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tv   The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations  Bloomberg  May 30, 2021 10:00am-10:30am EDT

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♪ david: this is mike it and also -- my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of, the past three decades i have been an investor. then i started interviewing. i have learned by doing my interviews how leaders may get to the top. >> i asked him how much he wanted. he said $250. i said ok.
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i did not do any due diligence. david: i have something to sell you. [laughter] david: one of the most optimistic leaders i have met in recent months is senator tammy duckworth. she became a fighter pilot and did so in iraq. she lost to the use of her legs, recovered, got elected to the senate, and is now the mother of two young children and is happily engaged in the life of being a u.s. senator. today we will be in conversation with senator tammy duckworth, a senator from illinois two has an extraordinary story and now has -- and has an extraordinary story. sen. duckworth: thank you for having me. david: did you expect growing up
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in asia that you would one day be a united states senator, a blackhawk pilot in iraq and being considered to be vice president of the united states? sen. duckworth: it was not even in my dreams 20 months ago! [laughter] sen. duckworth: my childhood dream was to become and invest -- an ambassador. david: for those who have not read the book, your mother is from a chinese background. you grow up in thailand. your mother is thai but she is from chinese ancestry. your father was an american servicemen. sen. duckworth: his family has been here since -- the duckworths showed up as indentured servants to a british lord. a thought in the french and
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indian wars although we suspect they were volunteered by their lord because they did not volunteer themselves! david: you grew up in thailand. you are a product of mixed race. there was some discrimination then and obviously now. did you feel that discrimination? sen. duckworth: it was a problem. i am biracial, and i think other biracial folks will understand what i talk about in the book. in south asia i was seen as half white but when i came to the u.s. i was seen as asian. you will always be seen as another. you see that with the aapi experience today. my thai cousins would make fun
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of me. that was the experience in south vietnam. sen. duckworth: your father had a hard time finding a job so you had to live on food stamps and get a job for yourself. you were selling roses on the streets in hawaii. david: -- david: your father had a hard time finding a job so you had to live on food stamps and get a job for yourself. you are selling roses on the streets of hawaii. sen. duckworth: out of desperation at 16 even though my father forbade me i got a job on the beaches of waikiki. i did everything from handing out flyers -- i had to on the moment decide whether the person would get a romantic dinner cruise flyer or a -- i would
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get a nickel for every who came back to buy it. i did whatever i could to script together money. david: you went to the university of hawaii right? sen. duckworth: i did. i returned to my childhood dream of becoming an investor. i went to george washington university to enter the international affairs program. at the time gw had the highest a successful pass rate for the exam so i went there. david: you went to gw get your graduate degree. did you say " someday i am going to be a united states senator"? sen. duckworth: no! i had gotten a job at the smithsonian. there was an asian student fellowship, and i won the fellowship. i was working at the natural history museum when my boss
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there said " you should get a phd, and you should think about moving to illinois to attend northern illinois university." david: you applied, got in, and it changed her life. why did you decide to join the military? sen. duckworth: some people in my class were veterans, and they said " why don't you go off to basic training, earn some money over the summer, and you are going to come home, no more about the military." i thought why don't i do that? david: why did you decide you wanted to be a helicopter pilot? why didn't you say " i will take an easier job"? sen. duckworth: i spoke thai
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and indonesian. while i was being commissioned, you sit down and you write what you would like to do than the army decides what they would like you to do. i was the only woman in my rotc unit when the instructor said " write down whatever you want, that is what you are going to do." guys you have to put down combat jobs even if you are an accountant major. you can put down your requested to become a finance officer, but you still have to put down infantry, armor, utility. " except for duckworth -- women aren't allowed in combat." i remember thinking this was inherently unfair not for me but for the guys. i was getting equal pay for an equal rank but the fact that i didn't have to face the same
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risk was wrong. i did my research and i realized women could serve in aviation with helicopter pilot -- i took the aptitude test, scored off the charts, and that is how i became a helicopter pilot. david: you learned to be a helicopter pilot, but there is no need for you to go to iraq. you actually volunteered. you said " i want to fly helicopters in iraq>" isn't that unusual? sen. duckworth: what i said was my unit cannot go off to war without me. i did a brief stint in command of my blackhawk unit, bravo company, the mad dogs. i was their commander all. through 9/11 i had been -- their commander all through 911. i always thought it would be in
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afghanistan. i knew we would eventually go. one month after i was rotated out of my command position, my unit was called out. i called the battalion commander and said " i cannot be the only aviator standing safely at headquarters waving goodbye. how can you take me?" it is part of -- about being part of the unit. david: what did your husband say? sen. duckworth: he understood because he is a soldier as well. mom did not understand. my dad did not say much at all but he understood. he did not question me. he was a career military officer as well. how david: did david: you go from crashing and -- david: how did you go from crashing a helicopter to the
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hospital within an hour? sen. duckworth: they wanted to bring a body back for my family to bury. ♪
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david: so you get over to iraq and you are flying blackhawks over there. there was a mission to pick up somebody, but it was not an essential mission. sen. duckworth: it was on our way back from that mission when we were hit. david: you did not have to be in iraq and you did not have to accept that mission, but you did both of those things and you were hit by an rpg. sen. duckworth: we were hit by fire outside my right door. just as i reached forward to restore the target on our gps,
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there was a big explosion. the rpg landed on my lap and exploded. david: the pilot is trying to land that despite the fact that it is in trouble. he manages to land, but your legs were blown off essentially. sen. duckworth: the cockpit was filled with smoke. i did not know. you do not look down to -- i was trying to fly the aircraft do not knowing i was a coming in and out of consciousness. i was frustrated the aircraft was not responding to the inputs i was putting into the instrument, into the flight controls, but that is because i did not have legs. david: how did you go from crashing a helicopter and getting another helicopter within an hour?
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sen. duckworth: we did not crash. we landed it. doug landed the aircraft. we always fly the aircraft together so you would always have a backup to help you. they came back for what they thought was my body. i never received any first-aid. they said i was dead. they thought they would bring a body back for my family to bury. david: they take you to a medical treatment facility and they try to keep you alive. what did they do? sen. duckworth: my door gunner on the right side realized i was still alive. there is more and more blood on the deck of the aircraft and he realizes he has a tourniquet on. no one should be bleeding. he realized " tammy's heart is still pumping>"
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he requests treatment from the medevac bird. the medic comes to him and he says " go to her." david: when you wake up, when do you realize that you have lost your legs and may be the use of your right arm? sen. duckworth: i knew i had been hirth -- kurt. i will -i- -- knew i had been hurt. i asked my husband to get tylenol because my feet really hurt. that is when they had to get the doctor to come in and tell me i had no feet anymore. my arm was encased in a metal cage, kept immobile. they kept it ready covered so i could not see it was badly mangled. i could potentially lose that arm. david: as if everything we have
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talked about wasn't amazing, you decided you wanted to go back to iraq as a helicopter pilot. my unit was still downrange. i felt tremendous guilt that i was in a safe hospital in the united states, and everybody was calling me a hero, which i did not think i was. everybody was treating me with the love and my buddies were still getting shot at? no soldier, no servicemember, no troop wants to be safe someplace when your buddies are in harm's way. i just wanted to get back to my unit. david: you retire from the military and do get involved in a number of interesting things. you became head of the veterans organization in illinois. sen. duckworth: sen. duckworth: sen. duckworth: i did not retire. president bush started a program that allowed -- i ran for congress and lost and then
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became head of the illinois department of government affairs. president obama was elected. all this time, i was still in the national guard. i ran again for congress and became a congresswoman in 2012. david: then an opportunity came along to run for senate. did you hesitate or did you say really want to do this? sen. duckworth: i very much hesitated. i was on maternity leave with my oldest daughter. i had her in november of 2014, and illinois' primary is very early in march. i had to make a decision by march of 2015 if i wanted to run for senate. i was still on maternity leave. i thought " i'm not going to run
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for senate i'm on maternity leave!" but then i thought if i'm ever going to run for senate this was the opportunity so i took the chance. ♪
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♪ david: let's talk about the united states senate. is it enjoyable or not quite as enjoyable as you hoped it would be? sen. duckworth: it is challenging but i love my job because of what i get to do. it is a tough job, but i get to serve my contest -- my constituency. i passed legislation that now
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requires lactation rooms and all of our nation's airports because when i had my daughter and i was traveling i was told " you want to breast-feed your daughter, you have to do it in the handicapped stall of the public restroom." now when i go through airports, i see lactation pods and i think " i did that!" that is a great privilege. it is a great privilege to represent my state and my constituents believed in me enough to do this job. it is a lot of work. there is no worklife balance. i never feel like i am senator enough when i am with my kids and when i am at work i do not go mom enough for my kids. david: you have been a leader in the environmental area. are we still way behind where we
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should be? sen. duckworth: we are significantly behind where we should be. i am glad as soon as he was sworn into office, the first thing president biden did was rejoined the climate accord. we should have a date for a carbon neutral future then let the market get us there. policy and terms of how we get there -- we will have to look at a range of energy sources to get to carbon neutral, but who cares as long as you get to carbon neutral? david: there half -- have been a lot of attacks against asian americans in the united states recently. when you were growing up did you suffer attacks? what can be done to ameliorate the problem? sen. duckworth: i felt that on the mainland u.s., not so much on hawaii.
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on the mainland, certainly. i have had americans come up to me and say things to me like " where are you really from?" even while i was wearing her nation's uniform -- our nation's uniform! the most ridiculous questions! what do you mean?! i'm from here! i'm american! that is an almost uniquely asian american experience. david: not too long ago, president biden when he was former vice president of the united states considered you to be vice president on his ticket. any disappointment you were not selected, and would you consider running for president yourself? sen. duckworth: no -- no regrets that i was not selected! it was an interesting process to go through. i am pleased i made it pretty
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far in the process, but i have got to say, i am really happy being a u.s. senator. i have more control over mike schedule -- my schedule. i could not be happier. david: since president biden has become president, has he called you for advice? i i -- sen. duckworth: i had never been in the oval until president biden became president. i visited him just last month in april. i was there 0-he -- he asked me to join him on a conversation -- in a conversation on many factoring in the united states. illinois is a major manufacturing state. we are number one and number two depending on who has the biggest
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order that week. i was therefore a meeting on aapi representation and hate crimes. david: the life of a senator is one where you are in the senate during the week, but weekends you have to go back to illinois and meet with constituents and so forth. you have two young children, your husband. how do you have time for anything? sen. duckworth: i don't. i'm at work or doing something with my kids. in the book, i talk about how senator gillibrand gave me good advice to set boundaries. i have some boundaries i have set up we do not mess with. i have asked my colleagues to abide by them and they have been very supportive. i do not take meetings in person before 9:30 because i put her on
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these go bus. this has changed -- on the school bus. i would drive my daughter to school. that is my time with her. if i have to be in california, i will catch the redeye and stay up all night so long as i can make it home so i can be here to take my daughter to school. david: you have a very outgoing personality, but you had a tragic situation in your life. how do you maintain your optimism and such a friendly outlook? do you regret having gone to iraq because you did not have to go? sen. duckworth: i do not regret going to iraq. it is one of the proudest things i have done in my life. as a soldier, when you are called to serve you go. it is all about looking out for
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the best of things. i have always had a rye sense of humor. it is an army,, aviation, dry -- being able to laugh at yourself and make the best of it. to look back with regret and feel bad about having been in iraq and being hurt would have been a slap in the face to the men who saved me and i am not going to do that. they gave me the gift of life that day, so i owe it to them to live the best life i can every day. david: have you ever thought of bottling your happiness? you could make a lot of money! sen. duckworth: i should have died in that field in iraq. that day in iraq is my northstar. those men who saved my life are my northstar. even in the toughest of times, even when i think " this is crazy," like january 6 with the
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insurrection, i get up the next day because i think of what they did for me in that field. they fought to get me back to my family. the best i can do is keep trying. ♪
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