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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  January 25, 2011 11:00pm-12:00am PST

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we've also taken the fight to al qaeda and their allies abroad. in afghanistan, our troops have taken taliban strongholds and trained afghan security forces. our purpose is clear. by preventing the taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the afghan people, we will deny al qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11. thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer afghans are under the control of the insurgency. there will be tough fighting ahead, and the afghan government will need to deliver better governance. but we are strengthening the capacity of the afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. this year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an afghan lead. and this july we will begin to bring our troops home. ( applause )
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in pakistan, al qaeda's leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. their safe havens are shrinking. and we have sent a message from the afghan border to the ayab arabian peninsula, to all parts of the globe. we will not relent, we will not waiver and we will defeat you. ( applause ) american leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war. because republicans and democrats approved the new start treaty, far fewer
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nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed. because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists. ( applause ) because of a diplomatic effort to insist that iran meet its obligations, the iranian government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before. and on the korean peninsula, we stand with our ally south korea and insist that north korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons. ( applause ) this is just a part of how we are shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity. with our european allies, we revitalized nato and increased our cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to missile defense. we have reset our relationship with russia, strengthened
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asian alliances, and built new partnerships with nations like india. this march, i will travel to brazil, chile and el salvador to forge new alliances across the americas. around the globe, we are standing with those who take responsibility. helping farmers grow more food. supporting doctors who care for the sick. and combatting the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity. now recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power. it must also be the purpose behind it. in south sudan with our assistance, the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war. ( applause ) thousands lined up before dawn. people danced in the streets.
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one man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him: "this was a battlefield for most of my life. now we want to free... now we want to be free." we saw that same desire to be free in tunisia where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. and tonight let us be clear, the united states of america stands with the people of tunisia and supports the democratic aspirations of all people. ( applause ) we must never forget that the things we've struggled for and fought for live in the hearts of people everywhere.
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and we must always remember that the americans who have born the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country. ( applause ) tonight let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families.
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let us serve them as well as they have served us. by giving them the equipment they need, by providing them with the care and benefits that they have earned, and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation. our troops come from every corner of this country.6/ they are black, white, latino, asian, native american. they are christian and hindu, jewish and muslim. and, yes, we know that some of them are gay. starting this year no american will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. ( applause ) and with that change, i call on all of our college campuses
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to open their doors to our military recruiters and the rotc. it is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. it is time to move forward as one nation. ( applause ) we should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. reforming our schools, changing the way we use energy, reducing our deficit. none of this will be easy. all of it will take time. and it will be harder because we will argue about everything. the cost. the details. the letter of every law. of course some countries don't
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have this problem. if the central government wants a railroad, they build a railroad. no matter how many homes get bull dozed. if they don't want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn't get written. and yet as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, i know there isn't a person here who would trade places with any other nation on earth. ( applause ) ( cheers and applause ) we may have differences in policy but we all believe in
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the rights enshrined in our constitution. we may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. we may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible. no matter who you are. no matter where you come from. that dream is why i can stand here before you tonight. that dream is why a working class kid from scranton can sit behind me. ( applause ) that dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father's cincinatti bar can preside as speaker of the house in the greatest nation on earth. ( cheers and applause )
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that dream, that american dream, is what drove the allen brothers to reinvent their roofing company for a new era. it's what drove those students at forsyth tech to learn a new skill and work towards the future. and that dream is a story of a small business owner named brandon fisher. brandon started a company in berlin, pennsylvania, that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. one day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world 33 men were trapped in a chilean mine and no one knew how to save them.
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but brandon thought his company could help. so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as plan- b. his employees workd around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. and brandon left for chile. along with others he began drilling a 2,000-foot hole into the ground, working three or four days at a time without any sleep. 37 days later, plap plan-b succeeded and the miners were rescued. ( applause ) but because he didn't want all the attention, brandon wasn't there when the miners emerged. he had already gone back home, back to work on his next project. later one of his employees said of the rescue, "we proved
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that center rock is a little company but we do big things." ( applause ) we do big things. from the earliest days of our founding, america has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. that's how we win the future. we are a nation that says, "i might not have a lot of money but i have this great idea for a new company. i might not come from a family of college graduates, but i will be the first to get my degree. i might not know those people in trouble, but i think i can help them and i need to try. i'm not sure how we'll reach that betterlace beyond the horizon, but i know we'll get there. i know we will." we do big things. ( applause )
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the idea of america endures. our destiny remains our choice. and tonight, more than two venturis later, it's because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong. thank you, god bless you, and may god bless the united states of america. ( cheers and applause ) >> lehrer: there we have it. the state of the union address by president barack obama. just over an hour. i'm joined here again with michael gerson and mark shields. they've been listening to the speech with me. what did you think, michael? >> i thought it was a sober economic speech. covered a lot of ground.
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effective in a certain way. it covered a lot of topics, everything from high speed rail to better cell phone coverage. in the great tradition of the state of the union address. but it reminded me very much a clinton speech from the 1990s. those were very effective speeches. there was one thing that was lacking though. unlike clinton there was no moment where he said the era of big government is over. it was pretty unapologetic in his activism. that sets up oddly in a very bipartisan speech a large contrast with the republicans, ideological contrast. they think we're in a fiscal crisis that requires a visiting of the role of government itself. that's really not what obama talked about in his speech. >> lehrer: mark? >> i thought the speech had two central themes to it. one of which was not surprising. that is education. a democratic president and particularly this democratic
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president. the other was surprising, a that was america is open to business. that's who we are. we're a country of entrepreneurs. we're a country of ingenuity. michael is right. he did make reference to but didn't pause and emphasize government's role in the transcontinental railroad and using the sputnik analogy. he acknowledged and asserted government's importance but he celebrated american entrepreneurial stories and success and said we can outcompete anybody and sort of recast it in a way... i thought it was more reaganesque in terms not of delivery but of evoking our current confidence or what should be our confidence from our past achievements. using that. i thought in that sense it was surprising to me but in many
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respects it's a speech that one would not have expected from barack obama election night of 2008. i think it's an acknowledgment of the realities not only of this election but the economic realities of the country. >> lehrer: did you see that? did you hear.... >> i think there was a switch i mean from a stimulus-oriented public job creation, which would have been a year ago to a very business-oriented speech. i'm not sure that's reagan. i think it's more like clinton. a lot of activism there. research and development. we're going to develop new clean energy and do all these things. essentially the government's catalytic role in the private sector which i think is different from the message that the president had adopted before. i was a little bit disappointed that there wasn't more on the deficit. i don't think there was any policy breakthrough here. he talked about a five-year freeze but he talked in last year's state of the union about a three-year freeze. he talked about tax increases
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that he's been talking about since the primaries. there was really no specifics on social security or medicare. maybe that will come in the budget. maybe there will be more when it comes but it was not a real emphasis of the speech. >> lehrer: what about the spirit and the tone about what the president said and how he said it? >> i thought he was quite serious. i thought the chamber was quite serious tonight. gone was that unwelcome puppetry from the past where our side jumps up and then sits on our hands and the other side jumps up. i think mark udall's bringing people together, it made me a little less willing to be part of the herd jumping up on my side to cheer each time if i'm sitting with somebody from the other party. i noticed, you know, john kerry sitting john mccain. patty murray the chairman of the democratic senate campaign committee of washington sitting with jon corn inthe republican chairman from the
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campaign committee from texas. there's a little less willingness to do it. i think maybe it took a little bit of the, what we come to expect, the pep rally aspect of it, of the speech. >> it was a little lower energy level. but as a former speech writer, it puts more emphasis on the words themselves instead of the up-and-down of the emotions of the chamber. i don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. i think.... >> lehrer: people were listening to it. >> exactly. the president is very good at explaining. explaining how our economy has changed. explaining why we need to do research and development, explaining... and he brings the listener along in a logical way. i think it's one of his real skills. i think he's sometimes good at inspiration but is actually better at explanation. this speech had a lot of kind of serious economic explanation. >> i agree with michael. what amazed me was the applause lines were on
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education. i went through and kind of marked down. i mean when he went through the business of... we must teach our children that it's not just the winner of the super bowl that deserves to be celebrated but the winner of the science fair. >> lehrer: hold on one second, mark. i just want people to see the return... what we've been watching there as the president leaves and he is now signing autographs. he's almost to that sergeant of arms of the congress area who is going to take him out in a moment. it is almost over. and then in about five minutes we're going to get after that we're going to get the official republican response from congressman paul ryan of wisconsin who is chairman of the bunk it committee. he's going to be speaking from the capitol in the budget committee room.
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there in that very... in the house. we'll be hearing from him in a few moments. go ahead. >> there were a succession of applause lines, the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. if you want to make a difference in the life of a child become a teacher. your country needs you. i mean those were not applause lines most of the times. they are certainly positive lines and get a positive reaction. but they got big big hands tonight. >> lehrer: how do you read that? why do you think that happened? >> well, i mean, i hope it's a recognition of the importance of education and the importance of teachers and the importance of values. you know, i think that's... and it's a recognition of america's competition in the world. i mean, i'll be honest with you. every speech contains
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something in it, gee, i never knew that. what i didn't know is that we were ninth in the world in college graduates. i likely assumed we were still in the top three or whatever. now we're ninth. he said we're going to restore ourselves by the end of this decade to be number one in college graduates. that got another big applause line. we get the expected applause and deservedly so for those who serve in the u.s. military. that is reliable, predictable and totally legitimate. it surprised me tonight in the sort of inteváuç in a night when there weren't that many standing applause. >> lehrer: were you surprised at all by the reaction, the various reactions from the members? do you think, michael, it was affected by this kind of date situation that existed, that they were not in herd form? >> i think that that's probably exactly right. i mean, when you got a group of people in a certain section,
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they feed one another. there's a cycle of enthusiasm. this was different. but i actually don't think it was inferior. it's a different feel. but it was a sober speech. a sober moment. you know, i think it was appropriate in this case. >> lehrer: then i take it what you're saying is that you expected or thought there should be more specifics about the deficit and about the budget rather than education and future and innovation which he put the number one emphasis on. >> i do think that's a serious test of credibility moving forward is just, you know, and a contrast. you will see paul ryan, his remarks are distributed now. his is a speech about the role of government in american ociety. and an argument that we're in a financial crisis, an emergency, that requires us to completely rethink the way that government acts, its size
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and role. the president didn't have that tonight. i mean he talked about expanding high speed rail service to 80% of the american pub. that's a different set of priorities. so there's going... even though both of them will be very civil and very bipartisan, you're going to see a very large contrast in philosophy. so tonight... this is a good thing from my perspective, you're going to see one philosophy and another one very, very different. a clear choice. i'm not sure who is reading the american public better. the president may well win that contest. but it's a clear contrast. >> lehrer: clear contrast. >> i think there will be. i mean it's the difference being the chairman of the house budget committee, especially as a first-time chair, than it is being president of the united states. the way the president cast his argument was in terms of national competitiveness. we are in a race with china and india, and japan and other
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countries that obviously have high speed rail and that... the greater penetration of the internet into the homes of south korea than there are in the united states. he was talking about government's role in that. should there be a government role in it? i think that is a legitimate and probably overdue debate. you know, i think we'll start to see the outlines of it tonight. >> i just think he did a better job in explaining how we're going to compete with china than ou how we're going to be avoid being greece. both of them are quite important. i think the republicans will emphasize the second element more tonight. >> the other thing, jim, just in response to michael. how little applause there was for his budget. that was the most tepid response of anything. >> the five-year? >> yeah, the five year we're going to freeze. there was no enthusiasm on the democratic side. no response on the republican
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side. the old rule in politics that general... everybody.... >> lehrer: just don't cut my area. all right. we're going to be back, michael and mark, in just a moment or in a few moments because now we're going to go to the republican response. it's from republican congressman paul ryan of wisconsin. he is chairman of the house budget committee. he will in fact play a very key role in the g.o.p. drive to cut federal spending this year. he's going to speak in a moment here from the budget committee's hearing room. >> good evening. i'm congressman paul ryan from wisconsin. chairman here at the house budget committee. president obama just addressed a congressional chamber filled with many new faces. one face we did not see tonight was that of our friend and colleague congresswoman gabrielle giffords of arizona. we all miss gabby and her cheerful spirit. we are praying for her to
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return to the house chamber. earlier this month president obama spoke movingly at a memorial event for the six people who died on that violent morning in tucson. still, there are no words that can lift the sorrow that now engulfs the families and the friends of the fallen. what we can do is assure them that the nation is praying for them, that in the words of the psalmist the lord heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. and that over time grace will replace grief. as gabby continues to make encouraging progress we must keep her and the others in our thoughts as we attend to the work now before us. tonight the president focused a lot of attention on our economy in general. and on our deficit and debt in pticular. he was right to do so. and some of his words were reassuring. as chairman of the house budget committee, i assure you that we want to work with the president to restrain federal spending. in one of our first acts in the new majority, house republicans voted to cut congress's own budget.
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just today the house voted to restore the spending discipline that washington sorely needs. the reason is simple. a few years ago reducing spending was important. today it's imperative. here's why. we face a crushing burden of debt. the debt will soon eclipse our entire economy and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead. on this current path when my three children who are now 6, 7 and 8 years old are raising their own children, the federal government will double in size and so will the taxes they pay. no economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. the next generation willen her it a stagnant economy and a diminished country. frankly, it's one of my greatest concerns as a parent. i know many of you feel the same way. our debt is the product of acts by many presidents and many congresses over many years. no one person or party is
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responsible for it. there's no doubt the president came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation. unfortunately instead of restoring the fundamental of economic growth he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on his promise to create jobs but also plunged us even deeper into debt. the facts are clear. since taking office, president obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25% for domestic government agencies and 84% increase when you include the failed stimulus. all of this new government spending was sold as an investment. yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9%. and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt. the president and his party made matters even worse by creating a new open ended health care entitlement. what we already know about the president's health care law is this: costs are going up.
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premiums are rising. millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have. job creation is being stifled by all of its taxes, penalties, mandates and fees. businesses and unions from around the country are asking the obama administration for waivers from the mandates. washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. the president mentioned the need for regulatory reform, to ease the burden on american businesses. we agree. and we think this health care law would be a great place to start. last week house republicans voted for a full repeal of this law as we pledged to do. and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage. health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. and the president's law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy. our debt is out of control. what was a fiscal challenge is
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now a fiscal crisis. we cannot deny it. in instead we must as americans confront it responsibly. and that is exactly what republicans pledge to do. americans are skeptical of both political parties. that skepticism is justified, especially when it comes to spending. so hold all of us accountable. in this very room the house will produce debate in and advance a budget. last year in an unprecedented failure, congress chose not to pass or even propose a budget. the spending spree continued unchecked. we owe you a better choice and a different vision. our forth coming budget is our obligation to you to show you how we would do things differently, how we will cut spending to get the debt down. help create jobs and prosperity and reform government programs. if we act soon and if we act responsibly, people in and near retirement will be protected.
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these budget debates are not just about the programs of government. they're also about the purpose of government. so i'd like to share with you the principles that guide us. they are anchored in the wisdom of the founders, in the spirit of the declaration of independence and in the words of the american constitution. they have to do with the importance of limited government and the blessing of self-government. we believe government's role is both vital and limited: to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense, to secure our borders, to protect innocent life, to uphold our laws and constitutional rights, to ensure domestic turang quilt and equal opportunity and to provide a safety net to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves. we believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility. we believe as our founders did
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that the pursuit of happiness depends on the individual liberty. individual liberty requires limited government. limited government also means effective government. when government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn't do any of them very well. it's no coincidence that trust in government is at an all-time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high. the president and the democratic leadership have shown by their actions that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach. its price tag and its power. whether sold as stimulus or repackaged as investment, their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much, taxes too much, and spends too much in order to do too much. and during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten. along with record deficits and debt. to the point where the president is now urging congress to increase the debt limit. we believe the days of
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business as usual must come to an end. we hold to a couple of simple convictions. endless borrowing is not a strategy. spending cuts have to come first. our nation is approaching a tipping point. we're at a moment where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged america's best century will be considered our past century. this is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock which lulls able-bodied people into lies of complacency and dependencyment depending on democracy to foster innovation, competitiveness and wise consumer choices has never worked and it won't work now. we need to chart a new course. speaking candidly as one citizen to another, we still have time but not much time. if we continue down our current path, we know what our future will be. just take a look at what's
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happening to greece, ireland, the united kingdom and other nations in europe. they didn't act soon enough. now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures, large benefit cuts to seniors, and huge tax increases on everybody. their day of reckoning has arrived. ours is around the corner. that is why we have to act now. some people will back away from this challenge. but i see this challenge as an opportunity to rebuild what lincoln called the central ideas of the republic. we believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people of every background to succeed and prosper. under this approach, the spirit of initiative not political chroult determines who succeeds. millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise but because our leaders failed to live up to
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those ideals. because of poor decisions made in washington and wall street that caused the financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust and crippled our economy. today a similar kind of irresponsibility threatens not only our livelihoods but our way of life. we need to reclaim our american system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations and sound money which has blessed us with unpress depteded prosperity. and it has done@z more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. that's the real secret to job creation, not borrowin and spending more money in washington. limited government and free enterprise have helped make america the greatest nation on earth. these are not easy times. but america is an exceptional nation. in all the chapters of human history there has never been anything quite like america.
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the american story has been cherished, advanced, and defended over the centuries. and it now falls to this generation to pass on to our children a nation that is stronger, more vibrant, more decent and better than the one we inherited. thank you and good night. >> lehrer: that was congressman paul ryan of wisconsin giving the republican response to president obama's state of the union address. now some closing thoughts from shields and gerson. that's syndicated columnist mark shields and "washington post" columnist michael gerson. as michael said there are two very contrasting views of the world or the united states of america, would you not say? >> i would certainly say that they are. congressman ryan made his case directly. and with the emphasis strong on spending. with president obama there was the sense of this is what we can do. and with congressman ryan
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there was a sense of if we don't do it, this is what will happen. sort of a little bit of a paul revere sound to his speech. but, you know, straightforward. serious. he did not present his own proposals, a plan, as he was speaking for the party. he is of course the architect of the republican... the principal republican budget- cutting proposal. >> lehrer: is that the way to read that, michael, this was paul ryan speaking for the republican party. this wasn't just paul ryan's view of what should be done. >> yes, he didn't go into the details of his own budget blueprint. that comes next. i strongly agree with mark. i think this was a tough, serious little speech. it was very philosophic. he kept talking about limited government. he seemed to imply that this was at stake, that the
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principle of limited government was at stake given these decisions on the deficit. i think that would appeal to tea party people not just to republican mainstream. i think that it's reagan-like in a certain way. reagan made similar arguments. a philosophic contrast. i'm not sure where america is. you know, after the last election it looked like they were ready for this kind of fundamental reconsideration of what government should be and do. but now, you know, things may have shifted a little bit in the last few months. it's hard to determine. i mean we'll find out. these are two very different appeals. >> lehrer: is the ryan approach, the republican approach, in terms of tone and spirit the same thing i asked about president obama's, what kind of marks would you give ryan's speech? >> i think it was tough but civil. you know, and there were even some memorable lines in the speech where he said we still have time but not much time.
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that's a tough message. it's very, very different. the president had much more of a re-election message which is hope and opportunity and creativity and innovation. i think that's a better political message in many ways to be honest with you. but, you know, i fear that ryan's analysis may correspond closer to our reality right now. and the whole political philosophy of republicans and democrats have to take that seriously. >> there are two kind of conservatives the five minutes to min need midnight conservative and the five minute to dawn conservative. ronald reg want as the five minute to dawn conservative. things are bad but they'll get better. i thought paul ryan came closer to the five minutes to midnight. the one line in it that surprised me is this is a future in which we will transform our social safety
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net into a hammock which lulls able bodied people into dependency. i haven't heard that since 1995 to 1996. that was the one jarring note i thought that may have been a concession to a particular constituency. but i think that's the contrast. if i had one major speech was that there wasn't enough optimism. if you do this, if we have this castor oil and have it in this cold showers and root canal that it is going to be better and it's going to be a lot better. that did not come through to me. >> lehrer: was there enough there about, other than just say this is what we need to do, here's how we need to do it. that's big stuff he's talking about. >> i agree with that. but he is a big supporter of entitlement reform and medicare. but i'm not sure that there's a consensus within the republican party on that either. i think this fiscal challenge
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is a challenge to both parties not just to one. i think ryan has not necessarily built a consensus within the republican party. it's a big debate going on right now where they are on this. both of them will have to become more specific over time. you're going to have the president's budget in february and the house putting together their own budget. we'll get more details. >> lehrer: of course congressman ryan says we need to limit government. president obama said we need to reorganize government. if you wanted to say, oh, they're saying the same things but they're not, are they? >> no. reform and energize it. president obama was government as an engine of social and economic change. >> lehrer: and the ryan republican approach is.... >> overreaching government is actually an enemy of self-government. that's a very tough political philosophic argument. there was a more positive element return to go this lincolnian vision of self-government but it's definitely, you know, a contrast.
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>> lehrer: and a very stark difference as you say, yes. okay. good to see you, michael. thank you. mark, good to see you. thank you both for being with us. that is our state of the union coverage. it does continue online and hari sreenivasan previews that. >> our newshour correspondent along with a cast of experts in foreign affairs, economic, health care and other field are annotating the full text of tonight's speech with links for context, commentary and background. we're gathering reactions from lawmakers on capitol hill. watch those interviews later this evening on our you-tube page. and we're even trying to translate the president's addressnto several different languages. it's part of a new crowd- sourcing tool if you have foreign language skills check the rundown blog to find out how you can help. all on our website at newshour. >> lehrer: that's one part of the project i not be involved in. thank you. that does end this special edition of the newshour. in addition to our on-line coverage, we will have
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analysis and reaction to the president's speech and the response right here tomorrow evening on the newshour. for now, i'm jim lehrer. thank you and good night. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions
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of a place like this in a book and it's a completely different experience to see the history on the walls. it's a place. it's a site. you can touch it. you can feel it. you can smell it. i didn't know that they were detained here and i just can't imagine how they must have felt. these walls do talk and they tell us what the experience was of the immigrants who actually stayed here and what they had to go through. ♪
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(male narrator) from 1910 to 1940, tens of thousands of immigrants entered the united states through the angel island immigration station, all over its walls, carvings in many languages reveal a unique story about those who came through. the building and its history was forgotten and nearly lost until california state park ranger, alexander weiss rediscovered it in 1970. that moment began the long journey to save the immigration station, to preserve the sties that the carvings tell and to help us remember their sad but important place in american history. part of my job as a park ranger was to know the park. so i came to the immigration station area which was then closed to the public. but i wanted to look at it and see what was there. and i just walked in and looked around.
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i went on and walked around some more and found that almost every square inch of every room i went into had something carved into the walls in calligraphy or other interesti things. when i first saw them, i was just impressed by-- wow, there's a whole story to be told here. it was like ghosts were in there. (narrator) immigrants from many countries came through this building. more than half were from china and japan. but others came from russia, india and central and south america. who came through. but the great majority of those carvings were poems written in chinese. ♪ my name is dale ching
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and i was here detained back in 1937 and i was here for three and a half months. (narrator) da ching was 16 years old when he first came to america. even though his father was born in the united states, he still had to go through the immigration station. (ching) but when you got off the ferry-- i call it a welcome party is waiting for us which is armed guard, uniform. but you're lonely and you're afraid of it. you're not going to be able to see your family at all. you will be all by yourself here. if you look at outside you got the high fence and barbwire is all around it and just waiting to be free from here. (male translator) when i left,
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my parents regretted it was so hurried. the reason i tearfully swallow my resentment is because of poverty. wishing to escape permanent poverty, i fled overseas. who caused my destiny to be so perverse that i would become imprisoned? the victim of aggression, people of our nation mourn the desperate times. i feel sorely guilty for having not yet repaid my parent's kindness. craving the cold night, the insects now make noise. not only do i sob silently but my throat tastes bitter. ♪ (narrator) gold had been discovered in california in 1848 and sojourners came to make their fortune. as more and more people arrived, competition for jobs increased.
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many european laborers who felt that america should only belong to whites began to organize against nonwhite workers and, in particular, against the chinese. in 1882, congress passed the chinese exclusion act, a law which aimed to prevent chinese immigrant laborers from entering the united states. this was the first in a series of laws that began to limit immigration from specific ethnic groups. on the east coast, ellis island had been receiving immigrants since 1892. while ellis island has been a symbol of welcome to immigrants, angel island has a sadder story to tell. (moore) often it's sort of misphrased that angel island's called the ellis island of the west. most immigrants at ellis island stayed there for a few hours whereas immigrants on angel island stayed here anywhere from three to five days up to several weeks and up to several months and, in some cases, years.
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(lowe) you're locked up and people are asking you all sorts of hard questions and you're surrounded by people speaking to you in a language you don't know. who hasn't ever felt left out before? and what if a whole race of people felt left out? and that's what happened in that time period. (narrator) in order to be allowed to enter the united states, chinese immigrants had to go through grueling interrogation sessions. felicia lowe recalls finding records from her father's sessions. i think the most profound image i have of particularly my father going through the immigration experience was looking through the documentation and after each interview, they had to sign their names. and one had really shaky handwriting. and when i saw that, it really caught me in my gut because i thought he must have really been scared that day. (narrator) the park administration had planned to demolish the immigration station.
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upon hearing this, alex weiss initiated a movement that eventually led to the building's preservation as a national historic landmark. (weiss) i felt that was not the right thing to do because of calligraphy and all that would be gone. i was taking a course at san francisco state college from a biology professor, dr. araki. and i mentioned to him that there was an immigration station with all this calligraphy and it was going to be burnt down. he said, wow, he'd like to see that. anand i brought dr. araki and mak takahashi out and we photographed just about every square inch of the walls that we could. the word spread pretty rapidly and we were getting lots of asian studies classes coming out from not just san francisco state but other colleges in the area also. they had no idea that this was here even though perhaps their parents had come through here or their grandparents. and so i told them that this was due for destruction and if they wanted to save it,
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write some letters or lobby to do something about it. after a while, i guess the lobbying took effect because they passed a bill to save the immigration station from destruction. today, when i think about angel island, i'm really excited that we're in a place where we are actively planning to restore it and preserve it. (narrator) the poems in the building were very important to the asian american community. over time, the building has decayed. work is being done to save the building and its history for future generations. efforts are being made to preserve the walls and the precious carvings they hold. we knew that there's some writing here, some poey. although it's very difficult to see, if you look closely, you can see slight difference in texture, slight difference in shadow. so we removed paint to learn more about the carvings,
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to learn more about how they were made, to make them easier to read so that people who can read chinese would be able to translate the poetry. if we take off all of the paint, we're left with the bare wood and that's what the wall looked like originally. basically the government was painting over the carvings. they didn't want the carvings there. so they filled the carvings with putty and then painted over that. when we first got here, the wood was extremely fragile so, you know, it was very brittle to the touch. and so we strengthened the wood. you could touch it and the wood feels pretty solid and then we pinned it back. i hope that my work would have preserved the building well enough that our future generation could come and stand here and see the poems and appreciate what people did in the past. obviously, you know, people carved because they wanted their stories to be told. and so my hope is that in 100 years their stories are kept being told.
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(lowe) the poems are an expression of the emotional state of the people who were here. they had really no other way of expressing themselves. ♪ (translator) when i arrived in america, all i could do is gaze at the seawater in vain. the ship docked at the wharf and i was transferred to the lonely island. together with several hundred countrymen, it is a slim hope to be the one fish to elude the net. ♪ (narrator) after three and a half months in the immigration station, dale chin was given what he had been waiting for, permission to enter the united states. the guard would come in and they call out a name and they say dai fo in chinese.
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dai fo, that means san francisco-bound, freedom. they called my name and then i was so happy and running all over the place. oh boy, that was a happy day! (moore) the history is so important so that we understand what happened in the past and don't repeat the kinds of mistakes that we've made as a nation. this story is part of our american heritage and it's really a place of healing and a place of learning. and that hopefully will persevere. (weiss) young people should know the history of the united states, both right and wrong, the bad things we did, the good things we can do and that they can be part of insuring that racism doesn't occur again. the history, no matter what kind of history is really important for the next generation to know about. and that is the reason, or you might say that's one of the reason
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i come back here to tell my side of the story. captioned by bay area video coalition
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jim stavrakakis had two childhood hobbies. photography and model airplanes. i'd hang 'em from one little thread, and take pictures of them with palm trees make it look like theouth pacific. his passion as a kid became his b in the air force. my job was aerial photography, and i'd go up on combat flights. being over there in korea really opened my eyes. america is not the only place there's a lot of different religions, different habits, different thoughts... we're not all the same. i've always had a curiosity and stick in my neck out to learn just a little bit more, and i think public tv answers your curiosity of life. there's always something different and new. and i think you've got to give back a little bit. that's why jim included his
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public television station in his will. consider joining the community of people who want public television to span generations.


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