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tv   Betsy De Vos Hostages No More  CSPAN  August 13, 2022 8:01am-9:01am EDT

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>> we are honored to celebrate
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the publication of former u.s. education secretary, betsy devos's new book, hostage is no more. the fight for education, freedom and the future of the american child. many of you may were never that secretary devos was a recipient of our 2019 alexander hamilton award. we are honored to have her with us tonight to celebrate her tenacious and impactful efforts to unlock the potential of america's youth, and our nation's most creative and effective educators. etsy and our esteemed friend of mi, dan seymour, will engage in conversation for the next 20 minutes and we will open it up to questions. dan seymour, an equity partner, chief officer and -- has served as a senior advisor to wes senator mitt romney and former u.s. speaker of the house, paul
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ryan. dan was based in baghdad for a year, where he served as chief spokesman for the u.s. led coalition in iraq rate prior, he was a senior defense department official. for his service and his wills, dan was awarded the pentagon's highest civilian honor, the u.s. department of defense medal for service. in addition to his prestigious accomplishments, dan is a celebrated public intellectual, having co-authored the work times -- the new york times bestseller. his writing has appeared on the pages of wall street journal, the new york times, and can be heard regularly as host of the call me back podcast, which focuses on what history can teach us about what the world teaches today. please welcome, dan seymour. >> [applause] >> thank you, bob. thank you for that introduction.
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it is a pleasure to be at the manhattan institute. i feel like the manhattan institute the last few years is an organization perfectly matched to the moment. if you were to go into the lab and engineer a think tank that was perfectly designed for the public policy challenges we are dealing with today, the manhattan institute is it and it is thriving doing what feels like a chaotic moment. it is not the first time i thought that way about the manhattan institute. if you look back at those years between 89 and 93, when rudy giuliani ran and lost in 1989, and won a few years later, if you look at what is happening in new york city and the people who ended up populating the giuliani administration did so much of their learning and studying with the scholars at the manhattan institute back then, it was an organization, purposely matched to the moment. that is exactly how i feel about
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our guest tonight, secretary betsy devos, who is a leader, a political leader, an activist in the truest sense who, when she came into office, we could never have imagined would be perfectly matched to the moment we are in. i want to spend a moment talking about secretary devos, because i do not know -- people know about her tenure as secretary of education, but they may not know the decades of work she has done in the trenches of education reform before that. these are some of the organizations that secretary devos has actually started, or worked with. foundations for excellence in education, lines for school choice, all children matter packed, great lakes education project, the american federation for children. all of these organizations, for decades, -- she has a true passion for education reform. she was instrumental in the
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first passage of the charter school law in michigan, and a number of other reforms that have taken place since then. on a personal note, i personally knew secretary devos in the 1990's when i was working on a senate campaign in 1994. seth abrahams campaign, for those who are interested in political trivia. betsy was a key figure in michigan republican politics. what i was always struck by the work she did, she was not in republican politics for process reason. some people get involved in politics because of the process. she was in it for the principles and policy objectives that flowed from those principles, politics was a vehicle or vessel . party politics, help in getting the right people in office to advance the policy she cared about. she has been a force in that space, the intersection of politics, philanthropy and activism a policy ever since
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then, which culminated in her time in the education department. now, which is chronicled in this book, hostages no more. the vibrant education reform, and the future of children -- thank you, betsy, for being here. join me in welcoming her. >> [applause] >> thank you, thank you for having me here. >> my father was mr. seymour, call me dan. i will call you betsy. betsy, we will talk about your years in the administration. how did you get involved with education reform? when i first got to know you, i was familiar with the education reform issue and debate, but it was not run and center, in conservative politics. you were already in the thick of it. tell us how you got into it. >> nick and i, my husband and i
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--we have four children. when our oldest son was about to start kindergarten, i went on a search for what school he was going to go to. he had been in the montessori preschool for a couple of years, loved that. loved that self-directed learning. we knew we were going to be able to send our children to whatever school we felt was right to them, because we could afford it. i happened to find a amazing, little, faith-based school in the heart of grand rapids that served children in the community around it. i started ellen tearing there. rick didn't end up going there. i started volunteering, we supported the opportunity for students to go there. 90% of operating ones had to be raised by benefactors outside of the school because parents going there could not afford that for their kids.
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more got involved, the more i realized for every family that had children there, there were probably 10 or 20 other families in that area that would have loved to have that kind of environment or their children. i started getting involved on the philanthropic side, we thought early on making the case emotionally, or logically, one of the two would strike a chord with just about everyone. it did not take long to figure out, no, it is the politics around it in order to get policy change. i felt this was fundamentally unfair for the families that wanted to have their children and those kinds of places, could not, but i could. or, we could. that was really the genesis of my involvement. >> now, talk about -- you get involved, start volunteering at these organizations and you put the issue on the map of republican legislators.
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not only republican legislators in michigan, you had this first signature achievement, the school law. >> in michigan, getting the charter school law passed. the governor was a big champion in that regard, we were helpful in convincing legislators that were understandably nervous about it. beyond that -- >> we take it for granted, because charter schools are thriving. at the time, it was revolutionary. >> it was about 1995 that a past in michigan. one of the early states to adopt charter schools. the only way it got passed in michigan was to put a limit on the number of charters that could be formed, that limit was quickly met, and for many years, politically, we could not get that cap lifted because there were not enough votes to do it, and or a governor that would support signing that additional law into effect. >> at what point did you say,
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ok. we have this signature achieved in michigan and others after that, when do you say we've got to create a national movement? >> i was involved roughly at the same time with a couple of national organizations that were advocating for these same types of policies in states around the country. they were allstate focused efforts, but they were national organizations that targeted efforts in the state, that developed into -- well, in 2000, we led an effort in michigan to change our constitution. we have what is called a super plain amendment, which is a strict prohibition against public funds going by any matter or means to a nonpublic, nongovernment school. we led an effort with many others in michigan to change the constitution to allow for families living in districts that graduated less than 50% of
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their kids to choose another school, because there was a clear delineater. not surprisingly, the teachers union managed to spend more money than we were able -- we had a well-funded campaign, but more was spent. of course, the issue totally office gated -- off you skated -- the file onto that, after the initiative was defeated, i said there is too much energy around this. we are not going to give up. i started great lakes education project, with the specific goal of supporting legislators that supported the expansion of charter schools. that was so successful in one cycle that we took that nationally, in what has ultimately become the american federation for children began. >> fast-forward, you wind up,
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you tell the story in the book of the day after the election, jeb bush called you -- >> in 2016, he emailed me. i got an email from jeb the morning after election day in 2016. >> you had worked with him before. >> i was on his board. we had worked together closely for many years. he was such a champion for education freedom in florida as governor that my admiration for his courageousness early on in those kinds of policies was very, very high. anyway. the email was very simple, one line. would you ever consider being secretary of education? literally, i have never, ever thought about that. woah. >> sorry. >> i was on my way earlier in
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the morning, the story is in the book. i was on my way to indianapolis to have a daylong of meetings with legislators and school reformers there, i said to my colleague, look at this. this is really funny. it was later in the day after ahead -- after i had a chance to talk with nick -- dick, i said i was going to respond. he said, yep, that would be the response. i sent back and said, i never thought about it, but if i had the opportunity, how could i not consider it? >> i want to fast-forward to covid. for a number of years, i think you and others involved in the education reform movement have been waiting for that moment where everyone was going to wake up to the negative influences of teachers unions, to a real sense
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of disconnect that many parents have and what is actually going on in the classrooms. then, covid put the teachers union under a norm is pressure. because so much learning move virtually, they got to see what their kids were being taught. >> or not being taught. >> it would have been tough to imagine that that would be the moment that wakes up the movement. let's talk about when you started to realize, wow. there is a parent movement in response to the pandemic, even after working on this for decades. that happens to be the trigger that created this movement. >> as early as may of 2020 after we had had the two weeks of spread, then two weeks, then two more weeks and it became clear that most schools were not looking for actual solutions to getting their kids back in the
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classroom and in person, while we knew that many students in european countries were back or hardly ever even missed any in person education. i said early on in may that i believed the teachers union was a school union, as i like to refer to them. they do not reprimand teachers, they were going to double down and they were going to overplay their hand. at every step of the way, they have. for more than two years, they have. parents had a front row seat in the failings of the system that many of us have seen for decades before, became clear to parents across the country. whether it was the extent of lockdowns, the mask mandates, the in person distance, out of class distance learning, the
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back and forth, the curriculum that they were appalled by or curriculums they were disappointed by because of lack of rigor or excellence or whatever, it is multiple pieces and parts of that. families were really upset, and rightfully so. >> i talked to friends of mine, they were not tuned into the curriculum, meaning some of the crazy stuff being taught to their kids. it wasn't until the kids, they could actually sit in virtually on these classrooms, walking by these kids computer while they were sitting there and seeing what is being taught, or their kids would unload at night eating dinner because people -- families were spending so much time together. were you, before that, aware of how problematic the curriculum was? this ended up being the trigger to rip it open, or did you think things were brewing before covid about concerns on the curriculum? >> they were brewing before
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covid, but they came much more defocus. i think the acceleration in the presentation of both curriculums happened in an environment where those presenting them thought this was going to be a great thing in response to what was going on in our country. instead, it has poked the sleeping bear. then, seeing how parents who have gone to school board meetings have been turned away and told to go back home, do not stick your nose in where it is not welcome, essentially. or, having the ei sent -- the fbi sent to investigate them if they are raising their voice is too much. you cannot make this stuff up. the doubling down on how to turn on what should your allies,
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against you. they succeeded in doing it, which is why the moment is right for the policy changes that we have long advocated. policy changes you advocated. president biden apparently is going to take a very interesting interpretation of title ix, what the administration puts forth going forward. before we get to that, you also worked aggressively to unwind some of what the obama administration has done on title ix. talk a little bit about that. >> for those not familiar, title ix is the law that texts or guarantees individuals of both sexes equal opportunity to access education. that has of course expanded into women's sports. in the obama administration,
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there was a letter issued to all institutions telling them how they were to handle matters of sexual misconduct on their campuses. they did away with due process protection for individuals accused of doing something. there were hundreds of legal cases brought about the mishandling of these situations on campuses. more than half the cases were just guided in huge favor or settled out of work. so it was very clear that this was not a system that was working. not to mention the fact that the letter was not the law. but they used boeing tactics of opening investigations on schools and really intruding on
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institutions with just the threat of one of these suit. -- suits. we took a very methodical approach to first of all withdrawing the letter and then telling everyone that we were going to go about rulemaking in the fashion dictated by the federal law. the process is a cumbersome, burdensome one. but we did it, we crossed every tv, dotted every i. were thoughtful and careful about putting together a rule that is fair and protects the rights of both individuals in a complaint situation and importantly provides a reliable framework for the institution to follow. so, it has the force of law, currently. the biden administration is now promising to put forward a new
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rule. it will be interesting to see how they think this will abide by legal principles. and in addition it is rumored to expand the definition of biological sex to gender identity and basically anything that you define that you want to be at any given time. and so, this is, this is problematic and it is something we should all be ready to fight in every way possible. >> before we open up to audience questions i have a few more. what accomplishment from your tour of duty are you most proud of? and what is one that you, you tried to advance but and why? >> i would say most out of generally, big picture
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perspective, really orienting everything we did, although rulemaking, all the deregulation, every move we made was oriented around doing the right thing on behalf of students and not, you know, institutions or buildings. that's a very different approach than what previous administrations and the current administration have taken. generally, but specifically, title ix rulemaking and the results of that, i'm very proud of that as well. what i lament that we did not get done was the passage of the, of a federal tax audit that would come alongside states lamenting education freedom school choice programs to give them a boost in the efforts and
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allow for more students to access the freedom they need. i have said it for and i will say it today. it's not a matter of if, it's when. a similar bill was just introduced this last week and i have a lot of confidence -- in the house and senate -- i have a lot of confidence and i think, i know there is a lot more support for and attention being paid to the necessities of that today. >> we are going to open it up. if you have a question, i guess just raise your hand. we will have mike's moving around. there's one right there. >> what effect massive influx of young kids who cannot speak english in poor communities? they are not sending them to the private schools.
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they are going to send them to the schools in small towns that are having trouble as it is. why isn't anyone talking out about that? to the disgrace of medicine, no one has said anything about several million people coming in here unvented, unvaccinated. there are reasons for that everyone is afraid to talk of. what's the problem in education? >> it is a significant problem compounded by the fact that many students who are citizens and have been raised in this country , they are not learning to read and write and do arithmetic. this system has been failing them for years. yet we continue to spend more and more money doing the same things and expecting different results. i have mentioned it for, the
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u.s. department of education was founded in 1979 by jimmy carter as a payoff to the teachers union for endorsing him for president and 76. we have spent over $1 trillion at the federal level alone with the express goal of closing the achievement gap. pre-pandemic not only has that narrowed one little bit, it has gotten wider by many measures and those at the top end of the orman scale have plateaued while those at the bottom have plummeted. so, we have got two pivots and do something different. that's my argument for education freedom. the money should follow the child. the money already dedicated to the education should be metaphorically attached to that child lost backpack and allow the family to decide if it is
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the school they are assigned to that is working for them or if not find a school or setting that will work. during pandemic we saw a lot of nativity on the part of emily's that were able to make choices and decisions and we have seen homeschooling rate soar. 3% to 15% among black emily's. learning posh and micro schools. all kinds of creative approaches. we have to add the fire by giving families the ability to control indirect resources on behalf of their children. >> being new yorkers we look at the school unions we say nothing we can do. politics are impossible. probably the same in california and illinois. we have all seen the new yorker
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cartoon. i assume there's a lot of middle america committee doesn't have to problem. the teachers union is the problem. how do you see, how do you see challenging that? by going to these other places and showing how it and be done? and is it as big a problem in flyover country as it is in new york, california, and illinois? >> it's a problem everywhere. the system exists to serve itself and reinforces its demands bicycle organ policymakers, politicians that will in turn support their goals and their agendas. so, for the school unions and
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reported political contributions, 99.7% have gone to democratic candidates. you have seen their ability to even pull people back who have previously supported the notion of education freedom. if they want to stay part of the democratic party. so when people go to the polls, it matters who you vote for and i would say the same thing on the republican side where you have legislators who have been reluctant to support education freedom policy because they then , from earl districts, are afraid of superintendents. the tide is turning on that. in recent polling shows again, no matter how you cut it, three out of four americans support the notion of education freedom where the money follows the child. that is going to ultimately play out into the a lot of rough and tumble. the school unions are not going to give up.
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they have had the power and control for a decade and that's intentional and it will take a lot of folks who are dedicated to making sure that they are doing the right thing for kids to make that change. >> stanley goldstein. thank you for joining us. this is a good night. you mentioned each state has a cap on charter schools. is that something which has brought to a halt the progress of charter schools or is the momentum still on our side? >> every state has its own version of a charter school law. there are still three or four states that don't. then there are many states that do that only have a handful of them. virginia, for example, the governor's there was highly watched. this whole issue was a defining
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issue in that race. but the number of charter schools in virginia i think you can count on less than two hands if i recall correctly. every state has a different kind of environment for charter schools. they are in important option for education freedom, but they are not the only option. there are a lot great schools that have provided opportunities for kids across the country and at last count there were over one million kids on charter school waiting list. clearly there is far more demand than availability at the. we have to continue to support those policies as well. >> lets you chew them microphone so everyone can hear. >> i'm from the midwest. wild and woolly, new york city.
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i'm wondering, other problems of low [inaudible] this there's no [inaudible] education. have there been any programs that cast a net [inaudible] so to speak? would you talk about that? >> i've had the privilege of meeting many parents over the years who longed to have something different and better for their children. i believe in parents. i know that given the agency to make decisions and choices for their kids, they will and they do. for the small percentage that is truly unengaged or truly uninterested, they will still be
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the beneficiaries because these traditional schools in which the children might remain are going to have to get better and improve. i cite florida, florida is the most advanced in allowing the most children education freedom to find the right place. in the districts in florida where the highest percentage of kids are in schools other than the assigned school, the achievement level of kids that remain in the traditional public schools has continued to improve. there's not been a study done on precisely why that happens, but logically you could say that for the kids for whom the school wasn't working, they found a different place and for the kids that stayed there, the school leaders there are actually making choices and decisions different from what they did before because they have some competition and they have something to benchmark themselves against.
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therefore the kids in those schools are benefiting as well. >> over here. >> thanks. hi um. my question is to park, i am a democratic candidate, but i'm also a public school parent, four children in the new york city public school system. everything you said, your question, your answer about parent becoming, there being a specific education moment no one could have been dissipated because of covid, i saw it in so many different families. my question to you about charter schools is in part, legally, because of the cap and mandates, but historically charter schools in the city and state have been pitched to low income kids. there is a huge demand for
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middle-class parents for something better than what the public school is offering and from the asian american community with very engaged parents and high-performing children. we are already seeing some asian parents go to charters in greater numbers than before. from your history in working with charters, have you seen or do you think there is perhaps a moment now to expand the outreach to families? i would suggest that the moment to do so is now. i think there is wind in the sales of parents who want to break away from union backed public schools that are not serving children the way they should. >> absolutely. this is an ideal and urgent moment those who have been looking for options and other opportunities for their kids to demand more, more charter
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options, more choice options, more freedom to control the resources that are already spent on their child. i think it can happen in new york, even though it seems insurmountable. i do think that, you know, many parents who had previously thought their kids were doing just fine have had a new glimpse into what is actually happening and for many different reasons they have been very disappointed. i do believe that this is an ideal time and i think -- i encourage you to encourage those with whom you are working and those closest to you to speak out and, you know, support. >> you don't have to persuade her to speak up. she's in the fight. >> supposed families and students for sure.
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>> we have one over here and i think we will take one after that. sorry, sorry. you fought. over here. fine. >>hi. first of all, thank you for everything you have done with respect to making sure that that your colleague letter was rescinded. it was an important step in higher education. my son just graduated from college and i was lee's do that while he had less worry about. my question is really about k-12 education and the concern that parents have to deal with now about schools essentially transitioning their children without their consent. into psychosocial treatment to
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socially transition children tending to lead to medicalization. now there has just been an executive order to make gender affirming care more available and make it harder for parents to, too, to disagree openly with this kind of treatment. what can parents do and what should voters be doing in order to, in order to take care of this issue? >> this is another issue bringing to the parent -- bringing parents to the point of saying this while we have supported the public government run school system, we can no longer do this. if this is what will be imposed on the children. frankly i think it's inexcusable that there would be this approach. so, i hope that parents get even more upset about it and demand
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the change and with a control for their kid costs futures. i can't imagine having my, my, our grandchildren are still young enough, i just can't imagine some of these issues going on in broad daylight today. i know they have been building for a number of years and this last couple of years has just brought about a confluence of events that i believe is going to force the pendulum to swing in favor of families can student against the system that has controlled them for so long. >> we are up against time. betsy, will you stick around for a few minutes if people want to sign books? i'm calling up rich lowry now. he's the editor-in-chief of "national review."
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by the way, i talked about city journal being indispensable. i feel the same way about "national review." subscribe online, off-line, listen to the podcast. the national review institute, sponsored in. with that, larry. [clapping] >> i felt one person would clap. i agree that "city journal" is the second best political journal in the english language. i'm in a tough spot. this is inherently an anti-climactic, making concluding remarks. i don't know how i got in this spot. i'm thinking what will i do with this free time. maybe it will be something important that's left unsaid. i'm like no dan's on the
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program, nothing will be left unsaid. that just doesn't happen. i will leave you with an obvious non-substantive insight, this is a time that calls for fearlessness. i don't know if you remember, it shocking at the time and we got this at sea when she was first education secretary was protested pretty much everywhere she went. in public. i remember the institute had a big inner in chicago and i was completely delighted to show up and there were protesters. i'm like maybe they are for me, are they here for me? no, it's because betsy is attending. these protesters showed up. these kinds of intimidation tactics have grown over time. we saw them at the cavanaugh hearings and outside the houses of supreme court justices and who knows where they will go
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next. if we are stalwart and making grading -- advances in areas like edge nation and pretty much every thing else biden touches, people in the political tea leaves, it's interesting that the last seven days, the last week, every political journalist in their -- in the country has broken out the abacus and figured out shockingly joe biden is 79 years old. education. what are they telling us? crt is nonexistent and a myth and it's completely essential to the telling of a truthful version of american history in our public schools. they tell us that the interests of african-american children must be paramount on diversity, equity and inclusion grounds. but under no circumstances can more of them go to charter schools where they are likelier to thrive. we are told that republicans --
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public education is essential to the public and can be closed down for a long time as long as the teacher-student -- union doesn't want to show up for work. it's a great position. cannot guarantee victory, chat out of -- john adams wrote in a letter once. you cannot ensure success. all you can do is be worthy of success. i can tell you that is definitely true
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judge thomas you solemnly swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth to help you god. i do. please be seated. when i was six, i wandered streets by myself. you were hungry. and didn't know some place in my life the roads let off. i'd gone to seminary. i'd gone to all white schools. i was never going to be a part of that world. i was never going to be white. the problem is i can never go back completely to the world i came from. we were for anybody who's kind of in your face. i saw what i had become lashing out at every single thing.
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as god if you take anger out of my heart, i'll never hate again. and that was the beginning of the slow return to where i started. my candidate consonant attack you're not really black because you're not doing what we expect black people to do that. i will nominate judge clarence thomas to serve as associate justice of the united states supreme court. that's when oh heck broke loose judge thomas began to use work situations to discuss sex. we know exactly what's going on here. this is the wrong black guy. he has to be destroyed you really didn't matter what mattered was what they wanted so you'd still like to serve on the supreme court. i'd rather die than withdraw from the process. that wouldn't be able to say my lived up to my oath and did my
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best. so michael pack, what were we just watching there? well, that was the trailer to our film called created equal clarence thomas and his own words. the same title is the book. it's a two-hour film. it was released in january of 2020 was in a bunch of theaters 110 theaters and then covid cut. it's the actual release short. it was then broadcast nationally on pbs in may did very well on pbs and then it was released digitally and it's still available digitally. it's on amazon and viewers can go to our website manifold with a full list of how to watch it. and that film was based on a very long interview with clarence thomas. i think you could see that. he looked right at the camera and tells his story in his own words from his beginnings to today. so i interviewed him for over 24 hours over four month period and jenny for five or six hours and
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they're the only interviews in the film. and that's why it's clarence thomas in his own words, but it was a 25-hour interview and it's only two hour film. so my co-auth book mark, paelletta, a long-term friend of the thomases had the idea that we should take some of that material and put it in a book and the book is 95% new material, but it follows the same pattern as the film. it tells his life story from the beginnings to the to the court and on to today. so i think this is a important moment for people to understand justice thomas, whereas ideas come from and who he is as a person. what was it like trying to convince the supreme court justice to sit down for 24 hours of interview. it was not easy and it is the longest interview ever granted of filmmaker by any supreme court justice. let alone one that's been reluctant to be interviewed. but the film evolved and at each stage, i was very honest and open with him and we came to we were originally planning to do a
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traditional documentary interview 15 people from all periods in his life and all points of view, but i quickly realized that his voice would be lost. and he was the best teller of his own. own story in this way. he tells you what he thinks and you can accept it or reject it and this is why i think pbs was enthusiastic. it doesn't say this is the truth. it says this is the way class thomas saw his life and if you want to understand him and understand his recent supreme court rulings, it's worth understanding who he is and where he comes from so he followed the evolution and and he committed to doing the film and one of the things about justice thomas is he's very stubborn. he agrees to do something. he sticks with it and in spite of temptations, maybe to not stick with it. he did stick with it and i should say had no editorial control. so it was a lot of trust in a filmmaker and he didn't in fact see it until it was broadcast on pbs. you describe him. you are mark payleta your
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coauthor describe him as the greatest supreme court justice of all time. why is that? well, that would be mark. i do not consider myself an expert in the supreme court. i'm a documentary filmmaker. i think is a i think it is surely true that he is now one of the most that he is a strong influence on this supreme court many people call it the thomas court. it's obviously really the roberts court, but i think he is perhaps the strongest influence at the moment and that's why it's important for people to read the book and see the movie and understand him whatever their politics and we really wanted the film to be on pbs because we wanted a broad swath of america to see him and understand him and we want that for the book as well. themes that came out in the book in the interview. is that justice thomas likes to take the longer view? i think that's true. i mean we call them created equal because his life is really based on the way.
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he sees the declaration of independence those core principles and how they realized in the constitution. you can understand it if you follow his life story. i mean, you know. i think yourself, but maybe not all your listeners now. he's born in pinpoints, georgia a gullah speaking area off the coast of georgia. so english isn't really his first language and in rural poverty his father leaves before he can remember his mother really is raising him when he's about six or seven years old. they moved to savannah and he as he said he went from rural poverty to urban squalor and in savannah his mother's working as a maid. he she doesn't have enough money to give them enough food. they're hungry. they're cold in the winter. she brings them to school and he just leaves school and wanders the streets and after two years she realizes she can't take care of those kids brings them to her father his grandfather to raise and that's where his life turns
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around. the first thing is grandfather says is the -- vacation is over and he's thinking what hand is brother thinking what vacation we've just been entire poverty. but he gives them hard work. they got to work on his. there's oil truck right after school. they got to go to school every day gives them discipline and hard work and though he himself is functionally illiterate had less than a third grade education insists upon sending them to catholic school and let's not forget. this is the segregated south so it's an all black school run by these irish nuns who also reflect those values discipline hard work and our real strong curriculum. justice thomas thrives in that environment and a lot of people don't know he decided he wanted to be a priest and he enrolled in a seminary and he went to the seminary and his grandfather was proud of him, but it was a big financial commitment. and then after two years in the
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seminary he experienced the seminaries. i should say were all white seminaries and he was one of the first groups integrating them and there he started to experience some racism and it reached a peak in 1968 when they're watching tv when martin luther king jr. shot and one of the white
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seminarians says hope that smb dies and for clarence thomas that capped it off. he felt the church wasn't doing enough for civil rights that his grandfather was wrong about everything and he became in his own words and angry black man and became radicalized and decided i didn't want to be priest and his grandfather said well if you can make your own decisions, you're on your own and kicked him out of the house. so the only father he ever knew really kicks him out. he's on his own. he has to go wherever he has a scholarship holy cross in massachusetts and there he continues to be a radical. he helped start the black student union engages in a walk-out invite black panthers to come and speak. you may remember this period i do and the next period of his life is sort of working through that and coming back to his grandfather's values. and that reaches a one of the key moments in that is money goes to an anti-war demonstration in cambridge, massachusetts, and it turns into a riot and he gets swept up in the riot. you know, he there they go run they get liquor from a liquor store ahead of time and he's just caught up in the mob mentality and he hates what he's become and even though he's fell away from the church when he gets back to holy cross in the middle of the night. he kneels in front of the chapel it says of god will take anger out of my heart. you know, i will change and that's his beginning of his coming back to his grandfather and his nun's values as he sees them. and that plays out in over your law school and his early years working for for then attorney general danforth in missouri. and finally he ends up work
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voting for and working for reagan and that's his journey back and we tell that story and it's a complicated story in both in the book and in the film, but then once he becomes a public conservative black man. he is attacked by the media and he has his battles with the left and that reaches a peak or a first peak at least it is very contentious confirmation hearing and then on through today on the court and we tell that story and it's dramatic story in the film in the book or i should say. we let clarence thomas tell that story. and you refer to that in the book as the radical years. yeah, but you also. bring up the theme or he brings up the theme. of circumstances controlling you rather than you controlling circumstances. and that's something to be avoided he says. well in fact you know, he i think what he i think he would say that. he was blessed by having this core upbringing by his grandfather and these nuns.
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i mean, he would not have been who he is without them and he is constantly referencing how important they are to him. i mean we end the film with us with his talking about his grandfather in the book picture things and with the pictures of the two of them and i think he feels that he was blessed in his circumstances other people might see a differently he was born in dire poverty. he had to grow up under segregation. he had many hardships in reversals, but i think he feels in a way blessed as well as challenged and i think one of the impressive things in justice thomas's life is this resilience in coming back and the face of hardship and feeling basically blessed. and that's i think of inspiring thing to all of us, whatever our politics what's the role of jimmy thomas in his life? well we interviewed jenny, you know she much for a less time than justice thomas and she really helps tell his story. but he talks about what he met her and marrying her and what she means to him and she calls
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her a gift from god and i think they are very close. and i i think that the confirmation battle the very kind of contentious confirmation battle. they were not married that long pulled them together to have to go through something like that together and i think that that them one as she does he in the book address his first marriage to kathy ambush and his son jamal and your chest is in a little bit. i think you can see in the film. we didn't put this so much in the buck that i pressed him, and he did not want to speak much about it. so he's a little about it. we tell about it, but he doesn't speak much. i think it's interesting that as a result of that marriage. they had a child a son and she wanted him to raise the child and he raised his son as a single person with not a huge salary in washington in the 80s a very tough thing to do. is this your first book? it's my first buck.
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i'm really a filmmaker and we've made i've been making films for decades. we've made over 14 15 films almost all of them. i've been broadcast nationally on pbs which were grateful for. this is the first one we've chosen to turn into a film because we had this resource and actually mark pail out on my co-author was the originator of that idea. i think of myself as a filmmaker rather than an author, but i have to say there's something satisfying about seeing your name in a book, you know, an actual physical book not just an ebook. i mean there is an ebook, but but there's something about seeing your name in a book. that is really great. michael pack is the co-author of created equal clarence thomas in his own words, and he's president of manifold productions inc. we appreciate for being on book tv. thank you ve


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