tv Washington This Week CSPAN January 3, 2015 10:04pm-11:01pm EST
that. i also respect that boundary. it is a balancing act. absolutely. i'm not sure i can give you a real good answer for that one. it would be good to talk to katie and other folks. >> ok. let's have a they can for bill -- big hand for bill ingalls. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> charlie duke talks about the apollo moon landings and then another chance to see bill ingalls show his work, including photos of space launches. on the next "washington journal," roundtable with brian and stefan policy as congress
convenes this week and the top domestic and international economic stories in 2015 and as always, your calls and you can join the conversation on facebook and twitter. live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> this sunday, the president and ceo of the national council on the nation's largest hispanic civil rights and advocacy group on the state of hispanics in america and her personal story. >> i had the privilege of experiencing the american dream in this country. born in kansas. my parents actually came to this country in the early 1950's.
my parents came from mexico with no money and very little education. my dad had an eighth grade education. and yet they believed in the promise of this country and they were seeking better opportunities for their children. so they worked really hard and sacrificed and so many hispanics have done the same in this country, because they wanted the better future for their children and they believed in the promise of this country. so they really taught us important values that have been our guide for our lives, for me and my siblings. my brothers and sisters. they taught us the importance of family, faith, community, hard work sacrifice, honesty, integrity, all of those were important values they shared with us. >> sunday night on c-span's q&a.
>> now interviews from the washington ideas forum cohosted by the atlantic and aspen institute. it brings together leaders, at officials, business entrepreneurs, journalist and experts. among the speakers in this portion, walter robb talks about bringing his stories to urban areas. this is just under one hour. [applause] >> thank you, steve. we are in for a treat today. thank you for being with us. and i should say thank you for writing this book. if you have not read her books you should live in, particularly the book "americanah," which is so interesting because it provides this window and at the
same time a mirror into issues of race and culture and class in this country, but also on the continent of africa. i want to talk about your experience in writing the book and the experiences that led to it. for people that have not read "americanah", can you give us a sketch? >> "americanah" is about a young woman who leaves nigeria when she is a teenager and spends 13 years and goes back to nigeria. in many things happen to her. it is about her childhood loves who goes to the u.k. and returns to nigeria. so for me it is a novel about leaving home and going back home. and really about what home means . if you can go back home. >> they go back in both cases to places that are different and they are different. >> they are. they have been changed by leaving home.
i think they've also come to see home differently. i think they have changed. we all change as we age. >> don't we all. >> the hope is we change for the better. while "americanah" is not based on my experience, because my life is not very interesting. and my life is easier, in many ways. i was in the u.s. for four years before i could afford to move back home. i had this feeling nigeria had left me behind. i had a sense, you leave home and you create home in your mind and then you go back and it is not what you built up in your mind. there is a sense of loss because you imagine things happen when you are not there. >> how much of home is tied to
identity? you are asked to this recently and your answer was where your best shoes are. [laughter] >> true. >> when you are thinking about identity and the identity attached to home, that is something that you probably struggled with when you left philadelphia after college to go home. how are those tied together? >> i think identity, i find in my life, my identity had a lot to do with where i am. identity shifts and so when i was when i came to the u.s., i found myself taking on a new identity. rather i found a new identity thrust upon me. i became black in america. i had not thought of myself as black in nigeria. that identity was ethnic,
religious, but race was not present. in some ways, i think it is in southern africa, but not west africa. for historical reasons, we did not have people take over our land. >> how did that happen to you? how were you made aware there was a particular box you were supposed to occupy as a person of color? >> i think of this moment as the defining moment. the first essay was written for the class and the professor says, this is the best essay and i want to know who wrote it. he called my name. i raise my hand and he looked surprised. at that moment -- i had been in the u.s. only a few weeks. i realized he had not expected the person who wrote the best essay to be black.
it taught me to be black in america meant something. discovering this identity was not so much -- i don't have a problem having skin the color of chocolate. in this country, i came to realize that meant something. it came with baggage and assumptions and the idea of black achievement was a remarkable thing. for me in nigeria, it wasn't. that is when i started to internalize what it meant and that is when i started to push back. for a long time i did not want to be identified as black. >> how would that come up? >> on those forms that have you take what you are, i would take other. i would say -- >> human. >> right. right now, i am happy to say black. i want to make that clear. and then i remember a young man
referring to me as sister. i thought, i'm not your sister. it was a way of distancing myself from this identity. i had negative connotations. reading, learning, asking questions, i went on this self-styled reading journey where i read a lot of african american history and american history, and i started to understand. i started to let go of certain stereotypes. i think it is easy to internalize the mainstream ideas. it is easy to think, the ghettos are full of black people because they are lazy. that is mainstream thinking. and then when you read about the american housing policies of the past 100 years, it starts to make sense. it forces you to let go of the stereotypes. that is what i did.
it was a conscious effort, and it was an interesting journey. >> when you write about this in the book, you write about african-americans and africans and the way they look at each other. there is a lot of humor, but there is also something people will find recognizable, you will squirm a little bit when you read this book. was that your intention? >> yes. i was hoping people would be uncomfortable. it makes me happy making people uncomfortable. [laughter] but really. i don't believe in provoking for the sense of provoking. i do think certain conversations and certain things need to be said and be addressed and be made better. there are things to be done.
and if squirming is a consequence of that, i think that is fine. >> leaning into discomfort. >> yes. i think discomfort is a necessary condition for a certain kind of justice, certain kind of progress. >> yes. when you put a story out there and in some ways your story when it is so personal those stories come back to you. i'm interested you touch on so many hot button issues. you went there on these issues. what came back to you now that you have been traveling throughout the world talking about that book and these issues? >> i love that you said you went there. for me, that is one of the
loveliest complements. people who, for whom it becomes a kind of not so much a validation of their experience, but i think as human beings we want to see ourselves reflected in stories. i think it is a reflection that has not been told. they have not seen it. i think people are uncomfortable , particularly in the u.s. british readers are very happy to say isn't racism in america terrible. and i say you can look in your backyard. you don't have to go there. sometimes there is a defensiveness where people say what about racism in nigeria? that is not what the book is about.
i also find for a number of people, people who said to me the book made them think differently about things and i valued that. the idea of storytelling as how we can actually tell a story to understand one another better. people have said to me i've started to think differently about something. that makes me happy. i hear that quite a bit. thinking differently about race, and also about black women's hair. >> you spend time talking about hair in the book. >> a bit of time, yes. black hair in particular is an interesting subject. novels have been written about -- why not about hair? >> is that something american
women comment on in particular? there are things and have been in a beauty shop you're not supposed to talk about outside of the beauty shop. but you take that conversation and put it on the page for everybody to see. >> i do, yes. not everything. [laughter] yes, it is the story but in a larger sense it is a political space. the conversations that happen -- it was important for me, i don't think i would have told that story about a character coming into her own. it is true that she becomes herself. and that journey involves the
political space. >> you talk about the danger of a single narrative. when one story defines an entire class of people, an entire community. right now, one of the things i know you're concerned about is the relationship between america and africa and a single-story overtaking that narrative and right now the concern that single-story might be something we have talked about today ebola. >> ebola seems to be the latest -- there has been an ebola panic in this country. i was in nigeria when we had ebola. and watching the american reaction is very interesting to me because i have been happy to observe watching all of the
fumbling and mumbling around that subject has made me realize we are not dealing well -- which has been nice to learn. and the way it has been covered is troubling to me. the distinctions are not made. it just becomes africa. if you're from africa, you are likely to have ebola. i don't mean fringe reporting. any responsible press. the way nigeria has been covered, in reading the coverage in the u.s., it has been attributed to everything but nigerian action. the newspapers will say it was because the cdc sent experts cookie monster came down. the thing is, the reason ebola
was contained in nigeria was because of nigerian action. it was largely because of nigerian action. that has not been told. because it feeds into the same old narrative of africa with a place of no agency. anything that happens has to be attributed to someone else. and it is not about offending me or anybody, it is untrue. it is factually wrong. the american readership has been sold to that garbage. it is a disservice to them. they are not being told the truth. the whole ebola coverage in the way it has been, the way the african presence has been this scary, other thing, is worrying to me. >> you said you very much wanted
to encourage people to become curious about africa and about race and storytelling. i think you have probably achieved all of that and more. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you so much. it was a wonderful book. thank you. whole foods blazed a trail for organic food and has invested in storefronts in low income neighborhoods in chicago, new orleans, and detroit in an effort to bring healthy food to underserved communities. the man behind the effort is our next guest walter robb. he has led the chain into some poorest enclaves and today he is here with an award-winning food
writer. [applause] >> don't deny it. we will turn the microphone on. we hope everyone in this audience shop that holds foods and don't try to deny it. in my neighborhood of boston, massachusetts, whole foods decided to come in down the street from walter's brother, a neighbor. and the two years of community protest that greeted it, how awful you're going to bring up property values in the neighborhood. the main reason because jamaica plain had been a next neighborhood. there was concern about what would happen to the lower income people who might be priced out from what would otherwise be viewed as a salubrious development for the neighborhood. it was fascinating because in
jamaica plain, and we are going to talk about other conflicts we are going to go into detroit. in jamaica plain at least it was extremely well-meaning liberal food people like myself who were saying think about the consequences. think about the latino produce. it had been a latino market in the space you were going into. you must think of preserving this neighborhood. the mayor made sure there would be a bodegas and you have a huge latino produce area. i would talk to people who lived there and they would say, we are counting the minutes until whole foods opens. and so there is this conflict and dichotomy about everything whole foods represents now. we were talking about the fact whole foods is about to open in
inglewood, someone directly challenged mr. robb and said how do you expect anybody to be able to afford to shop there? detroit. how does anyone afford to shop there and what was your idea going into detroit and chicago? >> good morning. let me start with there is a disparity in food access that is startling and stunning. it is morally repugnant. 6500 communities in this nation do not have access to fresh food in the way many of you do. number two, this idea the company and an ideology about what that looks like and how those conversations goes which needs to be changed and create new possibility for communities, whether us or another company. this idea of cultural relevance matters in these conversations in ways that is not getting the
attention it deserves. in detroit, we started with instead of saying, we are coming, we started with a conversation and an invitation by the secretary of agriculture who said will you take a look? we don't have food access in this community. 2 million people down to 700,000 people. and yet when i went there as an entrepreneur saying the community in the making, we started a conversation. what is important to you? respecting and meeting people. by that time we got to the decision, we took another year and a half to build to the store and we had a conversation with the community. there was a group that was formed that challenged us on hiring investment, and we took them on. we had them give us feedback. what worked, what didn't. we had a new business model. the cost is lower there.
we lowered our prices. we broadened our selection. as a result, we have been able to give choices to the community they have not had. >> i wonder, in jamaica plain, they were many calls for whole foods to begin a subsidized housing fund for the people who would be displaced iv higher income. was there an idea in detroit? did you have calls like that? you have to make good by paying people money for the increased property value. >> racism, gentrification, issues that are somehow not being examined at a deeper level that need to be if these things are going to be met. so yes. people challenged us. the best way is to start by respecting people where they are. there is a community there. you are joining a community. you are not a white store dropping in with rigali efraim
have been. in the case of detroit -- regala from heaven. in the case of detroit, i have forgotten your question. i'm sorry. [laughter] >> did anyone say, build -- >> yes. we are concerned about housing. they started to create, that was the first -- that different -- that conversation is different because we did not know what we were doing. people began to see, what is happening with housing. there were some developers moving folks out of fixed income housing and the units were beginning to change. i could see while they did not lay it at our feet, they did say we should talk about gentrification. neighborhoods do change. how are we going to talk about that differently than saying whole foods comes in, there is
gentrification? >> i would like to say, pull us back, you had a year of conversation before you went into detroit. he wanted this understanding. the same thing with jamaica plain. you were forced into that conversation. you did not tell us why you wanted to go. jamaica plain is not an underserved neighborhood. you were going into underserved neighborhoods, as you will do in inglewood. what is behind that decision? >> honestly i have been doing this over 30 years. our mission as a company, we started out when no one knew what natural food was. at some point with this skill set we have is a company, this idea that if you look at the life expectancy in detroit, it is 12 years less in the city. the statistics in inglewood, eight years less.
that is human potential. for me, at some point it is a moral question. how can it be -- we did not say we were guinness serve some people. the mission is to serve people whether us or anyone else, i want to see that change. so for me, for whole foods it is about fulfilling a greater mission. >> people have the idea you go into underserved neighborhoods and you will cure their food desert. it is a mirage. the vision of the gates of paradise. no one will be able to afford it and you will believe them dry of their almost a nonexistent disposable income with your prices. [laughter] so what do you answer to that? >> have you really feel? [laughter] how i answer that, detroit has been open 16 months. i will tell you that the
greatest standard i set for the store was to walk in 16 months later and feel the community in the store. that is what we set out to do. i think we are succeeding so far. the fact is, people did not have to shop there. i think they see it as being something positive. so the evidence is there people like what they see they find it affordable and are able to use it. food stamp is six times the company average. suggesting we are having -- >> is that six-time zero? [laughter] what is usage and the other stores? >> i'm not playing funny with you. we have not given out those numbers. our company, we do take food stamps. in this store in detroit and in new orleans, the usage is six times what happens -- i'm pointing out the broader community is being served.
we have lowered prices. we have broadened our selection. we have learned about how to take our quality standards which we have not compromised and it is the same food at any whole foods. we make it affordable by making sure they have a better range of choices. >> did you actually -- i'm completely glad to hear about that. did you have to change your internal accounting systems to anticipate that usage? >> we did not. we expected it to be greater. not the sex, seven-time level. -- six seven-time level. you would think you could get that program to work as well. it is so rigid as to only certain brands are accepted.
we went to secretary millsap the state of michigan. we could not get through it. we were not able to craft that program. you are familiar with the efforts in a number of communities -- >> it started in boston. double the food, double the value of food stamps for fresh produce. >> that is right. the suggestion was, the data is in from the food network in ann arbor, michigan. it is all on the web. the data shows clearly with those incentives, the probe is usage goes crazy. they do buy it. there it is. >> that is great you are going to these neighborhoods. isn't it part of a broader push toward smaller stores geared to neighborhoods? >> i would not call it a broader push. we build all size stores all over.
we are building 41 next year. this is part of an effort around pushing our self into the intercity communities to make a contribution. i'm not under the illusion we are the solution. but i think we have been contributory and i hope this idea of how a company thinks about coming to a community has huge potential. this idea of respecting and meeting people where they are, recognizing you're joining a community. it is already in process. you are thinking about it differently, your responsibility in that joining. i'm passionate about that because this is what is happening in new orleans. we have done our store there. and also in inglewood, which everybody know inglewood? the mayor has done a fantastic job focusing on these questions of food access through his farmers markets. >> we are allowed to neighbor --
to name him here. >> rahm emanuel. he personally called me and asked if whole foods would come. that is how involved he is. he has done policy things with farmers markets, urban gardens newsstands, all of this is happening under his watch. a number of groceries to the south side. the north side, a lot of choices. the south side, no choices. and i will tell you, one of the community meetings, i'm sitting there with a number of the community members, and one of them says, walter, around the table. we want some of the choices other communities have. he looks at me and says, walter lift us up. left us up. again, i'm a grocery. here's the thing. you're talking about human
potential. human spirit. so, book. we are just part of something -- 6500 areas in the united states needs some kind of additional access. they need fresh thinking. communities have to shift. they will say you guys are trouble. you are not going to do this right. sign a benefits agreement. we don't trust you. that is what i realized in detroit. i looked across the table. there was no trust. without trust, there is no possibility. unless you are willing to change how you think. >> apart from all of these fascinating questions, trust in how the produce has been raised and the fairness and equity of the workers? there are many systems i'm fascinated by. welfare standards. whole foods has decided to go it
alone and create your own system of standards and two weeks ago you released something. i wanted to ask why you decided to create your own rather than going with any other right. ? >> because there is no standard. there is nothing that exists. so you buy organic or conventional. what is that? you don't know what it means. you have no visibility into how the produce has been raised, offshore and we know from many reports that the use of pesticides is indiscriminate overseas. so this system called responsibly grown produce is you can read about it on the web, but it gives you a view into how it is raised. we have 65% of our growers on that portal. so for the first time, the customer, when you look at this
you can track the standards and you will have that visibility. we did eliminate the most noxious chemicals in the dirty dozen. those have been eliminated in this go around. if you want to get the ranking. they were related to child disorders, that side of thing. so there are some concerns that the system begins to address. and the transparency. what do you got to hide? be accountable. >> we are grateful to you because whatever whole foods does, the rest of us have to watch carefully. it influences everyone else in the community. thanks for sharing that with us. [applause] >> thank you. >> now, how many of you read the
cover story in the atlantic? everybody. even if you did it read it, put your hand up. the cover story, the case for reparation's, set a single day traffic record. he made his case through an investigation of systemic racism in america. he is now on stage today with alex kotlowitz the author of "there are no children here." kotlowitz is one of the most important social critics. [applause] >> alex is great. i'm so glai had the opportunity to interview a lot of people.
there were names bandied about at the top of the heap was alex kotlowitz. this book, "there are no children here," if you have not read it, you should. there is a lot of talk among people like me, writers, pundits, about the issues of poverty and race in this country. we are mystified by numbers, statistics 70% of people like this. alex excels at putting faces to those numbers. we are going to have a conversation about storytelling, how we put human faces on human problems. i'm going to start with a clip from a film alex did, "the interrupters," about a group in
chicago who go to some of the roughest areas of the city to interrupt conflict that would usually result in a murderer or a homicide. it is a great film. >> very quickly, so you understand this clip, we're about to see one of the interrupters. he gets a phone call from somebody he had spent time with in the county jail. flamo, some of the had called the police on him. they said he had guns in his house. the police came there and they arrested his brother and handcuffing his mother. flamo wanted revenge. we are about to see this clip. there is some rough language in it. so be prepared. >> cover your ears maybe. >> let's play the video. >> first save the message. >> what up.
>> i got a call from the guy at the jail. >> call me back. >> the police kicked in his door. take his brother. the police in his house. >> what's up? >> if you fuck with him, you'd better bring it on. >> my brother handcuffed. my mother handcuffed. leave that shit alone. don't make it better for me. dont' make shit no better.
can you grab my phone? man. i'm not having none of that shit. i respect what you're doing. that is cool. but fuck that. thesemotherfuckers kicking my door in. " you've got to look at it like this. fuck this shit. these motherfuckers trying to take my shit, minute come in the crib and kill everybody. >> how many kids you got?
they are going to take your kids. >> thus the thing. god will take care of them. people will take care of them. i'm 32 years old. i've been locked up. what the fuck that mean? god damn it. ain't no shame. shit. punk ass police. motherfuckers got to kill me. how can you help me? right now? how can you help me? right now. we be talking about this motherfucking problem.
you can't do shit. >> i ain't got none. that is one of the first ones i had. [applause] >> you can applaud. i saw that clip and i was kind of cringing. i watched it with my wife. a very different environment. no grease -- no disrespect to anybody in the crowd. we found ourselves laughing as we were watching it. is there something wrong with laughing? i think laughing is important because in that is the actual humanity. it is how you get away from the
statistics. i wondered how you felt. >> we felt it was a lost cause. when we went from here, we went to a restaurant when he was trying to get bullets for his pistol. he was really out for revenge. i love this moment because it makes you squirm, it is unsettling but what i love about it, it speaks so much to what chimanada talks about, you think you know this person, when you don't. i need -- i thought a new fl -- i knew flamo but as i came to know him, and we spent time with him, and get to know him, and you get to know flamo is a complicated human being. you realize the decency in him.
and his story takes a remarkable turn in the course of the months we were filming, in a very good way. for me, this is a reminder, not to think we know people, when we know very little. show people the same way, and that is what they become. it is important for me to get to know them. the other thing i love about this moment, kobe does something that is so simple, he takes him out to lunch. ultimately takes him to dinner down the road. you realize all that flamo wanted was somebody to hear his story, his grievance. >> did you start at daily newspapers? >> i started at alternative papers. i did work at "the wall street journal." >> i wonder what you see as the obstacles toward allowing people more than a single there it if.
in the areas -- than a single narrative. >> part of the obstacle in our profession is time. you go into communities and you've got very little time with them. if i were a daily newspaper, i would catch this moment and think i got i -- i got this great piece of film, go back and show it, without understanding who it is behind flamo. we catch flamo where he has been jointing. he is filled with rage and it speaks to this idea that people become especially in communities like this, defined by a singular moment in time. >> you have to have a certain sensitivity. when you are coming up as a journalist, were you aware of this? i want to give a more complete presentation? >> it was there in as much i love fiction and i love
storytelling. and this is nothing new. this is what the new journalism was in the 1960's with tom wolfe. and wanted to get as close to writing with the style and quality affection and yet it be nonfiction to get at the soul of human beings. it is not easy. i realized i did not know what i was doing. it is an incredible intrusion in people's lives. it can be. it can be discomforting for me and them. >> to do this kind of journalism you have to spend a lot of time with people. how do you get them comfortable with that? >> sometimes it is hard. i do tell people, i'm going to have to come back over the course of weeks, months, sometimes years. i've had the experience where even though i tell people, they will still get upset and say
enough is enough. why do you need all of this? in the end, what you are trying to do, and this is the force of storytelling, find empathy. the only way to do that is to spend time with people, to really get to know them as deep and as rich as you can. >> you have been reporting in chicago a number of years. chicago has been in the news for some not good reasons. i wonder how you feel the national media, some politicians, are doing in developing that kind of empathy and giving a full portrait of the city? >> we are not doing a very good job. i remember when president obama began his run for president, he would give the speeches about the empathy gap and people would roll their eyes. what he recognized in a fundamental way is empathy is
what creates community. the ability to spend time, to imagine yourself as some of the else, to take that leap of faith and try to imagine what it is like to be african-american growing up in inglewood. not too far from the whole foods or to be gay, a new immigrant. we are a country that despite the fact we think we are in this together, we are disconnected from each other and for me storytelling is one way to find those connections. >> are you aware of having to do that for the reader? even writing about chicago. you think you know chicago, but you don't. >> i'm only thinking about my readers and how distant they are and also the assumptions they bring to the table. i think that is important. the other part of it is, which you did in your piece, is to
understand history, how you get to a certain place whether it is how flamo gets to this moment. it is essential as writers, storytellers, we try to make an effort to understand how the past has influenced the present. >> we were having a conversation about personal responsibility. i want to ask you in terms of journalism, do you feel like there is an appetite for that portraiture? journalistic institutions are not doing what they need to, or is the audience not that large? >> i like to think there is an appetite for that. it is why we go to the movies. it is widely read fiction. because we are trying to get people to understand who we are. in some ways, it is not the only way, but the most direct way to
get people to spend time in places they otherwise would not venture. stories are about people trying to understand who we are and the others. people unlike ourselves. >> ok. i'm going to finish where i started, alex is great. you should see "the interrupters ," and he has some other projects coming up. i don't know if i should talk about them. you should be on the lookout for them. this is one of our great american journalists. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you so much. in some ways we have saved the best for last and you will be the richer for staying and hearing from david brooks. his best-loved work plumbs humanity. the washington ideas for them has considered these with some of the sharpest minds around.
it is fitting we conclude with a look inward. here to explore character is david brooks. [applause] >> thank you. i am the anti-climax. the only thing standing between you and the metro. not to let you ride the metro. hisses from the audience. there has been a lot of topics the last couple of days. there is one that is undergirding it, who we are and how we behave and whether we have character or not. the way i frame this, we have two sets of virtues. the resume virtues and the you e.g. virtues. the resume ones are the skills you have good at business, accounting, the eulogy is what they say after you are dead, courageous, brave, honest, capable of great love. we live in a society where everybody knows the eulogy
version is more important, but we talk about the resume more. we talk about public life more than private life even though if you don't have that private solidity, your public life falls apart. we are to morality what the victorians were to sex. we cover it in euphemism. we understand the character's destiny. whether talking about ebola trade policy, where it falls apart you have your scandal watergate, your system does not work. the people who have been good at government have had some essential character qualities. abraham lincoln suffered from depression and had a sense of providence. franklin roosevelt was a shallow guy until he had polio. that experience changed him and deep and gave him the empathy he
needed to be a great president. we all know this, when we think about what character is. i thought for the last three minutes i would try to think us through when we use the word character, what do we mean? the first thing we mean is some constancy. that the things that lead us astray are short-term, lust, fear, vanity gluttony. the things we call character our courage, honesty, humility. they are long-term. the people we say have character, they have a consistency of action. somebody with character is not a free floating bone wolf. they have a series of connections, connections to something that are big and that anchor them and make them stable . in the realm of intellect, those people have a set of permanent conviction about fundamental
truth. they have a web of unconditional love. in the realm of action, a commitment to thinks that transcend a single lifetime. projects that transcend a lifetime. the third thing we would say about somebody with character is there is something solid inside them. you have a central spot inside yourself, a place where you make your decisions especially your moral decisions and that piece of you is malleable by you. if you make choices, you engrave some permanent discipline on that piece. if you make fragmented decisions, selfish decisions you degrade that piece and you become fragmented. so when we mean character, we mean consistency over time. and then if you look at people like franklin roosevelt, how they get character, you see a couple of traits and a trajectory of their lives.
those people are capable of great love. it is hard to imagine somebody we said had character is not capable of great love and love humbles you. it reminds you you are not controlling your own brain. you do not choose to fall in love. it reminds you the riches in your life are not in yourself. they are in somebody else. and it elevates you. you want to serve your beloved. we become what we love. and then it lifts you up. the second thing we know about suffering, true of roosevelt and lincoln, usually those people have been through suffering. suffering has the same shape of love, but in the inverse. it humbles you because you can't control your own brain. you can't decide to suffer. second, it hollows you out. the centers you. a theologian has said suffering
drags us beneath the busyness of life and reminds us we are not the person we thought we were. the metaphor was suffering sinks into the basement of your soul and cars through the floor revealing a cavity below. and so you are emptied out. then it elevates you. people who have been through great suffering don't just want to party. i have some friends who lost a child, they did not say, we've been sad for two years, let's go out and party. they wanted to turn that suffering into something transcendent, so they created a foundation so other boys would not suffer the way their son had. so you are not just chasing personal happiness, you are chasing something transcendent. one of my heroes is samuel johnson, a journalist. he was born nearly dead.
he had smallpox as a boy. he was nursed with milk that had tuberculosis. so he was blind in one eye. the smallpox scarred his face. they took out part of his jaw. they kept his arm open to glean him for six years. he had a miserablehe was ugly, scarred nearly blind, oafish, tourette's syndrome, horrible fits of depression suicide attempts. and relative to the ideas festival, he wrote his way to character. he came to london, worked as a freelance writer for 12 years, getting nothing published under his own name, but a lot of brilliant stuff published anonymously. he could write 1800 words an hour, 30 words a minute. a friend of his was named a law professor and you nothing about the la
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