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tv   Oral Histories  CSPAN  February 18, 2016 12:18am-2:09am EST

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and then, of course, the civil rights movement that generated grass-roots leaders who came about and then became leaders for the rest of their lives. so the book has those major themes. and i think that's exactly what emerges from the interviews, and that's why i wrote the book to call attention to these themes. but you can also just go to the website and you can find what you want in these interviews. >> phyllis, thank you very much. >> thank you. it's a pleasure. recently, c-span3's american history tv has been airing oral histories with african-american community leaders. the project titled explorations in black leadership was a collaboration between university of virginia professors phyllis leffler and julian. we hear from armstrong williams next.
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later, his involvement in the clarence thomas u.s. supreme court confirmation hearings. this program is about an hour and 45 minutes. >> armstrong williams, welcome to explorations in black leadership. >> thank you for inviting me. >> we are policed to ha ed tple here. i want to talk about the brown decision. it occurred before you were born. what was the discussion, if any, in your family or what was the feeling about what this might mean? >> my parents had quite a different take on government and the issues of race. my father actually in the discussions actually thought it was ridiculous that the highest court in the land even had to come to the conclusion of discussion that separation -- separate but equal was immoral. he always saw things in terms of moral and immoral.
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had the discussion to make a decision to make the facilities equ equal. his attitude was, son, they can try for the next 20 or 30 years to make the facilities equal, but the only way my children will have a quality education is that i got to ep sunsure that i happens. i have to make sure it happens before they enter kindergarten by reading to them, having them read to us, reading in the newspaper, go together library. i will never trust the government to ever educate my children or to make me believe they will make people equal. how are you going to have from human slavery to segregation and now brown versus board and into the civil rights movement and how do you think that we're going to be equal? you cannot length late the mentality of people. when people thought in the beginning that you were unequal and therefore you were not worthy to sit next to their kid because that kid was white. he discussed it in a different way. i have to make sure my children are educated and have a better chance at life than what i have. >> where did this idea come from
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in his family? why do you think he felt that way? >> well, you know, my father and mother had deeply held christian values. my father often talked about the stories that were passed along to them about how people who considered themselves to be god fearing would go to church sunday but yet after church could have a picnic and cut up their brethren and place them into a jar and have left the alter of god. how could anyone who claimed they believe of god, that action of brutality, something against all the teachings they proclaim to believe in. so his attitude was is that, you know, it's going to be quite some time before you can change the hearts of men who allow a constitution in place that -- and ideas and principals we were equal but they did not have the moral terpitude to say we have
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equal access. don't give them a disadvantage. my father never had a lot of faith in the government and had a lot of faith with people who subscribed to a certain faith and who had certain power. there was nothing in his history that would make him believe they would do anything that was good in the long run. he figured long after he would leave this earth that things would be better. but he did not see it happening within next 30 or 40 years during that time. >> at the saum time time when y write about the brown decision on the 50th anniversary year, you write that life was far better for my brothers and sisters than when i came along. how did your brothers and sisters -- you are from a family of nine. how did they benefit if at all from the brown decision? >> well, separate but equal, the notion was is that when the
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decision was rendered is that you could no longer believe just because you are separate you have to make you equal. many of the institutions were still unequal. unequal in terms of what they had access to, in terms of the teachers. and even just in the rural part of the world we lived. in we didn't have the tax base as people who had a certain kind of affluence had. obviously, my father thought it was good people were beginning to understand what many of them have known for a long time, that racism and discrimination is a moral sin and a stain of this country that we all will have to pay a price. i think my father's attitude was what he learned is that as the government was giving all this rhetoric about making people equal, what he needed to do was find an institution where he could raise their children like an incubator so he can influence the value system, their work
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ethic, their discipline, their routine, to teach them how to work and fish as he was building his farm. my parents had a 250 acre farm that they bought back during the 1940s. that storm is still in the family today. my father felt the best weapon to bigotry and discrimination would be being truly free. my father grew up partly on the share cropper's farm. he talked about abuse, humiliation. he told a story about his -- you may know this. you are well read and you have more experience than most people on this issue. i remember the the story about his uncle who had worked on this man's farm. they paid them once a year. once a year. they worked on this farm. and i had a friend of mine recall the story for me recently. it reminded me of something my father said. at the end of the year, the owner of the farm said, we awe you about $46.
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i mean, it was an outrage. this man had worked -- the blisters, the sores, for a year and for someone to say that you only owed less than $100 was an insult. from the lessons from my father watching his brothers you said, i may have to endure that for some time but the chirp i bring in the world will never endure that humiliation and abuse because it could destroy their self-esteem. i never realized that every opportunity in america could possibly be their opportunity. >> before we began taping we talked for a moment. you said in your father's family, you couldn't trace back to slavery. >> no. >> but in your mother's family, you could. >> not only to slavery -- >> but to native american indians. >> my grandfathmother as a cher indian. my father's side of the family they were land owners. they were entrepreneurs. they were farmers. his sisters were seamstresses. they were entrepreneurs. they were able to have
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massive -- accumulate masses of land that was never taken away from them and the family. land is still with my cousins today. my father broke away from that because he had a dispute with his brothers. he decided that he would have go out and secure his own farm. it's funny how he was able do this. he told the story often, there's a guy by the name of mr. buck davis. my father approached mr. davis and said, you know, mr. davis, i don't necessarily want to be in business with my brothers. i want to have a family. i want to grow a farm. i want to have an opportunity for them to experience freedom. and to build wealth and possibly run for office. and they cannot do this working for the man. and mr. davis said, james -- that was my father's name -- what can i do for you? he said, mr. davis, there's this plot of land. there are 50 acres that i can buy. it costs about $800. if you loan me the $800, i
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promise you within the year's end, from the date, i will pay you back your $800. during that time, as my father told the story, a black man could not buy land. he had to get the white man to front for him. mr. davis said i appreciate what you are saying. i'm going to loan you the money. he loaned my father the money. my father assumed that he was getting about 40, 50 acres of land. he was able to buy 100 acres with the $800 during the time. a funny thing my father tells me that happened in the community. black people were upset with him for purchasing the land because they assumed that my father was trying to better than they were. >> getting ahead of himself. >> white people were upset because they felt my father didn't know his place. this white man fronted for him. they would have never sold my father the land. the land was owned by white owners at time. my father's attitude from the experience he said, son, don't get caught up in the black way of thinking and the white way of thinking. when people have power and they
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have control of you, they are all the same. don't think that only white people can be racist and discriminate and abuse power. all people can do it. just look over the world and you will see. as time progresses you will understand people are the same the world over. never get caught up in judging people on their race, the their skin. all you do is extend your hand and say hi, my name is armstrong williams. judge a man how they treat you based on this ircharacter and values. get to trust them. >> you talk about your father broke and way from his brother who owned land. this long tradition of land owning on his side of the family. that's not unusual. but it is relatively rare. how did that come about? >> well, my grandfather, my father's father's parents had land. >> where did their land came from. >> from their parents. they were always -- it comes from a background where they were one of the -- some of the -- one of the few free black families in the south that owned
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land but not only owned land, they also had -- we wouldn't call it slavery. they would call them indentured servants. they would say they treated them better than the man treated his slaves. they were able to pass this along. they were able to keep the land. >> every black person whose family can go back more than 150 years has some origins in slavery. whether th when they came from africa, they came as slaves. there's some point where your family achieved freedom. how did that happen? >> i can't answer that. we have researched it. we have done the family lineage on that. we have been able to trace it on my mother's side. but on my father's side, it's -- it's a different -- we tried. >> you need to find out. this is a fascinating story. i'm telling you. >> it's critical. i need to find out. >> let me get back to this.
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now it's 52 years after brown. the same article i quoted from before, a column you say, 50 years later, we have not yet gotten around to securing these students receive an equal education. i think that's commonly understood. that's the truth. why do you think that's so, that 50 years after this historic decision that still we see unequal education for people of different races in this country? >> well, again, it goes back to it was a noble idea. but it was only an idea. they never put the resources, they never put the instructors and they never did what was absolutely necessary to make this work. and then also, you know, the great society programs -- there's off then debate about this social programs that we put in place to sort of empower black people, to sort of make up for the 40 acres and a mule that was promised to them. but i believe this. see, i don't trust the
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government. even though i love this country. would die for this country in its wars, would defend her to the end. i do not trust the government. i don't think you can pass laws and expect within a few days that people are going do the moral thing to make people equal. i think in affirmative action, it was something that -- it was reparations is what affirmative action was. but i don't think that lawmakers ever had any intention of it benefits black people the most. because if that were the case, they never would have included white women. white women -- we know about women's suffrage and we know about their plight. but never to the extent what have blacks endured in this country. never to the extent -- you have to understand, the founders -- because they knew that slavery was so wrong, so ugly, and so bad. they to put in the worst counter form for slavery to justify it for those that they broke away from and founded our nation.
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they put it one of the most repre repressive regimes during that time knowing it was wrong. they had to find a way to justify it. we go back to the brown decision. they put this affirmative action in place and they included white women. i mean, and then the other thing that happened, even in the great society programs, whether they put them in place, i don't know if you remember this but my parents would tell a story how during the late '60s and early '70s, social workers would go to a person's holme, see if there was a trace. they were forcing that household to choose between the government check and having a man in the house. people asked the question all the time, what happened to the black family? before civil rights legislation was passed, 78% of the black households had a mother and a father. i would venture to say that these government programs that were put in place displaced the father. more than anything else that has
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impacted the black family today is absentee fatherhood. i could not imagine my life without my father. as much as i love my -- i love my mother. i honor her. i never talked back to my mother. i could never imagine what i would have become without my father in my life. my father taught me discipline. he taught me how to work. he taught me self-respect. he taught me real self-esteem. he taught me discipline. i would spank my butt and do it with a smile where i smiled sometimes after the whipping. my father was a man. he taught us how to be a man. the problem today is that men don't know what it means to be a man. they don't know how to work. it's not that they don't want to work. they just don't know how. no one ever taught them. no one was ever an example for them to work and defend for yourself and survive for yourself and provide for your family. what happens today because there's so many absentee fathers, the mothers are embarrassed, they make these men soft. they give them everything. they don't earn it.
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when they get into the larger society, they are disastrous. >> i can understand from what you said about your father's attitude about the government. but i'm wondering, was this an attitude that his father had, are or that his father before him had? is this something that originated with his generation and you in turn learned from him? >> no. my parents -- how could they trust the government? the government allowed slavery. you are talking about a government that lallowed an immoral act. >> but the government ended slavery. >> the people, good people of all walks of life ended slavery. what happened was is that a sleeping giant was awakened when they saw these images of the dogs being put on people and the lynching and stories. the stories. it changed the government. if they had not awakened the sleeping giant, things would be just the same. it takes the character and the moral fiber of a people to
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change a government. i will not give the government credit. >> the government was the agency that ended segregation and in an earlier period ended slavery. >> wait a minute. look, you are talking about the -- >> the conscience of the people raised up an army run by the government, abraham lincoln's army. that ended slavery. i'm not saying the conscience didn't do it. >> i'm also reminded what happened after reconstruction when blacks were elected to the senate and to the congress and to the legislature. they were thriving. guess what? the conscience of the people still racists and jealous rose up and took that away. put in a more repressive form. this is the same government. government may have felt they needed to do the right thing. others used it as an excuse to say they are taking away from us. we should have the seats. they found a way to take it back. this is the first time in our history we could honestly say
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that the people have forced the government to do something for the long haul of the country. i don't think we can ever go back where the government can take away the kind of freedoms and opportunities and the portrait of life we are bringing to this country. i just -- you cannot trust -- a government like that must earn your trust. i see the government with this form of slavery in a different way. what it does through social programs. the government tells you, don't take care of yourself. we will take care of you. you don't need to think. you don't need to provide for yourself. we will give you welfare, aff m affirmative action. a government that is big enough to give you everything is big enough to take it away. that's why i believe in the entrepreneurship and the spirit of freedom and your own idea. god bless the child that's got their own. >> i want to go back to brown versus board of education again. you go to an integrated elementary school , which is on of the fruits of brown. what kind of values did
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institutions, the all black south carolina state college? what did you learn? i don't mean read, writing. what did you learn at these places that shaped your life? >> well, that's a very good question. never been asked that before. you know, it actually put in my father's teachings in place that people are the same. i have to tell you this. it's no secret. i say it all the time because i think it's crazy. i've never experienced racism, ever. never been called the n word. never been denied it an opportunity because of my skin. when i was in high school, i interacted with people, i netwo networked. they elected me class president. they elected me student body president by a landslide. i was able to build real relationships. they would come to my home. i would go to their home. my father's vision for us early on, before i had this experience, came to life. it came to life. of course, there are bad people. but i had a wonderful experience
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because our high school is probably 50/50. but all the things that we talked about how people said they were spat on and the things that would happen, you were not invited. my father says the greatest weapon to breaking down any barrier is the human heart. how you feel about yourself. my father taught us to have a lot of pride and a lot of self-confidence. you flip that to my college experience, it goes to tell you what my father said about just because someone looks like you doesn't mean they share your value system or they want was best for you. i remember -- i think this is a good story. i remember when i was in college, my parents and i reached a pact that as long as i maintained a 3.3 grade point average, i would never have to work a job on college campus and that they would pay my education out their pocket. unfortunately, my parents paid cash for my education for four years. i had to maintain a 3.0. i remember my junior year in college, i had become bored with academics. i got tired of studying.
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it was no longer fun. i said to my father -- i had to negotiate with him. we need to do something else here. i want to run for office. i want to run for student body president. i want to make history. i want to be the first risings junior to win the student body presidency. he said, you will have a tough time. you are a republican. he said, i want to tell you something. you about to have an experience you never had. no, i said, i think i will do well. i will never forget when i announced i was going to run, one of the deans -- i'm not going to recall his name. he's no longer with us. called me into his office and said, i hear you are thinking about running for student body president. i said, yep, i'm thinking about running. talking to my parents about it. they think it's a good idea. he said, you know, i'm your friend and i have been your adviser since you have been here. i think you are capable. but we don't think you should run. i said, why? he said, we think you are too dark. >> really? >> yes. that's what he said. that's what this dude said to me. the good thing about it is my
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father didn't want me to run. i said this guy is -- i could not believe it. in south carolina state, had you to submit a photo at a certain period to get into the university. absolutely. i was too dark. i said, daddy will get a kick out of this. i called my father. i said you will not believe this. this dude said to me that i was too dark to run for student body president. he said, you got to run. my father financed the campaign. came down and helped me campaign. i won. it was sort of the reverse.jori kids voted me in. i still saw the good there. it can come from anywhere. what if someone white had said that? it would have been racism. my father's attitude is the same. it's denying you an opportunity. >> it's really some kind of racism on both instances. dean says it to you and some white guy says it, it's the same thing. >> yes. i guess when we live in a
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society that blacks cannot be racist because they have no power. you can have power. if i go to you for advice and i ask you to give me the best advice because you have my best interest at heart, why would you give me advice that i will suffer from? i guess that -- >> the dean had power. >> he didn't have power over me. i wasn't weak minded. i had a father. what if i had not had a father if i had just a mother? i had no strong male figure in my life. there's no telling what kind of -- that motivated me. i was excited. we won. he apologized. >> really? at least he was big enough to apologize. >> yes. >> the next question i think i know the answer to already. that's who are the people who have been most significant in helping you develop your talents? you have talked about your parents and the influence they had. what about other people, not parents, other people, teachers, ministers, community figures, those kind of people? long before you meet strom
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thurman. >> mr. stevenson who was my history teacher felt i had potential and he worked with me. mrs. crawford who was my science teacher. i always thrived in the math and sciences in school. i always thrived. but they developed me. mr. wattson. i have never had a sports bone in my body. i have never had athletic. i could never make it like a lot of the athletes today. a he made me manager of the basketball team. i kept the score. it gave me an interest in sports and how life sort of mimics the basketball court in the arena of sports. i learned so much from that. and then bill jones. bill jones was over 4-h. he got me into livestock judging where i would judge swine and cattle. he got mre to becoe to become a speaker where i got into debate
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and debate forums around the state to the point where i won the contest two years in a row as a sophomore and a junior in high school. then my brother alvin followed 57 and won. these people had a significant impact on my life. the hendersons. i remember when i was -- we were taking typing. i never could understand why a man would want to take typing or shorthand. he felt i would thrive in it. i took typing. i won all the awards because i typed like 106 words a minute. they developed me. my father always encouraged them to come by. fix a good meal for them. wi we would sit down. my parents would want to learn, too. they had a hunger for learning. they felt i was being an example for my brothers and sisters to come that learning can be fun it could be exciting. so they made learning fun in our
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house. when we were about to have a tutoring session, everybody would gather around and sit and learn. everybody would take notes. it was like a game. some people have nintendo, but learning math problems, english, it was very exciting in our household. >> what about outside the school setting? were there figures in the community that pushed you along some way or helped you in some way? >> you know, it's kind of interesting because -- >> let me interrupt. ministers particularly, because what i found interesting about your family is that you went to different churches. >> yes, that's true. >> how did that come about? >> well, my mother is pentecostal. my father is african methodist. my mother tells a story -- my father was married twice. his first wife in giving birth to the fourth died child in childbirth. he was in need of a wife. he had this young baby. he had three young kids.
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so my mother had a very good reputation in the community. she was 29 years old. had never been married. to hear her tell it, she never thought she would marry. she was a virgin. think about that. she was a virgin. everybody knew about her reputation. so my father went to my grandfather whose name i bear, armstrong howard, and said, my wife just died. i have these young babies. i'm looking for a wife. i would love to marry your daughter. he never went to my mother. that's not how it worked. he went to my grandfather. my grandfather told me the story. he said, james, you have a good reputation. you work hard. you have the nice farm. you need help. i think that will make you a good wife. let me talk to her. he talked to my mother. my mother said yes. she came in with four kids. one of the things -- this happened -- his wife died january 24. he married my mother march 1. they never knew each other.
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he married my mother march 1. the one thing my mother asked for is that she did not leave her papa's faith. she's not going to join with the boring african methodists. and i'm the only one of the ten kids that joined with my mother where i get my excitement. >> the other kids went to -- >> even today they are. i went with my mother. >> you tell the story about the difference between yourself and your siblings and your choice of church. why did you go this way and they didn't? >> my father, to be candid, i thought that the people who were shouting, speaking tongue, they were ignorant. he looked down on it. my father had such a huge influence on all of us. we are much more like our father than our mother. but i say, well, you know -- i just said, look -- i was talking to my father. boy, you don't want to join. i said, well, i don't know.
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everybody else -- i said i think i'm going to join with mama. he said, i will think about you. plus i like it better. at his church i sleep. even though church was a big part of our upbringing, we went to church every sunday, it was not something that was indoctrinated. it was not everything. it's not as if we -- at the church that my father did not like, you get to church at 8:00 and not get home until 3:00. with my father's church, would you get -- >> my father liked the fact i was willing to step out. he said, it is your mama. how can i get upset?
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it is your mama. it's okay. we had that -- >> that was never his thought to go to the holiness church? >> never. he never tried to tell us. even though he would tell us, in the end it was our choice. my brothers and sisters could not get into speaking in tongues and being covered in towels. it was too much. i said, okay, i'm going to join with mama. he gave me a pass. >> let's move forward to the time you meet strom thurman. you are young. what happens? >> my father read in the paper that he was speaking. so my father wanted us to be governors and senators. his attitude was he was going to make a lot of money. we grew up in an affluent family. i thank god for that. did not have to struggle. he said, let me take care of making the money. you all need to be elected officials. you know what?
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you change the government who have people like you unwilling to punish people for the way they punished us. you have to be fair. justice has to be fair. my father felt he was raising fair, compassionate children. so my father said, look, strom thurman will be there. he is the guy that can take you to washington. my father wanted me to go to washington. i listened. >> let me stop you right there. i know you say you get your entrepreneurial spirit from your father. what you are describing seems to me he is saying the entrepreneur spirit is great. making money, that's great. that's something i'm going to do so that your generation doesn't have to do it and you instead can go into public service. is that right? >> he never thought i would be in business. he never thought i would be a entrepreneur. that was something never encouraged in our household. it was to get the best education, run for office and make the government and the state better. >> what about your siblings? any of them people you would
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call entrepreneurs? >> the majority of them are. >> so that what about public service? >> i have a brother who is a state senator and a brother who runs a political action committee. we were sort of -- politics -- it's interesting. it was something that -- we grew up with my father would have fund-raisers for politicians who were running for office. we have to be at the reception. it was good for business for him. when there was a problem with the farm, he could call farm bureau, the governor's office. my father was a republican. so i didn't -- i thought i was going to go to and become a politician. >> for most of your life your father is a republican in a democratic state. he is a republican at a time when most democrats are saying, these people just are a tiny bit of them, they're not doing anything, they are no threat to us, they will never take over anything. how did he operate in that situation? why does he have this access to the governor?
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why would the governor playay attention? >> he gave money to politicians. that's where i get it from. he would support them. he felt money could do just about anything. he said money is good. if the farm life continues, he felt we would be well taken care of. he thought that politicians were for rent. there's nothing about principal. he didn't want us to become that. but certainly -- you had this guy, he was an anomaly. here he is a republican. he has one of the finest farms in the state. a great place for entertaining, which we continue the tradition to the day. we have governors, people like steve forbes, we have everybody who is anybody come for a fund-raiser because of the way it's laid out and built. my father, when he saw strom, he wanted me to meet the senator. we were in the middle of of the tobacco crop.
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we get there. we got there just when senator thurman was leaving. we walked in. some of the people recognized my father because he had a strong reputation in the county. just before he was about to be introduced, i extended my hand. i said, hello, senator, i'm armstrong williams and i hear you are a racist. >> what did he say? >> it's what my father said. i thought my father was going to slap me. we were in public. can you imagine? my father red through his face. he was furious. he worked so hard to make this happen. thurman told my father not to worry. at least he is honest. i i'm sure you raised him that way. my father started to cool down. my father said, son, make sure you ex -- he said, i want him to work for you one day. he said, a lot of people say these things. but i told my boy, you get to know people before you judge them. i want my boy to know you,
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because i have plans for him. i know you can help him. my father was doing all the talking. i was sitting back there not going to say anything else. i don't want to get on his bad side anymore. we exchanged cards. the senator said, you sound like a bright young man. what grade are you in? when you graduate, if you want to come to washington to intern, work for me, decide whether i'm a racist or not. he issued me a challenge. look, it was like -- it went over my head. i had no interest. my no interest in following up with senator therman. my father would stay on me and he would call every now and then and what happened was, i got into college and at the end of my freshman year i started thinking about my father's ta tobacco fields and i said i have got to find something else to do rather than working on the tobacco said so i said to my father, i'm trying to get other
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experiences during the summer to expand my portfolio. he said boy, you need to follow up with therman. if not, i'm going to put you back in this tobacco field. [ laughter ] >> sure enough, i did not want to work in the tobacco field that summer so i called senator therman, never forget it. he called me back the next day. i said i've been thinking about you. he said i got your notes. i said i want to take you up on your challenge and intern and see what washington is like. i tell you this, i never get this, when i went to washington, when i came to washington, i went to the capital. it was at night and looked over the capital and i had this feeling, you know, it was my first time out of the state of south carolina. all i had known is rural south outhouses, not our own just a whole different world and when i saw that, i said oh my god, i began to see my father's vision.
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and i fell in love with another way of life that i felt that i could really thrive at. so i started working for him and worked for him almost every summer and that began the relationship. i have to thank my father because he had vision but the difference was, unlike some people today, i trusted my parents more than i trusted myself. i knew my father and he's crazy sometimes would absolutely not give me advice unless he had my best interest at heart and even though he was not educated like some, i knew my father loved me and had a strong inner spirit about what we were capable of doing and he encouraged that and so that started to actually believe i could run for public office. >> isn't there an anomaly between your description of your father as someone who does not trust the government and suspicious of the government and then someone who sends you to in effect work for the government
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and whose aspiration is that you will become a part of the government? >> remember i said to you, the interesting thing about daddy is he felt that the government would change. and that it would be better, maybe not during his time, but at a time when his children would come along that the government would be ready for someone like us to effect change. realizing that it would always be imperfect. the government is representative of his people. for the government to do better, you have to have good people to run for office with strong values and a different way of looking at life. so he is distrusted the government true that exists but he never lost faith that the government could change much later down the road and be better as more and more people are allowed to participate in that system of government. >> when i think back about therman, i remember about him he had a reputation as you've discussed for being very close to his constituents. constituents like nobody's business of all the senators, if
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you want someone to return your call or write your letter back, therman was the guy. what did you do when you interned for him and pick up from him or did you pick up things from him that you've carried through life? >> well, you know, for some reason, the senator liked me. i have to tell you. >> you're a likable guy, aren't you? >> no, no, much more than that. he would in the evenings he would ask me to stay life and he would share with me letters from constituency and share with me how legislation worked in the congress. he would take me over privately to capitol hill to the congress and senate and show me the different bodbodiebodies, major leaders and how a bill was put together -- >> did he do to this other interns? >> no, and he couldn't understand that. it was different. i could not explain it. my mother said it was her
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prayers. i was in class. i was with a historian all the time and during thanksgiving when i really started working with him, when i could not come home, even when i had a job in washington during thanksgiving, it was always if i were in town, he would bring me over to his office just before thanksgiving, he'll let me see the things going on, the things he's involved in, things that may be in the press versus what the reality is and i'll never forget, i got to tell you something, i really restrict therman. more than anybody else, more than justice thomas, therman had more of an impact on my life than anybody. i tell you what, because he's very kind to me and he was very sincere and he's very honorable. he said you know, i was a racist. he said let's be clear. he said i was a segregationist. he said but i had to be. he said but let me tell you something, i fought against the poll tax and did what i could. he said you must consider the terms, men like you who must
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change those times and he said your father is a good man, i have a lot of respect for him and how he's raising you. he said i like the fact that you asked me if i was a racist because most kids don't have the confidence to ask a senator like that. you didn't ask that to insult me, you were inquisitive to what you were getting into. i took a lot of hits for my association with strong therman. you have no idea in south carolina state but i liked this guy. he taught me about how important it is to have a senator in washington. he said everything in washington has to do with whether you're close to the president, the speaker of the house, senator, secretary of a cabinet. he said i'm going to be the person you're close to and i'll never forget and i used to tell people when i first came to washington i was close to strong therman because everybody saw him as a racist. they thought it was a joke. it was hurting. i would call my father and he said ask the senator to do something to change that.
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so i went to see the senator and i said no one believes, i said no one believes that i'm your boy. i didn't say it like that. nobody believes that. you got to help me out. he said what should we do? i said maybe i have a party and invite all these nay sayers and you come. so he said you only have a one-room apartment infested with roaches. i said yeah, but that's all i got. i'd like for you to come. he said set it up and i'll come but brief me. at that time berry white had a song out time for change so the senator and i would go into his office and go over the words and make sure he knew the words to the song. >> i can't imagine strong therman and berry white. >> so i put together this invitation where i said i want you to come to my place and meet my very special guest straw therman. senator therman said you know they aren't going to believe you. i'm not going to show up and you'll see the real nature of people.
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so he said but you just call me and i'm going to be down stairs because he's right around the corner. so sure enough, my little apartment was packed. there must have been 175 people all the way around to the elevator and you know when he got off the elevator like a rock conexpert he comes in -- he was old then. in his 70s then. he comes in and he said this boy is like a son to me. he said when i came over here, i heard berry white on the radio. [ laughter ] he said if berry white was singing "it's time for a change." people were weeping. out. that was it. that's what changed my status in washington is that i had a senator and he stayed with me and supported me on all the things he felt that would advance me in the senate. i definitely owe him the gratitude but my father with a
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deeper gratitude to believe this could be possible. [ laughter ] >> how did you meet clearance thomas? >> that's an interesting story. senator therman got the job at the department of al culture at the inspection services where i was in my area, agriculture which i understand well but they didn't what to do me. john said why don't you put together this black history month program for the department. i said oh, i don't want to be involved in race issues and minority issues. my father said to stay away from that because you're going to put me in a box. i mentioned it to senator therman. i said don't be afraid of that because and he said you know embrace and it see if you can come up with ideas because they
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may learn things about you so i was reading the newspapers and i saw richard had been talking about cocaine and no context to richard prior. nobody. i said now what would be interesting if i could convince richard prior to come to washington to give a straight speech for black history month. i said ronald reagan is getting beat up for his record and richard prior for his drug problem. i made 60 some calls and finally this guy called me back. the lawyer for richard prior and i told him i was a big wig in the administration, worked for senator therman if i needed to get senator therman on the phone, i could, we're interested in bringing richard prior to washington. we take care of his travel, none of this was confirmed, by the way, we would take care of the travel and like to have him come. two weeks later he called me back and said richard prior would do it. i went running to senator
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therman and said you got to support me. he said this will be a problem because people will see this further shows that ronald reagan has no concern for black people because he's bringing in richard prior. he said you're going to have a problem with this. i said you have to trust me. i can make this work. you asked me to be creative. >> he never dreamed of that. >> never dreamed of it. i said there is one problem that they insisted richard prior was willing to come if he would host for him at the white house. so senator therman called regan himself and said i know you're going to get a lot of flak on this but trust this young man. this is going to work out. sure enough when i finally presented it to the department that richard prior was coming, they flipped out but it was cast. the white nose knew. therman gave assurances and senator therman called me in the office and we went out to lunch at the ford avenue grill. that's where we had lunch. he said i want to tell you something. you're becoming like a son to me
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but i got to tell you this, if richard prior embarrasses the president, you're out of here and you won't be back to the city for a long time. i said senator, i am willing to take the chance. i was naive. i didn't know the fallout that could come. >> weren't you afraid richard prior was full of profanity and routine -- >> i was 21. i was 21. >> you had heard him. >> but it didn't matter. i wanted him there when you want someone to do something, you forget about everyone else. you have blinders on. i'll never forget when richard prior got off the airplane, he was stunned i was so young and we got in the car and i said look, man, let me tell you this. i got a lot on the line. you cannot be up there cursing and you got to give a straight speech and i got to help you write it because there are a lot of naysayers so richard prior said we considered those things but i'm glad to see you're a brother. a brother has this kind of
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power? you're close to straum therman? he said don't do it. richard prior said all my life i had never given a straight speech for dr. king. you-all had never asked me to do anything and this young brother invites me to washington to give a speech and you're telling me not to show up. he said i'm going to show up and you-all have to live with it. the next day at the department of agriculture, richard prior spoke. >> what did he say? >> you should see the headlines. the washington post, gave the best speech ever in his life. talked about king, the only march he had been part of was a poor people's march and i'll never forget this, as soon as the program was over, they were
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calling me straum thurmond and president regan had a reception, over 250 people including the civil rights leaders and i'll never forget ronald reagan grabbed each other and cried in each other's arms. that's the picture that captured it and on that monday morning this woman called me, her name was diane said i'm calling for chairman thomas. he wants to see you. but he wants to speak with you first. he said man, i read about you bringing richard prior. he said that's a heck of a thing you do. you got this place in shock. these people don't know what to do. you should come work with me and develop you. i went by on that monday for an interview and i started working for him wednesday. that's how i met thomas. [ laughter ] >> i just can't believe this story. i had never heard that about richard prior. >> that's why richard prior came to washington and spoke for black history month and they
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asked him in interviews why did you come, he said because agricultural employee armstrong williams asked me to and promised me a reception with the president and richard and i remain friends until this day. >> really? >> yeah, it was he who introduced me to hollywood. he would bring me out to california, that's how i met barry white. he opened me up to a. did world. that's how i got access to hollywood. through richard prior. you didn't know that? >> i never knew that. i made a movie with him and i never heard this but this is not about me. all right. you get with thomas. >> right. >> and you work with him for a number of years. what was that like? why was it hard? >> he was a tough task master. he was something to work for. reminded me of my father. you cannot show up to work a minute late. like it was a power place to survive. my work ethic and my father, my
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background had prepared me for him and he was different. he was different. very bright. but he was not necessarily the warmest person that you could really warm to you. you had to earn the trust. i started out as a press secretary but once i earned his trust, i traveled with him 80% of the time. and we bonded and so that was a phenomenal part of my life because i learned a lot about the inner workings of the government and had senator they are monday, he had bone cancer
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because my father had just attended ronald reagan's inauguration that january because he was so thrilled that regan won and so we celebrate. i rode in a limousine and my father felt i was big time. strom thurmond hosted a dinner party and he became so ill and i was so devastated by his death that i needed break from d.c. so i told the justice -- the justice was very kind to me during that period because my father was in the hospital for about four months and i probably saw eeoc three days out of the four months. i was always by his bedside and when he died, i moved to high point, north carolina. started a different life. >> to work for -- >> that's right. >> describe bob brown because many people don't know. >> bob brown was the person that ronald reagan wanted as ambassador to south africa but
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edward perkins became ambassador but mr. brown decided against it. mr. brown worked in the nixon administration and he and art fletcher built minority set aside programs. they put the version of affirmative action in place and business enterprise. bob brown is one of the most revered republicans in this country. he has built a successful international firm and i don't know if you remember when mandela was there, mr. brown was the first america to visit and mr. mandela asked if he could finance his children's education here in the united states. mr. brown was able to get them scholarships through dr. silver at the time who was president of boston university and came here on the stewardship and took care of them. he was involved with the family. one of my assignments with mr. brown, i became vice president. i spent a lot of time in south africa with mandela, with the movement, spent a lot of times
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going back and forth with his adult daughter back and forth to south africa where i first traveled internationally was through mr. brown. it opened my world up to international travels and i built a good relationship with mrs. mandela and when he was free, i think 1990 or 1991 he personally asked me would i work in their office to respond to the letters coming in and i remember the letters from everybody, typing and writing letters and signing them and it may surprise people that i had that experience but it was wonderful and i'll never forget the first interview that mr. mandela gave after coming out is with he and whinnie and had to interview. they could not get in because they were the wrong color and i gave them my blessings and mr. mandela allowed them to interview. i was there for about a month after he was released. >> back to bob brown, is it fair to say the experience with bob
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brown introduces you to public relations as a profession. >> yes, it does. >> that led to your association with steadman. >> what happened is, that's good, oprah was looking for something, for steadman. hermann needed credibility. not that he's just her beau. maya anglo and oprah are best friends, maya is like her mother so in high point because dr. anglo thought she had the perfect situation for steadman because oprah wanted him in a situation where he would not be exploited which would further exploit her and he could learn and grow and develop as a professional. they had this dinner and steadman would come and work for bnc associates. steadman and i was, i was on board a few months before.
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steadman came on board as business development and that's how we met and we both learned the field of professional public relations, the field of marketing, crisis management, crisis public relations. in fact, every time i was in south africa, steadman was with us because of this relationship that oprah set up the feeding program in south africa and building this academy in south africa. this came from this relationship with mr. brown and so we decided, oprah -- i ended up running oprah's foundation. there the oprah winfrey foundation. i was the first director and ran the foundation for a little over a year and so steadman and i decided in late 1989 and 1990 that we should use the skills and gifts we learn from mr. brown to start our own public relations firm so we went into business together and founded the grand williams group. >> really quickly because i want
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to get into other kinds of questions. the thomas supreme court nomination is a point in which you become publicly known. >> yes. >> because of your support of him and your appearances on tv and media. >> the media and i worked together. we are there together. >> yeah. >> and so when thomas was nominated by the supreme court, we had much of public relations and advising him and so when thomas venn actueventually was o the supreme court, the victor gets the benefits but those who supported him get benefits, too. i started writing for usa today, kathy hues offered me a radio show to five days a weak and that's how i came to the attention of the public was through the hearings and being there for my mentor. >> i don't think of you
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armstrong as a journalist because i think of a journalist as someone writing for the daily press whose reporting news. i think of you as a commentator. how do you think of yourself? >> well, after no child left behind, you would think i was a journalist. b but. >> i have no professional training for a journalist. thomas was nominated to the supreme court i became a commentator. written commentary doing radio. i'm really not a journalist. >> when you have to fill out a form that says profession, what do you write? >> conservative commentator. >> not just commentator, conservative. >> i'm a conservative commentator. >> all right. >> that doesn't surprise you. >> at some point you have to say to yourself and maybe not verbalized, you have to say i'm a leader. what was that point for you?
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>> that's a funny question. as a child i was a leader is what my parents would say. >> how did that exhibit as a child, not just high school offices. >> at home. >> okay. >> at home. >> who trusted you? who followed you at home? >> my parents and brothers and sisters and uncles and cousins. you know, i -- they felt i had wisdom. something going wrong with the farm and things not working out the way they were supposed to and as a boy at 14 years old, daddy, have you ever tried this or thought of this. daddy said boy, how did you know that?
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boy, you have boys app growing up so my father would say boy, i'm telling you, you going places. that's a leader right there. try it and it would work and when i was 13, my father had me do the taxes for the farm, yeah, i was doing the taxes, putting together the taxes for the farm and i would pay their hands. my father would pay in cash. i would pay the hands, get this money and keep a track record of what is paid, what is outstanding and then make sure at the end of the year. i had all these responsibilities. it's not strange i'm an ent entrepreneur. i would say i don't think cotton is going to do well. >> how did you know? >> i was reading trends and i
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would say go light on cotton and go heavy on tobacco and swine. it would always work that way. then i said to my father. before he became ill i said the farm is suffering. there are going to be a lot of lawsuits over the tobacco and cigarettes. he used to tell us you-all can crop it and grow it but don't be caught smoking it because it will kill you. i think these lawsuits will affect tobacco and i don't know if it will pay for kent, bruce and everyone's education. my father said the farm is not going to sustain you boys like i thought and i think armstrong might be right. that's why he said it. >> i should have had your prediction trends. >> i would read and share it but they allowed us to share it.
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they didn't treat us as children. some parents will not listen a 14 or 15-year-old but my parents were different. my father believed i knew what i was talking about. >> moving forward, high school and get elected to the offices and that's one way in america we measure leadership. you're elected to office and you're a leader and get into college and you get out into the work world. where in the work world did you decide you were a leader. >> thomas confirmation hearings. >> that was fun. i was 21 but let me tell you something, the confirmation hearings about strategy. about inches. and the other thing i think what moubled me most is i had a strong ethical.
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it was all about winning and i think during the confirmation hearings, i never want to be a politician. is this what it takes? nobody cares about the truth. nobody wants to hear the truth and i saw that. what you got to do is destroy anita hill by any means necessary. my attitude was to take her out. that was the attitude that i had. i was a general and led the forces to do that. he went on the court but had a lot of soul searching to do. >> how do you feel now? >> it's my past. i did it. i don't feel good about it. i've been forgiven for it because i became a better person. what we do in washington to destroy other people to elevate others, i was part of that and realized being elected in office you can become things and i never wanted to become that and
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by that time my father was deceased so i was on my own. and a lot of people went along with my plans but it was a big part of the process. >> even though your father is not living, you have his memory and the memory of the things he taught you. are you saying you can't think of any time in the future you might want to go back to south carolina and run for this or that? >> no, because it was always a vision of my father. it's in me. i'm the one that convinced my brother to run to satisfy my own country because it's part of guilt, something -- i believe i can do it. no, no, i know i can do it. i know i have what it takes to do it. that's not aragarogance. there is always that possibility i can go back and run for office. >> i was once told never say what you won't do because you never know. >> you never know. i agree. >> you said a moment ago you were troubled by some things that happened during the clearance thomas anita hill
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hearings and i don't want to ask about them but why were they troubling to you? >> anita was a friend. she was very good to me. we talked. we were both southerners and both come from large families and even though i believe justice thomas, i could not understand why she was saying what she was saying and i never took the time to even ask her because it's as if i didn't want to know. i made my decision. i didn't want to ask but it hurt me to see how we just turned her into a monster, this evil person and at the hearing one day, it was as if she was saying of all people how could you? and i did this. >> painful.
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>> i have a conscience but i will admit i did them so others realize you got to make sure when you make these decisions you are willing to live with the consequences of them. >> i regret having to do it at her expense. >> you said you had been forgiven. have you been forgiven by her? >> no. >> do you require forgiveness by her? >> i should. i guess i should but some day sometimes the wounds are so deep, time can heal them. the best thing about life is the best things that happen to us are the things we cannot plan and hopefully before i die and leave this place that i can make amends with her. >> she's not hard to find. >> that's true. >> let me move on to another question. i want to mention three things, vision, philosophy and style.
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how do these interact for you? philosophy, vision and style? >> my philosophy is shaped by values system. my philosophies are shaped by my parents when i didn't even understand it. and as i've gone through life, i've come back to it. raise a child in a way you want them to become and be and even though they may go astray, they will come back. it's absolutely based in morality and how you treat people. and how you're loyal and honorable. it's my philosophy. i may rail same-sex marriages and abortion but never under estimate my value of the human being. my value of understanding the tough decisions that people make and people are born and happen to people we cannot explain. it's easy to rail against the
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things in life but i do care about people. i do care about the troubles. i may speak out often against americans and blacks feel that we are doing somebody else's bidding, it's not about black and white. it's about morality. racism so me is morality and ughugh ly and i realize what it has done and in my philosophy, i'm not too foolish to understand because i had a mother and father and parents that gave me four years of an education without any debt, a family that came to washington and found me a place to live and paid for the first month's rent, i realized that that had given me a head start and made me appreciate. i understand that there is a -- people talk about, they don't
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talk about being able to pass along homeownership, wealth, a sense of self-worth, a real sense of south esteem 30 or $40,000 gift that makes it and determines whether buying a home, makes the determination whether you're buying a house in neighborhood with a good school some or go where you can afford. i understand how money operates and influences the decisions of people and also understand that some people say the left is a moral but i believe the left is just as moral as i am. they just come to a different interpretation than i do but i would never minimize. being on the set with america's black forum, this person loves god.
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doesn't mean he has frictions of mind where is people come together and have a real debate how to grow each other. i'm all wanting to learn and philosophy dictates if i believe in something, could be a child elevate me to a higher truth, i'm willing to abandon that. the problem is some people invested so much in what they believe when they know the truth, they are unwilling to abandon it. i'm not that way. in terms of my vision, my vision is what i want to become in life. something to love. something to look forward to and something to do. so when something to love, something to do and something to look forward to. that is my vision is this is that i believe that there is no entity in this world even if i
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had the experience of racism. i had many things that could set back lesser men but i believe i'm good. i believe i'm sincere. i don't arctticulate unless i believe it. people talk about white people as if they are god, they have all the answers to what ails you and solution sos you're doomed. the way we talk about people as a form, they put on their pants just the way i do. i can achieve whatever they achieve, no racism can ever keep me away. i don't get up in the morning thinking about racism. i have employees. i have a payroll. i have a broadcast four hours every morning and try to do things to built a better future of myself. that is my vision and not what i've already seen. so you asked about vision. you asked about philosophy and style. my style and i think it's the thing that really helps me, always even with people that can
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be my enemy, i always speak the people. i always find the good in people. i always try to engage people. i always try to have the style that i'm approachable that i can engage and people can walk up to me and say just about anything and do it with respect and civility. i have a lot of pride in terms of my style. people know how i feel about smoking. they know how i feel about alcohol. that might be what you want to do but my style is i want to be an example. i don't want people to listen my rhetoric. the reason i can write so well about the things i write about and i did say i write well is because sometimes those are things i struggle with. my style is this, just because i write about something that i struggle with does not mean that i don't understand what the mark is. we should try to get to the truth and so i have a style that i always try to treat people
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fairly. i always, you know, i've done very well in the marketplace. i've been very successful in the marketplace. i always try to help people realize the american dream. people talk about you're not doing this for black people. i think we need to be involved with doing for people. my style is i don't care about race. i care about the conscience and heart of an individual. i believe that when hurricane katrina came and people got all worked up because there were so many black people and my attitude, if it was white people affected with katrina, would blacks react differently? we should react because of the human condition. nobody should be left out of the equation. we should not get outraged about the dragging in texas because he was black, but a human being. if we say to the world that only we should be concerned because these are our issues and our people, you're short circuiting and leaving our people that could help you overcome these issues. my style is that i don't care about your race but i care about your value system and we can have a conversation, we can have
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a discuss but do it in a civil way, do it in a respectful way so people find that i'm approachable. my style is that i'm engaging but i always -- the hardest thing we do every day, which is our ultimate jihad is working ourselves 24 hours a day. not running the businesses. it's not being on the air. not writing the commentary. the toughest work i do every day is work on armstrong williams 24 hours a day. when i work on armstrong williams 24 hours a day, the corner of the world around me improves every day. >> what kind of work does armstrong williams need? >> a lot of work. you know, i always want to be honest with people. i don't want the play games. i don't want to say something people want to hear. sometimes we live in a society where you want to make people feel good and somebody will come to you and say i think i should go into this career and you know the person should not pursue. you know they will fail miserably.
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sometimes people ask you how you're doing. i don't want to say i'll doing okay, i'm struggling today and doing the best i can to make it through this day. we live in a society where we have to tell people we're okay. and i'm just trying to improve and be candidate. people know about the issues of no child left behind. that's a part of my life. i don't want to run away from my life because it makes me who i am today. it's fair game. it's who i am. i made my mistakes. i've used bad judgment and guess what? if i keep living, i'm going to do more. that's the human condition. it's not where you start off in life, it's where you end up in life. >> let me ask you about how leaders are made. some people think leaders are made in three ways. great people cause great events and leaders emerge or movements make leaders or the conflew wednesday of unpredictable events creates leaders appropriate to the time. >> the latter two.
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>> the latter two? >> yeah. >> movements make leaders. >> yeah. >> do leaders every make movements? >> hitler did. >> well could you argue hitler took advantage of la, took advantage of something there. >> he still requited a movement. it was not a good movement but it was a movement. >> it was arguable there would be a movement in montgomery and said you be in charge of this. >> the times we're in selected him. >> you don't think it ever happens of great people causing great events. that was the choice you didn't make of the three. >> i think the circumstances and the times. make great people. you don't know who you are until you go through the trials of life, nixon, dr. martin luther king, it's the struggle that
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make leaders. you cannot be a leader unless you go and got to have the moral fiber and you got to have moral restraint. in order that you end up destroying yourself. >> what about the prospect that somebody become as leader and this field and these events and then suddenly finds him or herself on another occasion separate from the first and takes that greatness he exhibited here and turns it into a leadership role here, that can happen. >> happens often. we have examples of that. no question. >> do you see your legit imacy s a leader to persuade people to follow your vision or these don't have to be separate or in your ability to articulate the agenda of a movement? >> well, i think you have to be able to articulate the origin of a movement but what is more
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important is people see in you something you cannot see in yourself. i think that people around you create the leadership because most people who become leaders should never want to become that if your desire is to become that, that's what you're sitting around for and not going to make the best ledder but if people come to you and especially if you humble, not something you really want and demand you that we need you at this time, you the only person that can do this, we've watched your life and we will follow. we believe in you, in you already have the trust of the people instead of forcing your trust on people. i would rather for the people to force me into leadership. >> there are occasions when people force themselves to leadership because of their ego. >> like hitler. >> or even people in our own society i don't want to mention names but there are people who just say i'm the leader. >> like jesse jackson.
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>> i won't say that. >> you didn't. >> somebody who says i'm the leader follow me. and some people follow that person just because that person has said i'm a leader and acts like a leader and looks like a leader. >> anybody hasn't led. >> anybody will follow you for awhile. anybody will give anyone a chance but to earn that trust and to keep it is the real is e issue. you have a general philosophy that guides your life and how has it sustained you through challenges or bad times? how does that philosophy sustain you? >> you know, when i was in college i had an experience where i should have drowned. and i was at a river in south carolina and i'll never forget i was under the water for 28 minutes and i was going to the bottom of the water, of the river. i could feel the scratches and
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the bruises and something just whispered, i can hear it as if i hear it now and feel the same thing i felt then just raise your hand and i just raised my hand just like a thumb and i was at the bottom and the next thing i knew, i was on the banks of the river and the lifeguard said the only thing that saved me is he saw my fingertips and grabbed the hand and pulled me out of the water. so i've always believed that from that moment on my life and choices, it's an instinct i have, it's a feeling i have. if the bible or koran never existed, in my heart i know right from wrong. sometimes like st. augustine said in his confessions, lord make me good but not just yet. we as men don't always want to be good. go work on somebody else and come back to me. i always can never use the fact that i did not know even with no child left behind, if i thought about it long enough with my
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right enough body, i would have known it was wrong and that if it were ever found it could come back to bite me and in those moments in the middle of the storm i want to blame somebody else that that spirit comes back to me and says wait a minute. only then when i can look at myself and the jihad i spoke of can i learn and grow and be a better person. the reason people don't grow they find somebody else to blame for what has happened to them. i always go within myself and search in myself to find the root cause of this and that's why i always become a better person. >> i find it interesting you said even without these existences of the three great religions you would have the same feelings and i get the impression from what you said these feelings come prfrom your parents that are doubtly religious. >> no. >> no. >> you must have heard it from your parents. >> you know, as a child hard to remember what you've heard from your parents. something can be embedded in you
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that is there. i believe that the truth has a biological advantage and doesn't need an artificial man to live and breathe. i believe a child sucking at his mother's breast can pass truth along. i think the same way truth is passed to us by our creator. if you keep the conscious good and try to do good, in that conscience you can find the truth you search for. i don't think people have to search for it. >> let me ask you about race. you said you don't think of people's races and you think about people ir regardless of their race or as you say what the hue of their skin is but everybody has to be conscious of race as we look around and see this is a black person, this say white person and so on, do you have that kind of conscienceness and if you do, how does that affect what you do? >> you cannot help but that have given the media's enforcement all around you. i just don't make judgments. you see it but make no
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assumptions. i don't make -- when i hear about somebody being racially profiled who happened to be black, that has no effect on me. some people say if that can happen to that brother, i can happen to me. whatever happens this tome, depending on what group. >> you don't think because it happened to someone like you it could happen to you? >> never. >> i know you said it never happened -- >> no. >> there is no possibility? >> no my mind, no. >> really? go ahead. do you see yourself as a leader who advances issues of race or society or both? >> society. and race is a part of society. >> and so it would be both but the emphasis on society, big emphasis on society. is there such a thing as a race chan tran sending leader? [ laughter ] >> that may not be a bad thing. >> no. no. >> yes, of course, experiences can help you transcend and
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understand there is more to life and why people suffer than race. we read these questions, a man, woman, relatively young and old, how does that question fit if you're asking and the thing about the larger world outside the black world, can that be so, t too? >> when you say somebody is a racist there is so much more to understand and understand the human being and just dismiss them and never deal with them. that's the bad thing about it and understand the human being and i believe no matter what a person believes and what they feel individuals an experience of wisdom can change them and elevate them but we refuse to do so because we feel they are
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against us because they racist, we don't want anything to do with them. we abandon them and ban niche them away from society. >> so you have said and said over and over again in this interview you don't see race, race is not that kind of function and that given the choice against race and society, race would be a part of it but when you're talking and writing and advancing your philosophy seems it's aimed at black people, people like yourself and commentary so isn't that a contradiction? >> we all have contradictions. in order to communicate. with people, sometimes you have go to where they are. doesn't mean you're there. a leader, someone willing to test the waters with what they believe because they believe you're right, you got to go where they are. people are so consumed with race
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and so obsessed with it. i write about it because if i write about it in the terms where they are they coal to read it but i write about it in a way that we give it too much power. there are other things to do. the first thing i say that the government will not. why are you going to focus your time and energy on something that will not happen? why don't you focus even in the issue of affirmative action, it's a bonn doog l and you ask them name -- tell me black people benefitting from infaction. we make it seem like the first and last and if you get them to answer the question and do research, they will tell you it's probably 3 to 4% that benefit from affirmative action. how don't you focus on things
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that can really make a difference in your life and can have an impact for generations to come. go there to talk about it. >> here is a connected question, do you have a different leadership style if you're dealing with a group that is all black or a group that's all white or in the middle of a mixed group? are you different? is your style different? >> i'm always the same. >> always the same. >> same conversation, same reactions, yes, absolutely because then if i do that, then i would have to question myself but i know that happens and i know people who do it and without saying a word you're consistent and i can't believe you said that. maybe you have a point. >> i can't believe you said it, either, maybe not because i chris trust you but because when i speak from the same text to
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black audience, white audience, i'm different. because the audience is different toward me and that makes me different toward them when you're talking about issues of morality and human condition and personal responsibility and accountability and when you're talking about equality of justice and when you're talking about how to create homeownership, that transcend and touches the lives of everybody and those are my top picks and someone may ask me a question in that direction but in terms of my address, those are not issues -- >> i don't want to beat this to the ground. >> beat it. >> if you read that list to the black audience here and you read that list to the white audience here, both audiences would like it but the black audience would be saying yes, sir, okay, say it preach, talk again and back and
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forth to you in a way this audience will not be back and forth not because they dislike you. >> but are you saying their expression. >> the expressiveness. >> are you saying the expression says they are more acceptable of it than someone -- >> not at all. not at all. i'm saying they are more expressive. >> that's true. >> and i think it's got to affect you because you get a level of appreciation here that you're not getting here and it doesn't mean these people dislike you or they these people like you more it's just those people immediately surround you with warmth and these people wait until its over and yell and applaud. >> the difference there is is that when i speak to the evangelicals, i get the same reaction. it depends on the upbringing. >> see, i never talked to the evangelicals. >> you have people jumping on their feet and you can hardly
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finish the line. and sometimes people don't react if i'm not in an audience that understands my philosophy. they are more suspicious but once they say he's not anti black, he has a philosophy. for everybody and then they begin to give you -- because i found this out in chicago a couple weeks ago when i there was. this audience was very distant and made up their minds they are not going to give me anything, not even a clap after eight minutes it turned around because they got to know me. >> now, do you think that it's divisive to focus on black leadership? we talked about black leadership and leaders but divisive to talk about black leadership? >> no. >> why isn't it to be race specific about a kind of leadership? >> you have to understand that is a legacy of our country. there is a time in our country
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for a black had to have their own institution and churches and they were not welcome and find strength and empowerment whether jack and jill, they found strength there and this has been a driving force of what has sustained them in many communities so if a society was willing to base laws and treatment strictly based on the fact that they were black and use it in such a -- in a very destructive way, why can't we focus on it and use it in a very positive way to raise up communities and still build the glue that held the community together before the laws were in place to live out the ideas in the constitution that would, i think it's very healthy. >> since non-divisive, do black
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leader haves an obligation to help other african americans? is a person known as a black leader obligateed to help black americans? >> what is interesting about that is that i find this interesting. i find that as a fascinating question. i have many whites tell me i can't do anything -- they won't listen to me or trust me but i wish i could say this to them. so already built in this country, this are people who believe because of you there is -- they cannot communicate with this audience so if they believe in this, there is always a discomfort and even believe it when they can make a difference. the problems in this community, no different than the nation of islam. the best job when it deals with refining the restoring black men to respectability and real self-esteem and opportunity. if you have something that works, you maydivisive.
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that means a that black leader can walk into a community because there are blacks that distrust people because of the history, because you cannot dismiss distrust because you have a history that has fed this for a long time. if you can improve, i'm all for that. i would not knock it. >> what do you see as your greatest contribution as an african american leader or maybe you haven't made -- >> i don't -- >> so far? up to now. >> if i can be so bold. >> be bold. >> i actually believe and i've been told, i actually kind of believe it that more than conservatives, especially black conservatives in this country, i think through my writings and being on the radio places like america's black forum i am one
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that can understand the different ideas and thinking of black consecond tirvatives and blacks who feel this way because often times i get hundreds of letters of people saying you gave me the strength and courage to believe in a value system. some young girl said you gave me the strength and courage to say virginity is all right. i believe that god blessed me in a way through my participation in the media, and in the marketplace to fuel some of the legitimacy of this way of thinking. >> do you think there is a crisis in black communities today? our mutual friend juan williams wrote a book about a crisis in black leadership and i think he extends that to the communities these leaders spring from. is there a crisis today and if there is, what contributes to it and is it more severe, less severe than in times past?
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>> well, in times past you had laws on the books. you had less opportunity and you're subjected to so many other things. i think it would be very difficult to understand why certain communities have not reached a certain level of success and achievement. i don't believe it's a crisis in communities. i believe that it's a crisis in households. it goes back it goes back to something i said earlier. if you look at the jewish community, one of the things that holds them together, is not so much the money that they make, it's that they keep their families together. you will find very few jewish families that don't have a father. they kept their communities together. you look at any community in the world where you kept the family and the household together, that
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community thrives. the crisis is the definition of the family. and the fact that men are not in the household. if there were men in the household, i would bet you that 60% to 70% of the problems we discuss would go away. it's not a crisis that urban cities have. it's a crisis that would happen to any family if they had to deal with the issues where 70% of the households don't have a father. and about 52% of them have babies out of wedlock. those conditions in any community, you will have this kind of epidemic crisis. >> but still these statistics you're quoting, these are statistics on black families or the absence of black families. these are not american statistics. these statistics would be the same for any family. the statistics themselves suggest that it is black
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families that have these pathologies to a greater extent than do white families in america. >> and you must ask yourself why is that they mack these choices? why is it a father can brin a child into the world and feel no connection to that child. especially when you look at families that keep their families together, keep their children together. we like to focus on the families -- it's something you've got to resolve. you can spend all the money, you can have all the debate, but in order to resolve this problem, it's something that has to be resolved in each individual family. >> what kinds of leaders does contemporary society demand? and how will future problems demand different kinds of loaders, or will it? is. >> well, you know, i just think that problems basically are the same. i just think they come in different shapes or forms. but it's still the same problem.
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i think most problems are rooted in a lack of moral strident, greed, selfishness. disrespect for others. and people wanting to have dominion over others. i think what is consistent about leaders in the world is that people are willing to sacrifice for others. they're willing to share. the thing about capitalism that people forget about is a good thing that my father taught us growing up. you can not empower others without empowering yourself. i realize i'm going to get it back tenfold. when i'm in church on sunday, i pay my tithes. i pay my tithes even when i cannot afford it because i always have this belief that whar i give, i will get it back tenfo tenfold. people are struggling so at this moment. they cannot afford to give neg. that is misplaced values. even in katrina, people who felt
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they had nothing, even if they only had $5, if they took $1 and gave it to somebody who was worse off than them in time they see that money tenfold. i think leadership has to show we have to get away from greed. i did not understand the enronde backle, how you could take someone's pension, people who worked for you for 30 years and just exploit them. you ask yourself, where does that come from? it's just not anything i can relate to. i think that moring than anything else, we can deal with a lot of issues we have no control over. there are things that are going to happen that it's fate. but i think in terms of people's behavior and the choices they make, you look at what they do in islamic countries. they believe we're the enemy because of their way of life. but much of their problem has to do with the way they run these feoff dom fiefdoms. the people starve, yet they expect us to love them more than they love themselves. they make americans the scapegoat.
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it's in this country, too. people have to get back to sharing and really building young men and women. even if you bring it in your company and it doesn't benefit you in your bottom line. one thing i'm proudest of is we've probably had 150 young men come through that really didn't add much to the bottom line, but we developed them into young men. we developed their work ethic. we helped them buy own homes for the first time. we gave them something that money cannot buy -- character. self-respect and dignity. when you raise a young man up, especially when they're just expected to die by the time they're 21 years old, and you make believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can become in life and how they can change. look, i can't save the world. all i can do is change the community where i am. and if everyone adopts that attitude, the world will change. >> this is a natural segue to
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the last question. as a society, how can we foster the most effective leaders for the future? you talked a bit about the young men you're dealing with, but in a larger sense, how can we as a society know that we're going to have a good supply of leadership figures in the future? >> look, it is amazing the state of education in this country. china developed 200,000 doctors and scientists. in this country, it was 30,000. we've gotten rid of vocational schools and other specialty schools when i grew up where you could go in and use a skill. you have to understand, not everybody is going to do well in college. and there are going to be those who can barely get out of high school. my family was like a microcosm of the world.
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i had a little bit of everything. i had a brother who failed third grade twice who barely got out of high school. he had no idea how he was going to make ends meet. but the great thing my father taught him was work ethic. if you know how to work, be creative, be imaginative, you can do just about anything. we don't encourage people to be creative and use enough imagination in the marketplace. my brother blus, god bless his soul, had no idea what he was going to do. he just happened to be driving by a cemetery one day and he saw them out there digging graves. and he figured he could do that. so he decided to quit his job at sara lee. he start with a rake and a shovel. he maked over $200,000 a year in the deep south, because he's not afraid of work. he's not afraid of failure. he knows one thing he can do, he can work.
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we all have gifts. there's something you can do far better than i can do. there are things i can do. but you' got to believe you can do them well. you have to discover what you are best at and become an expert. my brothers and sisters all do very well. 50% are entrepreneurs, some work in the university system, but they learn how to work. they have a value system. without a value system, without a work ethic, without a moral come pass, we're doomed for society. and the thing we try to do, you see, there are five ways you can make health in this country. you can marry, you can steal it, win the lottery, and you can earn it or -- i'll come up with it. five ways to come up with wealth. you can inherit it. the main way that people keep
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wealth? by earning it. even when you inherit it, even when you divorce and get it, even when you hit the lottery, even when you steal it, statistics shows that you don't keep it as long as people who learn to earn it by the sweat of their brow. if you work by the sweat of your brow -- we're in the me generation. we want it now. the microwave mentality. st. augustine tells us, why do people cheat on their lives? there's the immediate reward of that sex. why do people steal? the there's an immediate reward of orobbing someone of their goods. but doing good is an investment. you don't see it right away. you don't see two months or three months or six months. it kicks in over time. we want an investment to sustain us over a lifetime. not for tomorrow, not for next
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week. we don't teach children about patience. patience is an honest man's revenge. until we get to the point where we stop selling drugs, stop fleecing society and we build society and build it through character, through morality, and understand that in the end, that you win. my mother's best saying when we were growing up, lord make my last days my best days. people want their earliest days their best days. and so it takes sacrifice. it takes discipline. i have worked hard to become the armstrong williams that i am today. not racking up debt, keeping my bills clean, when i go to buy a property, i have a good rhett score. knowing my word means more than anything else. if someone believes your word, they can trust you. some people can lie and scapegoat so people don't trust them. there's something about the honor system. when i go into a bank, i get
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anything because my word is good. it's more valuable than money. your word is your character. if you say to somebody i'm going to be at an appointment at 7:00, you should be there at 6:45. tho those are the things we don't teach. that's what we've gotten away from. >> armstrong williams, thank you for an extraordinary interview. >> thank you. >> join us thursday night when "american history tv." we'll show you our road to the white house rewind series. we'll kick things off at 8:00 p.m. eastern with bill clinton's 1992 new hampshire primary concession speech. later in the evening, we'll feature campaign films and ads as well as interviews with such presidential candidates as john anderson, howard baker and george h.w. bush. again, that all starts thursday night at 8:00 eastern here on c-span 3's american history tv.
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join us thursday for washington jury room. our guests will include james antle. he'll discus the impact antonin scalia's death will have on the 2016 presidential race. then a look at the proposed 2017 defense budget with todd harrison for the centsencenter strategic and international studies. and later, national urban league president mark morial will talk in maryland. for the complete american history tv weekend schedule, go to >> american history tv on c-span3 features programs that tell the american story. and this weekend we continue our special series on the 1966 vietnam hearings, 50 years later. we'll hear special consultant to president johnson, general maxwell taylor's opening statement followed by committee member questions. >> our purpose is clear and defined.
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from his speech in 1965, president johnson did so in the following term. our objective is the independence of south vietnam and the freedom from attack. we want nothing for ourselves, only that the people of south vietnam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way. this has been our basic objective since 1954. it has been pursued by three success fl administrations and remains our basic objective today. >> and next saturday, secretary of state dean rusk gives his testimony defending john skon's vietnam poll spiiciepolicies. go to for the complete schedule. recently, c-span's american history tv has been airing a selection of oral histories with african-american community leaders. the project, titled "explorations in black leadership" was a collaboration between the university of virginia professors phyllis
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lessler and julian bond. next we hear from mary futrell. she talks about growing up attending and later working in segregated schools and her efforts at desegregation. this program is about two hours. >> mary futrell, thank you for agreeing to spend this time with us. >> it's my pleasure to be here. >> we want to begin with some examination of your background and education. who are the people in your background who helped to shape you as you were coming along as a youngster? >> as i reflect on my background i would think the first person would be my mother. she was not an educated woman but she believed very strongly in education. and insisted that my sister and myself, that we study hard that we do what we needed to do. she believed that we had the potential to do the schoolwork, so she insisted that we concentrate and focus very strongly on education. she was a no-nonsense county of parent.
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the report card had to be turned in, she wanted to see the homework. she would visit the school any time. even though we didn't have a car she'd change buses two or three times to come see how we were doing and to interact with the teachers. the teachers that i had and in particular a teacher that i had named miss jordan who was again a no-nonsense teacher but a very caring person. miss jordan always used to tell us, don't ever put yourself down, that you can do it, take your time, and put forth the best effort. my teachers also taught me that education was absolutely crucial to anything that i or my classmates wanted to do in life. and so when i look back i look back at the teachers i had at robert s. paine elementary school. i look back at the teachers i had at dunbar high school. and how they set very high standards for us. they helped us to achieve those standards. and they worked very closely with the parents, with my mother. they understood that she had to work.


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