Nick Kristof, United States, America discussed on The Axe Files with David Axelrod
Pulitzer Prize for Journalism in Nineteen Ninety for their coverage of the Cinnamon Square protests as China correspondent. For The New York Times Nick Kristof is of course the longtime columnist for the New York. Times he won a Pulitzer Prize for his commentary. There too but now they've turned their attention. Closer to home with a book called tight rope Americans reaching for hope and it's a really personal examination of what's happened to the middle class. In many of the small towns of America including the one in which Kristof grew kristof and Wudunn who are married came to the Institute of Politics a few weeks ago for a live recording of the X. Files to discuss their journey this book and the State of our nation Nick Kristof and Sheryl done welcome to the Institute of politics in keeping with the time. I'm going to hand my questions to the chief justice and he will ask them for you know really in this very very powerful book tight rope. You're talking about the journey of Americans in small towns and rural areas and inner cities and forgotten places all over this country. But I wanNA talk about your Stories Nick. First of all let me start with you like myself. You're the son of an immigrant from Eastern Europe. Who had his own Harrowing Journey to get here? Want you share a little fat? Yeah my my dad's family. They were Armenians who were living. It was actually kind of funny. My my dad would describe him. If you ask his origin he would say who was from Romania. His sister was hey she was Armenian and his brother would say Polish and my dad's spoke to his brother when he would call and Polish into his sister when she would call in Romanian mixed up family. Flag would change periodically overhead and then in nineteen forty the area which was at that time. Romania were seized by the Soviet Union. Family was meanwhile a busy spying for the free. Polish government part of network sending information back to London and so the family ended up. Being various people ended up getting executed by either the Nazis or the Soviets. My Dad was in prison for He he fled was in a concentration camp in Yugoslavia for a while and eventually made his way to France and decided that France was not a place that had a future for a Slavic immigrant and began to dream about coming to the US and eventually made it not speaking his name when he came over here was Vladislav Christoph bits of it all right okay. Three attempted that and he showed his name to create. Yeah he arrived and he would say his name. Whiskas DZAFO VEG. And you know people tried to spell it and that was pretty helpless shortened it to Kristof. I thought it was because he had the foresight to know that Kristof would look better in a bio byline. We'll his first purchase on arriving in the US to teach himself. English was a Sunday New York Times. There's something poetic about there is there. Is He ultimately became an academic? That's right he and your mother were both academics. That's right so my dad arrived in Oregon not speaking English and worked at a logging camp for a year or to earn a little bit of money to learn English and then went to Reed College and studied political science then applied to University of Chicago. Political Science Department and was initially told it was not accepted the HD program. His professor appealed and said this is a brilliant get and so they took him and my mom was studying here at the International House. One more marriage produced excellent and they ended up at Portland State and then they were both at Portland State. My mom teaching art history. My Dad Teaching Political Science you ended up in Yam Hill Oregon. The way you described in this book and I want to get into the details of the book untold bit later. Because we've got some other business do Cheryl about your story and how we got to this place but it didn't sound like a haven for academics. We were real. We were way beyond the normal commuting range so most people in Portland. You know lived in Portland or nearby but my parents really wanted to have a farm and so we had this farm and Yom Hill and they were pretty much the only people commuted to Portland and so it was I mean I obviously had this connection to that larger world but I was deeply embedded in the community. I was very active in future farmers of America and the school was a you know kind of very typical farm town school. You knew you want to be a journalist way back then why so when I was when I turned sixteen and got a driver's license. I the local county newspaper hired me to write and it was. I just couldn't believe that I was getting paid to go. Talk to interesting people and write stories about it. It's not the usual teenage about what you do when you get your first drivers. Go ahead but it was but it was a great way when you're sixteen. That turned out to be a great way to impress. Sixteen year old girls and it. It really was a I love. I love the writing. I love the just aesthetic pleasure from writing. I like being around interesting people and the idea of being paid for it was truly incredibly cool. I was later in danger coming law professor but I escaped that fate fortune. Yeah good for you good for you. As journalists I applaud your Judgment Cheryl. Your family had a classic immigrants story as well only one generation earlier. Tell us about that. We're actually trying to prove are working class credentials. I would say that I actually even come from the peasantry. China my grandparents were from tiny little villages In Very Agricultural Guandong province both of them escaped to Macau and then to Joe Johns and the Golden Mountain here in the US One. You say escaped escaped from well. They were playing really poverty. I mean everyone was trying to get to sort of the promised land here in the US and So because it was extremely impoverished there and so they were able to scrape their way to get to to the. Us Let me ask you both You tell these stories and they have this common element which is people who wanted to come to the promised. Land wanted to come to America. We're in this period now where we have a sign on the at the border saying refugees need not apply immigrants discouraged. Do you look at this. Current debate through the prism of your family experiences. Oh of course. Clearly the American dream still exists for the most part for people outside of the US. I think that what we actually write about in tight rope is that for many Americans. The American dream is broken but the allure and the magic of the American dream is still alive and well and the rest of the world which is why so many people want to come here. But what does it mean? If we closed down and say don't apply in today's context. My Dad were never be admitted. I mean people would see him as somebody from potential saboteur potential spy from an enemy part of the Soviet bloc and said we don't need more refugees. I mean I'm struck that when my dad was on this ship. Arriving in New York there was a woman from Boston who was on the deck watching with him and my dad's no English but she said him Welcome young man and then she corrected herself and said welcome young American and he was just so blown away that here he is. He's never set foot in America. He can't speak English. And this American woman is welcoming him as a already as a young American and that deeply moved him and he spoke about it. And it's kind of the opposite of the attitude that we're seeing your grandparents certainly would have failed the current tests now especially as established by the Supreme Court just in the last few days because they were peasants they were probably not educated for they're worth would be absolutely in fact my grandfather on my father's side had someone else's papers when he came across didn't even own papers but it's remarkable that in my my parents went to college so in that one generation You know they went from rags to really intellectual riches and so. It's still possible to do that. And it's really a shame that we don't think that people who look though they're grovelling INS and starving and can't get anywhere. We don't think that they can actually rise up when they really can. Well speak to me from the standpoint of you're steeped in business and economics speak to me. About what the impact of it is to the country beyond what it means to the people who get to come or don't get to come but what does the infusion of immigrants mean to the country. Well it's a lot of different things on different levels so of course you have technology people who are technology experts. We are homegrown. We are home growing of people who study stem but there are a lot more people in Asia who study stem much more intensely and so we are obviously the technology companies. Want more people who are intellectually. They're gonNA move towards the Canadian model. Where you're GONNA get all those people that's one thing but still there's a restriction on that but in Japan we actually when we were there because Japan also very fearful of immigrants and they started letting people in partly because they had to do the jobs that no other Japanese wanted to do The the three Ds Dangerous Dirty and disgusting and here. We have a similar phenomenon because what are the jobs that a lot of the immigrants are taking their jobs that Americans really don't want to do so in Oregon? We see that. There are huge numbers of immigrants who are incredibly productive doing jobs and actually we have an experiment on her own farm farm. There you you family farm. My mom is transformed the farm and purposed it for weather uses and we still. We still have been an orchard for a long time a cherry orchard. Now we're actually changing over to making growing grapes and apples and we kind of did an experiment and that we hired middle aged white men who we thought okay. We want to give them jobs. They're struggling so we give them jobs. But you'll also have some immigrants who are on on the farm to working and the contrast is unbelievable. I mean it's and we've had other businessmen tell us that if I'm GONNA pay a local worker an American worker thirty dollars an hour. She takes him twice as long to do anything. And if I pay a Mexican worker fifteen dollars an hour I get so much more productivity out of him it makes me. It makes absolutely no sense for me. Ever hire the local American worker. My business could not survive. The local American worker probably looks at this an entirely different way which is and. I'm hoping they don't listen to your podcast. We're trying to build audience. You guys met as competitors. You went to business school. You got a masters in business from Harvard. You went to Princeton and we're Rhode Scholar. You went to Harvard. Where Rhodes scholar and then you both became journalists. I don't have time to ask you how one goes to get an MBA to become a journalist but nonetheless there we are. You're in Los Angeles for the Wall Street Journal. You were there for the New York Times and you you met..