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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 21, 2009 8:45am-9:30am EST

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george w. bush on january 1, 2005, january 20th, but he was taken in a wheelchair to the edge of the platform and he barely got out and got back, but my march, he went to the court and that's the only thing he did. i mean, you have to understand that this man had a tube -- many tubes in his throat at one time. by the time he went to the court, he may have been down to one, that came out his neck. he never ate a meal through his mouth from the day he was operated on until the day he died and he still came down to that court, he still met with his clerks and wrote opinions, his chief of staff and that's a different job, that's a woman who happened to be a woman, who is his -- who takes care of his -- he's the c.e.o. of the federal court system which has 6,000 employees, i think, and so the chief of staff doesn't deal with the supreme court in terms of decisions, but deals with his
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administrative details. and he -- he wanted to continue this. and you have to also understand, he was 14 years an associate justice, and for only the second time, an associate justice became a chief justice and i don't think this happened while -- i think he worked very hard to make this happen. so i mean, wasn'ted the job, he enjoyed the job, i don't think he was a burden at all. i'm sure some days it was a burden. >> thank you. thank you all for your kind attention. again, the book, "rehnquist" is available and we'll make it easy. if you want to sign them t we'll do it here, books are for sale outside and we'll continue our conversation with him afterwar afterwards. to you again for your attention. >> herman obermayer was editor
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of two newspapers. he's also a board member of the jewish policy center. to find out more visit jewish policy
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>> 14-year-old carla and 15-year-old terrance stood on the steps of little rock host in 1957. the two members of the little rock nine recall their participation in the integration of the arkansas high school and the years that follow. >> i have to tell you, it is such an honor to be sitting here signing my book at the table with carlotta walls and terrance roberts. when i started my journey as a professional writer in 1984, i could never imagine that i'd be signing books with two recipients of the congressional gold medal, the highest civilian on horin the united states, and i am humbled to be here. but i'm also proud to be here, to be with them. this book, it's an interesting
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book, because national geographic has a series called "remember" and the whole idea in the series is to tell stories as much as possible through eyewitness accounts and contemporary photographs. now the first two books that i wrote in the series, were called "remember little big horn" and "remember the almow," now how i became the national geographic expert on eyewitness accounts on battles of where everybody died, i don't know, but as the curator at the alam ho said, everybody has to have a niche. i've wret 10 a lot of history and this is the first book i've ever written where lots of people were still hey -- alive and that was a wonderful, wonderful experience. i got to be good friends with terrance roberts, who wrote the introduction to the book and served as my mentor to make sure that i had it right, and the man hue script was actually -- manuscript and was actually read by four others of the little
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rock 9. minnie jean read it and i interviewed her for many hours and that was really fun and gloria ray carlmark and i wrote e-mails back and forth to sweden and she was very, very helpful, including she sent me a pdf of a note that was left on her desk and it's in the book, first time it's ever been published, remember the pape famous, one dn eight to go, and i had never seen that and i'm honored to be the first person to be able to publish that, so being close with some of the little rock 9 was wonderful. i also got to be close with a number of the white students, including particularly the handful of white students who really laid their own lives on the line to support the little rock nine, and i'd like to honor one of them, who happens to be here today. what's your name? no.
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robin wood, who is on the back cover, with a wonderful quote and she befriended terrance in math class and shared her book with him, and suffered a lot for it, and she and her husband harry had become great friends and i have to tell you a little story, terrance told me he about robin and said, you ought to interview robin, so i called robin, i live in california and i said i'm coming back out to little rock to do more research and i'd like to interview you, and she said, why don't you just stay with us. and i said oh my god. i've never met this woman and she said, she invited me to stay in her home and she said, a friend of terry is a friend of mine and i had become very close friends with robin and harry and i'm here at the chateau louckes again. so working with people who are a part of the story was a remarkable experience, because
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of course, i can't interview davey crockett, i can't interview sitting bull. they were interviewed and that's what i used. now there is another side of this, ok? i worked with some people and none of the ones i've mentioned yet, who you know, they had issues with the way i used their quotes and the way i interviews deuced their -- introduced their quotes and there was a moment when i thought i'm going to keep working with dead people, because davey crockett can't send me an e-mail and say i don't like the way you introduced my quote. i try to be as honest as i can be, but it's kind of a balancing act with you're working with people who have lived it, right, because you have to try to get the truth right, but you don't want to out anybody's feelings, you know, you just have to walk a fine line and you also have to try to tell the bigger picture the best you can, and it was an amazing experience, and actually, having come back to little rock and seeing how many friends i have here, i think i'm going to keep writing about five people, thank you. [applause]
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>> all right. well, i thank you, laura and all of the staff here at little rock central high school historic site for putting this event together tonight. we've talked about this over a period of time, and just kind of wonderful that it has finally happened. you know, this story is about my high school days, and it's not about the first integration that took place in the south. it is however about a school integration which found its way repeatedly in the national spotlight. it was a showdown between
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states' rights and federal law, between the arkansas governor and president dwight d. eisenhower, of the united states, between nine kids, who wanted to go to school. they had to be accompanied by 1200 soldiers to escort them inside the school. that really became the second largest headline in 1957. the first being sputnik, and then president eisenhower's biggest domestic crisis, that took place here during his presidency. and what i'd like to do is a little bit different. and maybe not, but i want to just read to you a couple of pages in my book. i took something from the prologue and also, took a piece
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from classifying the groups of kids that i encountered at little rock central high school once i got inside, and then finally, a few pages that will introduce the most horrific night of my life, the night my home was bombed. in my senior year. and according to the local daily, the arkansas gazette,ism the first integrating student in the country to have her home bombed. few people of my age will have more than one good friend from high school. i'm grateful to have at least eight. : in the
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background and swallowed great risk and suffering. they were the ones who had ingrained in me the quiet confidence that jim crow be damned. i was not a second-class citizen. it was that confidence that told me i deserve the quality education the supreme court said i was do. the confidence that studied my feet to divide the racists that defied me at school every day. my parents bequeathed to me the confidence of their fathers, both hard-working black entrepreneurs in control of their economic lives.
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my family may have seemed unlikely candidates for involvement in the movement that was barking nationwide change but then again that is the point of this sparking nationwide cha but then again that is the point of this book. to show that determination and the ability to change the world is not reserved for special people. sometimes i have thought about how much easier survival would have been if more people had taken a chance. as i saw it the students at central fell into different categories. the smallest group was the easiest to identify, those students determined to make our lives miserable, the tormentors, their female cohorts and the other callie students who clung to their groups in their evil efforts to push us out. they were the ones who called us
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needs, spat on as, put an slam this into lockers and down stairs. maybe it was their parents who helped make up the segregationist crowds that hung on to the wrongheaded belief that somehow it belonged to them and the nine of us were causing trouble by having the audacity to keep showing up. the second group included those students who were clearly sympathetic. even if they did not outwardly show it or jump to our defense in times of trouble, you could tell by the kind of his that seemed to say i am really sorry this is happening to you. sometimes they offered a shy smile in the hallways or in class or slid a quiet note of support to one of us under cover. the majority of the students of into a third group, those who kept silent. they wanted all the trouble to end.
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they did not torment us but they didn't extend themselves to us in any way either, not even quietly. they did not want to be associated with one side or the other. they chose to remain neutral as if remaining neutral in the face of evil were an acceptable and just choice. they turned away and rendered us in visible. they are the ones today who when asked about the class of 1957 try to reinvent history. things at central and not as bad as the nine of us have said, the of recall that recent years. the mobs were not as big, the bad guys and girls weren't as bad and the atmosphere wasn't as tense. of course that is how they remember the central journey these 50 years later. when i was suffering in hallowed halls they turned away, they did nothing, day said nothing, they
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chose not to see. there was another group that in my mind, the greatest of all, those teachers and students who at times were openly kind, who looked beyond skin color and see nine students eager to be part of a great academic institution. you would think i would -- i had it all here. when i made it to my bedroom on february 9th, 1960, it was raining mud. at least that is how it appeared to me with heavy rain and wind slapping at the house. of the window and saw 6 droplets of rain sliding down the windowpanes. it was 9:30.
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the house was quiet. debt happen come home from his job. lana and tina were asleep in their room. the radio was tuned to one of my favorite stations which broadcasts nightly from nashville. it was one of a few stations that brought the sounds of black rock and roll, rhythm-and-blues and jazz artists. little richard, jesse james, to places they had never been before, the homes and lives of my white peers throughout the nation. it took away when i imagined my white classmates at central were listening secretly too.
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i particularly enjoyed a program called randy's record highlights which aired after 10:00. as i changed into my pajamas my mind felt at ease. i made it to the home stretch at central. for weeks things had been calm. no protesters or major incidents. graduation was less than four months away. i finally stopped sulking after the rejection from antioch and decided on a college. my decision making process had been quite simple. i accepted the first school that wrote to me with good news after the big letdown. michigan state wanted me right then and i was eager to be wanted. after such disappointment i had been in no mood to wait to hear from my second and third choices. by the time the acceptance letters came from the university of california i have already settled on going to michigan
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state. before getting lost among thousands of students on campus. the could come and go as i please and no one would even notice. finally i would have a normal life. dancees, even a boyfriend. had missed out on so much at central. i could hardly wait to end this chapter of my life and start a new. for the moment it was bedtime. i clicked off the light in my room, climbed into bed with my thoughts and was serenade to sleep. i was shaken by a thunderous boom. the house shook and i could hear grass crashing to the floor in the front of the house. i sat up with my hands gripping the sides of my bed. a was frozen in place. we went around the pitch black room. was i dreaming?
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the explosion had come from the front. my little sister's, mother, i had to find them. i leaped out of bed. as soon as my bare feet land on the floor i took off running through my bedroom. my first stop was the dan outside my bedroom door. it was dark and still. i turned toward the hall and ran to the front of the house. i was halfway up the hall when i saw them standing in there not got -- nightgowns with mother appealed the end of the hole. they were dazed and bewildered but unhurt. we stared at one another too shaken even to speak. tina's eyes move from other to me searching our faces for clues. 8 haze of smoke floated through the darkness from the living room to the hallway where police stood. the smoke hurt my eyes and an unfamiliar sound filled the air. it smelled as if something had blown up in the chemistry lab.
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inside i was trembling. i felt helpless and horrified. everything would be okay. i felt a sense of responsibility that i need to step up and make the situation right but i do not know how. i could feel real panic rising in my throat. i had the odd thought that the one who always felt to her heart work would make everything ok, who had believed anything was possible and she stood firm. now at a total loss. the sound of my mother's police, she was called, call your daddy. i hope you guys that are here
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today will purchase the book to discuss it with us. share it, win something from it and the year. >> the process of writing a book is all consuming. i worked on it for many years. someone asked me recently why are you releasing it now as if i had anything to do with when the publishers would accept it or release it. i talked to my sister about it during the process and she said back off. it is not about you and setting a timetable. it will present itself. i believed her. and beautifully got into the process of doing it. it was the gut wrenching process at times as i explained to some
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people earlier. one of the reasons for the delay was bumping into the kind of stuff you stickup when you go through an experience like the one we had at central high school. there's a tendency to collect a lot of stuff and you take it with you through the years. it is necessary to take that stuff away. writing the book was in part a bit of walking away but now that it is in print, i can do other things. i am glad we are here tonight because we have a chance to talk about the questions you might have for us about the things you have wondered about that went on at central high school and we have a chance to interact. one of the things i like about this kind of gathering is that we have a chance to relate to each other. high am convinced that relationship is the key to resolving our problems.
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we have to say hi to each other. the building blocks -- i dream about that at times. a canned talk about that after i watch cnn. i keep seeing this guy from alabama, sessions. you can determine what is going on side the skull of a person by the verbiage in or out of his mouth. i get that. it causes me to have murderers thought. i am a peaceful person. i don't want to hurt anybody.
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never have. i am indeed glad we have this opportunity and i look forward to interacting with several of you. thank you. >> does anybody have questions? anyone? >> pay attention. >> i am a social worker. and you trained as a social worker. i love social work. there's a reason we come to social work. i would be curious if you would say something about whether your background let you in that
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direction and i wonder why did you leave and go into psychology? >> that is a good question. >> i had this notion that as a person, interested in resolving social problems, i could do it best from some financial standpoint. i was disappointed with my fellow search workers -- social workers because that particular crowd seemed to be more interested in doing psychotherapy. they wanted to learn great sums of money. that was not my goal. but i figured this psychotherapy stuff was interesting. why don't pick it up. psychologists are pretty good people. it was overwhelming.
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we had a social work background so i survived. >> i am at central and i and class. we have stories all the time. my question was even though all this stuff was going on did you still feel like a regular student -- you were rated -- >> we never worried about that stuff. you are a smart kid.
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>> not so much that. as far as being tested, tested so much prior to that that testing was a part of it. we didn't have a normal high school. >> it was very abnormal, absolutely. >> any other questions? >> last night -- when i heard dr. robert speak on ask this question. when the nine of you, i am asking you the question, after he graduated and had a normal life, was there ever a time, not that you wish you weren't one of the nine but it's almost like a shroud or all is being one of the nine. or you have children.
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you just want to have a normal life. was there ever a time when it felt like heavy burden even though it was historical? >> that is what i am saying. i didn't have a normal high-school life. i picked a college for the wrong reasons. that was just to get lost. that was that way for me for almost 30 years. it was not until we came back for the thirtieth anniversary that i was somewhat forced to start talking about it. that is pretty much all the whole thing got started. i never introduced myself as one of the little rock nine. at the thirtieth anniversary a friend of mine coming up to me upset that we had been friends
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for 20 years and he never knew that part of my life. cnn documented it on the thirtieth anniversary. >> i am honored and privileged that you did tell your story. it is remarkable to all of us sitting here this evening and i thank you for finding the courage to write the book that you did. i thank you. [applause] >> my family and i -- this is my daughter -- moved to arkansas in 1958. we live in fayetteville. i was politicized by this issue and educated by the great editor
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of the old arkansas gazette. my question is, we whites are more sensitive now than we were 50 years ago. assuming that is true, maybe it is not. if it is, what is the cause? to a certain extent the laws in the country. i don't think the churches have helped much but maybe they have. >> it depends on the extent to which the we extend. to goes beyond your personal circle i doubt that it would apply. to the extent that it does, what made it happen was your own personal choice and conviction to step beyond the ordinary, not to follow the crowd, not to get into the peer pressure, to be just like those folks that we all look at and think where did
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they come from? very good. >> i would like to turn that around to you. in 1958, your daughter couldn't even go to school. why would you do that? were you in high-school? >> i was starting junior high. >> you moved to fayetteville. okay. anybody who moved here, i had to question that. that was the only reason i brought that up. >> question in the back.
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>> thank you. as we noted today, you guys were not the first to integrate a school district, the mere presence of national focus on you help catalyze other movements. as we forward 50 years later, one immortalized population's going through the same struggles and do you think we need to have a national spotlight on a few to move those populations forward? >> a don't think so necessarily. what we need is a recognition that we do not have a society that is equal, if there is a such thing as a level playing field, that we are indeed not colorblind and should not be. why would you voluntarily disable yourself in the first place and miss out on the richness of who we are?
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once we come to that understanding we can see what problems need to be resolved and and and if we want to resolve those problems we will. we don't need to have a group spotlighted and use that as a catalyst for other actions. if that makes sense. >> the more specific question, whether it is gay or lesbian people or a muslim being expressed and an institutional -- >> the issue is not who is being oppressed but some people are being oppressed. i resist the notion of singling out groups for that reason. running around with banners and supporting us as opposed to them, i think it is about understanding that in a just society nobody is oppressed for
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any reason. >> can i comment on that briefly? i was in san diego county 40 miles from the mexican border. the first stop for illegal immigrants. i am just stunned by the things that my neighbors say and think about them. they don't understand. unfortunately i speak spanish and i can talk to them more. they come from -- doctors and lawyers, what they are really all about our people with opportunity. i don't have the answer to your question but i would say that is one of the oppressed minorities and that is a legal issue. >> another question in the back. >> in the aftermath of the past
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50 years, what is your personal level of well-being about the crisis? >> my personal level -- i was insane than -- i was saying then and i think i am saying now. a lot of people -- the number of questions that i get from high-schools and colleges -- when it is over with, you don't seem like you are angry or hateful or all of that. i was not taught that at home. i had to look at these people,
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including government -- that is where i was. where i was coming from. i think i was saying even at 14, i had the right to be there. i kept my sanity by doing that. that might not work for the other eight but it worked for me. that is the way i dealt with it. >> dr roberts, you are a psychologist. i use a in? >> i truly doubt it. >> would you know if you were in
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st.? >> thank you for coming to my school. it was an awesome moment. with students falling through the cracks without the obstacles you had, what are your thoughts and what are some things you can share that we as a community can reach out to say to them today the obstacles that you are facing right now, you can't compare them to what you went
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through, you persevered. because of your background and what you have gone through, you have some awesome things that you can share with us as teachers and students and that will make a difference. >> as i talk to your class, i had to give a background of myself and that is what i tried to do with this book. i feel that history will continue to repeat itself as we break the chain of some of the things that have gone on. one thing the nine of us had, it might be missing, a lot of kids today in that family unit.
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we all had a strong family unit. i keep hearing this excuse of white people can't do things. the extended family that you have, weather is a neighborhood. we put education high enough to
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that. remember getting up when i was 3 or 4 years of age. i had to go through all of that. his statement to me was to put a roof on my head. my job was to go to school and do well and you just didn't come home with that. the neighborhood was supporting that. my teachers supported that. i think that we need to get back to the basics. >> i support that. also point out that in this
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country that we live in, education is not seen as a high priority. that is a problem. if you have parents who want to push their kids to excellence in education and yet we have a society that means other things to be more important, the acquisition of large sums of money or flashy accouterments that reflect sunlight. that is a problem. >> one question that follows up on that, i study education. facing history and ourselves, you met with many students and as you have been meeting with students today and as you have
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been talking about your book and meeting with students today, what kind of response have you received? can you respond -- things they have said to you today about this experience that you have had? >> it is very clear to me, from some white students, not all, but some white students are angry. they have a anchor because they didn't learn about this. why didn't i know about this? why am i just getting this in high school or college? catalog of college students step up, pure anger. one said there was no way he could have participated in the manner that we did.
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in other words, retaliate. you have that privilege to do that. we didn't. that has stood out in my mind more than anything else. it makes me feel good in a sense. what they had been taught, i thought i was getting the best education possible. that is what they were thinking when they found out we missed on a lot and we have missed out on a lot. that is one of the first things that comes to mind. >> it makes sense. and others thing i have seen in this continuum of students from all ages. at one end -- they have no interest in learning anything and on the other end, those who want everything they can learn now and everything else in
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between. the message i give to teachers, they are involved in this process, we have to get rid of the label teacher because it implies something is known, you have something you know that you can teach and i don't think that is true. i think teachers have to be learners. they have to model learning. they have to master of the process of learning in the presence of the students so they can see learning as it takes place. then they are highly motivated. they're not motivated by someone who stands up and pretends to know stuff. that doesn't work. >> i would like to add a thought. when my editor at national geographic asked to write this book the number one thing she said is kids today, it will be unfathomable to them that you d


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