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tv   Matthew Algeo All This Marvelous Potential  CSPAN  April 5, 2020 1:46am-2:22am EDT

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i hope you enjoy reading and learn from it but i hope you enjoy it paul wanted it in a small formatsc of 60000 words it's easier to write a long book than a short book. so illuminating that was hard but he wanted it to be personal because it is a personal story where i reveal things thatimate i do for a reason because i hope that is not just interesting but useful information. i hope you all enjoy it. [applause] every weekend. book tv, television for serious readers.
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>> good afternoon everybody. i am a bookseller here please silence your cell phone also we will be recordingdi video and audio also when it comes time for the q&a portion and we ask you speak clearly and keep your question as the question following all books are on sale behind the cash register so get those and come back and we are happy to sign them and keep your chairs in place we would greatly appreciate that. we host a lot of events every
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year if you need help keeping track we have calendars at the desk and also on the website we update that all the time. we have the pleasure of hosting matthew who is an award-winning journalist and has authored many books and the president is a sick man among them now he is here to talk about appellation and one - - appalachia and talk about before hisr assassination books like hillbilly elegy has recast that story and decisions to play the gender
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role myself having live near cumberland four years and that the population there but even the stages readers familiar with the story will find that there is much to discover so please help me to welcome. [applause] >> thank you travis. how is everybody feeling? feeling okay? know handshakes. it is great to be here. i said it again but this is like madison square garden for authors. it just smells better. mentioning my earlier books, i like how reaching into the
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previous books i have done but some background against. myself it's always good to let the people know the person who wrote the book i grew up in a town north of philadelphia and i went to college at the university of pennsylvania and after i graduated i couldn't find any work there. so i started to work in public radio and that's where people went and to work add a few stations and seattle in minnesota and met my wife in st. louis 1997 married 1998.
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2005 she was hired by the state department to join the foreign service. so since then i have been able to write these books because my wife has a real job. [laughter]r] and the non- best-selling books gives me something to do overseas. so some of my earlier books is about the merger of the steelers andnd the eagles because the nfl was short players during world war ii one running back has ulcers another is blind in one eye but that publisher insisted on calling it last man standing
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but next word is harry truman's excellent adventure with a road trip harry and bess truman took in the summer of 53 right after they left the white house before x presidents had pensions or secret service protection so they just got in there chrysler from independence missouri to the east coast and then drove back again. it is a sweet book they just stay in motels and eat at diners and it speaks to the bygone era. i don't think x presidents now as they are midsize corporations be he was the last two return to something resembling a normal life. it was fun to do that story. quicklyid the president is a sick man about the secret operation of grover cleveland to remove a cancerous tumor from his c mouth. these are not bestsellers i cannot believe that.
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[laughter] the history of competitive walking in the 18 eighties a six-day walking race. and abe and fido was widely acknowledged as the greatest biography of ever written of lincoln's dog. [laughter] lincoln and dog? come on. [laughter] what do i have to do. we will see about all of this marvelous potential and the scheme of things. this book came about in 2016 after the presidential election your are aware that donald trumpr is president people were surprised and then to look at the numbers and especiallyey surprised the overwhelming majorities he picked up in the counties in appalachia. that is interesting i wonder how that happened i wondered about the kennedy trip as a piece of triviaa that kennedy
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with his famous poverty tour and at the time kennedy was not officially a candidaternck t considering running against lyndon johnson with the democratic primary. in effect a campaign stop had all the trappings with photo opportunities and speeches. i thought it was interesting that kennedy in 1968 could go to eastern kentucky than 50 years later you see donald trump at 60 or 70 percent of the vote. and then to focus on the trip itself i don't get too much more into the, analysis of why things have changed i look at how they have changed and i leave it up to the reader to decide if the changes are for better or worse but they are for worse. i went down to kentucky i
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began researching in 2017. so i have a lot of biases attached to the story of appalachia. my idea of the sixties of the chicago convention, san francisco they don't think of kentucky when you think of the sixties. at least i didn't but they happened in kentucky a lot a lot of crazy things were going on in appalachia and eastern kentucky and it really surprised me and what the sixties were like in eastern kentucky. and before the rfk trip and in
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west virginia was the important primary for kennedy to win and bobby was the campaign manager. this is the first time jack and bobby were exposed to american poverty up close and it stuck with both of them. there is a funny story from the 60 campaign in west virginia where a coalminer came up to jack kennedy and said is it true you've never worked a day in your life? jack kennedy said yes, there is some truth to that in the coalminer said don't worry you haven't missed a damn thing. [laughter] so kennedy was enamored with the people in west virginia and up alicia one - - appalachia and in 63 writer from eastern kentucky was an expose exposé on the explication of those by the coal companies and major corporations in the us that depended on coal and then
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october of 63 a reporter for the new york times wrote the expose about poverty and eastern kentucky and kennedy had seen the senate made an impression on him he planned to go to eastern kentucky to see what the conditions were like for himself and that trip was to scheduled december 1963 of course that never took place. after his assassination lbj stepped up to take up the mantle for the anti- poverty campaigns and the 64 state of the union address and in august of 64, seven months later, the economic opportunity act was passed creating the office of economic opportunity which was the agency that oversaw all the war on poverty programs there were so many, it takes a day just to list them headstar headstart, medicare
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came out of the school lunch programs and things like this. rfk when he went to eastern kentucky january 68 had a few reasons it was still on the back of his mind his brother wanted to visit eastern kentucky and 63 and never 6 made - - never made he also wanted to re- appropriate the office of economic opportunity. he wanted to see what progress had been made on the war on poverty. robert kennedy wanted to show not just an african-american and problem or native american or mexican american but an american problem affecting every community including white people in eastern kentucky and i think he thought it was important to show that to the country. the trip itself was today's holding hearings in a one-room schoolhouse and in a gymnasium.
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as i was writing the book i thought it was more interesting, robert kennedy a lot of books have been written about him obviously and those i thought were an excellent biography that really is the most important thing but i didn't want to write a book about robert kennedy as much as explaining what he did on this trip the people he met and the issues that he faced contextut that into of what was happening in the sixties and what is happening today. and also to show what changes have happened since the sixties and what haven't. just a few of the issues he discussed or confronted in eastern kentucky. one was strychnine there was a system.
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these were deeds people signed over the mineral rights to their property 100 years earlier but it gave companies the right to strip the land that the coal was on. strip the land that the coal wa repai, they were not required to do anything to fix the damage that was created by stripmining, and so people would see coal companies command, dig up the land and dig up the : leave. i was very environmentally was disastrous, it stripped hillsides of all the cover, so the hollows would flood every spring. not to mention very exploitation since it really destroyed the land the people had and they got no benefits from the coal that was taken out. i think something like $1 trillion of coal is been extracted from eastern kentucky, and not much of that money made it back. another issue that was pressing at the time was this
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concept of maximum feasible participation. the economic opportunity act, provided that people most affected by these programs, i.e. poor people, would be given maximum feasible participation in deciding how the money would be spent. and what the money would be spent on, where the money would be spent. and so just as an example, there was a grassroots citizen committee and rapid counties that was organized, got a 40000-dollar grant from the federal government to build new roads. this was a committee that was formed by minors in the counties. seems like a really fantastic thing that they were able to get this money, but he you think did not like the fact that the federal government sent money directly to grassroots citizen committees. the state in the county politicians. they re- seek to have the money go to them first and they would decide to that
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despite this to the world poverty in the economic act paternity act and the economic opportunity act with maximum feasible participation it was a fantastic idea but in a way, playing it a little seed of its own demise right there in the act. that it triggered such a backlash among the entrenched political interest. this wasn't only in kentucky but everywhere, and any of this money went. of course, 1968, the presidential campaign was heating up at the time when lyndon johnson had not withdrawn yet from the campaign, that would come in march. bobby would not announce his candidacy until march to february the trip takes place. we are about six weeks before robert kennedy officially announces his candidacy. but like i said earlier, really had the trappings of a
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campaign trip and it's fun to have pictures in the book, kennedy aides did not expect quite the crowd of press to accompany the senator on this trip. so you would see these long caravans of cars following him and he'd stop somewhere and go inside a house to talk to somebody he would be done and beyond to the next house before the caravan even finished pulling up to the house. so this kind of funny how much attention it got although i was surprised to learn that the networks did not archive nightly newscasts until august 1968. when the democratic convention came. so there would be an occasional newscaster that follows important essay once in a while the network newscast from kennedy's trip was not able to find, i think they found they did not archive the newscast at that
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time. their host of issues, one just real briefly, food stamps was one of the fascinating issues to me. that he learned about in this book. and mainly because people had to pay for food stamps. which i hadn't really appreciated. but when the food stamp program began, you paid for a certain denomination of stamps and then in addition to that you were given free stamps. so you would pay say $10 and get $15 with the food stamps. and the fee was determined by a number of factors the your income that sort of thing. they could be a fairly big price, kennedy, one of the people he talked to on the trip that one of the hearings was an unemployed miner main show wingo few gates. i love these nays. who spent $72 a month for $94 in food stamps. so we had to pay $72 basically to get $22 in food stamps.
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another minor was a guy name johnson who was a father 15 whose monthly income was $60. he paid $206 a month for $112 in food stamps just leaving 34 for all other expenses. johnson said at to kennedy he said have you seen 15 kids in three beds? robert kennedy said i'm headed in that direction. [laughter] he had ten kids at the time i think. and after the trip, one of the things that did come out of this was that eventually, the purchase requirement was lifted. although it did not take effect until the food stamp act of 1977 and that did not take effect until january 1979 in the purchase requirement was finally ended and the participation in the food stamp program went up 1.5 million in one month. set made a big difference in a lot of people's lives just by lifting that purchase requirement. was also interesting to find that food stamps or welfare
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program for people for the hungry. also welfare program for walmarts, because about 4% of walmart sales come from food stamps. so it's always interesting to see walmart, how they come down on legislation that makes it harder for people to get food stamps because it cuts into their revenue. of course, after rfk's assassination in june of 68, richard nixon was elected president. he had to appoint someone to oversee the office of economic opportunity to oversee the world poverty. of course republicans for the most part did not like the war and poverty inhaled the programs. it kinda put nixon a tough spot who is he going to find to this thankless job that nobody wants. he found a congressman from illinois a guy named donald rumsfeld, who took over the office of economic opportunity and one of his first tires was
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a young ambitious congressional intern from wyoming, a guy named dick cheney. so in 1981, the office of economic opportunity oh eo, was finally abolished altogether. we couldn't give rumsfeld and cheney credit for ending at least one war, and that was the war on poverty. [laughter] what to soon? finally, we took a couple statistics one is poverty was reduced, 1959 poverty was 22%, that's pretty crazy. let me do the math that's one and four, one and five? and in 1973, it was 11% so is cut in half. in the space of 14 years. when you look at a graph a chart of where poverty was headed, from 1959 to 1973, it's just straight down. but since 1973, when the
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effects of putting the brakes on the world poverty took effect, it is held steady. it's been about 11 to 15% since then. in some ways i think the warm poverty was a success in other ways it was not. i'd be happy to take any questions if anybody's got them, you can step up to the microphone and let it rip. somebody has to have a question. >> thanks for being here, thank you for the talk. i look for to reading your book. my question is, i wondered if you could speak more about the decline in poverty? i work in montgomery county with patient population of uninsured adults. the criteria to get into the program listed the below to below 250% of the poverty level. the federal poverty levels of same across the night safety and the cost of living is not the same across united states. when you went from 22 to 11% could you give us the context of where those numbers came
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from? >> one of the things, and a talk about it in the book, and excruciating but fascinating detail is how you determine poverty. this was a huge thing when kennedy came in and 61 and said what we do about poverty, the first thing you want to know is what's the number? people said we don't know what the numbers. i think rita or sharansky was her name at the department of agriculture was a woman who came up with a formula for determining what the poverty line was. and basically, she took the usda, i'm giving a long-winded answer here, she took the usda figures for nutrition for a family of four, she figured out the average housing prices et cetera et cetera, she came up with his number. formula has basically been unchanged now for what are yet 60 years? and the problem is, at the time housing was very cheap and food is very expensive. now, you have the opposite. food is cheap housing is expensive.
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but if you made any changes to the poverty line, it would immediately put millions of people, technically in the poverty, no politician wants to do that. so they don't want to change that. she had these things with the criteria keep going so 250% of the poverty line, why don't you just move the poverty line? why don't we just make a fluid by regions, by metropolitan regions or things like that. so i think, the problem it's is so politically difficult for people to come up with a comprehensive and up-to-date formula for exact determining exactly who is in poverty and where, there's just not the political will to do that, nobody wants to touch it. the war in vietnam, these young men who are out in the appellations and other poor areas of the country, how did he deal with -- sometimes the military was their only way
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out. and yes, how did he convey the fact that this was an unjust war, it's best not to participate in it. and yet the military was often the only way out for these young men and often time these young men in these reason pension region will be on the front lines and more likely to be killed or injured. statement kennedy had come out just a month before this deepening swamp speech in chicago where he had unequivocally came out from expanding the war in vietnam. and you are right, the support for the war and appalachia was strong. i think there is a lot, even in the people who supported the work, there is a lot of people opposed to the way is being managed. and they saw that their sons, and eastern kentucky or dying at higher rate than any other
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region in the country. west virginia had the highest casualty rate of any states in the vietnam war. and eastern kentucky the counties of eastern kentucky were considered their own state. it would have an even higher rate. appalachians i was in a say appalachian boys their men, were considered especially good at walking points because they were film layer with mountain terrain. they were fantastic marksmen, and they were familiar with living in rough environments because they did for long periods of time. i think it was 8% of the combat veterans, of the combat soldiers in vietnam were from app to latch about 13% of the medal of honor recipients were for appalachia, so it's a pretty big disparity. so to answer your question, there is ambivalence, definite ambivalence and appalachia the time. young people unequivocally opposed the war. i think their parents were
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more ambivalent than that. they supported the war but they certainly did not like seeing their children go off and fight it and die in such proportion. >> what is known about the health effects of the war on poverty? it certainly must be something that has been studied, but i don't know anything about it for sure. >> you made in terms of so improvement in health at any age,. [inaudible] >> it was one of the fascinating things i didn't even mention some of the people while researching the book. just amazing, the war on poverty program is the creation of committee health clinics and there are still community health clinics that were founded 50 years ago. and eastern kentucky that are the primary health care
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providers for communities there. and i would say, statistically i don't know off the top of my head, but the incidence of childhood diseases, which were still prevalent into the early 60s, home are bigger when he wrote his article in october 63, talked about the number of cases of child malnutrition that were documented there. and so they certainly, that decrease come the school lunch program helped immensely. this was a guaranteed meal that the kids had every day. they hadn't had a before even there they had political problems in trying to get those implemented. there were a lot of hurdles to
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tackle but overall public health, the effect was positive. >> thanks. >> thank you. >> we mention the people you met in your reporting, i wondered sort of what reflection or did you hear many reflections of people about kennedy's trip? or? >> this was cool it's the one that's on most recent and happening so not very well worded, but you know what he mean. it was only 50 years earlier? less than that. there's still a lot of people who admit kennedy, the problem i had as i'd mentioned few gates everywhere. there's isom's everywhere, the nays, everybody has the same nays or took a little work to track people down. but a lot of people had memories, first-hand memories of the trip itself. i think it was interesting to look at the impact it had on
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people, even to this day. people got really emotional talk about meeting robert kennedy. one of the women i talk to, she had gone with her sister to see kennedy at the high school in neon, and she had written on a piece of paper, and excuse slip and had kennedy sign it so she could get excused from school. which was a good thing, because a lot of the schools did not want the children to attend. they didn't think bobby kennedy was a positive influence on the children at the time. so, yeah, it was a lot of fun finding people who remembered the trip and had first-hand memories. one of the guys i talk about in the book was a guiding steven kay when he was university of kentucky law student. he was a friend of karl perkins who was a congressman from eastern kentucky. one of the reasons candidate went to that he was going to go to carolina but fritz collings was running for reelection at the time and he
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was like hey bobby, maybe not shine a light on poverty in south carolina weimer running for reelection. so kennedy said okay, and then hollings later supported some of the legislation. so went to kentucky because there is not a senator up for reelection in the congressman was karl perkins. he like held the job like the pope. he hadn't until he died, which is exactly what happened. steven caywood was a law student who would occasionally come to washington and help out karl perkins in his office. so he finagled a ride in the car with kennedy. so with a state trooper that drove kennedy, karl perkins, kennedy and steve caywood, 23-year-old prospective law student. it had a huge effect on steve caywood's life and he basically has worked in environmental and poverty issues ever since then. i'll even know if i answered your school did i? >> yes. smack good answer.
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[laughter] >> part of the enduring narrative of the 1968 presidential campaign, the ability of robert kennedy to talk to and to gain the support of african americans as well as working-class whites. in all of your preparation for this book, and all of your research in all your background, did you find trayce of that? would you uphold that particular theory? >> absolutely, one of the quotes i have in the book and i'm not going to go through, there's a quote from somebody a reporter who asked about her in indiana, white kid do support bobby kennedy he said yeah, well you don't like negroes around her very much and he said no we don't like negroes. while kennedy was to improve life for the negro, why do support kennedy? i don't know i just do. think a lot of people saw kennedy had been the attorney general and so we kind of had that and he came from a
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background of lot order purity thing people saw him as being someone who would balance the interests of communities with law and order. the other thing that was interesting was in 64, george wallace ran as a democratic candidate in the primary and in indiana he had like 24206% of the vote just running as a straight out racist candidate then four years later kennedy ran in indiana and at the primaries 40% of the vote. so clearly some of the people that voted for kennedy in 68. by the way, i go into george wallace in your little bit george wallace was a piece of work man, so at the time, and 68, when he was campaigning he
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couldn't run for reelection think they had their third child and 61 or 62, the doctor saw some suspicious tissue, but of course told george and not arlene and said you need to get arlene to get this checked out it might be cancerous tissue and she had cervical cancer. but george is running for reelection of time and said i don't want to deal with that. so he never told arlene. it wasn't until late 67 that arlene finally was formally diagnosed with cancer and then died and i think in march or april 68. chris wallace was running farmed out his three kids for relatives. >> not a nice
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