tv Discussion on American Optimism CSPAN April 28, 2019 2:18pm-3:30pm EDT
you will not write fiction that anybody is interested in reading. i think we have to call it there. i want to add one thought. in reaction to your question the digital can be just as vibrant as a landscape anything outside of it. writers today and filmmakers are just learning how to dive into that. but now we are at the end, thank you so much for being here, thanks so much term panelist. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> now from the recent tennessee new orleans literary festival,
authors talk about optimism in american history and politics. >> welcome to the festival in this panel. american optimism, finding our way in troubled times. [laughter] donna brazile unfortunately had a scheduling conflict so she will not be joining us, douglas brinkley is finishing up running some boo books next door and hel be along in just a minute. just a reminder to please turn off your cell phones, speaking of the devil, inc. across the street where douglas is coming in from we have book signings and progress to can feel free to purchase your books over there. also information and tickets are also available in this floor, if you like me you know dave is dying without listening to fresher and is just a pleasure
for me to put a face together. [applause] >> i've been told to keep introductions brief, starting with my own. [laughter] so i am gree maureen cardigan ad there is a georgetown connection to most of the members on this panel. so i'm really happy to be on this panel although so many folks, when i told them what i was doing here at the festival they said american optimism? maybe i should just throw that out and that will take us through an hour and a half. barry is an investigative reporter and he has written
several books on the catholic church, a couple on the clerical scandals that have erupted, he is also a movie maker in his most recent book is a history of new orleans over 300 years, so city of a million dreams. i would love to talk to you about how you encapsulate 300 years of new orleans history behind these covers and i'm sure we will. elizabeth schwartz is in lgbtq plus warrior she is a lawyer, she served on the team that helped over there on the bed on gated marriage in florida. her latest book is a guide to marriage both gay and otherwise. and many of us would appreciate that. [laughter] is a legal guide. douglas brinkley is a
distinguished historian and professor at rice university, as i'm sure many of you know he has also taught at the university of new orleans. he has written somebody biographies in works of history that i'm not even going to go down the list. but he also served as advisor to spike the film on katrina and his latest book is about the space program called moonshot, american moonshot. we got people on this panel on american optimism who are talking about specific moments in history in which the optimism was events, we have also got folks who are in the trenches doing the work of social change and yet am a literature person, so i cannot help but think through the canons of great american novels, gaps become a
invisible man, moby, beloved, hudson, every one of those novels expresses great gout if not outright pessimism about the ideas of america possibility and second chances. and so i wanted to throw out this big question to the panel, about the quality of american optimism, how would each of you characterize the particular american strain of optimism based on your work or the writing that you have done for her latest book. douglas, you are nodding so start with you. >> okay. when i write presidential history you realize the optimism is often very important, we have a president operating on the politics of fear, but we often don't have presidents who are just raw optimist.
theater roosevelt and fdr both believed the optimism was almost impossible to lead without raw optimism. when you think about fdr's, we have nothing to fear but fear itself, on his famous march, 1933 inaugural and during the dark days of the great depression in the dustbowl and the banks for closing in a doomsday scenario spreading across the land, here is franklin roosevelt in a wheelchair, somebody with polio, somebody has to be helped to get to the podium to give a speech in here he is exuding a unhinged optimism in the united states. and that is the same as theodore roosevelt, wherever he would go he would try to be positive and optimistic as president, so much
so, that doctor kay jamison head of psych psychiatry john hopkine a book called exuberance, all about -- theodore roosevelt was a poster child which she set the form of manic depression, where every thing is positive, and you think that is political blather but they come into her room and say you look wonderful, isn't it beautiful, look at the chandelier as a coping mechanism for not falling into despair and in fact he had a day in his life as a young legislator, lawmaker where he got called from albany to york city and on the same house that he was born in in new york, you could go there and visit today, the national park service runs it, he had his mother and your mother on one floor and his wife alice on
another forgiving birth and she was sick and he shoveled between two floors that evening in they both died. he lost his mother and his wife on the same day. he put in his diary, as historians will look at other people's leadings and thanks for living but he put a giant x through his diary and said the light has gone out of my life forever, but he did not want to fall into despair, his brother, the father of eleanor roosevelt jumped out of the window to commit suicide in his life and was addicted to alcohol and opioids. in that depression strain was in the roosevelt family so he adopted this optimism with not just blindly so that your amazed what you get accomplished if you're going to do that, but the danger, you lose a lot of self-doubt and if you make a big bad wrong decision, and my new
book on john f. kennedy american moonshot, john f. kennedy in the great spacers, that is albright often on may 25, 1961 kenny goes before congress and says when we put a man to the moon on a decade to bring them back alive everybody and nasa nanotechnology to do that. that is just crazy optimism. but once you commit to you start trying to fulfill it because you have a goal for optimism in relating to. but even george bundy the national security advisor for kennedy came and said bundy said, mr. president, this is grandstanding. and kennedy said you don't run for president in your 40s unless you have a lot of moxie.
[laughter] and that moxie can be said optimism, that we can do it. the comparison is, we remember the most, theater roosevelt, franklin roosevelt, john f. kennedy, ronald reagan, are all optimistic. riggins comes from his father being an alcoholic and he created a sunny view, the point is look at all the problems in the world today in the sunny of optimism is either political or something not a psychological coping mechanism. a great leadership and not great thinking always you need to keep people believing that better days are coming and not to fall into despair that our democracy is corroded or disappearing on a. [applause] >> super interesting. thank you, this is such a question as you put it,
personable, i want to acknowledge optimism of everyone coming here. [laughter] i think any day we can get out of bed and not hide under the covers and just freak the f out watching the news, just right there i want to lift you all up and i'm sorry that donna brazile did not make it but i promise i will be interesting enough for everyone. and not just taking a paycheck. [laughter] when you talk about the darkness in the american literary canon, of course, there has to be struggles, or there is no narratives, if everything is funny and nothing happens, it's the dreamers -- and gas be a think it's great, he loses, so good. i find that that kind of
optimistic. i turn anything into a positive experience. i think, being in america is hard. my wife is cuban and she will tell you becoming an american is hard. and i think there is a lot for us to learn in the struggle to be realistic and ascertained reality but also try to have hope, all the presidents, he didn't mention my favorite barack obama, and his old yes we can, and his ferocious optimism. in the face, there's so much optical. but every hero has prevailed. i guess the way that i connect a little, here we are in new orleans which is the ultimate optimistic city, speaking to the ground, faster than scientists
even than what was predicted. and here we are there is a building, lights and so optimistic her. but i will say that litigating, before litigating the marriage band i had to litigate the adoption ban, gay people could not adopt in florida until 2010. that is like really recently. not that many colonials in the room so they would probably think not that long ago but no, that was really recent. but i feel like the resilience that we see in the lgbt two plus community is just staggering. trans gender, serving in the military, despite all odds and now being told by the current occupant of the white house that they cannot serve their country.
and still and they want to continue to serve our country, i certainly don't have it. and we really sell that so much and continue to see in the lgbtq community and just an unwillingness to give up in the face of incredible odds and ridiculous homophobia and sexism and of course racism. in classism. watching folks face that frontal aggressive homophobia. >> i am not taking calls. [laughter] take a message. >> what we did we told our stories and may change, what has
been so interesting is the ways in which some of us who have done the civil rights litigation have not been partnering in other movements, how could you do that, and of course us it felt glacial, we are ready for change and foliage equality, i'm here to tell you that marriage equality is not the end-all be-all, it does not solve everyone's problems, reality for folks who are single when the rural communities, people of color, trans folks, but we have continued to tell her stories and we try to empower others to tell stories by way of changing hearts, minds and sharing our truth and hoping that we can find humanity and one another and i think there is an optimism there in just the perseverance to continue to putter narratives
on the frontline even when it's really scary. i live in miami so i live in this little privilege bubble in addition to being a fifth gender white woman, i have a lot of privilege. it is still really scary to go out there, talk about my wife in my community and to appreciate how much danger especially for folks who don't also have that kind of privilege. so i think there is this incredible resilience and absolute optimism in taking the challenge on and not settling for anything short of full lived equality. these religious freedom bands and really, really scary because folks are being enfolded at all
levels. in reference too, every other day to say i would to the hospital, and this is my partner in intensive care and they say we don't care about your marriage because i have religious beliefs. one person to of religious pleased and i can tell you that i use that to destroy people. that is religious freedom. for having your own faith in your home and then when you walk outside your door not using not to discriminate against people. so at last we have a community that is continuing to try to live our lives in the virtues to be authentic and to serve her country and raise her children and to lift up the voices of those who are less privilege and i am hopeful that we will continue to show our true
american grip through this moment and i think the amount of purchase that we see, the coalitions linking arms of the border, i don't want to get in to politics but i take people coming together and working together against all kinds of intersecting lines i think that goes really well for our collective future. [applause] >> i am not running for office. [laughter] i do have something to say about literature maureen, in your intro i kept thinking about novels that may strike a tone of optimism and it striking to me, this is just of your intro, but probably the two most distinguished works of creative writing, i would say out of new orleans in decades would be
desire in a confederacy of dunces. poor blanche goes off depending on the kindness of strangers to the mental institution and it is staged in the end better days. which prompts me to it say something i learned in writing, it is a bit of a dicey proposition for years of history and try to pack it in to a readable book but i think i've done so. i had no idea as i was finishing, it's a character driven history which argues that the city which almost drowned national television is now comparatively thriving and i think we have been shaped by a long tension between a culture of spectacle in the city of
laws. a culture with a belief in worldly ways of expressing ourselves particularly funerals with music. in the other a rigid world that kept changing as the culture was against it. which leads me to it say this, i would say in the last three or four months at least 20 or 30 people that i know fairly well spread across this country and of her other several parts of the world have told me in one way or another that they no longer watch television and they cannot bear to do it. can i get a show of hands? look at that, we are onto something. i do manage a bit of cnn at night now and then, but there is such a deep pessimism over rear for obvious reasons, one doesn't
need to go into much depth on trump. i don't know if there's much there. [laughter] but the impact certainly has its depth in my own take is the i think the nature of optimism tends to be rather defined by where one lives and what life is like in that place you inhabit. and what i learned in finishing this book, after several years of interviewing so many people who had harrowing recovery stories and so many of them came back against the odds. largely the city was rebuilt because landrieu knew what he was doing, access to federal money, he rebuilt the infrastructure and yet at the same time left office being lowered by some people because he took down the statues. i have to tell you, it was early into the work when alan died and
there was a threat to the book, using funerals as a mere on-time passing. and when he died i went down to the funeral at the theater was like an affair estate, and i thought this is amazing, here is the whole theme of my book now. god said i forgive you for what you have written about the vatican, here is your intro son, run with it. [laughter] so here was a first-rate furred musician i've got it now like i never did before, i miss you so much. so the poetry that comes out of the popular music i think is been with us in the city for many years. regardless of one how both we are city held together, i do believe by a constellation of identity patches, that are
dramatized incredible for the most part. and that is not to wax romantic and say brexit will save us, although i must say steven was a great pediatrician to most my girls. but, you know the tiny symbols that sometimes happen in local communities do engender a form of hope and when you think about the history of the upscale mardi gras crews were so entwined with the supremacy of reconstruction and not there long after. the lynching became the tool for usurping health underpowered for blacks. you think today that rex, the
king of carnival goes down to the dock to greet the king of zulu when he arrives. again, this may seem small, the symbols do add up and they do give us a sense of the community that we live in. i would go out on a short limb and say the people in new orleans probably are happier than a lot of them in the island of manhattan. and i have nothing against new york city except they cannot afford to go there anymore. i don't want to do it for tonight, but, we are living in a national nightmare and we are also living there a radical retesting of what the american identity is, obviously trump and his buttock supporters want to move it back to a culture of weight control. and were already beyond that. how the courts respond to many of these challenges is one lesson that we will live with because he is stacking the courts, but i think there is a
far deeper position in this country, i saw the documentary on the moonshine. i was really struck by the 70 millimeters footage with the sheer size of the spaceship in the station, it overwhelms you on an actual movie screen. if you get a chance to see it is a great book. and certainly the kennedys, his speech going to the moon, as part of the history of america but the myth is really closing down, we do not have orders to go beyond today. there are interior borders and we have to learn to live with who we are and decide how we welcome people from other borders. and i think it's in that sense that literature and drama and films, perhaps at this dark
particular moment are our best indicators. so as hard as it is to not watch tv news, i still feel great hope every time i follow a mardi gras indian period. just a quick antidote and then i'll let the next person talk. during the years is writing about the vatican. i would come back from these long trips six to eight weeks at a time in my head was filled with information. enough to make the mind real. not all of it particularly, in the plane will come down, i don't want to get too sentimental because it is the gospel truth, the plane will come down and i felt as if the soggy soil was reaching up, pulling at me saying okay son, you are home. and typically, within a week or
two i would be sitting in a church at a funeral. and although i still managed to get to mass sporadically, sitting in those funerals, listening to the sermons, the beauty of the cascading rhetoric of the preachers in honor of the deceased and then following the musicians with their marching escorting the casket out and then watching the spontaneous choreography of the second liners dancing in the street. many never knew the guy. if planted optimism for the human experience. i carried those lessons with me and i had no idea i was writing a book with an optimistic ending. but accidentally i did. [laughter] [applause]
>> i could listen to each of you talk for a couple of hours on your own. we have gone to half an hour and i've asked one question. i am not optimistic of getting through my pile of questions here. [laughter] i am going to cut to the chase and ask some of the questions that i really want to know of on one of them is, tell me about a moment when you yourself lost optimism that you could write 300 years of new orleans history and make it into a book and that you could write about the space program and honestly when i mentioned the space program to students in classes even in georgetown, their eyes glaze over and you just feel so discouraged because the struggle for full equality in the lgbtq
plus rights to steps forward, one step back, sometimes two steps forward one step back, talk about the dark night of despair and how you got through it either as a writer or an activist. >> i am in despair daily over climate change. [applause] i am right now reading the book of earth divides, written in 1949, an incredible book about what happens when we really lose the planet, because i wrote about environmental history i grew up going to national parks and believing in the park system, now we cannot even pay the bills. but independent hole is leaking, we treat the national park service as nothing. it is deeply disappointing in you look at wha how we are treag the planet on a steady basis, i am in deep despair over, and
tray. i think jason was onto something when he was talking about the music in the need for affirmation because i know he knows albert murray way once did a panel on at a festival, he wrote about the hero and the blues and reminding people about the affirmation of the blues. here is african-american slave ships, that the blues is and as low as me, it's about the absurdity of life and transcendence, so people like his hero, he calls himself the marriott and to keep the blues music is an affirmation of life in new orleans does that better and anybody in rock 'n' roll growing up was always an affirmation even when it was bob dylan singing a hard rain is going to fall and perhaps a nuclear annihilation i still have an affirmative to protest due to the protest music, but we
are talking about race in lgbtq politics, barack obama opened up the national park service, he credited a national monument for cesar chavez's home in california. he created bears ear national monument in utah to be run by five native american tribes. a new paradigm for park. he saved harriet tubman home in auburn new york at the underground railroad, he created a buffalo soldier museum in oh ohio, opening the narrative affirmation, now boom, trump. you got a fight, if your conservationist or environmentalist, every day is a fight, two steps forward a big blowback. i worry now that we are losing,
where we cannot control the hyper industrialization, money is king and all of those people that i love from henry david to rachel carson on down, we may be losing right now. in the rural is slow so you have to pick up the morale. civil rights movement martin luther king, what was it, i have a dream. he is being shot, we will get there someday. but the whole civil rights movement is we shall overcome. we are going to do it. believe, have hope and if you lose that, if we become nihilistic in despair you really are playing into the forces of tropism which is not coming in, the quiet your mouth and that becomes the poets and the blues musician to the authors operating underground in the covenants instead of having their voice sung across the land. [applause]
>> is it me or is is getting really therapeutic right now. [laughter] thank you for that. to have turned the question about how this is the dark moment of despair, my heart is torn thinking about that. thank you, my world in the judicial branch is a relief. one right now, yes kavanaugh and gorgeous, an and there is no question that this ministration in the judges that are getting appointed are gunning for community and absolutely also, another issue is climate change, the damage is not going to be, you make it through four years hin the judges that are getting
appointed, not just at the supreme court level but at lifetime appointments to the lower court are ultraconservatives. and i think back to her first big loss on adoption band case, it was the lofting case, steve loftin and his partner roger curto were the foster parents of some kids in all of them of color, several all had some disability, some are hiv-positive, some were drug expose, or combination thereof. in the cruel irony of the adoption band in florida was you could be a foster parent but you cannot adopt.
so is it that saying something how we value kids languishing in foster care, in other words these folks, you just cannot adopt them but we will throw away these foster kids with her gaze. but the foster agency had a crucial award that they awarded two extra special awesome foster. who were as awesome as steve and roger. and they were first plaintiffs when you may know you bring impact litigation it's a central casting and you get the most awesome plaintiff and you gotta be beyond perfect and hear these guys. and to bring that case and to be told by a conservative judge who dismissed the case for very
legalism but it was dismissed for failure. we did not even get to the merits of the case. because the judge thought there were no merits. when i think back to having to tell them that, because they were not there, they did not want their kids to be exposed to the ruling and have to tell them that you guys are an unfit family, unfit to provide these children a permanent stable, safe home, i cannot think of many more moments that were that dark and not devastating. and i remember like it was yesterday, what i did, i talked to my dad he was always mary sunshine, and he said to me, he marched with martin luther king and he said, there was a period of time where we white people we knew that black people were equal.
we got up here but there was a long period of time that we were still working on it before change was made. so you gotta be patient. patient is not my strong suit but it is going to happen we get that gay people are for parents, we get the and gender relationships are perfectly legitimate and worthy of protection under the law. it is just going to take a minute to get there. and that is how i cut my optimism. because it is having that knowledge that we are on the right side of history, that the fact that you should've seen the nonsense that was being propagated by the other side of the state of florida there is no credible social science so the nonsense that they do come up with for the scientist in the room you would be outraged.
so the only way to kind of get up and fight another day was not only to look at the curto kids in the face who they ended up moving to oregon and they adopted their kids because they did not want to wait for florida to get it together ten or 12 years after. but the only way to continue to have the optimism is a, to know we are right, and to trust in that and have that faith in the core confidence, and then i think p, to know that we got a looker kids in our kids kids in the faces and know that we thought and kept emerging from a cocoon to fight. and yo you know, one less thing, one of the things that inspired me to it write this book, my editor who is giving a panel and
another room she is a professor at the university of maryland answer she was finding all of these kids in her classes and fridays coming down to the podium they would say why don't you go get married this weekend and they would say because we can't. but these marriages are real. so we need somebody to read a guide to this thing. we were not expecting to get marriage in our lifetime, certainly i wasn't, and so i think a lot of us did not invest in any knowledge in your gonna have to give up half of your 401k if you get divorced. i realize ignorance is not unique to the lgbtq community and i get that. [laughter] we don't corner the market on that but i have so many examples in the book, he and his boyfriend went to new york to take in a show when they could afford it and they said let's go
get married, it's okay, let's go get married, they break up any comes to my office and mike great, let's do the math, what was your housework before he got married and went to work now, what your 401k worth before you got married and now. and he literally said this to me, i didn't mean it to be that kind of marriage. [laughter] so you thought it was like a righteous kind of thing? there is only one kind of marriage and that the legal marriage with rights and responsibilities. in the sky and i cracked up when i was put on the panel. he was so mad they went to this bitter divorce and he shows up at my office last month to do a prenup with his new boyfriend. [laughter] isn't that lovely. so love will rise again. but do a prenup about it. [laughter]
[applause] [laughter] >> i am taking your questions hearsayseriously. the despair in my life was in like ten and a half-year-old younger daughter died. she was 17, she had down syndrome in the long history of heart and lung complications which were in operable. and while her death was not a surprise because we knew for a long time that she would have a shortened life, i had never experienced the death of a child personally and standing in the
icu with my older girl, former wife, my mother, my former mother-in-law, former sister-in-law it was that that moment. i went through along. after that the deeper of sorrow digs the greater joy. what i learned is that it means as you get distance from the heart point of sorrow you begin to remember the better things, the happier things in ariel was a magical child even with her problems. and cash i'm trying to think of a non- cliché way but literally
the outpouring of affection that i received from so many people that i knew, locally and in other places and particularly musicians was quite uplifting, deacon john the bandleader who is been a friend for many years staying at her funeral at my request which made a great deal to all of us. and, i wish my dear dad were still around. i have never really had a real job, i've been a self cicilline writer sensors 24. the first ten years or so for a little bit rocky and he would get worried. but everything has worked out quite nicely. and yet i keep going back to your question about optimism. i think we all make it whether it's in the contents of national issues, strong interacted as the one that you are dealing with or
as we all think of the political moment we inhabit and all the darkness, but i guess for me the two things that have given me optimism in my work and i guess in the way, i'm the victim of a happy childhood. that means you cannot write a memoir. [laughter] where are you going to go with it. [laughter] but, what i have learned as a man them in life is that women are usually right. [applause] [laughter] it is on sale in there. and a lot of women in this book, we cannot talk about it right now.
but another thing that i think bears upon the assault every morning with the first copy in the new york times, is that people do keep picking up when times are tough i have been quite fortunate in my career and my personal life and i've also made several documentary films and i'm just about to finish one based on the book, is a history of the city using traditions and as a mayor. when my older girl's a minute when she was 13, i said to her one day i'm going out the film a journal, she looked at me and said dad, well, she is now my coproducer. and i have learned humility so i
don't know whether any of this has direct bearing on our national darkness and is dark and where we are going. but i do think i think it percolates from the local fires up or burns from a esperanza. and i don't think we are done. and we are in a black horrendous political period. but we have a governor who is a democrat in this finally drawn the tea party house to heal and we have the budget reasonably coming back we do face a long haul on the erosion of the wetlands which is a topic in itself but i don't know, i think if one did a poll here you probably find people unbalanced
optimistic. we don't have the empirical data to support that but but you know, last point, i keep going back to the mardi gras indian grants and how the tradition from congo spiraled forward in the radiance of the costumes, summer which cubistic, in the beadwork which speaks the untold stories of generation pass. in the way we tell stories is indeed i think, to echo my good colleague elizabeth, the way we keep going. [applause] >> one of the key things about history is to remind herself that her own times are not uniquely oppressive. and you cannot keep feeling our darkness, it's always dark day
if you want to see dark days in many ways our standard of living in the united states has improved a lot, we have medical miracle under miracles, many of us are living 15 years longer than we would've just a generation ago, look at the civil war, 600,000 dead, one just fighting in congress with a broken washington, the north fighting south, the point is, the sometimes get to persevere and get through it and you had a line that i was really touched by an away in which he said, history, it is good to know that we are right, i am right. i think that is very liberating when you're in the purchasing world or trying to make the world better because i know i believe somebody later is going to note that gay marriage is all right because it is all right. and we will understand that a hundred years from now. and there is a power to history and that way feeling you are on the right side, and you like barack obama so much and obama quoted martin luther king all the time and jason knows all
about the civil rights movements, about the arc of justice bends slowly but bends in the right direction. but that is a powerful sound. we are going to get there, and for jason to be able to enjoy the mardi gras indians in the move. that is native americans, but thinking about what is happening to the native people who have genocide into north america that they have had to endure. and now we are still being marginalized, mocked around the country but the tramp and the despair that i find that is very, very hard. they remember some of their art, ancestors, language, culture and try to save it over time with the mass conformity that his starting to kill culture, which i worry about, new orleans and jason spoke is a city the honors culture, and i think jason and my minds on the very right root
of optimism, he is doing here, and that is what his book is about, i am raising my three kids in austin, texas and we feel very optimistic when we see them laugh, play, sports, skiing and joy this things, and seeing them do these things for the first time. we know they are privileged because if you look around, go to sudan, yemen, it is so horrible. so there is a moral balance there. so it is hard to keep our spiritual life healthy and believe in lightness and not darkness, because when you get dark that is when you will get into a funk you cannot get out of and that is what the opioid crisis is dealing with in our country right now. and you get an addiction or drink too much, then starts as a fun time at a bar becomes alcohol alcoholic haze.
and find any way that you can to stay optimistic. prayer, hiking, yoga, laughter, movies, but just don't let yourself get corroded. [applause] >> and vote. begin small, bow. using your voice, it can be super empowering and helpless stay optimistic. i will make an executive decision. indispensable. thank you all for the work that you do both as writers and in the world and give you folks a chance to ask questions and i can tell this is a crowd that wants to engage. >> i think we have a microphone.
[inaudible question] >> i will keep it brief. i agree with all of you. but let's just make sure my general dynamics are in the bank account next month. and don't get in my way is a move toward my second million dollars of medicare expenses. what do you say is good and knows a lot of people here are older and we are all schizoid. you all feel the same way that i do with regard to we agree but what sacrifices are we willing to make to do it. are you willing to invest in socially responsible. i just want to point that out that you end up fabricated, he
wants optimism but on the other hand you want to survive in a very difficult time in our country. and economically, we find we are making decisions. that don't lend support with what you're saying. one. >> as a teacher of college students, i teach science fiction films and literature sometimes in one of the themes that worries me is a.i. and i would be interested because for many, many others, they sort of show a world where the human will disappear. i have faith as human beings are essentially optimistic. they are driven by the dna to
survive. and you want something better, but i am not sure where the technology is leading us, i'd be interested in everybody's response to that or somebody's response. >> where the technology is going? there are a lot of writers that i admire the really truly worry about technology and i don't mean the great new world, but edward abbey, the great solitaire wrote about technology gone crazy. kurt were honoring to the slaughterhouse right now, he was totally against the moonshot under the same premise of bob dylan has in the line of the man is invented as doomed for touching the moon meaning the arrogance of missile technology and its built on going to war and global catastrophe and things. i think you're onto a huge
question, artificial intelligence, what are we doing, are the computers running on us. the previously mentioning, also when they are dealing with the bombings and he has to take corpse and move them because he called it picking up dead bodies in a burnout city, yes there is still a look at the history of whites and perseverance in the kind of sense of good luck. i am not keen, i have guys,. [laughter] i was like what when he sat down. [laughter] i have a lot of stories but i know that i have people that i love that are sick into the medical miracles of md anderson and places and you have been a
really pro- technology when it helps you medically insulate anything we have to find a balance but we did not want to serve the god of technology. and some people do that, they think we can destroy the planet because technology will save it in the end. >> we need a robot. [laughter] >> the idea of optimism has a tennessee williams pastoral seems bizarre to me. [laughter] i am trying to imagine a country universe in which we are not in new orleans but we are in tulsa. the panelists are celebrating optimism in america today.
everything you have said about optimistic fast roots growing up countering what the present world offers us seems to be what you could've said about the other side politically four years ago. the world seem to be swinging away from that sector. and i just wonder whether optimism in itself is a good thing i think that money from yates -- anyway, not particularly constructive,.
>> i will say, this is off the record,. [laughter] i thought for the longest time doing an essay anderson president is the antichrist. [laughter] and using yates is a risk of doing it. and the friend of a cia historian urged me to it do and i finally decided not to because i did not have enough time which is probably good the. [inaudible question] >> all the signs are there in a sense, certainly his personality, yes. slouching toward what, and i in no way mean to minimize the causes that my two colleagues are passionately and eloquently
addressed in the risk of seeming like a pollyanna, a lot of the people that i work within the church would never call me one. but i do think if you get back to the core idea of what optimism is about i do think it is something that comes from the personality of a given leader on the national level but if you filter down locally i think a lot of it has to do with the nature of a place where people live. that is not response to yates is great form. but i hope it is an answer to another question. >> also, everything dies maybe, that is the fact that everything that dies and they come back, tulsa was a city that had gone bust. it is coming back. they sell rivers being cleaned
up, they dispel one of the biggest public parks in tulsa. they bough built a bob dylan muf woody guthrie museum, their interpreting the dustbowl, a brand-new arena going on, there is a resurgence coming back in a city like tulsa who was once broad b is a bottom place to go and nothing was going there. from growing up from toledo which also was 20 years ago we even had researchers yet but my friends in toledo are trying. the toledo art museum with the automobile culture in america is trying to get the river, i used to fish for bass which is toxic. if you are not going to have hope that your community can come back then what's left. and so i think we don't want to be poly amateur blind optimism but we also don't want to pray as communities to despair and as
you know and katrina cities came back. i went once by a little town near st. louis on the ocean and the whole house was long and i saw family building and my mind i was thinking can't you rebuild 12 miles inland and they said no, my grandfather is from here and we are going to rebuild and stay right here where we're at. so part of that i thought that's nuts and another part of me just honored it. in the balance between pessimism and optimism, it is one that we always have to keep looking >> thinking.
this panel is wonderfully pointing out those directly and indirectly. optimism is a complex concept and there are so many layers of optimism in one thing and particularly important is leadership. because i think leadership sets the tone for optimism and as mrr roosevelt which is tremendous optimism, jamison talks about is one of the prime examples. he was fighting despair. at the end of his life, and ended basically in despair and depression. franklin roosevelt, he was a different person before his crippling illness.
different. but then came optimism. as our leaders function the castle light that is so important and that would be my point. >> thank you. >> great point. [applause] >> i read biographies of great leaders for that reason. i think it really helps you sort of keep your lens focused. >> i want to talk to things, the first is important in celebration, right after katrina when we had the mardi gras in the whole country was going wild. that is the first thing we need to do. the second is a point of unplugging. your friends they don't watch tv, i guess we talk about optimism and about where you live in your environment and the
importance of unplugging from the national network in the national news and if you could just talk a little bit about the violence of turning off the news and looking around you and the importance of maintaining your emotional health that way. >> speaking only for myself, i read more. , i read more literature and therefore i am somewhat happier. the newspaper is an npr when i drive issued enough to get me through the day with my way of despair and then i am on my third reading of a divine comedy and when you get to the party so he meets st. peter damian, i know most of you do not know who he is but he was in 11th century raging monastic
reformer, shall we say on many of the issues that are sadly still with us today. and every time i get to that point, i have it got to the third time but i know it's there. and it makes me feel happy. i think we all have to do it with their own chemistry in emotional circuitry. none of us can just close the door and put the news in the closet and assume that in two and a half years the sun will come up and all will be good. we are in for long-haul, climate change being the greatest issue of the pieces us. but i think one finds hope in the way the communities come together, yes it is great to have a charismatic optimist in the white house as obama was, as tr was, and franklin roosevelt
among others. there is something else to be said for the quality of life. at that point where people live. i hope that is a good answer. >> we have a couple of minutes if you want to take another question or speak to this one. >> or more question. >> i recently got the teddy roosevelt book and i'm glad he mentioned how he is very optimistic, you must be very optimistic that i will read 747. i did not realize how thick it was. [laughter] with that said, your new book, american moonshine the vice president said we are going back to the moon and mainly because china was going, you mentioned earlier in the session that
china is going to the dark side of the moon. are you optimistic that pink floyd is going to reunite. [laughter] >> i keep getting more and more questions. >> i'll tell you in an answer in private. [laughter] >> one more. >> you spoke about how new orleanians celebrate our culture and is very dear to our hearts and you also spoke about mardi gras indians and second lines, and now as these become a means for every convention that comes to town to get from spot a tour be, over the course of a day for wedding. how do you feel about this, as her city changes, are we to be
optimistic that we are not going to lose the very same that make us a special? >> that is very good question. you are right about how second lines have become appropriated if you will for the hospitality industry. on the other hand musicians need to eat. on the other hand, if i lived one of the parade routes i might not be so friendly to the proposition. >> i live in carrollton, what fascinates me is how people of modest means who struggle economically tell their stories through the rituals that have come down over time in the indians are such a complex ever evolving story -- i saw a guy
instructing people on the lynching that he had put on his breastplate and when he put it there. i don't know how many books and reconstruction he read but he knows the history. tourism will always seize on whatever it can to draw people. it is the nature of being in a tourist economy. i can certainly understand the people who live in the quarter don't like having second lines for couple from denver. for all 36 hours they go under the balcony and was what they live and report. but this is part of the rough balance of urban life and we all have to live with it. i know it may not be the answer that you want. [inaudible]
>> listen, i am optimistic that a couple of you will buy some of my books and fly back to miami with them. [laughter] [applause] thank you. [inaudible conversations] >> now is a discussion on the history of new orleans and its neighborhoods. this is from the recent tennessee new orleans literacy festival. >> good afternoon everybody. welcome to the 33rd annual tennessee williams literary festival into this panel, won't you be my new orleans neighborhood. please turn off your cell phones, you know how annoying that can be. i want to think or sponsor, pelican publishing for sponsoring this