tv Book Discussion on Breaking Ground CSPAN May 3, 2016 11:44pm-12:30am EDT
marriage, i have the feeling that california could be the turning point that you may have a great many states following suit more quickly now that california has passed its law. but as a citizen, you write letters, you write e-mails to your own legislator. that's all you can do. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> hi, diane. i work as a professional gardener x so i have the good fortune of being able to listen to your program every day on my mp3 player. >> thank you, thank you. >> and sometimes i get the information that you might be a gardener, so i'm wondering, are you a gardener, and will you be doing some of that when you leave the program? >> oh, thank you for that lovely question. we had a house for 40 years in
maryland, and we created the most beautiful garden. and i was out there every single day in the spring and summer. and just to give you a sense of how beautiful it was, our daughter was married in that garden on june 16th in 1992. it turned out to be the hottest june day -- [laughter] in 75 years, and there's one photograph that was so wonderful of all the men's jackets on the fence. [laughter] so it was just great. but, yes, i love gardening. but living now in a condo, my gardening is restricted to my balcony. so just a few potted plants. thank you. >> we have time for just one
more question, diane. so -- >> hi. >> hi. >> he had a feeling, i don't know how he had that feeling, but he was right. so i want to preface this by saying that you are looking fabulous for 79. [laughter] [applause] >> thank you, thank you. >> she's looking fabulous for any age. [applause] >> thank you. [laughter] >> but my personal experience with aging, i never really knew anyone -- coincidentally, i lived with a woman over the summer that was also 79. and she was just like you, she was vibrant and going at it and living her life. my experience with aging, my grandparents -- my one grandmother died much younger than you, and my grandfather who's still much younger than you has pretty bad dementia. so to me, i don't often see a lot of older people that are, like, kicking it and doing it. [laughter] i know this is not really an original question, it's been asked all the time, but what do you do that you feel keeps you happiest and healthiest to this
day? >> i am with friends, and i am with my dog, and i have taken up playing the piano again. so those are the things that make me the happiest right now. thank you for the question. thank you all so, so much. [applause] it's wonderful to see you. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, diane, so much. i was going to say i have a feeling we're going to have a little standing ovation here. thank you. and everyone, please, go to the signing. [inaudible conversations]polly .
founding dean and former health and secretary -- health and human service secretary. s >> hello, everyone, welcome to books at noon. i am jessica strand. the executive director of public events at the library and i will thrilled to introduce dr. louis sullivan and i will have to read the long list of things. he is a policy leader, minority health advocate, author, served as the secretary of the u.s. department of health and human services under george bush and the dean of the more house
school of medicine and today dr. sullivan will be discussing "breaking ground" so welcome we are happy to have you. >> thank you. >> this is a bit different because i often do fiction books and occasionally memoirs but there is a lot to talk about here. it is a hard thing to say to somebody hi, can you sum up your life in two sentences. but in some brief way, i wanted you to tell the audience what this book covers. and i will dive in and build on
specifics. >> thank you very much. it is a great pleasure to be here with you and to be here at the public library. thank you very much. >> you are welcome. >> what i would say my autobiography tells is really the strand of my life story because where was born in 1933 in the depression. my father was a life insurance salesman. i was the second of two boys. he was in atlanta and nobody was buying life insurance so my father left and went to southwest georgia and established the first black funeral home. segregation was legally enforced and in southwest georgia for blacks it wasn't a happy place.
but my father was an activist. he founded the first chapter of the naacp in the county and filled suit to overturn the primary because blacked couldn't participate in voting, and saw the annual ememancapation event. my father identified himself with lincoln. my mother was a school teacher. because of my father's activism to try to get the vote for blacks, improving the economy, the retaliation from the white community is my mother never got a job teaching in emery county. in that environment, fortunately
for my brother and me, we were sent to savannah first to live with relatives and attend school in savannah because schools in rural georgia were not good. we got the books from the white schools. they had a band and the black schools didn't have a band. my father was someone who worked to address that. because he served the black community the whites couldn't really bother. my mother in the 20 years they lived there from 1937-1957 caught in schools in other counties around there. and interestingly enough, as mentioned earlier, she taught in some schools built by julius
ros ros ros rosenaul. there was one black physician in georgia, dr. joseph griffin -- >> you met him when you were five? >> yes, five. >> and at that point you made the decision you were going to be a doctor because magic happened and he could cure people. >> yes. >> i didn't want to cut you off, but my first question was about the three men in your life. it is freezing. is everyone as cold as i am. if i am shaking, please realize, and i apologize. i don't want you to jump ahead because i want to make sure we talk about this. the three men that seem to be the most influential were your father, who was an amazing activist, this doctor who you met at five. i want to know if you saw him again?
was he somebody that you checked-in with over time and told him about your interest in medicine? and the third was benjamin maze who was the dean of moorehouse -- >> the president. >> who was influential in your life. are these three men the three pillars of -- i mean -- obviously your father made an influence and there were others but these were the three men that helped guide you during a difficult time of deciding to be a doctor, to decide to move as you did, so far ahead in a time of segregation and in the south, too. >> right. >> the example was your father in many ways because regardless of what the environment was he
moved forward. >> oh, yes. the statements that my father and mother give to me at that time was that 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 there were no excuses. we were expected to excel in school. we were taught to treat our elders with respect. so there were many things we learned from our parents and dr. griffin was someone, as i mentioned, because he had magical powers others didn't have and i wanted to be like him. i was interested in science. but he was the personfication of
someone who was a model to me. when i went on to moorehouse college, the president, dr. mays, per personified all of things. he was elgent in speech, address and manners. he was a sought-after speaker in the country but always spoke to the students on tuesday morning and brought in other students to serve as role models to us. the message he was giving us was also you can beat the system. you must change the system. you must overturn. this is an evil system and we need to do it through bure bureaucratic process of protest and bringing complaints.
the most famous graduate of the college is martin luther king junior who finished six years prior to the time i finished. >> did you feel that you needed to make change? or that you were working within the system to get what you needed to come out with in order to make the change? was it working you were toward becoming a doctor so 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? >> well, it was really both. dr. mays in his weekly addressed to the students would saw things like whatever you chose to do in life you should do doo it so well that no man living, no man
dead, or no man yet to be could do it better. if you commit yourself to that, when they are looking for someone in your field with whether it is engineering, physics, medicine, business or literature, you are so well-accomplished in your field they will have to consider you. you may not get the job but it should not be because you are not prepareded. so he was saying be absolutely prepared so you can make the change. the way you fight the system is excel is what he was saying. >> right. when you got to be you, and where you went to medical school, and you are one of 76 -- you were the only black man out of 76 white students. >> yes. >> and it was the first time you were in a non-segregated environment. you had grown up in the south. how was that? talk to just -- i mean, you
became class president and you really did excel and listened to mays' words. i am wondering how it was. did you feel overwhelmed? how were you treated? did it get in the way? obviously not because you graduated one of the top three in the class; right? >> that is right. >> but i am wondering did it get in the way? how was it? this was -- >> sure. for me, this was really a great period of suspense and intrepidation. i did well at moorehouse, but i was living in a non-segregated society for the first time and being the only black in the class i had questions like will i do well?
will i meet my parents' expectations? will i meet my own expectations? will i meet moorehouse's expectations? and since i was the only black i felt i was really representing the black community. >> i can imagine. >> that was that kind of experience. and most of my classmates never heard of moore house. they were from harvard, princeton and they had finished at the top of their classes, too. so make a long story short, our first anatomy examination, i did well and went on to relax. i did well with academic challenges from there. my classmates were very welcoming. i didn't get the hostility i feared i might get or be ignored or marginalized.
it was a really positive experience for me and also with the faculty. so my experience in medical school compared to what i wondered what would happen is a positive experience. >> and what about boston at that time? >> boston was mixed. i read about paul revere and the ride and lexington and concord battles and the boston tea party and christian addict was the first to die in the revolutionary war. i read about him. i soaked up the history of boston and it was quite interesting. it was very positive. my experience was really positive. but in the late '50s, the year i entered medical school was the year of brown versus board of education, so as this was implemented around the country
problems not only in the south, but in the north as well and boston was one of those areas. my experience in austboston was different than blacks going to boston in the late '50s. i remember south boston became a hostile community. i had formed friendships and relationships in boston with classmates and a faculty that i found myself explaining to black youngsters coming to boston in the late '50s this place isn't a representation of the bus conflict you are getting. boston did undergo a change in its environment between the mid-50s when i entered and the late '50s when the busing
controversy started. >> what about your relationship with andrew young? did that begin in georgia? when did you meet? you have similar histories. you are three years apart? >> yes. my relationship with anthony young wasn't until i went back to atlanta in 1975 and he was a congressman from georgia and the congressman that moorehouse college and the medical school located. he took me to washington to introduce me to members of the congress to get funding were the medical school. >> that was the first time you met? >> yes. >> that is interesting. tell me, because you were the founding dean of the moore house medical school, i was asking you back stage if this could be, or down the hall, where was asking you about when you created the medical school what was 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 during the time that it came to pass and everything, it is an interesting story. so if you can talk a little to that that would be great. >> i would say this. at the time that moore house school of medicine, there were 80 medical schools in the country. two were predominant african-american. howard in washington, d.c. which opened in 1868 and the harry medical college that opened in 1881 in nashville. there has been a shortage of black physicians and other minority physicians in the country and there still is today. so the rational for the moore house school of medicine was as follows. as a country, we have a shortage
of physician and congress passed legislation in the late '50s and '60s to stimulate the development of more medical schools. we added 47 to the 80 that existed by 1981. so there was a massive period of expansion in the medical education. moore house came along it during that time but there was the civil rights movement from the mid-50s and onward. so the rational for developing the moore house school of medicine was to work to train more black and other minority physicians. so the development of moore house school of medicine was influenced by those two major events: the expansion of medical edge caution in general and the civil rights movement showing the many deficiencies in the lives of blacks including not having enough doctors, not
having enough minority doctors as well. by 1970, i was professor of medicine at boston university. i became a research heme tallagy and i loved taking care of patients with blood disease. but moore house college wanted to sought a medical school to address the shortage of black physicians. so i setup an advisory committee and ened up being recruited to head the effort. that is when i met andy young and this effort was supported not only by the black physicals in georgia but by the white physicians as well. that was because the civil rights activities of the 50s, 60s and 70s showed the situations that face blacks and other minorities today.
we have the support of the say chapter of the american medical association in georgia and the state chapter of the national medical association in georgia and a lot of support from the business community, and the philanthropic community as well. so that enabled us to really sought then what was in the third black medical school in the country. >> and this led began your introduction to politics because didn't you ask was -- didn't you ask ronald reagan to, i guess, cut the ribbon or whatever it is? to open the doors? to be at the ceremony. it was the vice president, george bush, at the time who came. and he asked you to go on a delegation to africa, and you became friendly with the bush's
at that point and barbara bush is interested in education and reading and all of that. then when he became president, trying to move on to this, you then became involved in the political side of medicine. can you talk -- because you were really instrumental in making sure the first woman president, or head of nih was under your demand. and then also the surgeon general was the first latino woman. you were instrumental in making sure there was diversity. and you know, this has been the mission. talk about meeting the bush's and the next stage of your life. >> well, what happened is this: we sought out our first class on
the facilities of moore house college. the first building we constructed for the medical school was dedicated in july of 1982 and that is when vice president george h. bush was the speaker. he was scheduled to stay only a few minutes afterwards at the e reception but stayed over an hour. and then many other blacks were there, all democrats, getting their picture taken with this republican vice president then. he left and two weeks later he called and asked if i would go with him on a trip he was planning to sub-saharan, africa in november of '82. i said this is great but since i am not a governor what would my role be and he said to be honest with you, we don't have an andy young in our administration and i don't feel like i can go to
sub-saharan, africa without prominent african-americans in my delegation. you would do me a favor but the country a service if you were willing to do it. i appreciated his honesty and i went. on the trip was barbara bush who was speaking to literacy groups and on the way back, after two weeks and visiting eight countries in sub-saharan africa i spoke to barbara on the plane and said you and are in the same business different branches. we are new school and need someone like you on our board. would you be willing to consider it? she accepted and came on the board in january of '83 and my wife and i were being invited to things at the vice president's home and got to know them well. one of my trustees wanted to be secretary.
but when bush was elected rather than taking my trustee he decide me to serve. but when he asked me to serve i said there are things i would really want to have happen and i would like to know how you feel about it. i said we need to have more minorities in positions of authority, we need to have more women. and he said that is great and i support you. and i should say the first woman head of the nih, the first black to head social security, and other programs increased diversity and 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 the beginning in 1946.
george h bush's mother was one of the first directors. he convinced me he is supportive of education and diversity. it was a pleasure and honor to serve with him >> when we were talking, i mentioned i wanted to talk about the current state of things since you have lived in the segregated society, you were in boston in the late '50s when things were not easy but you were in medical school and they were easier, there seems to me to be a wave with gender issues, feminism, and with race issues, that reminds me of 1968. there is an interest with black lives matter in what is really happening and there seems to be a swelling of political activity. people are protesting. people are angry.
they want to talk about it. and i am wondering how you see this because you really seen for years this go up and down and you have seen the expansion of various things and will you speak to what you think is really happening now and why now. your thoughts? >> let me say one thing for framework. where was the first black intern at new york hospital cornel medical center in 1958. not so many years ago. but the changes that occurred in the '60s and '70s were very encouraging with the leadership of martin luther king and other civil rights leaders. i attended the march on washington. i and many other
african-americans am very encouraged by the progress that has happened but what happened now is surprising and a little discouraging because it shows that progress is show fragile and like thin ice. what has happened now i think is not only surprising but disappointing when we have people being questioned if you are muslim you are not eligible to be president. all you have to do so far as i am concerned is substitute the word black for muslim. 20-30 years ago that would have been the thing. we should be better than that as a county. that is, all of us are immigrants. the only true native americans are the american indians and to have people whose fore bearers, one or two generations ago were
immigrants, are speaking racist statements and the racial tone is not encouraging. most african-americans and latinos are not going to accept that, i think. we have a country that is 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 our minority populations. this is a phase that shows we haven't made as much progress as we thought and that progress is 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 you are an automatic threat. the threat for me when i was growing up was the klan. they were lynching people when where was a child so those were the demons. when you begin to exclude people
and judge people as a class i think it is a serious error. we need to work to address that. i think the movement black lives matter is a reaction to that. i think it is not as focused as the civil rights movement, i think it is more a general protest, but an expression from the black community that we are americans, too. that is what my father was doing with his emancipation day celebration. we need to learn we can benefit from different cultures and life experiences that people have had and be a better and richer country because of it. the economic situation we have had and the fact we have had a congress that really has not been very active, i think that is added to the frustration. i think a lot of people are not being rational as they look at this. they are listening to slogans that have no depth or meaning to them.
i am confidant we will get beyond this but i, as an american, want to do everything i can to counter that and i am sure a lot of other people will also. >> i think -- i wanted to hear what you had to say about it because you have had much more history going through all of this and certainly myself and most of the people in the audience probably. i wanted to ask this two very quick questions which are light coming off that. you wrote a memoir, were there ones you loved or ones that made you want to write a memoir or did you feel it was time to write your story? >> it was a little bit of both. i really 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, lynching and segregation to what i feel why came to as a society. i started this four years ago and this was the environment. you talk to any african-american my age they will tell you the same story. i can tell you accomplished african-americans in business, fizphysi physics and others. blacks at world war ii were not thought to be bright enough to fly planes but they had a fortune in protecting the bombers over in europe. what we are seeing is really an understanding why we are different in many ways the differences are minor and we all have a lot to contribute.
because of the support in the community, the black and white community, helped come together and enable me to do the things i have done. >> it is awe-inspiring. it is a book worth reading. when you look at your life and what you have done it is incredibly impressive. i want to ask you in a library, and it is only appropriate to ask it, i have to always ask a book question. is there something you read recently or a classic that you go back to time and time again? or something you read recently
that you love that you can tell our audience about briefly. >> yes, two books quickly. one was written by benjamin mays, the president of moore house college, with the title "born to rebel" because his life story is more dramatic. his parents were freed slaves and he was taught to read at age eight and went to bates college and was the only black in his class and valedictorian of his class. that was a role model. and the other book written by a friend joe callahan the tragedy and triumph of lynnden johnson. great book and covered what happened with president kennedy's assassination and how johnson was able to use that period to push through a lot of
legislation, not only for health care, medicaid/medicare, and education. so that is a fascinating story about how a masterful politician was able to use the system to accomplish a hell of a lot of things compared to today. he used every trick. >> he was a persuasive character. >> oh, yeah. >> we have a pop up exhibit here about robert moses. that is an incredible -- i guess it is a trilogy in the johnson books. there are four books? thank you for keeping me straight here. i want to thank you. it is too brief, there is too much to discuss but i am glad we got this 30 minutes to talk.
i want to go out to the audience and see if there are any questions for dr. sullivan. i am sure he would love to answer them. >> hi, thank you, it was great listening to your stories. a couple months ago, anthony scalia, made a comment about affirmative action and how it services minorities because it gets them into colleges and as a college graduate it made me think maybe i should not be at my school, did i get there was i am black, and i stopped and thought this isn't true but thought about these young people of color applying to colleges and i was wondering hopefully
their reaction was, you know, to ignore him. but wondering what you thought of that comment and how you feel about affirmative action. >> i disagree with that comment and find it condecending. in my opinion, they are trying to make the right wrong where whites had the advantage because blacks couldn't compete. if you are white and were a slave owner and became wealthy because of the labor of the slaves you were able to pass it on to your families and susequent generations and that gave them an advantage. so affirmative action is a way
to try to correct that injustice. and i know this is a controversial topic but, i think, many people who benefited from it -- and this is trying to correct a historical wrong that many people who were admitted to educational institutions affirmative action. justice sotomayor is one who did well. she got into princeton was of affirmative action but did well subsequently so that is my response. within the medical research arena, for example, even today the study published in the journal of science in 2011 showed black people applying for
nih grant, when controlled for levels of experience and educati education, still had half the grants permitted because of unconscious bias in the system. it is that kind of thing that is still with us and often times people in the system are not aware of the bias that does exist. we still have a lot to do work on that. >> i would like to know whether in the new approach being done by science in terms of the fact that there is only oneat