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tv   Immigrants and American Opportunity  CSPAN  August 13, 2015 2:08pm-2:39pm EDT

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president johnson and the first thing he did is came to d.c. and said you look like a shlub, let's get you a suit. the tailor of the united states of america. the story could end there and it would be nice, but then he was personally opposed to the vietnam war. and he was very active in progressive politics. and as a businessman he had a union shop, aclu man of the year. and it wore on him more and more. and he had a crossroads speak out and say something about this but lose my most important and famous client, or remain silent and keep him. and it wasn't a tough choice for him. he took out full page ads in the "new york times" with my grandmother telling president johnson in 1968 not to run for re-election and get out of vietnam and offering to pay him in his retirement a little money. and it made national news. it was in "time" magazine, et cetera. i grew up with that story. my grandfather died when i was about 5 years old, but it showed you stand up for what you
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believe in, even at the price of your own sacrifice, of your own well being. those moments came intentionally from social justice, judaism and things he was raised with and even more than that being an american and realizing this country had given him these opportunities and he had an obligation to speak up and speak out on the things he believed in. >> okay. i got to ask this now. >> yes, sir. >> because you raised it at the beginning. and now this conversation just took place. should israel and the world feel safer or feel threatened by the iran deal? >> well, as the mayor of tera terangeles. it's definitely set the city abuzz in los angeles. and i think for a lot of iranians they look forward to an engagement back again. we're sister cities with tehran, we're not active sister cities since 1979. but the opportunities for engagement are important. but secondly i think that it is,
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you know, the pathway is not between whether or not we have safety or not. i think that we see a pathway towards a bomb with no agreement. and i in general am cautiously optimistic in support of the president's efforts for sure. i think it took a lot of political courage to go. and even in israel i think there's a range of opinions about this. and as an american jew, as mayor of a city with many iranian americans, i think it has much more positive to offer than negative that we shouldn't fear that. that staying and keeping engaged has a much more benefit economically and certainly in terms of security. but we have to keep a careful eye. i know the president said this is all about verification, not trust. and i like that. because it has to have that snapback piece of it that allows a majority. by the way which means that, you know, china, russia and iran cannot veto. but a majority of states. and that could be the u.s., britain, france, germany, are able to immediately say that this is being violated and put
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those sanctions back makes me feel relatively secure that if the iranians don't live up to their agreement that we will have the security to go at least back to the status quo. which isn't very good today, by the way, but at least status quo. >> okay. we'll take one more question. do you have one? okay. >> very exciting internship. it sounds like you've implemented a lot of great initiatives in los angeles. and you've been doing a great job. but what are your comments on the recent spike in crime there? and also kind of saddleback on that, how do you view obama's recent 46 pardons onto nonviolent federal drug offenders and how can that fit into your city? >> first of all, i think it's great again a bipartisan coalition is taking up criminal justice reform. we spend way too much in very criminal way. i want to keep the bad guys and girls locked up and make sure they are but too much of a criminal justice system puts the
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wrong people away for too long and does nothing to transform them into productive citizens. i admire the work my friend corey booker is doing on this issue. and came out of his experience as a mayor where he opened an office of re-entry to help people coming out of jail and prison to get jobs and to reintegrate. i don't know the individual pardons, but by and large i'm sure the president is doing the right thing. these are probably ones we'd all look at and say that's ridiculous, spend a lot more money transforming who these folks are than keeping them locked up at a very expensive cost for all of us. i want to put bad news in perspecti perspective, los angeles is still the safest of the big five cities and the crime levels even with a small uptick are as safe as we've seen since the 1950s per capita. but any increase is troubling. so immediately we've tried to implement and we're seeing this happen across the country, an uptick in crime, is it demographics, hangover from
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recession, we're not sure what the causes are. but we're not going to be flat footed on the response. we've already seen a tapering off of our increase this year by doing a number of things. one, having more mobile police officers to be able to go to areas where there's a crime spike before it becomes a crime wave. second, doing a lot of prevention and intervention work. i'm proud of los angeles's national model for things like summer night lights which keeps parks open later at night. we've seen a 40% drop in crime where we just offer programs for kids because they become the victims of and sometimes the perpetrators of violent crime in the summertime and the weekends. second, looking at former gang members who now work in those areas where most crimes still in l.a. is gang crime, most homicides are. and we need people who know the landscape who have transformed their own lives but can get between the guns and stop the retribution violence that happens. and that's called g.r.i.d., which i'm expanding this year. third, we saw big increase in aggravated assaults.
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that may be because we reclassified how we're counting them, but also we saw domestic violence go up. i hope this is something nationally we'll continue to have a conversation on. in los angeles we rolled out a program to have civilians go out with our police officers in every single division. because you talk to a cop they go back to the same address time and time again for domestic violence call. and often escalates and sometimes it's very tragic when they come and somebody's been killed. and the idea is to intervene early. it's often a woman, not always, but more often than not her children and give them the job training, security, place for their pets. all those things that keep them back and go in and help the officers hand that off to folk who is can give them the legal and personal help. so we have a full range of things we're doing to address. last thing we're continuing to do is build trust between the community and the department. i'm proud los angeles like i said is more resilient. it hasn't been that we haven't had shootings of unarmed civilians. some of them where police have already been -- are on the pathway to getting consequences of that. other times when it's been seen
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as a justified self-defense or as public safety move. but in los angeles as i mentioned partially because of the pain what we went through we have independent investigations, we have a civilian police commission, we're putting body cameras out there. i think that will also help address the trust you have to be able to have to bring crime down too. >> great. i think we are concluded. thank you all very much. thank you all very much for coming. and, mayor, it was fantastic. >> thank you. >> you really had a lot to say. >> thanks so much. have a great day. [ applause ] tonight on american history tv, programs on the history of journalism starting at 8:00 p.m. women reporters in vietnam with the museum hosting a program with women who covered the war. at 9:20 p.m. a look at the nation. one of the oldest magazines in america marking its 150th
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anniversary. the c-span cities tour visits literary and historic sites across the nation to hear from local historians, authors and civic leaders. we do it every other weekend on c-span 2 and american history tv. this month with congress on its summer recess, the cities tour is on c-span every day at 6:00 p.m. wednesday the history of greensboro, north carolina. philanthropist mike bezos, son of founder jeff bezos, talks about his experience emigrating from cuba as a boy. aspen institute walter isaacson takes place at the national constitution center in philadelphia. well, the immigrant sometimes is the one who best understands that concept of
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freedom and what america's all about. tell us about your experience as an immigrant. how did you get here? what did you feel? >> all right. good. thank you. first of all, for allow me to be here the conversations have been so unbelievable. i'm over the top already. doing something that is so we take for granted these discussions, these conversations. it's unbelievable. okay. so go back to 1958, back in c a cuba. i was at that time maybe 13, 14 years old. and i was fine. i was a teenager doing my thing, going to school, minding my own business. there was no thought of ever leaving cuba. my dad is a -- he owned the
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lumber mill, which he worked hard at. that's where i learned my work ethics from. get up at 5:00 in the morning and work until 5:00 in the evening. and so it was -- but it was a good comfortable life. then all the sudden things changed. it was kind of topsy turvy. all of what you thought was yours is no longer yours. it's been deemed to be taken over and shared with others. and that happens through all industries, in all private property disappears. then as i was -- even the schools, the schools that i was going to they got shut down because they were changing the curriculum from the curriculum that we had to one that was more
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communist-oriented. so over for a two-year period i really didn't have much to do except perhaps potentially get in trouble. and that's when my parents decided that i needed to get out of cuba. >> what age? >> the process started when i was 15. it took about a year to get everything going. my brother sand my sister were much older than i. my brother was a civil engineer. they wouldn't let him out because he was a professional. my sister was a teacher. they wouldn't let her out because she was a professional. and then my mom and dad said, you know, you got to be the one that gets out. if they draft your you're going to the army or whatever we're all stuck here. if you go out, then we might find ways out.
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and in those days, this is in, yeah, 1961 when the process started. they were let iting kids go outy themselves without any major concern. and the process started. and just to show you how we were talking earlier about how picky people can get, when my parents put an application for my passport and it was ready to leave, it was obvious that i was going to leave. a group of, i don't know who they were to be honest with you, but they were some sort of authority. they were in uniform. they came into the house and they inventoried my room. because everything that was in my room at that time had to be
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there when i left. we couldn't dispose of. even though it wasn't mine. it was, you know, my parents, a 16-year-old didn't own much of anything. so that's kind of the power hungry that people get. we get a telegram for you got to exit the day after tomorrow, we lived in santiago, cuba, which is in the southeastern part of the island. we have to go to havana. so we had to high tail it. and my parents dropped me off at the airport. they wouldn't allow them to go inside the airport, so they just dropped me off. and i walked in and went through check in. and i left. landed in miami by myself. fortunately there was a group of churches and organizations that had gotten together.
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and they were the ones that were collecting all these cuban kids. so i at 16 i was on the older side of the kids that will come out. there were some that were 5, 6, 7. and they would try to find a place for them to stay and to be placed until their parents or their relatives would come out. so that was, i still remember walking out of the airplane and somebody's asking me, do you have any family in miami? i said no. so come over here. and there were about five or six of us. and there were some boys and girls. and the girls went in one van to some camp and the boys went to another van to another camp. >> you ended up being very successful. explain how that happened. >> well, fortunately, you know,
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things just happen. we went to within three weeks of being in this camp i get a call to come to the office. i walk into the office and there was a suitcase with a heavy coat on top of it. and i said, oh, i'm in trouble. and an airplane ticket to philadelphia. and i was going to wilmington, delaware. and they were giving scholarships to cuban refugees, high school in wilmington, to go to high school. so i landed in philadelphia. there was somebody here waiting for me, took me to wilmington. and i went to high school in wilmington, delaware. i graduated from there. and, you know, it's just one thing after the other. we as parents sometimes don't think that the kids listen to
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what we are telling them, but they are. and i've realized that when i was by myself and i didn't have my parents telling me anything to do. i kept going back and saying, well, you know, what would they tell me to do? so if you're a young parent, just keep doing what you're doing. some of it will stick, i can guarantee you. so eventually i went to finish high school. and eventually i went to albuquerque, new mexico where they were also giving scholarships, university, to cuban refugees. and i graduated from there. and, well, met my wife and the rest is history. >> yeah. tell us about the world -- that made you passionate about the world of education in creating opportunity. >> it certainly did. because when i graduated from high school, i department haidn
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mom and dad to tell me you have to go to college, you have to do this. so it was up to me. and i thought that with coming to america with a high school degree, what else do you need? that was until about a year and a half into some tough jobs i decided, well, maybe i need to go to university. so then the decision was to -- and after having done that, and obviously you're in the middle at that point i didn't realize how important it was. but it was years later. and looking back i said, you know, having that education is something that once you have that nobody can take it away from you. they can take your property, they can take your cars, they can take your business. but that education is yours. it's yours to do with it what you want and to utilize it. so that's -- it became something that both my wife and i and our
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kids are passionate about is education. >> we've been talking about rights, liberties, freedom, be it the economic rights and liberties we have here or the political rights and freedoms. as somebody who left a place where suddenly those were withdrawn from you, when did you first become aware of the american system of rights and liberties? and how did that effect you? >> well, i became aware very early on in that the moment we started placing our kids in public schools, it became a realization that, my gosh, public schools in this country are an institution that is i don't think it's duplicated in very many places. it's just an unbelievable gift
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that we have. and we don't really think about it. we take it for granted. so it was having in most other places you have to be of a certain economic class or have a certain job in order to get an education. the amazing thing about -- one of the many amazing things that this country offers is education for and equality for everybody. and unfortunately there have been some bumps along the road, but it is there. we need to -- >> do you think we're moving away though from that notion of the k through 12 education being the great equalizer? >> we have been. we have been moving away from it. and there is no reason for it really. there's absolutely no reason for it. and that's one of the driving forces for us as in our family
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foundation is to try to get back to that level in the playing field. you guys talk about it earlier on is that as long as the opportunity's there -- and this is what i found. that i had the opportunity given to me in this country. and i for whether on purpose or by pure luck it worked for me. i want to make that available to as many people as i can make that available. you know, remove as many obstacles as possible from having that same opportunity that we all had. >> so how are you using your philanthropy and other things to do that? >> so the foundation -- i'll give you a quick background. just back up a little bit.
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my eldest son, jeff, we lived in colombia, venezuela, and i was there with work. and we get a phone call from him saying i'm thinking of opening a bookstore on the internet. and i need some money. and, you know, we said -- he had a sweet, sweet job on wall street. it was a wonderful job. and i said why? you know. and what's the internet? that was kind of the second question. and his mother said can you do this on the weekends and nights? don't quit your job. anyway, we were fortunate enough that we had lived overseas and we have saved a few pennies, so we were able to be an angel investor. and the rest is history.
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so when that became -- when we were blessed with that fallout, which was, you know, one of the things that jeff did tell us is i want you to know how risky this is. and of course being in business you know start-ups are -- they fail 80% of the time. but he said i want you to know how risky it is because i want to come home at dinner for thanksgiving. and i don't want you to be mad at me. and fortunately it turned out quite well. so he's invited even for thanksgiving any time he wants to come. [ laughter ] so going back to your question. the one thing that became obvious, we formed the foundation, our three kids, we have three children, there's three spouses, my wife jackie and i are the directors of the foundation. and when we formed the
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foundation, it was no question as to the fact that education was going to be the primary focus. and we zeroed in on age zero to 18. that's our sweet spot. with a great emphasis on zero to five. we really feel if we can get it right in zero to five, a lot of the issues that we've been talking about for one thing will not go away but it will be reduced. and we go through high school. so that's how we're trying to do. we have many different programs throughout the face of the ages of zero to 18. we also get involved in teaching colleges. because that's -- high quality teaching colleges, so that good teachers can come back into the pipeline. so that's our involvement in the
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education field. and, again, it is -- it's public schools, which charters are included in there, they're public schools. that's how we are kind of thinking in terms of making it as available to everybody as we possibly can. >> let's go back to the emigrant experience. how do you feel about the way the united states is debating and handling immigration these days? >> well, it's probably not any different any way it's been handled many times before. i remember when in the '60s when the cubans were coming in trying to get away from castro, the same thing was going on in south florida. you know, what are we going to do with all these people coming in? of course, you know, a lot of us
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didn't want to be there to start with, but that's where we ended up. so the conversations for about immigration's been around for a long time. and i'm not going -- my problem is not so much how people get to this country. what i'm concerned is what we do with them once they're here. they're here the last thing we want to do is keep them down. because i think that what we need to do is for them to become as american as i am, as american as everybody else is. that's my what i believe we need to do. i'll let others worry about how they get here whether they should have, shouldn't, all that. i'm not going to get into that. >> tell me your thoughts now with the opening to cuba. [ laughter ] you have family there. you keep in touch with them.
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>> i do, i do. >> you've never gone back since 1960. >> no. i haven't been back. i haven't been back. you know, it's funny that since last december when the latest announcement about approaching cuba was made, you know, the first questions were from my own kids. hey, what do you think, what do you think? i told them give it time. it's too early. it's way too early. ask me this question in a year. and then we can discuss it. i still feel that that's it's way too early. we haven't seen anything on the other side. it's all been one-sided. it's all been from the united states side, the willingness to open up. you can open an embassy. there's nothing wrong with that. i think that's well founded. we need to see what the reaction is from those in power in cuba.
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and whether what is going to happen, what's going to be done is going to be done for the right reasons. whether it's going to be done -- you know, shouldn't be done for getting american tourists to cuba to smoke cigars and drink rum and dance cuban music. that should not be the reason for. the reason should be to create a better way for those folks are still left behind. and that's, you know, once we get to that point, i'm all for it. there's no reason why not. but i just wanted to mention that i was thinking about this the other day. when i was in high school in wilmington, delaware, it was right after i left, i left in july of '62, and in october of
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'62 was the missile crisis. so that's when i couldn't go back to cuba. my parents couldn't come out. so we didn't see each other for a number of years. but during the missile crisis everybody in my civics class at high school, that's when we had civics class. everybody had a subscription to u.s. news and world report. and if there was anything about cuba in that magazine, it was given to me to read it and then to stand up and give a report. the same thing is happening now. i need to get back up. i don't mind at all. >> well, move back to education. if you could list the seven or eight -- five or six things we could do to improve zero to 18
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education, what would they be? >> oh, my goodness. well, you know, one of the things in zero to five what we're trying to do is to reach the parents we have funded a lot of brain research about -- on babies, nonintrusive high quality brain research using a magn m.e.g. machine that registers how -- depending on how the babies are reacting what part of the brains are being engaged. as an example they have this baby maybe eight, nine months old in this huge thing. looks like this hair dryer from
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mars. the parent is sitting right in front of the baby interacting. so the baby is not threatened in any way. and on the baby's looking at a screen where there is a post doc doing some puppets or whatever on a tv screen, on the monitor. and the baby is just fascinating looking at that monitor. and, you know, glued to the monitor. and they're tracing what's happening in the visual and the auditory and how those connections with being made. and then couple of days later they bring the baby back, but this time they bring the post doc out from behind from the monitor and sits in front of the baby just like pretty much like you and i are. and they go through the same interaction. but the results are


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