National Conversation on Rights and Justice: Building a More Perfect Union
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National Conversation on Rights and Justice: Building a More Perfect Union

September 15, 2019


>>Good evening. I am David Ferriero, the
archivist of the United States, and it’s a pleasure to welcome you this evening to
the National Archives Building and to the culminating event of our series of National
Conversations. In 2014, I attended a civil rights summit at the LBJ Presidential Library
to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The summit brought four
U.S. presidents, civil rights leaders, scholars and activists together to discuss the future
of civil rights advocacy in America. One of the biggest things to come out of the conference
for me was the realization that there is so much more to say about rights and justice
52 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act. And the idea for the National Conversation
was born out of this need to continue these crucial decisions. As a federal agency, the
National Archives is responsible for the Charters of Freedom, the Declaration of Independence,
the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and for the collection and protection of the 13 billion
other records that tell the American story, and its continued challenges and successes
towards creating a more perfect union. We have chosen the 225th anniversary of the ratification
of the Bill of Rights to feature an exhibit Amending America in the gallery upstairs.
As the permanent home of the Bill of Rights, no institution is better poised than the National
Archives to not only celebrate the anniversary of this extraordinary document, but also explore
its meaning for civil rights today. We wanted to use this moment to engage Americans in
conversations about complicated issues such as class, gender, politics, race, religion
and sexual orientation through the National Conversations. The content of the discussions
build on the National Archives’ holdings connecting key foundational documents to the challenges
before us. But our larger goal was more ambitious, to advance discussion of these critical issues
in communities across the nation, and to bring to the forefront challenges to rights and
justice that persist 225 years after the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Over the past year
National Archives locations across the country, as well as other cultural institutions have
hosted the National Conversations. Our first concerning civil rights and individual freedom
was held at the Jimmy Carter library in Atlanta in May. Subsequent conversations concerning
LGBTQ, human and civil rights, women’s rights and gender equality, immigration, barriers
in access and educational access and equity were held in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles
and Dallas. Now we are here at the National Archives Building for our final event, Building
a More Perfect Union, an event which will bring all of these conversations together.
I want to express our gratitude to our partner the National Archives Foundation, for supporting
this series, and a big thanks to goes to our lead sponsors for Amending America, AT&T,
as well as the Ford Foundation and Seedlings Foundation for their belief and support of
the National Conversations. Now it’s my honor to introduce Patrick Madden, the Executive
Director of the National Archives Foundation. (APPLAUSE)
>>Good evening, everyone. Allow me to add my welcome to those of you here and those
watching online, it’s a special night. The National Archives Foundation is the private
partner to the National Archives. We provide creative and finance financial support to
the Archives’ endeavors. The last two years, we champion rights and justice and through
their exhibits, programs and these conversations, we are especially proud of what the Archives
has accomplished. It was made possible with support of a number of donors David’s listed
out. Staff, who can go ‑‑ will go nameless, but are endless both here and across the country,
the Archives and the National Archives Foundation. But we are especially thankful for AT&T, one
of our closest partners, and that really, really enabled the Amending America initiative
to happen. Tonight I am pleased to introduce Denis Dunn, the president of external affairs
of AT&T for Maryland, DC and Delaware, to offer his remarks before we begin. Denis?
(APPLAUSE)>>Good evening. It’s a pleasure to be with
all of you this evening at our National Archives. I would like to begin by saying thank you
on behalf of AT&T and our employees for allowing us to be part of the Archives’ Amending America
initiative. Over the past year, pioneers and thought leaders in the area of civil rights,
LGBTQ issues, gender equality, immigration and education have gathered in cities across
the country to discuss the progress that has been made, the work that remains, and our
collective responsibility to our fellow countrymen. AT&T’s more than 141 year history has evolved
alongside the moments and the history of our country. From the Civil Rights movement, to
the feminist movement, to marriage equality, to the milestones in our nation’s history,
AT&T’s story is about innovation and people. Our story of innovation has been helped power
social change in communities across America. We look forward to another century of both
observing and being part of these movements. Briefly, we would like to draw your attention
to our company’s history of leadership and support of diversity. 
AT&T’s 50‑state workforce is more than 32% female and 43% people of color. Our management
is 35% female and 37% people of color. We are a proud member of the Billion Dollar
Roundtable, a supplier diversity think tank of corporations, that spend more than $1 billion
annually with diverse corporations. AT&T also founded one of the country’s first employee
resource groups. Now we have 12 ERG’s with more than 136,000 members focused on professional
and personal development, supporting diverse communities and driving success of our business.
We are truly proud of our company’s leadership and our country’s progress on these issues.
Tonight we gather with other leaders from across the country to discuss some of the
most critical issues America’s faced today, the judiciary and civil rights. We are will
hear from U.S. district judge, the District of Columbia, Tanya Chutkan. Representative
Jim Clyburn. Courtland Cox of the student nonviolent coordinating committee legacy project.
Derrick Kayongo of the national civil and human rights center. And civil rights activist
Joyce Ladner. Every day these men and women work to make our country a better place for
all its people, a truly noble undertaking. I want to say on behalf of AT&T that there
are no better people to be having this conversation with today. Thank you very much and enjoy
this wonderful evening. (APPLAUSE)
>> And now we are going to view an introductory film featuring congressman John Lewis, narrated
by Cokie Roberts entitled: Amending America.>>Tonight’s keynote speaker for our conversation on civil rights and the role of an impartial
judiciary is Judge Tanya Chutkan. Born in Jamaica, she received her Bachelor’s degree
in economics from George Washington University and her juris doctor from University of Pennsylvania
law school, where she was an associate editor of the law review and legal writing fellow.
After law school she worked in private practice for three years then joined the District of
Columbia public defenders service, where she worked as a trial attorney and supervisor.
During her tenure at the public defender service she argued several appellate cases and she
tried over 30 cases. Eleven years later, she left the public defender service to join Boyce,
Chiller and Flexner, where she specialized in litigation and while collar criminal defense.
During her 12 years at the firm, her clients included anti‑trust class‑action plaintiffs
and individual and corporate defendants involved in complex state and federal litigation. In
June 2014 Judge Chutkan was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
She is a frequent lecturer on trial techniques. Please welcome Judge Tanya Chutkan.
(APPLAUSE)>>Good evening, everyone. I am so honored
to be asked to speak tonight on the topic of civil rights and the role of an impartial
judiciary. I have spent a great deal of time, probably more than I thought I would, thinking
about what impartial might mean in the context of civil rights. Now it’s an accepted principle
of our democracy all judges must be impartial, but there seems to be a very popular notion
floating around that judging is a procedure of some alchemy in which facts and laws are
plugged into some algorithm and out pops the right legal answer. I wish. This notion doesn’t
really take into account our task in cases where the answer isn’t clear. Where we may
be ruling in an area where there is no established law or where we are faced with a challenge
to a law or to a precedent, and this happens most commonly in civil rights cases. What
does impartiality really mean in such cases. Certainly we would all agree that impartial
must, of course, mean nonpartisan and nonpolitical. The Constitution clearly establishes a judiciary
as an independent, nonpolitical check on the political branches of government. In times
where the partisan disagreements are pervasive, and the temperature of political discourse
is heated, it is more important than ever for the federal judiciary to remain neutral,
apolitical and steadfast in order to preserve this important balance in our democracy. Impartial,
however, goes even further, it’s a fundamental principle of our adversarial system that despite
frequently large imbalances in power, wealth and privilege, judges must weigh the party’s
agreements, equality, and approach each decision without bias towards or prejudice against
either side. However, the way I see it, simply being impartial doesn’t accurately describe
all that judges bring to bear in deciding cases. This is most evident in civil rights
cases. First and foremost, judges, it bears reminding, are people. People who arrive at
their positions following a life of widely varying experiences. When I was at what we
refer to as baby judge school, and there is such a thing, in 2014, I looked around the
room of about 75 or more new Federal judges and I was struck by the diversity, and I mean
that in every category, in that room. They were former state court trial judges, appellate
judges, former prosecutors, former public defenders and judges who had come from private
practice. We were black, white, Native American, Asian, Latino, gay and straight, and some
combination of all of those categories. We ranged from our 30s to over 60. There were
ivy leaguers and state school graduates, and some were, like me, immigrants. I remember
then being filled with pride that I lived in a country where this diversity, in the
truest sense of the word, was something valuable. Something enriching. Because as we know, it
wasn’t always so. When we put on our robes, we are expected to be impartial. But that
doesn’t mean we become a blank slate. So the role of an impartial judiciary may be to remain
apolitical and unbiased in resolving disputes, but this cannot mean that one’s own experiences
will not affect us or the way we approach our cases. Of course there are those who argue
that a judge who is a minority or advocated for civil rights cannot be impartial. Interestingly,
this argument has seldom been made against straight, white, male judges.
(LAUGHTER)>>Now, I recall back in 1980, President Carter
appointed U.W. Clemon to be Alabama’s first black Federal judge. Judge Clemon had previously
sued Bear Bryant to desegregate Alabama’s football team and had served in the Alabama
senate and fought Governor George Wallace’s exclusion blacks from the state boards and
agencies. When Judge Clemon early in his tenure was assigned a case challenging Alabama’s
segregated university system, Auburn University moved to disqualify him on the grounds that
he represented someone in the civil rights case, and that he knew one of the lawyers,
which is not uncommon in Birmingham. This move was viewed as an attempt to prevent an
African‑American judge from hearing a civil rights case. Judge Clemon refused to recuse
himself. But eventually the 11th Circuit ruled he should not have ruled on the case. Judge
Clemon went on to be a deeply respected and much admired chief judge in Birmingham. More
recently, in 2011, parties asked a Federal judge in San Francisco to vacate the ruling
of chief judge Ron Walker in the Proposition 8 gay marriage case. Judge Walker was a republican
appointee whose nomination had been opposed because of his perceived insensitivity to
gay rights. After Judge Walker publicly came out as gay, the parties argued that because
Judge Walker was gay, he could not only not be impartial, but indeed was biassed because
of the possibility that he might one day want to marry his long‑time partner. This time,
however, the court recognized the absurdity and the profound disrespect inherent in such
a motion and denied the request to vacate the judge’s decision. I think about my former
office mate, Robert Wilkins, now a judge on the D.C. Circuit, and he was previously on
my court, the district court. When he was a young lawyer at the Public Defenders office,
he sued the Maryland State Police for illegally stopping and searching a car in which he and
several family members were traveling in back from a funeral. That case became one of the
first racial profiling cases. To anyone who might think because of that the Judge Wilkins
couldn’t be fair and impartial to law enforcement, I would tell you that there are numerous defendants
and plaintiffs who would beg to differ, would scoff at that notion. How many of you remember
who it was who argued for the federal government against the plaintiffs in the landmark case
of Miranda versus Arizona, which established Miranda rights? It was then solicitor general
Thurgood Marshall, a legendary civil rights lawyer who ‑‑ before taking the bench.
We expect lawyers will put aside their personal beliefs advocating for their clients, why
then should judges not be able to do the same. The notion that a judge cannot fairly decide
the case before them because of their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation,
their gender, their national origin or any other aspect of their background is not only
wrong but it is not born out by the evidence. Indeed, the country’s judicial branch is stronger
because of the diversity of the bench. Take, for example, the 2009 case Supreme Court case
of Stafford Unified School District versus Redding, which involved a strip search of
a 13‑year‑old girl by school employees. After the opinion came out, Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg noted that her 8 male colleagues at the time on the court, I quote, “have never
been a 13‑year‑old girl. It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I don’t think that my colleagues,
some of them, quite understood.” You can be sure Justice Ginsburg helped them to understand.
(LAUGHTER)>>All judges, all of us benefit from the
diverse backgrounds and experiences of their colleagues. So impartiality cannot mean erasing
what we have learned from our professional or life experiences or ignoring the real life
experiences of the parties and the societal impacts of our decisions. In (inaudible) I
always mess that one up, one of the gay marriage cases, the Supreme Court decision finding
same‑sex marriage bands unconstitutional, just as Anthony Kennedy wrote of gay men and
women that, “it would misunderstand these men and women that they disrespect marriage.
Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply, that they seek to find fulfillment
for themselves. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants
them that right.” When writing these words, Justice Kennedy didn’t ignore the real world
impact of this court’s ruling, but instead chose to consider the perspective of those
affected by it. I am reminded of a recent concurring opinion by 4th Circuit Judge Andre
Davis who in the case of G.G. versus Gloucester County School Board the so‑called transgender
bathroom case, wrote the following: “G.G.’s case is about much more than bathrooms. It’s
about a boy asking his school to treat him like any other boy. It’s about protecting
the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the
margins. It’s about governmental validation of the existence and experiences of transgender
people, as well as a simple recognition of their humanity. His case is part of a larger
movement that is redefining and broadening the scope of civil and human rights so that
they extend to a vulnerable group who has traditionally been unrecognized, unrepresented
and unprotected.” Judge Davis recognized what we all must, that being impartial and unbiased
and truly giving each side an equal opportunity to present their case requires thinking carefully
about the societal context in which each case arises and considering the impact that it
might have. Civil rights cases today aren’t the same as those from 60 or a hundred years
ago. And will no doubt be different in the future. When parties litigate civil rights
cases asking for something unprecedented or not they deserve no less than an impartial
judiciary. But they also deserve more. They deserve a judiciary willing and able to understand
the import and the consequences of our rulings without fear of repercussion. Every day, I
am grateful to be part of the judiciary. Thank you.
(APPLAUSE)>>In our first session our panelists will look at the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s
and compare it to what is happening today. Our moderator this evening is A’Lelia Bundles,
author and journalist. A’Lelia Bundles chairs the board of the National Archives Foundation,
and is vice‑chairman of Columbia University’s board of trustees. She is a member of the
advisory board on the Slessinger Library on the history of women at Harvard Radcliffe
Institute of Advanced Study. Ms.  Bundles is at work on her fifth book, if only she
would finish this book, The Joy Goddess of Harlem, A’lelia Walker, a biography of her
great grandmother. She has been working on it as long as I have known A’Lelia.
(LAUGHTER)>>Madam Walker’s parties and art patronage
help define that Europe. On her own ground, the life and times of madam CJ Walker, notable
book has been optioned for zero gravity management for a 10‑part television series starring
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer. A’Lelia was a network producer for 30 years at NBC news,
and then at ABC news where she was the Washington, DC deputy bureau chief and director of talent
development. Her articles and essays have been published in the New York Times book
review, Parade, Ms., O Magazine and Essence. An accomplished public speaker and emcee,
she has appeared at universities, corporations and book festivals as well as on ABC, CBS,
NBC, NPR, PBS and BBC. (LAUGHTER)
>> And on our YouTube channel. She has served as an advisor for numerous documentaries,
biographies, scholarly papers and history texts. A recipient of an Emmy and a DuPont
Gold Baton, she participated in residencies at Yadu and the Mcdowell Colony trying to
finish that book, which is almost done. Graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and received
a Master’s from Columbia graduate school of journalism, and phi beta kappa from American
Academy of Arts and Sciences. Please welcome A’Lelia Bundles and the panel.
(APPLAUSE)>>Thank you David. (LAUGHTER)
>>We are going to shorten that the next time. Good evening everyone. And good evening to
those of you who are watching us on the National Archives YouTube channel. And thank you Judge
Chutkan that was the perfect scene setter. I am so pleased to be joined by these amazing
panelists, Congressman Clyburn, representative from South Carolina 6th congressional district.
Derrick Kayongo, National Civil Rights and human rights Atlanta. Joyce Ladner, educator
of many things and Facebook friend. Courtland Cox, board president of the SNCC legacy project.
I know this is going to be an enlightening conversation. There are many ways to define
civil rights in 2017, it can mean everything from voting rights, reproductive rights and
access to healthcare to gun rights, freedom of speech and quality education. Tonight and
tomorrow you will hear voices from across the political spectrum on many topics. As
our Amending America exhibition though shows Americans are debating and discussing these
issues since the colonial era. Significant I think, the full title is: Conversations
on Rights and Justice, Building a More Perfect Union. It’s also significant we are in the
same building that houses not just the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the
Bill of Rights, as the archivist reminded us earlier. But also the Emancipation Proclamation.
13, 14, and 19 Amendments, as well as Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act
of 1965, and various Supreme Court decisions that have both strengthened and diluted various
civil rights. For those who understand history, and pay attention to current events, it seems
as if we are living in the midst of a gigantic civics education on democracy.
(LAUGHTER)>>This evening’s distinguished panelists
bring a range of experiences that allow us to focus on civil rights and human rights
movement from the mid 20th Century to today. You will find their bios, impressive bios,
in the program. I just like to add that those of us on stage are both participants and beneficiaries
of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. About myself, since I am not really
going to be talking about myself tonight because we want to hear them, I am going to add this
perspective and really kind of a nod to what Judge Chutkan said that we are the sum of
our experiences. I was born six months before Brown versus Board of Education was argued
before the Supreme Court. And two years after the ‑‑ before the decision was handed
down ‑‑ I entered college in 1970, the year women employees sued Newsweek for gender
discrimination. So those are among some of the civil rights milestones that opened doors
for me and some ways of which I am a beneficiary. It’s also true discriminatory federal housing
laws prevented my college educated full‑time employed executive parents from securing a
mortgage from a commercial bank when they built our new home in Indianapolis in the
1950’s. So, as Judge Chutkan says, we are the sum of our parts. We will have the benefit
of the wisdom of those here with us tonight. So, we get started let’s start with Congressman
Clyburn. Congressman Clyburn, among other things, was a school teacher. Before he entered
congress. And he brings an unusual and unique perspective of those of us who are here today
in civil rights how would you define civil rights, is it civil rights as we traditionally
think of it? Does it include education healthcare? What are civil rights today
>>All of the above. First of all, thank you so much for having me. I was a school teacher
long, long time before I came to congress. (LAUGHTER)
>>I started out my professional career as a public school teacher, which I did for three
years. That was way back in 1961 and 2. So, I happen to have been a student in the ‑‑
in high school when the Brown decision came down. So, I have been around this a long,
long time. I think that one of the biggest mistakes if not the biggest mistake we make
in this ‑‑ really in our society ‑‑ is the notion that our society moves on a
linear plane. We tend to think that things happen day
one and go to day two to day three, you tend to feel that once something is accomplished,
we go to the next thing and never have to worry about that again. That is the error
that we make. If you just think about civil rights and the laws 1866 Civil Rights Act,
it’s probably the most powerful Civil Rights Act ever. Most of the litigation in the 60s
grew from the 1866 Civil Rights Act, in spite of that, we had (inaudible) versus Ferguson,
a Supreme Court decision in 1896 that declared separate but equal as being the law of the
land. Then we get to the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education decision. But I think that
if you look at everything that we do, just look at healthcare. Martin Luther King, Jr.
in a speech given in 1966 at a human rights conference said this: Of all the forms of
inequality, the injustice in healthcare are the most egregious and inhumane. He said that
in 1966. So (inaudible) the day before passing the Affordable Care Act, I happened to be
a majority whip at the time, it was my job to get the votes. We found out early afternoon
that we had the votes. And so we began to prepare our speeches on the floor. When I
went to the floor I said this: That I view the Affordable Care Act as a Civil Rights
Act of the 21st Century. And if you look at the Affordable Care Act and read it for what
it is, it outlaws discrimination against sick people. We have had ‑‑ you think about
it ‑‑ all of the other stuff that (inaudible) think about gender, preferences, but the law
allowed until we passed Affordable Care Act, the law allowed insurance companies to say
to a woman with breast cancer or other cancer that we can no longer cover you after your
second or third treatment. And so, to me, nothing could be more egregious than sending
a letter to a cancer victim that you used up your lifetime of benefits. Nothing to me
could be more inhumane as saying to a family, in spite of all of your insurance payments
over the years, this child that you just gave birth to has got diabetes and cannot be brought
on to your insurance policy. What could be more inhuman than that. The Civil Rights Act ‑‑
the Affordable Care Act, to me, was a Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century. Now, Brown
versus Board of Education was about education. But I don’t think we ever talked about civil
rights and stuff without making some references all the courts and judges go back to Brown
v. Board of Education for any number of decisions that it makes in any number of fields not
just education. So I believe that the day will come in the not to distant future irrespective
of what happens tomorrow morning and my friends on the other side of the capitol roll out
their ‑‑ whatever it is they are going to call it.
(LAUGHTER)>>I think that it’s best you can tell, if
you look at it, it’s going to be what I call the regular movement of our society and that
is rather than moving on the linear plane our society is always moving like a pendulum
on the clock. It goes left for a while, then it goes back right for a while. And then it
goes back to the left. And repeat that over and over again. You go back through all of
the history look at the times since we have put limitation on the term of prisoners which
came from Roosevelt. If you look at all of the elections we have had since that limitation
was determined we have changed from left to right and right to left every 8 years, say
two. Jimmy Carter’s full years and then Reagan first Bush 12 years. Every other time, every
8 years you have gone from left to right and back to left again. So, 2008 the results of
the election gave us the Affordable Care Act. The results of the election 8 years later
is now going to give us something we find out in the morning ‑‑
(LAUGHTER)>>‑‑ what I guarantee you is it will
move us from left back to right. And then we will have to wait on another election to
go back left again. It repeats itself all the time so we never ever are ever going to
get to the end of thing since civil rights came out.
>> Thank you. (APPLAUSE)
>>So Doctor, in a way that tees up what I wanted to ask you about each generation has
its own battles, and my reading of your history is that part of the reason you became activist
among the reasons was murder of Emmett Till, you went through the period and you saw the
Civil Rights movement spawning other movements, so talk to us about that.
>> I was born 1943 in Mississippi. And on just about the end of World War II, that was
important because our parents African‑American kids, parents and grandparents fought in either
World War I, my Uncle Archie fought in World War I in Paris and World War II and my father ‑‑
military never saw active duty ‑‑ never saw war. And they went abroad to fight for
democracy. Something they believed in greatly. They returned home with the expectation that
that same democracy would come to them. It did not. It sat back ‑‑ not ‑‑ they
observed the expansion of the American economy in the form of suburbanization of America
expanded industrialization. The GI bill provided many, many men with education. You might ask,
well, why didn’t the make black man take advantage of it. The colleges were segregated. If there
is no college near your hometown, you couldn’t go to school. That prevented a lot of African‑American
men from taking advantage of the GI bill. From 1954, I remember that the ‑‑ I believe
Jacksonville news ran a headline on May 17 ‑‑ May 18, 1954, that’s in big bold lettering.
Black Monday. Because it was considered ‑‑ the Supreme Court decision that outlawed,
school segregation was considered by the ruling people to be a horrible thing. Because they
believed in segregation. And for African‑Americans, I remember my parents grandparents talking
about, well, we’ll get better schools now. That’s exactly what happened. What happened
was forest county had (inaudible), we kids in the county there were three schools in
the county, different communities, spread out over maybe 25 miles. And Board of Education
built one large attendant center school through high school. And we had a new big school and
a gym but there was no desegregation we got the same hand‑me‑down books from the high
school. I had books four or five years, how ever many. They had stickers in them each
year you wrote your name and what year it was that you got that book. After four, five
years in the white school those books were brought to my School. We sat around satisfied.
I got Mary Jane’s English book, what do you get. Who has her math book and so on. But
the books were old, they heavily worn, and we never got new books at all. We had no lab
equipment. My science teacher when I ordered his own equipment. And on and on. Once we
got that new school, and that was the response all over Mississippi and many places throughout
the south to stave off desegregation, build new schools that would be equal but not desegregated. 
I liked the all‑black school. Because it was my community. It was ‑‑ I could walk
to school. It was ‑‑ I am not saying I preferred it to desegregated school, I don’t
know what that would have been like. But I did like the fact that I had teachers who
cared deeply about my personal progress. So much that Miss Jackson would come to my home
to talk to my mother about my sister and my progress at school. But I longed for the day
we would have a school equivalent to Harrisburg high school. Our school in any way did not
measure up. I longed for the day that we would have a public library. I went to school when
I was three and a half years old, my first teacher, I guess they call it pre‑K now.
I was in a pre‑K and K, three and a half and four years old. Then I got skipped to
the first grade when I was still 4 I think. Anyway, my ‑‑ Miss Jackson had the responsibility
for being librarian for all of the schools. Now she had one bookcase and $100 budget annually
for books. I used to long to walk those steps up the steps to Harrisburg public library.
Big imposing Corinthian columns and so on. Years later by the way, I went in there they
didn’t have anything worth ‑‑ (LAUGHTER)
>>‑‑ (inaudible) it was awful. A lot of garden clubs, a bunch of things. So, I
could have kept my longing for Harrisburg. But all of this to say that that was the background
of hundreds of thousands if not millions of black kids throughout the deep south. And
when I finished high school finished college by the time desegregation came I tried to
register to vote three times and Harrisburg each time I was denied the right to vote because
the man said I didn’t pass the literacy test, even though I was in college. I dare say I
was far more literate than he. (LAUGHTER)
>>(inaudible) was his name. He had notorious reputation for calling up white people on
the phone and saying come on down and register, I am going to put you on the rolls, and never
passing a single black person was registered by court order. Africans Americans (inaudible).
Now, what happened is when the schools were finally desegregated by court order, my younger
sisters and brothers went to those schools. But they also saw the, to some extent, the
transformation and destruction of their old schools. They saw the principal demoted to
elementary school teacher. They ‑‑ at the same time there was the rise of desegregation
academy that now dot the landscape throughout Mississippi for sure. 
Those ‑‑ that means that there are very few white kids in the public schools. And
the black school ‑‑ and the public schools that are there are starved for resources that
they were when I was a kid. Now, I saw all of that going on. I was an inquisitive child,
I remember when I was 12, and Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi. I feared for the
lives of my father and brothers and feared for my own life, I thought someone would come
and drag us out and lynch us. But what happened when I got to college, I became involved with
SNCC first I was expelled for organizing a demonstration. It was the happiest day of
my life. (LAUGHTER)
>>I hated that school because it was like a plantation. The President of the college
came over we had a demonstration and knocked my roommate down to the ground and kicked
her. It was his job, overseer of the plantation, the college was a plantation. I transferred
to a liberal arts college, called the civil rights college, I felt I died and gone to
heaven. That’s where I met so many young people because (inaudible). We did we are young looking
but ‑‑ (LAUGHTER)
>>Courtland and I spent the summer of ’63 working on organizing March on Washington
in New York under the chief organizer. They would come back and see how we workers were
doing and so on. We were on the stage here in DC when the March occurred. That was quite
a memorable occasion. But what I wanted to say is that we young people who had seen the
pictures of Emmett Till’s bloated body after it was dragged from the Tallahatchie River,
we saw it on the cover of Jet Magazine. All of us decided we would avenge his death in
psychosocial terms, we were his age, on the throes of adolescence when you are coming
into your own individuality. Here somebody slapped our age peered down, murdered him
viciously, and all of us and we were encouraged by parents, who had been in World War II and
World War I to go out there, they expected it. It wasn’t accidental we became the activists
when we did and started a movement. My great uncle said, it’s your generations, you girls
will have to change things. My father, all the people around us told us that. And we ‑‑
Emmett Till then was the personification of all that was evil in society. And we were
going to avenge his death. And that’s important because symbols are very, very important.
We were ‑‑ we helped to bring about a lot of change. You know, and I always tell
young people who ask, weren’t you scared? I say, yeah, of course, you are frightened
we didn’t want people in the movement who weren’t frightened they were dangerous, they
would get you killed. We also ‑‑ we were on a mission. And it was so different then
than now. It was very, very different. It was when people cared about other people and
now people have turned inward to care about themselves first and foremost. So, I ‑‑
what I saw in the movement was that it gave rise to a lot of other, other social movement.
The great passage of elderly people who organized for their rights came out of the Civil Rights
movement it went on and institutionalized them ultimately we got the AARP. You found
the same thing with the women’s movement fawned by the Civil Rights movement. In fact, some
of the women in SNCC are active in organizing the civil rights movement. Students movements,
Chicana Americans, people across disability rights were all spawned Civil Rights movement
gave rise to ‑‑ showed other people who had legitimate petitions that they weren’t
(inaudible) to their government and others that it was possible. 
Where we now? (inaudible) you are right, we do spring we go back and forth. But I really,
really hope that people are not denied healthcare because it should be a right. It’s a human
right to be able to take care of your body. Every major industrialized country in the
world has healthcare available to the vast majority of its people I don’t know why it
has to be so difficult here. The insurance company the politicians whomever. But I can
remember my own mother and father not having health insurance. My father retired, he was
a highly skilled diesel engine mechanic, he never got a health insurance and retired on
Social Security, his white friends on the job had health insurance, provided in part
by the owner Joe Morris of that company. It’s not right for anyone to be deprived of the
ability to take care of your body. I hope republicans will do the right thing.
(APPLAUSE) (APPLAUSE)
>>So, Mr. Cox, among the things that you said in your conversation and things that
I have read that you have said, well, first I would just say this: When you were in SNCC
among the things that you did was to register 2800 people in Loudoun County very important.
But you said it’s not about protest it’s about power. How people are excluded from political
power. And how they get power is what is important.>>Yes. I think as we look at today’s political
environment, it’s been defined by what happens in the ’60s. When you look at the political
parties as they exist today, when you see that the republican has the solid south, when
we were coming up it was the democrats who had the solid south. The ‑‑ what we call
the Dixie cracks were part of the democratic party, and as a result of a number of things
the Mississippi democratic party challenge in 1964, the civil rights of the ‑‑ the
voting rights bill in 1965, and Ronald Reagan’s speech in 1980 in show buck county. Most of
those who were in the democratic party and considered Dixie cracks moved over the republican
party. So, that the republican party that you have today was defined by the actions
that were taken in 1960. And the big move was Strom Thurmond in 1964 moving from the
democratic party to the republican party. The other thing that happened in the 1960s
that was important, Joyce talked a little bit about it, is that those who had no voice
or vote including the African‑American community as Negroes as we were known hit the Hispanic
community, the gay community, women, they began to have a voice. They began to have
a vote so that basically from almost nothing in 1960 you now have what you had after the
day after the inaugural address in Washington, DC. You now have a mass of people who have
since the ’60s grown in terms of trying to put forth another agenda into the American
body politics. Now, both Congressman Clyburn and Joyce talked about the pendulum. But the
reason there is a pendulum, and it’s hard to realize, but one person’s problem tends
to be another person’s solution. So, the question of who controls the political agenda is really
the discussion and it seems to me as we talk about ‑‑ we mention healthcare, one person’s
problem is healthcare, the other person’s problem is who ‑‑ the issue of taxes
and who will get tax breaks. You know, when we were coming up our problem was segregation.
For those in the south segregation was the solution. So, as we begin to look at what
is happening in the country and what is going on in the country the back and forth. The
question is really about who will define. And who will decide. That is the big question.
Who will design, and who will decide. Who will design what is the problem, and who will
define what is the solution. Because I listen to people talk about healthcare, and once
someone said, well, if we don’t have ‑‑ we don’t have anymore Obamacare people are
now free to choose whether want to have healthcare or not or if they should stop buying ‑‑
basically people ‑‑ the question of who is defining the problem determines what legislation
is passed. Who is defining the problem determines where our money is spent. Who is defining
the problem determines what the narrative is so as we begin to look at the discussion,
the back and forth is really the through and through of who is going to define and who
is going to decide. So I think as I look at what is happening today, we now ‑‑ when
I was coming up, we only really had one center of power. Women didn’t count. Gays didn’t
count. Black people didn’t count. Hispanics didn’t count. People who were, you know, had
disabilities didn’t count. But now they count. And they are now involved in resistance. But
as I think about it, and I go forward, that’s not going to be enough. It may be necessary
but it’s not sufficient. Because in order to make a difference, they are not going to
have you understand ‑‑ they are not going to have to understand it’s not voting at election
by beginning to organize for power. Beginning to organize to define which problem will be
solved, who will control the reins of power and who will make the decision. So I think
as I look at the ’60s it set the table for what is happening today. That, you know, the
players were on various sides. The republicans were looked one way the democrats look one
way. Now because of the ’60s we have the realignment of the parties in the democrat and republican
parties and because of the ’60s, we have a second set of people who can define and decide
that beyond what we saw as we came up in the ’50s and ’60s.
(APPLAUSE) (APPLAUSE)
>>So, Mr. Kayongo, one of the things that having been born somewhere else other than
America means that you could watch the Civil Rights movement from a distance. You bring
a particular set of experiences because of being born in Uganda, and now being CEO of
a center that looks at both civil rights and human rights. What are the issues that you
think we face globally?>>First of all, let me say how humbled I
am to be here with all of you. It’s very (inaudible) for a young African boy from refugee (inaudible)
between wonderful book ends. I don’t know what to say, congressman, you are really a
wonderful person and all the way to Cox, and my sister here who is actually in my museum.
But I have to tell you, what you just heard is the human condition. One of the great professors
in Africa talked about the great championship around the idea how do we get human beings
to understand the value of the other. You will never find a dolphin that is homeless.
You never find a lion in the Savannah that says, well, gee, I have a little bit of a
spot over here it doesn’t look like the other lions, what shall I do. (inaudible) it tends
to speak a little bit. Therefore we define ourselves through what I call two things:
One, (inaudible) advantages. And number two, this idea of moral aptitude. Let’s pick it
up from what we talked about there is a great thing happening in the U.S. where you struggle
for your independence after independence. Africa there is a great movement happening
where you figure out what things are going on in the U.S. in the ’60s you gain independence
in the ’50s. It’s really interesting because Martin Luther King came to Africa to know
what Africans really have put up incredible struggle against colonialism and ‑‑ (inaudible)
Africa is getting its independence. It’s interesting at that point there was a little notion around
nonviolence. You could actually use the (inaudible) to actually fight what was really a vast and
credible force in institutionalizing of hatred. And so, (inaudible) in the king’s voice and
said you know what there is a guy called Gandhi, you should go visit him. You go to India,
on his way to India where he gives a good talk about the issue. And comes back and in
the U.S. debate with my friends here the SNCC people around picking up arms and fighting
against this idea of hatred. To which Gandhi at the time mentioned an incredible point
if we fight using arms we will never win the battle here. This is are with the battle is,
right here. And if we can get our young to understand the power of intellect, that you
can actually use the constitution of this great nation to do Brown versus Board of Ed
to do Civil Rights movement all of the movement it was never because you picked up arms. It
was always because you were able to say we are all equal under the pronouncements of
God. And if we do believe in God, as we have all
sort of come up to say, then good cannot be complicit in this conversation. In the south
in the east and the west. The challenge is globally. Religion is back center of this
incredible discussion around rights. Is Allah more than Christ, is Buddha less important
than the two? Is the African God the (inaudible) less important than Christ? So, for us, in
the global movement, we have kindly understood that the silence of Nelson Mandela in jail
for 26 years or so was this very point, yes, in my silence I will still remind of you how
volatile your accusation of the other has been unequal to you is such a stupid idea.
As we put up front around gay rights, as we put up fronts against religious rights and
all of the other rights the question is: Are you as human beings willing to understand
the other and therefore understand what moral (inaudible) is all about. The question before
us globally is this: Number one, women, poor, less educated and less respected. But voluminous
and ubiquitous in population. We think that if you undermine the state of women globally,
you undermine the market and therefore (inaudible) global shall remain constant and not grow
because of lack of education. Number two, the state of the continent of Africa is really
in dire straights. That continent is really going to be the key to the next frontier of
the marketplace. As the Chinese go into Africa, they should be reminded by all of you what
doesn’t work in Africa. And that Africans like everybody else brilliant, smart, but
very, very cognizant of who they are still need to be understood. And lastly, the dear
of America and its position in the world. Today your (inaudible) of government, congress,
the judiciary, and the executive ‑‑
(LAUGHTER)>>Remember that?
(LAUGHTER)>>That that ‑‑ those three are being
tested right now. And the question for us is as Americans will you remind the rest of
us in the world that human rights do really matter. That civil rights do really matter.
Because you bring up the subject. (LAUGHTER)
>> And if they do matter, you ought to actually fight for them globally. Your (inaudible)
on those issues that concern us globally will tell the rest of our leaders globally that
you are actually pontificating in the first place that you didn’t really mean it. And
so, an African boy, former refugee under the leadership of Idi Amin, who grows up to have
an education and builds a business in this country that he is free, is free and now is
under incredible humbling opportunity to be (inaudible) the director of the national civil
and human rights is really where the truth is. It does work. The country does work. If
you give it a chance. So, Ellis Island for us is where the human rights are. (inaudible)
we are ‑‑ we have great problems in The Middle East. Is Africa ‑‑ yes the (inaudible)
of Congo is going through a rough time. Genocide yes, we did it in London. So human rights
in the world are directly linked to the understanding of how the U.S. reacts to what is going on
globally. Your resources are important. Your natural resources financial resources you
can’t let the young kids growing up that you built this country by tweeting or laughing
or doing anything of that nature. You built this country through the voices that you just
heard. And therefore, the absolute, absolute important is millennials of today misunderstand
the power of civil rights and the power of human rights. The U.S. the creation of the
UN, again they are silent. You wake up as a nation and remind us where we come. Pick
up the mantle and remind us who we are. Will you be the Americans that we have come to
love (inaudible) will you be the Americans who have been designed as through Martin Luther
King. Lastly, our rights in Africa, Latin America and Asia, all over the world and today
North Korea depend heavily on your conscience and moral aptitude as Americans.
(APPLAUSE) (APPLAUSE)
>>Thank you. So America really is the beacon of hope for others. Democracy. And before
we go to questions in a minute but there are a couple of other things that I wanted to
talk about. I wondered if any of you had any response to Mr. Kayongo, any thoughts about
America as a moral leader?>>At the very end as brought up (inaudible)
you may recall that I believe the year like 1823, I have forgotten which year he came
to this country, looking for the magic is what he said. Of course he really being the
study of judicial ‑‑ criminal justice system (inaudible) really. But he said something
very interesting that I think that we have to keep in mind as we hear so much talk really
critical today about the so‑called religious right. 
He talked and said that he traveled around the country, didn’t stay but a year, looking
for the magic. He went into legislative halls, halls of congress. He just went into all of
these governmental places but he said he didn’t find the magic until he went into our places
of worship. That’s where he found it. And he said at that time America is really magical
and great because America is good. Basically good. And when America ceases to be good,
he will cease to be great. I think you ought to think about real hard
about that.>> (inaudible) other nations throughout the
world long time have looked to America as the model which to aspire for aid, (inaudible)
but in south Sudan there is terrible drought and people are dying. And yet there the State
Department budget is being cut tremendously. There is no one on the international scene
coming from this country today that is giving the kind of leadership that represent traditional
American morality. We are Balkanizing not “we” I am not a part of it.
(LAUGHTER)>>I will continue to have a universal person.
(LAUGHTER)>>Citizen of the world. But the nation is
becoming Balkanized. America first, really means that we turn inward and don’t have to
care very much at all about what goes on outside. Now we know it won’t work because you know,
the world is a set of interlocking institutions, whether it’s trade whether it’s government,
international treaties. They are there for a reason. So, I would say that right now we
are in a little bit of trouble about this moral leadership thing.
>>I mean there has always been the contradiction that existed in America, I mean, clearly there
is no more brilliant statement than the Declaration of Independence. And the constitution of the
United States is always, you know, a very important document and aspirational. But at
the same time the same people who wrote those two documents had slaves. We have a 3/5 clause
in the constitution. So we have that contradiction constantly. But it’s also very important that
we have the aspiration of trying to reach to a place even if in fact the reality doesn’t
sustain the aspiration. Because the aspiration has to be there what George H.W. Walker Bush
used to say that vision thing. (LAUGHTER)
>>So, you know, I ‑‑ it’s always such a privilege to moderate a panel because it’s
kind of like sitting around the kitchen table I hope that you feel that we had a chance
to hear some wonderful thoughts. Before we go to questions, I just wonder if you had
final thoughts on present day future advice for young people who will watch this pendulum
continue to swing back and forth?>>I think that young people today, I spoke
to my son before I did this, he is a new American, and I was telling him dad what are you doing?
I said I am going to give a small talk about where America belongs. He said what? I said,
why America is important. And he said, we already are important. (inaudible) you assume
you are important. Do you know why you are important? Because we are big. He gave me
all of the reasons that don’t make you important. (LAUGHTER)
>>If you are not healthy with healthcare you are not important. If you are not educated
with all of this grade school down you are not important. If your day‑to‑day life
is subject to debate, you are not important. The (inaudible) are important. The Sweeds
are doing very well. So, I think that we need top our young understand what movements are
all about. And that (inaudible) them figuring out it’s really to help them articulate that
particular thing when I hear Black Lives Matter, I see a young man trying to work, yeah. Nobody
walks the same way. So, I think we need to encourage these movements and figure out where
to help them understand how to challenge power productively. Not just for the sake of challenging
power. That’s my biggest worry right now. As a young cognizant of how you build social
movement regular movement to challenge the day‑to‑day problems. And I don’t think
that we are doing a good job helping them to develop that skill. I am trying ‑‑
I am dying to do that.>> The Algerians (inaudible) wrote (inaudible)
stated that each generation must define its mission to fulfill it or betray it. I came
out of a generation of the ’60s. Young people today are in the 2000 ‑‑ millennials,
post millennials generation. I think they have to define what is critical to them, and
I see as my job is to continue to try to encourage them and give them any assistance that I can.
That’s what me and my generation often talk about. But I think it’s also important to
maintain optimism in the face of tremendous difficulty and maintain hope and work towards
that. Young people cannot become dispirited and feel that there is no way for them to
rise up out of their situations that they find themselves in. And that’s the job of
all of us.>>I talked to a lot of young people over
the past two to three years and before the election of last year they didn’t think political
involvement was worth it. They didn’t think being involved in an electoral politics because
they made the assumption that Congressman Clyburn talked about as he began this conversation.
That progress was to be steady. That you would always go forward. That we had a platform
that was going to be built on ‑‑ that’s one. But there was another group who said
that we have the situation as it is today and after you did all of these things we still
have not achieved you know the freedom that we think should be there. 
I think all of those conversations were going on because they thought they had a choice
to do or not to do. I think after the election they are now focused. They are now focused
that you know, being in the street is not the end all and be all. They are focused that
they have to engage in political ‑‑ you have to engage in electoral politics. They
are now focused that they have to do something. Now, they are focused at a level that is 30,000
feet and talking about policy, and all sorts of things like that. They haven’t focused
on what it will take to win. What it will take to get out the vote. What it will take
to do all of those things. But they are moving in the direction, and I think that they are
some of the brightest and smartest people I have ever met. I often tease them the people
who consider themselves young people and millennials, I said when we were ‑‑ we were 17 to
22 years old, and at your age you would be considered old.
(LAUGHTER)>>Well, it was mentioned earlier, if I wrote
my memoirs I would entitle my book: Blessed experiences. It’s because of a conversation
that I had with my ‑‑ one of my college professors my sophomore year when I was engaging
him in ‑‑ I used to love to argue them. (LAUGHTER)
>>One day I was arguing with him, he stopped me in the middle of the sentence and he said:
Young man let me tell you something I don’t care who you think you are and what you may
think you are you will never be anymore nor will you ever be any less than what your experiences
allow you to be. I think that what we have to do as a society, as a country is concentrate
on making sure that our young people have good positive productive experiences and that’s
what will make them good positive productive citizens.
(APPLAUSE)>>So, we are able to take questions. That’s
always an excellent part of these programs at the National Archives. How many of you
have come to events at the National Archives before? Great. A lot of repeat people. How
many of you are members of the National Archives? Excellent. That’s more of you need to be members.
So, questions, are there any people who want to, please go to the microphones if you have
questions. And while we are waiting for people ‑‑
I am just going to throw out something that I was curious about, so (inaudible) is something
that everybody on this stage, Derrick was not too young, everybody on the stage was
very involved in the right to vote and registering people, and I just wondered what you think
about where we are now with the pendulum ‑‑>>For the first time in the U.S. I never
voted in my own country. So if there is anything to be celebrated is this fight is actually
a good ending. I woke up like everybody in Africa who comes here to vote for the first
time and maybe my sister from Jamaica you wake up crying anxious and celebratory of
the fight to allow everybody a chance to vote. I can tell you voting is unbelievable. And
you do a fantastic job (inaudible)>>When you watch people in line you watch
people voting for Nelson Mandela for the first time you watch people wait in line all day
here to vote how important.>> You don’t come out when it drizzles.
(LAUGHTER)>>Or large percentage of voters in America.
>> I think it’s something we really believe rain flooding and (inaudible) I am serious. ‑‑
I find it interesting that you have got three SNCC graduates sitting up here. I first met
John in 1960, I was a original members of SNCC, if you remember in 1960 SNCC was organized
first meeting was in the spring of 1960 up at the university. When things kind of got
out of hang we thought we would get together and get organized and we met at Morehouse
College.>> You were there?
>>I was absolutely there. That’s the night I met Martin Luther King, Jr. I sat up with
him I had an experience that night. I never been the same after that night. But if you
remember, all of that was on the eve ‑‑ not literally but three weeks before the 1960
election. And believe it or not, because people are not writing about it, what happened in
the aftermath of that meeting was a telephone call that was made to Mrs. king which changed
the election outcome. Because before that telephone call the black vote in this country
was going to Richard Nixon by a big, big number. It all flipped in that period because of Richard
Nixon and Henry’s reaction King being arrested in jail and the Kennedy’s reaction. It changed
that election. I am amazed the number of times I am here with young people that episode ‑‑
I have yet to find anybody that knew anything about that. And never put any kind of connection
between what we were doing, and the results of the election.
>> Because history is not being taught as it should be.
>> Oh, I agree. Except when I was teaching it.
>> In high school. (LAUGHTER)
>>All of you. (LAUGHTER)
>>Well I ‑‑ I remain eternal optimist, even in the face of tremendous difficulty.
I have always been a strong advocate for those who cannot defend themselves and now those
poor of all races, children of all single moms, dads as well. I care deeply about the
addiction problem that’s flooding the country. And I am mindful of the fact that we in the
black community had just such a horrible addiction problem. And so many black men were locked
up with very, very long sentences. Thank God we finally view this problem as a medical
one. A bit too late for all of those families of the addicts who have been put away. Families
that were destroyed. I mean we have to ‑‑ we have to be a lot more wise ‑‑ a lot
wiser about the way we try to change our situation. I want to say that we have tremendous capacity,
the greatest capacity we have for building human resources and it’s not going to be dependent
upon who leads this nation, but what we the citizens do on our own behalf. And how we
organize ourselves and move forward.>> Okay. Did you want to say anything?
>>Just one last thing, again back to the same thing. Some people see voting of all
of its citizens as a solution. Another group democracies voting of all citizens as a problem.
And therefore, we have what is considered you know voter suppression, and various other
kinds of things that people make up. It is the ‑‑ it’s a discussion about who’s
interests will be served as long as that fight is there you are going to have that back and
forth go on.>> All right.
>> Yes. Presentation early this evening talked about the thousands of amendments to the Constitution
had been proposed by never adopted. Some of people are calling for constitutional convention
now which would be a real wild card. If there were a constitutional convention what are
the opportunities and what are the fears that the mischief it might do or something we would
like to be added to the Constitution?>>The worse thing in the history of the country.
If we were to have a constitutional amendment signed, I don’t know if you realize this or
not there are movements among states that already approved the Constitution to rescind
the approval out of fear of what will happen if it ever reaches ‑‑ I think it requires
(inaudible). The constitutional convention would be the worst thing to happen.
>>I think so too.>>I’m sorry?
>>I agree, it would be awful.>> Especially because people don’t learn
civics in school anymore, they don’t understand. But tomorrow there will be a conversation
about education. We had a great history lesson here today we need to give you a reading list
from all of the things that have been mentioned. Yes?
>>I have been reading a lot lately about the economic vitality of our economy in the
post war years when we had 4% growth for like 25 years from 1950 on wards. And the more
I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that the civil rights revolution probably
couldn’t have happened in the time when like today where we have such slow growth or low
to no growth. The challenges of the economy are such that everyone thinks that it’s the
zero sum basically. I say this all in the contention of my own fears as a young person
seeing you know ‑‑ I grew up in the ’90s when things were pretty good relatively speaking.
And I was just sort of taught growing up and hearing from my family from the south about
my mother integrated our elementary school when she was like six or something. You know,
just like the world that I grew up in was way better than anything my mother experienced
and her mother experienced before her. And I just sort of assumed that life would get
better. There is just this path towards more rights more freedoms for prosperity, et cetera.
But it seems like we have gone backwards in a lot of ways. And I think that the zero sum
mentality economically, culturally, et cetera, has a lot to do with that. That’s just my
comment and you can take that whatever you want.
>> (inaudible) I want to say something, I think we have to be very, very careful of.
A lot of people look I am not the first African‑American to represent South Carolina in the United States
congress. I am the first one since post reconstruction. I say that because I have tried to educate
people correctly reconstruction in the last 12 years. So it was over a long time before
black folks left congress last one left in 1901.
Now, there were eight African‑Americans before me from South Carolina. But I don’t
believe Robert Smalls, who served in congress ten years, serving state legislature ten years
was part of the first constitutional convention that gave us penal system. The first free
public school system. All of that came from the South Carolina 1865 convention authored
by Robert Smalls he was one of the two people around for the 1895 convention that took all
of that away. He died 1917 I believe of a broken heart and much of his wealth was gone.
He became a very wealthy guy. Simply because the pendulum went back in the other direction.
So I can’t say that enough. Because we had an attorney general under Barack Obama advocating
to get rid of mandatory minimums. Mandatory minimum sentences getting rid of these super
chargers you put on people arrested. You have a gentleman announced a month ago he is bringing
all of that back.>> Unbelievable.
>>(inaudible) coming back. If that’s not the pendulum going another direction I don’t
know what is. That’s just the first thing. You have a president who signed a budget the
other day and said at the time he signed it, the best funding for black colleges and universities,
I question the constitutionality of that. That’s what he said in his statement. Why
did the President make signing statements? To put you on notice that they do not plan
to fulfill what is in the law that they just signed. So, we are in ‑‑ we ought to
be in crisis mode. So the pendulum is going so fast in the other direction, I would say
that we are failing to educate people properly.>> Can anything be done to prevent the attorney
general from reinstituting the mandatory minimum sentences? It’s destroyed so many people’s
lives families and children.>>It requires 18 votes in the house 51 votes
in the senate, we aren’t close to having either one of them, that’s what is required.
>> I know. And we know that it doesn’t help the society to lock people up and continue
to lock them up. It helps the business people who own these for‑profit prisons. But it
doesn’t do anything ‑‑>>You mention it because the Obama administration
got rid of for‑profit prisons.>>They are coming back.
>> And he brought it back in the same way he brought back for‑profit prisons. I want
you ‑‑ I looked at one of those contracts when I first started looking at this, you
wouldn’t believe this but for‑profit prisons every contract that I have seen had a guaranteed
85% occupancy rate. Guaranteed.>> There is a judge arrested in Mississippi
I believe for ‑‑>>(inaudible)
>>(inaudible) (LAUGHTER)
>>They were getting ‑‑>>I am from South Carolina so I am going
to stand up for the south. (LAUGHTER)
>>This is ‑‑ I was just saying Congressman Clyburn’s daughter Mignon is an SEC commissioner,
and I remember work on trying to reduce the cost of phone calls for people in prisons
with exorbitant $20 a minute>>My daughter, I don’t believe I have ever
seen her cry. She was as close to tears when this court issued this decision the other
day overturning that rule. It’s another inhumane thing. When you say
to a person that you call home ‑‑ remember this case started it came out of Washington.
>>I didn’t realize it had been overturned.>>Yes, the judge overturned it last week
I believe it was.>> (inaudible).
>>Not you. (LAUGHTER)
>>That’s right. Well your court sent it to the SEC and it sat there 20 years and Mignon
became chair, she did it. She told me, if she didn’t do anything else she would do that
because we got ‑‑ she got to know the lady, the grandmother who started the case.
And all trying to hold on to her grandchild like you are saying, trying to make sure this
grandchild doesn’t get away from us, but can’t make the phone calls because it’s 25 and $30
a minute. That’s crazy.>>Awful.
>>Ridiculous.>>That’s what it was.
>> Google that, find out more. We are going to do more with this. So, we are going to
take two more questions and then we will wrap up. If you would ask your questions back to
back that allows us to think up a bit.>> My name is (inaudible) and I went to (inaudible).
You say the phone call in the jail actually it’s even
worse. Not only the (inaudible) sent to jail once in jail they cannot use phone. The phones
for whatever reason not allow you to talk. But some things he cannot talk anywhere in
city hall or county or state general assembly or even in some agencies they don’t allow
you to talk. So, my other question is not really a question pendulum is the (inaudible)
it’s a cycle. As long as there are things you can improve not only the education, people
don’t really talk about the rights and injustice anymore. To everything there depends on the
money. Now we have talk about charter school and privatization and jail is privatization.
Everything is privatization and the problem is if you want to be a profit on the people,
if you have little more (inaudible) that’s a problem now. It’s really very serious we
don’t talk about this. We want to (inaudible). You need to promote accountability. Because
now number ‑‑ those problems those numbers are not credible. They are benefit a few and
don’t make any sense without analysis. So, really a allow people to speak it’s to silence
them down. And all of the trouble there will be trouble and they are suppressed.
>> Thank you, thank you. (APPLAUSE)
>> And we will take the other question and then you can choose which ‑‑ whether
you will answer one or both.>> Yes, good evening. Thank you for the conversation.
As a student at Howard University in the late ’80s early ’90s my pan African brought in
the former (inaudible) it was insightful for him to give could have’s should have’s would
have’s he said he would focus more on the economics. And in my view after hearing him
say that I saw Martin Luther King was shifting toward that economics is essential in this
whole civil rights debate. So, that sort of like the question or something I like to have
responded to. And then also if anyone currently knows the status of the health or status in
general of the former (inaudible) brown as he is incarcerated.
>>Talking about economics, that’s very important. The entity being here is not (inaudible) because
I want to tell the story about the corporation and how they develop the attitude down the
road. Martin Luther King comes back from Oslo, he comes to Atlanta and there is a dinner
organized for him. And you know, the way the U.S. works, you buy tables as a corporation,
everybody fills the room. And nobody bought any tables for him. They were punishing him
for all of the work he had done around this idea of getting rights for workers and all
of that stuff. And (inaudible) had a group of individuals that were at the helm of that
organization that called other corporations up very quickly and said, it looks like Atlanta
doesn’t need Coca‑Cola, because if he did he would celebrate the child from whom we
celebrated and gave (inaudible). If that’s the case we are going to leave the state.
Then all the tables were bought up. And the event was glorious event and it happened beautifully.
Advantages in the marketplace do not work those are based on the fact you tell a child
because their hew, the color of their skin is lighter then their brain actually speaks
at that level too. That’s not an argument. We found out very quickly it’s all based on
what your brain not your color. So, when you give a child that idea that because they are
light skinned or because they are from a particular tribe as we are in other parts of the world
therefore they are superior, they get met with the marketplace being very competitive
and therefore they lose down the road. You are actually damning them giving them that
advantage in the first place. The new idea is to not argue around that but to say let’s
not create artificial advantages for our children to say they are superior it other kids because
they went to a better school no go to the marketplace and compete. And if you are good
at what you say you are good at then you can stay ‑‑ I never had been to a school
with a library before. When I went to (inaudible) and I saw the first library I was shocked
that you could get books. Our exams in Uganda was graded in Great Britain. We were compared
to British kids who had libraries. Who had food four times a day electricity every time
we had no clean water we had to walk two kilometers to get water to get back to school. All of
those things made us really good at what we did. So, that when the (inaudible) when the
went to London to go to school it was very easy. So, artificial advantages in the mark
place will not work. This is the last thing there was a group of employees all from Savannah
Georgia for example can never compete with (inaudible). It’s just proven. So as Coke
questions bring in gender GE has an idea bringing 20,000 women to learn about technology all
of that stuff is really going to place to a little bit more equal. Your right the marketplace
becomes the place for the next frontier to really judge are we all equal? Maybe not here,
but if you give us a chance, we can compete with you brilliantly. Now, look at Derrick.
I have competed with you very well. (LAUGHTER)
>>So, we actually have run out of time. So this is ‑‑
(APPLAUSE)>>  ‑‑ thank you all.
(APPLAUSE)>>I’m sorry I won’t be able to take your
questions. But this has been, for me, a wonderful learning experience. Thank you for your wisdom,
for your generosity of time, and David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, will
give us some closing remarks.>> So, how about another round of applause
for A’Lelia Bundles and our panelists, and thank you all for joining us this evening.
To remind you, we have tomorrow a full day’s worth of events, sessions, including individual
freedom and national security in a age of terrorism. Enlightened and engaged education
for democracy. Responsibilities of citizens in the modern era in the United States of
America, a democratic nation in an open global society. So, see you tomorrow.
(APPLAUSE)>>You can find it on the schedule.

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