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tv   Foster Care  CSPAN  November 23, 2016 10:18pm-11:38pm EST

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i also want to say thank you to tiller communications for their help, and welcome all of those joining our live simulcast. tonight's event is titled "voiceless children: the civil rights struggle that never began." and our guests are peter samuelson, a self-described recovering movie producer. and a really extraordinary serial social entrepreneur that has founded an organization called first star, helping foster kids get into and be successful in college. also with us tonight is soledad o'brien, a deeply respected journalist who is doing work through her starfish foundation. i think the conversation is going to be informative, and inspiring, moving.
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and when you leave here tonight, our hope is that you will leave with a much, much clearer understanding of the challenges that are facing foster children, but also quite frankly, mad as hell and truly committed to being a part of the solution. now, to be sure, i know there are extraordinary people in this room who either have had, myself included, or are currently working tirelessly on this issue. and are indeed making extraordinary progress and truly commendable impacts. but despite these heroic efforts, i think we can all agree that the foster care system is fundamentally broken. and what we need -- [applause] gabriel: thank you. well, what we really need is a dramatic pivot how we think about, see, serve, treat some of the most vulnerable and
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voiceless among us. the 400,000 americans that currently make up our foster care system. these are children and young men and women that were simply dealt a very bad hand, when it came to the challenges that their families faced. and they are entitled to, they deserve, all the same protections, opportunities, support, and love that those of us who have been dealt a different hand have enjoyed. now, we spend about $80 billion a year, all in, trying to provide that support. and what do we get for it? about 25,000 of these children will age out of the system each year, meaning the foster care system has raised them. and sometimes between their 18th and 21st birthday, they are told we are done with you, good luck out there.
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good luck out there in the world. half of them will not complete high school. 25% will become homeless. another 25% will find themselves incarcerated. half of them will not be able to find a job. and 97% will never complete a bachelor's degree. the message we are sending, and they are kids, is we do not care, you do not matter, you cannot be successful. and that is a horrible life sentence to impose on anyone. i would suggest there is nobody in this room that is capable of exceeding the expectations they have set for themselves. it is impossible. it cannot be done. every decision we make from, what am i going to do today, to what do i want to be in life, begins with a very simple
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question. can i do it? can i do it? am i valuable enough to be able to do it? and for those of us who have not spent time in the foster care system, imagine for a moment how you might answer that question, if you hadn't had a family to nurture you, to support you, to pick you up even into young adulthood during the inevitable slips and failures. and that is one of the things that is so extraordinary about peter samuelson's academy. it is a real, honest to goodness, forever there family. and when you have a family you are in a much better position to answer yes to that question. his model is also incredibly cost-effective and scalable and replicable, and proven by data. and all of those things that we in the social entrepreneur space get excited about and focused on.
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it is an extraordinary solution to an unconscionable societal failure. and tonight's conversation is really all about the civil rights movement we need to try to rectify the situation. i am incredibly grateful and incredibly thankful that all of you have chosen to come here tonight to talk about this. we really do want to make it a conversation and hear from you. so, you can tweet to @nyureynolds throughout the discussions. and for those of us in the room, please jot your questions down on the index cards. we will collect them at about 7:20 and get them to the guests. and with that in mind, please join me in very warmly welcoming peter samuelson and soledad o'brien. [applause]
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soledad: thank you. welcome, everybody. and thanks for taking up this conversation, which i think is so important and so rarely had, certainly as a journalist it is a conversation that we as americans do not really even discuss, as much as we will say it is a population we care about deeply. full stop. never really do anything about it. so, let us begin by starting at the beginning. you, as you said, a recovered movie producer. what first got you interested in this issue, the issue you call a civil rights issue that is never really gotten up the ground? peter: i grew up in london, in a poorish family. and i had an english teacher, mr. lund.
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i am sure he had a first name, but i never knew it. [laughter] peter: and he said, see me after school. this was the 11th grade. he said to me, you know, if you work twice as hard you could go to a really good university. and i said, that is ridiculous. my dad left school at 14. and i don't believe there is anyone in my entire family that has ever been to a university. and he said, well, it is even better, because you will be the first one. and what he said came true. the second thing is that i learned about the american dream, what is written on the base of the statue of liberty. give us your huddled masses. and i thought i could be a huddled mass. [laughter] peter: and i came to america. because i felt the american dream was the most wonderful thing. there is no german, british, spanish dream, but there is an american one. and it says we do not care about your parents, do not care even if you have parents. we care if you work hard,
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because if you will, we will get you educated, you will have a worthwhile job, raising healthy families, contribute to america, pay taxes. you will be part of the gnp. you, too, can be happy. that is transformative. those two things are where i am from. the idea for the academy was not mine. dr. kathleen reardon, professor at usc, phoned at 5:00 in the morning. i cannot do her irish accent, but you will have to imagine it. she said, i have been up all night. i think it is a huge idea, but maybe it is stupid. you have to be the reality check. so, all of the experts say that the kids that you cannot find good families for for foster care, that would be the teenagers. if you have a little eight-year-old girl, you will find her a family. but a 6'1", 16-year-old boy is going to a group home, and god bless, we know the outcome stats.
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you heard gabe say that. actually, two thirds end up incarcerated. half end up homeless. and the little one that is not talked about is the high proportion of the girls get sex trafficked. and, in fact, in los angeles county, of 109 kids rescued by the fbi from sex trafficking, 73 of them in the year last year had been recruited directly out of group foster homes. so, kathleen says, i have had this idea. if you have to house these kids and put them somewhere, why would we put them somewhere helpful? i said, where would you help? she said, what about the campus of a four-year university? i said, how old are the kids? >> ninth, tenth graders. 11th, 12th graders. i said that is a huge idea. all kids want to emulate upwards in age, but it has never been done.
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so we got two grad students. we said, we will pay you a stipend, figure out where it can be done. historically, whether it can be done or not. they came back three weeks later and said, we really hope we can still have the stipend. [applause] [laughter] peter: but we do not believe this has ever been done. so, i went to meet the chancellor at ucla and the vice chancellor. and they said yes. in the room, they said it is only in the last six months that we have known who the ex-foster youth are. on our campus, because the student aid a form, the fafsa form, asks on the form. have you ever been a foster kid? we have been trying to help them ever since. we give the meal tickets, sheets, towels, that sort of thing. textbooks. she says, what was much trickier is the psychosocial. the first time they fail a quiz,
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they have no friends, no study skills. they feel fish out of water. they run away. we cannot even find them to get them back. and she said, if you do this, or we do it together, this will be the farm team for the big leagues of the university. and i said, yes, i think that is exactly it. so, we just started five years ago. and we now have the eight academies across the country, about a dozen more in development. it is really a phenomenon. 10% of american foster kids go to college, and 3% earn a degree. of our 12th-graders, nationally this june, 90% of them went to , college. so -- [applause] soledad: that is huge. so, with that, let us take a
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moment to show a video clip, that will show even more about the organization and the programming. roll that. ♪ >> a quarter of foster kids are homeless, after they age out of the system. a third of our girls and two thirds of our young men end up in prison after aging out of foster care. roughly a third of american 12th-graders go on to get a bachelors, but the comparable stat is 3% of foster kids. >> i have had, personally, 12, maybe give or take. 12 places. >> i want to say more than like 10. places, houses, homes. >> this was my fifth foster placement in three years. and each time, it was a
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different house, different school, different friends. i had to like start over. >> the hand i was dealt was just different. >> my name is justin. >> my name is sarah. >> my name is mike. >> linda. >> basically, if we are ever going to improve the statistics, you have to make foster youths believe they belong on a college campus and give them the tools to get there. >> we are an academic program, and we are trying to get students to college, but i think the foundation of our program is that we are family. >> we can dramatically increase the number of these kids who go to college and thrive in college. >> these kids are our responsibility, and i feel that this is one of the few organizations that really respects them, honors them as full citizens and humans.
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as they are given the rights and protections that we are lucky enough to have. >> where i would be? first, a family. ♪ >> the people inspire me to be who i want to be and go to college, because they inspire me to be open, to be able to share, to be all that you can be. >> i feel like they do not want me. but when i came here, it felt like family. for the first time, i had something. >> the first star academy focuses on education, life skills, self aptitude. >> i want to be something that people can look up to, people can help them find that strength themselves. >> i just started believing in myself.
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>> when i first started, my grades were terrible. now, i have a 3.8 gpa. >> i want to become a lawyer and be an advocate for foster kids who want to be heard. >> we have to trust each other and work together. >> we have work to do. >> i will be attending humboldt state university in the fall. >> the university of california, riverside. >> spelman college. >> i am attending ucla this fall. people who care so much it is amazing. , everybody has a chance to do whatever they want, a community, that you don't have to worry about it. ♪ [applause]
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soledad: thank you for raising the lights for us. so, why has this been a civil rights issue that has never really taken off? why do you describe it that way, and what do you mean by it? peter: i think it is a confluence of unfortunate things. first of all, the prior civil rights struggles, not that any have been easy, but think of it. suffragettes, people of color, brown versus board of education, the voting rights act, cesar chavez and the working farmers, gay and lesbian and transgender folks, the americans with disabilities act, always adults. so, at least they can make some noise. they could march. but these are children. you will never read an op-ed by
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an underage foster kid. they are not going to march. they will not chain themselves to the railings. they do not have lobbyists. and so, why would it change? because in america, you have to make noise. you have to be loud. i think what has been missing here is loudness, and what i hope we can do is as we graduate kids using education to pivot them, they become self advocates and ambassadors for their victim class, and they go out, make a difference, we make noise, we make change. there are some specific things that we need to change, and we should change them. soledad: we will talk about specifics in just a moment. do you think most americans understand how bad it is? peter: no, i do not. i think it is human nature, first of all, when something is just intrinsically sad, we tend to turn away.
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it is too horrible. really? this child has been burned with cigarettes? really? this young woman has been raped by a relative? this boy has been beaten with a tree branch? how do we deal with that? how do we process? the great thing about first star, yes, that is where our kids are from. but what we are all about is education, so that they become a transformed, high potential human being. so, we are the happy bit, the silver lining in the cloud, and that makes it much easier to talk about. it does not take anything away from the tragedies, but i think the biggest lesson that is there is nothing the matter with them. horrible things have been done to them, but they have triumphed over that and they are now going to be happy, professional, successful, middle-class americans and be part of our greater society.
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and it is not just them, it is the children they are going to raise, their children's children, an ever widening wedge of responsible, invaluable adults, because we use education to pivot them. soledad: what did you learn from that first year of that first program? what did you realize you are doing well, and what did you realize you had not figured out when you went in? what worked? what did not work? peter: so, the thing that snuck up on us, the kids did the heavy lifting. themselves, that maybe 2-3 weeks in, it was like watching flowers open. that you could look at these 14-year-olds, oh, the stubborn ones we were warned about, they are still stubborn, but stubborn to get academic work done, and stubborn they're going to be someone, amount to something. and these kids seem to have
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become a family. a big revelation for us was who we should hire as the mentors were ex-foster youth who got into college and were now undergraduate or graduate students. because we realized all young people want to emulate older young people. and by giving them excellent role models, you see it at dinner, you would see the 23-year-old sitting with a 14-year-old, come on, jose, you really want to work at mcdonald's the rest of your life? why do you want that? i am going to be an architect. do you think i am smarter than you? i am not any smarter than you, i just did my homework. let me help you with your algebra. there is a game on sunday. there is a concert. it is not just a t-shirt. it is a bagel latter you are being given. it is extraordinary, but only one person can choose to climb up, and that would be you. and we realize that they are into it. they have tested us, all sorts
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of naughty things. will these be the latest in a very long, consistent line of grown-ups who kick us out? and of course, the kids joke, you really would have to burn the building down to get kicked out. you would pick up a lot of trash across the campus if you do some wrong things, but you do not get kicked out because this is a place that cares about you. and that picks you up when you fall, and helps you succeed. a few weeks and come away knew we were onto something. that was when we started replicating to other campuses, because it was quite clear this was a no-brainer. i don't think it is even rocket science. i don't think there is anything we do. we simply use the power and the community of a large university to replace what these poor kids have not had a family to do for them. encourage them, teach them, give them role models, and show them where that ladder is. soledad: walk us through the
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structure of how it works. in replicating i think you said , you have one opening in new york city? peter: yes, here is the announcement of the day. city university of new york, staten island, first intake of youth is september. the job posting for the director position went up this week. and so that will be our first new york academy, the first of many because it is part of our arrangement with cuny that we make a success of this, and they would do it on all the campuses. we are very delighted. and there are about another 12-15 universities across the country that are in development. also, three outside the u.s. one in london, one in toronto, and one of multicultural, multireligious, multiethnic one in jerusalem, israel. we are on a roll.
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we are replicating. [applause] soledad: congratulations. incredible. give me the setup. peter:we are replicating. the ce third academic, one third life skills made up on the back of an envelope. how to brush your teeth sexual , education, std's, financial literacy, videography, self-assertion, meditation anger -- allement, and all hot taught to a very high level, because what do they have any university? they know how to teach. we are using the power of their professional pedagogic capabilities to raise the kids. the other one third of it is what you have at a university. not just the t-shirt, what the t-shirt stands for. on the calendar, the kids, the students i should say, live on the campus in the dorms with
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those are mentors who are undergrads for four to six weeks each summer ninth grade, 10th, , 11th, 12th grade. the rest of the year the dorms are full of undergraduates. we bring the kids back one or two weekend days as day students. that would not be enough so we also have a moderated, controlled, online clubhouse where the kids go after school and they can upload their videos since we teach them all videography, post report cards, their grades. someone can put up they got in it and and a picture of 40 other people say yes, we'd know you could do it. terrific. a lot of tutoring. we get everybody up to grade level. soledad: what kind of grade level? what is your average student? peter: they are often behind. we have kids who say to me, i
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really love english but my teacher reads the newspaper most of the time in class. these are kids attending very often disproportionately poor kid schools. poor kid schools, some are wonderful, a few, most are not. one of the things we do is we go and advocate for our students with their high schools so we have our lawyer go and say to a high school administrator, why is this young man no launcher -- no longer in algebra one? you know he needed to get his a-g so he can go to college. the administrator will say, he's not going to college, is he? and our advocate will say, why do you say that? and the school administrators says, he's a foster kid they never go to college. it will say, put him back and -- back in algebra and we will get him into college. it becomes a self-perpetuating thing and what makes it worse is
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it is so siloed. soledad: what do you mean by that? the social workers and the knowledge of the youth that they have is not necessarily shared with the educators in the high school. most of the high schools in the united states do not even know who the foster kids are in their midst. you can actually tell because in a classroom in high school, the only kids with no technology at all, that would be the foster kids. day one of ninth grade in our academy, everybody gets a laptop, everybody gets a suite of software, everyone is taught to use it well and safely and they get connectivity. that is how they communicate. we also, one of the things we have learned by trial and error is that teaching self-assertion is very rare, unprecedented in their lives, and is of enormous value to them. so we teach videography. you do not have to teach any
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millennial, foster kid or not, how to press the buttons on the camera. they know all of that, but we teach them storytelling and we teach them to edit. and to go viral with their videos. soledad: i think we have a clip. peter: we're going to show a clip of linda. this would be a good moment let , me introduce it. the other thing we do for self-assertion is we teach public speaking. you got these kids who have been so beaten down, literally and figuratively, they can be incredibly shy. not look you in the eye. we turn them all into public speakers. we encourage their creativity not only musical, we encourage them to write, especially to write poetry. so spoken word, in other words a poem written by the youth and then performed by them is a double whammy. so you are about to see linda.
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linda came to us in ninth grade as the shyest possible young lady and she graduated last june from our academy at ucla and she is now a freshman at san francisco state university. this was done when she was in the academy. this is linda. [video clip] >> i cannot sit on the bus with you. let go of my hair, mommy. you are complaining like a full. who would ever knew? mamas were so powerful. i cannot trust you. i was one of those little girls. as a matter of fact, i was a baby girl.
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she was a red rose, wearing those fine -- i stayed by her side. but she knows how to shoot me down by the third bullet to i learned how to stand my ground. life ripped me away from your arms and put me in front of a loaded gun. i saw you here and there, i see the change in you. so no matter where you were, i still love you. it is mother's day, mommy. i wrote a song for you. i sat with the soul of mind, mommy. it is the only way i can get to you. a song like no others. you are simply being a mother. it has been a year since i have seen you. i miss the sound of your voice and all the mothering that came with it. it is not like i had another
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choice. senior year i had multiple bullets. i face my fears and not the tears. i heard about what happened. everybody is talking about it, grandpa. how could you leave him? he was your baby. my baby brother left like the rest of us. i forgive you once mother. i don't know if i can forgive you are again. -- forgive you again. you told me you would not be like my father. a vid you wanted to be a chola like the old days. i wish you were here, mommy. i wish you are here, you could see the smile on my face they , said yes to me. you were supposed to be in that memory, but you are walking the streets of east l.a. living the
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dream. i thought we were your dream. you know what? i have dreams, too. you are too busy for yourself to have time for your own flesh and blood. i had to put it in a pretty note for you to hear. why must you make it so hard? you are breaking my heart. but i'm not going to beg and hold onto your leg. i hear your voice and my soul. you are missing all that it holds. there is that saying, mommy. like mother, like daughter. i promise you, mommy, i will not be like my mother. i will cut the roots and grow my
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own tree. i got off the bus. i decide who i am. thank you. [applause] [end video clip] peter: a couple of things from that. first of all, all children are magnificent. these children are just as magnificent as anybody else. given the opportunity, they thrive. secondly, you are watching up -- you are watching that because we got a court order to permit us to teach videography, videotape our students, show those videos, allow the press to interview them. that is very, very rare in america. the institutional sense is that everything to do with foster care must be secret. now, absolutely there are circumstances where the dignity
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of a child has to be protected, but we do that with the victims of rape in a rape trial. adults. we don't allow the press to reveal the identity of the victim. but what the press can always do in an adult rape trial is come to court, look at what is going on, and write about did the , police it do a good job? did the da do a good job? what is going on here? only the identity of a victim is protected. and yet with foster kids, there is two thirds of this country, everything secret. blanket secrecy. one third of the country, it is open, but protecting the identities of the kids. guess who has the best outcome stats? the power of the press is not available to help foster kids get their civil rights because the press has -- is stopped from
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covering this stuff. that is one of the things we need to change. soledad: i was going to ask you because you mentioned change earlier. what else needs to change? we started the conversation with this idea that people will hear this and be mad. what do you do with that anger? what has to change? tell me the things people should be advocating for. peter: i knew you would ask me that, so i thought there are actually five things. soledad: i will give you five, then. [laughter] peter: number one, we need to flip the presumption of secrecy, conceal the identity of the victim, but everything else, all the institutional everything, should be open to the press so they can write about repetitive and inept bureaucratic failure and so forth. the second thing is, one size never fits all. these are individual human being children they all need a , lawyer. in two thirds of this country, they do not get a lawyer. in one third of this country,
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they do get a lawyer. it is not just binary. it should be their lawyer, they should have confidentiality. it should be their lawyer not the court's lawyer. it needs to be the same lawyer. there needs to be adequate prep time. because it is through that lawyer that the absurdity of a hearing where everybody in the room either has a lawyer or is a lawyer except the subject of the hearing, who is a child and may be eight years old. they need lawyers. so that is one and two. three, four, and five are education, education, and education. because it is through education that we can pivot this family line of repetitive abuse, neglect, poverty, abuse, neglect, poverty that rolls down generations. we can pivot it into high-achievement, a good job, a happy life, children who are
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raised by their parents well and who go on and have grandchildren who are also well-raised. so that would be it for me. lawyers, flip the presumption of secrecy, education, education, and education. >> how about specifically around child protective services, which is very different around the country depending on where you are. what would be an effective change there? peter: i think that it depends on where you are in the country. i have a lot of time for the administration for children services here in new york. they are very close to us. they are actually one of the sponsors of the cuny staten island academy. i think that gladys who runs it, the commissioner, is very much open to innovation. she certainly gave me the time of day.
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a year and a half ago, i met her at a conference and here we are. we already have an academy at cuny. there are other places that are just benighted. what is extraordinary is there are 2200 jurisdictions in the united states. you talk to experts, when i was doing my research years ago i would say, tell me somewhere good, and the judge or whoever would name a city, and i would say, why is that good? they would say, it is not rocket science. about 20 years ago the mayor called a meeting with the chief of police, head of school district, head of the children's hospital, etc., and the head of children's services, and they decided to do a better job with weekly meetings. they do joint triage. they share software, etc. and i would say that make sense, tell me about a close-by city. the same expert would say, oh no, that is a terrible cesspool of inept bureaucratic failure.
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i would say, what do i know, i am just a film producer, but do so we say how do you much of a good job? can we borrow your three ring binder? can you send someone down to help us? and they would say they don't do that. and i would say, why not? because they don't do that. yes, but why? well, because, you know, it is human nature. nobody wants to be told how to do their job better. so you have the shining spots of good practice, and then you have another 2000 where it is as if it never existed. imagine that in business. you would have to believe that any big american fortune 500 company, starbucks, 7-11, fedex. they sit there on monday morning and say, look, it is taking them 40 seconds longer to make a delivery in cleveland and in
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cincinnati. send the cincinnati people to cleveland to sort it out. what are they doing it wrong? raise your ships with the rising tide. we do it for cardboard boxes, for venti lattes, and for 7-eleven why not for our , children? we need to do better. soledad: tell me about the transition into college. how does it happen, what kind of support do your students get, and how do they do when they are on the college campus? peter: so far so good, they are hanging in there and thriving. we try hard to have them go to colleges where there is a guardian scholars program. it is sometimes called "renaissance." in other words, the university puts its arm around the foster youth to help them thrive psycho socially and in material
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things. we try to point them out those universities and colleges, by no means all. secondly, we try to do a buddy system where we send them in twos and threes and fours to the same place because they feel like siblings, and in a real sense, they are. they are constructive siblings and they can support each other once they get there. we go visit a lot. we are now, remember, we are a five year old program. we're just now getting our heads around what does it look like once they are in our alumni group? we are standing by them and helping them. we are a college prep program. that is how we want to be measured, but we also, they are our family, so we have to be there for them. soledad: before i get to my next question i want to remind folks , that if you have a card and want to hand it, let's everybody and it to the last person in the
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aisle and someone will grab the cards. we will have someone, and grab the card from you so we can have some questions from the audience in a few moments. what are the biggest obstacles? what is the thing that keeps you up at night? what is the big problem you are wrestling with? peter: money. [laughter] soledad: walk us through what , does it cost? is it cost efficient and scalable? peter: we start with a cohort of 30 ninth graders plus or minus that costs about $300,000. about $10,000 per youth per year. when you add a second cohort behind them, and a third cohort, it cuts the per capita cost down so you end up $6,000, maybe $7,000 per youth per year. where that comes from is first of all the universities contributing in kind. i am sure there will be a day
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where a university will write a big check. where i will go to the campus and the chancellor or president will say, thank god you have come. we have so much excess money here, we don't know what to do with it. terrific. let's throw it at this. [laughter] peter: they don't say that. what they say is, dorm space, sure. take it. the van fleet? absolutely. catering? ok. so it brings the cost down. then we almost always get money from government. for example, cuny, acs is paying some. the rest of it has to be raised. i am a volunteer beggar. i go out and i say, come and meet our kids. please help make this happen. somehow or other we get it done. soledad: what is the selling
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point when you're asking someone to come and help the kids? what is the thing you say to them that has them say, absolutely? peter: we are living in a very political time at the moment. this is the only thing i've ever done that works on both sides of the aisle. we can talk about blighted lives. we can talk about repetitive generational awfulness. we can talk about vivid, happy lives, children, grandchildren, so on. the other thing we can do is just talk fiscally. what do we want? it costs this country, the taxpayer, us, $83 billion a year is the direct inconsequential cost of foster care in america. about $35 billion is the direct cost of foster care. for those 400-odd thousand kids in the system at any point in time. the other 50-billion with a "b" are the consequential costs is
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, the incarceration costs, judicial costs, welfare, and so on. added together is that is the $83 billion, size of the iraq war. why are we sitting here hearing it for the first time? because it is not noisy. it is silent, but it is huge. in the end, we have to get this wed because ido will die of fundraising fatigue at some point. i have to say it is now easier because we have our metrics of success. quite how we raise the money before we had graduated any kids, i am not sure. mostly by appealing to high net worth people. now suddenly with the metrics of success, it is very appealing to well-organized foundations. it is the big idea, the elephant in the room idea, that they have never previously known what to do about foster care. here is a plan. soledad: do you think in terms
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of what the students need to return to society? i think our expectations of citizens is we deliver something back. is that something you thought about? peter: i think they are splendid, obviously. they are like my kids, all of them. they will be excellent citizens as adults. they are completely impassioned with a visceral need to serve. what do they want to be when they grow up? they want to be lawyers. do they want to be corporate lawyers? no. children's lawyers. they want to be social workers, they want to be professionals whose life work is helping similarly situated kids. the very first meeting i had with the vice chancellor of ucla, we sat in the outdoor restaurant and were talking about how we are going to do this and who we need to hire. there is a young lady with blonde hair, ponytail, flip-flops, and shorts, and she
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was suddenly in our space. we said, yes? she said, i am so embarrassed, i apologize. i have been eavesdropping. i do not know who you are, but pick me. i have to help you. last year i had my jd in june from the law school. please, let me help you because i lived in foster care for 10 years. so we hired her. soledad: that was good eavesdropping. peter: it was good eavesdropping. [laughter] soledad: what do you believe, if you can solve this, in the micro, you have an opportunity to solve a much bigger problem in the macro? peter: taken to scale, this dramatically changes foster care. by diminishing the number of kids who ever go in it in the first place and by sending an impassioned, empowered
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generation of young people out into the world to do good. the only class i teach is called random acts of kindness and pay it forward. we talk about the golden rule, we talk about the second law of thermodynamics. then i say, there is a man in dallas called mort and he loves you and he is giving you $200. no, it is not for you. he is giving it to you so you can give it away. somebody always says can i give my $200 to him and he gives his $200 to me? no. you can have no benefit. you have to write a 300 word essay and say who you want to give it to. soledad: what is the point of giving them $200? peter: because it is splendid, it makes him feel 10 feet tall.
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it makes him feel they have value. everything done to foster kids makes them feel they are worthless. we have this thing where i live called a seven-day notice. it is a three-part form. one part is written by foster placement. one part to child protective services, saying take this person away. they are gone i don't want them , there anymore. the second copy they keep, and the third copy goes to foster care. we have kids who have lived in 15 houses, 15 group homes and -- in their career in foster care. what happens when everything, everything, you know, every teenager acts out. god knows i did. what do we do in a family? you say you are grounded. you don't get pocket money this month. that was a dreadful, unhelpful thing that you did. don't do it again. learn from this. but what we don't do is to say, you're gone. out. gone. i never want to see you again.
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that does not happen in a family. when it does happen to these kids repeatedly, what is the message of that? you feel like a worm. you are three inches tall. the benefit of us making them into mini-philanthropists is they are 10 feet tall. and they realize, i have power. we had the christmas party and the head waiter came out onto the sidewalk and said, this is after the lunch, he said, so they did not eat their desserts. we have all these icing-covered muffins. what you want me to do with them? i said, put them in little boxes and give them to the kids. they can take them back to their placements. they are all standing there, we are waiting for the vans because the vans are always late, and i see one of our boys, i will call him bob, i see him sidling away
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from the group and he is clearly does not want to be noticed. he is walking off. i am thinking, is he running away? what is happening here? and he walks about 120 yards to the sidewalk and there is a homeless guy lying on the ground and he just goes up, does not say a word, puts the muffin next to him and then sidles back to the group. we have all sorts of successes, but that is one of the biggest ones. because that young man who when he came to us was very troubled, horrible, horrendous things have been done to him in a foster placement, if you can believe that. at that point, i thought he was an angel. soledad: nice story. some questions from our audience. and a few more that are coming up. i will start with these. what are some of the most important or valuable lessons you have learned as a social entrepreneur and what advice
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would you give to students? peter: do it. nike. do it. don't worry about step one, step two, and step three. forget all of that to begin with. go and sit on a rock with a yellow pad or with your laptop or tablet, and inhabit what success is like. imagine that it is 10 years from now. all of your wildest dreams have come true. walk around it in your mind's eyes. who goes? is it a building, a program? why do people go? what do they get out of it to why is it good and what does it feel like and what color are the walls and so forth? once you know what your goal looks like and feels like, it is infinitely easier to back fill and work out how to get there in baby steps.
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the first one is, inhabit the result. the second one is, be willing to fail. it is not a war of sudden victory, nothing is. it is a war of attrition. be willing to fail. i say to the foster kids, you are inside an envelope of what you are capable of. you have a pencil and you are poking in the dark to see where the edges are of the possible. if you do that, once in a while, you will go through. that's where the edge was. come back, find a different piece of edge. but if you sit in the middle of it and never poke the edges of the possible, how can you be anything? you will sit in the middle and amount to nothing. you have to be willing to fail in order to succeed. i think there are lessons, get mentors. do a business plan.
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run out a timeline. soledad: if you had one lesson, one story from the five years you have been doing this, what would you tell someone who said i want to be a social entrepreneur? peter: imagine it. because that is how you will value it. make sure it is important enough to you. go and explain it to other people. one of the things you learn as a film producer is that you are constantly raising money and hiring people and persuading people to be in your film. which film does not exist yet? you are actually sitting and trying to put into the head of the person opposite you how wonderful it will be and what it will feel like when it exists. that is exactly the skill set a social entrepreneur needs because you are inspiring people to help you do something that does not exist.
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how we co-opt people, the people you need to help you are hugely well-trained in saying no. they have practiced it 8000 times, you are the first person they are willing to. how do we subvert people saying no? graphs.t do it with pie we do not do it with endless spreadsheets. do all that stuff, but that is later. you must move their hearts. -- must tell them the story another student we taught the random act of kindness class two, last to the special olympics came to ucla. 14-year-old watched the haitian soccer team come in and she burst into tears and said,
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this is disgusting, how can they expect them to play in rags? my $200 ando spend buy them outfits and shoes. we said, that is lovely, but e an entireot cloth soccer team. we did not realize is that we were standing at the edge of the bleachers and the next thing we knew, 15 minutes later, a hat comes down to the front with $2500 in it in small bills. got the soccer team measurements and got them their kit. supervisor said, can you get this student down, because we want to give her the young entrepreneur medal on monday morning. then the phone rang and it was abc news and espn, and they said, this young woman, your
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social entrepreneur, can we send two forecast trucks? we want to come interview her. who was quite short, feels 14 feet tall and is interviewed on television. that is a you do this. social entrepreneurs need a really big idea. no disrespect to moneymaking ideas, it is easier to do it because empathy is so much bigger with a pro-social idea. if you can work out how to move someone's heart and pitch it again and again and again you work it out by pitching it. boring, while not do this bid anymore. that i will do this bid because it makes them cry. idea, 30nonprofit years ago, through my cousin i
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met a little boy who was dying and his wish bed, was to go to disneyland, which was kind of ridiculous because he was in london at the time. mum to with he and his los angeles and did the disney thing. the up tiffany for me was not his trip. it was that i had a business lunch from -- with a man from hbo, try to sell them something and he did not buy it. he said, what else is new and exciting? i told him the story of the little boy and the man from hbo cried. i knew, my goodness, this is so powerful. i could help more kids, who knows? and that was the beginning of the starlight foundation. the emotion.pathy,
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spreadsheets will follow. soledad: what about kids with serious emotional disorders who need therapeutic placements, how do you manage their needs? we can deal with moderately serious psychological challenges. we can deal with ocd, things of that sort. what we have now learned we cannot deal with is schizophrenia. what we are trying to do in our called,ent is pedagogically, -- we are asking , weelves the question, if admit this youth, will they probably go to college? them, we do not admit will they almost certainly not go to college? we had to be careful our first year. our director dreamed of the most
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fantastic essay question for the admissions form. please imagine it is your 100th birthday party and your best friend, who has known you your whole life makes a toast. what would you like them to say? we look for any spark. we do not look at grades, because if they have been in a group home, they may well have never done homework. they may have no grades. we took some kids with a 0.7 gpa, who were amongst those who went to college, four years later. we were looking for a spark. why does my future have to be determined by my past? interested in science, why does the english teacher read the newspaper? i want to be someone, why did it have to be me they got abused? out of that comes a benevolent stubbornness. no, we do not take random
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admissions, every kid. the topying not to take 25% and the bottom 25%. we are not taking kids we cannot help, they need a different type of program with much more intense, 24/7 psychological counseling. we are not that. and with one or two exceptions, we're not trying to take the rare foster kid who has lived in the same placement for 10 years, with professional people and everyone in the house goes to college. they do not need us, so we do not use the bed for that student. we use it for that middle 50%. soledad: next question. how it in what ways do you coordinate with foster parents in case planners and everyone else who is in the child's life? clinton did not invent the saying she applied to her book, she did propagated to make it popular.
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it is an african proverb, and it in allughout africa these different tribes, it takes a village to raise a child. we believe profoundly that it does take a village. what is a university? real ways, it is a village. maybe there are towns and cities. thinks it is the best of the city. [laughter] peter: everything else is secondary. we have additional services. we nurture the foster parents. is often not straightforward. we try to help them feel supported and networked and to give them skills to do the best possible job for their wards, the kids they are looking after. it is not straightforward.
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what if they have their own children of similar age, and no one in that house has been to college? now arrives the first foster kid who talks about little else other than going to college, what does that do at the dinner table? some of this is not straightforward. we do a lot of nurturing families and we also work with -- togh schools who have do a better job. the staffer who teaches teachers and high schools came back the other day and said that the college counselor that was in the group i was teaching burst into tears. why did she burst into tears? i said, in the uc system if you foster youth, you will never pay tuition as an
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undergraduate. the college counselor burst into tears and said i have been here 20 years, i never knew that. not send tods i did college because i thought they never would be able to afford it. raise all ships with the rising tide. we need a revolution. we need awareness. we need c-span. we need tweets and facebook. every kid needs a lawyer. we need to reverse the presumption of secrecy. we need to use the elephant in elephants in the rooms. the universities that have a very nearly everything you need to do right by a kid who has been abused or neglected, and to get them on track to a prosperous, successful, happy, nurtured life. why wouldn't we do that? why don't we do that more?
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somebody said to make him a many academies do you think there will be? the young lady with the headset said, you must state your ambition and numbers. and i said, as many academies as we can do as prudently and as quickly as possible. no, you have to give it metrics. i am up there talking and i can see her coming toward me like the train in the tunnel. i did not know what to say. i said our mission is within 10 years we will have 100 academies. and i went and sat down and all the other people with me through their bread at me. why did you say that? how can we do 100 academies? 50, not know, maybe it is 300, who knows? we are ambitious. we are big component. if we just replicate this it will put a very large dent in the number of kids in foster care, the number going into foster care. beyond that, every child in
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foster care deserves their own ,nique, confidential lawyer properly trained, the same lawyer from case to case. this, hello i will be your lawyer today. so sorry, we have to go into court now. not good enough. watch their caseload. do they have to take continuing education? why does it have to be such a checkerboard across the country where some places do it and some places are terrible? how do we raise all ships with the rising tide, and how do we get every big university to do this? soledad: a little more detail on the university in these two questions, how do you identify the students and what factors do you consider? how do you sort through who you will take, and are the students given full scholarships? for those who do not go to college, why are they not going? peter: i did talk about the
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admissions process. we normally source through the administration for children's services. sometimes called child protective services. we work through the social workers, usually the social work agency runs seminars teach them how to have their kids apply. but we also work through the middle schools. contactedhen we first them, their eighth graders. we have to identify the middle schools that feed to the high schools. and we work through the administrators there and the teachers. there is an admissions form. cohort of 30 rising ninth graders we usually have something around 100 applicants. we interview them and they write their essays, the famous wally capler essay, what is the toast at your 100th birthday party?
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it is an art as much as a science. in terms of the kids we fail, i do not think we fail at any of them. it is true that 10% or 12% do not go to college. some join the military, some go into a shelter job. college is not for everyone. but it is for most of them. we try to do right, one size does not fit all. we try to really shrewdly, as though we were the parents, the village, which we are, work out what is best for this kid and how do we help them get it? soledad: we have just about 15 minutes left. i want to get to this question, because one thing you said keeps you up at night is money. i want to get to this urgent question which is, how do we help? what our partnership opportunities with first star? peter: the undergraduates with the hats come down the aisle now. [laughter] peter: we would not do that.
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we gauge it by two things. one is, more universities. as of now, we have bitten off as many as we can digest in the next six or nine months. what i have found, there is no point meeting in the middle of the hierarchy. with all due respect to the entrepreneur programs within the university, there is usually only five to 10 entrepreneurs working in the university. usually the chancellor, president, provosts, vice chancellor, maybe the dean of something. i have to go in, top down. middle up, it never seems to catch. but top down seems to work. the other issue is money. people here from cavendish, the high net worth families -- when
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i speak to them i say, let's remember the medici. they invented the renaissance. what does that mean? they sent the ships to the new world. no one told you, you must specialize. their ships had a doctor, and explorer, a merchant, a sculptor, a painter, a botanist. and they sent all of them and they collaborated seamlessly. , their kids sat in the great hall of the castle and look at the chandelier and said, the earth is not flat. it must be a sphere because look up. all the castles, separated by hundreds of kilometers, all the chandeliers pointed to the ground. therefore, the earth must be round. furthermore, it must be the earth they goes around the sun.
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he was, galileo, and the church wanted to kill him. by the big come powerful family, the medici. my message to the high net worth families is, could you please point some of your -- ontoneurial the old epreneurial-entr zeal? we would be honored to work with you. at university's already got you. you have one or more university relationships, that is a double whammy for us. a high net worth person who has mater, i have so many business cards in my pocket. [laughter] peter: you come and get one and we will talk next week. everyone else here, though you want to do a bake sale that contributes to the cuny academy,
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we would love it. fundraising is always tricky. raising capital is an measurably easier once we have kids in the academy because then we can say to potential donors, come meet them. the fact that we can introduce the kids is a rare privilege. it takes court orders and very great care. but the kids are our best ambassadors. soledad: this question comes from the founder of a nonprofit for trauma recovery care. jessica, if you want to identify yourself you can stand up. she has a multipart question. if we do not get to all of them i know you will have an opportunity to follow up. she i'm curious as to why there is resistance to interagency collaboration. >> because grown-ups are human beings and grown-ups think in
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silos. one of the fundamental problems is that, when foster care was invented, all those years ago, nearly a hundred years ago, it as this child is being abused or neglected. we investigated. we validated the allegation. we must now remove this child and put them somewhere to be safe. that is the work of social workers and there's nothing the matter with that. what there is little training or attention paid to is education, which is the long-term fix. at isat we must do better blowing up these silos. there is nothing unique to the foster care area. believe,big problem, i in our society, is that, as human knowledge has grown especially, the human brain has got no bigger at all. so in order to go deep in the we have to go narrow.
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so how do you answer a multifaceted challenge in our society? the answer is you need generalists in the middle. i had a meeting with general schwarzkopf. i told him we are the generalists. our job is to keep them focused on the mission. and general schwarzkopf said, mr. sanderson, what do you know about the united states army? and i said absolutely nothing at all. he said, well, when you go into the army, you don't just get a rank. you get a specialty. a rifleman, an infantryman, a cook, whatever you are. and it is a 10 on your shoulder. that's your specialty. doesn't matter how much they are mowed to you, you still have your specialty. damn one day, if you are a finally it are, they give you the stars to be a general. they take away the state -- they take away the specialty pin because you are no longer a specialist.
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you are the general. i thought, that's why they are called generals. [laughter] i'm a generalist. know soith people who infinitely more than me about the nuts and bolts of the educational side and the social work side and the psychological and psychiatric pedagogic sides. but leadership is best done by a generalist. in the thousands of years of running an army, when they put specialists in charge, everybody died. so they learned. [laughter] we should have a general in charge. that way we will live. >> jessica's second question. i'm not going to ask your third, but i hope you will come up and ask your third. what is scaling/on boarding of stakeholders look like to you? >> we try not to be precious. we partner easily. frankly, anyone who raises their
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hand and has either money or a good idea, we say come on down. we find a way to work together. we are sort of like a relentless bulldozer. we always move forward. we tried to do it in as a collaborative way as we can do. and if there is expertise out there, we are constantly meeting with people who know more about something than we do. and we try to bolt that on so there is a basic first star program. good ideare is a somebody knows more about, something or other, bring it on. >> i think this is going to be our final question for the evening. and it's a really intriguing way to end. it's about accountability for the overall system. what about holding the child welfare system accountable for their epic scale.
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is it creating a parallel process without holding the bigger system accountable? correct of all, let me something. the system is not broken in every county. one of the things we do throughout washington, partner, is we do report cards, a through f, by different measures of the childers welfare system. -- the children's welfare system. and they don't get an f. many get a b plus. the better question is, why do the bad ones, which is most, emulate the good ones, which is for you? -- which is few? we are doing points three for, four and five. but the other ones, right to counsel and flipped the presumption of secrecy and hold the bureaucrats responsible are
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also things of enormous value. be able to pack our head and rub our tummy at the society. as a we need to do all of the above. it is not an either/or. great answer. thank you for this conversation. peter samuelson. [applause] >> thank you so much. every weekend, book tv brings you 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors. here is what is coming up this weekend. saturday at six: 45 eastern, david baron, circuit judge for the u.s. court of appeals for the first circuit provides a history of the debates between the executive and legislative branch of a constitutional right to declare war. "waging war, the clash between presidents and congress, 17 76 to isis." theodore ruger, dean of the
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university of pennsylvania law school joins him. >> the two branches are really in a dance with each other all the time. congress check in the president, presidents pushing congress, presidents worrying about taking it too far, getting to crosswise with congress. guardian journalist gary young look said gun deaths in america over a 24-hour period in in book "another day america." >> it's not possible to only talk about guns. there is a kind of broader, societal thing that counts people out, dehumanizes them, that means come up when their means, taken, -- that when their life is taken, but is already accounted for. there is a real problem. once you start saying, well, he
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wasn't a student, there is the suggestion there is a grade that you could get that would be worthy than to be killed. >> now a look at president-elect trump's national security and foreign policy, including his choices for national security advisor and you and vassar. we talkedton journal, with jamie mcintyre, national security and defense reporter, with the washington examiner. this is 40 minutes. on c-span q&a. >> "washington journal" continues. alumni am ac-span jamiemcintyre -- alumni, mcintyre joins me now. let's talk about some of the news this morning. nikki haley has been tapped to be


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