tv Book Discussion on Breaking Ground CSPAN April 16, 2016 6:30pm-7:17pm EDT
that all happensathath [inaudible conversations] >> hello, everyone, welcome to books at noon, i'm jessica, director of public programs and events at the library and i'm happy today thrilled to introduce lewis sullivan, dr. lewis sullivan who is i'm going to have to read because his long list, he is a policy
this book covers and then i will delve in and we will start going into specifics and -- and then we will build from there. >> well, thanks very much, it's a great pleasure to be here with you and at for public library. >> you're welcome. what i would say is my auto biography tells my story. i was second of two boys in atlanta but nobody was buying life insurance. my father left atlanta and went to southwest georgia and establish it had first funeral home in georgia.
beyond that my father was a social activist. this was a period of legally enforced segregation. in southwest georgia for blacks was really not a happy place, but my father was an activist. he founded the first chapter of the ncaap. he filed suit against the county and state to overturn to white primary because blacks could not participate in voting at the time. my father was a life-long republican and identified himself with abraham lincoln. and so he was quite a social activist. my mother was a school teacher and because of my father's activism to try to get the votes of blacks and improving the
economy the retaliation of the white community was my mother never got a job teaching school in early county. >> i remember. >> so in that environment fortunately for my brother who is a year and a half older, my brother, we were sent back first to staffana to live with relatives for a year to attend schools in savannah because were not that good, we had hand-me downs. when they got new books, we got their books. my father was one who worked to address that. because he was serving the black community, the whites really wouldn't bother him. my mother to 1957 taught in schools in early -- in other counties around there. interestingly enough as
information mentioning earlier, she taught some schools that were built for julian, those who have seen the movie, some of those schools my mother taught in. well, i was stimulated by the one black position in southwest georgia at the time. dr. joseph griffin. he really was a -- >> you met him when you were five. >> yes, five, right. >> at that point you made a decision you were going to be a doctor because he was so miraculous. magic happens, he could actually cure people. >> yes. >> i didn't want to cut you off from telling, my first question was about the three men in your life. it's freezing. if everyone is cold as i am, i apologize. i just -- because i don't want you to jump ahead because i want to make sure that we talk about this.
>> sure. >> the three men that seemed to be most influential in your life were your father? >> yes. >> who was an amazing activist. this doctor who you met at five. i want to know if you saw him again, was he somebody you checked with over time and said -- and told him about your interest and medicine and then the third was benjamin hays -- >> mays. >> the president. >> right. >> who was also influential and in your life. >> yes. >> so these three men, am i right, that are sort of the three pillars of -- of the kind of -- i mean, obviously your mother was influential too but these were the three men that republican helped to guide you in a time, it was a difficult time to decide to be a doctor. >> right. >> to decide to move as you did so far ahead in a time of
segregation and in the south too. so my question, the example was your father in my ways because regardless of what the environment was, he moved forward. >> oh, yes. the statement that my father and mother gave to me at the time, this is not the right system, that we are going to do everything we can to really change it and we expect you to do the same. and they -- there were no excuses. we were expected to excel in school, we were taught to teach -- treat our elders with with respect so that many things that we learned from our parents and dr. griffin was someone as i mentioned, because he had magical powers that other people didn't have, i wanted to be like him. i was interested in science, i loved birds and trees and nature and all of that, he was the
person son -- personinication. >> sure. >> that was the influence. >> personified all of those things. i and frankly all of the students at the college wanted to be like dr. hays, he was elegant in speech, in dress, with manners, great intrity, sought-after speaker around the country. he was always traveling but he would speak to the students every tuesday morning and he would bring other speakers to serve as role models. the messages that he was giving was you can beat the system, you must change the system, you must overturn it. this is an evaluate system, we
need to do it by a democratic process, protest, bringing complaints to the public, et cetera. we were students expected to do that, the most famous graduate is martin luther, jr. >> so was it that you were working towards getting -- to become a doctor in order so that you could implement change or did you feel along the way you were fighting every step of the way to make change and to get what you wanted, which was to be a physician? >> yes, it was really both, but see dr. hays when his weekly
addresses to the students would say things like this, whatever you choose to do in life, you should do it so well that no man living, no man dead or no man yet to be could do it better, so if you could make yourself to that, when they are looking for someone in that field, whether it's engineering or physics or medicine or business or literature, so well accomplished in your feel, you may not get the job but it's not because you weren't prepared. be prepared for the opportunity so that you can make the change. he was saying the way you fight the system is excel. >> right, right. i mean, when you've got -- you got to be you and you went to medical school and you were one of 76, you were oh only black men among 76 white students.
>> yes. >> how -- and it was the first time when you were in a nonsegregated environment. how was that? and you became class president and you really did excel, you listened to may's words. i'm wondering how it was. how were you treated -- how did you feel -- did et get in the way, obviously not because you graduated, one of the top three in your class, right? am i right about that? >> that's right. >> i wonder, did it get in the way? how was it? >> well, to me this was really a great period of suspense because -- >> i can imagine. >> i had done well but as you noted, almost 21, living now for the first time in a
nonsegregated society and being the only black in my questions, i had these questions, how am i going to do, am i going to do well, will i meet my parents' expectations. will i meet my own expectations, i will meet moorehouse's expectations. i will let everyone down. >> sure. >> that kind of experience and topping that that most had never heard moorehouse. they all had finished at the top of their classes. >> right. >> to make a long story short our first examination was three weeks later and i did well and i relaxed, so from then on in terms of academic challenges, i
did well. secondly, my colleagues were welcoming and i get ignored or marginalized. my experience in medical school to what i wondered what would happened, was a positive experience. >> who about boston? >> boston was mixed. i had read about paul revere and about lexington and the conquered battles and the boston tea party and chris was the first one to die in the revolutionary war. i went to see the memorial for him. this was really quite interesting. it was very positive. so my experience in boston really was very positive but
later in the late 50's, now, remind you, the year i entered medical the year brown versus board of education, the supreme court's decision. >> right. >> as this one implemented around the country, problems not only in the south but in the north as well and boston was one of those areas. >> yeah, yeah. >> so my experience in boston was somewhat different from blacks that went to boston in the late 50's, they found with the political -- i still remember from south boston running to be mayor. >> yeah. >> environment. by that time i had really formed my friendship and the relationships in boston with my class mates that i really found myself sometimes explaining to black youngsters who were coming to boston in the late 50's, this place isn't really the representation you get from the controversy.
>> you're getting elsewhere, you mean. yeah. >> boston did undergo a change in its environment between mid 50's when i entered and the mid 50's. >> what about your relationship with andrew young. did that begin in georgia? when did you meet because you have similar history. you're four years apart. >> now relationship is didn't really begin until i went back to at will nota in 1975 when he was a congressman from georgia and he was the congressman that moorehouse school was located in. he took me to washington to introduce me to members of congress and get funding. >> that was interesting. tell me -- i mean, because you were the founding dean of the
moorehouse medical school, i was asking you backstage if this could be -- or down the hall, i was asking you about when you created medical school, what was sort of the philosophy behind it and how you raised funds with that philosophy and how you got a lot of people to back this medical school, which -- >> right. >> during the time that it came to pass and everything, it's an interesting story. if you can talk to that, that would be great. >> i would say this, at the time that moorehouse was founded, there were 80 medical schools in the country. two african american. howard in washington, d.c. which opened in 1968 and nashville opened in 1981.
the nationale was shortage. congress passed legislation in late 50's and 60's to stimulate the development of more medical schools. we added 47 medical schools to those 80 by 1981, there was a massive period of expansion between 1956 and 1981, moorehouse school of medicine came during that time but there was also the civil rights movement that started in mid-50's. so the rationale for developing the moorehouse school of medicine was to work to train more black and other minority physicians. so the development of moorehouse development was influenced by the two major events.
the civil rights movement showing the deficiencies in terms of lives of blacks including having enough doctors, include having minority doctors as well. that's how that came about. in 1970's i was professor of medicine at boston university. i had become a research humotalogist. moorehouse they thought would address for shortage of medical physicians. so that's when, of course, i met andy young. this effort was supported not only by the black physicians in georgia, but by the white physicians as well.
that was because again the civil rights activities of the 50's, 60's, 70's had shown in detail the situation that faced so many blacks and other minorities today. so we had the support of the state chapter of the medical association in georgia as well as the state chapter of the national association in georgia. so -- and a lot of support from the business community and community as well. so that enabled us to really start then what was in the third medical school in the country. >> and then led -- this began introduction to politics because didn't you ask -- wasn't it -- didn't you ask ronald reagan to, i guess, to cut the ribbon or whatever it is -- >> yes. >> to open the doors to be at the ceremony and it was the vice president george bush at the
time that came, right? >> yes. >> and then he asked you to go on a delegation to africa, am i right? >> right. >> and then -- you became friendly with the bush's at the time and barbara was interested in education and reading and all that and then -- and then when he became president, i'm trying to move on, you then became involved in the political side of medicine? >> yes, right. >> can you talk -- because you were really instrumental in making sure that -- i mean, the first woman president or head of nih was under your command and then also the surgeon general was the first latino woman. you were instrumental on making sure there was diversity. you know, this has always been your mission, when you took over -- talk about just meeting
bush's and then this next stage of your life. >> yes, right. well u what happened was we thought it was our first class at moorehouse school of medicine in 1978 in facilities in moorehouse college, the first building was dedicated in july of 1982, that's when vice president george h.w. bush was a speaker. he was schedule today stay a few minutes after reception. he stayed more than an hour, he was enjoying himself. the black mayor of agusta taking pictures taken with this republican vice president. [laughter] >> that was a great event, but then as he -- he left and two weeks later he called and asked if i would go with him on a trip he was plan to go subsahara africa, gosh, since i'm not in
government, what would my role be. louis, to be honest with you we don't have an andy young and i don't feel like i can go without an african american delegate, you would do the country service if you would appreciate to do it. on that trip was barbara bush, barbara was speak to go groups in zair, zambia, so on the way back after visiting eight countries in subsahara. i'm many medical education. we need to have you someone like you on our board, would you be willing to consider it? she accepted and she came on our board in january '83. my wife were constantly being invited to things that the vice
president's home. we got to know them very well. one of my trusties wanted to be secretaries. i thought he would be a great secretary. when bush was elected, rather than him taking my trustee he asked me to serve. there are things that i would really want to have happen and i would like to know how do you feel about this. we need to have more minorities in positions of authority, we need to have more women. louis, that's great, i support you. when i became secretary i, pushed very hard and tony novelo, other programs to increase diversity. >> yeah. >> as well as programs to benefit the black community. so he was very supportive of that, and one other thing that most people don't know, the bush
family has been involved with the united negro college fund since its beginning in 1956. george h.w. bush's mother has been a member continuously at that time. so it's a pleasure a honor to serve with him. >> i also mentioned to you when we were talking that i wanted to talk about the current state of things, since you have lived in a segregated society, you were in boston in late 50's when things were not so easy but you were in medical school and you were easier, there seems to me to be a way with gender issues, feminism and with race issues that is -- reminds me of 1968.
there's an interest with black lives matter and what's really happening and there seems to be a swelling of political and -- politicaltivity. people are protesting, the people are angry, the people want to talk about it. and i'm wondering how you see this and will you speak to what you think is really happening now, and why now? you know, your thoughts. >> good questions. let me say one thing as part of the framework, when i finished boston university school of medicine, i was the first black intern here in new york at new york high school medical center. that was 1958, not so many years ago, but the changes that occurred in the 6500's and 70's really were very
encouraging with the leadership of martin luther king. i attended the march in washington. very encouraged by all of the progress that's been made, but what has happened now, really is somewhat surprising and discouraging because it shows that that progress is so fragile that it's really in thin ice. what happened now is not only surprising but disappointing when you have people being questioned that if you're muslim you're not eligible to be president. all you have to do as far as i'm concern substitute the word black for muslim. oh 20-30 years ago that would have been the same. so we should be better than that as a country that is all of us are immigrant. you know, the only true native americans are the american
indians and to have people whose one or two generations ago were immigrant now speaking antiimmigrant things and also the racial tones here, very, very discouraging, very disappointing, but and i think most minorities not only african american but latinos, we are not going to accept that. we have a country that's built on the premise that all men are created equal, that there is strength in our diversity, that everyone has something to contribute. the culture of this country has been enriched by the minority populations here. so this is a face, it's unfortunate that shows that we haven't made as much progress as we thought and that progress is maybe just a quarter of an inch deep, maybe a mile wide, so we need to work on that. people need to know that being different doesn't mean that you're an automatic threat.
>> right. >> the threat for me when i was growing up was the klan. the klan was lynching people when i was a child. those were the demons. so when you begin to exclude people and judge people as a class, i think that's a serious error so we need to work to address that. i think the movement black lives matter is a reaction to that. >> sure. >> i think it's not a focus as the civil rights movement, it's more of a general protest. i think it really is an expression from the black community that we are americans too. that's what my father was doing too back in the 30's with the celebration, so we need to learn that we can benefit from different cultures, from the different life experiences that people have had and be a better and richer country because of it. the economic situation we've had and the fact that we have had a congress that really has not been active, i think that's
added to the frustration, i think that a lot of people are not being rational, they are willing to really listen to slogans that have absolutely no depth and no meaning to them, but i'm confident we will get beyond this, but i as an american am going to do anything i can to counter that and i'm sure a lot of other people will also. >> i wanted to hear what you had to say that because you've obviously had more history than myself and probably most people in the audience. i wanted to ask you two questions that are. >> light, i wanted to ask you when you wrote a memoir, which you will buy behind me after this is over, were there memoirs that you loved, were there certain memoirs that made you write a memoir or did you feel it was time to write your story?
>> well, it was a little of both. i really we wanted to write this because the experiences i have had in my life have taken me from those dark years of terror from the klan. >> sure. >> this is four years ago that we started, this was the environment. i felt that my story, you talked to any african american my age, you get a similar story. i can tell you of many african american who is have accomplished in business or being astronauts, et cetera, the airmen is a great example, blacks initially in world war ii were not thought to be bright enough to fly planes. >> sure. >> history in protecting our bombers over europe, et cetera. so what we are seeing is really
an understanding that while we are different in many ways, those differences are minor, that we all have a lot to contribute. so in that spirit i wanted to tell my story i started out in difficult circumstances, i really was able to establish significant things not only of hard work but also the support of a lot of people, not only in the black community but also in the white community as well. so all of those things came together that enabled me to do the things that i have done, and so that is what i wanted to do. >> well, it's all inspiring, i have to say. it's a book worth reading for many reasons but you look at your life and what you've done is incredible impressive, i have to say. i want to ask you because we are in the library and it's only appropriate in the library to ask or you could ask it elsewhere, i have to ask a book question, is there something you
read recently or is there a book, a classic, i will ask it broader than usually, that you go back time and time again or something that you read recently that you loved that you can tell our audience about briefly? >> yes, two books quickly. one was written by benjamin mays, born to rebel, if you look at his life history t even more dramatic. his parents were freed slaves, he was taught to read at age eight by his oldest sister. he went to bates college where he was the only black in his class and valedictorian of his class. so he wont on and had a distinguished career. that was a role model. other book written by my friend joe colohano. the tragedy and triumph of lyndon johnson.
great book. covered my experiences too with what happened with president kennedy's assassination and johnson was able to use the -- that period to push through a lot of legislation not only for healthcare, medicare, medicaid, but education, et cetera. so that's a fascinating story of how a politician was able to use the system to accomplish a hell of a lot of things in contrast to today's congress. >> he was a suffer saucive character. [laughter] >> yes, right. he used every trick that he knew to, indeed, make changes. >> we actually have a pop-up exhibit. aren't there three books in the robert carl? there are four. it's in the making now.
thank you for keeping me straight here. anyway, i want to thank you, it's too brief, there's too much to discus but i'm glad we got the 30 minutes to talk and i want to go out to the audience and see if there are any questions here for dr. sullivan, i'm sure he would love to answer them. here. >> hi, thank you. it was great listening to your stories. a couple of months ago anthony scalia passed but made a comment of permanent action and how service to minority because it would get them into colleges where they could do well at and as college graduate it makes me think, i shouldn't have been in my school, did i get there because i'm black or -- and i
stopped, okay, not true but then i thought about young people of color applying to colleges and i was wondering, you know, hopefully their reaction was not -- was, you know, to ignore him. i was wondering what you thought about the comment and what you think about action. >> i find that condescending. affirmative action is to try to right many of the wrongs that occurred from slavery and the period of segregation, et cetera where whites got an advantage because blacks were not allowed to compete. so the residue really is still with us today so if you are white and you were a slave owner and you became wealthy because of the laborer of those slaves
and were able to pass that onto your family, subsequent generations, that gave them an advantage. so from my perspective, affirmative action is simply a way to try and correct that -- that injustice. and i know that this is always a controversial topic, but i think that many people who benefited -- and what this is trying to do is trying to correct a historical wrong, that many people who were admitted to educational institutions because of affirmative action and who did well, justice sotomayor is one person. she did well and the fact is she got into princeton because of affirmative action. she did well subsequently, so that's my response n. the
medical research arena even today a study published in the journal of science in 2011, showed that black applicants for nih grants for level of education and years of experience and all variables still had had half of the success rate in getting an nih grant as whites because of unconscious bias in the system, so that is something we need to address, so it's that kind of thing that is still with us where often times people in the system are not aware of the bias that does exist, so we still have a lot to do to work on that. >> yes, i would like to know whether in the new approach
being done by science in terms of the facts that there is only one race and that that race was originated in africa, you being a doctor, when are we going to tell all these white people, blond people, yellow people, whatever that they are blacks, they were originally black and because of the fact that they move to different environments, they have different eating habits and different foods and different climates, that's why they changed their color, and the only way to finish with the racism is to let them know that they belong to the same race,
it's where we come from, you know. >> right. >> what is your comment on that! >> yes. >> basically what you're saying is that we now die -- dissect the genome are the same. the similarities in the scientists say we are just one race, minor differences. in a family you have some that araller than others, et cetera. so really in a sense, race is a social construct but the likely experiences that minorities have had, say in this country shows that some of those things that really existed before have long-lasting effects, so people make assumptions because of biological differences rather than psychological differences
similar to the fact that children who come from families where there college graduates, those children are much more likely to be college graduates than the peers down the street. there's a lot of social factors that address this. indeed, you might say that there's one race, but the important thing for me is to get beyond that, because frankly when i was in medical school, by the end of my second month, i forgot i was black because i was treat it had same way by my classmates, et cetera, and so for the rest of my years in medical school, i was louis sullivan and my classmate emmanuel who took me home that had soup for the first time. i had never heard of mozaball soup. the point is the differences that we have had from life experiences, really, i learned a hell a lot from that. that was quite an interesting
experience. so i think that what we are working on is trying to show that every one given an opportunity can make a real contribution to society. i was lucky and that i had those opportunities and i had the support that i needed, but i had many friends and classmate who didn't have that support who were just as bright or even better because they didn't have the support. that's the thing i think we need to do. it would be a richer or better society if we succeed from that. >> one last question. >> my question was piggy backing of what was just said. there's a mentality, democrats and republicans and so forth. it sounds from your father he
was a big political activists an human activists and was seeing injustice and wanted to do something about it. it seems that in your life in medicine, hey, i want to move beyond us and them barrier and bring them together internally, what's a man or man's responsibility to society? >> yes, good question. and frankly it's a life-long experience. first of all, we need to be active politically. vote them out of office because they don't do their job, and indeed, don't tolerate someone making a disparaging comment about someone because of their race or religion or gender, et cetera. and so we can't leave it to elected officials. so that's what i tell everyone. i get active and i vote and provide financial support to the people i want to see elected for
office because they represent me and i am upset like other people that congress is really more playing political games rather than working to get things accomplished. my position is we elect officials to solve problems and to get things done, not to take time and taking political shots at each other because the system now where you are considered to be a trader if you talk to somebody in the other party, that's foolish. once the election is over it's time to govern, so that's -- that's the position that i take and it used to be that way. back in the 50's and 60's, the republicans and democrats would go out to drink, have a cocktail at the end of the day, it wasn't considered that you were being disloyal if you talked to somebody from the other party because underneath all of this, all of us are americans. all of us really have a country
that has tremendous potential, the precepts that are in the statements of founding fathers are great. it so happened that they were for white men for those years but we expanded it to be everyone including women. and so we really -- i think what animates me and so many people is i believe in those precepts. i want our society to live up to them, i am willing to do the hard work to see that they're implemented, but i want to be treated fairly so that i can contribute and my children can contribute, et cetera, and if we do that, we would be so much better, fantastic as a country. i think that's what we all want. so the people who are the hate hatemongers, we should tell them, this is not what we are because was don't represent me when you make those kinds of
statements. [applause] >> thank you, thank you. behind me is the library bookstore and dr. sullivan will be signing right over there so please go ahead and get his terrific book. thank you very much and see you next week for books at noon. >> thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> books tv tapes hundreds of programs all year long.