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tv   William Rosenau Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol  CSPAN  January 26, 2020 10:00pm-11:01pm EST

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>> homegrown terrorist organization in 2019 and those that were organized and led by women. with the shock and bombing of the capital documented from many sources like the national
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archives. in a recent interview in the boxes of federal court records from transcripts to affidavits those trial records for the invaluable. so now let us hear from the author himself from the domestic terrorist group in the campaign of violence in the center from strategic studies with the military advisory role and missions and terrorist innovation and welfare. those articles appear regularly in the media of counterinsurgency in afghanistan with international
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security assistance of south vietnam. and before joining as a political scientist at rand corporation and policy advisor from counterterrorism adjunct professor in the security studies professor. at harvard a research coordinator from the national security program. [applause] >> thank you very much for that introduction and thank you all for coming out today. i want to start off by giving a shout out to the national archives as an archivist of
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the united states pointed out, the court records and other things i had access to things to the professional men and women at the national archives branches in boston in philadelphia and new york i could delve deeply into this group. one of the fascinating things i covered is just how important these court records are for the understanding of terrorism and political violence and i have never gotten a solid answer to this but terrorism researchers have tended to ignore the court records. but they go far beyond transcripts. even one of the most valuable things were the items as evidence with bomb making
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plans it's a tremendous honor to be here at the national archives and i salute and the men and women who are the professional backbone of this organization. absolutely for many other historians. my guess is most of you have not had a chance to read my book since it just came out last week but i would like to read a few brief passages to hopefully prompt your questions and comments during the second half of today's program. 1981 president reagan it was a new day in america but the
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united states needed to lower taxes and shrink the government and flexes military muscle abroad. some call that the reagan revolution. the well-educated extremist were working for a very different kind. they were black and puerto rican and native american liberation opposing the us imperialism that is us military aggression and political domination and economic exploitation. and with the late sixties and seventies because the generation of 1968 to embrace
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sex and drugs and rock music and politics with equal enthusiasm. the journalist jeffrey writes come in the 1970s the revolutionary those took hold in the substantial part of american counterculture to the degree it's almost unimaginable today it became a common mode of american political expression". the most notorious group on the far left fringes for underground that was responsible for dozens of bombings during the seventies. in the late seventies the leadership exhausted from nearly a decade on the run and those wanted on criminal charges surrendered to the authorities.
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as an undergraduate in the late seventies and now i'm dating myself. but at the time the weather people that were living on the upper west side started to surface and it was a huge new story so it got me fascinated to think was i standing in line with them cracks did i pass them on the street cracks? where they hiding in plain sight but i think that they were. many other vietnam era radicals returned to graduate school to start careers and reenter ordinary american life. the pockets of militancy remained. in chicago, austin texas and elsewhere - - elsewhere that sensibility still smoldered in smart sloan - - sparked.
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and then to continue the struggle by any means necessary. as another veteran radical recalled we lived in a country that loved violence. "and then in 1978 militants created a new organization against imperialism and racism and fascism. met with that revolutionary formation the main 19 communist organization shared by two of the ideological heroes. it was unique unlike any other american terrorist group before since, may 19 was created by women many of whom were self-described lesbians. i will talk about that later on. women pick the targets into
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the planning and made and planted the bombs. they created a new sisterhood. they were intellectuals but also warriors with a purported science of leninism they believe men and women could bend the arc of history free of injustice and oppression. the impression of what this looks like but one thing is certain it would require nothing less than a violent revolution. ultimate objectives is typical as bruce hoffman argues " groups as varied as al qaeda and the red army faction live in the future they chase after
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with a very vague conception of what exactly that might entail". to have much in common with other ideological extremists in the book true believer talks about the spy but the commitment and the submission was ultimately as destructive as asis recruits. ideologies fascist add nationalist and white supremacist, jihadist, can offer the promise of the final correction of all political injustices". the captured minds of may 19 of marxism and leninism was a path of aberration.
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in 1979 just after the founding of may 19 the group talking heads reduce the song that was inspired by terrorist groups as the red army faction with the liberation army. to be a driving hallucinatory first-person chronicle of a hunted and unmanned figure on the unspecified underground world. i would just read through some of the lyrics. command that is loaded with weapons. packed up and ready to go. great sites up on the highway a place that nobody knows. the sound of gunfire in the distance. i'm getting used to it now. to live in the brownstone live in the ghetto this ain't no
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party this ain't no disco. no time for dancing or lovey-dovey i got time for that now. may 19 live the band's lyrics in real time. so what brought me to this story in the first place there are three or four reasons. the first is the sheer audacity the extremely violent in some cases and some bizarre activities of the group. so what about this? during that period of 1979 through 1981, may 19 was very
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involved with other radicals most notably of the black liberation army in may 19 with the bank robberies and car robberies netted $1 million which is about $3 million in today's dollars. it was real money. may 19th was part of one of the most infamous armed robberies in american history. i don't think i'm overstating that. the notorious october 20t october 20th, 1981 robbery in upstate new york left to police officers dead and one guard killed as well. with a bizarre turn of fate
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the wounded guard was shot with the m-16 and his arm was nearly severed by the round. wound up continuing to work for brinks and 20 years and one month later he was in lower manhattan supervising the delivery of the collection of $9 million in currency from wells fargo. and he was in the basement of one of the twin towers and police ordered him out. he called his dispatcher and said i'm told to get out and that's the last thing anyone heard of him. not meaningful in any great sense but of that sad irony of history. what else?
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so in two of the biggest prison breakouts with the politically oriented prison break out of the 20th century. the first was in 1979 the f alm bomb maker was working in his bomb making workshop doing what he loved most. and apparently was making a pipe bomb and it went off in his face blew off half of his face and nine of his fingers. somebody called the police. and the police got there and discovered something. i don't know what to call it other than extreme
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revolutionary dedication they found blood on one of the knobs of the gas stove in the police concluded he had dragged himself after being wounded to the stove to turn on the gas with his mouth hoping to fill the apartment and then have a cop light a cigarette and set the place on fire. he was extremely formidable and committed militant or terrorist. the fbi said rather than allowing his digits to be sewn back on they kept them as evidence so he ended up in the prison hospital in bellevue new york waiting for a pair of artificial hands. he just got tired of waiting.
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so a plot was hatched involving his lawyer and members of the black liberation army and 18 people involved so this man who got some bolt cutters smuggled in by his lawyer and could somehow use his stumps to snip the screen covering the window and was able to lower himself with the improvised rope made out of ace bandages. the ace bandages broke he fell about one story hitting an air-conditioner and bounced
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off and landed on the ground got scooped up somehow and made his way to mexico with the help of others which is remarkable. things were good for a few years the fbi tipped off the mexican authorities at one point there was a shoot out and morale us went to prison for six years he got sprung and then extradited to the united states and then he was allowed to go this part of the cuban government and political asylum. so the second big prison break we are involved in involved a woman as a member of the black
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liberation army a long forgotten terrorist group made up of a faction of the black panther party. and they assassinated about 15 policeman in san francisco. and in the early 1970s. so rather patronizing description of the us attorney or the local prosecutor described as the mother hen , she was involved in a shoot out in the jersey turnpike in 1973. she or her cohorts shot the state trooper at point-blank range. by 1979 there was a plan to
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break her out. so again those who did a lot of the logistics and the safe house procuring weapons and fake ids and basically smuggled the gun into the prison at a time there were no metal detectors and basically took hostages and then they escorted her out. then they got her to the bahama bahamas. and in 1984 she wound up in cuba again being granted political asylum.
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she is still wanted by the fbi as is morale us with a 2 million-dollar reward on her head from the federal government and the new jersey authorities. so that is one piece of may 19. the second piece of their campaign began in 1983 and the title of my book suggest what happened november 7th, 1983 when they bombed the us capital outside of the majority leader's office. they also bombed the fbi field office is in new york. the israeli aircraft history association in new york the south african consulate in new
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york and the benevolent association and all of this was to protest the invasion of grenada and apartheid in south africa, the occupation of southbank and the us banking for the contras and the regime in el salvador. so the first thing that threw me was the range of the audacious terrorist activities. the second thing were personal stories of the participants and the women themselves. and i will just mention three of them.
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the daughter of a veterinarian turn of an episcopal priest in austin texas where she was brought up and went to saint stephen's and admitted to brown but decided to go to berkeley and came back to the university of texas wound up a circuitous route and became what was described as the only member of the black liberation army the quartermaster buying guns the episcopal gal from texas less likely for suspicions they and the militants and is able to buy weapons in multiple states. she got picked up 19734 by 1000 rounds of ammunition which is a federal offense
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then sent to women's federal prison in west virginia. this is a simpler and more innocent time that federal prisoners at that time were allowed a furlough she got one to visit her parents and came back and then in 1877 got a second to visit her lawyer in new york, the same lawyer who smuggled in the bolt cutters to help morale us escape. she gets the six day furlough and was not captured until 1985. so eight years on the run. the second person, the daughter of a clean to the new york dentist graduate of a
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private school in new york. a fascinating character of her own right and those memoirs that came out a few years ago and then went pretty light on the operational details as terror is a resource or when - - researchers tend to be interested in she was pardoned in 2001 on the same day of the president clinton administration the same day pardoning the financier. she got a pardon and due in part one of the structured advocates of someone who has been in the news many many times of alan dershowitz but also jerry nadler. again one of those strange
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coincidences. it may not know one - - mean anything but it's fascinating to go through the documents to see letters to the white house counsel. the fifth person who piqued my interest perhaps one of the most fascinating of all was judy clark. a classic red diaper baby. her parents were high-level functionaries. she grew up in the warm embrace of the party which had social activities and go to the hootenanny's in connecticut and she loved to party. amazingly she spent the first few years of her life in moscow where her father was
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employed as a daily worker correspondent. the parents came back from moscow having looked into the yellow-eyed pockmarked face of stalinism to realize they are done with the party judy was extremely bitter for having left the party and the man on the left a democratic socialist and when judy was kicked out of the university of chicago for rioting in 1968 and 1969, he was able to persuade the great literary critic to intervene with the
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great novelist saul bello and get him to intervene of the future attorney general and then to come back and then they said no. so he spent more than 35 years in prison in connection with the robbery and she was sentenced to three consecutive 25 year to life sentences for second degree murder and not eligible for parole. that was until 2016 when the governor of new york andrew cuomo spent an hour with her and decided to commute her
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sentence which made her eligible for parole. she did not get it but then sprung april of this year after 37 years judy is a free woman. so just to wrap things up i want to talk about the third thing tragically in this story. there were many other things in the fact not the sexuality of the women involved but the fact that they saw as one member of the group said my lesbianism made me a better imperialist and recognized at an early age she had a different sexual orientation and created within her a feeling of kinship with other persecuted groups. but the most important reason and ultimately was the desire
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to excavate our own history. what do i mean by this so 9/11 aside americans have been quick to forget or never remember in fact the violent political extremism part of the past 400 years of the american experience. how many of us thought the terrorist attack in the federal building 1995 and how that commemorated cracks and then to kill 168 people to loan to 680 more. the younger generation are helping us to understand how terrorism can shape our past
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and present. and two of these authors have done outstanding work the first is beverly gage professor of history at yale who did a magnificent book ten or eight years ago the day that wall street exploded for septembe september 1920 and the bank building in lower manhattan and then the second thing that i mentioned that is absolutely critical what is going on with the white supremacist front as a historian at the university of chicago and author of bring the war home. so i think historians have come around there has been
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lots of great work and i'm not putting my modest tail and for those that decide to read it i hope you enjoy it. i certainly enjoyed writing it. it was a labor of love with that i will bring my formal remarks to a close for questions and comments. [applause] >> thank you for the talk. a couple of things as far as patterns the oklahoma bombing there were different circumstances talking majority wise and specifically related
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to a sexual orientation but if someone was to say i am recruiting in berkeley so looking at these characters and their psychiatric issues were they abusive or anything cracks is there a kingpin that goes around specifically looking for my newspaper i'm looking for lesbians and they are angry or something like that quick. >> sure. the important thing to recognize with the terrorism scholar talking about many jihadist terrorist group of guys and group of friends it is certainly true with may 19 they had known each other for ten or 15 years.
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there was nobody who was brought into the inner circle that connection that may 19 had front groups there were several people involved like the anti- clan committee which is the early version of nt for and other groups involved in fundraising for the african independence movements and so on but at the core they all knew each other. one of the guys in the group with a medical doctor who was involved in the weather underground he knew judy clark. everybody knew everybody else. that was the extent of the
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recruiting going on to be trusted with ties of affection and the kinship. >> i must have been out of touch did the bomb go off at the us capitol quick. >> it went off on the second floor. it went off 11:30 p.m. the senate was not in session but it could have been. interestingly it created $1 million worth of damage it left a huge crater in the wall and it also, again man interesting irony it managed
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to shred the portrait of john c calhoun a notorious politician of slavery and the confederacy the great historian the karl marx of the master class. so they were able to shred the portrait of arch white supremacist. it was renamed a couple of years ago. so yes it definitely went off. it was a sophisticated advice one - - device and it was part of a powerful using the name the armed resistance unit and after one of their actions used a variety of different
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names the revolutionary unit and that was for two reasons but also as a way that there was a bigger move to the general public but only through the meticulous work of the fbi in quantico to figure out they pick up the scraps and then they figured out that there was a signature more than i ever want to know about explosives in writing this book but bomb makers have signatures and they figured out that basically one person had made all of these multiple bombs so that was a key break in the case but it certainly went off.
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>> i am curious in your interviews how open where they with you with their motives and operations and if not why were they withholding information so are they still in touch with each other clicks or are they not? swim after trying roughly for a year and a half to reach the surviving members and also above ground i was ultimately unsuccessful. i did have some correspondence even though i can't say anything i tried the old
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reporters trick this is a chance for you to tell your side of the story and get your message out for posterity et cetera et cetera. that went nowhere the only other response i got who was part of the inner circle and sent me an e-mail that said having read your biography what in the world makes you ever think i would speak with you. sincerely. [laughter] so i admire that. i don't think they would've had much to share with me and that's for a variety of reasons. they had interviews but always
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very sympathetic activists. so i am pretty convinced they saw me land and the state department saw me as one of the bad guys. i try to be fair in this book. i worked really really hard. i don't have sympathy for may 19 but i do have empathy. i try hard to be fair and balanced and to weigh the evidence and test the different hypothesis. so what would have happened? and my interlocutor asked a great question. and you could sit down with them what word you talk about?
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that's a good question. if they had agreed to talk to me i had a suspicion it was the same stuff. the same political discourse all of the imprisoned women did lots of writing with political tracks and paid interviews. i didn't have any expectation they would reveal anything of any real value. of a professional writer of nonfiction i could create the scene of the café to break out in a sweat with those nice
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details. but the most valuable source that is one-sided was the fbi agents working these cases. yes they have very strong opinions, but they discovered maybe not as true nowadays but nypd detectives would leave their jobs and retire and bring stuff with them. so they had photographs of the bomb sites and incredible stuff to share. so that's a long-winded way to say i didn't talk to them. but i think they are in touch with each other because some of the people i used as an
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entrée to the group and people suggested the surviving members had to discuss this in the head absently no interest in participating. >> so let me ask a question of myself. this is a question somebody else asked me during another talk. 's what was the one question you were unable to answer? that's a great one if you are ever interviewing. and one of the questions was how far were they willing to
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go ultimately? during the brinks robbery they didn't pull triggers but there were getaway car drivers deeply involved as participants in the dead the failed bank robbery. and in their communiqué in 1983 they said tonight we chose not to kill any senators we attacked the institutionalist on - - institutional of the senators but don't think that you're safe. ultimately they didn't go on to conduct lethal bombings but how far could they have gone? if you start looking into
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their readings and those tracks and they put down a 20 page single spaced document. but toward the end they came across a couple of documents where they talk about the time is right for selective fascination. prosecutors of policemen and politicians and henry kissinger that they are in this hothouse environment churning out these papers it's all rubbish but what is interesting that
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counterargument is when susan rosenberg and when doctor berkman and betty and duke another member who was still at large, she jumped bail 1985 and the fbi still once or she is on the website. they were wearing disguises with 9-milliliter pistols and they had storehouses uncovered after the arrest. and there were storage lockers and things like that. so hundreds and hundreds of pounds of tnt that was in
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pretty bad shape learning more about hercules more than i ever expected but thousands of rounds of ammunition. blasting caps and dozens of small arms. fully automatic oozy and 9-millimeter pistols. rounds of ammunition, and thousands of blank social security cards and driver's license, dea cards, fbi card so you have to ask why do they have all this stuff? it is in just a couple of sticks of dynamite but to the
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point the dynamite that was found in new jersey the bomb squad came in and they started to load all this up into the truck when one of the bomb technician said you might not want to do that because of this goes off it could drop the bridge. but i was left with the question ultimately how far would they have gone? they only stopped when they were caught for go nobody gave up or defected or surrendered. everybody was always well armed. i don't know. i don't think that question could be answered and they are not talking.
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>> do you find any links or similarities and in the same time that you mentioned before as an example? >> absolutely you are spot on with that almost exact contemporaries with the red army faction. and one of the fascinating excursions that i took i wouldn't develop that as much as i would like is the red army faction actually visited the united states and the members of may 19 and had a couple of sessions together. these are the fbi documents
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and from the verification a couple of documents talk about this. the red army faction was definitely more lethal certainly in the 1980s but that's a tiny band of people that were alienated even from the extreme left of german politics. they didn't want to have anything to do with these crazies. and the internal documents of how the left-wing groups support them. but the thing that i found amusing is that the people came over with a couple of sessions and the raf came away very unimpressed with the
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command that their understanding of the theory and practice was subpar by the high standards. >> unless there are other questions we will bring this to a close. thank you again for coming out. and the national archives for this great opportunity and privilege for speaking to you about my book i will be signing copies outside upstairs i hope you find a good reading. thank you very much. [applause]
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>> now it's no longer about who won but what team when i call this fortification of politics. it is no longer about politics but now it's a sport and interestingly enough the data backs this up. you are in the issues you know what is happening. so for a lot of people they are not engaged but they are engaged in identity and who they belong to. who are they a part of. and to switch positions between parties do you agree with this and they will say yes and that it's in their party stance. but what tells us it's not
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about ideology but who people think they are and how they identify themselves. it also tells us we have a lot of work to do communicating who we are to the vast majority. we have to think about that. if we don't think they belong to us but they belong with us aware are we communicating wrong. then i open up for questions. so a little over a year ago incredibly worried about the future of our country and yes civil war through words and yes to understand and backup the foundational values but also to talk about what we can do together. in the long term we have to be optimistic.
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so i challenge you to think about gratitude over grievance let them have it. who belongs to what group and who is the current victim let them have gratitude but why we should be grateful we are the best nation on earth. hands down. i would not live anywhere else. [applause] this is america. come on. that people want to come here illegally because we are such a great country. there's a reason we went down - - they want to come here so let's be grateful for that. we have a great structure we believe in god and he gave us rights and reload them to the government that's amazing. i have nothing to do with that i was just born here. be grateful in a country we have free speech.
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and quite frankly because we have free speech we need to use it and to articulate more clearly who is the better party. [applause] >> we went best with clear communication to explain why we are the better choice. no more grievances. and then to have an opposite party to make us more clearly communicate. i love playing tennis and makes me work and think and that's where we are we have to work and think and communicate
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better. second, think about the national narrative optimistic versus narrative. talk about how terrible our country is we are not a perfect nation. that if we constantly tear ourselves down we will never be able to move forward. go home until your spouse how horrible they are. but they will believe and it's terrible. we have an entire generation of people who we have told they can't be successful in unfortunately they have come to believe it and it is a travesty. must confront the national narrative and communicate with people.
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and how great to be together. quite frankly we must continue to be positive about our countr country, i'm not saying we are perfect but positive and we forward. so in corporate america for a long time and ran a division and after the second child i was traveling so much i didn't want to do that. so i spent time working part-time and then to be heavily involved in the community. and what i found is when you work with people i don't care about the problems with literacy and early education it could be the symphony or
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the garden club or healthcare. whatever you care about and whoever cares about that same thing and you were together and make progress? and you don't know if they are democrat or republican there will be democrats on the team and you will change their mind. because they will see working next to them they will see you caring about people you will see them caring about them and you will leave their life changed. we cannot sit back and pretend the 55 percent of us that don't have friends in the party are okay. even people we don't like but we sit by ourselves at home which really isn't a very good choice. so little less humility we may have things right but not everything right and to be part of the system that
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doesn't always work well but better than anywhere else in the world and to understand that every time we are out in public that we reflect not only ourselves and our country but our republican values and our brand to reach out to people i have been yelled at so many times trying to check out in the store and he start yelling at me frankly i get very upset about it and then i just smile. if it makes them feel better to yell at me and maybe that's my job for the day i don't know. but i do know if i yelled back at them they will tell somebody she's nasty then what does that do? so my challenge to you is go out and get involved
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especially when yelled at and remember that together our country has a great future a wee are screaming on twitter and youtube. you can find it on the heritage


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