tv PBS News Hour PBS January 12, 2016 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. gwen ifill is away. on the newshour tonight: president obama delivers his final state of the union address. his chief of staff talks to us about what to expect. then, a suicide bomber in turkey kills 10 foreigners in a popular tourist spot. and, finally a successful program helping under-served students prepare for and get into college. >> when you're an immigrant and you're in america focusing on learning the language, graduating from high school, you're not really focused on college yet. >> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour.
>> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: iran picked up 10 u.s. navy sailors and their two small boats in the persian gulf today. u.s. officials reported one of the boats had mechanical trouble and ran aground. it happened near farsi island. the pentagon said the vessels
were moving between kuwait and bahrain at the time. afterward, officials said, iran's foreign minister assured secretary of state john kerry that the sailors and their boats will be handed over promptly. >> woodruff: the persian gulf incident came as president obama was putting the finishing touches on the last state of the union address. he's expected to use the prime- time speech to talk about where he sees the country headed for years to come, including after he leaves office. but house speaker paul ryan and other republicans talked up their own ideas today on what the president should say, especially when it comes to fighting terrorism. >> we're looking forward to while we're not certainly expecting much new, there is one thing that we hope to hear from the president, and that is a comprehensive plan to defeat isis. americans are so anxious right now about their security, about what's going on around the world. >> woodruff: on the democratic side, washington senator patty murray acknowledged there's more work to be done and urged both
parties to pitch in. >> tonight's speech is going to be about the future of our great country. and democrats are ready to keep working here in congress to make sure that future works for families and the middle class. >> woodruff: we'll get a preview of tonight's address, and talk to the president's chief of staff, after the news summary. in the presidential race, vice president joe biden weighed in monday on the democratic contest and offered words of praise for bernie sanders. new polls have the vermont senator leading hillary clinton in new hampshire and moving up closer to her in iowa. in a c.n.n. interview, the vice president said sanders has more credibility on the issue of income inequality. >> bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real. it's relatively new for hillary to talk about that. hillary's focus has been other things up to now, and that's been bernie's.
no one questions bernie's authenticity on those issues. >> woodruff: later, the vice president said that was not a criticism of clinton. he said that as secretary of state, her focus had rightly been on foreign policy. there's been new trouble in germany, over the wave of migrants pouring into the country. more than 200 anti-immigration protesters tore through the city of leipzig last night. they carried racist signs and shouted anti-muslim slogans. dozens of police responded to the scene and made arrests after violence erupted. the rioters smashed windows and vandalized several buildings. earlier, some 2,000 protesters marched peacefully. japan warned today it will send armed vessels to keep china's navy away from disputed islands. the senkaku islands, in the east china sea, are claimed by both nations. a top official in tokyo says japan means to control the waters around them.
>> ( translated ): this objective was approved by the cabinet in may last year, stating that foreign naval passage into japanese seas that aren't considered non- threatening will trigger seaborne policing action, and will be dealt with by the self- defense force. >> woodruff: meanwhile, the philippines supreme court upheld a security deal with the u.s. amid rising tensions in the south china sea. manila hopes an increased u.s. military presence will fend off aggressive chinese moves there. some 50,000 british doctors-in- training went on strike today for the first time in 40 years. the 24-hour walkout was triggered by a contract dispute with the government-run "national health service". the so-called "junior doctors" took to the picket lines to demand better pay for working weekends and to warn against plans to lengthen their schedules. i already work up to 24 hours, many times that's non-stop.
i don't really have any set breaks during the day or the night. if those protections are taken away and the trusts are able to make us work for as many hours as they wish, then of course we are going to be more tired and ultimately that's going to affect patient's safety. >> woodruff: about 4,000 operations and outpatient procedures had to be canceled due to the walkout, but the doctors still provided emergency care. back in this country, the u.s. supreme court ruled eight-to-one the state of florida's method of handing out the death penalty is unconstitutional. judges in the state have the final say in capital cases and can even impose a death sentence when a jury decides against it. today's decision could mean new appeals for some of the 390 people on florida's death row. on wall street, stocks gained ground, even as oil prices fell to near $30 a barrel, and pulled energy shares lower. despite that, the dow jones industrial average gained 117 points to close at 16,516.
the nasdaq rose nearly 48 points, and the s&p 500 added 15. and the university of alabama celebrated its fourth college football national championship since 2009 today. the crimson tide beat clemson last night, 45 to 40. and per tradition, coach nick saban got a gatorade shower from his players. it probably felt good. still to come on the newshour: a look back at president obama's previous state of the union addresses. plus, a look forward to tonight's speech with the white house chief of staff. isis blamed for a deadly blast in turkey. and much more. >> woodruff: tonight marks another milestone for president obama. in a few hours, he will deliver the state of the union address that will set the tone for his
final year in office. newshour political director lisa desjardins has been looking at what he can do in his remaining months in office. >> reporter: president obama wasted no time kicking off his 2016, just five days into the new year with a highly publicized announcement that he's going it alone on certain gun control measures. >> there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives, actions that protect our rights and our kids. >> reporter: the president is well aware his days in office are numbered: 374, to be exact. and so are the items he can tackle in that time. what kind of meaningful action could the outgoing leader get done? that depends whom you ask. >> you look at the president's biggest accomplishments: they all happened in the first two years of this presidency. and he's been trying to protect that legacy ever since. >> reporter: that's john feehery, g.o.p. strategist and former spokesman for house speaker dennis hastert.
>> i think the president is really kind of finished on the legacy front. his relevance is diminishing, every day, somewhat dramatically, because he's a lame duck. >> i don't think he's considering himself a lame duck. he still has a lot to get done. >> reporter: and that's stephanie cutter. she's a democratic consultant and was one of the campaign managers for obama's re-election bid in 2012. >> there's lots of talk about this being an election year, and nothing's gonna get through congress. that's probably true, with some minor exceptions on trade and maybe criminal justice reform. but if there's any president equipped to handle this type of situation and still find ways to make progress, it's president obama. >> reporter: with voters preoccupied with who will be next in the oval office, the last year of a president's term usually isn't the time for major legacy milestones. for some presidents, it was enough time to do things, like: create national monuments, like teddy roosevelt did with the grand canyon in 1908. or issue controversial presidential pardons, like bill clinton on his last day in
office. or, in a crisis: >> we're in the midst of a serious financial crisis, and the federal government is responding with decisive action. >> reporter: push major measures like the troubled asset relief program known as "tarp," the $700 billion package that some called the bank bailout. but like outgoing president bush, president obama faces a congress run by strong opposition. >> this is a 15-minute vote. >> reporter: the republican-led house started its 2016 by passing a repeal of the affordable care act, its 62nd such vote,sending it to obama's desk to force a veto. >> this is the closest that we have come to repealing obamacare. and now we are sending that appeal to the president's desk. >> reporter: it is a kind of last year-long duel between the g.o.p. and democratic president. as a result, expect obama to use his only solo weapon - his executive authority - to try and cement his work on things like
dodd-frank wall street reform bill and climate change. again, feehery: >> he's gonna be pushing for dodd-frank regulations, which is going to put more constraints on banks and make it more difficult for banks to lend. he's going to really be pushing on e.p.a. and he had this big agreement on environmental protection and climate change, and i think he's going to continue to try through the regulatory front to really limit the emissions on things like coal. >> reporter: cutter sees foreign policy as another of obama's final year legacy agenda items. she points to obama's decision to reestablish ties with cuba, including reopening the u.s. embassy there. >> cuba is a significant piece of this president's legacy. i think the president, over the course of the next year, including potentially even visiting cuba, will find ways to make sure that those doors stay open. >> reporter: polls show more americans disapprove of obama's performance than approve. and while he's ahead of his predecessor's numbers at this point in his second term, obama
trails the same approval ratings for clinton and reagan. going into his final year, obama's message to the country and for his own legacy is his familiar theme: hope. whoever is controlling the next congress, there's no reason why we shouldn't own the 21st century. >> and the president has a lot to do in his speech tonight, but democrats tell me he's hoping to do it in a shorter time than usual, perhaps 50 minutes, less than the hour he took last year. judy? >> woodruff: lisa, you've been talking to democrats on the hill. what are they expecting to hear from the president tonight? >> democrats are saying this is an entirely different kind of state of the union address. they say it will not be a wish list of items, not a whole bunch of policy agenda proposals, but instead a sweeping vision. that's the kind of language they're using. they say this is something that is forward-looking.
that's different for a president on their way out. usually presidents try to recap their time in office. all of that aside, there is something democrats want and need from this speech. they need him to talk up what he's done. they're focusing on the economy. they're hoping that as 2016 and many members facing the election comes up, they want the president to out the what they say is a strong performance in the economy under his tenure. >> woodruff: well, we heard paul ryan, the speaker of the house, a few minutes ago saying that he wants to hear what the president has to say about fighting terrorism, but you've been talking to other republicans. what are they telling you they look for? >> right. republicans say two things. some strategists i talk to outside of this building told me they think there could be a chance that as the president speaks to his vision, republicans are fine with that too because they think his vision helps them. one person told me today, judy, there may be some clips from tonight's speech they can run an ad showing they think this big government vision, as they see
it, was failure and is failure. now, on the other hand, when you talk the republicans in this building, they're also playing the forward-looking game. they're saying they want to talk about their own vision. they say that south carolina governor nikki haley is not going to give a reaction speech in the republican response. she also going non-traditional and will instead present a republican vision for the future, the republican agenda. but there is a lot of competing vision optics here, as well, judy. democrats told me that several of their members, as many as 20, are bring muslim americans as their guests. now, that's not about president obama's agenda. that's clearly about the 2016 campaign, which i think will be woven through this speech. one last note, judy, i talked to a lot of people about this speech, but the most insightful might have been uber driver on the way here, man named earl wiggins. an obama fan, he said he wants the hear the president speak from the heart. he's not sure about the president himself. he says the president has to be genuine and really speak to what
he means. >> woodruff: the wiz demeanor of real people. very quickly, lisa, you've been covering congress for a wheel. does it feel different this is the last state of the union? >> i'm going to be honest, judy. i don't think they're all this different to me. this feels like a classic state of the union. i think there's been a bigger change that could be expressed from this speech tonight. i think what is different in congress at this moment that i feel is that now it is about competing agendas. it's not as much about the competing politics that we've seen. i think that's being expressed as the president tries to express a bigger vision that they say is beyond politics. republicans are trying to do the same. but what's ironic there is, of course, that's kind of politics, too. >> woodruff: lisa desjardins reporting for us from the capitol. we'll be talking to you later tonight. thanks. >> woodruff: reports have it that president obama, white house speech writers and his staff have spent today tweaking the state of the union address. a short time ago i spoke with the white house chief of staff denis mcdonough.
denis mcdonough, welcome. so we're hearing this is going to be a different sort of state of the union. what does that mean? >> judy, thanks for the chance to be with you. well, the president you won't hear tonight what is a traditional list of policy proposals, but rather you'll hear the president talk through the kind of challenges that we'll be facing not only in the year ahead but really in the decade ahead. he wants to make sure the institutions of washington are focused on those and are rolling up our sleeves to get ready to deal with a changing economy where everybody has an opportunity this in economy, talking about using all the elements of our national power to protect the country and expand our influence, making sure that we use technology to advance our interests, not use that... not have that technology used against us. and then, of course, talking about how he thinks our politics could be done much better than they have been, and he'll make sure that our politics reflect the greatness of this country.
>> woodruff: so not putting forward a list of proposals, some are interpreting that to mean he doesn't think he can get much done this year, especially with congress. >> a lot of people said that to us a year ago. over the course of the last year, we got a deal with cuba to open up and establish diplomatic relations. we got a budget deal, a tax deal, we got t.p.a., which is a trade negotiating authority, and then we were able to get the largest trade agreement in the history of trade agreements last year. and then, of course, we got the climate deal in paris at the end of the year on tp of the budget and on top of all sorts of reforms and exports, financing and other things. so we'll let the record speak for itself. this president has been obviously leading policy debates for some time and pushing the quickest recovery in terms of job growth over the last two years and since back in the 1990s and the quickest reduction in the unemployment
rate since well over three decades ago. so not only do we have ideas, we're implementing them. you'll hear more about that over the course of the year, but tonight you'll hear about our challenge, how we're going to confront them, how we'll draw on the strength of all american people to confront them. >> woodruff: you mentioned politics. the republican candidates are out there painting a pretty negative picture of the state of the union. it sounds like you're saying the president wants to counter that? >> well, i think the president wants to be factual, and i think what he sees is an american people who are... when they're working together and focused on the opportunities, the sky's the limit for this country. and i do find myself and i think the speech tonight will lay this out a little bit, puzzled, perplexed by the fact these guys primarily want to just talk down the economy, talk down the united states. that's not consistent with either the situation we find ourselves in today or the history of this great country. so we'll continue to press that case, and you'll hear it tonight.
>> woodruff: given the fact, denis mcdonough, that two-thirds of the american people give or take are telling pollsters they think the country is off on the wrong track, what is the president going to say to change their mind? what is he going to say the state of the union is? >> look, i think there's no doubt that people coming, what we came out of that, great recession, the deepest rescission since the great depression that started in 2007, 2008, where people saw the values of their homes wiped out, people saw their retirements, all the indicators of stability for their families, that really took a dramatic hit. so i don't doubt that people feel uneasy, and they have every right to feel uneasy. our role as the leaders in this country is to make sure that we're making opportunities for all the american people, that they have the training, the opportunities for growth, the new jobs that we've been talking about, and that's what we'll talk about tonight. >> woodruff: is there worry at the white house finally, denis mcdonough, that what the president wants to do this year could get completely overwhelmed
by frankly the 2016 presidential race? >> we don't spend a lot of time worrying about the politics or the races. we spend a lot of time worrying about is that this country is ready for this changing and dynamic economy, so people have opportunities. we are focused on the threats to this country, that we're focused on the new opportunities, particularly the clean energy. so that's what we'll focus on. what happens on the campaign trail is not something we can control, and we're not even going to try. we have a story to tell. we have a country to lead, and this is a great country. we're blessed to have the opportunity to do it. that's what we're going to do for the next year. >> woodruff: denis mcdonough, white house chief of staff. thank you very much for talking with us. >> thank you, judy. >> woodruff: stay with us. coming up on the newshour:
relief for starving families in syria. but how long will it last? a kind of "teach for america" program for college advisors. and how prison drove a man to poetry. but first, the deadly bombing that shook turkey's largest city today. the suicide blast killed 10 people, including eight germans, and wounded 15. chief foreign affairs correspondent margaret warner has the story. >> warner: it was mid-morning when the explosion ripped through the historic heart of istanbul. the site, sultanahmet square, is a major tourist destination, home to a landmark obelisk and just steps from the famed blue mosque. but today, its grounds were scattered with bodies, and body parts, as ambulance sirens wailed and security forces rushed to the scene. >> ( translated ): it was a
suicide bomb. there was chaos. everybody was running somewhere. >> warner: the dead were all foreigners. nearly all of them, german tourists. and reuters correspondent ayla jean yackley in istanbul said via skype it's a blow to turkey's vital tourist industry. >> there is very much a sense of deep sadness, fear, what does this mean for turkey's tourism business? what does this mean for turkey's reputation or standing in the world? will turkey now be perceived as another dangerous no-go place in the region? these are some of the questions that are on people's minds here as well. >> warner: turkish officials responded quickly, with the prime minister declaring the islamic state group was responsible. >> ( translated ): our fight against isis, which carried out this attack, will continue with determination. the perpetrators of this attack and their links will be unveiled and they will get the punishment they deserved. >> warner: turkey's deputy prime minister said the perpetrator was a syrian national born in 1988. that he'd entered turkey
recently, but was not on the country's watch list of suspected militants. another report said the bomber was saudi-born. turkey's leaders also spoke by phone to german chancellor angela merkel, who later addressed reporters in berlin. >> ( translated ): today it hit istanbul, but before that it was paris and before that it was copenhagen, tunisia and so many other places. international terror chooses the places of its attacks in different ways. but its target is always the same: our life in freedom and our free societies. >> warner: this would not be the first time that isis targeted turkey. in july, more than 30 people were killed in a suicide attack in suruc, near the southeastern border with syria. then, in october, twin suicide bombs exploded at a peace rally in ankara. more than 100 were killed, in those attacks were aimed at turkish kurds. their syrian brethren are one of
the most effective forces fighting isis in syria. but kurdish separatists inside turkey and their government are locked in a vicious new war, after a two-year cease-fire. lately, turkey is taking a stronger hand in syria against isis. last year, it agreed to open its bases to u.s. aircraft and to do more to stop the flow of foreign militants into syria. >> turkey has taken much greater efforts in recent months, to deter those crossing, and also turkey's also been more and more outspoken in its criticism of islamic state. of course, there's also some truth to the fact that turkey was a very, um, ardent and outspoken opponent and critic of syrian president bashar al- assad, which may have encouraged
turning a blind eye. it almost, the idea that either turkey, the government helped bring this on by not doing enough, or has brought it on by joining the coalition and maybe doing too much, shows you the sort of rock and a hard place that turkey's caught between. >> warner: all of that as turkey continues to host more than two million syrian refugees. just yesterday, ankara said it will offer refugees work permits, to discourage them from illegally crossing into the european union. >> woodruff: now we turn to another consequence of the syria war, and a weapon used against civilians caught in the middle of that brutal conflict. we begin with this report from lindsey hilsum of independent television news >> reporter: it's months since they ate properly. are these tears of hunger or relief? finally, after night fell, food
arrived. some of it to eat right now, no waiting. >> ( translated ): the situation in madaya is so bad. before the siege we used to live a proper life, but when the armed rebels entered the village and did what they did, they revealed their true colors. >> reporter: it's a delicate situation for the u.n. and the red cross and crescent who are strictly neutral. they negotiated for months to get food and medicine into madaya besieged by the government and two villages besieged by the rebel, relief for those starving. >> ( translated ): people with no electricity are burning pltic bags to stay warm. people are in the street looking for rubbish for food. >> reporter: this is madaya clinic. they were pleased to get medicine badly needed.
but aid agents say more than 400 people should be evacuated immediately because they have serious illnesses that need treatment that's impossible in these conditions. >> ( translated ): my son has hepatitis and he has to leave. i have a medical report and i want the take him out, so i need the medicines and doctors. there is nothing. >> reporter: the convoy succeeded, but the problem is not solved, and there are dozens of besieged places in syria. >> to see to, listen to those people, to hear their concerns and to realize that, you know, this will not solve the long-term problem of the people besieged, no matter where they are, in madaya. we just need to be able to come back and bring the aid on a regular basis. [gunfire] >> reporter: so much ruin. government barrel bombs have
destroyed this suburb, "when the game was ours" -- but when they bring their tanks, the rebels destroy them. and more russian air strikes today. 37 people were reported killed. as long as this goes on, there will be no real relief for the besieg people of syria. >> woodruff: for more on the humanitarian situation in madaya and elswhere in syria, we turn to william brangham. >> brangham: as we just heard in that i.t.n. report, the united nations is handling the aid convoys into the besiegned city of madaya. for the very latest on what's happening there and elsewhere in syria, i'm joined via skype by kevin kennedy, who's regional humanitarian coordinator for the u.n. he's monitoring the situation from amman, jordan. kevin kennedy, thank you very much for being here. we have seen all of these terrible images coming out of syria. can you give us the latest on what's happening in the town of madaya? >> we were able to deliver after many months of requests aid to
madaya last night for the people trapped there and also to two other towns to the north. and we hope to provide more deliveries in the next couple days here because what we did last night, basic needs, much more is required to meet their situations in madaya. brang. >> brangham: we know that assad's forces have surrounded these forces. have you seen any interference with the aid convoys going into these towns? >> there was a delay, but it's basically unimpeded. it took a wail to get there, but they did get there around 8:00 in the evening and stayed until 4:00 in the morning. this is just one town of many that are besieged or hard to reach in syria. there's about 13.5 million people in need of one form of humanitarian assistance or another in syria and they're in
hard-to-reach areas and half in isil-controlled areas. >> brangham: just as you say, amnesty international referred to madaya as the tip of the iceberg. what are you doing in those other towns that have been harder to reach, as well? >> well, we continue to try to reach them. we do in some cases, but not nearly to the extent we can. it's quite remarkable on the ground in syria because the degree of activity and assistance that's delivered in a very active war zone. some six million people are fed. eight million people get clean watering, but this is not meeting the needs of the people there, particularly those controlled by isil or the armed groups or the government. >> brangham: the united nations has passed resolutions demanding the syrian government allow these aid convoys in, but there has been very little success moving the lever there. what other measures do you have to get the aid into the places
that's needed? >> it's not just the syrian government. it's other group, as well, isil and other armed groups have restricted our aid efforts. we continue to work with the government to try to get access. we have had some success, not the success we would like. we also deliver from outside the country from turkey, from iraq, from lebanon and from jordan, as well, into some of those hard-to-reach areas and negotiate to get through. >> my understanding is that monday's delivery lance night's delivery really will last for about four weeks. what happens when that food runs out? what happens then? >> we'll be going back to the situation we had before, and the situation is quite dire. it is interesting. a kilo of wheat was going for $89 in madaya until yesterday. that same kilo goes for 75 cents in damascus. the degree of deprivation that people have suffered. the concern is not in madaya but
what conditions are they in? >> so there are some supplies in madaya, but people just simply can't afford to purchase them? >> well, there is always a black market in any war, and there is a black market in this war. i guess some things leak into there, not in any great quantities, but obviously at great expense, and really beyond the reach of most of the people to buy them. if the price is 89 times what it should be, it gives you an idea of the degree of the scarcity and the degree of how hard it is to get these supplies. so we had about 15 areas in syria we consider besieged. and they contain about 41,000 people. there are 4 million people in these hard-to-reach areas they we get to intermittently, but not consistently with the sustained effort we need. >> brangham: some of the rebel groups have been arguing that until aid is allowed in freely into these towns that the peace talks that are planned for the end of this month should not go forward. do you believe that's the right strategy? >> you know, we're going for
immediate, open, unimpeded and sustained access. this is a good moment to put that into play. i think all parties should abide by this. meeting the needs of the people, wherever they may be, they're under control is most important. and denying people basic necessities of life and putting their lives in danger is a violation of international humanitarian law and cannot be abided by. >> brangham: all right, kevin kennedy of the united nations. thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you. >> woodruff: final deadlines for college applications are looming this week, and students who are the first in their family to apply to college are the least likely to have had help
navigating the complex process. a group called the college advising corps is trying to turn that disparity around. it partners with high schools and universities to recruit and pay recent college grads to advise lower-income, first generation students on getting into college. hari sreenivasan visited two new york city high schools working with the corps. >> you bought two movie tickets, your friend cancels. ( gasps ) >> what would you do? >> call my other friend. >> you call somebody else. what if that person doesn't respond? >> sreenivasan: many students at manhattan academy for arts and language-- all still learning english, most of them are recent immigrants-- the idea of applying and going to college can feel totally foreign. that's where victoria del toro comes in. >> are you going to lose out on that money? >> no. >> you call somebody else. so, colleges work the same way.
when they email you and they track who responds. >> sreenivasan: this is her second full year at the school, as part of a program called college advising corps. as the school's only dedicated college counselor, her mission is to have all of the schools' nearly 400 students believe college is an option. it's a mission that could be challenging in most american high schools. but at manhattan academy, few have any friends or relatives who have experience with american higher education, and >> they still don't think they're performing at the level that they should be performing at. so, they're very aware that they are being compared to other students and so they know that the language is a barrier. >> sreenivasan: andrea ruiz diaz came to the u.s. from paraguay four years ago. she was already convinced college was in her future-- but the details of how to get there were a mystery. >> i wouldn't know about the s.a.t.s, because when you're an
immigrant and you're in america focusing on learning the language, graduating from high school, you're not really focusing on college yet. >> sreenivasan: the type of help del toro provides: one-on-one help with choosinschools, help with writing essays, and guiding students through completing paperwork, is what affluent families pay hundreds of dollars for. across the country the average college counselor works with more than 450 students a year-- that means the average student has less than 40 minutes of individual coaching on college applications. without partnering with college advising corps, principal siv boletsis says her students would be in the same boat. instead, del toro tries to spend 20 to 30 minutes a week with each student how important has that role been on campus here? >> the two guidance counselors who are here provide the socio- emotional support and the
programming for the students. there was a need for someone like victoria to be here, to help them with f.a.f.s.a., to explain certain things. these are families that don't know about the college application process at all. >> sreenivasan: del toro says her hours with students and parents are chipping away at skepticism about the stressful college application process being worth it. >> my first year here at manhattan academy, it was definitely not, like, a goal for a student or even a conversation for a student to say, "hey, i signed up for the s.a.t., i'm going to take it." and now, i must say, like when i saw my, my data and i saw that 94% of my senior class registered for the s.a.t., i said, "things are changing in here." >> sreenivasan: but the goal is not just to get students to apply to any college. aiming high can make a difference. a growing body of research suggests low-income, first- generation students who have the grades to get into selective schools are more likely to
graduate from those colleges than from the local, open- enrollment campuses where they're still more likely register. in the spring, del toro posts where students have been accepted and the scholarships they've won, on bulletin boards spurring competition. andrea ruiz diaz says her ideas about what's possible have expanded. >> i definitely wouldn't have considered applying to schools out of state. like, i've always had the fear of going out of my house because i'm an immigrant, it feels weird and scary, but she definitely told me about it and the benefits and the experience and all that. so i'm open to it now. >> there are so many talented students that don't see themselves competitive enough to get to their dream school setting. >> sreenivasan: aileen moner is director of college advising corps' new york office and
oversees two-dozen counselors working in more than 20 high schools across the city. >> i think we're definitely working with those students that maybe don't have the social capital to be able to um, see themselves on campuses that, that they can really succeed in. >> sreenivasan: college advising corp started at the university of virginia in 2005. today it has more than 500 advisors working in 14 states. the students they work with are 30% more likely to apply to college and more than 25% more likely to apply for financial aid. new york high schools the corps has worked with over time, like eximius college prep in the bronx, are seeing more students enroll at more selective four- year colleges. john daly partnered with the advising corp when he became principal of eximius five years ago. >> when i first got here, i couldn't understand the fact that most of the students from the south bronx here, they were attending staten island college. that's where they were going. and i was really wondering why is that happening? because it's like a two hour train ride! and it was just because that was a college, a brother or sister
or some of the students here went there, and then it just seemed like that's where most of the students were going. >> sreenivasan: daly says his goal for every student is the best college at the best price. >> being an immigrant myself, and being the first person in my family to go to college, i know firsthand how scary that process is, and how hard it is to navigate that. and that's why i was like, we need somebody here that can demystify this for the parents. >> sreenivasan: that focus has given the school a reputation as a promising avenue from the largely-low-income south bronx to high quality colleges. >> we've got four years to get you into the best college, that's what we'll do. >> sreenivasan: and, the school is making good on that promise. last year, every graduate was admitted to college. nine of those 110 grads are at new york university this year with full or substantial financial aid. tiffany marte is one of those nine. she says a private university seemed unrealistic before working with her advisor. >> it was more of a reach school for me, and by reach i mean like impossible? ( laughs ) 'cause, it was like, it was my dream school. like, it was in the city, um, it
had all the cl-, all the courses that i wanted to take, but, it wasn't something that i thought about. >> sreenivasan: her classmate jeninne ware was going to skip filing extra paperwork for private scholarships. but her advisor wouldn't let her off the hook. >> the weekend before it was due... i completed it, because he texted me, and he's like, "are you, did you do it!?" and i'm like, "no, i'm not going to a private school." so, he really encouraged me to complete it. >> sreenivasan: without that prodding, ware says, she wouldn't be where she is today. for the pbs newshour, i'm hari sreenivasan in new york. >> woodruff: last night, we told the story of a writing program for juveniles in a chicago detention center. in part two of his report, jeffrey brown profiles a man who lost his way and then found it again, in prison, through poetry.
>> brown: we first met reginald dwayne betts in chicago, at the cook county juvenile temporary detention facility, where he'd come to read his poetry to young inmates and answer their questions. does it take you back when you walk in a place like this? >> it's really different walking in from the side i walk in now. so the reason it takes me back is i recognize how different the experience is. and then when i see the kids though, it takes me back, because all of them remind me of me when i was younger. >> brown: betts grew up 700 miles to the east in suitland, maryland, a community southeast of washington, dc. >> brown: he was a bright child, an honor student who loved to read, and had hopes for college... despite being surrounded by drugs, occasional violence and peers who'd been locked up. >> i expected myself to be the exception, despite the fact that
i smoke weed, just like everybody else, and i kinda hung around out here late at night just like everybody else. i guess i thought i would end up different. >> brown: why? >> i thought i was smart, thought i was better, that i could beat the odds, maybe. and i thought the stuff that i was doing wasn't that bad anyway. >> brown: that all changed on the evening of december 7th, 1996, at this mall in springfield, virginia, when then 16-year-old betts and a friend used a gun to rob a man and steal his car. in the spur of the moment, i just didn't think about it at all. >> brown: betts was arrested the very next day. it was his first run-in in the law. he was transferred to adult court and later give an nine-year sentence. so you go to prison, you're a teenager, and you're among adults. >> yes. >> brown: scary?
>> i couldn't go and bring my mom water late at night when she wanted water, i didn't have my own bed to sleep in, so that was part of being terrified, it's just what it meant to now be an adult, and be on my own. and then the other part of being terrified i think was just partly, prison is a dangerous and scary place, and you never know what's going to happen from, you know, one moment to the next. >> brown: reading became a comfort, and one day changed his life altogether, when he was handed a copy of dudley randall's "the black poets," an anthology that would open his eyes to the possibilities of poetry. what did it give you, being there in prison? >> the poetry gave me ability to access the world, to communicate my ideas and my feelings about the world, and also it gave me, it was my idea of how to be somebody, being a poet, for me, was being somebody. and it gave me something to pursue, and i could easily tell when i was doing it right by people's response.
and also i just really admire poets, just people who i found able to say something to me about a world that i didn't know, in verse, and i just aspire to be able to do that. >> brown: after getting out of prison, betts attended community college, taught middle school, and earned his undergraduate and master's degrees. and, he wrote: a memoir and two books of poetry. the latest is titled "bastards of the reagan era." >> brown: the poems, he says, speak of a generation of black men lost to drugs, violence and long prison terms. >> lost in various ways. so lost in terms of maybe not coming up with a father in the house. but more significantly, lost in a way in which, almost as if the larger community has abandoned you. you know, we can look around, and we can look at a playground, we could go to the schools and look at the school system, and we could ask ourselves what kind of opportunities were available for this kid. >> "for the city that nearly broke me
no indictment follows malik's death, follows smoke running from a fired pistol. an old quarrel: crimson against concrete & the officer's gun still smoking. someone says the people need to stand up, that the system's a glass house falling on only a few heads. >> and i'm thinking about, maybe this is, this is, i'm thinking about d.c., i'm i was teaching at middle school, and some of the poems come out of that experience. just thinking about how sometimes that it's just overwhelmingly difficult, and in fact i had more moments of just heartbreak i think, and tragedy, teaching, than i did in prison. and so, in those poems i think i'm fixating on the thing that causes me so much pain, not to the exclusion of everything else, but to the point that i really have to want to confront what it means, to meet somebody that you really think is brilliant, and know that it might not pan out for them the way that you want. >> brown: betts himself is now finishing law school at yale
university, and he's also an advocate for prison reform, particularly for the treatment of juveniles, and serves on the white house coordinating council on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. when it came up when we were together in chicago from some of the young inmates there, in a sense; was it better for you to go to prison? you became-- you started reading, you started writing, everything that's happened to you since came from that. >> yes, so i tend to push back on that. i was fortunate in a lot of ways, like i was safe in prison, and you can't bank on being safe in prison. so you know, you could say that prison was the catalyst for all that, and i think that that would be true, but it's also an argument to be made that for that to happen, a lot of things had to fall in place in a perfect way. i always say that what that signals is not the benefit of prison, but what that signals is the dearth of opportunities, and the dearth of imagination in the lives of a lot of young folks.
that really we have to rely on things like institutions to supply the notion that, not that you can rise above your circumstances, but that your circumstances should include something more, that your circumstances should include being a writer. somebody told me yesterday you don't go to yale law school the play it safe. he said, "despite the fact that you got three felonies, you playing with house money, and you need to make a decision about what you can do that's actually ambitious and test the possibilities of the world. and can you think of ways to solve big problems." and always writing. writing is like breathing. always writing. >> brown: from suitland, maryland, i'm jeffrey brown for the pbs newshour. >> woodruff: the first part of jeffrey brown's report looks at a writing program in one of the
nation's largest juvenile detention facilities. that's on our website at pbs.org/newshour. >> woodruff: finally, another installment in our series of "newshour essays," a long tradition of the broadcast that we have resurrected in the past few months. tonight we hear from nicholas thompson, the editor of the new yorker magazine website newyorker.com. we have heard a lot these days about how the internet, social media, and our addictive use of our handheld devices have reduced our attention spans. but in tonight's essay, thompson takes a distinctly different point of view. >> reporter: the word "story" is a shortening of the word history. he wanted people to understand the collision between the greek and persian world, and he wanted us to enjoy reading what he
wrote. the opening of first book describes money, sex, violence, kidnapping. for most of human history, storytelling helped humans survive. the societies that first learned to write kept better records, planned expeditions more carefully and described the far away lands. meanwhile, technology enabled storytelling. sharing stories is easier when you can write them down or print and bind them. now, as you may have heard, storytelling is under threat. the internet is shortening our attention spokesman, distracting us, quite possibly muddling the structures of our brain. i started writing long magazine stories about 15 years ago, right about when one of the main publishers of long magazine stories declared it was abandoning them. i don't think people have time to sit down and read, the editor declared. that was before twitter. in 2008, nicholas carr published his seminole essay, "is google making us stupid?" people have lost the ability to read deeply. we can only skim, bouncing
between hyperlinks. he bow moaned the facts that "the new york times" started to publish more and more news summaries. carr later expanded his article into a book making the same argument but more intensely. he called it "the shallows." since then, you might think, the argument has been vindy kateed. look at the internet. it's plagued by short, shallow requites of jibberish. we buy books but we don't read them. five years from now something will have been invented that makes tweets seem long and ponderous, but actually look more closely. "the new york times" did start publishing additional news summaries back then, but ever since it has shifted huge amounts of energy to long-form journalism. even criminals in this tale, the "huffington post" and buzz feed, have started doing their own long form work. "rolling stone" is back in it, for better or work. "the new yorker" continues to run long stories every week, likely the best-read piece in the history of the magazine's web site is a 24,000 word piece on scientology.
the editors of longform.org get classic referrals from dating site okcupid meaning people are listing their love of the site on their from files. meanwhile, television has evolved toward almost endless and overwhelming cop plexty. the shows that define the '60s, '70s and '80s, "cheers," "the simpsons" and "seinfeld," are cream cheese baghdad ls compared to ""the sopranos"." so what's happened? technology takes our time away, but it also gives it back. our smartphone, our computer, our connection speeds make it possible to process and absorb ever more information. we have near infinite memories. it's become easier to write and it's become easier to read. there's something deeply human about storytelling. it's part of how we learn language as babies and it's part of how we come to understand our world as adults. the intelligence of humans is best thought of as a combination
of ourselves and our machines. look at hit the way: you realize we're cking martyr and smarter every day. we don't have as much free time as we used to and the internet has created all kinds of terrible habits. just try to avoid checking your e-mail when this ends. but complexity surrounds us and beckons us. it's hard not to think that heraticus would be proud. >> woodruff: before we go tonight, in the last few minutes the white house has released excerpts from tonight's state of the union address that the president will be delivering to congress in the coming hours. the sections made public highlight a vision for the future that includes healing the current political divide. mr. obama is expected to say: "the future we want. opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -
all that is within our reach. but it will only happen if we work together. it will only happen if we fix our politics." join us for the president's final state of the union speech right here on pbs, live beginning at 9 p.m. eastern time. >> woodruff: on the newshour online: with the powerball jackpot jumping to $1.5 billion, the largest ever, you may be thinking it's time to buy a ticket or two. but despite the incredible odds, playing the lottery still delivers a thrill worth at least the two dollars for a ticket. our "making sense" columnist explains how. you can find his comments on our home page pbs.org/newshour and that's the newshour for tonight. please stay with us here on pbs for our live state of the union coverage beginning at 9 p.m. eastern. we'll have the president's full address and the republican response, plus analysis with political observers including our very own mark shields and david brooks.
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america." >> funding of this presentation is made possible by the freeman foundation, newman's own foundation, giving all profits from newman's own to charity and pursuing the common good, kovler foundation, pursuing solutions for america's neglected needs, and sony pictures classics, now presenting "the lady in the van." >> just until you sort your self out. >> an educated woman and living like that. >> merry christmas. >> shut the door. i'm a busy woman.