't imagine losing all my wife's money. [laughter] i mean, the thought -- it so terrifies. she's sitting -- there are torture implements that haven't been invented that she would use on me. after a while the family of samuel l. clemons could no longer afford to live in their own beautiful home, how sad is that? it was a quirky, wonderful house.
he designed it himself in a large extent. he had a fireplace built with a window over it so he could see snow falling while the flames were coming up. he adored this house. they had a family, loopy family life. they had three dogs, and twain named one i know, another dog you know and the third dog was don't know. [laughter] he also enjoyed acting with his daughter susie. they were rich. they had a tiffany drawing room. the family had seven servants including a butler and a coachman, but it was never enough for twain. the poor missouri boy wanted everything. he wanted to be a funny writer but also to be a literary author. he wanted to be a family man, but he also wanted to be a poker-playing rogue. he was so full of conflicting desires. he liked down home folk, and he also wanted to be rich as a rockefeller or a vanderbilt. he wrote: few of us can stand
prosperity, another man's, i mean. [laughter] and he was a magnet for con men. what a talker he is, he wrote of the inventer, james w. page. he could persuade a fish to come out and take a walk with him. [laughter] so twain was losing his shirt. [laughter] he had a lethal combination for an investor, moon job shot enthusiasm -- moonshot enthusiasm and no patience for details. he once asked an accountant to send him a profit/loss statement that even his daughter could understand. jean was 2 years old at the time. so twain thought the following invention would change the world. you don't recognize it? [laughter] this is the page typesetter. weighed almost four tons, 18,000 movable parts, and it was supposed to revolutionize printing. if it worked. now, twain had the immense misfortune of seeing it work once.
at first, twain called james page the, quote, shakespeare of mechanical invention. by the end after it kept breaking down, twain began fantasizing about capturing a certain part of page's anatomy in a steel trap and watching him slowly bleed to death. [laughter] so the page typesetter cleaned out twain's bank account. this next investment, starting his own publishing company, put him $80,000 or the equivalent of $2.4 million in modern currency, in debt. they started off incredibly well. they published grant's memoirs, enormous success. and huckleberry finn. and twain expected to pay himself fat royalties. he wound up receiving no royalties. this is their final list of titles, and i don't know if you can see from there, but any publisher that's going to go out with stories from the rabbis -- [laughter] is probably going to be in a little trouble. [laughter]
so headlines, and it was deeply humiliating. headlines of the newspapers said mark twain fails. i mean, it was brutal. no joke, failure of mark twain, failure of humorist. and he's this literary superstar deeply embarrassed, and he gets two main advisers for his bankruptcy. one is henry huddle son rogers, one of the wealthiest men in america, the right-hand man to john d. rockefeller, standard oil to, federal steel. his nickname was hell hound. and this robber-baron wants to play hardball with the creditors. he wants to offer ten cents on the dollar. twain's other adviser is his wife, livvy. she has absolutely no business experience. she writes him: i want the creditors to know that we have their interest at heart, much, much more than their own. [laughter] livvy -- [laughter] livvy, we have some bankruptcy
experts in the crowd here. [laughter] livvy wants to pay them in full as soon as possible. well, a word of advice: never bet against the wife. twain agreed to pay everyone back in full. and so he needs to make big money fast. and his books are not selling. his most recent title was the american claimant. not exactly a huge seller. so the quickest way for him to make money is to go out on a stand-up comedy tour. and he absolutely from the bottom of his heart did not want to go. it's a little known fact that mark twain dreaded public speaking in front of large audiences, but it wasn't so much stage fright as humiliation fright. he did not want to play the clown. he thought of himself as a literary author. and he said to a friend that once an audience sees you stand on your head, they'll expect you to remain in that position forever. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org.