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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the Gun Debate and Her PBS Documentary, American Creed

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The audio:


The transcript:

HH: I’m joined by former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice who along with historian David Kennedy are the hosts of a very important documentary Tuesday night on PBS at 9pm, American Creed. Dr. Rice, welcome back to the program. Great to have you.

CR: It’s a pleasure to be back with you, Hugh.

HH: Now we have a very divided country right now, and it’s one that’s been shocked by a lot of violence this week, a lot of traumatized young people, and American Creed maybe could not come along at a better time.

CR: We started this project, David Kennedy and I, several years ago, because he is an historian of America and looks at America from the inside out. I’m a specialist in international relations. I’ve been secretary of State. I see America from the outside in, and we came to the same conclusion, that America is an extraordinary and unique experiment to bring people of all kinds of faiths and creeds and ethnic backgrounds and nationalities together. And what unites us is a set of aspirations, a set of beliefs that you can come from humble circumstances, and you can do great things. It doesn’t really matter where you came from. It matters where you’re going. And so we thought we should try and put together a project that reminds Americans of the glue that holds us together and recommits all of us to making certain that we pay attention to your unity.

HH: You know, it’s almost the opposite, Dr. Rice, of the town hall that CNN hosted in good intention, which was deeply divisive, almost incoherent in its anger at some point, compared to the roundtable of students you and Professor Kennedy convened, as varied a group of people as I have seen, and of opinions and backgrounds. You’ve got a first generation child of a Polish immigrant. I mean, it’s just across the board. But the contrast of their conversation with that rage on last week was pretty stark.

CR: I really believe that these young people that we talked with are one of the answers to our problems. We all have to start listening to each other, first and foremost. And right now, we’re shouting at each other instead. Right now, we’re saying my grievance, my narrative, is superior to you. I have suffered more. I have been discriminated against more. And we’ve stopped listening to each other, and we’re just shouting. And so I hope that one thing that American Creed will do is to showcase a few Americans who have taken the opposite tack, who have said I’m going to find ways to unify my community, because America doesn’t operate, as you know, Hugh, Washington is important, but Washington is not really America. America is towns and communities and Boys and Girls Clubs, and American Red Cross and school principals and baseball managers like Chicago Cubs skipper, Joe Maddon, who say I’m going to make my community, my town, better. And that’s what American Creed highlights.

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Dr. Michael Oren, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister for Diplomacy

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Dr. Michael Oren, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister for Diplomacy, joined me this morning:




HH: To not talk about that tweet, but to talk about how Israel protects its schools, I’ve invited Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister for Diplomacy, Dr. Michael Oren, to join me. Dr. Oren, good morning, it is great to have you with us, Minister.

MO: Always good to be back with you.

HH: We’ve had a few calls, Dr. Oren, in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre that say we need to adopt Israel’s approach to protecting their schools. How, what is that approach exactly?

MO: Well, keep in mind that we have a very different relationship to guns in the state of Israel. Gun ownership in our country is a privilege and not a right. We have a very low level of private gun ownership, less than 3% of the population. It’s difficult to get a gun and difficult to get ammunition, and you’ve got to renew your license all the time. But having said that, we live in the worst neighborhood probably in the world, and we have to defend ourselves. And we have to defend our schools, too. So how do we do it? We do it, first of all, by having guards. It’s not necessary a metal detector, but there is an armed guard in front of every school. And the armed guard also has the ability with a wand to inspect one of their children or anybody else entering the school as carrying any large piece of metal such as a firearm. There’s also one entrance, Hugh. We don’t have multiple entrances to schools. There are multiple exits in case of emergency, but only one entrance. Everybody must pass through that entrance, and again, it’s guarded.

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Cathartic Impetus

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What has been witnessed in the wake of the Florida school shooting is not about gun control or mental health. It is not about school security measures or legislation.  Yesterday’s hearings, townhalls and press events made plain that what it is about is sheer and overwhelming grief and fear – at least for a large portion of the nation.  Also plain is that those in the nation not sharing in that intense emotion feel as if they are being assaulted by those emotions and are therefore overwhelmingly defensive.  In other words, reasoned discussion is simply not possible at this juncture – the emotions are too strong on all sides.

These are the kinds of situations where everybody should just take a deep breath, step away for a while and get some emotional control so that reasoned discussion can occur.  But that truly is not where this nation is and that is where ugly things really happen.

There is an impetus to action in situations like this, born of the need for catharsis.  That can lead to very unwise decision making.  However, it must be remembered that to fail to act, and act quickly, can be as unwise as any action taken.  To deliberate slowly and purposefully, a process designed to produce wise decision making, in a situation like this can be very unwise.  Sometimes it is more important that something happen than what happens.  Such is where this observer sees the nation right now.

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