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tv   Discussion on Private Lives and Public Image of the First Ladies  CSPAN  May 2, 2015 9:15am-10:46am EDT

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look for these titles in bookstores this coming weekend watch for the authors in the near future on booktv. >> up next from the national archives in washington d.c. a panel of historians explore the lives of the nation's first lady's. this panel coincides with the release of c-span's latest book "first ladies: presidential historians on the lives of 45 iconic american women". >> now, on with tonight's program. c-span's history series, first ladies influence a damage the interviews with more than 50
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preeminent historians and biographers. in the recently released, informative book, these experts paint intimate portraits of all 45 first ladies, their lives ambitions and unique partnerships with their presidential spouses. this series and the book provides an up close historical look at these fascinating women who survive the scrutiny of the white house sometimes at great personal cost while supporting their families and famous husband's and sometimes changing history. our program tonight will feature a live discussion with some of these contributing historians who we will hear about shortly. to moderate the program we are pleased to welcome susan swain the moderator of c-span's first lady's influence and image. susan swain is president and
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cozy e o of c-span sharing responsibilities for all operations of the public affairs cable network. she oversees programming and marketing for c-span's three television channels and c-span radio and she helped launch the washington journal booktv and american history tv. she has also been involved in the creation of numerous c-span history series such as american presidents, the lincoln douglas debates and american writers. for over 30 years she has been one of c-span's principal on-camera interviewer is. most recently on april fourteenth, first lady was released as a book by public affairs books featuring a collection of her interviews from the television series. it is the ninth book susan has
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edited for c-span in public affairs and as you noticed when you came in we have copies of the book available for sale after the program and she will be signing copies for you. let me turn the podium over to susan swain and tonight's program. [applause] >> good evening. thank you for being here. i see a lot of familiar faces in the audience and appreciate you braving the traffic when there's a cats game and for those watching at home on c-span thanks for being with us. so many of you are with us for the first lady c-span is fun to revisit these topics again. as jim told you, what i want to start with is a quote from abigail adams. when she sent john off to the continental congress she sent him with an exhortation, john tour remember the ladies.
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tonight we're going to do that socs she should be happy. the lives of these first ladies are often forgotten and they shouldn't be because they're very interesting. they made an enormous contribution to our history. what we had to do with the series was personalize their history and what we will do tonight is to tell you some of those stories along with wonderful video from and film from the national archives collection and some of their historic photographs and clips from our own series of we hope we will inform you entertain you and along the way inspire you to ask questions because there 30 minutes set aside at the end for your involvement in things you are interested in. our goals tonight are to learn about first lady's contributions to the presidency and since we are embarking on a new presidential campaign can you believe it is time for that already? we are already looking at candidates, thousands because the clinton entrance into the campaign changes the whole dynamic in what our definition might be so that is something we will be thinking about as well.
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to wet your appetite for what you are going to see ahead before introduce our panelists are want to show you a priceless piece of film from the national archives collection from the truman library 1945 national airport, a place we know very well, when bess truman, brand new first lady was asked to do a very early event to christened an air ambulance. watch what happens, take a look. >> at the national airport ambulances, ready to be christened by mrs. harry s. truman and her daughter margaret who will do the honors in their first public appearance. mrs. truman -- the champagne bottle on like this one hasn't been properly prepared. to break the glass on impact.
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mrs. truman, unaware that hers is not prepared. [laughter] >> let's see. [laughter] [applause]
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>> mrs. truman kept recall as you can see but guess what she was feeling inside? morgan the embarrassed. what happened as a result of that is the elected not to do any more public appearances. that is not a possibility for women today who holds this role because with the next presidency the eisenhower administration began falling first ladies everywhere. bets truman was the last 2 good of a private life as much as she could when she was in the white house but this is a great entrance into what we are talking about tonight about women who are sometimes thrust into these roles by history and have to learn to adapt to the glare of the spotlight. i have four fabulous panelists i want to introduce to you tonight. you heard there were 56 people involved in our television series yearlong series from presidents day 2013 to presence they 2014. when we put them together in the book the reason we did the book is because there are lots of books on first ladies but never such a broad collection of
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various points of view under one set of covers and we are delighted to have four the people who were part of that process. first you will meet carl sferrazza anthony, historian of the national tryst ladies library in camden, ohio. i can't count the number of first ladies somewhere over a dozen that he has written and has lots of also online material about the man he is joining us from los angeles. let me welcome you. [applause] >> edna greene medford is local. cheese the chair of the history department at howard university. much published herself, she is not lincoln expert specializing in the civil war and reconstruction and she has had an incredibly busy year. she was part of the national commission on the lincoln centennial celebration. carl cannon is in my seat but i would have explained it. she spent the entire year with the commission attended all of
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those lincoln events up as sad as we were to reach the anniversary of lincoln's exploration, breathing a little sigh of relief to reclaim some of her time backs and let me introduce edna greene medford of howard university. [applause] >> i managed to do something no moderator should do. i have two panelists by the same first name so let me introduce carl cannon. carl cannon is washington bureau chief of real clear politics. he covered everything will presidential campaign since 1984 and has covered the white houses since then. he is an author himself biographer and also a historian. if any of you sign up for his daily politics morning briefing you get the daily politics but always with a history lesson because he loves history becomes by this passion for newspaper and politics honestly. his father lou cannon covered ronald reagan as a governor in california and was ronald
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reagan's biographers of the grew up in that environment, great friend of c-span as are all our panelists, carl cannon. [applause] >> our final panelists is someone i had just gotten to me over the past two years working on this series krissah thompson. i hope you read her byline in the washington post. use the reporter covering michele obama and has written many detailed stories. eagle as she finished the story on first gentlemen which is perfect for our discussion tonight which is in tomorrow's newspaper. in addition to covering laura bush she has covered laura bush as well as michele obama and is beginning as i said to look ahead to the new crop of candidates and she joins us to bring the journalist's modern-day perspective to this discussion, krissah thompson. [applause] >> i know many of you bring your cellphones to these. we have a twitter account set up
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to date so as i mentioned the questions are going to be at the one hour point but if you see some interesting topic along the way and you want to send us a tweet i will get the right here. i promise not to be too distracted by that. i will mix in your twitter questions as well for our c-span audience watching at home. you see tag@first ladies and i will be getting them and using them throughout this section. welcome, everybody. we are going to start each of our sections tonight with clips. the first one is delving into our major topic tonight which is the duality of public life and private life. all of these women have been forced into by circumstance, some of them have been partners along the way, other history entrusted to the world but we have a lot in this role and let us start with that clip from an interview on c-span with michele obama when she was new into the role talking about the balance between private life and public responsibility. let's watch.
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>> perspective to this job. if you didn't you couldn't live. to the extent of being on any levels that would ever have thought living in the white house udf first lady would feel natural is because i try to make it easy. i try to bring a little bit of michele obama into this but at the same time respecting and valuing the tradition that is america. >> this is not a new concept. in the book what we do is include one quote from every first lady to start a chapter and on want to share the quote we chose for martha washington, the first in this role. i never go to the public place she wrote. i am more like a state prisoner than anything else. there are certain sets that i must not depart from and as i
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cannot do as i like, i am obstinate and stay at home great deal. morrison 100 years later grace coolidge in the white house roads is. thinking about her role, she said this was i and yet not i. this was the wife of the president of the united states and she took precedence over me. my personal like and dislike must be subordinated to the consideration of those things that were expected or required. it is something first ladies have been struggling with and how to maintain a sense of self with all these responsibilities thrust upon them. >> so happy you began discussions this way because it really goes down to the very root of what has always been a matter of fascination. not only for the american public but the world public. as you know you heard so often
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from foreign journalists who were interested in the role of first lady and we are going to see perhaps at some point certainly the role of a first gentleman. it really isn't just about gender. it is about unaccountable power. as you said those thrust into it so early on, you have to remember nineteenth century there was a real sense of woman's name should not be in public so the whole concept of first lady was like a real conflict for who they whereas people to have this public interest in their lives but jackie kennedy said it best. she said in the 1960 campaign she said you did three or four stories that are real about yourself that illustrate a point a good point about yourself or your family and you let them get out and that is it
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and you'd tell the same stories and over and over again and try to use that and that is how much of your real self you give to your persona. >> we didn't have media coverage anywhere near what we have today and even the early first lady's fog the glare. ..
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they have shared with us a few stories but the peace of themselves behind. michelle obama does that as well. you see her enjoying the role. she enjoys. that will continue. she and she and her husband are young, so they are not going anywhere.
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>> every man. named carl. [laughter] >> that either makes it easier difficult. looking over 1st ladies since 1984 have any of them really struggled with this duality? >> the clip that you showed up michelle obama -- excuse me, the two quotes mrs. obama gave an interview yesterday and hit on both of those themes. what don't you like? well, you can't go out. did you always want to be a 1st lady. no, i wanted to be a pediatrician.
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to me she has embraced the role and they come away. hillary clinton was an exception. she saw it as a stepping stone and often talked about, roosevelt. eleanor roosevelt could have run did have run for president. they would have handed her the nomination. in terms of embracing all of this michelle obama is a transformational figure. alexis is watching this program, you still have to
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be objective, but i don't. >> transformational, but no one who followed her did what she did. >> the 1st african-american first lady. we talked about that. she is also something even broader than, the 1st post- title ix first lady. she walks with a kind of confidence. you see these studies. girls will they are little are just like the boys. just as good athletes than they get to the engage with a slouch into this. michelle obama doesn't do that. she has a physical confidence. her self-confidence to me as a person is an inspiration. >> very briefly on to that
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it is easy and fascinating when we all have a public figure the fact of their story and how often we forget. michelle obama has perhaps the greatest degree of executive experience before coming to the white house is labor johnson. when i look at what you said , one reason a lot of these people are willing to give it up to the privacy and the intrusion is that opportunity to make a permanent change in the way the american people think will perceive something. we're talking about some profound things here. profoundly profoundly change the way americans think
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about the visual environment as well as the safety of it. she was part of that. she gave velocity to that movement that will be eat. fifty years people might forget. but she is a part of that. a chance to do that. >> there is often a learning a learning curve thinking about modern 1st ladies that we have all seen. nancy reagan thought that it would be like sacramento and it was not quite the same. >> she didn't really like sacramento that much.
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[laughter] betsy reagan got to tough press coverage. the 1st first lady to get the press coverage, and i'm willing to be corrected on this, mary todd lincoln the sectarian nature, she is fair game, southern sympathizer spendthrift a hysteric. the piece five years ago but was mary todd lincoln bipolar? we are still beating up on her. her. nancy reagan get some of that coverage when she 1st arrived. we will wait to show people. i am thinking about an example with hillary clinton during the campaign early on i will last and by and stay home and bake cookies. how did she recover from the learning curve of presenting herself that way?
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>> i we will say i will say this. he writes with john mccain and is his alter ego. with the lewinsky story 1st broke it was walking down the street with a cigarette in his mouth and says can this guy take a punch or what. he was talking about clinton i would say the same thing about hillary clinton. i will take everything you can dish out and pay it back with interest. >> in 92 she was one of the 1st presidential candidates to participate in the cookie bake-off recipe contest. part of how she responded was she softened her image. she was game for putting out a cookie recipe after she said i don't sit around baking cookies. i was the kind of trade-off the 1st
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ladies have to make. >> would think about how little political experience she will but i remember the comments she made. what happened? was there major pullback or regrouping? >> she did not have much of a team. she was winging it and being herself what she had always done. in audiences she was in small places, iowa new hampshire. they were responding. this time it was caught on television. the press corps had largely ignored because they were still covering the primaries, primaries, they tuned in at that 2nd and the campaign's response was to start to send her some advisers so that she would
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have some guidance. you are not talking to your girlfriend, not even just talking to the people in that room but america is. matter of making sure she's dating line with what the entire campaign was doing was hoping in changing like everyone else. we else. we saw her flow into that, and she has talked about herself as being a planner and perfectionist and worried a a great deal that she would harm her husband's campaign. we see her almost -- it was not a complete 180 because she was not a horrible campaigner but in terms of not talking about him leaving his socks around or that he is snoring of those they start to come out. the ideas are still there, but they are in a much more palpable fashion's.
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>> did become more cautious but she still retained a part of herself. she is still michelle obama. i think that is what is so likable about her. she has now become the political wife. i think that is what we appreciate about her. it is her. it is true for many of the most popular 1st ladies who may have been willing to support their husbands but did not give their all but did not give up everything. >> a nice segue into the two major categories for those who are themselves political habit of their have it in their bones and find a partner and go along for the ride willingly and than
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later on we'll talk about the ones who may be history thrust into the role and had to learn to adapt. let's start with those political partners. this is from the national archives of the lbj library and is a doozy. this is an audio clip. you might have known that lyndon johnson taped off his cell phone conversations in the white house. she lady bird did not know she was being taped for making a record for history commended is quite a wonderful one for scholars. this is scholars. this is a conversation or ladybird is critiquing lyndon johnson's performance in a public event. >> i thought that it was
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wrong. an honorable you were looking down. there was a pickup in general. your facial expression. they didn't like it's he said.
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[laughter] >> therein lies the reason we talk about 1st ladies. what other advisor could be that candid to a president? >> you spencer maybe. >> what are we hearing? >> they owned television stations. she had the background. with his 1st ladies in some ways are to their husbands whether it is in an official capacity or not. she wants them to be as successful as he does. >> and that clip shows you when you talk about this the various attributes that they bring to the table mrs. johnson like mrs. obama thinks it a very organized way.
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very well structured. famous for i don't have a schedule. i like i like to do think spontaneously. different ones bring different things. she had a degree in journalism. her love of writing, cadence was in its but also the media experience. and that is really political it is a policy but it ends up having a political result >> this is not a new phenomenon. we had an image from the administration. go back in time. this was a time when women were supposed to stand in her sphere. >> this was a time the cult of womanhood when women were
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appendages to their husbands not supposed to have political ideas of their own certainly not supposed to voice them if they did. she had ended voice them. she reviewed the speeches were actually tried to influence people to see things his way, try to influence him as well, as she did. she is definitely stepping outside of that role of the average your typical woman of what was expected of her. she and other 1st ladies of that era did not always follow that pattern of you are to be the hostess at a party and it is okay to
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give these parties because they are political. they are not just entertainment. there is not just this emptiness. but she goes much further than that. she is not terribly interested in the parties but she is interested in the politics and does help her husband to get what he wants to be's supporting the whole idea of manifest destiny. in terms of support for him at home. >> one quote in the book : emergent congress of the time saying to the president, i would rather talk politics with your wife and with you. i have another image. talking about how we were discussing her mental capacity. she was a political partner to abraham lincoln. >> i suspect if we had tape-recorded back then you would have heard a lot of
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conversations like that's. the tipster and says mary, mary, we one. when grant is inaugurated he is slightly more. he turns to he turns to julia grant and says well, my dear i hope your satisfied. [laughter] we think maybe she pushed him a little bit to run. i think those conversations you don't take your spouse without telling him. true. i bet there are all kinds of conversations you would you like that in the campaign not just the white house. >> once they got there she was set out. >> totally. she was a seven or. the states were still there 's. she had relatives fighting
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on the side of the confederacy. she could never be trusted. it was alleged she was a spy, she spent too much money, she acted less than saying sometimes. and she embarrassed her husband in public which is something 1st ladies were not supposed to do. but you have to understand what is going on. a a woman who lost her son before she got to the white house, lost another in the white house a husband that a husband that was not always easy to get along with. we sometimes forget that lincoln had his tricks as well. a woman who is very bright, who understands politics and loves politics but she was born a woman. so so she does not have the ability to do what her husband can do so by virtue of the fact that she was born the wrong gender.
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she is living vicariously through him. she wants him to be president, but she certainly did not anticipate the kind of vilification she would get once you get to the white house. >> we will fast-forward. eleanor roosevelt ends up in a lot of these categories. >> they were driven by the same principles. people get so petty and looking at people who have been married for so many years. yes, he had a physical and emotional relationship with her personal secretary during world war i. it was traumatic, no question. but when she pulled away and looked at it she realized there is no one else i share values with like i do with him.
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they believed and they believed and were both progressive even though they were democrats very much like theodore roosevelt, and that is what led them to work together. it was also like because of his physical disability. she believed he was talented and she believed more in his talent and how it really thought, you cannot lay fallow. you must lead. that is the try out for her role as 1st lady. with the depression heading and everything almost smashed she takes advantage of the vacuum command that is what she starts in. it is always under the guise of simply a devoted wife helped my husband, and in a way it was.
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she did not start developing her own agenda and told the 2nd and 3rd term, particularly on civil rights when he was always more political than saying this is what we can and can't do she always brought back to principle. while they continued as political partners to share the same values he often you know abandoned them for practicality. she she always was sticking with them in a more lofty way. >> let me move on. you will recognize the archetype. to modern 1st ladies both political partners but they approach it very differently these are from c-span interviews.
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[inaudible] [inaudible] >> a lot of people that i should not be making recommendations for legislation because they thought that that was somehow inappropriate. behind the scenes. to me i would want to know
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what goes on in front of the scenes because i am very much the kind of person that believes that you should know what you mean and do it you say and take the consequences, like anyone else. >> fascinating because there are so many ways to be political's. especially for a spouse to be political. hillary clinton as 1st lady set up an office in the west wing. a clear indication that she wanted to be political that behind the scenes but in public. she she was working on healthcare and spoke to the business roundtable and was a public figure in pushing this policy. nancy reagan able to express
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those views. michelle obama talked about the ways she influenced especially on issues like same-sex marriage and immigration and social policy. he kind of describes her as pricking his conscience on those things you have to see 1st ladies as political figures in that way. they choose to operate in the way that nancy reagan did. 's. >> and usually works out. that always for them. kind of understating it.
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but, the 1st lady always caused by the name. it conveys the kind of intimacy. this is the this is the person is nancy sedin is true of hillary clinton. the. the president knows the first lady has that interest he has confidence that their heart is in the right place. >> going to look at some 1st ladies who found themselves in the job that
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never really love politics and is another kind those that were shut out by the staff. will start with the one who had an interesting relationship's. this is her very minor speaking engagement. [inaudible]
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>> quite unusual for me. wonderful. [applause] >> so why did she end up in our reluctance? >> the reality of what was becoming modern politics and media the attack the question about stealing command i think she got disgusted with it. i think she always felt that
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she had been actually active and interested in politics before she married nixon. she she was a supporter of how smith, democrat's. roosevelt. they did the 1st can defend the 1st congressional campaign together. a little bit of inheritance. headquarters but over time she just really got disgusted with the way things worked. since the 1960 election broker they came so close. don't run, don't run not run. thanks for politics again. and of course he broke it. you know that ambition to know we were talking about a
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certain insanity to wanting to be president. so she was there and she saw and knew the opportunity. and the opportunity she had a very important one. he is recording a lot. still technically the shutter out. >> yes, she did not mind being shut out. tired of politics before she came to the white house. she thought they were done with the. all kinds of personal reasons. we showed that hilarious
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clip. that must have been a hard battle to break. she knew in grade school, a very good 3rd baseman hard for her mother's mental mother's mental health and never recovered from that. she did not even want to be here. she would come bring her mother to the white house. they would go back. she decided she had more important role in life than being an appendage to the president. i think we forget sometimes that these are people that have these burdens on the. >> yet a very important. after truman dropped the 1st atomic bomb she came back from missouri and advised him the night before
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he dropped the 2nd on nagasaki's. she was in on the big decision. >> i would like to kind of ask you to look back. who would be the women that were in this unhappy or reluctant process? >> foremost would be james pierce. she did not want her husband involved in politics. she certainly did not want to have the role of first lady. it is not even about being in the white house. she did not want to be in politics at all. her her husband had promised her that he would get out of politics and for a time he had. she fainted when she learned that he had one his party's nomination for presidency. she is coming to the white house with the loss of a child.
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so there is this woman in the white house who is suffering from depression because she is mourning the loss of a child for having to deal with all of the duties of being a political wife of being the 1st lady and and a husband who does not quite understand why she is so reluctant. a very unhappy first lady more than any of the others. >> we chose this picture because this was the son that she lost's. it was the other two. just before they came to washington. he died in front of their eyes in a train accident. the president ran down and carried the bleeding child back up. such a tragic story. how is apparent recover from that?
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>> being first lady to a president the country is in turmoil. this is the crucial decade. her husband is experiencing tension and she is a part of that. she does not want to be but has no choice. >> we have many other 1st ladies in this category. a great story of ida mckinley and others. i am running out of time. i'm going to move on. first ladies are taking advantage of the position this fabulous opportunity. how recent the phenomenon while we pursue with great anticipation? what will the cosby? expected that they will announce.
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how much politics and political considerations go into that decision? >> quite a bit. as the president is going from a candidate a candidate for president and has a transition team, 1st ladies are also doing that. michelle obama has talked about being back in her kitchen in chicago and thinking of up the inordinate the white house in developing this idea for how she would approach this topic of healthy eating in really pushing back against childhood obesity, taking this on as a cause. i think it is because the she has come to embody and personified. we know she is in dc working out and taking cycling classes. with children eating carrots and pulling of vegetables and also you no let's move which is what her campaign is called. there is a nonprofit attached to it.
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broker deals with walmart to get healthier food stores and with disney to pull some of the junk food ads off of children's television. these are not inconsequential things because she is first lady and this is a role. it is wrapped up in her doing push-ups with alan on daytime television and dancing at the easter egg roll. so you can really see the ways in which 1st ladies take on these issues. and for a first lady like michelle obama to want to push the issue in a way that is sustained and that makes for different but that does not feel like you are just hard policy's. she did also push the changes for school lunches
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which would through congress early on. >> i want to share of the video demonstrating that the formal adoption of the cause is a relatively recent phenomenon sometimes thrust upon them by life circumstances. betty ford talking about breast cancer. >> in a few weeks i will complete my tumor therapy treatment and that will be another milestone for me. since that 1st year i have not talked about my experience with cancer but at that time my discussion i was pleased to see it because it prompted a large number of women to go i get checkups in the local
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communities. >> to change the conversation in this country about cancer. >> absolutely she did, and it was personal. i think michelle obama made it personal and lady bird johnson made personal. that is where the commitment is. we only see the happy side of it. it. a lot of obstacles along the way. let me just add one quick little bastard. the party way back you do find that some of these women feel very passionately about issues. she was an animal rights advocate. 1921. she started for the brief time she was there to bring that issue, animal cruelty and propose the public schools adopt homeless animals and that it is a way of teaching little adults,
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humans, little children about treating other people. >> was it really nancy reagan and the just say no campaign? >> it was interesting. it was ridiculed. the kids listened. drug use in high school went down. i think we formalized it but it goes way back. it has always been they're. the other issue is getting the troops. martha washington did that. she was called lady washington by the troops. before lady bird there was on all wilson's bill, urban renewal for the poor. i think that this has always been a thing.
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we have codified in lately. first ladies have an interest. >> and what are some of the early examples? >> they may not always be full-blown causes, but even after she becomes first lady there are receptions for veterans and soldiers so concerned about them. you have mrs. fillmore responsible for developing the white house library. holly madison is involved in working with the orphans and getting her friends involved >> adams is talking about women's rights. her husband is the jimmy carter of the century. he is in the congress leading the argument against slavery. it's. >> it was reported in press one of the earliest recognitions by a white
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house behind the 1st health and safety regulation standards in the federal workplace. >> one more thing to we are not arguing with your premise. it is more formal than it used to be. this was an initiative that was a presidential initiative. now you have a first a first lady doing what presidents did before. has evolved and become much more formal. >> am going to go over a little bit and jump to one last question before we go to questions from the audience, 1st ladies in the media. i will start with the modern one answer the question of how nancy reagan turns around that negative. i don't know how many of you
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are around, she had a very unhappy receptions from the press corps. she went and disarmed them. you have heard of the gridiron dinner. >> she was known -- she but these designer dresses. queen nancy, marie antoinette. funny but cool. do we have a clip she goes to the gridiron people remember as a former thespian. she still the room. >> the reagan presidential library being interviewed by a very well-known political reporter telling the story of how she designed the press corps at the gridiron club's. [inaudible]
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[inaudible] i have a 5050 chance. [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] >> pretty easy.
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>> she got it. they were eating out of her hand after that. >> back in history, history, too quick images i want to show. they learn pretty early on to harness the news media to control images. caroline harrison here. this is a photograph she had a very well-known photographer and frances benjamin johnson to photograph her grandchild who became a global celebrity. and she one to to control the public image interest in her family. >> rather than have exploded >> and it works. >> that really. >> they were happening at the pictures and they still exploded them. >> he was a cartoon character, use like a little mascot.
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a little cartoon of this little boy with a big hat. >> another person who he tried this, using the same photographer. a photograph hiring the same photographer's. and she also wanted to control access. the same time the president love the coverage. >> and so the house was photographed picking up for weddings at the racetrack from her book he. then he called the new york "herald" editor angrily on the phone and insisted that he withdraws story. >> the 1st lady to hire a full-time press secretary. >> in formal terms jackie kennedy. but the others had functioned in that capacity.
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>> they knew they needed help. >> they knew they needed help. like mrs. hoover had 45 secretaries one very good at interfacing. that is out. but she did not have the title. >> this is just too much fun the white house correspondents dinner is coming up this week command it has become hollywood on the east. there have been times when 1st ladies of her husband's have used that to help enhance their image. let's watch laura bush. >> if you really want to end tyranny in the world you will have to stay up later. [laughter]
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>> i am married to the president of the united states. here is our typical evening. and i am watching stafford housewives. [laughter] 's ladies and gentlemen i am a stepford housewife. [laughter] >> kyle, there was a lot of criticism of the president's policies, especially among the press corps how did this technique of humor once again work to help the image? >> it didn't.
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we were at war and it it does not change the coverage about the big issues of the day, but when people can laugh at themselves true of nancy reagan, laura bush george bush, bill clinton.ronald reagan, it humanizes them in a way that can only help them. bill clinton came in and give a nasty speech criticizing bob dole. by the end he was hiring professional writers. making fun of himself being home alone the soul skip. the 1st ladies started it relatively recently. they don't make fun of themselves as exactly nancy did. they make fun of their husbands, that is considered okay. hillary clinton president and gives one of these beaches, they want to know what she says. >> this will be the last quote back to what they have today.
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it also is a difficult thing to manage because all they like people are commenting on the policies. let's watch. you have all seen this'. a nice way to end this part of the discussion to see how a modern president uses the tools we have to help advance policy can present their image of themselves. >> a, everybody. i am excited to talk to you about the anniversary. our theme this year is celebrating challenges. all the tremendous progress we have made. >> we are celebrating a big anniversary. >> it has been five years
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since we want sluts move. >> let's move. exactly what i was going to say. >> going to ask folks across the country. kids, parents, celebrities in the five ways to be healthy. push-ups, find a way to work habits into there daily routine. >> that's the. so everybody tweeted histogram it, facebook it's. pass on the challenge to someone else. >> are we still filming? >> yeah. and your tires on the ground >> what do to historians think about the state of the
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modern presidency? will be have them do. >> it's always been the state. whether it's andrew jackson with his big cape where harriet lane coming in and making a dramatic entrance to whatever the changing technology these people are experts, leaders, they know they are leaders, they intend to lead and own it is you saw ike and mindy do it. they know they are on it. >> the role has evolved over time, but the basics are always there whether it's martha washington of michelle obama. there are certain things we are expecting of them. but it changes according to circumstance.
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>> fire to journalists if any of you have questions find your way out. they doing this is a way to get around you. >> that is exactly right. you know the obama administration exists in a world where there is social media. the 1st administration to really utilize twitter, facebook, histogram, find come up interest, tumbler page when she was in japan and cambodia recently. and so when she was there she traveled with a youtube celebrity asked the questions which would but she did not sit down with traditional reporters.
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the way her stuff would explain it is she has a certain amount of time to do communication and she wants to meet people where they are. people are coming following her by the millions on twitter and are able to see the photos that they put out on a histogram and the power of being able to shape one's own image without the filter of the traditional media is there in a way that it was not before. i have interviewed michelle obama. she did more interviews with traditional media early on. and she is a good interview. frank, answer questions from all the things you would imagine. it is not a lack of capability. there is a power and being able to exercise the ability
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to get on magazine covers to be a late-night television to have daytime tv conversations that shape the conversation in a way that the white house is fully in control. >> we have to get the questions, questions, quick response. >> is nothing wrong with that. it is a good cause. we don't like them going around us on health care policy and syria. there is nothing wrong with that. that everybody could pull it off as well as they did. >> first question over here. >> there were reports or rumors that at least 21st ladies i no ran the country their husbands rail. mrs. wilson and nancy reagan. is that true? >> i would just say really sort of a quick response to that when you say the
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presidency you have to look at the different components of the presidency. one of it is making the final decision on things, sometimes approving things sometimes making the decision to not make a decision. sometimes firing, sometimes hiring. partially they assume some of that. of course a real agenda was to protect her husband. nancy reagan she worked in a sense, behaved fulfill the function that might be similar to a west wing a maybe senior advisor but not assuming the role. >> we realize the 1st lady, while the husband is
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in office is kind of stuck with the role. what happens to them afterward? how much privacy do they have? what is life like? >> time with laura bush last year. she was eager to talk about how much she is enjoying my post presidency. it was interesting it was interesting to watch her because she was very much shaped by an architect. i would not use the word reluctant necessarily. a quiet behind-the-scenes. now we see are traveling more. working on launching a global program that will bring 1st ladies around the world together. she she has done some of that in africa been in washington. she talked about the freedom of still having the platform which 1st ladies now do with the modern presidential library and foundations that they can use but do it in a
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way where she could choose to sit down with press for a few minutes. there is not the kind of like a privacy. >> that is a subject for another whole exploration. the influence that they continue to have. >> this great career. we talked about carter being cliché as a great ex-president. not everyone agrees with that. she has been right there with them. they monitor elections and build homes for habitat for humanity. >> not simply a partner. not necessarily for press per se but her work on mental-health goes back to the 70s when he was
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governor. she has really had an impact >> jimmy wrote a book and said -- he has written many books but said he was having the best sex was life. he was in his 70s. but i guess. [laughter] >> does she think the same? [laughter] 's. >> how do you follow that? [laughter] >> i have a question about lady bird johnson. she was active in her husband's war on poverty. head start for preschool. i wonder if you have a story or information?
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>> it was sargent shriver who worked with president kennedy's brother-in-law under the peace corps. then headed up the voluntary government private -- government when of the public-private partnership. and he came up with the idea he went to her. she backed it 100% became his percent became his spokesperson went to backboard and helped establish it. >> the highway transportation bill was called the lady bird bill. that is what johnson called it. where is lady bird's bill. although that clip although that clip you showed of her critiquing his speech, she may not have like that. when he when he signed lady bird's bill on october 22, 1965 he never mentioned her
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name. maybe that is how you get her back. >> here is a question from twitter. which 1st which 1st lady sought to be in portugal was the least successful? [laughter] .. but there were quite a few that
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she did not. >> what about lou hoover? >> very talented person but reticent to engage with the press and so she doesn't get her story out. >> we have that total weekend set up. >> she wouldn't even agree to do interviews with people to do pieces on her and a female reporter dressed up as a girl scout and crashed a meeting and wrote a story she was mad and would never talk to anybody ever again. >> there was the reason she dressed as a girl scout. lou hoover took on the girl scout as part of her major effort. she was trying to encourage volunteerism. >> it was successful at that. >> there is the photograph, radio broadcast about a girl scout trying to engage more people to get into their communities and help with a lot of trouble going on. you have a question over here? >> there has been this sort of interesting under current fiscal conversation about how ideas of femininity and the role of women
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in society influence expectations with in face when they become first ladies and that is partly why it seems like a paradigm shift, potentially having a first husband and of course there are first spouses around the world for women who are beaters so i would love to hear what you have to say about if you were advising the clintons, how should they approach that potential certainly new role for americans, the american presidency. >> could we get the laura bush clip about the future of first ladyhood while panelists are answering this. >> i will say quickly i have done some research on this, two things. number one, bill clinton has been functioning the last eight years, 12 years 16 years as a first gentleman. when you look at the status he has had and the role he takes on and the persona, not too
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dissimilar from the kinds of roles first ladies have played. usually non-partisan, usually not political. the second thing i would say is you have to look at the press during the 1984 presidential election when the democratic vice-presidential candidates, john zaccaro was in public and all kinds of questions about the influence, did he talk about policy business interests. i always maintained that while sex is amazed at the root of a lot of the stuff is really more about the accountable power of the spouse and outside the realm of american history look at other world governments and see issues have come up, the male spouse to a female in power in one form of government or another. >> that power is really what we are talking about. >> taking a look at that, under
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the state level we have more serving as governor now, they are all married so there are first gentlemen in new hampshire, mexico oklahoma and a couple other states. is interesting because while at the state level where there mailer female spouses continue in their careers. the sort of official role they play in spouse's administration looks very much like what first ladies do. they take on projects with the executive mansion and they are responsible for restoration they usually have some sort of cause whether it is big or small. the first gentleman of oklahoma posed for the front of a cookbook and the proceeds went to a nonprofit. he had his apron on and was growing with suede christiansen and he had a platter with
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chicken and ribs. is the macho cookbook but it is applicable. the role of the spouse remains support. if the family has small children marriage has change generally. the spouse that is not a governor takes care of child rearing and has a more important job. >> we had a chance to interview laura bush and we take a clip where she has an edge to her voice where she says i wonder if they will critique the kind of ties they wear. of course we chose when we ask the questions should be paid first lady's? they're working -- here's what she had to say.
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>> the interesting question is not should they receive a salary but should they be able to work for salary at their jobs. that is what it is. the gentlemen, whenever he did if he was a lawyer or whatever, we should ask, have a career during those years. in addition to being first lady. >> we are about to see over the next year-and-a-half all kinds of questions come up. this new situation is forced upon us. we have five minute left and i will ask you to wrap up because i didn't get to a game changer. who are the women throughout history that really made a
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difference that people would like to find out more about. do you have an answer? >> eleanor roosevelt. i don't think you could find anybody who fits that title more than eleanor roosevelt. this was a woman, well educated, had real serious concerns about where her country was was married to the most powerful man in the country, in the world perhaps but she had her own agenda. she was writing news columns she was doing radio, she was in newsreels, she was defying the d a r, resigning her membership. she was a member of the board of the naacp. she is doing her own thing. it may be that there has never been a first lady before or since like her, but i think she stands alone, what she was able
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to accomplish as her own self, not just as the extension of her husband and her husband's interest in what she was actually able to accomplish on her own. >> carl cannon, what do you say? >> i would say eleanor roosevelt. for all these reasons and a couple other examples. roosevelt according southern democrats so he could run clear action again and again. he is confronting him privately on this. there are riots in the shipyards. these men are fighting world war ii or fighting autism, you can't let shipyards desegregated. when she doesn't get satisfaction from him on this which is quite often she goes outside, other people in the party, she is a social liberal meaning you are of racial liberal and she has rival power centers and not afraid to call people, the newspaper column that she writes this is so
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strong and beth truman didn't want to do it, it is a precedent so strong it has not gone away. they all do it. this interview that michele obama gave the other day you can hear echoes of eleanor in it, personal stuff, policy stuff the first question is what is the coolest part of the job? got to meet the pope got to beat george clooney,meet george clooney, got to meet the queen, eleanor is the prototype. >> recalled was called my day. do you have an answer? >> i would say first i am eager to see how history members michele obama. i am a texans l.a. bird has an appeal to the. we know what a tough guy lbj was
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and how he spoke to people and the way she paints him in that conversation is quite brilliant and also carl anthony mentioned a little earlier on beautification in the ways we can in retrospect that really made groundwork for the environmental movement that we all know today that did not exist in the way that it did then and being from texas, don't mess with texas signs everywhere and appreciation for the bluebonnets there and what that means spreadsheet in her role as first lady influenced all of that in a way that was quite subtle and not necessarily understood at the time and we now do understand. >> i will ask you, give us some names we haven't heard. >> dolly madison because she was one of the first who had a real sense of duty to constituency
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meaning of the country. it was unusual for a woman part of her proper role, since of duty and connection to the general public. jacqueline kennedy, very strongly because of her sense of where the u.s. was in the cold war, how democracy could be presented in a way that it hadn't ended a sense of america had come of age and had as much dignity and a right to maintain that dignity on the world stage and she did that as betty ford by taking very personal and emotional issues, hand not losing the power of that but using that to help others. it is those like michele obama, very much like eleanor roosevelt. it really is eleanor roosevelt, but they realize time is
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ticking. anything can happen in a moment. your husband could die, be shot resign or anything. you have this opportunity to make a change. people are going to like you and hate you know matter what. they will like you and hate you because of the way you look, what they think about you what you say, because of everything. you got to say the hell with it and use the time to get it done. those have been the game changers. >> thank you to a panelist who has been invisible my colleague back there mark, the executive producer for our first lady's ceres and put the schedule call those clips in and all of video and pictures so thank you very much. [applause] >> for our c-span audience those of us who are here get a copy. you guys will have to find your own but on behalf of c-span,
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anyone who is here is invited to stay after. we are going to have a book signing and that always makes me feel rather embarrassed. buy my book. if you are interested in buying it, all the proceeds of the book go to the c-span education foundation and we use it to the teacher scholarships, student documentary contests and things like that. thank you so much for being here tonight. [applause] >> other valuable signatures here. [inaudible conversations]
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