tv Robert F. Kennedy Jr. American Values CSPAN June 16, 2018 7:00pm-8:10pm EDT
house speaker newt beginning rich offers thoughts on impact that trump administration policies are having on america and around the world. 9 p.m. eastern, then at 10, on our afterwards program, television and radio host bill press, retraces his broadcast career, and transitioned to progressive politics. ... >> good evening.rsation]
[inaudible conversation] [inaudible conversation] >> i use my hands a lot. it is a marvelous evening. i want to welcome you to the free library on behalf of the board of directors of which i am a very enthusiastic member. free library is about expanding literacy, increasing curiosity and improving learning in the city of philadelphia. you are all supporters. we welcome you and invite your support. i have a few housekeeping items to remind you of. if you have anything in your
pocket for your handbook that might beat, chert, whistle, or ring, could you please silence it for the next hour. also, there will be no flash photography during the interview and talk. there will be a book signing after the conversation. that will be upstairs. if you miss part or all of it, there will be a podcast as there are for all of our author events. it is my great privilege to introduce to you robert f kennedy junior. [applause] as you know, a renowned environmental activist and attorney, he is presently the
emeritus professor of environmental law and partnered in the environmental practice of morgan and morgan. i understand he is facing an impending trial. he was senior attorney for the natural resources defense council for many years. he had a powerful influence on environmental practice and regulations. he has written a marvelous book which just came out. i want to look at the title because it is very significant at this particular time. the first part of the title is american values. i think this is extraordinarily timely as some of the values
perhaps many are being questioned, challenged and doubted. he brings a terrific perspective which is in the subtitle. the subtitle is, lessons i have learned from my family. this is part of the kennedy dynasty, number three of 11 children. and has intermittent deep connections to that dynasty. but at a particularly important time. we are getting a perspective on something critical, and also he is bringing in the combination of a memoir and history. we are going to go back.
it is a very personal story, very personal perspective. we are thrilled to have the author here. he will be in conversation with tracy who is a wonderful friend of the free library. broadcaster, journalist. with this, i welcome and please bring your hands together for a warm welcome. [applause] [applause] >> good evening. thank you for being here. welcome to philadelphia. >> thank you.
do not know if you have had an opportunity to look at the book. the title is "american values, lessons i have learned from my family". as i read this i struck thi i sw this as part history and part autobiography. i wonder why you chose to write this book and why now? >> my voice should get better as a speak. i started out writing this book ten years ago. i wrote 70% of it in the first year that i put it down for ten years. i wrote three other books and then my publisher got angry at me. i wrote it, but the project evolved and harpercollins asked me to do it and he heard me talk
about an expedition. we would go to colorado, and we would mount klein. and the project evolved to where i was originally writing something the memoir. i ended up writing a book really targeted for my children and theirs. i have seven kids and 105 kennedy -- who were depriving me of the 29 grandchildren of --
kennedy. we were in a compound and all the families had houses in each of us moved to a different home every night for dinner. we were all coached by former olympic diver named sandy my grandfather had hired to teach is different sports like boxing, sailing, swimming. then during the white house years the helicopters would land every friday on the football field right next to the ocean. my uncles would get off. teddy was in the seven, my uncle steve smith and -- who is
running the peace corps. [appus >> they would spend a week in the government would be run from that house and there was a wonderful array of people i describe in the book and my grandfather was a member. but in the mid- 60s i served and it was just not true. he had a movie theater in his house so we had extraordinary
weekends and weeks during the summer. a lot of the book is about what happened and hickory hill where he lived during the wintertime was -- white house and we had the civil rights movement and the bay of pigs, the cuban missile crisis. it became a command center. we were all in the midst of that. that is kind of the backdrop there is tension that existed between my family and the cia in the early 1950s and it was a
battle between my uncle, john kennedy visited vietnam and 61. should it be ruled by look local people. in my uncle, my grandfather, joseph kennedy sat on a commission in 1950s which recommended abolishing the services of the cfa. it was then engaged in fixing elections and fascinating leaders, overthrowing governments, installing dictatorships around the world, all that they were living with within the world. my grandfather at that time and
even before the said imperialism abroad is inconsistent with democracy. you cannot have those two things you'll end up with the national security -- my father when he pulled ahead in the california primaries realizing there is a good chance he would end up in the white house he began talking with his aides. one of the first things he said was to remove the -- services from the cia and to stop the problems they were creating around the world. >> i was going to save this question, however since you brought up the cia and there is no secret the relationship between your family and the cia
was a relationship that was fraught you might say. you read that your father when jfk was killed immediately suspected cia involvement. i noticed in the book when i read about your father's assassination the name of his assassin is not mentioned in the book. i wonder, are you satisfied with the official version of those events? or do you think of them differently. >> i never believed the official version of my uncles assassination, and i don't think was people do. in fact, think with a two and a half year investigation with the commission there is very little knowledge of an agenda which president johnson did not want
to get in a situation where -- was involved. he did not want to be in a position where he had to go to war with castro. he wanted a very quick resolution. they had their own investigators the cia and the fbi which my uncle had fired was the head of the warren commission. we now know real war was -- and was spoonfed that information. they were still trying to get information about what happened
that was and 63. in the early 70s they concluded that there had been a conspiracy. it was a much broader array of information were able to penetrate the cia and at least question them. i don't think anyone who seriously looks at it will say that my father did not believe that. >> i will talk about the civil rights movement. you mentioned a few minutes ago we talked about james meredith your father, your uncles, each played a role to varying degrees and ultimately bringing about
the civil rights act. i wonder what you think your father would like of the racial division we see in our nation now 60 years after that took place. >> my father would be happy that we had a first black president in this country. [applause] is a my father, i don't really like to say what my father would have believed if use a live today and have to say this and i think he would be disappointed in the direction the country is going today. this book is not about president trump but i think my father my
uncle really believe that we should model democracy. we should spend our time perfecting the union. the way to bring democracy is not to force it on people. everybody knows the difference between leadership and bullying. the way to spread democracy was to protect herself at home and make people think this was a system to envy. that's how america had operated from the beginning. in 1780 we were the first democracy in the world. by 1865 there are six. by the time my father was a live
there is a huge cascade at that time because the colonial empires were breaking apart. by the time he died there is a hundred 60. by modeling our system it had spread across the globe. one of the confusing things to people is whether our job is to grow go abroad looking for -- and when we do that we actually strengthen our opponents. my uncle believed, he did not believe that communism was -- he thought astro had the right to experiment and thus with the cuban people wanted and it's up to them to change it. he extended american aid to communist countries, to
yugoslavia and others. his objection was having a soviet satellite. he did not want that in the western hemisphere. he believed that people should be able to experiment with different types of governments they would collapse from their own inefficiencies if they did not work. if america got involved, it would not only fortify those tyrannies, it would radicalize them against us and give them an outside -- the only thing that holds them together's outside force.
american values to other countries to try to change i think today we have a problem because i think throughout this country his brought this country into disrepute and the entire american experience because if you're in china i do a lot of business in china. even we knew in school that 180 iqs, they are really smart people and they are well-informed. they read books and they understand problems that are constantly trying to solve them.
but they are thoughtful deep and profound people if you are in china today and you're looking what's happening in the united states, why whichever say we want to switch our system for that system. there's theories that the president doesn't read books. why would any country do that. the only way the united states is at the battle of a gun. if democracy produces this kind of leadership, why would anybody go for it. i think president trump is purposefully and systematically encouraging tyrannical governments around the world. he's also encouraging it by the example of --
>> you mentioned to ben castro. as i read the retelling of the events of the bay of pigs, there seems to be a strong hinting that you believe jfk was deceived into given the order to go ahead with the bay of pigs. >> i don't think there's any question of that. was bad for him for the beginning that they had to lie. the bay of pigs was them by nixon and was in charge of the program. he called it his grandchild. he was vice president at the time. they left it for kennedy to implement. they had these 2000 cuban troops and they were armed and trained
and were ready to go. had kennedy not wanted the united states involved in he did not want to be involved anyway. he would not allow the u.s. navy to transport them. and up landing on cuba on ships provided by the united -- company which they used to run. they were chief counsel president kennedy did not want any involvement. but one thing that he told others repeatedly what he did not want u.s. fingerprints on this. he thought it was a bad for the
rest of the world if we were going in for regime change. that's not what america does. we don't to regime change. we let countries decide their future and destinies. we don't do that for them. is very damaging for around the world. they knew and they told him that as soon as the bay of pigs brigade land there would be an uprising against castro. my uncle believed in the intelligence they knew that time was extremely popular and he had an army that was very well trained. there are landing the bay of pigs brigade in a place where there was no opportunity.
it was in a swamp where you cannot hide. there was no place to hide. what they believed was that as soon as the bay of pigs invasion got in trouble my uncle would chicken out and would want to avoid humiliation and would send in the u.s. navy. in fact when he walked out of the first meeting he said, i want to take the cia and shatter it into 1000 pieces and scattered into the wind. i would chicken out and calling -- and they did not know what they were doing. i don't think historically there is any question that president
kennedy was very reluctant. if we don't do it or send them over there we don't know what we'll do with these cubans, their violent will have to bring them back here and they will cause problems. not only are you going to look like -- and communism, but these people are very dangerous people. those were the kind of arguments they were using. >> i want to talk about your father and one of the themes that run through your book is that of service starting with your grandfather and through the family. is watching the netflix documentary, robbie kennedy for president. one thing was his trip to mississippi. marion wright challenged him to
see poverty in the united states firsthand. he made the trip to see staggering poverty. the stories that he came home from that challenged all of you. do you remember what he said about that? >> he was shocked to find that people were literally starving. there is a they had rickets and swollen bellies like you would see in africa. and they would have vacant eyes and he came home from that night and he came home to us and he said with their two families
living in a home smaller than our dining room and there is only one meal a day of rice and the children went to bed hungry. he said when we grew older he wanted to make sure we spent our lives making sure that to not happen in america. >> the person who told the story said you have to do something about this. in addition to that, there has been a fascination with your family. fifty-five or 60 years after these events took place. the movie is in theaters right now, have you seen it? what are your thoughts about it. >> i would not watch the movie it was probably the lowest point in my family's history.
and challenged a lot of the ways that we saw each other and called a lot of problems that lasted a long time. i would not go to see the dramatizations in general about my family because i would watch a documentary in particular but the dramatizations are always movies. they are not historically correct. and that characters are one-dimensional. it is the nature of filmmaking. i have almost never seen anybody actually capture the depth in the three-dimensional this the people in my family who i knew. it was always a caricature it is kind of irritating.
the ones that are complementary, i can only take about ten seconds before i turn it off. >> there was another one on cnn that you are featured in. what did you think about that one? >> i don't think anyone particularly like that. i only watched the first episode and it was unfair. one of the things cnn did it was a disaster. they were trying. they were doing something that is irritating which is constantly putting thoughts into people's heads. i remember in the first one they
said my uncle joe kennedy joined the service because he was jealous of his jack who is a war hero. in reality, my uncle joe went on a suicidal mission because he was so intent on rivaling his brother. there is no evidence of that. joe joined the service two years before -- and they said my grandfather gave a lobotomy to my on's rosemary because he was embarrassed by her. my grandfather and grandmother were so proud of rosemary. they did something at the time that was on her to not only included her in every event, but
they presented her to the queen at buckingham palace. she had a profound and actual disability, but that was not something that degraded her as a human being. they consistently would make interpretations would have the worst motives of every event. i guess i regret participating in it. you never know. >> as i watch the netflix documentary, i was so struck by your father's travels. the many people he encountered and how he went out and met people all over the country and world. there is so much i learned that i to not know.
i was struck by what we lost. had he lived in gone on almost certainly to be president of the united states, how do you think he may have change the course of this nation? >> my father's death was one of the traumas along with president kennedy's in the vietnam war and 9/11 ultimately that has has push this country further further on a path to becoming a national security state and more of an oligarchy, more of a plutocracy. instead of a democracy. my uncle, president kennedy three months before his dad sign a national security order ordering a removal of all troops
by vietnam, and he learned on that morning that there were 75 americans killed. that's despite all of the pressure from the entire national security. he sent advisers and green berets to vietnam and in the end it was 16000 witches fewer people than he sent into old myths. they needed up to 500,000 and they needed to be combat troops. he learned that 75 americans had been killed and he was horrified. he said we are getting out. all troops are to be gone from
vietnam. two weeks after it revoked the national security. my uncle my father ran for one reason, to and vietnam. if he had one we had gotten out and gone a different direction. but that was to ensure that we became more powerful and militarism has now become the hallmark. those traumas, they were in and and i would include 9/11. each one pushes us further down the road. you talking about my father's travels.
people. [inaudible] one of the things that really turn the cia against my uncle as he gave a speech in 1956 about -- being ruled by the africans. it was led by stevenson opposed him and condemned him. the republicans, rockefeller and nixon also condemned him because at that time there is a bulwark against -- and we needed to support our nato allies who worst trying to hold on to their colonial empires. when i traveled in africa and
other countries the united states. i met thousands of people in those countries because he made that stage. it is difficult measuring the success. if people do it by pulling or pulling historians. one of the ways to measure it is that if you measure it based upon the popularity of the president abroad there'll be no more successful president in the history than john kennedy's. virtually every-mac there is a poland for my uncle there's schools, monuments, parks and
schools that's not true about this president. there are children in africa whose name jefferson and -- he would be very proud to have so many named after him and to have his picture still be found in hudson africa and latin america. he was the head of the african subcommittee in the united states senate. my father brought home a video of africa. i was about seven years old and it was called africa speaks. i became obsessed with africa
and i would wait for the magazine to arrive so that i could read about africa. in 1959, w got a visit from an african -- was the most exciting day of my life. we meet this guy and he was one of the leaders in kenya. he was a labor leader and he had one year and his heroes were gandhi and thomas jefferson. he was from the smallest tribe in kenya it was an officiating tribe. they're known is very smart and peacemakers. he was partners with -- whom i have also met they sever to give
you five years and then will have to run your own government. they thought how are we going to run this country. so they wrote letters to all of the colleges ask you to provide scholarships for kenyan kids. what he realized in the 60s is they were going to start in september and he realized they needed money to bring them over here. they needed $100,000. he flew over on an urgent
mission and was in the middle of the campaign between nixon and my uncle. nixon -- was up for grabs nixon thought it would injure him in the south if you is bringing 200 black people to america. so he stopped the state department from funding the project. then they met and they said he loved africa and he introduced -- to harry belafonte. he was very close to my family and was funding the silver rights movement. harry brought them up that summer and i got to meet him. my uncle was this incredibly
dynamic and charismatic man. kennedy cannot help him because the kennedy foundation was restricted to giving money for intellectual disabilities. but they didn't tell anybody about it because they knew it would impact the election. nixon found out about it around the project and had a big press conference about it. in 1963, i went to africa with my uncle. my uncle who is running the peace corps. we went to kenya 1968 all of the
elder kids and my family were dispersed so that my mother would be able to spend time with younger children and get their life organized. my brother was sent to be a mountaineer. my sister kathleen lewis sent to work with the eskimos in alaska. i spent a lot of that summer with tom. i spent all this africa the following august, the following september -- was assassinated. he would have been -.
this. we flew up and got passes and spent the day at the convention. we had a great time. then i gave my speech and after i spoke the young first-term senator from illinois who had only been in her office for a little over a year, barack oma gave an extraordinary convention speech that would propel him to the democratic nomination. it was the first anybody has ever heard of it. we're in the green room and he told us -- he was in a very wealthy black community and he was going down there to do a fundraiser and we ate dinner with him that night. while we are at dinner he told
me -- and i said have you ever heard of tom boyer and he said he's the reason i'm in this country. >> will just let that sink in for a minute. >> on that note, i have many more questions for you but i do not want to be selfish. we have staff members with microphones. i'm sure you have questions for mr. kennedy. razor hand and we would get a microphone to you. >> thank you for coming to philadelphia.
would you discuss the catalysts that change your father from working for senator joseph mccarthy to the man he was running for president in 1968? >> that's an interesting question. i talk about it in the book a lot. because mccarthy was a catholic. he was one of the most powerful catholics in washington at that time. in fact, one of the reasons he became friends with my grandfather it was before he really went crazy. he was very strong the communists. which my family was two.
basically they thought all catholics at that time were all communism there is the antithesis of -- mccarthy when my uncle ran against lodge and 56 he was running against the very popular covenant. he had almost no chance of winning. if mccarthy had come in to the state he would have lost. because of his friendship with my grandfather he did not come into the state. mccarthy came to visit my uncle and aunt. he was charming. he had been a war hero, he was a boxer at marquette. and he was reckless in the way that he played football and they
played catch with him and he did not know how to swim. my family had a thing for you put a rope behind the sailboat and everybody jumps them. he jumped in and he almost drowned. we started the community my grandfather said why don't you get a job so you wanted to interview for them. he hired my father my father works on investigation which really was the beginning, he big
came the most important investigator in this country. whose investigations into the mob were thorough and diligent. when he did an investigation of u.s. corporations that were violating the trading with the enemy during the korean war and who were trading with red china and selling of the arms and selling supplies. ultimately it resulted in a serious condition and conviction. he stayed away from the other stuff. at that time, mccarthy was talking anti- communism but he wasn't doing the stuff he ended up doing, ruining people's lives and no evidence.
my father, because of his relationship after six months his investigation was completed and he left the committee. he came back on the minority side as chief counsel to senator mcclellan. in that position he ended up writing this agreement that set mccarthy and brought mccarthy down. he was a leader of that effort. he liked mccarthy. he felt sorry for him and he felt mccarthy was a demagogue. he was heavy drinking big friendly nice guy like but he
also did not have proper boundaries. and -- was an evil man and was able to play on his worst side. my father always had an affection for mccarthy. he saw that he had a good side. mccarthy died in at that time everyone who is liberal in that country went to his funeral. he went because he thought it was the right thing to do. just remember if that'll pritchett. her father was asked he would always just say simply he would not give an explanation but his mistaken truth was ever getting involved with the nonexistent
communist in this state department in hollywood. he was never part of any of that. he was long before mccarthy started doing that. it was just getting involved with and misjudging mccarthy's character that's the best answer i can give you. >> we are more questions. >> can you speak to the roots of your environmental philosophy and an activism for your family? >> i started -- i always was interested in the outdoors from when i was very little. from when i was born my mother says i would look at bugs when i
was in the crib. i was always involved in wildlife and started raising pigeons when i was seven years old. i was actually sending birds down to -- to go down on the train. then i got involved with hawks. i breed hawks, for many years i had a facility in my home. i would always train hawks and i wrote the exam people take to become a faulkner.
i loved water from when i was young and i wrote my uncle a letter when he was in the white house complaining about pollution and asking if i could come see him. >> i was a worker then i worked with a group of fishermen and 84. we would successfully have over 500 launches in five and a half billion dollars. today the hudson is the richest area in the atlantic. it has thousand fish per acre.
the miraculous resurrection all have to inspire the creation of we have 350 river keepers in each one has a patrol boat. we would have law enforcement and we were doing it now. that was kind of the brief -- [applause] >> can we get a microphone smith wrote three in the middle. >> i am of an age where my values and beliefs in character were shaped by watching your family and father in particular.
especially well the mobility of service. who gives you hope and inspiration now? >> the pope. [applause] >> i'm very excited about the number of women who are running. [applause] i think there's a tremendous number of people who still hold onto that idealistic view of america. he would start talking to republicans, i did environmental
talk that been lecturing about the environment for years. at about 60 paid speeches per year to big audiences. most of the speeches i was getting for some reason were in red states. they were mainly because my family was like a novelty or a scary thing, i don't know. i would end up in texas, kansas and i would be talking about the environment ways that everybody can understand. i got standing ovation set virtually every speech on the
environment. it really struck me as odd because i started thinking 80% of republicans are democrats who don't know what's going on. [applause] >> i think people really are not paying attention. i was in alabama few weeks ago in the a.m. dial is all right wing talk. there is nothing progressive or liberal. in alabama, the fm dial is also 100% right wing talk. there's five stations and all are extremely really poisonous, racial, you would not believe what's happening to america.
big outfits has really wounded something basic. we hav to fure out a way to reclaim. >> we have time for one more question. who has a good final question? >> first of all, i'm looking forward to reading your book. i've read several books on your family. my question regards the relationship between your dad and lbj. any insight you may have into private conversations they may have. i know there was no love lost between them. >> it was a complicated relationship. a lot of people say my father did not want held bj on the
ticket, and that is where and he tried to talk lbj out of it. that was a misunderstanding at that time. it was more complex. my uncle said were going to do lbj and my father was on board with that. they were approached at that time by the unions they said if you bring elm bj on the uaw and reuter they said if you choose lbj, we will turn against the ticket. my uncle said, to my father go down and tell lyndon what were getting so he knows over getting into. when my father had that
conversation with lyndon my father was trying to talk them out of the job, he wasn't. he was just saying what's going to happen. johnson was regarded as a right-wing softener. he was a nonunion state and unions were the backbone of the democratic party them. they hated him. my father was conveying a political reality to him. but i think lyndon felt it was personal. when my uncle is killed, there was a lot of tension immediately following his death.
it was lyndon's trip in the way that the transition was handled at the time my father was extremely wounded and damaged at that time. having said that, johnson d some really nice things for my father. he knew my father was struggling. he started in indonesia my mother ended up solving a problem that probably would have evolved into a war. those trips are important for bringing my father back and allowing him to reengage. when i was little at that time,
wenthrough a window and i ended up cutting off a couple of my toes which they sowed back on. johnson wrote m long letter. vietnam and the alliance for progress willie drove a stake through the heart of that relationship. my father was thinking of becoming vice president. he would have gone for that. my uncle was trying to change the u.s. relationship.
democracies could do social reform and johnson reverse product the terrible god when he was a cia guy. they went against the kennedy legacy. then vietnam destroyed the relationship. my father was talking to johnson about. within a few months of my uncles death, and 64. the 65 he was openly -- as part of the resolution when it became our war he started carpet bombing, my father was utterly repulsed by that. he felt that was something the nazis would do, to bomb civilian populations it was antithetical
to everything. and he was thinking of confronting johnson more and more. i think one of the high points of the book i was involved. it when he was going to make his speech in the senate my mother was an premature labor. a lot of things happen that day. [applause] >> the book is called american values, lessons i learned from my family. you can see why it's a
fascinating read. please join me in thanking robert f kennedy junior. [applause] [applause] [applause] >> book tv is on twitter and facebook. we want to hear from you. tweet us, twitter.com/book tv or post a comment on the facebook page. facebook.com/book tv. here's a look at some of the current best-selling nonfiction books according to the los angeles times. topping the list is the soul of america. the look at critical moments in american history and how they relate to today.
then we recall the life of the last survivor of the atlantic slave trade. that's followed by investor and venture capitalists on how tech companies use goals to achieve growth and measure what matters. then it is i will be gone in the dark. michelle mcnamara's search for the golden state killer who has been charged with one dozen murders and 50 sexual assaults in california during the 70s and 80s. arizona senator's reflections on his political careers, the restless way. our look at the best-selling books continues with mark manson's advice on leading a happy life. michael's report on how psychedelic drugs are being used for medicinal purposes in, how to change your mind. then the report on the role of the state department in "war and
peace". then it's recounting the life and career of robin williams. were wrapping up our look at jordan peterson's self-help book, 12 rules for life. some of the authors have appeared on book tv. you can wash them on the website book tv.org. >> hello. can everyone hear me? not to? that was our sound check. >> welcome to the city bookstore. i am the co-owner of the shop. we have been here for about two years. how many of you are here t