A new story from Slate's Live at Politics and Prose
Instead the what was the word you just use you use the term grizzled and Connie Connie my wife Connie Schultz by the way many any of you know Connie Connie and Kaanai were taking the train from York we did. We did last night we did the coal baron. This is really our first thrill book signing like this. So thank you for I know. These slots are are rarely given in difficult to get at Baltics and frozen but she. She was reading something where my voice was described as an idling diesel engine which I was kind of taken by that. I thought some people really can right One day I'll talk about the book but one one thing. When Brad mentioned our time and in college together I announced for Con- for the legislature in January my senior year? And and we did if we did one fundraiser in the campus and I we roped off a corner the dining hall and we allowed anybody to sit there who had already paid for their meal through their meal ticket and we charged a dollar and we raised fifty four dollars with no overhead. And I'm still Kim and Josh and people do our fundraiser. We're still trying trying to figure that out so but again thank you. I'll talk for fifteen twenty twenty minutes and I want to take your questions and I said I'm not. This'll be my first book signing like this for this book walk and dumped just absolutely thrilled that so many of you are here. And I'd like attention to scale Ross. WHO's my agent and Gayle? Is this book. Would she was was told me that senators actually could right and convince me and thank you in my brother. Bob Is here. WHO lives in Cleveland but Bob is somewhere in the back? So Bob thanks for coming onto the idea for came well. My first month in the Senate was J two thousand seven and much of what. What's that Charlie Charlie's here Charlie? I'm sorry I didn't know Charlie lives here in Charlie's also my brother. I'm sorry you wonder. You wonder appearance. CHARL- Charlie Brown Bob Brown and Sherrod Brown. I mean I. I don't understand that anyway. But I think is an here. Diane's voice in Charlie. Charlie became now. Congratulations to National Sans. First of all and the I know I know you probably shown up in larger numbers if Sean doolittle had been speaking tonight if you get my drift there but char- Charlie Charlie Charlie moved to Washington and gave up his his loyalty to the Cleveland Indians in nationals Fan. But back a few years ago I met Ken Burns and Ken Burns was done one of his incredible one of his incredible films on baseball and I saw Ken Burns and a cafeteria thing in that Longworth Cafeteria apetit area. Any doing a thing about the bay about his exempt by an exhibit about his show and he had A. He had a baseball hat on. It's a Boston hat and I said I said you you grew up in Detroit. He said I did I said. Aren't you a tigers fan. He said I was and then I moved to Boston. I said so you move to Republican neighbors and become a Republican so so anyway okay. Let's go back to the book. Okay enough two thousand seven. I first month in office one of the things much of the beginning of your time in the Senate and the House is by seniority. So you choose your office by Seniority. A choose your desk on the Senate floor by seniority. I never really knew anything about this. Except that a senator. He told me that senators will carve their names in the bottom of their desk drawers. So I realize there's no really bad seats on the Senate floor you're not sitting behind a posted old RFK stadium. You've got good seats. So I started looking at the desk drawers and the fourth I looked at I saw McGovern South Dakota Gore senior Tennessee Hugo Black Alabama and then it just said Kennedy in so I I was about four seats tech your second. Can he comes over and I said which brothers desk this he say looked at he said. Well it's gotta be Bobby's I have jacks desk. So that was my introduction to desk. eighty-eight all the desks are number. No senator knows what the number on her desk or his desk is. It's a little carving in the bottom. You didn't know that did you. Did you wear this so number of you have worked in the Senate here in the no this stuff so I chose this task and I just began to think about the sort of the the well chose this task and started thinking about one hundred fifty. He books later. I ran about one hundred fifty five or sixty books mostly in total to to to to research this about senators about the time even a book by Tolstoy that gave me some ideas about how to write this about some things in this book I interviewed about one hundred people. Some former senator some staff some people all that just would have interest in this in ten years later. The book game and it was a long long project it would have been done after about three years. I thought I had finished first. The first draft and I showed it to Connie to is terrific writers. You know and I showed it to my brother Bob in they both said there's there's just not nearly enough here you don't have yourself in this book. Anybody could have written about these eight senators so I went back to the drawing board and and worked on this on and off for a period of years and it came up with this Ada. And I. It's I wrote it for the same reason as I where this lapel pen. This lapel pin. I've worn since I was a workers Memorial Day rallying Lorraina City Tony more since hometown. I might add west of Cleveland on Lake. Erie and this is a pin printed up by the steelworkers it's a depiction of a canarian. Birdcage word cage in Labor history. No workers were the canary died. Workers got out of the mines. They had no union strong enough or government that cared enough in one thousand nine hundred to protect them and so this pen represents what the purpose of my writing. This book is in that. Is that that the power of I believe the power. Our government can make people's lives better pure and simple and that's the progressives are and that's what we do so as I've growing up is the son of a doctor and a teacher and a teacher US Southern Southern woman teacher from the north from the south a woman. I'd say that great growing up the son of a doctor and our mother was a teacher on the grew up in Georgia in a small town in Georgia. You people sometimes say. How did you get this politics? How did you become a Labor abor Democrat? Why do you think this way? And I wanna read two passages one about my mother and one about my first year in the legislature. When I spent a lot of time in union halls a read this rita several paragraphs from each like Hugo black? My mother was a child of the segregated south born almost one hundred years ago in a small town of maybe four hundred people she at a young age found segregation in its white privilege. I confusing then confounding than repugnant. Repugnant no issue inform my mother as much as race while the busing controversy raged in the nineteen sixties in the national media. My mother talked October different. Kind of forced busing. The forced busing of her childhood. In the segregated south black children were bussed. Passed a new all white school to attend a distant underfunded black school separate but equal. They said black children were given books that were tattered in dated after being discarded by the white schools. If the black children were provided any books at all my mother now middle aged organized interracial dialogues at a local at our area high school in junior high to encourage students who went to school together to actually talk to each other and share their stories. She told us about her childhood about race and class and privilege and how she and her sisters even though they were middle class at best enjoyed far more privilege and opportunity than any black child born in Newton in county Georgia. She told my brothers and me always to address older black men and women with their honorific titles. Mrs Rogers Mr Fields Mrs Christian Christian. She'd seen far too many white children in rural Georgia called older older black men Jimmy and Johnny an older black women that he and Hattie blue to this day as a tribute to my mother and because of her teachings I ask older African Americans regardless of their professions their last name and address them Mr Amiss. My mother knew next to nothing about unions after all her parents were farmers in her husband was a physician. But she intuitively understood that people banding together could enhance their collective power raise their standard of living and demand justice and she saw trade unionists unionise. People people like the United Auto Workers Walter Reuther in the Brotherhood of car. Sleeping quarters sleeping. Car Porters a Philip Randolph standing alongside and marching a civil rights. Heroes in that was the. That's the kid 'cause she cared most about. She knew the doctor King was martyred in Memphis advocating for exploited floyd sanitation workers. Her unrelenting activism continued. Two thousand four dispatch satisfied with the grassroots of the Kerry presidential campaign. She recruited a friend loaded a card table and two folding chairs into a trunk in drove to the poorest parts of Mansfield where she sat day after day in front of grocery stores stores registering voters within a month the two of them registered more than nine hundred voters. She kept the names and phone numbers. She was now. Eighty four keep in mind gap got the names and phone numbers of the new voters in. Call them on election day to make sure they've at the age of eighty seven. This shy white girl from the segregated south was was the first in my family to go to work volunteer to elect the first African American President Months Before the Democratic Doc Primary January twentieth. Two thousand nine was the last day she got out of bed and sat up to watch television sitting with my oldest brother. Bob's she had sent Connie and Mehta Washington in and said you go to the inauguration. Seeing history made she died two weeks. After the inauguration watching Barack Obama take the oath of office was the last good day a of her life. Now the other reading I want to do is about my labor education. If you you will early my first term in the Ohio House of Representatives I was twenty two the legislature at adjourned on a Thursday night with no votes in no committee hearings. Friday I headed at home to my district in Richland county hour drive north when those schedule appointments I drove across town to the United Auto Workers Hall their members at always made me feel guilty. The feel feel guilty fueled welcome although we'RE DOT COM from. Maybe that do all right. This privilege. Good doctors made me feel guilty. I don't know where that came from. That is not on this page. Although they endorsed my candidates to the year before and I had many times met with and talk to the unions officers and activists. I didn't really know them. I didn't didn't know their personal stories in even though I'd given I even though I had gone to high school with their sons and daughters I didn't know much about their lives. Thus began my political education the UAW local one sixty-nine in at the UAW local five forty nine. I learned about the history of trade unionism. I learned how union workers has made steel in how they built cars. I learned that strikes are always inactive back against the wall. Desperation because workers never make makeup for the wages loss. No matter how good the contract and how briefly they are on the picket line. And I learned that to a trade unionist strikebreakers SCABS SCABS for the lowest form of human life. Few of these workers white and black expected to have the opportunity that this doctors kid had. But they understood intuitively. I would say that their high school daughter their son John Sherman Highschool John Sherman. Junior high could have more than they did. Their challenge to grasp the American Erkin Dream and launch. Their children upward was more difficult than it was for my parents. Many things could go wrong for them away off a strike a workplace injury Orien- illness in the family each with more devastating consequences than life deals more affluent white family and of course African American workers had greater challenges inches because of decades of discrimination. I learned about luck or you were born. How much education income your parents add? What neighborhood you lived in in in what school you attended? I understood how much good luck I had in. How little some of these workers had while told me what they read? Books and articles in newspapers apor stories about strikes and heroes of the Labor movement. Over the years I came to realize that the best books about workers in their unending struggle for dignity and a decent decent standard of living or novels while Joe Hill Emile. Zola's Herman how Petra did do not does Christ in concrete in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Now this book is about eight. United States senators understanding all white all male. Everybody that ever held my desk to my knowledge was a man. That's what the Senate looked like in those days you know and I expect if someone stands in front of you or for someone in this bookstore. One Hundred Years From now after eight other senators there will be more women. There will be people of Color as I as I've written about in this book and I I am that that that tells me a lot about sort of where where we need to go in this country. I've talked for a moment about each of the eight senators..