tv David Sokol Adam Brandon America in Perspective CSPAN October 15, 2022 4:49am-5:26am EDT
my name is spencer canadian and. i'm the director of programs here at, freedomworks. we're really excited. have you all here today for this book party, which promotes america in perspective written by david sokol and our own president adam brandon and a special thanks also those who are joining us online on, the livestream. this book covers lot of ground and we're excited to be having discussion tonight. adam and david both been pounding the pavement to spread the message of america in perspective. but tonight we get to hear from both of them, both on the same stage. before i introduce you to our colleagues, steve moore, i want to remind you all that you have pens and papers on your chairs, which you can use for questions for the portion of the program. i also want to help set the stage for this discussion by
sharing some polling that we've done this month, polling that we've commissioned on american dream, because that really is fundamentally what the book is about. we worked with our friend scott and to that, 58% of americans say feel very proud to be an american. 65% say they would rather live in a system which everyone has equal opportunity to succeed. and some people end up successful, which is the definition of a meritocracy. only 24% prefer a system where the government ensures that everybody experiences roughly the same outcome. so that's the good news. but there are some concerning findings as. well, and those get at the threats to the american dream, which is also a theme of this book. only 7% agree that america is a strong force for good in the world. only 24% are very confident that we as a nation, the ability to fix the problems that we face. and fully 42% believe that america's best have come and gone.
so we're looking forward to exploring these types of issues more fully tonight and in the future as we continue to place america in. i also want to say that we're excited to be joined tonight by emily torchinsky, who will moderate the discussion. emily is culture editor at the federalist and host of federalist hour. she previously covered politics as a commentary writer, the washington examiner, and before examiner, emily was the spokesperson for young america's foundation. she's interviewed leading politicians and entertainers and appeared regularly as a guest on major tv programs. emily also serves as director of the national journalism center and as host of the hills weekly rising fridays and a visiting fellow at independent women's forum. originally from wisconsin, she's a graduate of george washington university. but first, i want to introduce our colleague, steve moore, who is senior economist at freedomworks. steve communicates vision for a pro-growth economic agenda and conducts plenty of original
analysis as well. you've probably seen him on tv. you've read his his columns. so further ado, here is steve moore moore. well, hello everybody, it is a real privilege to be here for this unveiling of this great new book. and, you know, my first thoughts about this is what what is it about omaha that creates many amazing businesses? i mean, you talk about warren, of course, and and joe ricketts, of course. david sokol, all hailing from nebraska and been incredibly successful businessmen. so maybe you can tell us what the secret is, david, about that area of the country. this is such a really well-timed book given the kind of economic massacre that's going on in this country over the last 18 months and. the fact that we've gotten so
many of these policies that are supposed to be advancing the american but are achieving just the opposite. we're actually depleting the american dream. we're depleting people's economic prospects by the growth, big government policies and it's almost as if joe biden has done exactly the opposite out of what you suggest in this book and what what's really so exciting to me about this book is. it's not just a recitation of all the problems we have. all right. we though we have problems in the political the people down the street on both sides of. pennsylvania avenue, by the way. just this. the united states passed a two another $200 billion spending bill. you know, can you think of anything dumber than right now spending even more money? and by the way, it passed a bipartisan way. so our congressmen and senators need to read this book as well. i really am appreciative that
you guys wrote about immigration because. immigrants are so much part of the american dream and they are the people who come to this country literally with and show that show prove that the american dream is still alive and well. we see, you know, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people coming to our country every year and achieve the american dream with, nothing. and so that is really strong evidence that the american dream is alive and well. and we've lived through. i mean, david, you know this we've lived through these periods where we feel despair. we feel like the country is in the wrong direction. we lived through the 1970s when we had the last episode of runaway inflation and malaise. and it felt like, you know, america's place in the world had been diminished. and in every one of these instances that has proven to be not true. we've always america has always we will prevail again. but this is a book, american perspective that is really the sort of map that gps map, about
how we retrieve the american dream and american greatness. it will happen. i feel very confident about it, but i hope that everyone reads this. adam, you've been you and i have worked together now for what, been five or six years. and this incredible, you know, activist organization with several million around the country who believe in freedom, believe in free enterprise, believe in liberty. i, spence, are concerned about some of those poll results of young people that. they don't seem to have the same kind of appreciation for the greatness of america. so can we get this? i want to see this book put libraries and put in schools so that young can can read this and learn from it. so congratulations on a great book. it's america and perspective. thank you for c-span for covering this and i will now turn it. who do i turn it over to? now? right here. thank you for having me, steve. let's move it around on this.
steve moore. all right. well, it's my pleasure be here. and my thanks to freedomworks hosting me and for hosting this conversation, i'm sure will be very lively and enlightening. the book itself certainly is someone who's had the pleasure of reading it. i can say it's moving and includes so many helpful argument, but with a sense of, i think, moral clarity. that's missing from a lot of our conversation right now. so i'll introduce our speakers and then we'll dive right in and our speakers, authors, i should say, david sokol, as you all know, is the chairman and ceo of titan capital. he has founded three companies in his career to date, taken three companies public, and is chairman and ceo of mid-american holdings company. he sold that company, berkshire hathaway, in 2000. mr. sokol continued with. berkshire hathaway until he retired in of 2011 when he left in order to manage his family business investments. mr. sokol is a member of the executive committee of the board of directors of the horatio alger association of distinguished americans.
over mr. sokol 40 year career, he has chaired five corporate boards and over a dozen charitable or community boards. welcome, david. thank you so much much. we're joined also by david's co-author, the one and only, adam brandon, who's, of course the president of freedomworks. he joined freedomworks in 2005, in the press department, and gradually moved into management role. he's responsible for setting priorities of the entire family of freedom works entities, including a501c3 foundation, a c4 issue effort and to political action. he's been published in and quoted fox news, the wall street journal, the new york times, the washington post, forbes, the hill. when he's not in a suit as he is right now, he can be found watching cleveland browns really right right. sorry about that. the cleveland browns with his wife, jacqueline and son, pierce, adam, welcome. thank you very much.
and because omaha was getting so much love, i just have to point out that john de rockefeller came from my hometown. congratulations, adam. well, i'll move on to our first question, which is going to be the same for both of our guests. and it is very simply, why did you decide to write this book? we'll start with you, david. well, first of all, you couldn't put a business person in a less comfortable setting than i did. what? also just acknowledge we've got a couple of other authors here and probably many that i'm going to miss. and please feel free to raise your hand. but stephen moore, a great economist and author as. well, and michael park and mark paletta, who just in addition to the documentary that michael did, created equal justice in, is in his own words. they just issued a really terrific book that summarizes his in his life, other 30 hours of interviews they did on video. it's a fabulous book. so anyway, thank you for them
being here. you know, i got to live american dream. my grandparents came over from poland. my dad, when i was a kid, it was always about the american dream. you can do what you want to do. we in rural nebraska, lower income, happy family. we weren't, you know, by today's standards, people would say, you're poor, but we didn't know that if we were. but what i had was constant encouragement. all five of us kids, you got to get a degree, figure out what to what degree you're going to get because going to need to create a life for you to pay for your family the rest of your life. and and work hard. and was that was it? and on sundays, he would pass out clippings. the local newspaper about successful businessmen and not only what they in women, but not only they did with their career, but what they did in the community with with their philanthropy. and so i to me, it was part who you know, who we were. and then i got involved with the horatio alger association, which, as you know, celebrates people coming up from their bootstrap, pulling up their
bootstraps and creating a life in america and and provide scholarships to scholars. and over the last 18 months or 18 years that i've been involved with horatio alger scholars get the american dream. they see it. and these are kids whose background makes virtually anyone i've ever known. they did not a tough upbringing compared to these kids. they weren't just poor. you know, parents killed each other, parents or, you know, drug addicts and prostitutes don't know them. kids living in thrown away containers, steel cans, shipping containers to get through high school. every one of them, they don't blame anybody. and they believe in the american dream. but the questions that i often get when i meet with the scholars or mentor them is how come our colleagues, the kids that we go to school with don't seem to believe in it anymore. and those two things motivated me that that the fact that, you know, less than 15% of american public schools teach civics today. it wasn't an option.
i was a kid. and over half the public schools in america. american history is an alternate class. you don't have to take it. and so we've got young people today. i can't really blame when they just read the papers and things to not understand why the mess we're getting into is is there because they they've not had the opportunity to really learn. and so hopefully this book will give some for people in a balanced way to understand why america is exceptional. what about you, adam? you say, by the way, your brown skin, but your socks scream packers. oh. sorry. i had to point that out. i'm from wisconsin. okay. go ahead, adam. so the reason why i wanted to write this book was it goes back to the very beginning. the first notes we know you, if you write a book, there's that moment that you take all your notes and throw them in a folder and you kind of think, what am i going to call this folder? how about america in? and and you start gathering
other notes. and that was the reason that the working title, which ended up being the final title was america in perspective goes back to we we are taken all these stories and so much of what david and experience is mirrored in my own family. although no one in my family has ever taken a company public. a lot of us dream too. but when when you look at these stories very similar, the people who come to this country, the hardship that they experience. and every great american story is about persevering and having hardship and having failure and having to reinvent yourself and every great whether it's a sports athlete or it's a business owner, everyone that's that's kind most common american story. and so you start looking back through our history, that's just not something that happens. this has happened from the very found of the nation. and so when you start putting all of those trials and tribulations in perspective, it's a pretty story. and too often we're we focus on the negative and you focus on
what is driving people and not that basic dna that unites all of americans. this is the most successful multiethnic country in global history, period it's an amazing thing to think when you about that in light of thousands of years of human civilization. so if you think about that way, yes. this country has had some rough edges. this country has some real tragedies. but it's these basic values that we have meritocracy, rule of law that has allowed us to reinvent ourselves, time, time again. and we're at one of those difficult periods in where we're kind of doing a gut check moment at a lot of our different institutions. and if you keep our history in perspective, what we've been through, is it is a map for how we move forward. well, and there's such an important commonality, what both of you just said in that, on the one hand, students even learning the basics of american history, and on the other hand, what they are being taught is completely
devoid of perspective. so, adam, i'll start with you on this question. i'm wondering how you think some of these very legitimate threats to the american dream, whether it's our system of higher education, whether it's inflation, whether it's any of these economic problems. how can you talk to people right now who are really suffering, balancing that with this that they're getting from just about every institution that america somehow irredeemable? well, some of the topics touch on a little bit and something that that i was raised with this one is this concept of the american dream. and i think too often the whole concept of the dream, we're told, is it's a better than what your parents drove. it's a bigger than your grandparents have. and when you think about it, knows that light, that means the american dream is all about material goods in a material approach. when believe the american dream is something larger, that the american dream is about, it's about that freedom to dream it's about that freedom to chase whatever your heart desires and.
how you want to build your future and that economic prosperity. that's kind of the that's a by product of when we when we chase dreams. what do you think that, david? well, you know, i think part of the problem with all this negative, if you will, attitude is that we've lost the ability to communicate as a society. and it goes back to the fundamentals that we discuss in the book. you know, the founding fathers spent enormous amount of time talking about consensus amongst themselves. it took them a great deal of time to on 75% approval for constitutional amendment, two thirds for impeachment. you know, the 60, 60 votes they very much understood that. and, you know, the whole reason we have two senators per state. but but proportional representation the house they did not want large areas of the country to overwhelm everybody else. and they knew that that would be possible. there'd be large cities, there'd
be rural areas. i these are things you can you can read about their letters back and forth and things of that nature. they it's a government of we, the people, which required consensus. you they understood. yeah. okay. we can elect people based on a plurality of votes, but we can unelect them. so we, the people control that process. but if we're going to make major changes to the foundation of the society, it's got to be on consensus. they're in to me is the biggest we've made. adam made a comment that we're the sorry stephen did that we're one of the only multicultural that have ever actually been successful being multicultural. and we're trying break that down. we're trying to turn ourselves back into tribes where we attack each other. you know, we want to create a myth that we're actually this systemically racist society that we're not. but we're humans. and we've made a of mistakes over the years. but what country went to war with itself and sacrificed 7% of its populace to to stop this
scourge called, you know, slavery. and so it's that consensus building that we're we're away from. you know, last week, i literally probably one of the most disturbing things i've ever heard the united states president say as he stood behind a podium in massachusetts, said, well, the supreme court turned me down. and congress won't pass what i want, so i'm going to do it myself. that's russia. that's china. that's a lot of places. but that's not american. irrespective the issue. if any republican president said that, i would be just as appalled. and but that's where we are. and we've got to get to where we and we get away from name calling and. we fight to find consensus and won't all be happy with it. i'm consensus means in the case of its constitutional amendment that three quarters of states have to approve it, which means apparently a quarter didn't. if if that's all it was. but that's what we're we're build upon and we're if we don't go back to that, if we if we think that the supreme court be
part of it, the house or the office of the president or something, those checks and balances were put in 246 years ago, have been effective. they do get in the way, though. if one of us decides we should get our way all the time. and but that's our purpose actually. adam, did you have something to add? one. one thing that we were we talk about in the book about success. and you mentioned that that's slavery and i just love the story that talked about about nigerian americans. and when you look at statistically about how in the american experience, they're like the most successful subgroup in the entire population. so how can be that if you have this this yet this other group of recent arrivals are doing just so phenomenally well. and i think that shows is the power of the a lot of folks that come with who weren't born here, that come here and then take advantage of the opportunities to chase their dreams. and that shows me the strength of america and strength of what this country has to offer.
so if you it's just a continuum through history of these opportunities that are provided to folks here. and this is an individual that came from nigeria. it made an enormous fortune by working hard and being, frankly, very. when i asked him about we were together fishing and, i said, what do you think about american systemically racist? and he said, well, it's said, i'm from nigeria. he said, it's absurd. he said your country was formed by. western europeans that on balance were white and for a great period of time that was sort of how the country existed. and then you morphed into this multicultural pot. he said, if you want to see white privilege, forget white he black privilege come to nigeria and try start a business. and his point was, he said, that's not to say that there is necessarily systemic racism. nigeria is white, but it's been a black nation since its
existence. and the notion that just because that's the case, systemic racist is absurd and. that's from a nigerian. i shared the story with adam earlier today. i was done in northern mexico reporting on the border recently and there was a group of haitian migrants that was gathered literal almost at the gate of the border. this was in matamoros and one of the haitian migrants we were asking him, you know, they come from venezuela and chile, not necessarily haiti, why they would risk sleeping on the streets, huddled outside the border, outside the gate. and he said the american dream turned to all of the other, you know, dozens of haitians around him. and they all started saying the american dream. the american dream. the american dream is very alive in other parts of the world, which is what's highlighted by this are very powerful stories. they're very powerful anecdotes. and i wanted to ask both of you, if you have a favorite story from the book that illustrates why america's best kept in perspective. well, my favorite story is the how many of you in this room have heard of robert smalls like
ever he wants? hands should be up. this guy this guy should be on the $20 bill. robert small says was a slave. he escaped he commandeered a boat. he freed himself. a bunch of others came up north. convinced lincoln to allow blacks to fight in the civil war. then it, a multimillionaire founded the republican of south carolina. and to top it all off, he bought the plantation that he was enslaved in. i mean that's like an only in america. incredible story. and it's such a story of overcome. it's such a story of of meeting adversity. and was just a lot of fun to try and take a guy like that his story and i this is something that a movie should be made out of. i agree. and in doing a lot of the research, which by the way, freedomworks incredibly helpful for is what one of the things adam and i agreed with was every detail that's in the book has be referenced because unfortunately today, people will tend to think you have a perspect that they don't like and therefore they'll find something to to to tear it
apart. so we everything in doing that as we went through a lot of the research, the history, you realized how we used it kept using a term self-healing that one of the thing that's amazing about what the founding fathers created here was this self-healing nature of america to to to get at odds with itself and then find an answer through that and and go forward. so to me, that was not a story necessarily in there, but it is the reality that we have this unique form of government and society that has been self-healing through these years now. that's not to say there weren't a lot of things to heal from. i mean, there's no one thing we don't gloss over in the book is that there was racism and there was jim crow and, a lot of other things. and those are bad. and nobody in this stage is going to defend them. but we worked our way through them as a society. the one criticism we probably could all have is that takes too long to do those things. but i think part of consensus
building, multicultural backgrounds is, you know, we don't all see the things we do, the fact we have freedom of religion means we may disagree on things that seem pretty obvious to somebody, but for religious reasons so we still have to find that consensus and but that self-healing. i think we should never lose sight of this a great country and the opportunities, i think, are as good as they've ever been. but. 30 trillion in debt and running are our economy the way we're running it. we're going to end up with it. and i hope we can avoid too many people have said to me, the only way gets fixed is if we have a catastrophe. and i and if unfortunately the very people that they get hurt the most are the lowest income. and that's that's the wrong way to solve this problem. and we talk about argentina and most people say you should talk about venezuela. i actually think the argentinean story is more interesting from an american perspective, because if you go back 100 years ago,
argentina right there with the united states and all the economic tables, you go back 100 years ago, france, germany, basically the same. you go back to 1945. well, they weren't bombed. you had your population was in tact argentina they should be in the g-7. this should be one of those powerful countries on and they lost it and they lost it by starting to mess with some of their basic fundamental goals. some of the they had a lot of the same things that we had and they lost it. and what that shows me is that the prosperity and the stability that this country has. it's not just something that ordained to happen and. if you make bad policy decisions, you can become the next argentina. you can actually look back and you know, 50 years from now, 100 years from now, we could be looking back, be like that was the moment when the united states decided they're going to go in this other direction and then we become a great regional power instead of that. what you talked about where the haitians are at the border screaming the america dream and
that's kind of the moment we're at right now, deciding which way we're going to go. are we going to recommit to the things that that has gotten us through this commitment to a meritocracy, this commitment to rule law, or are we going to try and go in some of a more utopian direction and up just a giant argentina? david, you about this a bit when you were mentioning how you realized the self-healing nature our system. this is a great question from the audience. nonfiction writers often learn a lot when writing their books. what's the most interesting thing you learned while writing this book? and i'll start with you, david. it's the word consensus. i startled to find i mean, i've always been a kind of a history buff on presidents and the founders in that. but it wasn't until a friend of mine kind of got me to thinking about getting some of the old papers between the founding fathers. the letters, i mean, jefferson, there's volumes he kept every letter he ever received and every letter he ever wrote and they're printed up in volumes.
and adams had similar files. and you go back and reading these things, they exactly what they were doing. they they they understood that. so they had population centers back and that they would try to overwhelm rural thought processes at different religious areas of the country. and that was that word is kind of emblazoned inside of me. i just had no idea. you know, we think of them as being geniuses in their own right. their real genius was as a group because they didn't all agree. and yet they they you know, they talked in there in several their papers about how their goal to write the constitution was to be unanimously agreed on every word. and they effectively made that other than the area of regarding slavery. and you think about i think about our congress today drafting a nice letter, somebody and agreeing on every word. i mean, we've really lost that.
and they argued it wasn't that they argue, but they found words that they could all know make work. and so consensus would be the one thing that i one thing i would want to add is something i learned that didn't even get into the book. a few of the staff and i were down and we were working. we had this meeting and i don't know if you remember this, but we're walking out of your house and i turn to you and i just asked point blank, what's one thing to know if you want to run a successful business and without a b just say oh that's easy just fire every pessimistic person on your staff. now the car ride back to the airport was really positive of everyone that was in the was in the car. but what i've that's always stuck with me as because it does apply to where you're going as a country if your country is really negative down on itself, it is not going to be a success. it is not going meet its challenges. but when people of see that opportunity in that positive city, i think that's what that haitian was looking to keep going back to your haitian at
the border there. but i think that's what they were looking for was that positivity of like i'm going have the opportunity to improve my life no matter what is thrown in my way. mm well, we have just a few minutes left and we have a really great question from the audience and it's specifically asking about some of the younger people who are in the crowd. and that sense of optimism seems to be such an important, such an important contact to keep this. and what is your advice to the younger members of this audience going forward? they're being told the country is irredeemable as they're being saturated in pessimism. what's your advice. read this book and just recognize that we got here as a nation that argues with itself and self-govern and the fact that we don't always agree mean we're bad doesn't mean the other side's bad. and don't let the pessimism get in the way because to it is cancerous.
it's what's causing our problem. it's not fixing problems. i mean, you know you take the immigration situation and i mean i'm just a business guy get that but i got to tell you think if if if we went you not a browns game but a can there are a lot of fun kansas city chiefs game playing the browns in kansas city and threw darts in there and picked 15 people and we got them together and gave them genuine facts, unbiased advisors. they could come up with a bill to rationally resolve the immigration situation. now that bill would have to go in front of the american people in congress in that. but you know, with all due respect, it's not that complicated, but we've turned it into this this political tool to bash people with, etc.. it's things like that the young people need to understand. we need them to demand more of their elected officials. and and that's how you change this because it's changeable and. you know, i think think back and
for of us in here, not necessarily younger folks, but ronald reagan changed the attitude to this country in six months from very pessimistic. my first mortgage was 16%. and you think it's depressing to being young person today? five and a half percent looks pretty good. but in literally in six months. and my first vote was for is is predecessor because he was an engineer i'm an engineer you know he's going to be he's going to run this country. well, and you know what? i think jimmy carter perhaps might be one of the nicest people in the country. but he's a horrible president. and but optimism, ronald reagan's just enormous optimism and and his unwillingness to break things down and have 50 fights. he would one fight at a time. we got to solve this we've got to get inflation down. we've got to get the economy growing. and he didn't pick a fight with everybody. i think we've got to get back to leadership leadership matters.
and frankly, if i don't have answer for it but we need to get away from the professional politician world that we live in today. you know, the current administration to me is troubling that you and steve wrote a interesting piece, but it's obvious when you look at it. this is an administration of identity politics and. i don't really care personally about someone's gender, about someone's sexual preferences in that i won't call 80 people in our company. you could green and walk on all fours and if you're really good at what you do you'll get promoted. i mean that's that's the nation of how we run a business. it's a meritocracy. we have to, you know, experience matters when you try. i mean, you take take the issue of potentially shifting our entire energy situation from our current fossil fuel backed background to to zero carbon. boy i'll tell you what i would have every expert i could my arms around helping me figure out how to do this and don't
have. they won't even meet with you. you know, i've been in the energy industry my whole my whole career the obama administration would meet with you. the vitamins rachel won't meet with you. they only meet with folks. want to tell them what they want to hear politically, that may be great, but for america it's terrible. you know, i like the the old abraham, you know, the the cabinet of rivals get some really smart people with a lot of experience but that so young people to me that they're going to be the who have to have to pick up the mess that we're leaving them in on a note and young people that one of the numbers i like to throw around and if there's a number that you can remember it's the year 1983 51% of americans were born. after 1983. so think of what that means for people in their perspectives. berlin wall came down in 89 so if you're born in 1983 talking about construction all of you're going to miss some people in
that. so it's important to make sure that we're there's a whole nother audience for us engage with. hmm. well, thank you both so much for your remarks and for this wonderful book. excited to bring spencer and back up to the stage to help continue with the program. spencer well, thank you all. thank adam and david and emily. we are going to be doing a book signing with david and adam right next door in just a few minutes. i just want to take a moment also to recognize couple special guests have joined us. senator paul and mr. larry. we really value. we we really are grateful for your partnerships with with us and thank you so much for for your support. what we do here at freedomworks. i will now turn over to everybody for for the book signing and reception. once again, thank you all and thank you to those who joined us