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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  December 20, 2014 12:00am-1:01am EST

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>> charlie: welcome to the program. we begin in evening with president obama's final press conference in 2014. >> we are better positioned than we have been in a very long time, and the future is ready to be written. we've set the stage for this american moment, and i'm going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it. >> charlie: we continue this evening with joel klein, former chancellor of the new york city school system, who's written a book called "lessons of hope: how to fix our schools." >> if you give people choice, two things follow -- parents get more involved in their kids' education and, second of all, you begin to create a competitive environment. that's why the 650 schools mayor bloomberg opened were so critical. they were all schools of choice. people had to choose them. nobody had to go there, and
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those schools got good results. we need to open the system, let it air out and think only a government-run school can be the only way to do this. >> charlie: we conclude this weekend with "al hunt on the story." this time, pete souza, the white house photographer, and his work. >> i had to make a split-second decision on which corner of the room to go into, and i think i ended up choosing the right side of the room. a lot of people have made comments about why isn't the president seated at the head of the table, and the reason was this brigadier general who was kind of monitoring the communications, he was about to give up a seat to the president and the president said, no, you stay where you are, i'll just pull up a chair over here. >> charlie: president obama, joel klein, al hunt, pete souza, when we continue. funding for charlie rose is provided by the following >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> rose: additional funding provided by:
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>> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. josh has given me the who's been naughty and who's been nice list and i'll use it to take questions. we'll start with terry brown. >> thank you, mr. president. the story in north korea seems to be the biggest topic today. what does the proportional response look like to the sony
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hack, and did sony make the right decision in pulling the movie or does that set a dangerous precedent in terms of the present situation? >> let me address the second question first. sony is a corporation. it, you know, suffered significant damage. there were threats against its employees. i am sympathetic to the concerns that they face. having said all that, yes, i think they made a mistake. you know, in this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults in the public and private sector. our first business is to prevent
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those from taking place. when i came into office, i stood up a cyber security inner agency team to look at everything we could do at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks. we have been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done. we're not even close to where we need to be. we cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the united states. because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a document rithat they don't like. it says something interesting about north korea, that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical
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movie starring seth rogen and james -- (laughter) i lovese love seth and i love j, but the notion that that was a threat to them, i think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we're talking about here. they caused a lot of damage, and we will respond. we will respond proportionately and in a place and manner and time that we choose. it's not something i'll announce today here at a press conference. with respect to cuba, we are glad that the cuban government has released slightly over 50 dissidents that they are going to be allowing the international committee of the red cross and the united nations human rights agencies to offer more freely
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inside of cuba and monitor what is taking place. i share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people and as i said when i made the announcement, i don't anticipate overnight changes and what i know deep in my bones is if you've done the same thing for 50 years and nothing's changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome, and this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome. because suddenly, cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before. it's open to americans traveling there in ways that it hasn't been before. it's ways to church groups
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visiting, you know, their fellow believers inside of cuba in ways they haven't been before. it offers the prospect of telecommunications and the internet being more widely available in cuba in ways that it hasn't been before and, over time, that chips away at this hermetically-sealed society and i believe offers the best prospect, then, of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the cuban people. i think it will happen in fits and starts. but through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change than we would have otherwise. it is not precedented for the president of the united states and the president of cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations,
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so there hasn't been anything like this in the past. that doesn't mean that, over the next two years, we can't anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of cuba or with respect to their foreign policy, and that could put significant strains on the relationship. but that's true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy, and the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not. so i would be surprised if the cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is effectively
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its own policy. i wouldn't be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem. and we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong. but the point is is that we will be in a better position, i think, to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply. >> are you going to pursue executive actions if that creates more road blocks for your slaifts agenda or have you concluded it's not possible to break the partisan gridlock here? >> i think there are real opportunities to get things done in congress. as i said before, i take speaker
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speak -- speaker boehner and mitch mcconnell at their word that they would like to see things get done. the american people would like to see things get done. the question is will we be able to separate out the areas where we disagree and agree. there will be tough fights on areas where we disagree. if republicans seek to take healthcare away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me. if they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, i will say no, and i'm confident that i will be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions. but on increasing american exports, simplifying the tax system, rebuilding the infrastructure, my hope is we
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can get some things done. i've never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren't for the executive actions, they would have been more productive. there's no evidence of that. so i intend to continue to do what i have been doing, which is, where i see a big problem and the opportunity to help the american people and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, i'm going to do it, and i will then, side by side, reach out to members of congress, reach out to republicans and say, let's work together. i'd rather do it with you. >> six years ago this month, i asked you what was the state of black america in the oval office and you said it was the best of times and the worst of times. you said it was the best of times in the sense that there have never been more opportunities for african-americans to receive a good education and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity.
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ending 2014, what is the state of black america as we talk about those issues as well as race relations? >> like the rest of america, black america in the aggregate is better off now than it was when i came into office. the jobs that have been created, the people who have gotten health insurance, the housing equity that's been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered. a lot of those folks are african-american. they're better off than they were. the gap between income and wealth of white and black america persists, and we have got more work to do on that front. now, obviously, how we're thinking about race relations right now has been colored by ferguson, the garner case in new york, a growing awareness in the broader population of what many communities of color have
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understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn't feel as if it's being applied in a color blind fashion. the task force that i formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days, not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations but really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department. one of the great things about this job is you get to know the american people. you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country and every race and every
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faith, and what i don't think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing. and people are basically god and have good intentions -- and people are basically good and have good intentions. sometimes our systems and institutions don't work as well as they should. sometimes, you know, you've got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn't maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around. but if you offer practical solutions, i think people want to fix these problems. part of what i hope as we reflect on the new year, this should generate some confidence. america knows how to solve
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problems, and when we work together, we can't be stopped. and now i'm going to go on vacation. merry christmas, everybody. >> charlie: joel klein is here, the c.e.o. of amplified, executive vice president of news corp, previously served as the chancellor of the new york city school system. he wrote a book called "lessons of hope: how to fix our schools." i am pleased to have joel klein back at this table. welcome. here's what i want to know from you, what did you learn with respect to the eight years you were chancellor here? what did you try and succeed at, not so much a record of your administration of the new york city school system, but really a sense of what you learn about how we educate and, secondly, some sense of how far behind are we and how do we catch up.
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>> great. so, first of all, it's really a pleasure to be here, but let me start with what i learned. >> charlie: okay. which really surprised me, charlie, is we're behind, far behind, and it's not just even the poorest kids that are behind, but across the board we're not doing well. countries today like poland and vietnam outperform america. it's hard to imagine globally. what i learned is despite that, there's a real resistance to change, and that there's a real sense that we ought to move slowly, that we don't need to really get ahead of this game and, to me, this is the most troubling thing because, every day, you and people and others are talking about inequality is ripping this country apart and there is a lot of things we need to do but one of this the things we need to do that's really critical is improve education particularly for kids who grow up in challenging communities. the things that worked, there are several, but the things that have worked and are documented to work create more options for families.
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under mike bloomberg we opened up over 600 schools in new york city, most schools than most -- more schools than most cities have period. we got families involved and the results were powerful. out of 600, 150 were charter schools and those charter schools are doing well. so increase competition. the second thing, big thing, is increasing trying new and different ways to educate kids, schools tied more for careers to kids to give them more motivation. not everyone is going to a four-year college. those are the big initiatives but those things really had impact. >> charlie: i want you to underline what you and condoleezza rice said in a 2012 report. this is what is at stake. education failure puts the united states in economic,
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global position and safety at risk. the u.s. won't be able to keep pace unless it fixes the problems it has allowed to fester for too long. that's the consequence of not doing anything. >> absolutely, and it's staring us right in the eye right now. we are seeing day by day more and more kids falling behind, kids who are going to be unprepared. right now in the thing -- in the report that secretary rice and i did, points out three out of four kids in america are not even able to apply to the military, even if they wanted to get in. a lot of that is academic, some of it's physical. but it's an amazing thing how underprepared we are. and then the other issue which secretary rice felt very strongly about, she always said in america it's not where you come from, it's where you're going to, and kids are going less and less opportunity. we're seeing less social mobility and less opportunity and that rips a country apart. >> charlie: because we're failing at education.
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>> yes. >> charlie: you talk about school systems in america are government-run monopoly dominated by unions and political interest and not subject to the kinds of accountability and competitive incentives that breed successful organizations. >> that's absolutely true. steve jobs said the same thing. think about, in america, people want choices. everyone i know wanted a choice for his or her child when it came to schools. for the kids in the poorest, it's one and done, a monopoly setup. and if you give people choice, two things follow -- parents get more involved in their kids' education and, second of all, you begin to create a competitive environment. that's why the 650 schools mayor bloomberg opened were so critical. they're all schools of choice. people had to choose them and they got good results. we need to open up the system, let it air out and stop thinking only a government-rub school can be the only way to do this. >> charlie: talking about government monopolies, and we'll get to charter schools in a
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second, but there are people who say that the unions have a more future and entrepreneurial look and are open to more competition than given credit for. >> i hope that's true. some things in new york led me to think that. but the union sued me for trying to open up charter schools and shutting down schools we replaced with new schools. so it's a mixed report. i talk about albert shankerd (phonetic), a leader in the unions, and he was a visionary on tissues and called to support for charter schools and professionalizing teachers. so i think the hope is that the unions, quite frankly, the people who want to see education improve get behind this. what would shock most people, half the people who go into teaching leave after the first five years. if half our lawyers or doctors
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left in the early years, we would have a crisis. we have a crisis in teaching. >> charlie: what about places like teach america? >> those people are helping the problem, adding value to the system, but that's not a solution. the teacher america kids, many who teach for several years are one part of a multi-part solution. under mayor bloomberg, the number of teachers we started to draw higher performing were doing better in college, better on s.a.t.s, increased dramatically. i learned despite the need for compelling change, big change, the resistance to change at the bureaucratic level, political and union level was high. >> charlie: of all-those combined i assume because the unions have political power and at the electoral level, people want to get reelected. >> that's exactly the way the system works. >> charlie: what would change that? >> several things.
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>> charlie: more information? more information. getting parents more involved. in new york when they tried the curtail charter schools, you saw 11,000 parents went to albany to protest. getting parents involved, getting people involved, being able to match as is happening around the country, people willing to put additional moneys into the electoral process. seeing democratic mayors, kevin johnson, rahm emanuel. >> charlie: michelle reed in washington. >> with adrienn adrian fenty. they're taking on the changes. there is a growing urgency. people know the course we are on is not a winning course. you asked how bad it is, it's really bad and a lot of our kids are going to be unprepared. when i started school in new york city in the 1960s, about 60% of the workforce are high school dropouts. that's no longer the case. kids underprepared in college,
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kids who don't have requisite skills will get dealt out to have the labor patrick. >> charlie: number one, professionalized teaching, talk about that. >> professionalized teaching is something albert shanker called about and he said if we don't get beyond collective bargaining with a true profession like lawyers and doctors with a thing like a bar exam, with rigorous requirements, if you look at finland, these are places that professionalize teaching corps, draw high quality people and get behind them. differentiate their pay, they progress, pay them more, all the things we're not doing. so if you want to change a major thing, make teachers a profession and in countries that work educationally that's what happens. >> charlie: what about principals. >> we created a leadership academy in new york to train high-quality principals. no school works without great leadership and schools are what parents care about. >> charlie: create a system of
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charter schools and that's one choice and there are other choices. but there are those who say that those who are in favor of charter schools are too quick to be blinded to the fact that many of them are not as good as they ought to be and that it is not a 100% success rate. >> i agree with that completely. in new york we had studies that showed, as a group, they did much better but some were no good. look, i think this is a false dichotomy whether charter schools or traditional public schools. what anybody wants is a good charter school and charter schools give you the opportunity to increase the numbers. in your state of north carolina, i've talked about this, the kipp school down there that's doing a great job and in a rural community and getting great results. that's what parents want. what i'm about is good schools and let's get as many as we can and give people choices. everybody i know says to me, i would never tick a neighborhood school for my di kid if it wasnt
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good. if it's good, sure. if not, i'll move. why should poor people be told it's one and you're done? >> charlie: so, therefore, the answer for poor people in their neighborhood is to improve their schools, offer them an alternative in their neighborhood or bus them somewhere else? >> to the extent you can, in their neighborhood. if they want to be bussed, let them. in new york city, for 20,000 charter school seats, 70,000 families applied. speaks volumes. >> charlie: how many schools under your jurisdiction? >> when we finished about 1750. >> charlie: of those, how many do you think were performing at a level of success that was appropriate or satisfactory? >> i think that's the critical question, and i would say first answer is a lot mr. than when we -- a lot more than when we started, somewhere around 60 to
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70%. >> charlie: after eight years, 60 to 70% of them doing what they ought to do? >> exactly. and i think when we started it would have been about a third. so there's almost a doubling. there are analysis that show this. but there are still a lot of schools in new york that need a lot of improvement. >> charlie: and the difference between success and failure is what? >> basically poor academic standards in the school. >> charlie: not measurement, in teem terms of what you were e to do to impact change. >> good quality teachers, high quality leadership, enabling schools to have choices so if parents didn't want to go to a school, you could shut down schools. >> charlie: in some schools you could do it and some you couldn't. in some schools you couldn't because -- >> it's a large, complicated system and your ability to replace schools, bring new schools on -- mike bloomberg and i closed 150 schools in our time. >> charlie: because? because they were not performing well. but you have to have a whole
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pipeline of schools to come in behind them to make sure they're right and if you don't have the right mix of schools, you can't just shut things down and not give kids options. so i think we made a lot of changes, but what i say in the book which is true, we made real progress but not enough, and we have to accelerate the progress. >> charlie: number one was professionalize teaching, two create a system of choices. number three is the use of technology. >> correct. >> charlie: which is the area you're working in now in the private sector. >> right. >> charlie: go ahead. give us a report card on the use of technology in our public schools. >> it's really the earliest stages. everybody's been through a digital revolution in america. the media industry, medical industry has changed, education is sat out as a resistor but that's beginning to change. bringing in technology not for the sake of technology but to help these kids and help the teachers. give teachers the tools. we ask a lot of teachers, let's give them the support, give them
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curriculum that's rich and engaging. do the kind of school we did with i.b.m. which has become a national model which is a kid goes to four years of high school, two years of community college and gets certificated by i.b.m. and get a job at i.b.m. let's create new and different models. >> charlie: how long will it take for technology to transform education. >> in the next five to seven years. you're beginning to see it at the college level, already. i just read in the paper the other day where people at yale are taking a course online at harvard. who would ever imagine that. >> charlie: silicon valley, a lot of people have interest in education reform. mark zuckerberg one, he dropped a lot of money on schools in new york city and san francisco. reed hastings has spent millions on the charter school movement, outstanding spokesman for charter schools. and peter teal has been handing out dozens of $100,000 scholarships to kids willing to
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give up the university in favor of self-education. what do you think of that? >> you know, the peter teals and the bill gates and the people who educated themselves is a small, small slice. >> charlie: all dropped out of college. >> and they did just fine. i think peter's idea is an interesting idea, but what zuckerberg is doing, i think, trying to get behind this and support people, which gates has done, he gave us 150 million in new york. i talk about having once sued gates in the book. >> charlie: he was the c.e.o. of microsoft and you were at the justice department. >> that's correct, and you probably remember because we were on the show together way back then together. >> charlie: he backed his admiration of you up with money. >> and put a blurb on the back of my book. it's powerful stuff. >> charlie: what is this company called amplified which is a division of rupert
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murdoch's news corp? >> it's education technology. developing curriculum, developing applications, tools. >> charlie: who is it for? it's for teachers in the public schools in the country. >> charlie: if you're a teacher you can go to amplify and buy, what, software to enable you to do something? >> exactly. software that will sequence lessons. it's mostly bought by the school district, not at the teacher level, but it's a complete comprehensive curriculum so that you can, for example, while you're teaching shakespeare, you can have it acted on the same page as written, getting kids more engaged, but it's all sequenced so that a lot of work the teacher might otherwise have to do will be done for you. >> charlie: is your heart more in education than anything now? >> it is. >> charlie: is that where you head and heart are? >> it is in part because i think it is the issue for this country. i think there is no more pressing issue for america than to get right on education. >> charlie: when you came to
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this, how much experience did you have in education other that be your own personal experience? >> not a lot. i had done a little teaching mostly at the university levels, public schools but not much. i came to it as a passion but an outsider. >> charlie: why did mike bloomberg select you? >> that's a question i asked him. he wanted somebody not captive to the bureaucracy, wasn't something he thought would basically look at a small set of changes. what i heard from the mayor when he told me this is he needed somebody to come into this with energy who is unafraid to tackle politically charged interests. and i would have to hire people who knew curriculum, teaching and learning. i put together a team, but i think he wanted leadership at the top that was prepared to make the big changes not the small changes. >> charlie: what is the principal difference between the positions on education as expressed by prior mayor mike bloomberg and the present mayor
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bill de blasio and on the two mayors, how are they different in the policies they want to see to improve education? >> i think probably the main difference is the former mayor, mayor bloomberg, was very much in favor of creating new options and a lot of new choice-based schools. i think this mayor is much more focused on fixing the schools in the system now. the former mayor shut down 150 schools. this mayor says he doesn't want to go that way. >> charlie: doesn't want to shut down schools? >> doesn't like to shut down schools is what he said. he has a very different approach. >> charlie: what's the different in you as school chancellor while you were there and the new school chancellor? >> pretty similar. the main policies are policies the chancellor and the mayor work out so there was an alignment between mayor bloomberg and me and this chancellor and mare de blasio. >> charlie: do you have different views on charter schools? >> i think we do. we were big proponents.
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we wanted to grow them and share space -- >> charlie: you were using underutilized space and making it availability charter schools? >> it was critical to what we were doing because in new york real estate is prohibitively expensive. the way we grew a charter secondary from 18 to 180 is by creating space. we wanted to create options. 70,000 to 75,000 families are applying for seats in the charter schools. these are families in harlem, crown heights, the south bronx, not families with lots of options so it speaks volumes, i think. >> charlie: should there be public support of charter schools? >> of course there should be public support. the money basically should follow the child, it shouldn't follow the school. when you can create more options and give families and kids options, that's the right way to do it. what does it matter to me if a kid can get a good education,
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ps8, that's great, if not and wants to go to a charter, that's great. as chancellor, you want people getting a good education. >> charlie: what should the public sector pay for? the facility or teachers? >> let's say the average kid in new york costs us $20,000. that kid should take his or her tuition to a public or charter school. >> charlie: and what about a religious school? >> that raises other issues in. new york, we did not push taking it to the private sector but did take it to public charter schools. you can make an argument there are maces in the country where people are taking the additional dollars ant going to private schools. in new york, we did not go that way. >> charlie: has president obama done everything that you think he could have done to change education? >> well, i think he's done a lot. i think he's pushed hard on pre-k which i'm really big on. we're starting kids way too late. particularly kids in challenged environment. the thing that bothered me most
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is the average kid started school at 20% vocabulary from a kid of a middle class community. that's a huge gap and that gap grows one-fifth. so starting them earlier. second of all in race to the top, i think president obama hit all the right notes. he did support public charter schools, he did support accountability and holding people to account based on student progress. he did think that data could improve the system. so no president is going to do everything you want, but i think this president and secretary duncan have done a good job. >> charlie: and where have they failed? >> like in anything, i wish they would have pushed it further and harder because i think we need to accelerate the pace. i would have like to see more federal moneys committed, more money paid. for example, we have shortages in america of good math and science teachers and you know from all the work you're doing, science technology, engineering and math is so critical to the future of this country. we're talking about silicon
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vale. it's the capital of the stem world. we're short in new york, chicago, elsewhere, science and math teachers. federal government should create stipends to get our very best kids into science and math. >> charlie: the book is called "lessons of hope: how to fix our schools." joel klein. thank you. >> thank you. >> charlie: we'll be right back. stay with us. > there is one person who probably sees the president of the united states more than the first laidy, children or chief of staff. he's pete souza, the official wholewhite house photographer. more than a quarter of a century ago he was ronald reagan's white house photographer. we're present to have you. >> thanks for having me. >> charlie: you are omnipresent at the white house virtually every day. do you blend in or are they always cognizant you are there? >> i try to blend in. i work with what i call a small footprint, that is, i don't use
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flash, i use quiet cameras. and i try to blend in as much as i can. i think everybody now is used to me being around after six years. >> well, you see more history than almost anyone, and recently you were in>xude oval office, yu took a picture, the president was there, national security advisors were on the so fas and chairs and talking to rauúl castro. was there a sense this is one historic moment? >> i think there was. the president makes a lot of foreign leader calls from the oval office and i photograph all of them. but i think there was definitely a sense of this is history happening during that call. you say i took a picture, well, actually, i took many pictures. the challenge sometimes is trying to find the right picture for the occasion and in this particular one i went directly libehind him for a few shots
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because i thought that added to the weight of the moment that here we are in the oval office. you don't even need to see his face. it's the fact that he's talking for the first time in 50 years to a leader and that's the picture that we decided to release. >> charlie: a picture that will be shown for decades and decades. one of the most poignant of the many poignant pictures that you have taken, pete, was nelson mandela's cell, robin island, the president is hugging his daughter sasha. that must have been quite an emotional moment. >> charlie: it was. and the interesting thing is the tour guide was actually a former prisoner of robin island, someone who had served in prison with nelson mandela, and the fact that he was able to take his girls to that cell -- to
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mandela's cell and have them hear firsthand from someone who is also in prison there i think was just a very emotional tour for them. >> al: the whole day must have been emotional, but that particular picture. >> well, you know, it's one of those things where it's a moment in time where they're having this tour, and i don't know exactly what the tour guide had said, and sasha just kind of leaned into her dad and he gave her a hug. it was a split-second moment that, you know, fortunately, i was able to capture from just outside the cell. >> al: another picture i thought was quite poignant you captured was in the oval office. the president is talking to a group of, i think, young black students. but what was so striking about the picture, pete, was you had a bust of martin luther king, a portrait of abraham lincoln on the wall, and america's first african-american president
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talking to these black students. >> one of the things i'm cognizant of when we're photographing at the white house is trying to incorporate the historical elements that are on the walls into my photographs. this is actually a group of young civil rights leaders, many who had protested in ferguson, many who had protested in d.c., and he invited these young civil rights leaders to the oval office for at least i think it was an hour-long meeting. this is when the meeting had just broken up. and throughout the meeting, i was trying to get martin luther king into my photograph. >> the bust. and it just wasn't working the way where the so fas are. >> al: now thought about that ahead of time. >> i did. when they were getting ready to leave, the president stopped home tirl to say the last few words to them, and that was the moment where i made sure that i positioned myself to get in front of the m.l.k. bust and use
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that as a crucial part of the photograph. >> charlie: with lincoln on the wall. >> with lincoln on the wall. >> al: do you ever tell the president ahead of time that you want to do a certain annal? >> -- acertain angle? don't. all the photographs i make are candid. i don't direct anything. >> charlie: does he ever comin-- >> al: does he ever complain about your pictures? >> occasionally. >> al: you didn't get the right angle? >> no. sometimes my artistic ability is not always greatly appreciated. >> al: you have been there for some very tense moments, too. there's the classic picture that you took as they were awaiting in the white house word on whether bin laden raid was successful or not and the president is sitting there, hillary clinton has her hands on her face, there's just great
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tension. describe the scene that day. >> well, the situation room is actually comprised of three different conference rooms, and normally the president is in the large conference room, but for this, they had a communications link set up, and it was linked into the small conference room, so they all left the big conference room and walked across the hall and just kind of, as you can see in the photograph, there's not a lot of space in this room. and i had to make a split-second decision on which corner of the room to go into, and i think i ended up choosing the right side of the room. but a lot of people have made comments about two things -- one, why isn't the president seated at the head of the table, and the reason was this brigadier general who was kind of monitoring the communications, he was about to
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give up his seat to the president, and the president said, no, you stay where you are, i'll just pull up a chair over here. and then the other comment people have made is why does hillary have her hand up to her face. she and i talked about it and we went back through all the pictures. if you go through the whole take, throughout the 40 minutes they were in that room, you know, bob gates, joe biden, they all had their hand up to their face at some point. it was very tense in there. >> al: was there much conversation? >> there was very little conversation. occasionally the bi brigadier general would say, this is what's taking place. but very little conversation. just intense focus on what they were watching on the screen. the other thing i sort of take pride in is one of the things hillary did say is she didn't even realize there was a photographer in the room.
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i feel like i did my job blending in. >> al: you had to air brush out a document, a classified document sitting on the table. >> yes. >> al: is that controversial? does that happen often? >> we had never done it before and have not done it since, and i actually tried to get the document declassified, but the c.i.a. didn't want to declassify the document at that time, and i just felt that it was such an important photograph, as did my colleagues in the communications off, that we de-- in the communications office that we decided to pixelize the document so you couldn't see it but make sure that people understood that we had done that. so we put that in the caption, that we had obscured the document. and the "new york times" ran it, as did multiple magazines, so i think they felt that it was not
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an impediment to using the photograph. >> al: pete, who makes the decision to distribute a photograph? >> ultimately, it's the press office. i mean, i have a big role in which photograph we choose, but i always make sure that someone, either josh or amy, has eyes on the photograph. >> al: there are some that are just too sensitive that they just don't want out? >> it happens very rarely. i mean, you know, it just doesn't happen that often. >> al: speaking of tense moments, you also have just a stunning picture of ronald reagan and mikhail gorbachev after the summit i guess in -- '86 or '87 collapse. that was a grim looking.
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>> he was pissed at how the summit ended. they came to a huge agreement and it kind of blew up at the end. it feels very cold war like as they're walking to the limousine and having a last conversation and this is the photograph that you refer to. >> al: you didn't see that side of reagan often, did you? that really angry -- >> no. i mean, his disposition was much like president obama's in the fact that he didn't get really mad that often, but occasionally he did. >> al: well, you were with him right afterwards. was that anger evident in his conversations as well as the pictures? >> yeah. i mean, right after the photograph was taken, they stopped in front of the president's limousine and had a final conversation. >> al: he and gorbachev.
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he and gorbachev. i was really the only u.s. person there and i helped larry speak, who was the deputy press secretary at the time, i helped explain to him what was said. you know, it was very tense at the end for sure. >> al: there are some fun moment, too. >> oh, yeah. >> al: there's a great picture you have of john travolta and princess diana dancing with the president and nancy reagan looking on, just a wonderfully festive moment at the white house. >> that was quite the night. this was all a mrs. reagan ploy? that, you know, princess diana, one of her favorite actors was john travolta, so she made sure john travolta was invited to the dinner and made sure that the marine band you see on the right
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played a medley from "saturday night fever" which is what they were playing when travolta then went and asked her to dance. so you see him kind of whirling her around on the dance floor. >> al: and she was sure you were going to take a picture of that? >> well, the interesting thing, this picture was not released until the end of the administration. >> al: why is that? the thought was at the time this is not a state dinner because the prince of wales is not a prince of the state. add the end of the administration, "life magazine" made a big push to try to publish this photo in the '80s decade issue and they went to buckingham palace and asked if this photo could be released and that's when it was released, i think it was, like, in '89, so it was, like, three years later.
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>> you also have a couple of wonderful pictures of the gipper riding horseback. he was never happier, was he, than when he was out there riding his horse. >> no. i mean, i think he loved going to, you know, the ranch and riding his horse. but, yeah, he definitely enjoyed riding horses. >> al: that was the sunny reagan disposition. it is a picture of barack obama being attacked by a young spiderman. tell us the background as to who it was. >> this is the son of one of his aides, nate cameron. a back story, every year the white house hosts a halloween
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party in the old executive office building which is part of the white house complex for aides to bring their kids, and it doesn't involve the white house per se, it's in the executive office building. but the president's secretary invited nate to bring his son over to the oval office just to see his president because he was good friends and, you know, he was dressed as spiderman. so there was this kind of moment where the president said, well, why don't you tangle me in your web? so he kind of, yeah -- >> al: and the president puts his hands up -- >> yeah, it's kind of fortunate that the mirror -- he's also reflected in the mirror which became just a nice little element to the photograph. >> al: sure was. a number of pictures, one of obama standing at the desk in the oval office, one of reagan sitting there with the room empty. you see them often when they're alone. there is a lonely quality to the
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comarnlthecommander-in-chief rot there? >> there is, but i think both presidents i've covered closely from the inside, you know, are very comfortable in their own skin, and it is lonely in terms of making big decisions because, ultimately, it comes down to you and you have to decide. but i think, you know, there's that famous photograph of john kennedy by george tames with his back to the camera leaning on a little table behind the resolute desk, and it invokes that loneliness. but the fact of the matter is he was reading the newspaper, and the reason he was standing was because of his bad back. >> al: his bad back. so the point being it's easy to read into a photograph and
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say, you know, the presidency is so lonely, when, you know, he interacts with so many people throughout the day. >> al: and some of your old pals, they're still pals and colleagues, complain about managed photojournalism, that they don't get enough access. is that a fair complaint? >> i think it's always okay to make that argument. i think -- you know, i worked with the chicago tribune for nine years and covered a little bit of clinton and a little bit of bush 43 as an outsider, so i understand those frustrations. but i fundamentally disagree. i really think this administration has done a really good job of trying to bring photographers in. kelly, started out for "time magazine," she covered the first 100 days and had essentially the
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same access i did for three months. we've done that with a dozen different photographers throughout this administration. you know, you mentioned the castro announcement the other day. doug with the "new york times" was able to photograph the announcement as it happened, so an address to the nation. that was something that never happened before this administration. they'd always bring photographers into the room after the speech to essentially do a fake photo of the president rereading his address, or whatever. now there's always one photographer in the room while the speech is taking place. >> al: you have had many high moments during the five and a half years in the reagan and six years under obama where you were the photographer. one of the greatest highs you couldn't take the picture and that's when you were married in the rose garden with barack obama in attendance.
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it must have been a thrill. >> well, i haven't really talked about this at all publicly. and i'll just say this, i was honored that the president who has now become a friend hosted our little ceremony in the rose garden. we had just a wonderful short ceremony, and then went off campus as we call it and had a good party. >> al: this has been a lovely conversation but i'm going to close with one really, really tough question. that october last year, what was the biggest thrill for you, getting married in the rose garden or being at fenway park and watching the boston red sox in the world series? >> i can't hesitate on that question. >> al: it's not tough is it? it's not tough because i would get in trouble if i answered in any other way. it was getting married in the rose garden. >> al: you have an historic seat in history and you do it
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specially. thanks for being with us. >> thanks for having me. >> charlie: for more about this and earlier episodes, visit us online at and captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh explore new worlds and new ideas
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