tv James Fallows Our Towns CSPAN April 24, 2019 12:16am-1:14am EDT
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booktv continues now on c-span2. television for serious readers. >> today i had the pleasure of speaking with author of our town. 100,000-mile journey to the heart of america. cank you for coming today. his co-author not here today. the extra burden he's bearing for this one. >> thank you for hosting this station. through the miracle of c-span, i'll speak right out to my wife, that many of you may have known
over the years. she's in florida with her father who has required this week her attention. this will be less interesting than it would be if youer were here. i think making can pick up that burden. you can imagine you are channeling her, make fun of me wherever you can. >> i be happy too. before we get started, i like to share a short video to introduce this wonderful book. >> it's only one minute long. >> the idea of over america, the opposite off what they are in america. >> 3 miles out. >> when we went into the town,
>> what a wonderful video. as we mentioned, it is co-authored. whose idea was it? 100,000-mile journey. >> deb and i have been together for a long time. we met on a blind date in our first year in college 50 years ago. we've been together ever since then. the secret is at least a secret in our household, figuring out what the person in command, deb, like to happen, then you go in that direction. the way we let this is essentially to spend a lot of time on the road. we got married in england, i'll explain, let me take this opportunity to explain something about your moderator. many of you may know maggie, a local young woman from an offi office. next you should be going to oxford as a scholar.
[applause] back in the era, as an institution of 1970s, we got married there the first thing that we did human is to go to a labor camp, it's been several months, seems like several years. was the beginning, perhaps a mistake but it was a beginning p of the long path just trying to put ourselves in different situations, we spent about four years in japan and malaysia raising them. we moved to china 2006 and whether off and on through 2011. when we realized you all know the concept of limb pain where there's something you feel the absence of when you're nots doig it, that's for us being on the sroad. six years ago, we got, we moved back from china, we are in d.c.,
would be nice to same sense of adventure in the u.s. we had in china and malaysia. through our little airplane you just saw a video of, a plane that is the only one, the only model on earth to have a parachute. we decided we would start coming around the country, i think deb has been the impulse and always saying let's get out of town, let's see things. she thought it was time to hit the road again so that's how we did this. >> thank you. you mentioned it was taken plack in a plane. the most futile passages in the in the first few pages, but it's like to watch the leaves change across the country you go north or south. can you explain your relationship to buying what is unique about that perspective applying your own plane? >> you have been there, right?
>> i have. >> i will give you my promotional objection, like everybody should be a pilot. there must be actual pilots in the room. there should be, the reason i say that you read the chronicles of the early days from a century ago when i m just getting start, he was really dangerous, it's dangerous now but it was magnitude before. the assumption was that anybody who had any kind of, aspirations to the intellectual more artistic life would want to be a pilot. the historians would want to do this and geographers and poets and anybody else wanted to have this view without the melting rains and be able to see the earth from a perspective that through the millennia, they
ached to see and it's still the case the way you can see the north american landscape in particular is uniquely beautiful from one to 500 feet. it makes you realize in a car, your 6 feet elevation and you only see the freeway. an airliner everyone, you're unhappy, number two your 35000 feet. number three, the present by the window is probably closing their side. you don't really see anything. as the under a sheet of factor of an airliner, you're looking sideways where is this plane, you are looking forward. it's like you're extending through therd sky. in the fall, as you go up the east coast, you can see with each 30 or 40 miles, you can see the mixture of colors of eaves. if you go south in the same route, along the eastern front of the appalachians, you can see the cities are where they are.
the full line and where the water is coming out of the hills and why cities are there and across the continent, you can trace the prevailing rainfall level as you go from the lush midwest to the start midwest to the., you can see cities have a logical where they are like duluth, cities that are just there because they are there like dallas, no natural things around it. [laughter] i find it, i love the procedures of flying, there's a kind of, it absorbs everything else in your life or should, if you want to be able to keep flying after that trip. it is i also the most romantic y i think of to seek the world. would you like to hear a less romantic view? that is a competitive sailor on
lake erie, she was named as a young woman sailor from her high school who could be all the bo boys. so she loved that kind of activity but doesn't want to be an actual pilot because her ey eyes, she can't see very well. it something you have to be absorbed and to do. she's happy to sit in the right seat. she would.out in addition to this, you need to have perspective. where you are flying low enough to seek buses bouncing along the world. you have this reality exposure that is more than you think. if you are flying over areas of the u.s., american feedlot comes up into your airplane and when it's cold, on the ground it's cold in the plane. when it's hot it's hot. youk, she wrote about that thoms
of the air ..., they are often dispatched in the remote southwest where people hundreds of miles from hospitals. she has a -- i think you'll be made in the honorable air traffic control because she talks about the special thing which they have and also the phenomenal competence of the air traffic control system with the situation is getting the systematic, everybody there, she describes one time that the fourth there was good on board whether, we blundered into a thunderstorm. as one military controller was handing us off to the next center, the controller said first, good luck and then say so
report. this is the formula for how many human beings are on the plane so they can adjuster it very systematically. that's her part of the drama.ig >> you talk about a few of those dramas but it seems like a thanksgiving dinner. out of a vending machine. what was the most difficult part about this adventure works was the most rewarding? >> the difficult was mainly, we tried to read up on all these abundance of the american road trips. from lewis and clarke for the oregon trail onward. as a reason people export the continent by longitudinal trip. course we read travels with charlie which is very popular when deb and i were kids.
deb was comparing all this, for those of you who don't know, john, one nobel prize, most esteemed american writer of the error in the 60s, voted up like a camper, and our fee with all kinds of crab for a big trip around the country and his dog, charlie. was trying to figure outt how much all this stuff he put into this rv weight. compared to what we could have in our plane. he has like several tons worth of stuff in his rv. we had a difference between the minimum weight of our plane and maximum gross takeoff weight, 1300 pounds. a have 1300 pounds of people and gasoline and stuff. that meant, although deb is a wisp of a thing, have about 300 pounds of people w and we had usually four or 500 pounds of gasoline so we had several hundred pounds ofnd stuff for
months on the road. i wasas logistically a convocation. finding places to eat and stay was also a challenge. the most rewarding part was the adventure of having people explain their lives, their town entities. i would contrast it with normal journalistic practice but normal journalistic experience in this way. it's become a habit in american journalism, if you're going to not cover new york, d.c., and for cisco, l.a., who are going to iowa for kentucky, west virginia or one of these other places, you're normally doing it withth a national political framework in mind. ...
the privilege of giving it and asking people for example in sioux falls who is living here and what's getting better and what's getting worse? how are all these refugees doing and what is the relationship of the schools to the system and people are interesting and multidimensional where theyal talked about their actual lives and they are not interested when they talk about politics, so the reward is with you are seeing the 20 dimensional brain showed american life. >> you talked about the presence of some extraordinary individuals throughout your travels and i noticed when i was reading there is a certain power of those individuals who care deeply about the communities and
are committed to positive change and work together in these diverse groups so can you speak to how you build a piec peace ie future generation of american leaders? >> that is a great and hard question. as time went on and there were about 25 different cities where we spent a couple of weeks over the years long enough to see what was distinctive and unusual about places and there is still a distinct of america that it's different to be from south dakota or from west virginia or from a man to california as i am which is different from coastal california and all the rest. so the soviets distinct ways in which each city has its own personality and prospects but also common trend among the places that had turnaround stories either one that was already far along the arc like greenville which is now deluged
with urban scholars around the world coming from sweden and australia toto look at greenvile to see how it's done to those that are much further behind in the process like san bernardino or charleston west virginia or other places but there were certain pattern and one of them is when we would first get to a town one of the things we would ask on the initial task of newspaper editor, mayor, can the school system library and we ask them who makes things go. who should we talk to and after that there was an answer to that question to say this person at the university or thiss business founder moving his or her business downtown or this young person whos has come back from the number three and to say that he or she is going to make a difference here. we solve people who decide saw o
change the world based on where they were and i will give you two quick examples of this. has anybody in the crowd and san bernardino california it's right next to where i grew up and it's the h most troubled town one of the handful of the most troubled times for economic reasons we were there with the graduation rate for those who are 100% free and reduced lunch probably 100% and college, 90% of nonwhites probably 60% of a lot of it
still has a long way to go and part of it is a group of young people in their late teens and early 20s are probably 80% of latino, the third african-american to rest asian or white who decided they were sick of their talent being viewed as the butt of tcalifornia's jokes in law and details they get people registered to vote and reform the city charter which has been uniquely flawed and after the
san bernardino shootings a shooa couple years ago they made rallying point so on the one hand you have a loosely organized teenagers and early 20s from an artistic painting background on the other hand a man described as mike gallo who first went to san bernardino as a l lieutenant. rocket entrepreneur he made systems and if this wasn't where he was thrown bits where h but e he was going to live and he was going to do some in to saveeo te town he'd been instrumental in bringing him a.q. this 'school cadministrator named dale marsn and you can argue that it would be studied by people around the
they bring together a couple dozen people they view as future citizen is from business universities and give them some year long course out the place works in the state of south carolina did some thing similar like a state-level fellowship or scholarship where people from different backgrounds or give him a year-long course. because the senator is one of those alumni for people try to think how you can't systematize the existence of leaders but find ways to put the wind at
your back.an a distinction or qualification on the greatness of point we have been trying to make is not that things are objectively good say charleston west virginia it's where the population is though by half and the chemical industry has gone away and knowledge that all the woes of american life that we know about are not real from unequal opportunity of every sort to the
law and justice in every sort tt and all the rest. the surprise has been sent to possibility and pragmatism and renewal and invention which has seemed to be in all hands on deck operation where in some places this has been led by people that hold official office like meir and strong mayor town. duluth minnesota has a similar record inn other places you dont have the same opportunity san bernardino has had a weak syst system.iv
were trying to create something in northern texas or mississippi and peaceful it is surprisingly large representation of people who thought their view of a satisfied life included being engaged in finding ways to save a generation from now we are goingg to have parks and downton will look good again. a generation from now the schools will be better and have things that the economics in graduate school, i know you can't assume that about people in general but as a journalist and a human being this is a part of the human mix as well i am probably a little bit bias thati
know you will appreciate that there is huge because of the importance of the generic. where did you see arts to get this in the community and its role in the modern world? this is one of many surprising. one was the pervasive effect of the arts that i haven't paid attention to. we became believers on this front essentially about the way that the identity of the town was enriched and worked three people who were doing dance and
performances. one was very deliberate assertion of going from stem to steam there is also driven partly by the employers themselves with the same companies looking for people schooled in whatever engineering field you want to mention it is better if these were fully realized people if you have a liberal arts sensibility.
i mentioned it to san bernardino schools are radically inventive and a lot of these career technical fields. it's alsoha the case they are ambitious in the art fields including debate and trials. my neighboring town of the red lens have traditionally been to debate goliaths of southern california and just last year the high school of san bernardino beat mock trials and it was like anything else.
i was glad to see this happening so that is one thing in schools. a lot of towns are right advertising to make themselves viable in the long run isn't so much tax preferences for the next big factory or environmental waivers to destroy anything else that might have been a 1930s were 60s strategy. it's to make them places people want to live to have all these programs that make them seem like attractive towns.
the places we've been one of the most innovative institutions were the public library where they are reinventing themselves as sources of civic engagement of swords they are in much of america the place for internet access. i can't tell you how many small towns the only place we could get online is that the library or sitting on the curb outside of the library and librarians know this and recognize they have a connected activity. if you i go to public librariesn thent cities you see a substantl number of homeless people in the libraries and the way that they have found an unusual motive is
giving respect to homeless people. they can go in there when they need to and behave under certain rules and also be treated like people. she wrote about the especially with a columbus ohio library where it says. and lots of other ways libraries seem to be if you were looking for deterioration of civic fabric these days or else he would look at the brewpubs and part of the reason this is more than just kind of a jim cook
who's one of the college classmates and provides free beer at the college reunions pointed out there's there is ad connection between the breweries and local vitality in the u.s. in the 18 words essentially every counter to the u.s. at a brewery because there was no refrigeration. prohibition was a bad time for the industry and after prohibition was a big concentration and only a couple dozen breweries at all but the 1970s where my one-time employer jimmy carter deregulated at home brewing and begin to craft the revolution 7d now they are about 7,000 around the country and they become. you will discover that they discourage underage children fromom going inside the pubs.
most have children's rooms and playpens and all that getting them started early and you havee a send of gathering places of old sword and the writers guild explosions happening so that is a part of the localism and identity health can diversity help in this advancing of other projects in america? splenic we've spent about 15 years of our adult life outside of the u.s. into china and japan and malaysia and africa some the
ongoing make me vividly aware that my name identity is as american when you go to england you will find some of your coffee as well try to take on some affected english accent. i try to model jack nicholson and what would a real american they if he were here and the other effect has been to think meabout the american experimentn the perspective of japan or other places america has always been in trouble any decade in history you look at their something pretty bad going on notably the 1860s the number
of times they've been in perceived serious troubles with the story of the united states is always a balance between the way in which it is getting under trouble. we can use an outside share of the world's talent. this can be a place where people no matter where they start can in principle realize their ambitions here and it's meant to be the saga of american diversity that has been the ongoing process of dealing with the dislocations that the ethnic change and geographic mobility and everything else always bring. it would be easier if you were just finland opurchased finlandg
where you have a smaller scale and more control. one of the things we discovered were argued is that the local level people still generally live that reality but it's not an accident that congressional representatives of both parties from districts along the border are not enthusiastic about closing the border and the voices on the national stage but are most concerned about immigration right now are from districts where there are fewest immigrants into the sort of reverse correlation.
but also because of the meatpacking and we've heard from lots of people latino, anglo and other descriptions recognizing that if dodge city wereav to hae a future it is embracing the fact that it's now this kind of diverse community in this part of western kansas and so you may have seen a story before the midterm was moved out of town so
we said this wasn't what you were telling us. they said that this wasn't dodge city's choice. this came from higher authority at the county level and you can imagine the back story but the city council was passed to the next day of resolution providing free door-to-door and we recognize all of our people have the right to vote so at the time where the national level discourse on american diversity is in my view out of sync with
the main theme of american greatness you still see evidence of people recognizing what makes the united states different, unique and potentially greater. >> in germanyo and previous travels before you said something about missing them when you are traveling with is the next adventure and put his plan? >> well put. i'm on the road it's been almost a year since the book came outpl we spent almost 11 on the road in indiana extend tivoli and it was essentially to learn more
stories like the ones we have seen and to connect people who are doing similar things around the country and don't forget why is it just to get increased critical mass to this potential while leno the other potential is happening within it is a balance between his offsetting trendds is an american life and also we are making a movie with hbo so they bought the rights to make a movie from the book which we are thus worth of term in the entertainment industry we are the talent within this first movie crew for quite a while in west virginia and in southern california, send them an e-mail at riverside we are about to go to mississippi, south dakota, main anmaine and some other plad the idea is to have a movie come out about a year from now as the
cycle is becoming even more than it is now to have a different kind off narrative of the prospects than the ones that will dominate cable news most likely and essentially the plan when we grow up and i think that ambition is to keep connecting people who are trying to be part of this next renewal. >> -a wonderful time talking with you but if you have a question, i'm sure you do there's a microphone to my right and interacting with a brilliant man and.an >> i had a dream recently i was at a party for you.
how did you choose the places you went and did you let serendipity take over? >> before answering will you please join me in expressing our admiration and appreciation and respect for what a very busy student in her spare time. [applause] if you want hope for the american future you see people who are going to be around that will. the question about how we chose, yes this was largely serendipitous process. ..
people responding from 49 or 50 states. here is why meridian is the american story. and to be humbled by this passion that poured out on a whim to sioux falls south dakota. it is an incredible place for i had no idea all the things that were happening but the dominated impression who had any idea? c we were there for a couple of weeks then we went to michigan who knew there was a full manufacturing town that was founded by dutch people. half of the people there are one of the few jewish families in town.
and then we went to burlington vermont and the coast of georgia and thought this was interesting. as time went on with geography we had the four corners approach by size. one large city was columbus, ohio which was a proof of concept a huge city that acted like a small town. places where mainly white significant black et cetera those that were rare in different stages of economic recovery and the poor the place that we were going to what about erie or san bernardino? it was serendipitous.
. >> i work with the group and so i want to second your emphasis on the arts and the smaller communities those are a catalyst for change. can you recall the smallest town? is there anything from the smart one - - the y smallest to the largest to see a difference in their needs? . >> yes. congratulations with the work that you do. so the very smallest place we went to was eastport maine it is on the map the northernmost place on the map fewer than 2000 people were there. the next was arizona that had three or 4000 people.
the predicament of really, really small towns 10000 or below through american history is that they have over tim time, many have vanished we saw this most romantically in the dakotas to fly a low level plane on the interstate and you could see when they were established in the 1880s towns were put in every 10 miles that was the official distance now it's every 30 or 40 miles. it is a reality of american life that some have not been able to survive. what is the distinct distinguishing factor for appalachia? over western virginia or
western north carolina? it seems to be a combination of circumstances that others don't have. but it is a clear eyed understanding of what the aspects are. and for example, in arizona which we write about a lot is a new artist center and resort because it is so beautiful with its architecture. are there people? are there regional alliances? there isn't one answer but a whole range if you get to ten or 15000 with the city size in principle towns should be able
to make it then it is a matter of understanding the history or the landscape thetr transportation lines like indiana a beautiful little town about a thousand people may have a high powered university which is an engineering school part of a lakeside resort economy. the combination of a group of civic patriots that say they care about this place in the laserlike prospects without fatalism to say here is our heritage. we look forward to talking with you more.
. >> i have had family members with drug abuse and it is an epidemic. whatat strategies do you see in cities that are dealing with it? . >> so with the question of opioids what we have observed traveling around, there is a bedrock american problem that is racial injustice, the ongoing legacy of slavery that is a reality of american life now as it has been. that is one factor.
second but is not unique is the economic dislocation of the past generation. the crash of ten years ago was unique. the fact of the rise and fall is normal rather than abnormal of american life. so people continue to have their livelihoods affected by a technology weather to reinvent but any decade in american life. with a small town leaving the barrel factories but what it is unusual right now is the opioid plague. with its scale and intensity is unlike drug addictions it is a greater scale than the us has had in most of the
decades. you could argue it is a different people but it seems formidable. the place we saw the most inventive response was charleston west virginia with a combination of drug courts specifically for young people trying to break the cycle to keep young people from being sent into prison early on. and innovative and collaborative efforts with the police and religious groups and ngos and the schools. and in charleston people will tell you this is an enormous problem for them. but the challenge is the czar difficult to scale with a
person by person effort by individual judges and individual families. so just to recognize this is a giant challenge with a person by person undertaking. >> thank you for joining us today i encourage you to pick up a copy of thisrf book watch out for the movie coming out in one year. have a great day. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
. >> before we move on to the supreme court those ten topics that you really need to know. write them down. federalism, public opinion, participation, politicl parties, interest groups, campaigns and elections, congress, presidents and courts. the tight one - - entire test covers those ten topics. . >> our question is about why is it significant? [laughter] . >> it is a concept trying to get a big bill passed with the
quid pro quo. if you have this project are earmarks then you will get more supportive votes. >> saturday night, president trump is holding a campaign rally in green bay, wisconsin. skipping the annual white house correspondents dinner. today, he instructed his administration to boycott the dinner. what coverage of the presidents rally saturday at 8:00 eastern on c-span. following the rally, watch coverage at 9:30 p.m. eastern of the white house correspondents dinner with featured speaker, author and historian ron the - - >> starting no, it's