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tv   Authors Eddie Glaude Jon Meacham  CSPAN  April 16, 2022 2:51pm-3:35pm EDT

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thank you. thank you, the. i'm just gonna take control here because otherwise i won't be able to so you all may remember in 1962 john kennedy held a very successful state visit to france. and mrs. kennedy was enormously popular and at the farewell dinner the closing dinner in front of degoll and others. jfk said i used to be the president of the united states, but now i am simply the man who accompanied jacqueline kennedy to paris. i'm the man who accompanied eddie gloud to new orleans?
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where this is like saddam's baghdad his pictures everywhere. have y'all noticed this? it's just everywhere. so. i'm going to start with a serious question. you wrote a marvelous book about baldwin and what he meant in real time and can mean to us. so give us your origin story with baldwin. when did you first read him? when did he become so vital to you? well, first of all, thank you for the question and you see how he lies. this is john. why right? i got a sedantry. yeah, this car here. eddie is a cigar man. it's the only good thing about going to morehouse apparently, can you imagine this guy, but we're not gonna smoke. so my first encounter with my
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serious encounter with baldwin, john is actually in graduate school. you would think i would have read him and high school i went to high school on the coast of mississippi. so we can tell that story on another and another day. at morehouse i was kind of avoiding him in some ways. and in college, i mean in graduate school. i was an ellison man. i wrote most of my grad first year papers on ralph ellison. i didn't want to deal with baldwin. because he made my colleagues he made their faces turn red. hmm, they went flush as they read him because he was telling the truth in some ways. so i really didn't begin to have this serious encounter with him until i started teaching him. so my first job is at bowdoin college. in maine brunswick, maine and i taught fire next time every year and then i started teaching no name in the street. and then suddenly he began to
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open up and he became in some ways amused. for me, let me ask you this question. yes, sir. you had the honor. of writing appearing with you aside from that this is what we have to go through on the set of morning. no, actually we don't because he's in his studio at home. but anyway. you have the honor of talking with? john lewis in his last days you were working on the biography talk a little bit about that experience. well i met first met john lewis in during the last election in 1992 that cycle there was a as ever there was a georgia senate runoff. and it's a little george has become the new louisiana. you'll always are having elections down here. and georgia was having it. and on an election night if you're a politician or a journalist. you tend to want to give the
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impression that you're off doing important things. right what you're really doing is eating the same cheese cubes, but in a different room. but you want to give the impression of that. and so white fowler was running against paul coverdale. and i was covering it for the chattanooga times my hometown newspaper. and i walked into the ballroom in atlanta and there was john robert lewis and lillian just standing there. among the people. he was a senior congressman. are already you know the civil rights in many ways. and it began an unfolding conversation. that is as eddie kindly says. didn't really stop until about a week before he died. on july 17th of 2020 and part of my one of the things i had to
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fight in that. relationship was treating john lewis as the acceptable kind of black guy that someone like me would like strength, i remind i sometimes called the easy listening version of the civil rights movement. yeah, right because because john even in the beginning in 1966 said kingston springs, tennessee. not far from where i live. stokely carmichael and john lewis went to battle over different approaches to the same end. in many ways and john was seen as you know somebody with dr. king it was a sunday school version. it was not violent. it was too accommodationist one of the snick leaders who was siding with with stokely carmichael said the problem with john lewis after 1963 was every time president johnson called john would send his suit to the
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cleaners and then get on a plane. so he was seen as too much a part of of the establishment that that was trying to be. shifted um but the way ultimately the way i resolve that if i did successfully. was through the language of the southern church right of which i'm a part in the broadest sense. i'm not a very good christian as robert louis stevenson said the duty of the christian is not to succeed but to fail cheerfully if so, i'm the most cheerful guy you'll ever encounter. but he was on that bridge. he was on the freedom rides. he was in nashville coming out of american baptist theological seminary a tiny school still there. you know, the fancy kids went to morehouse john john and bernard
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lafayette and james bevel went to this. there were 100 students. imagine that there's one a little school the hundred students on the cumberland river in nashville produced john lewis, james bevel. ultimately diane nash though. she was at fisk. it's just an incredible story. but we what i realized watching him and talking to him. in those god i guess almost 30 years right? i didn't thought about that. as he was in the house and as he became it's one to me. there's one was fascinating things about john lewis. is he became a kind of walking monument? mm-hmm. he was in kind of the anniversary business. right. he took congressional delegations back every year to selma, you know if you needed something on an anniversary, you know, he was always there.
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and he's the only public figure i've ever known. who could be at a scene of his? great triumphs that is all about should have been all about him. and yet it was the most egoless. unself referential thing you can imagine which is hard to do. right, so you would be standing on the pettus bridge with him? but it really wasn't about him. even though you were there because of him. and that was a kind of charisma. in the purest sense of the greek word it was a gift from the gods that as an old teacher of mine at suwannee once said one definition of charm is the capacity to make other people love you without their quite knowing why. and somehow under that's what john did. and it's fascinating to talk about selma. you know, selma is so complicated. as you know, we talked about
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this as you were working through that section in the book in some ways right that there are three marches in some ways in what i think about baldwin. you know the comp the complexity of selma is almost evidenced in his witness. there's there is bloody sunday. then there's the march that is turned that king gets up and turns around right and snake folk are saying. oh the lord the lord they're gonna sing. he didn't bother to show up on bloody sunday and then when he does come he obeys the federal right and then they sing ain't nobody us around. and then the third march of course is when everyone comes and in between there's all sorts of violence and yeah a lot of snake folk they leave they get angry. they go organized and lounge county, alabama. typically, we tell the story of selma in this uncomplicated way probably because jesse jackson it was his first one. first series when the way in which we tell it kind of flattens out. the complexity of the moment because baldwin is going to identify with those young folk.
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yeah in an interesting sort of way, even though he absolutely loved and adored king. well, you know it is flattened out and i actually teach this. we think of two lane is the vanderbilt of louisiana. so thank you for having me. throw the rocks that oh, sorry, mr. princeton. did you get your passport stamped on the way down out of the world? so the the way the story is told right and if we were watching this on pbs you have lewis and hosea williams coming across the bridge at about three o'clock in the afternoon slate gray afternoon, bloody sunday, march 7th. 1965 wind is blowing john's wearing his overcoat in his backpack as a copy of richard hopstetter's the american political tradition and apple and orange in a toothbrush because he expected to be arrested and so that was the
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rule you always james lawson taught him. you always take a book some fruit in a toothbrush. and they go to john clouds the major. he says, you know, this is an illegal march. john says, may i have a word? they say there's no word to be had. they kneel to pray as they their needs hit the asphalt the troopers come the tear gas people think by the way that well the reasons john lewis was everybody was throwing up was because the tear gas gas is because they were concussed. that was why and so and then famously abc is playing the first broadcast version of judgment at nuremberg. so frank reynolds breaks in that night with a bulletin. it was the first significant news bulletin to be broken into since dallas. in 63, this is march of 65. and then what's the next scene?
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it's lbj. right giving the great richard goodwin speech that moment, you know, there are moments in the life of a nation where history and fade intersect to form a turning point. man's unending search for freedom. so it was at lexington concord. so it was an appomattox. so it was last week. it's so mile, alabama. shall overcome and then the voting rights act assigned and then everything's fine. right whoops so one of the ways i teach this is johnson's speech was on march 15th. bloody sunday was march 7th. eight days is a long time. so what happened in those eight days? a lot of the politics that baldwin captured that he's talking about. but also linda johnson asserted control over the entire situation. so two things happen one. is he forces king? to go to judge frank johnson and
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follow the court orders about the nature of the march. and in what i think is one of the most important moments in modern american history because the lesson of it i think lives on he summons george wallace. to the oval office, you know, lbj had very deep cushions on the couch. so the person would sink and lbj would loom he was in the rocking chair and he leans over george wallace. and wallace says well, i can't control voting boards or something. and johnson says wonderfully, don't -- me george wallace. and then he says george this is not about 1968. it's not about 1988. it's about history. and when you die, do you want a pine? scratch stony grave? that says george wallace. he hated. or do you want a beautiful elegant granite monument that
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says george wallace he built. and that's the fundamental question. it seems to me of citizenship. is do you want to hate? or do you want to build? and one of the things that eddie and i debate offline a good bet is the extent to which and i'm right by the way in this debate, just so you know. the extent to which progress is a measured and b celebrated? and so talk a little bit about that. one of the things that i insist on in our conversations, is that while white america is deliberating between whether or not it's going to hate or build. we have to raise our babies. while you're trying to decide what kind of human being you're going to be. whether that you're going to be
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monstrous. we have to protect ourselves. we have to figure out how to raise our children in a society that fundamentally. despises them and so the task then becomes or the question rather. isn't whether or not we're going to hate or whether we're going to build the question is whether or not we allow hatred and anger and rage to overwhelm our moral sense. so when we think about this moment. because there's this moment remember when the young folk when snick goes into lyons county, alabama and they argue for political self-determination. they use the symbol of what the black panther. as a symbol of the lowndes county blackwater, right? and so we tend to think of the black panther party as october 1966 in oakland, california, but the first image of the black panther comes in lowndes county, alabama. and so we hear cries after the you know, the march against fear
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stokely carmichael says, i've been to jail x number of times. i'm not going to jail anymore. no more freedom. now we want what black power and so this ongoing battle of how do we respond? in the gap between will you hate or will you build? what kind of human being will we be? how will we raise our babies? what will we do in the interim as you make those decisions and oftentimes we have the debate about the pace of progress, right? what the pace of the progress how long jimmy would ask and i'm paraphrasing here. how long must we wait for your progress? do we have to lose another george floyd for your progress? do we have to lose our own babies as we wait on your progress? what do we do in the interim? while we fix up because there's a story to be told from the vantage point of lyndon baines johnson. but then there's the story to be told from the vantage point.
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of those black folk who board the burden? and the brutality of what was happening in the midst of the high political drama in the white house. so my jimmy baldwin was always committed to the idea of the new jerusalem. that we always engaged is that rain? you can i'm from here. i know that kind of rain. i'm like, that's when you pull over on the side of the highway and just wait for it to come. i knew john barry was gonna bring a flood. so so the question becomes baldwin is like baldwin always committed to the idea of a new jerusalem, but he and i want to insist and i don't want to have to echo his voice that in order for that to happen. we have to grow up. and confront ourselves honestly
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about who we are as a nation that is so my argument back is that i'm not asking anybody to wait to we broadly put get our house in order. i think this is a description of human nature. perennial struggle between light and dark and good and bad that unfolds in our individual lives and then in a democracy. in the fullness of the nation itself because of democracy. largely, not entirely but largely the fullest manifestation of our individual dispositions of heart and mind and those dispositions of heart and mind give it just enough force. in just enough focus to the rule of law. and so that's one slide amendment i would i would propose. one of my favorite lines of baldwins comes from when he's
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writing about snick and florida. i want to say, it's tallahassee. this is a nobody knows my name, right? all right, says somebody asks. it had been a sit in it was a sit anything. he said someone asked me and you have this vision writers know this you have this vision of baldwin back in the motel with his typewriter right filing the peace. it may be an esquire. i can't remember. we wrote for on that but he wrote this. he said people ask what got into these kids. america america is what got into these kids. so what was baldwin's and the cloudian? definition of america in that sense madness madness yes. madness in renaissance in a sense of the renaissance not a clinical sense of the matter, right? what is madness in this this sense? right. this is this this refusal to
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live the truth to live in this false sense that we believe that we are the shining city on the hill to use reagan's kind of adjective on john winthrop's description of jesus and you know, but augusta, we can name everybody he approved. kind of interrupt you you're very important point. yeah tell quick story. so i know this important. we'll get back to the important stuff as i but so reagan and this is an eddie eddie and i have discussions about president reagan, yeah, there's called spats if we were if we were married can you do that in louisiana now, probably not anyway so the reagan's phrase shining city on a hill is adding the adjective to a line from the sermon on the mount right? jesus said it should be the city upon a hill and it's it's like shall not be hit.
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reagan did that so well. that i've actually heard ministers true story from pulpit say as jesus said america shall be as a city a shining city about a health. and i never knew president reagan but didn't know mrs. reagan a little bit as jimmy stewart said if ronnie had married nancy the first time he would have won an academy award. but i heard this i i was at lunch where i would eat and she wouldn't and i said, you know man by just heard a ministers say this is you know, it's amazing president reagan improved on jesus. and she looked and she said well, yes, that's the kind of thing. ronnie did a lot. they someday we all be loved is nancy davis love. ronald reagan now go back to baldwin. i don't believe that y'all believe that no. i'm just how could i make that
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up? so when i part of you know this idea that we are the shining city on the hill that we're the redeemer nation that we're an example of democracy achieved. that that particular illusion stands in or keeps us from confronting who we actually are. and so there's a kind of falsness that we live in that blinds us to the truth of who we are we know this intimately in the south right and this is what eugene o'neill is trying to get at a nice man coming. this is what the no chance saloon is all about. this is blanche and you know streetcar named desire, right? what does it mean to imagine oneself in a particular sort of way right and to evade what is looking back in the mirror, right? looking back at you. so there's a kind of madness where what has gotten into these young folk. well the the madness of america has gotten it is a madness that calls forth an interesting source of ways a kind of mad. well, we push you on that because the but my sense of that sentence from baldwin is that it's a good thing.
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that america that that they what was getting into them in protesting? in seeking justice was the aspirational element which creates one poll? as to which there was then there is this gap you talk about so i don't really read that sentence in that way that the motivation for these young folks to act. is a kind of aspirational? claim about america as it could be right. i think it's the you know, baldwin is constantly saying right when you think about particularly when he's and howard how i open up the book. he's at howard in an apartment with many of the young activists right there. were these various clicks you had the au center grouping of folk, julian bond, and those folks you had the fisk nashville
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group. so that's the atlantic group over here the fish nashville group. that's diane nash james john lewis and those folk and then you had the dc phone. nag, right. this is stokely carmichael this you know muriel tilling gas this does folk, right marion barry the first marion berry was the first president of sin. people don't remember this right? and so they're in this apartment building. no liquid can be found so somebody new a bootlegger, so they went out and got some bootleg scotch. and they're going at the top of you know till the sun comes up. and baldwin sees in their eyes exhaustion these are the young people. who believed wholeheartedly? in nonviolent discrimination. i'm nonviolent protests. stokely carmichael said he never broke non-violent discipline, but once is when the police
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attacked dr. king? the so-called black power said he never vote broke non-violence, but once and in stokely says america made these young people i mean baldness is america made these young people. so i want to connect these two formulations, right? one is not just simply kind of aspiration. it's a description of the context out of which these young folk. courageously if that makes sense it does. but i want to ask you a question. you wrote the biography of hw bush president bush you just cited nancy reagan the nancy reagan story, which i don't believe. why would i sit around and think art i'm gonna make up a nancy because you are john mitchell now, so you should hear my julia
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grant story. whatever that means right, so. what does what does it mean what i want to understand you? oh jesus. that's a journey. from herbert walker bush george herbert walker bush the reagan before the stuff you've written. yeah to john lewis. yeah. to write about john lewis to publish that and after he goes on to glory what do you what do you see because i see a difference. i see a shift. yeah accent john major. are we doing is we're gonna do a 50 minute hour to have to pay you. yeah for therapy. yeah. no talk to me about that journey from from there to here. all right. can i slightly reorder the question? no, okay.
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so there is something here's the commonality. let's start there. okay, the commonality is these are the only two living people i've ever written about. and i didn't fall in love with either one of them. but i came to love them. which is different. they come from radical arguably the it's hard to imagine two people coming beginning their lives in a different more different place, right so poppy bush is born on june 12th, 1924 and milton, massachusetts grows up in greenwich greenwich country day school andover joins the united states navy on his 18th birthday, july. 12 1942 shot down on saturday, september 2nd 1944 over chichi
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jima. loses two crewmates spent the rest of his life every day. asking why was i spared and not them? a man of immense empathy a man of immense ambition those two things were in constant conflict. ultimately, he resolved them in his mind that. it mattered less what he did to a mass power and more what he did when he had it. and we can argue all you want about that. and that's the way he saw it. john lewis great grandson of an enslaved man born in slavery born 1863 62 um son of a sharecropper overcame his childhood stutter by preaching to the chickens and on the farm in troy used to say that the
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chickens listened to him more carefully than his colleagues in congress ever did. and never saw a white person until he was 14 except for the mailman. had an instinctive revulsion about segregation when he would go into town. moved by the gospel very uninterested in theology interested instead about how do you apply the sermon on the mount? didn't like a preacher from montgomery you came over and was talking about. sweet by and by didn't care about the sweet buy and buy wanted it right then. so radically different my view and you'll disagree. probably is that they represent they both represent?
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parts of the american experience that i think are worth. emulating and having inform what we do. hmm george hw bush was the last eisenhower republican. which is like saying you're the last dinosaur. right that that is dead dead that party. and that party was imperfect. but i believe that one way to think about american politics in life. from the new deal until now is that it's been a figurative conversation. between fdr and reagan on the relative projection of force against commonly agreed upon foes and rivals and the relative role of the state in the marketplace. and every american president has ascend except for the 45th has essentially governed on that field.
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and sometimes to switch metaphors to football sometimes, you know, there's a george w bush who's over with ronald reagan on the 20. sometimes. there's a lyndon johnson over here with fdr. i've run this by bush clinton and president obama. they all agree president obama agrees with the concept that that was the dialectic. in which he governed? it was not a dialectic that has delivered. the results i think many people want which is one of the reasons it fell apart in 2016, right? the shift so i don't see that as a shift what i do see is four years ago exactly when i was closing the soul of america book. i believed that trump was the fullest manifestation of our darkest impulses. but that like joe mccarthy.
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it would burn out not that it would go away. but that these forces ebbed and float. and what january 6th did and it took me a long time to get there. is it suggested to me that there was something more permanent about this? i still think it can be. okay. but i didn't foresee that and one of the things that eddie and i agree with just lest you think this is a marital therapy thing. is i dislike it? i disagree i should say. when people say about something terrible that happened charlottesville, so when they say this isn't who we are well, of course, it's who we are. where have you been? right. do you not know anything? do you literally know no american history? and i said this a while ago. but there wasn't a once upon a
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time in american history, and there's not going to be a happily ever after. because this is a human enterprise. and it's why the work of folks like eddie. matters so much because eddie does something that i don't do. which is but is a historian of both our politics, but even more importantly of our intellectual. ambient philosophical life and the importance of ideas which is what drives the baldwin book. and even i would say go all the way back if you haven't read his book on it's called exodus with an exclamation mark, it's like jeb. with just so you know if you ever had that comparison no, no never that's what i'm here for. my work is done. thanks walter. it was about the the exodus
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narrative and how it shaped. the black experience in the american experience so i i'm less than i was. right but i don't know. maybe maybe i'm maybe because i want to be forgiven for all the stupid things. i do. maybe i'm overly forgiving that's possible. maybe i just love too much. no, that's not it. that's not it. you know, i make sense that it does, you know and part of you know part of what it means for me at least to come out of the tradition out of which i come. right is to say to you. right in some ways. i'm glad you finally see it. well actually brought me home. no no what i mean by that is that it's all we all grow. i grew up up we both grew up in the south. is all we have to do is cross the railroad tracks.
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all we have to do is look at our life. this is what you're saying, right? this is who we are it always has been and some of us have had to live the burden of the contradiction. some of us have had to endure it. some of us have lost people. lost and we watch for generations a country just walk past our dead. to not give a -- about them. and so when this revelation happens it's almost like a wonderful thing that you know americans we love we want to be padded on our backs. i got it. see, right, but it becomes the can under these moments of in this moment of crisis. when it feels as if the experiment stands on a nice edge. this kind of insight. sets the stage at least for me. for the possibility for us to be to be different to be together
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differently to be. otherwise, does that make sense? i know we're gonna go to town because it does you this is well, of course since we're now mode. but this is really important point, you know, yeah. and maybe and this is where an eddie writes and he was kind of attacking me in his book, but he didn't he was sweet. he didn't do it by name. hold up. let me say this by the way, i sent him beginning again. i was debt tip tiptoeing around my criticism of ronald reagan. and he said eddie. if you're going to criticize reagan. go after him. what you had a parenthetical saying you might have been a racist. i said you might want to unpack that. it was literally within dashes. yeah, exactly. he's like no, i think you know, that's but that's what friend but i do this six times before breakfast so i completely but but so one of the things that eddie sort of dings me for and he just did it very gently and elegantly, is that somehow or
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another my view of his i mean if you disagree tell me some other my view of history is overly triumphalist and self. it's self-congratulatory for the country. i disagree. because of the power of narrative if you don't tell a story. that moves people to do to want to replicate something. that was good. then what is the point of it? then you're unilaterally disarming and my response is what we choose to leave out of our stories. reveal all too often the limits of our conceptions of justice. sure. i got applause you. i know i know. i've sort of forgotten they're here.
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so i was about to curse. but i just will just okay, but you gotta tell the story right and so part of our task right right is that's why the blues? tells a different kind of story that's what that's how when you come when you cross those railroad tracks, which you guys used to do. you god younger you guys that's good. that's good when you cross the railroad track. yes in those midnight out. nobody could see not not he's doing the preacher thing now. yeah, you know you feel the voice begin to go. no, but you but you see the move right? so there's this so there's a story that has been told it's a question of what is what is thought of as the major plot line? and what is thought of as the subplot? here's it? here's a really direct question. sure farm here. we're gonna come to y'all our farm far than you all might. get a forum like is the world
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better off or worse off for my john lewis book? is better that's an easy question. is it a celebration? is it is it because i know you i know what you struggled with in that book. yeah, what's better off? is the revelation that you just gave, right. i mean did you just said no. and the thing, is that the journey that we all make that we all take the path that we all take when we end up there. okay. you know as long as you end up there, yeah, and the point that i'm making here is that to pass a judgment or any is to say okay? now you see okay. now let's build a new america. let's be better midwives as it were and give birth to a new a new cut and i think as southerners. because i'm a i'm a mississippi boy. as southerners we have we have our hands, right?
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and we're at the heart of it as my yeah as my beloved friend imani perry says we're at the heart of it. if only we would confront who we actually question questions one question we have you can only ask one. retarded we've gone on so long. we have one question who wants to ask the question? no pressure. we told everybody we were going to blow through the question and answer period we did say that don't make me call on you. yes, sir. project or walk up to i can't hear you sir. i'm sorry. i'm too old. come up to the mic doc. and then we're gonna run right because because we got to go. this is high church. it's like where's the incense? dr. glad one of the things you
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mentioned in your book. is how exhausted how exhausted james baldwin was when he went to france and for many of us who grew up in the civil rights era? it's like we experienced it. and we're exhausted. so what would be baldwin's perspective would he want to stay now or what he wanted to flee? so i try to avoid anticipating jimmy's words, he wrote so many. that we can actually find an answer. and one of the reasons why i wrote begin again is because i was suffering from a kind of debilitating despair. right here. we were we had come out of ferguson all of these young people at risked their lives and some of them were ending up dead. found in their cause committing suicide so they said and the country responded to their efforts their organized efforts with the election of donald trump. just as the country responded to
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you know kings murder with the election of richard nixon twice. and you feel like it's a specifically in task. having to push this -- bold up the hill again and again and again baldwin tried to commit suicide at least three times. right and no name in the street published in 1972. he's coming off of one of those attempts trying to make sense of this moment because he's trying to in some ways to tell a story that will offer resources for us to imagine how to keep struggling. so i think the way in which i came out of it. is that it's not the end to which we're trying to push the bolt. the value is in the actual pushing. to invoke talib kwali it's the beautiful struggle itself. and that's where meaning is found. because if we think that we have to see the end as a precondition for our struggle for a better america. we won't make it.
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we don't know. both of these guys will be signing books downstairs in the peters. well, i will eddie be signing the large posters of that are around the city. how will that work and there will be some eddie bobbleheads? thank you. the y'all know everybody up here. y'all know bakari give him a big round of applause. he's from south carolina. clint smith clinton from new orleans and his grandpa's over there and his mama's and his daddy's there. so he's going to act right? today


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