JournalistI'm Soledad O'Brien. Journalist, political talk show host, documentarian, CEO, and philanthropist here with a special guest, Dr. Clarence B. Jones, former personal advisor and lawyer to MLK Jr. - Ask Us Anything!
Feb 13th 2017 by soledadobrien • 10 Questions • 143 Points
I'm Soledad O'Brien. Journalist, host of the weekend political talk show Matter of Fact, documentarian and CEO of Starfish Media Group, and philanthropist.
My special guest is Dr. Clarence B. Jones, former personal counsel, advisor, draft speech writer and close friend of Martin Luther King Jr. He is the author of What Would Martin Say? and Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation
Clarence: Thank you so much, it's always a pleasure to see this extraordinary woman, Soledad O'Brien. I've seen her, as some of your other listeners too, I've seen her develop from a younger woman to a more mature woman. And share her ideological compass has always been on the money. And I don't know how you've managed to be do that in the business she's in, but she's been able to do it and that's the source of the admiration that I, together with millions of other people I'm sure, have for Soledad.
So I'm delighted that I could participate in this discussion today. If there's anything I would say, from my experience, a long journey, is that, if you wanna change you have to be willing to work to bring about change. Sitting around and complaining, and saying “Nothing is going to make any difference" - that’s not the empirical experience that I had. I would say particularly to my younger colleges, is that I am a testament, I can tell you. I have seen the successful results of effective organization of effective 24/7 resistance and now with the advent of the new technology that you have, that we never had during the Civil Rights Movement, is you have the capacity to really get your message out and to make a powerful statement.
Exhibit A - is what happened in the Women's March early last month. You had 100 or more cities. Hundreds of thousands of people, I understand that, well I don't know the average amount, but there were several millions of people nationwide that came out. Well you have that now with the social media, and so if you use the media effectively and you understand, and I have to end with this, not voting is a vote. Not voting is a vote. That's not even an intellect academic question anymore.
If you don't vote, it's a vote.
Soledad: I'm honored to have introduced Clarence to this audience because every time I interview him I love it and to be able to bring him to more people was even more enjoyable for me. It was an honor to chat with you sir, as always.
I imagine this is an exhausting time for journalists in this country. What are you doing to maintain sanity when things are happening at a rapid-fire pace?
Soledad: I think the key for journalists, and for me specifically, has been to try not to get so caught up in the froth of the moment - which actually i think is a good twitter conversation is for - like you can deal with those things, but they don't become the focus of your reporting. So on my weekly show, Matter of Fact, which is a magazine show, which airs most markets on Sundays, it's a Hearst syndicated so it's in different markets in different times around the country- saturday nights, sunday morning, what we focus on is sort of the big issues and i think that those are those big issues that you keep returning to versus the latest flash in the pan drama crazy frothiness that we've been dealing with within ad`ministration that’s been in for - i think is technically 3 weeks but feels like 3 and a half years. It's interesting though Charles Blow was just tweeting about the Montgomery bus boycott and he reminded me that it lasted for 381 days you know, so maybe the better question for you, Clarence, is "how do you keep your sanity over a long haul right? It's easy to be out there marching and keeping up day 1 day 7, and day 15. For me I say it's like exercise trying to keep myself in good physical shape and not chasing every single fluffy story is what keeps my sanity. How did you guys keep your sanity over that year plus?
Clarence: In all fairness I think it's probably easier for someone like me, than someone who is younger than me. Some of the current people who are protesting- and the reason why, first with me, I at least have the personal historic experience of having seen the success - of having seen that over a period of time repeated, repeated, repeated, nonviolent resistance- that it has resulted in successful change.
Now if I had not had the experience of seeing any success maybe I would have a different outlook. So I have a degree of patience and respect for some persons - today or younger - and who may not think that nonviolence will work, because they don't see the results immediately. Now one of the things which I would urge my younger colleagues to think about, and that is, the enormous power of the "more than one". We saw that in the women's movement recently - the enormous power of the more than one, is that when you have, when something, so excites and ignites a chord of resistance so that you have people in 25, 50, 100 cities coming out to express their resistance, to express their concern about important issue, then you know that there is some power in collective massive resistance, and fortunately I've had the historical beneficiary in which I have been able to see, not that I've read about it, not what someone gave me a lecture and told me about it, I've seen, just as Charles Blow cited the Montgomery Bus Boycott went on for 300 days, it went over 381 days - hello! After during that period of time the Montgomery Bus Company, the racist discriminatory segregation bus company, folded, the United States Supreme Court had to make a decision shortly thereafter, outlawing segregating interstate transportation. So those are meaningful victories, John Lewis, Amelia Boynton, and Hosea Williams, the one across the bridge - the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama. When they had that confrontation they did not know that the day, or the day after, or a few days after, that they were going to fundamentally be part of a movement that literally transformed the nation so that within a very few days after you had the `president of the united states, Lyndon Johnson convening a very special session, joint session at congress, in which he, during at the end of his speech, asking, saying he was presenting a special voting rights bill really powered for we shall overcome, in fact, adopting the mantra of the civil rights movement, so this was tangible success so I still say that you have to have a sense of confidence and belief in the political effectiveness of mass action. And you get there by looking at instances in which it has succeeded.