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tv   After Words  CSPAN  February 15, 2014 10:00pm-11:01pm EST

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it's very important for our troops wherever they are, when they are in an urban situation or present themselves in a certain way so they understand simple customs. even having tea with someone can have a lot -- can mean a lot. it doesn't always work right right but lisa vander stand this theory. do we have other questions? >> you would you ever consider going back there? >> the question is johnny have you ever considered going back to iraq? >> no way, this is my country for good. [applause] >> johnny loves america and i
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can call johnny 25 times a day and sayed john how are you doing? [inaudible] [laughter] but the truth is if johnny were to go to iraq he would be dead. or any arab country. the thing was johnny is that he didn't just go on missions that were just against al qaeda or shia. he went on missions against everybody. so he doesn't have just one enemy. he has enemies all over the place. and friends as well. do we have other questions? i'm sorry. we want to thank everybody for coming. johnny is going to buy everybody a drink. just kidding about that. >> is your name johnny? >> my fake name, yeah.
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>> johnny doesn't, i guess we should explain. johnny doesn't use the name he was given a earth because he still has relatives in different places in iraq and other places. potentially it could be endangering them if he uses his name. >> i love the name johnny walker. >> and he loves the name. thank you everybody. [applause] [applause] [applause]
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>> up next on booktv "after words" with guest hosts corey mitchell washington correspondent for the "minneapolis star tribune". this week representative keith ellison and his book is "my country 'tis of thee" my faith, my family, our future. in it the fourth term congressman discusses his journey from the detroit world to minneapolis his conversion to islam, his election to congress and his rise to become a leader in the democratic hardy. this program is about an hour. >> host: congressman ellison thank you for being here. >> guest: happy to be here corey, thank you. >> host: tell us about the district he represents in minnesota and your role on capitol hill. >> guest: my district is the fifth congressional district of minnesota. it's a place that is very
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diverse and we have people from all over the world, people who have been in america for as long as there was in america. i think we have the largest indian population in the united states but we also have arrivals from somalia, from russia, from laos and we have this traditional population from northern europe, sweden, norway and of course we have this traditional african-american community which is growing in recent years but has always been there, is a part of the great migration north and roy wilkins is from minnesota for example. so it's a place where people start as this is every day and innovation happens every day. you can get any kind of food you want and they have a strong tradition of tolerance. now there has been in tolerance too. that goes without saying but this is where hubert -- hubert h. humphrey was the mayor
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and eugene mccarthy who was the commerce person he stood against the war did his thing. this is paul wellstone stomping ground, senator paul wellstone was from minnesota but his base support came from my district and it's also where vice president walter mondale who recently learned he lost his beloved wife joan. we prayed with them and keep them in our prayers but walter mondale so it really is a remarkable place in many ways. >> host: in your role on capitol hill you are a coleader of the progressive caucus. >> guest: i'm the cochair of the progressive caucus and one of the five clips that with oiler -- minority whip hoyer relies on to help count the vote and i'm also on the steering and policy committee and i'm on the financial services committee and a proud member of the democratic caucus.
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>> host: you are relatively new congressman and he talked about some of your colleagues serving in decades. why write this book now? >> guest: you know cory after peter king my colleague from new york decided that he was going to use his prerogative to the chair of the homeland security committee to focus on muslim violent radicalization and i went to chairman king and i said look, i don't mind you talking about muslims who are violent radicals. all of us have to stand against violent radicals of any kind but i would ask you to not only focus on muslims. we have timothy mcveigh type people and there are a lot of people who are security threats in the homeland. he said no, i'm going to do it the way i'm going to do it but i will tell you what i will let you testify. i said okay. now this was a controversial
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decision on my part anyway because i went back to certain advisers and said he has invited me to testify and they said why would you want to dignify these hearings by participating another loucks said look at least get an alternative point of view out. i decided the second group was right so i testified and my testimony caught a lot of attention in part because it talked about this kid named mohammed salman hamdan me and hamdan he lost his life 23 years old. he ran into the towers of new york as a first responder and died as others were trying to protect their own lives quite understandably so but yet this young man who is muslim gave the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow americans. i finished my testimony talking about him. i kind of got a little emotional during my testimony and that got a lot of attention and then
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after that a friend named karen hunter who has come to be a friend called me and said look i'm a publisher and would you like to publish a book about your experiences as a muslim a few years after 9/11, the first muslim in congress would you like to tell your story? i thought about that in my initial response was i'm not so sure i want to do that but i also thought the intolerance -- tolerance and inclusion is who we are as americans and telling us dori so i decided to go ahead and do it. >> host: you start off with some exploration of your ancestry. you grew up in detroit in a family of seven. what was your childhood like? >> guest: boyet was looking at two parents you know. both of my parents had southern roots. my mother is directly from louisiana so my mother is an awesome cook in cook's off at
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that table and raised us with those southern rural values from rural louisiana and my dad was born in detroit in what they called a lack ottoman detroit but his fathers from georgia and of course and so both of my parents are products of what you called this great migration african-americans leaving the rood self to the north and i'm a product of that. my dad you know was a doctor. he believed in education but my dad also was a guy who came up on the harder side of life and definitely learned, taught us that you have to fight for everything you get. life doesn't give you any excuses. he often would say you know there is no mercy for the weak side. if you don't want to keep up and do your homework and do what you were supposed to do this world has harsh consequences for you. he would tell us this and if i called and today he would tell me the same thing.
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we were raised that way and my mother was a very protective affection of person who also you know had fire in her belly to matt. i was raised by two very different types of people. one was on the top or side and the other was all about her kids and i'm lucky to have both of my parents with us. they are in detroit right this second. >> host: talk about your brothers. all of you have ratcheted degrees, i think for lawyers and one doctor. >> guest: my dad doesn't turn on medicine. he takes care of the people of detroit. he is a primary care doc so that people are the folks are like the first people. there are those folks that the doctor sees first and sees first and he sends them to specialists if they need to go there. he is a great older brother and my next older brother is brian. he has a lot to green and he does practice law but primarily
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he is a baptist minister. that is his primary occupation but he does practice law. he does senior law and has a practice on the side but mostly he is pastoring new covenant baptist. my brother tony is in boston and he is a lawyer. he runs his practice on north chester and for folks who know boston. my baby brother eric is a lawyer in winston-salem north carolina and active in democratic politics there. my dream is that one day he will join me in congress that we will see about that. >> host: in the book you mention your father is agnostic and your mother is a devout cap like. talk to us about what role religion played. >> guest: well you know my dad was sort of a religious get ticked. i think he believes in a god and i think you probably would even call himself a christian because you know but he is not, my dad
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is a guy who believes in the power of his own personal energy and he grew up with skepticism about how he would see some people manipulate religion. he is not really much for that. my mother is one of those folks who goes to church on sunday and wednesday night. she is active with the youth group and got much more active with it after her kids grew up and left home. but my mom is you know, she has got a rosary needs and prays for us. they there are icons of mary around the house and it's interesting because they represent two polar opposites in that regard. my mother prays for my father and my father offers pragmatic advice about the world to all of us. but in the middle of the two i just kind of came up in catholic schools and things like that but
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to me i always saw it as rules. this is not the fault of the people who tried to educate me. this is my own perception and i saw it as a series of tones and so i really stopped being -- i had a spiritual yearning but i wasn't religiously involved as a teenager even though i went to an all boys catholic high school. and so i was open. i was searching in my latter teens and when i got on campus at wayne state i found a muslim community and it worked for me. and so the rest is history. >> host: there was an addict in the book about your conversioconversio n to islam and how you often stumbled upon this. >> guest: yeah you know i had read the book about malcolm x as a teenager and i was a fan of mohamed ali. in my mind islam and muslims
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were people who would fight for justice and i hired that but i didn't know anything about it. when i got on campus i was one day studying with a friend of mine and dog friday he just sort of ended our study session and he said i've got to go. where are you going? i am going to muslim prayer. okay and he invited me to go so i went. i saw everybody sitting on the floor and i also noticed that there were folks there who were white and black and asian and arab and all kinds of books, even latino. so i like that. the preacher was talking about inclusion and how we are all from one seed of adam and eads and how key melody starts from a single-payer and we are all united that way. i went back and converted to
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islam. >> host: at do you finished college he left detroit for minnesota. in the book you said that you felt as though minnesota was a place where you could make a difference but you couldn't do that in detroit. why? >> guest: you can make a difference in detroit. i'm talking about the perceptions of the 21-year-old. i'm not talking about at 50 years old looking at it from the perspective that i am now from where i was then. i needed a change of scenery and what i saw was a 21-year-old guy leaving the university in detroit and every other day some auto plant was shutting down. the political culture seemed like you would have to be there for quite a long long time before you could get into a
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position to serve although of course anybody can serve at any age but the people who are leaders in that political establishment were long-time servers. but when i got there to minnesota just seemed like the political culture was a little bit more open. it depended not so much on length of service but what can you do? and so that is sort of the way i perceive the difference. so when i got, i was active on campus in detroit and i went to minnesota and that activity just continued and i found myself in a leadership position in the black law students association which i was the president of and then even as a young attorney. there were folks who wanted me to sit on the lord and be part of what they were doing. it just felt like a little bit more of an environment where they wanted people to
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participate and whereas in detroit a ton of problems, no shortage of them and it just seemed like a political environment where the people who were there had all the answers if you know what i mean. but i love detroit. it's my home tell them in minneapolis is my hometown now, my adopted hometown but i'm grateful to troy and would love to see detroit do well and love to see many of us do well. >> host: before you came to congress he served several terms in the state legislature but he wrote in your book that your faith was not an issue until then. why do you think that is the case? >> guest: to me by surprise because i had been in politics already and suddenly when i ran for congress all of a sudden my religion he came an issue. i hidden imam as a prayer leader come to the state legislature to
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offer prayer as we do in congress every day from different denominations in dates. i had had been fasting for ramadan. everybody knew as a muslim and nobody cared. i think the reason there was such an interest is in congress there was a specific role in terms of foreign policy national security, war and peace and so many areas of the world where the united states was addressing a tumultuous environment in countries where the majority was muslim. when i went to congress a few years before that, in a plot to attack the united states was hatched in afghanistan. we were in the midst of the war in iraq which i opposed by the way and so those things made the congressional thing with different. somebody said to me you know
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it's like a japanese person were to run for congress a few years after pearl harbor. you might imagine that some people wouldn't see the person for the person and just as a member of the group ended fact i think that's why some people got excited and afraid and even sort of abusive at some point. >> host: in your book you mention your involvement with the million man march in d.c.. >> guest: is a great march. >> host: one of the organizers of the event, you are critical of mr. farrakhan and the niche and of islam in the book. tell us why? >> guest: a lot of people who come out of prison or off of drugs would benefit by the nation so i wanted to at knowledge that is a true fact and we should never take any credit away but i guess i was
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really looking for a greater direction and involvement after the march. after the march if you had 2 million on the mall you had many more millions of people ready for action after that. yet while there were some policy prescriptions and while individuals who participated did carry the law it just seemed like from the standpoint of the group that called the march it was like nothing. i found that disappointing and i thought it was an abdication of leadership. but let, nobody is perfect. my point is i've got that was a missed opportunity. and also to high did believe
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that we need to draw people into action. the march was action but you want to talk about action, you were talking about talking directly to the people and organizing them around an agenda that's going to directly improve their lives, not listening to a preacher in a room or talking about some otherworldly type stuff. at the end of the day i have a clear bias towards trying to address the things that i directly negatively impact people and organize people a bias to organizing people to opportunity. i just found that there was a call made but no follow up but look, at the end of the day that march inspired me in part to run
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for office. that march inspired me to think about how if you could get the level of organization that we need what we could do about home placements for kids in foster care what we could do about the educational system and what we could do about unemployment and the disparities in health and education, it gave me a sense of possibility. for that i'm grateful to the march and grateful for the people who called it but i too think the execution after the march just wasn't there. >> host: did that lack of execution lead to your political awakening? >> guest: at one point i was, what's going to happen and it became clear that nothing was going to happen and i said well i don't know what anybody else is going to do but what i'm going to do is i'm going to get more at given my committee. i'm going to run in this political process. i'm going to try to be a factor in terms of having a greater level of each justice for every
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american. that is kind of wet, but i also said in islam we are taught in the koran that god created humanity from a single-payer, male and female and different nations and tribes so that we would know each other, not despise each other. i don't have any use for a philosophy that says one group is exalted above another group even if i'm in a group that they say is favored. i don't really subscribe to that kind of thinking so that is another issue. but at the end of the day i believe we need human equality and that is kind of why i am not on board with that kind of thing. >> host: in the book and this is it direct quote i don't want
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to have to defend or support anything just because i happen to be muslim but you are often called upon to do that. >> guest: yeah it's true. here's the thing, you can look at this whole issue of my status as a muslim. you can act like, you can try to ignore it and say it's my individual and private business or you can say look, if my colleagues read information about what islam is in the perspective of how to deal with the muslim community in the muslim world i'm going to embrace that because this country is about liberty and justice for all and i am going to help, i'm going to use this moment in time that i'm able to serve to improve on this idea of inclusion in america so that is kind of what i am doing. i have decided where they didn't
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flee from the situation i'm going to go to toward it so that is why talk to my colleague peter king about his hearing. he offered to let me testify and i accepted that offer. that is why i'm going to other vendors in congress and sort of discuss with them both the private and sometimes public ways about the issue of inclusion as opposed to bigotry. this is why i have taken on. part of it is just my personality. i tend to step in and offer whatever help i can rather than say i'm going to look after my individual private interest and just let things handle themselves. >> host: you talked about your interaction with colleagues. representative michele bachmann has accused you of having ties to the muslim brotherhood and those organizations.
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that has been made very public but at the same time when you guys see each other you are very cordial. how do you reconcile that? >> guest: she and i have some pretty serious disagreements about a whole number of things ranging from democracy to how our economy should he operating to the proper role of the religion in our country and we couldn't be more different. we are day and night on these issues. it's not personal. it's just i don't know, that's what it is. i think a lot of people who watch and hear some of the fireworks to come out of congress and some of the political clashes in the polarization might be under the impression that there is personal animosity between
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members of congress. there may or may not be. the reality is these are substantive differences not personality differences. i don't have any problem shaking the hand of a colleague who i disagree with or talk to them or get along with them. i actually believe you should talk to people you disagreements with and i'm happy to do that. the folks who watch congress from across the country should know that it's not a personal animosity. it is a difference in values and belief systems that separates us. >> host: in your book you dispute this perception that congress and government is dysfunctional but you also write write -- explain the difference. >> guest: democracy is a
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system. democracy is a system that says all voices have an opportunity to weigh in on the direction of the city or the county or the state or the country. he cut his all voices have an opportunity to weigh in sometimes those points of view clash and then you get to an impasse position. that is when we get stuck. but what would be the alternative? what would we do other than what we are doing? i do think they're there are important forms that need to be made. we need to have redistricting be depoliticized so that the state, the state actually reflects the will of the people as opposed to who draws the lines. there were real reforms that can happen. at the same time you know i believe that democracy is
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supposed to be, supposed to be raucous. somebody said that the clash of ideas is the sound of freedom. sometimes this goes wrong like right before the civil war congress was dysfunctional then too. now we are in another phase where we have extreme inequality and it's hard to move an agenda. 90% of the people want background checks for gun ownership yet congress won't move on. huge majorities want increase in minimum wage and commerce won't move on. i will say that america is polarized so obviously congress is too. we have to continue to work these problems out but i guess what i mean i don't mean to say it's not having problems of operation which suggests
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dysfunctionality but what i really mean is i'm optimistic about moving forward and optimistic that if we keep on staying engaged in free chat to african-americanamerican s we will work ourselves out of this polarization. >> host: you have traveled extensively as a member of congress and he wrote that in the book. these congressional vote -- trips are often used as fact-finding trips in the right about that in the book but many places you have gone me to been seen as something as an ambassador for these folks in foreign lands can relate to. how does that feel when you go over and you are looking for information that people come to you and ask you how can america help us and what can you personally do about that? >> guest: there is pressure but i think it's an honor to try to make friends for your country. i have embraced that role and i think a lot of people living
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outside of the united states they hear about the united states the united states and they see it on television and they read about it but how much do they actually know about a? in some cases they know a lot and many other cases they don't know as much and they just perceived power system works. if you are a cut from a country where one person makes decisions for the whole country were some ruling oligarchy it may be strange to you to hear that, something coming out of the u.s. congress. because of our democratic system that doesn't so i find myself interpreting what the u.s. does. i remember when i was in egypt before the recent military takeover and i was talking to some people and they were asking me why did you also port mubarak and do you now support more see and will you support -- i said
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look we will support who you put up. the united states is going to support support whatever head of state you offer us. we can take your head of state and i often tried to explain the united states is not all powerful. you as a citizen of another country have agency in terms of the direction of your own country. i find myself playing that role and i think it's an important role for every member of congress to play and when i'm called upon to make it i play it >> host: at the beginning you talked about the composition of your district. do you often find yourself playing that same role with their constituents? >> guest: yes i do because we do have a lot of new americans in our district, new americans from all over the globe. if you take someone who is a new immigrant from syria or for that matter zimbabwe where they are
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having difficulties with the population. you often have to explain how the system is different and you can't criticize this government and you must access your elected officials if you want things to happen and this capitol is yours. it is not the kings. we don't serve the king. this is a democratic system so i found myself often talking about the basis of how to make the democratic system work for you and i think it is an awesome role. i actually enjoy it. >> host: that leads into the book title, "my country 'tis of thee" and you connect this title to two things that many people from detroit or many people in america can relate to. talk to us about that. >> guest: well you know, "my country 'tis of thee" i remember
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when i was standing there on a cold january day in 2009 when barack obama was standing out there raising his hand to swear in his oath of office to be the 44th president and aretha franklin sang my country 'tis of thee. i just remember being sort of like swept up in that moment and feeling like wow think about everything this country has caused us to arrive at this particular moment. i looked out on the mall and i looked at the capital and slave labor to the capital. i thought about what happened at the other end of the ball in 1963 which is when martin luther king in his famous "i have a dream" speech invoked those same words to that song, my country 'tis of thee. and how it that time it wasn't foreseeable that you could be at a moment where somebody like
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barack hussein obama would be elected president. then i just remember standing there in that cold moment thinking about a song i have heard many years before. there is an alternative version to my country 'tis of thee that abolitionist wrote in the 1830s in which they wrote my country 'tis of thee stronghold of slavery and they wrote a song with the same music but criticizing the slave system -- system and i thought that is america. it's a a tension between martin luther king and bull connor. it's a tension between people who are trying to extend and expand democracy and people who want to keep the benefits of democracy to only their group. and you know the country will go in that direction in which the
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most active people are pulling it. and we dare not let the people who operate on the basis of fear, operate on a basis of scarcity, operate on the basis of me, and mine and us i dared not stop pulling on those people who care today. we have got to always be pulling my country 'tis of thee in the direction of sweet land of liberty for all. so it's a tension and you'd get what you are willing to give in terms of energy and resources to the struggle for making this a more perfect union. i do believe erica has -- america has great things to offer to the world. you can't practice islam and if any freer in america.
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in europe and switzerland they passed a law that are a key component to the essential house of worship. they are known to be associated with a muslim house of worship and i don't agree with work is that in america they don't hand them but in france they banned them. they banned an article of religious association. in a country like turkey which is in them majority muslim country religious expression is banned from the public square and it's the same way in tunisia. you might think what about somewhere like saudi arabia or iran? in those countries you are okay if you are religiously lined up with the people of power and if you are not then you are not all right. if you are in iran you are not necessarily welcome to the sunni
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and in saudi arabia as she had complained of themselves not being able to have full human rights. so what is my point to ask my point is that america became the christian, lutheran methodist, catholic, evangelical, whatever. you can be jewish, you can be reformed ,-com,-com ma orthodox, you can be conserved. orthodoxy can be as shoe we, you can be a sunni and you don't have to practice any religion at all if you don't want to. this is a wonderful thing that we have two practice as you please. but it's not guaranteed. you have to protect it. you have to defend it and some think you're right to practice your faith means defending the other person's right to practice there is. when you say mine is okay but yours is not what it a political table is turned? the only way to go forward is
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everybody's is okay. congress shall pass no law establishing a state religion nor a ridge in the free exercise thereof. i believe in that. that's an awesome thing so "my country 'tis of thee" is the title of the book and it has caused me to do a lot of soul-searching and reflection about our nation. >> host: do you see any parallels with your experience and the presidents experienced? did you hearken back to your swearing and when you were there at the inauguration and? >> guest: i sure did. i thought about the president. the interesting thing about president obama is people accused him of being anti-muslim and try to discredit him. in fact i am a muslim so he's a person with a muslim name or a name that could be associated with a muslim hussein in particular but he is a christian. i am a muslim but i am an
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english name so in some ways i do sense a certain parallel with the president. i have often admired how he managed some of the fire that he has been under because he is under more than i am i think. he has exercised a lot of grace under fire as well. obama did not elect himself. americans elected him. he is signaling a new don i think end of course we are not post-racial. in fact we have severe disparities in income, education, health and all of that we have defeated slavery, we have defeated jim crow. president obama i think in many ways allows us to take on the front -- first-run tier and defeating racism itself. some people may say it can happen it's too strong but they
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said that about slavery and they said that about jim crow. what if we could reach through universal brotherhood and sisterhood below the community has martin luther king talked about? i think it's possible and i think that if we can elect obama then we can tear down these inequalities in disparities. i'm optimistic about it. >> host: the subtitle of your book is my faith, my family, our future. our future in the latter third of the book you talk about some of those disparities that you just mentioned and you sort of made that your mission on capitol hill. talk a little bit more about some of these issues that you would trust in the book that you are looking to tackle as a legislator. >> guest: i think the biggest problem is income inequality. it income inequality has two components. it is stagnant wages, rising debt loads, limited economic fortunes for working people and
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it has fabulous economic rewards at -- for the people at the tip top of the economy. the stagnating situation for working people of course people of color are disproportionately concentrated in that group. but they are not the only ones down there. the foreclosure crisis happened, african-americans were hit harder but they warned by any means the only ones hit. african-americans were hit harder by health disparities but i have a lot of white people coming to my district telling me they need health care reform because they got dropped from their policy after they got sick or they were bankrupt after becoming sick so i guess what i am saying is i believe our president is right about income inequality being the defining
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issue of our time and i think that we have got to as a nation organize among people ordinary means, regular folks all over this country and reclaim the political power to require that the wealth of this country be shared more equitably. conservatives say that you have got to cut taxes and not regulate rich people and big business because they need, because they will take the extra money that you give them by not taxing them in regulating them and use the extra money to invest in a plant and equipment to hire the rest of us. we now know that trickle-down economics as the failed economic philosophy. it simply doesn't work. the proof of how bad it works is all around us. so i think one of the main things i want to do on
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capitol hill is work for prosperity for working families. that means reduced student debt, that means make college affordable enough to work your way through school again. that's something i want to do. that means consumer protection for people who pay high fees because they are not banked and that means making sure that the minimum wage is increased and we have incentives to improve the livable wage. that means also rewarding companies like punch pizza who is a minneapolis pizza restaurant that actually raised their minimum wage to $10.10 without any government intrusion. it it's better business says i want to keep my employees on the job. i want to build loyalty. i don't want have to retrain people all the time so therefore i'm going to pay better as opposed to this low-wage model. i want to make sure that we have trade deals that actually help
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strengthen the american working class and the middle class not just offshore jobs. ever since we passed enough that we have seen ever-increasing trade deficits with the united states with a few tips in recent years but still we are running trade deficits. it may have reduced or gone up in the last two years. it's still going up. we have a trade surplus years before nafta. we don't have a stagnating economy for working people. we have it because of a set of decisions around taxation, trade, collective bargaining education and training that have put the economy on the footing that it is on and i have a -- an economy that works for everybody including middle-class
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people professionals and certainly workers. >> host: tackling many of these issues has elevated your national profile. you have become a champion of the left. is this the platform to higher aspirations or higher office? >> guest: no. i'm not saying i would never run for higher office. i'm simply saying it's not a platform to extend an aspiration. i don't have any aspiration for an office higher than the one i hold because i don't really see another one higher than i hold. i represent the love of the district. i don't know if there's a better job in the world than the one i hold right now and i mean that seriously. but i am ambitious. i am not ambitious for personal elevation. i am ambitious for our country being a place where there is a reliable path to economic
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security for everyone and for the few people who are too old, too sick or too young to work there is a safety net that doesn't allow them to fall down so that they are destitute, that is my ambition. when i think about legislative achievements or my work as a member of congress i don't think, i'm not proud of any title i hold but i am proud of the fact that the progressive caucus and many other members of the caucus, the democratic caucus demanded over a year ago that the president issued an executive order freezing the pay of federal workers of workers who work for federal contractors. workers who work for federal contractors are making really low pay and we got 50 members of the house, 15 members to send a letter to the president for a
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pay increase through executive order. i asked the president personally and i gave them letters personally. i asked the staff about it that and other members of the caucus did too. other members of the caucus went through the country striking with low-wage workers at walmart and fast food restaurants and at the last state of the union the president announced the issuance of this executive order. to me that is what i am proud of i am proud to be part of stuff like that. i'm not really ambitious for titles. i am ambitious for achievements that are going to put the average working person whether from mexico or somalia or from 10 generations in america that they can look forward to a retirement where they are not look at eating dog food as an older person and look forward to their child getting good education and a good decent home to live in and look forward to having decent water to drink and
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to look forward to having a job that pays them they are. that is what my ambition is. >> host: one of the themes that runs to the book is this personal rose and you talk about your father. 15 or 16-year-old keith ellison northwest detroit, did you ever see yourself at that the point you are now? did you ever jim about back? >> guest: no. when i was that age if somebody asked me what do you want to be when you grow up i honestly would have told them i don't know. i knew one thing. i knew that i loved to read. i knew that i loved to express myself. i knew that, i knew that i hated to see people treated unfairly
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for holy door taken advantage of that is what i knew so it really wasn't until i got on campus that i thought to myself i want to be an economist so i majored in economics because i taught if you want to understand the way the world works you have got to follow the money. my dad would say that all the time so i started majoring in economics and then i found out economics is part of it but it's also politics. so then i did a little grad work in economics but then i went to law school at the university of minnesota which brought me to minnesota. that was kind of my path. at team, i had no idea. in fact when i got to my 20s i thought the last place i would be would be an electoral politics because i didn't think the electoral politics have much to offer in terms of change. i was proven wrong when i met
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paul wellstone who in my mind combined the pragmatism of a seasoned politician and a hard and idealism of a community organizer. keep hold these two things together and it was sort of the model for what i wanted to do. >> host: you have spent a lot of time focusing on your youth but you spend a lot of time talking about your family and children especially and your experiences. and have different america is for them. talk to us a little bit about that. >> guest: when i was growing up america was much more racially obsessed. for example when i was a kid and somebody dated outside of the african-american community that would be a thing. for kids and my kids generation
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it's not a thing, at least not where i live. kids are far more except hang of each other. kids are far more embracing of alternative culture and they are much more ready to accept people for who they are and who they offer themselves to be. my kids certainly embody that and i think it's a wonderful development. the good thing about my kids is that they are still proud of being african -- african-african- american. they love to read about it and it looked to talk about it and they love to hear about it but at the same time that makes them they are ingested in their own heritage but they are also interested in other peoples heritage. as opposed to not wanting to learn about other peoples heritage. >> host: would you say that you adopted your father or your mother's parenting style? >> guest: not my father's
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because we did not spank your kids. my dad believed in that but i think i kind as melded it. my mother was a person who stuck up for her kids, who made sure sure -- my mother was a working mom too and my mom today is a social worker in detroit michigan. she still works and she does juvenile offenders and loves those kids. she treats them like she treated us very at she sees them as her kids she is a person who would make you feel good just ain't around her. the two of them, it was like a mixture of you know tough love and just affectionate love. they melded the two. i tried to go in the middle of the two and i tried to be
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concerned about my kids. my kids are the best thing i have ever done. they are my children so now they are getting older. the youngest one is the high school. she is a senior going to college next year and the oldest one has his eyes i'm going to law school. he got out of college and played football in college and now he is looking at going to law school after having worked a few years in the minnesota legislature. i have one son who probably looks the most like me although he is dead locks down to the middle of his back. he is an artist and paints murals and writes fiction and then of course i have a son who is in the united states merit -- military active duty. he is 19 years old stationed in fort stewart and we are very proud of him. my kids are a treasure. they are the best but none of my kids were raised exactly like i
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was. all of them are individuals and anyone who has kids knows you don't shape your kids. they are who they are and all you can do is try to guide them. they all have their own personalities and fatherhood has been one of the great things of my life. parenting a child and mentoring a child is something i recommend to anybody. >> host: in the book you talk about your mother being fiercely protective of you and your brothers. >> guest: yeah she was. >> host: you have also been fiercely protective of your children as i understand during your last campaign. your republican opponent brought up the situation with your family. >> guest: yeah. >> host: talk to us about your reaction about what was said and how you dealt with that in the aftermath.
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>> guest: it caught me by surprise. in kind of going after my family he kind of outed himself about what under ordinary circumstances should have been extremely embarrassing situation for himself. he talked about his wife, ex-wife getting a protective order against him and then he said but, he tried to say that i let that information out. i didn't but then he started talking about the circumstances of my divorce settlement. i took offense to it because when we walked in that morning my daughter had a day off of school so i was going to do the debate and then take her to brag us. i had an emotional reaction. i did are to be subject to the uglier side and he was saying
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things that i knew were false and he didn't know what he was talking about. i felt my own personal standards. i called him a. i own that and i was wrong for doing it. i told her i was wrong for doing it and i told her no matter what he says it doesn't allow me to do that. but i apologize to him and i apologize to the public for it. at the end of the day it's just a lesson. as much as you want to protect your family and kids and is much as you want to fiercely stand up to them you have to do all these remember that there is a certain standard -- standard of decorum you have to maintain when you fall below it you have to apologize. you must and you don't get credit for rising above it. it is what you are supposed to do.
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the boys in the back of my head when i was dealing with that was my dad. my mom would understand why i would tee up said in my dad would say that was an act of weakness when you let your emotions get the better of you even if the guy was out of line. you stay in line. that was my dad's voice telling me that. and i thought to myself you know don't ever let anybody let you fall below your personal standards. that was that episode but do you know what, you have to move on from these kinds of things. you have to do your best. you have to remember your values and you have to take responsibility for what you do that is wrong. but you have to eventually forgive yourself too because if you don't you just continue to beat up on yourself and you
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forget that your job is to represent the people of the fifth congressional district which means you have to be full-throated. you have to be flat out and you have to be highly energetic and doing that but i'm not one to let anybody make me shy or pull my punches because i'm embarrassed about something i shouldn't have done which is right now actually quite a while ago. >> host: so what is next? life is still happening but what is next? >> guest: what is next is you know got to get congress to raise the minimum wage. we are proud of the president is going to issue the executive order to help people who work for federal contractors. that is great but that's only going to help about 250,000 people which is a lot great it's going to make a meaningful difference in their life but the
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minimum wage can literally help and if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 that would literally help millions of people. ..


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