Skip to main content

tv   BOOK TV  CSPAN  March 26, 2016 6:00pm-8:01pm EDT

6:00 pm
feel like the thunder, the dark days and the storm have left. the sun is out now. i just started blooming like euros. this rose needs tender loving care to fully bloom. i do not want to die again. mrs. bush, who through your leadership you haven't played a major role in watering the seeds by building capacity and today you have recognized that blooming flowers in your book because 14 years ago was not possible and i thank you from my heart. >> thank you mina. thank you so muc thank you very much. [applause] thanks everybody.
6:01 pm
>> on behalf of all of us here today on behalf of the u.s. institute of peace and want to thank mrs. laura bush, ms. mina sherzoy and steve hadley r. chair. thank you for reminding us that after seven years of war it will take a long time, may maybe generational to fully emerge from that conflict but there are extraordinary signs of progress and much hope so thank you for your collective passion and inspiration this afternoon as we look at the pathway forward. mrs. bush at a special thanks to you for what you have done for afghan women and women around the world who work at the bush institute and thank you for bringing these beautiful powerful story to all of us with a wonderful new book voices of hope. then an honor to post everybody here today. i want to ask everybody to please stay seated while the panel to purge the stage and
6:02 pm
please join me in one more round of thanks and applause for our wonderful panel. [applause] [applause] [inaudible conversations]
6:03 pm
[inaudible conversations] good afternoon everyone. i want to thank you for joining us here at politics and prose bookstore as we embark on another one of reading and please silence any cell phones and devices at this time to the format for our reading today we will be introducing our author and afterward to speak and we will have a question answer session followed a signing. my ne is christopher greggs and i welcome you to politics and prose bookstore on behalf of the owners of politics and
6:04 pm
present a wonderful staff to we do over 500 events a year and here on connecticut avenue our flagship store will do different is poison pellets and other venues as well pick if you would like to follow our reading series please subscribe to our youtube channel worsley podcast and you can find events like this and many more we have done over the years that i want -- i will begin by saying i welcome and i'm pleased to introduce daniel oppenheimer does he present his debut "exit right" the people who left the left and reshaped the american century. daniel oppenheimer is a writer in short documentary filmmaker whose articles and videos have been featured in "the new york times," tablet magazine and as the title suggests oppenheimer is a prominent political figures such as whittaker chambers ronald reagan christopher hitchens among many others and the force that led
6:05 pm
these men from the left to the right. rick perlstein author of the invisible bridge celebrates oppenheimer with exceptional wisdom discernment on display in this book. hailing oppenheimer is a political essayist for the ages and kurdish review commends "exit right" for its portrayal of the cost of the subjects in the struggle and insightful narrative of soul-searching among political believers of every stripe. i present daniel oppenheimer. [applause] >> thank you for being here today. it's really exciting and i want to thank politics and prose but i think it's a rite of passage for political writers in particular to do reading here so it's exciting for me. before get started i wanted to say one or two more thanks to one as to my wife jessica who is
6:06 pm
here today, who is sort of a part of the book in more ways than i can articulate. i tried to get added a little little bit and acknowledge immense but thank you for being here with me and being with me through all of this printer will also want to say hi to my kids. you know i was going to be on tv but i want to say hi to them. what i'm going to do is i'm going to give you i guess guess we'll have to call a genealogy of the book. i will get into the themes of the book some but i want to start with how it came into existence because it's not always the case that the book of history and politics has a useful or meaningful personal back story but i think in this case it does and it's maybe sort of impossible to fully understand but the book isn't what i'm trying to do if you don't understand where he came from on my part.
6:07 pm
even if i don't show up there is no i anywhere in the book other than in the acknowledge immense but it's a deeply personal book so i want to give you that genealogy. to set up some of the discussion of at the themes and some of the questions and answers and then i'm going at the end of this talk to read a short passage from the conclusion that i think captures fairly well what i was trying to do and some people think i've done well. something the national review doesn't think i've done but. [laughter] this book starts in a way with my grandparents walter and rebecca kershner who were schoolteachers in philadelphia and communist party members who. that is a fairly common story and a very thin slice of the politically active [it's not that communism more broadly. one of the stories, my own
6:08 pm
corporate rick was telling me to give an illustration of the world in which my mom grew up was telling a story about one evening i think it was on passover in the late 1940s early 1950s when there was a knock on the door and two men from f. e. i came into the house and questioned my grandparents for a little while about their activities, whether they were members of the party and who also were members of the party and what they said was we will tell you anything you want to know about us but we won't tell you anything about any of our friends. for some reason and maybe it was because they answered about themselves, who knows maybe it was just a sword at bureaucratic issue though many of their friends a number of whom are schoolteachers were fired during that time for being communists 30 members are suspected party members and they weren't. by the time i came along with and was born into this not
6:09 pm
communist but very left-wing household in springfield massachusetts, that story but more broadly the fact that my grandparents were communists was kind of our own family mythology and i would say a fairly simplistic part of the mythology they work communist party members and that was a noble thing to be. that they were persecuted for that. their friends were persecuted for that. we went through this period is mccarthyism and that was his noble in their problem part of our legacy not examine very much. as they grew older in this not communist left-wing household in this committee in springfield massachusetts where he grew up of other leftists and probably marxist or communist that they wouldn't necessarily identify themselves as such i would say
6:10 pm
for a while it's a pretty simple narrative. as i got older it started to become more cop hated. i remember when i was in college i had a job, a student job but the holocaust archives at yale and so what i would do is i would watch testimonials from survivors talking about their experience during the holocaust one of the things that i noticed repeatedly was people saying after they got out of the camps after the camps were liberated if they were liberated why the americans let's savor the british i thought that was the end of the story but at least that was the end of the really eminent danger from a certain militant. if they were liberated by the soviets was as if there was this whole other story of escape and danger that they had to go through. i started to learn about the
6:11 pm
soviet union and the horrific evils committed by the soviets and i began to complicate my own story of what it meant to be on the left, what it meant to have this legacy of communist party membership. it was also during college that i started to dip my toe a little bit into activism so when i was at yale as there are periodically there were battles between university of administration in the labor unions that represent the workers then i got involved with what was called the student action coalition and i wrote some press releases for it. i remember this is a big useful story in understanding where i'm coming from i remember this law and was relatively early in the e-mail i remember this long argument i got into because one of my fellow members wrote this e-mail attacking one of the plans coming from the university administration for wanting to
6:12 pm
pay lower workers to bring in fast food restaurants on the campus and pay lower wages to the new workers who were fired to work after donaldson subway and so on and kind of at had this long argument all of which i agreed with until we got to the end where he said and who wants to eat 50 hydrogenated meat patties with wilted lettuce and translate this dance -- translucent tomatoes anyway. i said i'm with you about the way the university wants to undermine the labor unions but i really like mcdonald's burgers i think that was indicative of the fact that her it was me beginning to articulate it at indicative of the fact that i grew up on the left and grew up in this agassi of commitment. there were ways that it didn't totally cohere with what what i was and what i liked and some of that was my maturation and some
6:13 pm
of it was though that was a part of my childhood the other part of it was very monday and growing up in america liking mcdonald's, liking television liking movies and as i went along with these ways in which the left-wing parts of me and these other parts of me did or didn't cohere it became more and more interesting to me and more and more pressing in terms of the need as i began to think of myself as a writer to understand what that meant. so i got out of college to do for a few things and started writing articles and i had a very supportive editor to let me write whatever i wanted to write and i had written three articles about people who have gone from the left and right before noticed there was a pattern and
6:14 pm
at the time i was writing a whole other book. it was going to be about the subculture of people who went to science fiction and fantasy conventions. that was not working for all sorts of reasons. somebody pointed out to me they said maybe you should write a book about this and had just written a cover story about david horowitz who had himself been racing a communist party family have been one of the early activists and intellectuals of the new left and in the mid-70s had a real falling out with the left because a friend of his was killed probably by the black panthers and it sort of totally devastated him, pushed him to fall apart for five years and start with the migration to the right. somebody pointed out to me that maybe there's a book in this broader phenomenon left to right the minute, maybe not literally
6:15 pm
the minute but looking back 10 years what feels like is the minute that was said to me it just kind of clicked. i was already anxious about this other book idea had what seemed like a good idea but didn't seem to be working for all kinds of reasons. i said to my wife would he think if i chop the science action i.d. and she said oh please god yes. [laughter] so i did read writers do. i had this idea. i was fortunate to have up agent. the first part of the book was actually about christopher hitchens. i signed the contract in 2006 and i said to my agent i think
6:16 pm
it's going to take me three or four years and she said you can't tell the publisher that, just say two years but we both know three or four years. so i said i will have it for you in 2000 and eight in the back of my head i'm thinking 2010. then i had kids and i had a job and i realize how credibly slow a writer i could be and what a procrastinator i could be and then finally here we are 10 years later with the book. i think the book is a few things. with the most basic level it's the story of the six people who went from the left or the right and progresses roughly chronologically through the 20th century. the first is whittaker chambers who is this structure born in 1901 on april fools' day 1901. he was a communist writer a
6:17 pm
communist fiction writer in the way 20s and early 30s. he was tapped bye bye the underground to be a spy. he ran a number of spy rings in new york and d.c.. towards the end of the 30s he had a real profound crisis, broke with the party came out the other side and worked on the magazine. he wrote a lot of anti-communist material and he wrote this autobiography called witness about his journey with william f. buckley. the conservative magazine in 1950s chambers was tapped to be one of its founding editors and was a big influence on bob we and on generations of conservatives. the next one is a guy named james byrne and was raised in a very affluent family in a wealthy suburb of chicago went to princeton went to england on
6:18 pm
the scholarship came back to new york in 1929 and thought that he was going to be, have a job that would later be and why you and that is going to to devote his life to writing about philosophy he was kind of a product in the 1920s in that sense when a lot of the artists and intellectuals were not that interested in politics and thought coulter was the most important meaning. that's what it was in 1929 and then the depression hit. it hit not just him but the country like a freight train and he sort of struggle to figure out what to do with that and he forged on for a little while trying to write about literature but the depression kept hitting him on the head or he finally in a sense capitulated and started writing about politics but found himself as a writer.
6:19 pm
he was i would say almost a writer. something he thought he should be caring about the something you didn't actually seem to care about them and then he found the politics and the discussion of power and the discussion of foreign-policy. it's a varied global game. excuse me. and so he ended up, like a lot of intellectuals in the 1930s was drawn to marxism in a particular brand of marxism was the trotskyist barak and he became a leader in the relatively small group of writers and intellectual activist oriented around trotsky and have it direct conduit to trotsky. he was bad for most of the 1930s and round about the same time he started to question some of the basic orthodoxies about
6:20 pm
trotskyist ahmed marxism and towards the end of the 1930s around the time whittaker chambers for starting to break and around the time that a lot of left-wing intellectuals were beginning to question marxism but also learning more and more of about the soviet union and questioned their commitment to that. he broke the trust and in 1940 he was a thomas friedman on books on foreign-policy without for a while is super ideological cast them by the 50s had become very conservative and would william f. buckley to be one of the founding members of the national review and would have a fair amount of influence on the right the terms of cold war thinking in cold war policy as an intellectual for the remainder of his life primarily writing for national review and writing a lot of books. ronald reagan as most of us know and ask their help all of us
6:21 pm
know when to insert a new plate didn't know until i started researching this book and someone said you should look into reagan. they actually had no idea he had been anything other than a conservative but he was actually a kind of salted new deal democrat and for the first time is like. his father was a die-hard democrat. reagan himself during the depression connected to roosevelt link connected to them emotionally as this paternalistic charismatic father figure who is keeping the nation afloat during this time of crisis and would really start to move to the right until the end of the 1940s and early 1950s and particularly and his turn to the right was one the cold war and his increasing miliary with communism and the dedication to anti-communism and also the way
6:22 pm
in which anti-communism became more of a conservative property or before the war and before the mid-late 1940s had been more of a bipartisan property. the other thing was he went to work for general electric actress film career stalled and it happened to be at the host is a tv show and is a spokesperson for the company traveling across the country speaking to workers in speaking to civic groups. happen to be a time when he was in the age what was probably probably still one of the are the most comprehensive political campaigns waged by an american corporation in history and it was dedicated to challenging the ideas of the new deal and labor. though they didn't require reagan to believe the ideology that they were putting out there i think the process of being immersed in their literature and surrounded by their people and engaging with ideas that ended up speaking to him for a variety
6:23 pm
of reasons played a key role in his turn to conservatism. both and then podgorica was an intellectual in the 1950s and as editor of "commentary" magazine from 1960 on and did commentary for think 45 years, early in that tenure he actually moved the magazine to an anti-solid liberal left magazine in the actually moved to the left gave hearing to the radical ideas of the new left and got himself as someone who was supportive radical in certain ways. and for a variety of reasons started moving towards the right and the story i until the book is the most dramatic i don't think he made for move to the right anyway but he wrote his memoir about called making it about his own desire for success and ambition and he imagined
6:24 pm
that this book was going to establish itself and push him a notch up in the status hierarchy of american letters. it was going to put them on par with his good friend norman mailer. that was his hope and his expectation the opposite happened. the book got totally trashed by the critics including a lot of friends and colleagues of his and including ultimately norman mailer himself. after that pot for its fell apart for a few years, went into a deep depression and when he came out the other side had really, he hadn't moved as far as he ultimately would were changed in a really profound way in a way even more dramatic than the other people. his temperament seem to have changed. he was enthusiastic and on the other side of this depression and transformation seemed as if
6:25 pm
he had aged 20 years and temperament. and finally christopher hitchens who is somebody i probably have more about personal connection to than anybody else in this book. when i was in college i asked my left-wing father for a subscription to "time" magazine. i just wanted to keep up on the times and is so horrified my dad that david would even want this vaguely centrist magazine that he ordered me a subscription. he said you can have "time" magazine but i'm going to get you the nation as well the subscription to the left-wing magazine are treating the nation and i started reading christopher hitchens and i was just on the way by him and the degree to which he sort of was so solidly on the left but took so much pleasure and exhilaration and insulting his fellows on the left was this
6:26 pm
enormous way exciting and liberating thing for me. when he started to move to the right kind of started to inch their that way in the 1990s but after 9/11 and the iraq war moved in that direction. i don't know if you ever went over to the right buddy move it away from the left. that was difficult for me. probably half the people in this room have stories of meeting or drinking with christopher hitchens but as an intellectual hero and model his movement away from the left was a great thing for me. those are the six people in the book and i just want to read to give you a sense of kind of my perspective and how i think about a lot of this and i just want to read something from into the book which i presume most of you have not gotten to yet.
6:27 pm
i am sort of talking about, i'm talking about this notion i have about what kind of perspective one needs to have two do that kind of writing that i find most exciting and interesting and i guess that i'm probably trying to do and i might go a little bit further and say that this is almost a characterization i think of what it looks like to have healthy political belief. the trick which is in a trick at all but the basic art of living is to be grounded in a strong sense of self by the tunes to one's inner fortunes and fictions. it's to be open to the experience and the evidence of error.
6:28 pm
it's to accept that there's no into the friction and uncertainty except death and to be willing to step forward with this much courage and creativity she can muster when the own strategies of defense will do the trick anymore. it's not the point of this book to make a the case that we should all be on the right or the left. i have my opinions and i'm sticking to them from now. the six men have their own opinion and change them in some cases productively in other cases less so but navy is a point that these lives are worth approaching with interest regardless. there's a depth of humanity that can be achieved by any of us only when we understand conflict with a mouse with a bona fide -- run away from it. we don't all like what ended up on the far side of their encounters. make the point. growth requires risk to turn against one's former side is to
6:29 pm
take enormous psychological gamble. to let go of who you were possibly not a new identity on the other side that's coherent and optional but you might alienate friends, co-workers, family community preview might have to live your life at the haunting fear that you gave it all up for nothing and to pay off if there is one is awfully hard one and almost certainly bitter tasting. by paying close and sustained attention to these perilous journeys by asking ourselves where they went right and wrong, by extending our sympathies as far as they can possibly go and amassing ourselves into the lives where we can make similar choices perhaps i can learn something that will enable us to better the bromides to be where the possibilities, to be more bold and more humble somehow at the same time. thank you. [applause] ..
6:30 pm
6:31 pm
maybe you are the perfect person to say something about bernie sanders, something insightful which would be really interesting to us. i guess the third is just an observation is that i was from the soviet union and reagan was our hero. >> so the first question, there are people who move from right to left. i'm sure demographically if you looked at voter registration and ideological affiliation that the numbers are sort of the balance of shifting all of the time. in fact, in recent years i think probably broadly the move from right to left has been more
6:32 pm
significant and if you look amongst intellectuals who i am very large interested in, that's where you see an interesting cohort of people. people like andrew sullivan, bruce bartlett, and others who moved from the left to the right and reaction to the actions of the bush administration and the wars in iraq and afghanistan and how poorly they went. i think that points to something which is a lot of these movements, these broad movements but also the stories, like the ones i like to tell happen in reaction to a big political movement were moment in which one side or the other is
6:33 pm
ascendant and from some people's perception goes to access. so there is a big left to right movement in the 20th century. one ideal with at least come after the 30s in response to all of the left-wing energy of the 19 thirties. the interesting communism and the reaction to the 1960s and the new left on black power, feminism, and gay rights. so i think the reason we are singing more right to left recently is because that big movement and i would certainly say access has been a right-wing access, there has been a reaction to that. now were in a moment where both sides have a lots of energy, a lot of passion, so it's probably moving in both directions. i do not write about the right to left because i think me from the left that journey out of it even though i did not make it is more interesting to me and when i can have more of the with. i think historically the intellectuals and writers we have moved left to right to have been fully fleshed out left-wing
6:34 pm
activists are writers and become conservative ones have been more significant than the reverse. there's not the same history of right to left that have had the kind of influence that the left to right has had. bernie sanders, i do not actually have a lot insightful to say about bernie. the only thing i will say, and i wrote something about donald trump recently, who has been all over the place in terms of a partisan affiliation, in my mind i was comparing him to bernie sanders who has been very consistent for a long time. i think there's different kinds of appeals that different kinds of political actors make to people. i think the appeal of bernie sanders is that sort of consistency over time. that commitment over time. that promise is a certain kind of politics. that there is the people like i write about and like somebody like donald trump where in a sense the changeability and danger of it is it's owned
6:35 pm
promise. the promise of disruption and transformation is its own promise. that is not really so much insight about bernie, but something about the kind of competing appeal that political actors offer. it's interesting about reagan, i've heard things like that that he was considered a hero in the soviet union. it's interesting to hear from us former soviet. >> we lived and worked in russia for a number of years. one of the families we knew there was a member who had been totally, devoutly orthodox in the communist system, when the system fell apart it took a couple of years for that same person to be totally devoutly orthodox in the orthodox church. what i i am wondering is in the people you had written about, is there personality trait or need where no matter what the actual
6:36 pm
philosophy is that you can have one that is all-encompassing and people need to have that? >> absolutely. i don't think it's true of everybody in the book but that orientation towards orthodox i think i tend to talk about more a desire for system and order and a scheme that will order the world and give it meaning. that is a type and where i would differ from what you are saying is i be careful by saying that can be the identification of some of these people as ideological types of people who are drawn to orthodox. it can sometimes be a means of dismissing the content of their politics. i think think that is a danger we should resist.
6:37 pm
for the people in this book at least a maybe not this guy that you knew, but people in the book their attachment to their various left-wing systems and their universes of belief were really profound. moving away from it was not something any of these people did lightly. it it was actually very painful for most of them. even for someone like ronald reagan who did not experience acute pain by moving toward the right. it still took him a good 15 years to make it there to space out the transition so he did not have to experience that acute pain. it is definitely a tie. i am also talking to someone about this the other day, i am like the opposite type. in a sense. i come into the presence and that is why this book is the way
6:38 pm
it is which will be very interesting for some people and incredibly frustrating for others. i come into the presence of a system of somebody who thinks that our puny me to brain is powerful enough to order the world and all the data and messiness of the world. i get kind of allergic to it. i do not think it's a better type, my tribe can be incredibly frustrating to. but parts of the interest of the book is the need from that perspective of people in that other tribe and seen what is interesting and compelling about them is supposed to -- a book about people like me may be less interesting. >> there is a wonderful book called the god that failed, it talks about the dissolution of the communists in the 30s and 40s, was that any influence on you? your fellow fascination was here
6:39 pm
a few months ago what about the influence of nancy's dad on ronald reagan? >> so the guy that failed is a book of six essays by writers and i'm not going to remember but it was around kind of late 1940s, early 1950s, and included richard wright, stephen spender, few others, it was an influence. if your dealing with a canon of books about the dissolution about communism that's right up there with darkness of moon and others. it was a great great book. so absolutely it's in there. maybe in the introduction to the book it does not want the god that failed but it quotes a
6:40 pm
review of the god that failed in his essay about the "god that failed". to the question about the biography of reagan i actually interviewed him on a panel at the texas book festival a few months ago. i think there's no question that when ronald reagan married nancy i did not see a lot of really direct evidence that he fell under the sway of her father and his conservativism. i think there is no question that his married nancy, which was which was part of a larger process of him moving into a social world that is more conservative in orientation and politics had an influence on him it's really made that transition easier. i think by the time it occurred to him that he was more of a conservative than liberal he did not have to face that question of my winter break up old friendships.
6:41 pm
most of friends at that point were conservative. >> just a couple of thoughts, kind of a middle age, white, male phenomenon phenomenon that you're talking about. particularly american. i think women typically get more liberal as they get older. having had the experience of living in socialist countries like canada and to others for 25 years, i i do not think people are so idealistic which means they don't fall off it so dramatically. they understand the pros and cons. i think it's really about idealism and that loss of youthful idealism, but i still think the majority of people that grow up on the left stay on the left, whether we're talking
6:42 pm
your father or, my dad and uncles who grew up in lower east side of new york in the 30s. they may not have been quite as left-wing as they were in the 30s but they were still always left-wing. >> i was doing research the other day, this a broad demographic questions are not my area of expertise but i found research papers there was talking about how predictive it was that your parents politics were or were not. one of the things they found was if you did not grow up in a very political household, your parents politics were not that productive. but if you grew up in a political household like mine you had an 80% chance that you'd be broadly of the same political affiliation. in no way, there are plenty of people who are in exactly the same environments as the six men as you pointed out who maybe saw
6:43 pm
exactly the same flaws in the orthodox of the left and rather than throwing it all over they just settle that piece of it maybe we need to let go of. maybe i will disaffiliated from the communist party but i will become a democrat or a member of the socialist party are good social democrat. that's probably the more common experience. i think i i was interested in the more extreme one because that much bigger transition and part allowed me to explore and reveal how complicated believe is in a sense. someone who is just moving a few inches, you don't see the guts of it as much. when much. when someone is moving from the left to the right and there is trauma and depression, an explosion of their lives, i think you can see the guts of belief more clearly.
6:44 pm
but you're right. i also don't know whether it is or is not more male phenomenon. the book was about six guys which have a little bit embarrassed by. six white guys. the only thing that -- the only defense i have for myself, is part of why start with my own story it's a little bit of a struggle for me. i'm looking looking for people who remind me of myself and wrestling with the beliefs of my father, mike grandfathering christopher hitchens, and people like david horowitz and others who look like my father and grandfather. i don't know if that's a good excuse but it feels more like a male phenomenon but i don't know if statistically that is true. >> actually related to this question is whether you think there is some psychology. obviously there are plenty of people who have been on the left and experienced trauma, depression, access situation and
6:45 pm
not made such a severe break or had a change in their belief system. do you see any commonalities among the studies, are any indication of why they were able to completely turn their belief system upside down? >> to the question of psychology, the book is all about psychology. when. when i said at the beginning and talked about my wife being involved in the book part of that is as a psychotherapist she has written a book on psychology. that part of the intellectual word that i live in and a very intimate microbe sense. if the deepest part of my interest in the stories is the psychology belief and psychology of these people. at the same time and i don't think think you are necessarily suggesting this, it's also an effort to ward off
6:46 pm
to say these people shifted because there psychology. from my perspective it is all are psychology it's nothing more of what and who we are and what our weaknesses and fears, and vulnerabilities are. who are family was and what her jeans are. i don't don't say that to dismiss it, or dismiss our beliefs but to sorta complicate them. is there something in common? i picked these people because they're different in certain ways, to the extent there is something it, i think there are people who are atypical for most of us and that politics was embedded in the core of their identity. they were drawn with reagan being the exception as intellectuals, a fully developed coherent system of ideas. when that started to break down
6:47 pm
they probably had a harder time than most of us would adjusting a little bit because it threw some sand in the machinery of this very complicated system. i think there were people who needed to believe in sort of believe passionately to next and beyond what most of us experience. that's another reason why that modified belief was not very appealing to them. it was not appealing to them to become good liberals are social democrats or something like that. in fact, one thing that people share the left and the right is a very active content for precisely that kind of person. >> but if there that idealistic and needed an all or nothing thinker, were they able to find,
6:48 pm
where they say jaded by the right? >> to some extent. it depends on the person. i think it has to with people's something i talk about which art certain temperaments or characters which the more disposed to one side or the other. i think the best example of that is whittaker chambers who was able to live fuller more mature life on the rights were his greatest commitment i would say was to christianity then he was. that was a system -- i say this as a secular person, that was a system, paradigm of belief that just seem to have more space in it for him to be more human than marxism was. then there are other examples
6:49 pm
and i think the counterexample in a sense is, david horowitz to this day and it's one of the two people who is alive when i got to this point in this book, he is profoundly angry about this trauma he experienced that he blames on the left and blames on himself. he does not seem any more content although he has written a few more books which is about how he is can henton piece with the universe. if you talk to him for five minutes it is clear that it's not true. it depends on the person. i think he was a much more interesting and compelling writer on the left and he was on the right. it depends. thank you so much for coming out. i really, really appreciate it. i'm happy to sign books and feel
6:50 pm
free to email me. i am not hard-to-find, go to, go to the university of texas website. [applause]. >> [inaudible conversation] combo on. >> here's a look at of the others recently featured on book tvs afterwards. our weekly author interview program. former bush bush administration official, john u, argued that executive power has gone beyond its constitutional limit under president obama. michael eric dyson and lord how race has impacted the obama administration. washington post columnist ej dion argued that the republican
6:51 pm
parties -- is driving away moderate voters. in the coming weeks on afterwards, professor and former chairwoman of the u.s. civil rights commission, mary frances berry will explore the history of voter fraud and suppression. former congressman, jc watts will talk about the guiding principles he follows in his professional and personal life. also coming up, up, ellen malcolm will recall her creation of emily's list, a political action committee which works to elect a pro-choice and democratic women to political office. this weekend, nancy cohen : will discuss the challenges that women face in politics and that potential of a female president. >> there's something really surprising and it surprised me as much as anyone when i was doing the research. that was that voters are not making their decision based on gender biased.
6:52 pm
there thinking about ideology, political party, issues, questions of of temperament when they decide who to vote for. so the care of much more about those things than they do about gender. so although we do still have a lot of sexism in the general culture, it is not impacting the final count of the election. >> afterwards airs on book tv every saturday at 10:00 p.m. and sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous afterwards programs on our website, >> patrick is a pulitzer prize-winning journalist and a reporter during the kennedy administration. the author of a new book called the politics of deception. what was the kennedy administration like in its last year? >> he was all about politics, getting ready for reelection.
6:53 pm
he had three major issues to deal with, one was the cuban missile crisis, he was concerned that curtis love they would would tell the truth about the cuban missile crisis. my book is about 289 hours of secret tape recordings that kennedy made. there are hidden for 34 years. i listen to all of them along with 16 hours of telephone calls. you can hear in those tape recordings that kennedy was offered a solution to the cuban missile crisis, essentially a missile swap, get your missiles out of turkey and i will get them out of cuba. kennedy kennedy said great idea, i will do it. he accepted it within minutes of the offer. that's what the book tells you that you will not read elsewhere. also insular rights, kennedy was very much opposed to martin
6:54 pm
luther king. he he was opposed to the civil rights movement. one reason is he got 85 electoral votes from the south in 1960, but he did not get him, richard nixon would've been president. soaking was an obstacle for keeping those votes. i must say lyndon johnson as vice president told him he said you will not get those votes the next time, you have got to give them more support for the civil rights movement. so kicking is screaming he did support civil rights and it ended up with johnson. on vietnam, you will see kennedy was deeply involved in what was the overthrow of the president himself in vietnam and the likely overthrow, also the assassination, he knew that -- would be murdered.
6:55 pm
but at the last minute he refused to take steps to save his life. this is all in these tape recorders, so it's an eye-opener of a book, it tells you things you thought you need about kennedy, things i thought i knew about kennedy. i covered covered all these topics in 1963. and this is now 50 years later, after listening to these tapes and i found out what really happen. >> how did you get access to these tapes. >> i knew they are available at the kennedy will library they are very hard to listen to. it was low-tech in 1963. see spent hours, eight hours to get one hour of tape. it was that hard. so it was a lot of work, a lot of headache listening to these
6:56 pm
things. >> telephone recordings are very good, very clear, but some of these, the kennedy library held back on the stuff that was most controversial. his involvement in the overthrow of museum. -- he knew him personally and defended him but you will remember of on the streets of vietnam, that picture change kennedy, change the whole situation in vietnam. it was just a matter of time before kennedy got rid of him. >> from what you gathered on the tape and where the kennedy administration was going into this second term, what you think it would have looked like it became to completion?
6:57 pm
>> mike mansfield who was a senate democratic leader i dealt with them quite a bit. he assured me that kennedy would withdraw from vietnam. but bobby kennedy, also a senator assured me that kennedy would never pull out of vietnam. now i believe -- and according to mike kennedy told him at one point, can't do it now, and 63, i have three, i have to get reelected in 1964. after that, then i will withdraw. i will phased withdrawal. but once he over through the president vietnam, that government collapsed within weeks. the vietnamese military collapse. so it ended up kennedy was killed 20 days after the and was killed. so lindemann johnson gets handed
6:58 pm
a collapsed government and army in south vietnam. eventually he made his own decisions about sending american combat troops. johnson argued that kennedy overthrown assassination and johnson was a big supporter, he was the reason he ended up committing combat troops. >> your price pulitzer prize-winning journalist. thank you so much. >> book tv tapes hundreds of arthur programs throughout the country all year long. here's a look at some of the events will be covering this week. on monday, from our studios in washington d.c., former
6:59 pm
congressman jc watts will sit down to discuss his path from college athlete to the public at -- on our afterword program. we'll talk about her son with mary gilbert, ceo of of the national alliance on mental illness. then on wednesday, at the new york public library, doctor louis doctor louis sullivan, founding dean of the morehouse school of medicine and health and human services secretary under george hw bush will recall his career. saturday will be in texas for the san antonio book festival and in brooklyn new york for the national black writers conference. on sunday, we are live with author and publishers steve forbes on in-depth. we'll take your questions and comments on his many books. that is look at some of the other programs book tv is covering this week. many of these events are open to the public. look for public. look for them to air in the
7:00 pm
future, tv, on c-span2. >> you are watching book tv on c-span two. television for serious readers. here's a look at what's on prime time tonight. we kick off the evening at 7:00 p.m. eastern with a look at the relationship between polly merle murray and first lady eleanor roosevelt. that on a 15, peter range explores hitler's nine month in prison in 1924. at nine, change walsh goes undercover to pull back the curtain on union organizing. on. on afterwards at 10:00 p.m. eastern, nancy : explores the advances women have made on politics and the possibility of a female president. we finish up our prime time programming at 11:00 p.m. and exploring gender bias and the need for equality in business. that happens tonight on c-span2.
7:01 pm
>> good evening everyone. good evening. i am harold holzer, director of the roosevelt house. as. as always, it is a pleasure to welcome all of you to what is essentially the first of our evening public program to mark women's history month. march is women's history month. please remember that part of the celebration is the opportunity for you to have another look or perhaps your first look at the exhibition of women's suffrage material that we have on view upstairs.
7:02 pm
i was going to say only through the end of the month, we'll be announcing an extension but don't let that deter you from seeing it soon again and often. tonight tonight we are going to welcome to extraordinary women who will be speaking about to extraordinary women. it is a real pleasure to welcome both of them to the home of eleanor roosevelt's who played such a big role in polly murray's courageous and graham breaking life of activism. as the book book we are gathered here to discuss, the firebrand and the first lady, is really make clear for the first time. that. that is a particular pleasure to welcome everybody here to polly murray's alma mater, hunters college. that was only one of the many milestones in the life you will hear about this evening.
7:03 pm
as i think you know, and as the book shows, polly murray plated significant role in the life of eleanor roosevelt. they had an intellectual and politically intense friendship that lasted from the 1930s until mrs. roosevelt's death in 1962. you will hear all about polly murray, her activism later and choose cofounder of the national organization of women. ali particular stories about polly murray with our guests. our guest, patricia bell scott is at the university of georgia. she is a major chronic coal of black women's lives including her book, double stitch, black women write about mothers and daughters which one a book
7:04 pm
price. i hope some of you saw the book review, the new york times book review a few weeks ago in which they came to see us at hunter a few weeks ago, the author of the notorious rgb, they had high praise of the book and noted that nothing was ever easy for polly murray, the black woman born in 1910. the woman attracted to women and also poet, memoirs, lawyer, activist and episcopal priest. her tender friendship tender friendship with roosevelt sustained nearly one quarter century and nearly 300 cards and letters helped. it is the rich earth and that she tilts for the firebrand and the first lady. a tremendous book that has been 20 years in the making. i think that is what we authors call a rave.
7:05 pm
and the value of the time you spent shines on every page. thank you for being here today to celebrate the publication in the home of one of your protagonists. in conversation with professor bell scott is now urban painter, the edwards professor of history at princeton university, one of of the most esteemed historians of recent decades. she has written many books that shaped our understanding of african-american history and american history. she published her first book, xo duster, black migration to kansas after construction and 1976. her most recent book was published in 19 -- i met professor painter a few years ago but i am told it was 19
7:06 pm
years ago when she and i, will she is still young, i'm a wreck, but when she delivered the lecture on abraham lincoln at gettysburg college. it was a while ago. i have to note that since her retirement from princeton, she has embarked on a post history career as an acclaimed visual artist. as far as i know it has been equaled by only a couple of people that i can think about, winston churchill maybe and george w. bush. the second act in american arts. you should know that on her website this great historian, now identifies herself as nell painter, the painter formally known as the story and nell painter. i'm thrilled we were able to bring her here from princeton to roosevelt house.
7:07 pm
please welcome the professors [applause]. >> would you like to say something about polly murray before we start? >> i i would like to say how pleased i am to be here at this event hosted by an institution that is part of her all my martyr. hunter was very important to polly. she came here in 1928 after having graduated from a small high school in the south that only went to the 11th grade, which meant that she had to come to new york and earn a second high school diploma so that she could be admitted and if you
7:08 pm
have read her autobiography, what you you know is that hunter, of all the institutions she approached during the weekend here was the one place where she found acceptance and encouragement. so she did come to hunter, polly had all kinds of financial trouble so she did drop out after her sophomore year but she eventually returned and one of the things that she always remembered and was credited hunter for what were her relationships with two professors here, one was kathryn who encouraged polly to write, polly always wanted to write, as as i was saying to my colleague here now, we know polly primarily as an activist, is the first african-american women to
7:09 pm
be ordained as an episcopal priest. the thing she wanted to be known first and foremost was as a writer. it was in catherine reichardt's class that she wrote an essay that contained the seeds of the family memoir and she would always be grateful for that professor for encouraging her. she also made lifelong friends here with whom she maintained contact throughout her life. it was a very important experience for her to come to hunter. so i am grateful that she came because it helped make polly who she became. >> hello. nice to see you all. thank you. i have several questions so i'll
7:10 pm
pose these questions to professor bell scott and she will talk to them or ignore them as she prefers, then as we get toward the end there'll be time for you to ask questions as well. >> this is an extraordinary book of two extraordinary women and when we think about, when you think about the times we're in now and you think about those two women we kinda want things to get better as they go along, i'm not sure that is what's happened. but i think we are in a time that ask us to keep both times in mind. our own time and their time. now we have three times going on because you worked on this book for a very long time. so i'm going to ask you about
7:11 pm
your involvement as a writer, as a scholar, as a person attracted to these women as human beings. did you have any idea of what you would be finding when you began this project? >> no. [laughter] i began with one question which led to several questions. the first question was, how is it that the daughter, the granddaughter of a slave from north carolina and a woman whose ancestry entitled her to membership in the daughters of the american revolution, what drew these two women together? i was very curious about this unlikely friendship. so that got me started and then
7:12 pm
once i open that door i became interested in the relationship long-term. i wanted to know what were the dynamics of this friendship. what did each bring to this relationship. because it was a long relationship i wanted to know how did it change over time. i also, because i was looking at time, i wanted to look at the historical backdrop. so what that meant is not only was i looking at what was happening with each woman individually, i was looking at them within historical context. so that the curtain behind which the story unfolds who is the curtain where we're looking at depression, world war ii, mccarthyism, were looking at several major historical events and historical movements, early
7:13 pm
civil rights, the beginning of modern day women's, morgan temporary version of women's movement. each of these women had a role to play in all of those movements. each was affected as an individual by these historical moments. so i was trying to look at each individual through the historical contacts and overtime. then as i continued it occurred to me that it would probably be useful for readers, for me to try to make some assessment about the impact of this friendship for the cause of social justice which was the passion that they shared, the cause of social justice and human rights. so i ended up with more questions, i went through these two unlikely women together in friendship, what was the nature
7:14 pm
of the friendship, what was the chemistry, how did they sustain the relationship, how did it change over time, and what significance did it have for the cause of social justice and human rights? >> i'm going to ask the audience, how many of you had a chance to read this book yet? okay. just one heroine. you are are going to have to answer the question. one of the first things that i learned was that despite the fact that they came from a different backgrounds and the fact that polly was 26 years junior to eleanor roosevelt, they had a lot in common. more than. more than what you might have imagined. first of all, there are both child orphans, they had both lost their parents when they are very young. they were both raised by elderly
7:15 pm
ken. they had some personality characteristics in common, people are often shocked to hear that they were both innately shy because they seem to bigger than life. when you think of eleanor roosevelt you think of a courageous woman and polly also seemed outstanding. but they both had tremendous personality and they would wear out their best friends but they both suffered from anxiety, feelings of insecurity, they were people for whom their overall sense of well-being depended in large measure on having what they considered meaningful work, so work was really important for their sense of well-being. as well as well
7:16 pm
as accompanied by their cherished friend. and cherished friends included their dogs. that was typically, she had a preference to scottish terriers and you know about paul and there were other terriers that she had. paula had a soft spot for strays and large months. so dogs, they always had dogs. so they had that in common. they were a lifelong episcopalians. i think it's important not to discount that commonality in terms of their faith. they were devoted, lifelong episcopalians and polly come even though she had challenges with the church and left briefly , at least twice because she was upset with the treatment of women, she always came back. polly was a six generation episcopalian.
7:17 pm
this was an important connection they had. they were both avid readers, they love to write, they loved poetry, they loved reading poetry allowed to friends. so there is a tremendous amount of commonality in these two women that is not apparent when one thinks of them. so i was really surprised and interested to learn how much they had in common. i also, the second question had to do with how did they sustain this relationship. they sustained it through letters primarily, however they had candy and would send each other flowers when one was sick or feeling low and they did get
7:18 pm
together from time to time. polly first saw elinor roosevelt in the fall of 1934. it was a very traumatic experience for polly because elinor showed up behind the wheel of her convertible, she's the driver, the passengers are mel v-neck tommy thompson, her private secretary, the man polly took to be a secret service agent, although my research suggested this man was probably tommy's husband. eleanor did not like having secret service around. so she showed up at this camp which was a female version of the ccc camps. however, eleanor, eleanor was determined that unlike the ccc camps for men, this particular camp would not
7:19 pm
be segregated. that was really important to her. since it was a project of hers and not located far from her home it was in the bear mountain area of new york, she would go periodically unannounced to inspect the camp and see how it was going. she drives up in this convertible coupe, gets out of the car and immediately starts going to the premises. the residents are really excited and they are following her, but polly who is shy and stunned by this unannounced appearance up by the first lady and eleanor had not been first lady for that long, she sitting in a corner in the social hall which is the dining area and peering eleanor
7:20 pm
behind a newspaper. she is too too shy to speak into shy to introduce herself. so there isn't a direct interaction there but i want to believe that eleanor saw her because eleanor made a practice of counting the number of women of color she saw. she was determined that the can't be integrated. so should periodically counted make a note in whatever she thought she saw something was not quite right she would write the camp director. four years later, polly applied to the university of north carolina's graduate school. within weeks of her application, the president, franklin roosevelt's would go to campus to speak. his address was shortly after the midterm elections, it was a widely widely anticipated address. people were very excited.
7:21 pm
arrangements were made to broadcast the speech internationally. franklin roosevelt heaped all kinds of praise on the university for its liberalism, for its faith in youth, for its progressive attitude on all fronts. polly was beside herself because she knew that they did not accept black students but she hoped her application would be accepted anyway and it was not. when she read the presidents, the transcript of the president's speech's speech in the new york times, she was even in harlem at the time. she just cannot sit still. so she and her typewriter began a three page single spaced letter, which she sent to the president, calling him to task for his praise of the university
7:22 pm
and the university's policy which forbid the admission of black students, forbid the hiring of black professional staff in any capacity. she sent this hot letter to the president, but as she was getting that letter ready to go she thought well, he has secretaries it may not make it through, perhaps i might send a copy of this to eleanor with a cover, which is what she did. they responded about one month later, eleanor wrote back promptly over her own signature and in that letter she said, i understand, i'm paraphrasing because i don't have it right in front of me. she said that i understand your concern but i want you to know that great changes coming and it is best to fight in conciliatory ways.
7:23 pm
but don't push too fast. there is this caution. don't push too fast. polly was very happy to get this letter from eleanor, however she was not about to accept the advice that she needed to slow down or be more patient. this was symbolic of the relationship in the early stages with the relationship first began. polly, the impatient youth, unwilling to compromise and very dramatic for social change and eleanor roosevelt, first lady of the nation, feeling very much that her role was to be supported of her husband's on the approach to civil rights. so polly wanted to let's go let's get moving and eleanor say let's not move too fast.
7:24 pm
this was in 1938. by the time eleanor died and polly is also very unwilling to -- by the time eleanor is in her final years, polly has moved, this tells you a little bit, foreshadowing, about foreshadowing, about the dramatic impact of the friendship. polly moves from being someone who could never vote for raichlen roosevelt to becoming a registered voting democrat. eleanor moves from taking the position of one who says you don't push too fast and you need to work within the system and you must obey several laws that require segregated seating and accommodation until those laws have passed. she moved from that position to actively supporting civil rights activists who are disobeying segregation codes in the southern south.
7:25 pm
so it finally happens is i can't ever say that polly moved to the center. she moved toward the center, she is always left of center. eleanor moved from the metal to a little bit to the left so we see them converging politically. that was was just one example of how the relationship changed over time. and the question on what impact did it have for the nation, ideas you say that if it had not been for the relationship i do not know of polly, and this may be too strong, this this is my speculation, would have been willing to work within the system that allowed her to work with -- and found the national
7:26 pm
association for women, polly agreed to serve on the president's commission for the status of women in 1961. where she worked with a group that was looking at the question of equal rights. she became someone who decided it was worth the discomfort to learn and tried to work within bureaucracy. bureaucracy always tried her, she always had a hard time. for example the naacp, and also think that's another reason my we don't know as much about her because often when people write the history of various movement they write the history of those organizations which have been at the forefront of that movement. so we have histories of walter and even a new book about thurgood marshall, and thurgood
7:27 pm
was her. , people who worked with in bureaucracies. there is a tendency to see the institutional leaders as the most important people, so i'm hoping is that this will get people interested in polly and look at -- but to open that door. now that's a long response. >> is going to ask you what you thought your book would contribute to american history when you began. and i think you may have answered that, but let me ask you anyway, you're just starting out, just thinking about these two women who you evidently then thought of as very different. it sounds like as you wrote you brought them closer together on
7:28 pm
personal terms perhaps, less on their sociological trappings and more on their personal psychological likenesses. so i'm guessing when you began you thought this was going to be a book about activism and women working together as activists. now that you have finished the book after such a long time, since since you have gotten such a warm response, what you think this book is doing? >> that's an interesting question. one of the things that i think, i hope the book does is add to the troops to look at women's friendship. i think one of the reasons why
7:29 pm
this friendship has not been explored, because the documents had been there, it's not like i found documents. polly has a huge archive. but the roosevelt historians, even those have looked at eleanor have only mentioned this friendship in passing. i i felt like it deserve more attention than what the previous historians and biographers had given it. and it's also been my experience that women who buys complex and complicated as polly ray such a challenge for us a scholars. where his dorians can i wear the cab of someone who has good grounding in social psychology? it has taken all of that to try
7:30 pm
to look at this relationship because polly is african-american, she is a political radical, she was a woman whose primary intimate affection was with women. she was a religious progressive. always or religious progressive. she was an aspiring writer. i really think her writing needs to be evaluated. i think she needs to get more credit there. so it wasn't entered disciplinary, complicated story than i had anticipated. >> ..
7:31 pm
>> so much psychology, how's that? >> yes is the answer to all of that in addition to the fact that this is a brilliant woman.
7:32 pm
holly is absolutely brilliant. and the -- in sociological terms, there's just dana overload because she made meaning out of her life through writing. and by that i mean, she always kept journals. so she was, whether she was writing poetry or just writing notes about her life. there's just a huge amount of data, material, primary sources when one is trying to excess exactly where she, you know, where her thinking was at a particular moment in life. so there's a huge amount of data. also, for me, even though she was born in 1910 in, i was born in 1950, we -- there's a difference in
7:33 pm
historical moment so here i am trying not to bias the work by looking only u through the lens of my -- of my life. it wasn't even though i read and study mccarthyism it wasn't until i began to read all of these journal entries about her fears that mccarthyism -- i felt like i could just feel it. i remember reading a letter that she wrote to a friend where she had learned that members of the fbi had been up to for looking for information about her, had been to howard and this is in the 50s, and she was just pee try if id.
7:34 pm
but you know what she did, she she knew that frequently the information in those files is incorrect and what she did was she wrote a letter, she sent him a resumé, she sent him a recent photograph. [laughter] and in the letter, she said i hear, i've learned from the librarian at the university that you're looking for information about me because i know and have learned from others that the information you have is incorrect. this may have been shortly after the hughes has been calling for the committee. these were friends of hers, an she said and i want you to have the right information. and she described walking to the post office, buying the postage to sfnd this return receipt, signature, requested, certified,
7:35 pm
and she -- [laughter] describes u how her niece and her words any knees almost buckled under when i put the package in the mailbox. she was afraid. but she felt this was important for her to do, and i just remember mccarthyism felt different for me. i've always been appalled and upsetted by, but it just became personal for me. reading her, her personal experience and of course director hoover wrote, said oh, no -- we weren't looking for you. that may have been some of the agency. well, i've seen the fbi foul you know, they were. those have been keeping records on polly since her days at howard and this was a decade later so they had a nice foul. most of which was inkreblght as she suspected.
7:36 pm
or they said they couldn't verify it. so, i mean, just the -- the experiences she had that were just not assessable to me in a real license because you know it was before my time really challenged me. >> you spoke more about polly murray than about eleanor roosevelt. eleanor roosevelt is well known public figure. a woman of enormous importance in 20th century american history. what did you learn about her that you didn't know before? i know you probably knew a whole lot more about roosevelt going into this project than you did about murray. >> as i always heard that she was a compassionate person, and the death of her compassion and the depth of her acceptance of
7:37 pm
polly really struck me. she -- i ask polly's friends who saw them one in or particular made a camp who saw polly and eleanor together more than anyone other than thompson. how did she deal with polly because you know as i said she was impatient and she said you know polly could be embarrassingly direct. but i credit eleanor roosevelt with hanging in there with her, and being unwilling to allow this young woman to lie, lie out alone crying in the wilderness. so that was -- and that was one of the first interviews i did. so that gave me a window into
7:38 pm
eleanor roosevelt's patience with young people. polly in particular. and her -- and her willingness to listen. i mean, that was the other thing, she appears to be in social psychology we talk about and when we talk about the relationship in the importance of active listening. you can phoned a more active listener. wherever they are, and so she really opened her home to polly. she invited to overnight stay. she would invite polly's aunt website polly took her significant other to lunch with eleanor. so her openness, i was also interested in her growth. i guess when i think about this
7:39 pm
friendship, and i've been talking primary about polly. but the same is true of eleanor in the sense that this friendship was the place a place for her so he moved from being this cautious and you wait your time to being someone willing out of the roof. so i was very impressed with her growth. and a couple of times she had a couple of instances where it was clear that the relationship with pol made discrimination more -- and so when people talked about
7:40 pm
how it was because of what she had -- because of the experience. you can tell from eleanor's response this it can become personal for her. you know, later on i guess she talked issue politics being personal. it became clear that it became a personal issue for eleanor. so i was very, very pleased to learn about her compassion from a more personal l level. not just from what she did on the political front. prnght so they related to one another as atavist but also as friends. it started out as a friendship side. so it moverred from a confrontation to one where they
7:41 pm
became allies and they work around, and then it moved particularly after fdr died in 1945 and she was no longer first lady, and freed the obligation of having to be careful and advocated because of her responsibility to the administration. it became into what was a friendship. a genuine friendship. >> i want to ask you a question that i didn't speak to you about before so this is going to come out of my left field, so other similar relationships in either woman's life. there were i'll start with eleanor. holly wasn't the only african-american friend that eleanor had. in fact, the friendship with mary was better known and in the
7:42 pm
double acp, and they argue that i think i agree with her -- and it was a start, and so -- also they wanted things from her. these are institutional leaders. you know, she is president of the college. president of the national counsel of negro women. walter white is executive secretary of the naac px. so in their dealings with eleanor they're dealing with the
7:43 pm
constituencies. polly represented no o? other than young people like herself. she could deliver votes. you know, and walter white could. she could deliver votes. but she and so she was very brash, and they apparently were afraid to go very far because they were always thinking about the political consequences. s it always calculating, and so polly believed and i think it was right that her relationship was different because in some way she felt she had nothing to lose and she could speak her mind. there were other young people, african-americans that telemother had relationships with, and one is harry, they became friends. they -- i don't know if they met at the world's fair in brussels. maybe before then. but they became friends, and he
7:44 pm
still to this day speaks of her as his mentor. >> i heard him recently speak of her as his mentor. and she showed him a tremendous amount of compassion when he wanted to buy or rent an apartment, in an apartment building in new york city. and was denied because he was african-american. she was so upset. she wrote about it in my day, and she said why don't you all come in and move in with me? and he said, well, you know, thank you -- [laughter] he said that i can't. it would be like running away from the battle. you know, i need to fight this. so she had those friendships, and in terms of polly, i think of two friendships with white women that were very significant. one was with the writer lilian
7:45 pm
smith. >> oh, yes. >> who -- who -- >> wait do you know who lilian smith is? >> no. >> lil smith was a native southerner born in georgia. wrote killers of a dream. strange fruit -- thank you, now. [laughter] which is perhaps the best known in most important work at what was early ally of martin luther king and black rights that young generation of that era in the 50s and 60s never left the south. worked there. started a -- a literary journal which published one of polly's first journals but that journal wases first poem, and was a really important mentor and supporter to polly. and was one of the persons who
7:46 pm
read various chapters of proud shoes, and was very encouraging so she was important. and -- was a lesbian. [laughter] and the second person who comes to mind is a professor of history caroline ware who taught at howard a white woman, social historian a person who hasn't gotten her dues. social and cultural historian was, bill a friend of polly when polly enrolled at howard in law school, and polly decided to audit caroline wares, american constitutional history course and they became fast friends and they were also cofounders this person was also cofounder of now and they were friends until caroline's death and she would also read various segments of proud shoes in draft. >> okay i want to ask you one
7:47 pm
last question before we open. and that is what did you learn yourself for yourself personally >> one of the things i learned is that history is always with it. polly was one of those people who carried history around with her. so that on any -- wherever she was writing letters and she was -- she was forever writing letters to people, she might start the letter by saying, today 70 years ago, she'll tell you what happened. and tell you why it is significant in terms of the particular moment so i found myself taking on that habit. [laughter]
7:48 pm
and when i was working on this book, there were several current events happening that reminded me of things that they had gone through there's a case in the book of virginia of black sharecropper who was executed, and while i was working on the book in my home state we're not texas where they execute more than anybody else. but in georgia there was a case to davis of a man who was executed and the victims that recanted jimmy carter had appealed to the patrol board. the pope had gotten involved. but he was still executed in, i can remember polly whrig they were dealing with the old o case of how she didn't sleep the night before. and i wasn't thinking about it as i was --
7:49 pm
advocating and lobbying to the parole board to try to get them to grant clemency, i was just one of lots eve people in the state and around the world. but i just had a sense of their presence and eleanor was lobbying inside of the white house. you know, she was wearing the heck out of franklin trying to get him to establish a commission of inquiry which he did not do and she got on a train and rode down to virginia to speak to governor trying to get him to grant clemency. so this notion of history being with us in some of polly's letters, could have been written by some of the black lives matter, young people. but then because she burned candles at both ends. i've tried to learn from her life.
7:50 pm
and she struggled with this issue of activism and wanting to be an artist, and by that mean a writer, a poet, and she also incidentally, i didn't mention this, dabbled dabbled in photogd she was an interesting photographer too. >> i bet. >> and she would -- she always said to lilian smith that i'm really a frustrated writer and i can't get to my work because activism keeps pulling me away, and so from studying her life, i've worked to try to define my activism because i was a lot like polly in terms of activism as a younger woman. redefine my activism to include writing. so i've learned that. she worked so hard and so her health suffered.
7:51 pm
so i've tried to learn the lesson from that about self-care. i also remember during that period when i was really trying toe study how she dealt with loss and grief when the two maternal aunts who raised her passed. and i remember going back to -- back to that passage a couple of times when i was dealing with my old father's passing, i found comfort in that. so it has -- and it's interesting that when i started this book, was 40 -- no. 40 something. 41 something and now i'm 65. i'll tell everybody i have my medicare card now. [laughter] and i've watched myself age, an i've looked at how she and how
7:52 pm
eleanor dealt the with aging. i've learned a lot, i mean, it's really like they have been my example to learn from. >> yeah. good. thank you. >> all right. [applause] >> now, for you -- yes. >> so sorry. >> thank you, michelle -- first of all, thank you very much. both of you. you've done something really special for me. i did read the book. and you will gave lots of nuggets to really talk about both of those women. and i just want to say for one, it was about roosevelt where she spit off a little ice cream, you know, you're going to have fun reading this book because she
7:53 pm
does help all of the nuggets for you, and the -- seller in the services said he felt like a man. felt like a man after the first lady bit off his ice cream. you know. [laughter] because he was now a person. but i want to ask the question which i really think you already answered, but in the book you talked about her shoulder to shoulder with rest, and every time it's history month. they throw it out all of the things he's done. but they never mention pauly murray. so since they had don't mention murray and you do mention she's right there with a strategy, right there shoulder to shoulder. but like you to tell us again why she's not mentioned. i think -- >> i think she's not mentioned
7:54 pm
some of it's because shoos she's a woman. some of it is because she -- was one who found bureaucracy trying so also what pauly would do is make her contribution and then she's on to the next thing and what was interesting, what is interesting about that is that people were quite willing to take her nuggets to take her contributions, her ideas but not always credit her. so i think that -- that is part of it. i also think that -- the fact that trying to deal with polly is not easy. because she is so -- she's brilliant. she's complex. she for some people -- seems like a conundrum in the sense that she is so radical, so
7:55 pm
brilliant. but she, in fact, i've had people say to me, even some of her friends i interviewed her eight cohorts say she was stunned when she decided to go into the priesthood. they were just stunned. they couldn't figure out how does this fit? [laughter] but that had always been there. edit had always. i tried to show that some in the book, for example, when she was working with the wala case, and she wrote him regularly, she would -- she would talk to him about remember what paula wrote. she would talk to him about the scripture. she would as a child would accompany uncle who was in a episcopal priest an she would go with him church to church and when the church pianist was not
7:56 pm
available she would play the organ. so that had always been there. but people tend not to see that part of her. so i think, i think some of it is pol ily's personality in some of it is sexism. some of it is prejudice against her sexuality. so it's combination of things. and what's interesting that you bring up resten that he and pauline. pauline helped plan, worked with him. helped plan that bus ride into the south and we hear about it and hear it work as the leader of that. but polly may not get mentioned. >> right behind, right there. yes. >> gardner you mentioned maryann
7:57 pm
mccloud but depend on who first came to the house in 1924 yet franklin, eleanor and sarah, and, obviously, the generation pol lil. would you say that she in a way -- laid the groundwork of a friendship between african-american woman and white family such as the roosevelt so that when polly came along eleanor was already well along that path and she was able because she loved young people that she was notorious for loving young people and certainly encouraging higher education of young women. that -- that the friendship mary would soon really pave the way for polly and eleanor's relationship. >> oh, i would definitely think so. because eleanor did stay at
7:58 pm
mayor mccloud's home, and polly -- circumstances were always precarious, didn't have during eleanor's lifetime, did not never own a home, and so there was never an invitation for eleanor to going and visit polly's home. polly went to eleanor's place. and there was never that invitation. i have no doubt that eleanor would have gone had polly invited her no matter what the condition was. but polly was a proud person. but walter white were -- had little chance standard of living which polly did. but yes it was really important. i can't remember where it is that eleanor writes about how it was a major -- it was a major development for her in terms of her had able to see this as a real peer when she
7:59 pm
hugged her and kissed her. that she crossed a barrier there. and i'm sure that made it possible for her to be more -- to have intimate friendships with other young black people. >> yes. >> polly challenge eleanor roosevelt to confront franklin roosevelt on any other issues that were important to the african-american population? do you have documents or letters that show there was airect connection between eleanor act virgin islands and her confrontation of frank lean on these african-american issues? >> polly did challenge him on his she said his silence on issue lynching and eleanor eventually made a statement
8:00 pm
about how she was against lynching. polly -- polly when she graduated from howard at the top of her class like her male peers had expected to be able to go to harvest. all her male peers had all of those decorated as she. she was not allowed to go because she was female. and she ask -- she didn't really direct eleanor but told her how fair this was and eleanor leaned on franklin who was a graduate of harvard college to inquire. and he did. he wrote that it's not clear to me if you see the letter, and i have this -- i have an excerpt of it in the bo


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on