MetroFocus: September 2, 2020

We tell the story of a groundbreaking urban farming initiative in Chester, New York called the Rise & Root Farm and introduce you to one of the four women co-founders who is reclaiming the power of farming. Tonight, Karen Washington discusses the seeds she’s been sowing since 1985 to grant New Yorkers of all ages and races, a more just and representative model of farming while providing abundant and nutritious food for their community.

They were the commanders-in-chief who had to ask the ultimate sacrifice of their citizens for the sake of the country. Historian Michael Beschloss chronicles the stories of America’s “Presidents Of War.”

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

FUNDING FOR 'CHASING THE DREAM' IS PROVIDED BY THE JPB FOUNDATION.

ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR 'CHASING THE DREAM' IS PROVIDED BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III.

> HI, I'M JENNA FLANAGAN OF 'METROFOCUS.'

FARMING P IN AMERICA HAS BEEN ONE OF THE PUREST AND HONEST FORMS OF LABOR.

IT'S WORK THAT'S CONSIDERED NOBLE AND MANLY.

THANKS TO MORE THAN A CENTURY OF AMERICAN IKEOGRAPHY, IT'S CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH WHITE MEN.

IF YOU PEEL BACK THE MYTH OF AMERICAN FARMING, YOU'LL FIND A MUCH MORE COMPLICATED AND NUANCED NARRATIVE, ONE THAT THE FOUNDERS, RISING GROUP FARM IN CHESTER, NEW YORK, ARE HOPING TO NOT ONLY CELEBRATE BUT SHARE IN A MORE HONEST FASHION.

SO AS PART OF OUR 'CHASING THE DREAM' INITIATIVE, EXAMINING POVERTY IN AMERICA.

I'M JOINED BY KAREN WASHINGTON, ONE OF THE CO-FOUNDERS OF RISING GROUP FARMS.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU FOR JENNA.

I'M SURE A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE HEARING ABOUT THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME.

WHAT IS RISING GROUP FARM, HOW DOES IT COME INTO EXIST.

THE RISING ROOT FARM IS ALL WOMEN, TWO OF US ARE WOMEN OF COLOR, TWO OF US ARE WHITE WOMEN.

THE FOUR OF US ARE ROOTED IN FOOD JUSTICE AND WE GOT OUR START FROM DOING COMMUNITY GARDEN WORK IN NEW YORK CITY.

AND THROUGH WORKING THE COMMUNITY GARDEN AND BECOMING GOOD FRIENDS, ONE DAY WE WANT TO FARM TOGETHER.

WE WANT TO FARM TOGETHER TO SCALE UP, BUT ALSO TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO FRESH LOCAL PRODUCE.

SO WE TOOK THIS JOURNEY.

TO BE HONEST, IT WAS A TWO-YEAR JOURNEY GOING UP AND DOWN THE HUDSON VALLEY IN NEW YORK AND FINALLY STUMBLING ON CHESTER, NEW YORK, WHERE WE ARE NOW.

WE HAVE THREE ACRES OF LAND.

IT'S IN THE BLACK DIRT, LITERALLY BLACK DIRT.

WE GROW THE BEST VEGETABLES BUT ALSO THERE'S A LITTLE --

WELL, ALSO, I WOULD WONDER, WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THE FOOD JUSTICE MOVEMENT THAT YOU'RE INVOLVED IN.

WE'VE DONE A LOT OF STORIES WHERE WE'VE TALKED ABOUT THE FACT THAT THERE ARE COMMUNITIES PARTICULARLY IN THE BRONX, VARIOUS NEIGHBORHOODS AND SOME OF THE OUTER BOROUGHS OF NEW YORK THAT ARE FOOD DESERTS WHERE PEOPLE CANNOT GET ACCESS TO FRESH, HEALTHY VEGETABLES.

FIRST OF ALL, WE WANTED TO TELL THE AUDIENCE, JENNA, DON'T USE THE WORD FOOD DESERT.

WHAT FOOD DESERT REALLY SAYS IS AN OUTSIDE TERM TO DENOTE THE FACT THAT THERE IS A LIMITED ACCESS TO FOOD.

WE DO HAVE FOOD.

WE HAVE UNHEALTHY FOOD, JUNK FOOD, PROCESSED FOOD, FAST FOOD.

WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO AT RISING ROOT IS TO FIRST OF ALL, PEEL AWAY OUR RESPONSIBILITY AND HISTORY AROUND FARMING.

FIRST OF ALL, IF YOU LOOK GLOBALLY, MOST SOUL FOOD FARMERS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD ARE WOMEN.

THAT'S NUMBER ONE.

NUMBER TWO, OUR HISTORY OF FOOD WAS DONE ON THE BACK OF ENSLAVED AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE.

GROWING UP IN AMERICA, I WAS ALWAYS TAUGHT THAT FARMING WAS SLAVE LABOR UNTIL I STARTED TO PEEL BACK THE HISTORY AND FOUND OUT THE TRUTH, WHY WE WERE BROUGHT HERE WE WERE BROUGHT HERE BECAUSE OF OUR KNOWLEDGE OF AGRICULTURE.

WE BROUGHT THE SEEDS IN OUR HAND, THE FOUNDATION OF FOOD IN THIS COUNTRY.

ONCE YOU TELL PEOPLE ABOUT THAT, OUR PLACE IN AGRICULTURE, THE WHOLE NARRATIVE SHIFTS.

NOW YOU'RE EMBODIED WITH POWER, POWER TO GO BACK TO THE LAND, POWER TO GROW FOOD, POWER TO BE ABLE TO FEED YOUR OWN FAMILY.

THAT'S WHAT WE TRY TO DO AT RISING ROOT FARM.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO NOT ONLY -- FIRST OF ALL, TELL THAT NARRATIVE AND THANK YOU, ALSO, FOR CLARIFYING, YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, THERE ARE NO DESERTS IN NEW YORK.

SERIOUSLY, THOUGH, TO NOT ONLY MAKE SURE THAT PEOPLE ARE CLEAR ON WHAT THE HISTORY OF FARMING IS, BUT ALSO THAT THIS IS ALSO WOMEN'S WORK.

AS YOU SAID, MOST FARMS ARE RUN BY WOMEN.

YES, IT IS WOMEN'S WORK AND IT'S A POWERFUL THING.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT, AGAIN, MOST OF THE POWER, WHEN WE TALK ABOUT FARMING IS WITH WHITE MEN.

YET GLOBALLY, WOMEN ARE DOING THE WORK.

WHAT WE DO LACK IS, OF COURSE, CAPITAL, ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY AND ACCESS TO LAND.

BUT THAT'S STARTING TO CHANGE NOW BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STARTING -- ESPECIALLY PEOPLE OF COLOR, ARE STARTING TO GO BACK TO THE LAND BECAUSE THEY KNOW LAND WITHIN THEIR FAMILY IS LEGACY.

IT'S HISTORY.

KNOWING THE FACT THAT YOU CAN GROW YOUR OWN FOOD MAKES YOU POWERFUL.

SO, AGAIN, THAT'S A NARRATIVE THAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE NOW CATCHING ON AND WANT TO GO BACK TO FARM.

NOW, OF COURSE, YOU WERE SAYING THAT RISING ROOT CAME OUT OF OR OUTGREW AN URBAN FARM IN THE CITY.

I'M WONDERING IF THAT FITS INTO A LARGER MOVEMENT, ESPECIALLY NOW WITH THE COVID CRISIS, WE'VE SEEN EVEN MORE PEOPLE INTERESTED IN KNOWING THEIR FOOD SUPPLY SOURCE, BEING ABLE TO GROW THEIR OWN FOOD IN A NEIGHBORHOOD PLOT OR BACK YARD IF THEY'RE ABLE TO.

IT HAS BEEN OVERWHELMING, THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE NOW REACHING OUT TO US AND OTHER URBAN GROWERS ABOUT COMING BACK TO THE LAND, HOW DO WE GET STARTED IN COMMUNITY GARDENS, HOW DO WE FIND LAND BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTAND AT THIS POINT IN TIME WITH THIS PANDEMIC, IT'S THE HEALTHY FOOD THAT'S GOING TO MAKE US BETTER.

FOOD IS MEDICINE.

SO PEOPLE NOW WANT TO KNOW, FIRST OF ALL, WHERE THEIR FOOD COMES FROM, WHO IS GROWING IT, IF IT WAS SPRAYED WITH PESTICIDES AND INSECTICIDES, AND WHEN WE TALK ABOUT JUSTICE, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND FROM THE PERSON WHO PUTS THE SEED ON THE GROUND TO THE PLATE ON YOUR TABLE, THAT THE WORKERS HAVE BEEN TREATED HUMANELY AND PAID A FAIR WAGE.

AGAIN, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT LAYERS UPON LAYERS THAT WE'RE LEARNING NOT JUST ABOUT THE FOOD THAT WE'RE EATING, BUT, OF COURSE, THE SUPPLY CHAINS AND SOME OF THE MASS INDUSTRIAL FARMS THAT THIS COUNTRY ALSO HAS.

I'M WONDERING A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP TO FOOD.

AS YOU MENTIONED, IT'S NOT THAT THERE ISN'T FOOD IN A LOT OF THESE COMMUNITIES.

IT'S JUST BAD FOOD.

IT'S PROCESSED FOOD.

DOES RISING ROOT ALSO WORK WITH PEOPLE'S RELATIONSHIP TO FOOD?

FOR EXAMPLE, A LOT OF PEOPLE IF THEY JOIN A CSA THEY MIGHT GET A BOX EVERY WEEK AND THERE'S USUALLY SOMETHING IN THERE THAT YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS OR HOW TO COOK, WHAT IT TASTES LIKE, ET CETERA.

I WOULD ASSUME THE FURTHER YOU ARE FROM A RELATIONSHIP TO FRESH PRODUCE, THE MORE LIKELY YOU'LL FIND MORE VEGETABLES TO FEEL SORT OF FOREIGN.

RISING ROOT HAS BEEN A JOURNEY.

PEOPLE FROM THE CITY HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING UP, WHEN WE LEFT NEW YORK CITY UP TO CHESTER, NEW YORK, WE HAVE MAINTAINED OUR ROOTS IN THE CITY BECAUSE, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, ALL OF US ARE TEACHERS ARE FARM SCHOOL.

FARM SCHOOL IS AN URBAN AG SCHOOL THAT TEACHES PEOPLE HOW TO GROW FOOD, TEACHES PEOPLE THE RELATIONSHIP THEY SHOULD HAVE TO ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT WHERE THEIR FOOD COMES FROM, WHAT IS IT THAT THEY CAN USE WITHIN THEIR VICINITY?

WE TELL PEOPLE, YOU KNOW WHAT, IF YOU DON'T HAVE A COMMUNITY GARDEN, YOU CAN START GROWING ON A WINDOW SILL, A BACK YARD, FRONT YARD, SOMEBODY ELSE'S YARD.

WHAT THIS PANDEMIC HAS REALLY SHOWN IS THAT PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FOOD AND HEALTH.

YOU HAD MENTIONED THE FACT -- WE TALKED ABOUT A FOOD DESERT.

I LIKE TO TELL PEOPLE, WE DON'T CALL IT A FOOD DESERT.

I COINED THE TERM FOOD APARTHEID BECAUSE I WANT PEOPLE TO START THINKING ABOUT THE INTERSECTION OF FOOD ALONG RACE, ALONG DEMOGRAPHICS AND ALONG ECONOMICS.

WE NEED TO HAVE THOSE HARD CONVERSATIONS TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE TO BEING COMFORTABLE.

SO AT RISING ROOT WE HAVE THOSE CONVERSATIONS, WE HAVE WORKSHOPS.

PEOPLE COME TO OUR FARM NOT ONLY TO GROW -- HELP GROW OUR FOOD AND TO SEE THE PROCESS OF GROWING FOOD, BUT THEY COME AND LISTEN TO OUR STORY BECAUSE OUR STORY IS THE AMERICAN STORY.

OUR STORY IS THE AMERICAN DREAM.

OUR STORY IS GIVING BACK TO OUR ANCESTORS WHO FOR SO LONG HAVE BEEN NAMELESS AND FACELESS.

WE'RE TRYING TO PUT A NAME AND A FACE TO THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE US.

WE STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF KINGS AND QUEENS.

WE WANT TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT.

IT SOUNDS LIKE RISING ROOT ISN'T JUST A TEACHING FARM OR PERHAPS IS A TEACHING FARM IN A LARGER SENSE WHERE YOU'RE NOT JUST TEACHING ABOUT FARMING AND SHARING THAT KNOWLEDGE, BUT ALSO THE HISTORY OF FARMING.

FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, HOW DO YOU THINK THE NARRATIVE GOT SO DRIVEN IN A VERY SINGULAR DIRECTION ABOUT WHO IS A FARMER IN AMERICA?

IT BOILS DOWN TO POWER DYNAMICS.

THAT'S ALL IT DOES.

IT BOILS DOWN TO POWER DYNAMICS OF A GROUP OF PEOPLE HAVING POWER OVER OTHERS.

SO WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO IS PEEL BACK THAT POWER NARRATIVE, AND SO LET'S BRING THE TRUTH INTO LIGHT.

LET'S BRING THE TRUTH INTO LIGHT.

WE HAVE OVER 7.5 BILLION PEOPLE.

THINK ABOUT IT.

WE HAVE A HANDFUL OF ORGANIZATIONS, COMPANIES THAT CONTROL OUR FOOD SYSTEM.

HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

HOW IS IT THAT WE DON'T TAKE A STAND WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD JUSTICE, CALL OUT THE INJUSTICES WE SEE ALONG THE FOOD CHAIN?

NOW PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO QUESTION THE FOOD SYSTEM.

THEY LOOK WITHIN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND THEY SEE HOW BAD THE FOOD IS, BUT YET THEY GO INTO OTHER COMMUNITIES, MORE AFFLUENT COMMUNITIES AND SEE THE DIFFERENCE IN THOSE COMMUNITIES WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD.

SO NOW, IF WE'RE TALKING ABOUT FOOD JUSTICE, TALKING ABOUT EQUITY, IF WE'RE TALKING ABOUT FOOD SOVEREIGNTY AND THE RIGHT FOR ALL PEOPLE TO HAVE, THAT FOOD, HEALTHY FOOD AND WATER ARE THE TWO THINGS THAT ARE HUMAN RIGHTS FOR EVERYBODY.

WE WANT TO MAKE SURE AT RISING ROOT THAT WE SOUND THAT ALARM, THAT WE MAKE PEOPLE TO GO OUT AND REALLY STAND UP FOR THAT.

SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT BECAUSE FOOD AND WATER ARE HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL.

ABSOLUTELY, ABSOLUTELY.

I'M WONDERING, IN ADDITION TO ALL OF THE WORK THAT RISE AND ROOT DOES, IF SOMEONE WERE TO WANT TO GET INVOLVED OR WOULD WANT TO FIGURE OUT THERE IS A PLOT OF LAND IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD, AND I WOULD LOVE TO TURN IT INTO A COMMUNITY GARDEN, BUT I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHERE TO START, IS RISE AND ROOT A GOOD SOURCE AND HOW DO YOU WORK WITH PEOPLE?

RISE AND ROOT IS A GOOD SOURCE BECAUSE WE'VE NEVER LET GO OF OUR CONNECTIONS IN NEW YORK CITY.

IN NEW YORK CITY THERE'S A HUGE COMMUNITY MOVEMENT, AN OFFICE CALLED GREEN THUMB.

WE TELL PEOPLE, NUMBER ONE, IF YOU FIND A PLOT OF LAND, FIND OUT WHO OWNS IT.

SAY THE CITY OWNS IT AND THEY HAVE NO PLANS FOR DEVELOPMENT AND YOU'VE GOT AT LEAST TEN PEOPLE THAT WANT TO GROW FOOD, CHANCES ARE YOU CAN HAVE THAT LOT AS A COMMUNITY GARDEN.

IF IT'S PRIVATELY OWNED, ASK THE GARDEN IF YOU CAN USE AND GROW THERE.

THERE ARE SO MANY INSTITUTIONS THAT ALSO HAVE VACANT LOTS.

THERE ARE CHURCHES, SYNAGOGUES, LIBRARIES, MUSEUMS, INSTITUTIONS, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, HAVE VACANT LAND THAT WOULD BE I GUESS VERY, VERY INTERESTED IN HELPING ANYONE GROW FOOD, ESPECIALLY AT THIS POINT IN TIME.

WELL, WE'RE COMING UP ON THE END OF OUR TIME TOGETHER, BUT I WOULD BE REMISS IF I DIDN'T ASK, IF YOU CAN EXPLAIN A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE SAYING ABOUT THE BLACK DIRT AND HOW THAT ACTUALLY AFFECTS THE QUALITY OF THE PRODUCE YOU'RE ABLE TO PRODUCE.

OH, MY GOODNESS.

IT IS HIGH IN ORGANIC MATTER AND AS A RESULT WE GROW THE BEST VEGETABLES AND HERBS, BUT ALSO THE BEST WEED.

NOW, I HAVE A LITTLE THING WITH WEED BECAUSE AT ONE TIME I USED TO THINK WEEDS WERE BAD.

THERE ARE A LOT OF WEEDS THAT ARE EDIBLE.

I COMPLETELY AGREE.

I RECENTLY DISCOVERED DANDELION GREENS.

DANDELION GREENS.

PERS LANE IS HIGH IN OMEGA FAT AND IS REALLY, REALLY GOOD.

I WANT PEOPLE TO COME UP, COME VISIT RISE AND ROOT.

WE HAVE COMMUNITY DAYS THE LAST SATURDAY OF THE MONTH.

BECAUSE OF COVID WE REALLY CURTAIL THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WE ALLOW, SO TEN PEOPLE MAX.

BUT FOLLOW US ON OUR WEBSITE, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK.

ONE THING WE SAY ABOUT OUR FARM, WE OPEN OUR FARM TO EVERYONE.

IT'S A HEALING FARM.

IT GOES BEYOND JUST GROWING FOOD.

IT'S GROWING COMMUNITIES.

SO WE ARE A COMMUNITY FARM AND WE WELCOME ALL THAT WANT TO PROMOTE FOOD JUSTICE AND SOCIAL ADHESION, COHESION.

KAREN WASHINGTON, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING NOT ONLY THE WORK THAT YOU DO, YOU'RE SO PASSIONATE ABOUT AT RISE AND ROOT FARM, BUT ALSO THE PASSIONATE WORK BEHIND THE COMMUNITY GARDENS THAT WE'VE SEEN POP UP ALL OVER THE CITY, AND ONE CAN ONLY ASSUME WE'LL PROBABLY BE SEEING MORE OF AS THE CITY BEGINS TO RECOVER FROM COVID AS WELL.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

ABSOLUTELY.

> PRESIDENTS OF WAR, THE EPIC STORY FROM 1807 TO MODERN TIMES, HISTORIAN MICHAEL BESCHLOSS GIVES AN INTIMATE AND EXHAUSTIVE LOOK AT AMERICAN PRESIDENTS WHO HAVE TAKEN OUR NATION INTO DEADLY CONFLICT.

FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON TO GEORGE W. BUSH, HE SHOWS HOW THESE OFTEN PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY OVERWHELMED LEADERS HAVE STRUGGLED WITH CONGRESS, THE COURTS, THE PRESS, ANTI-WAR PROTESTERS AND EVEN THEIR OWN ADVISERS AS THEY MAKE THE MOST DIFFICULT DECISION TO FACE ANY AMERICANS, SENDING AMERICANS TO THEIR DEATH.

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE IN THE OVAL OFFICE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO LAUNCH WEAPONS THAT CAN DESTROY MUCH OF THE HUMAN RACE.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS JOINS US NOW.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, RAF, GREAT TO SEE YOU.

ONE OF THE KEY INTENTS OF THE FOUNDERS WHEN THEY WERE DRAFTING THE CONSTITUTION WAS TO PUT CONSTRAINTS ON THE POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT, PARTICULARLY THE POWERS OF WAGING WAR.

YET, AS WE ALL KNOW, THAT POWER OVER THE LAST 200 YEARS HAS INCREASED DRAMATICALLY.

HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?

THE FOUNDERS BASICALLY SAID IT'S TOO MUCH TO HAVE THE FUTURE OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC DEPEND ON ONE PERSON, WHETHER WE GO TO WAR OR NOT.

THAT'S WHY THEY GAVE WAR POWERS TO CONGRESS.

WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT IS OVER 200 YEARS THAT I'VE WRITTEN, IT'S MOVED THE OTHER DIRECTION SO THAT A MODERN PRESIDENT, AS WE KNOW, IF A PRESIDENT WANTS TO WAGE WAR TONIGHT, HE CAN DO IT AND HE CAN DO IT PRETTY MUCH UNCHALLENGED, AND THE RESULT IS THAT THE LIFE OR DEATH OF MOST OF THE HUMAN RACE, AND IT'S NOT TOO MUCH TO SAY, DEPENDS ON THE CHARACTER AND THE JUDGMENT OF THE PERSON WHO HAPPENS TO BE PRESIDENT.

GIVE US SOME OF THOSE EXAMPLES.

FOR INSTANCE, IN 1846 JAMES POPE, NOT EXACTLY A HOUSEHOLD NAME THESE DAYS, BUT HE BASICALLY FABRICATED AN INCIDENT ON THE MEXICAN BORDER SO THE MEXICANS WOULD ATTACK AND POPE COULD SAY TO AMERICANS AND CONGRESS, WE'VE BEEN ATTACKED, WE NEED A BIG WAR AGAINST MEXICO.

WHAT HE REALLY WANTED WAS HE WANTED TO TAKE ABOUT A MILLION SQUARE MILES THAT WOULD MAKE US A NATION FROM COAST TO COAST.

GREAT IDEA, BUT YOU SHOULDN'T START WARS BASED ON FALSE PRETEXT.

1898, THE MAINE WAS SUNK IN HAVANA HARBOR.

WILLIAM McKINLEY SAID WE NEED A WAR AGAINST SPAIN.

TURNS OUT THE SPANISH WERE NOT BEHIND IT.

IT WAS A BOILER ACCIDENT.

LYNDON JOHNSON AND THE GULF OF TUL KHAN.

HAPPENS AGAIN AND AGAIN.

I'M ALL FOR ALWAYS DEFENDING OURSELVES.

ALWAYS WAGING WAR, THERE'S A THREAT TO OUR SECURITY.

WHAT I'M WORRIED ABOUT IS A PRESIDENT IN MODERN TIMES AND THANK GOD IT HASN'T HAPPENED YET, SOME PRESIDENT IS GOING TO SAY, GEE, GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FOR INSTANCE, PERSIAN GULF WAR DROVE HIS NUMBERS UP TO 90% POPULARITY, MAYBE I SHOULD DO THAT, TOO.

WHY DID THE EROSION CONTINUE TO -- THERE'S A POINT, AS YOU SAY, SOMEBODY IN THE OVAL OFFICE CAN PRESS THE BUTTON?

THAT'S IT.

IT HAPPENED MAINLY BECAUSE CONGRESS BECAME LAP DOGS.

IF YOU LOOK AT RECENT TIMES -- FOR INSTANCE, LYNDON JOHNSON WAS ABLE TO BULLY DEMOCRATIC LEADERS IN CONGRESS TO SUPPORT HIS VIETNAM WAR WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE DISASTROUS.

ALL I'M SAYING IS THE CONSTITUTION SAYS THE PRESIDENT SHOULD COME TO CONGRESS.

THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO CAN ENFORCE THAT ARE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND MAYBE THE SUPREME COURT.

BY THE WAY, SOMETHING I DIDN'T KNOW, I FOUND OUT IN YOUR BOOK, THAT DISASTER IN VIETNAM COULD HAVE BEEN A LOT WORSE.

TALK ABOUT THAT.

RIGHT.

THAT'S SOMETHING I FOUND SOME DOCUMENTS THAT SHOW IN JANUARY OF 1968 LYNDON JOHNSON WAS WORRIED HE WAS GOING TO LOSE THE VIETNAM WAR, SO HIS COMMANDER IN VIETNAM, WILLIAM WESTMORELAND SECRETLY SAYS, I HAVE AN IDEA, LET'S MOVE IN NUCLEAR WEAPONS, NOT TO USE THEM TOMORROW, BUT JUST IN CASE WE NEED TO USE THESE TO AVERT A DEFEAT ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

LBJ MADE TERRIBLE DECISIONS IN VIETNAM, ONE OF THE GREAT TRAGEDIES IN AMERICAN HISTORY.

IN THIS CASE, SECRETLY, WHAT I WROTE ABOUT IN THE BOOK, SAID TO WESTMORELAND, SHUT THIS DOWN IMMEDIATELY.

I DON'T WANT ANY PLANNING ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

I WANT YOU TO PUT EVERYTHING YOU SAID ABOUT THIS IN A SAFE.

I DON'T WANT ANYONE TO FIND OUT ABOUT THIS FOR 50 YEARS OR MO BECAUSE IT MIGHT LEAD SOME PEOPLE TO SAY JOHNSON SHOULD HAVE USED NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

IF THAT HAPPENS, NOT ONLY A TRAGEDY IN ITSELF, BUT MIGHT BRING IN THE RUSSIANS, MIGHT BRING IN THE CHINESE.

IN THIS LONG WAR WHERE JOHNSON AND NIXON BEHAVE SO BADLY, MAYBE THIS WAS JOHNSON'S GOOD DEED.

JUST TO STAY IN VIETNAM FOR ONE MORE QUESTION, I THINK IF I WERE TO ASK MOST AMERICANS OF A CERTAIN AGE, I GUESS, WHAT THE MOST UNPOPULAR WAR IN OUR HISTORY WAS, THEY'D PROBABLY SAY VIETNAM.

RIGHT.

BUT.

IT WASN'T VIETNAM.

IT WAS THE WAR OF 1812.

THAT WAS THE FIRST MAJOR WAR THAT AMERICA FOUGHT, EVEN THOUGH PROBABLY AT LEAST HALF OF AMERICANS WERE AGAINST IT AND NEARLY HALF OF THE CONGRESS WAS AGAINST THE IDEA OF A WAR AGAINST THE BRITISH, JAMES MADISON DEMANDED IT, AND THE RESULT WAS THAT THIS WAS NOT ONLY PROBABLY THE MOST UNPOPULAR WAR IN AMERICAN HISTORY, BUT PROBABLY UNLIKE WHAT IS THOUGHT ABOUT VIETNAM.

THIS IS THE FIRST WAR WE PROBABLY LOST BECAUSE OUR WAR AIMS WERE CONQUERING CANADA AND GETTING THE BRITISH TO STOP HARASSING OUR SHIPS.

NEITHER OF THOSE TWO THINGS REALLY HAPPENED.

BUT BECAUSE OF THE HEROISM OF ANDREW JACKSON AND DON'T GIVE UP YOUR SHIP AND 'STAR SPANGLED BANNER,' ALL THE THINGS YOU REMEMBER, PEOPLE REMEMBER THIS AS A GREAT VICTORY.

BUT 1812 WAS REALLY THE FIRST TIME WE LOST A WAR, NOT VIETNAM.

WAS IT UNPOPULAR FROM THE BEGINNING?

MOST OF OUR WARS HAVE STARTED OUT AS POPULAR WARS, RIGHT?

THAT'S WHAT MAKES IT SO ODD BECAUSE 1812 WAS UNPOPULAR FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.

ALL I WOULD SAY IN OUR OWN TIME IS THAT, IF, GOD FORBID, WE EVER HAVE TO WAGE ANOTHER MAJOR WAR, IT HAS TO BE SOMETHING THAT AMERICANS UNDERSTAND AT THE OUTSET AND WE'RE UNITED BEHIND.

THAT'S WHAT WAS THE BIG PROBLEM WITH VIETNAM, FOR INSTANCE.

IN 1964 WHEN LBJ BEGAN TO ESCALATE, AMERICANS WERE SAYING WE BARELY HEARD OF VIETNAM, WHAT ARE WE DOING THERE?

IN THE BOOK YOU INCLUDE THOMAS JEFFERSON, BUT HE'S THE ONE RARE EXAMPLE OF A PRESIDENT WHO COULD HAVE GONE TO WAR.

THERE WAS A CLAMOR FORWARD BUT HE REFUSED TO JOIN THE FRENZY.

EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED WITH HIM.

JEFFERSON WAS A BRILLIANT LEADER IN A LOT OF WAYS, NOT PERFECT.

IN 1807 THERE WAS A BRITISH ATTACK ON AN AMERICAN SHIP.

AMERICANS WERE JUSTIFIABLY OUTRAGED AND SAYING LET'S GO TO WAR AGAINST BRITAIN IMMEDIATELY.

NINE OUT OF TEN LEADERS EVEN THEN WOULD HAVE SAID, WELL, THIS IS TERRIBLE, WE SHOULD GO INTO WAR AGAINST BRITAIN.

THEY MIGHT HAVE LIKED TO BE A WORLD LEADER, WOULD HAVE MADE THEM MORE POPULAR.

EVEN JEFFERSON WAS ATTRACTED BY THAT.

JEFFERSON AS A GREAT LEADER SAID THE DIFFERENCES WE HAVE WITH THE BRITISH ARE NOT LARGE ENOUGH TO REALLY COMPEL AMERICAN SONS AND SOME DAUGHTERS TO DIE IN A WAR, SO I'D LIKE TO STOP IT.

WHAT WE'VE SEEN TOO RARELY IN THE HISTORY OF THE PRESIDENCY IS A PRESIDENT SAYING, YES, THERE'S A CLAMOR FORWARD, BUT I'M GOING TO STAND UP FOR THAT AND MAKE SURE IT DOESN'T HAPPEN.

IN FACT, HAS THERE BEEN ANOTHER EXAMPLE?

ACTUALLY A FEW EXAMPLES.

DWIGHT EISENHOWER IN THE MID 1950s, THERE WAS A CLAMOR FORWARD IN VIETNAM.

EISENHOWER, TO HIS GREAT CREDIT, JUST SAID I JUST DON'T THINK THE STAKES IN VIETNAM ARE SO GREAT THAT WE SHOULD GET INVOLVED.

PLUS KOREA, WHICH WE HAD JUST FOUGHT A COUPLE YEARS EARLIER, SHOWS US WE SHOULD NOT GET INVOLVED IN A LAND WAR IN ASIA.

AS YOU SAID, THERE WERE PRESIDENTS WOMAN UFRED THE COUNTRY INTO WARS THAT WERE UNNECESSARY, BUT THERE WERE ALSO PRESIDENTS WHO HAD TO FIGHT THE WAR AND WERE WELL DEPICTED EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY BROKEN AS A RESULT OF THE STRESSES.

TALK ABOUT SOME OF THOSE.

THAT'S WHAT MOST OF THIS BOOK IS, BECAUSE IT'S ABOUT THESE HUMAN BEINGS BEHIND THE SCENES, THESE PRESIDENTS WHO WAGE MAJOR WARS.

WHAT I FOUND IS THAT A LOT OF THEM HAVE PRETTY CLOSE TO NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS.

ALMOST EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM HAS A PHYSICAL BREAKDOWN UNDER THE PRESSURES OF WAR.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN SAID TO A FRIEND, FOR INSTANCE, CAN YOU IMAGINE I WHO CAN'T STAND TO SEE A CHICKEN BEING SLAUGHTERED, I'M SURROUNDED BY OCEANS OF BLOOD.

WHAT ALLOWS THEM TO GO THROUGH THIS?

ONE THING IS THAT ALMOST ALL OF THEM HAD GREAT MARRIAGES.

LYNDON JOHNSON HAD LADY BIRD WHOM I GOT TO KNOW PRETTY WELL WHEN I WAS DOING HISTORICAL RESEARCH.

I THINK IF HE DID NOT HAVE A WIFE WHO UNDERSTOOD HIM AS WELL AS SHE DID, LYNDON JOHNSON COULD NOT HAVE REALLY FUNCTIONED.

ANOTHER THING IS MOST OF THEM TURN TO RELIGION.

LINCOLN WAS ALMOST AN ATHEIST WHEN HE WAS A YOUNG MAN.

WHEN HE WAS PRESIDENT DURING THE CIVIL WAR, ONE OF HIS FRIENDS SAW HIM AND SAID I'M SO SHOCKED TO SEE YOU READING A BIBLE.

LINCOLN SAID, I DON'T SEE HOW ANYONE CAN GO UNDER THE PRESSURES OF WAR WITHOUT SOMETHING LIKE RELIGION TO GIVE HIM COMFORT.

LYNDON JOHNSON WAS A PROTESTANT, NOT A PARTICULARLY COMMITTED PERSON IN TERMS OF RELIGION.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON TOLD ME AT THE END OF HER LIFE DURING THE VIETNAM WAR AT CERTAIN MOMENTS I THOUGHT LYNDON WAS GOING TO BECOME A CATHOLIC BECAUSE HE WENT WITH OUR CATHOLIC DAUGHTER TO MASS AND HE FOUND SUCH COMFORT IN THAT.

I GUESS THIS IS AN EASY ONE.

THE PRESIDENTS WHO ARE THE BEST WAR LEADERS?

HANDS DOWN, ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT.

CIVIL WAR, WORLD WAR II, WE WOULDN'T HAVE THE PLEASURE OF BEING HERE TODAY IF IT WEREN'T FOR THE FACT THAT LINCOLN AND FDR WERE GREAT WAR LEADERS.

NOT ONLY WAR LEADERS IN TERMS OF TELLING THE GENERALS WHAT TO DO.

THEY OPERATED ON A MORAL PLAIN.

LINCOLN SAID WE'RE NOT JUST WAGING THE CIVIL WAR TO REUNITE THE SOUTH LEGALISTICALLY, THIS IS A MORAL STRUGGLE AGAINST SLAVERY.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT SAID THIS IS NOT JUST A BALANCE OF POWER AGAINST HITLER AND THE JAPANESE, THIS IS A MORAL STRUGGLE FOR THE -- FOR FREEDOMS TO MAKE THIS A BETTER WORLD.

OUR WORST WAR PRESIDENTS?

PROBABLY A TIE.

I THINK POPE PROBABLY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SCALE BECAUSE HE LEFT THIS DIARY AND I READ HIS DIARY.

HE SAYS BASICALLY I HAD A GREAT DAY, I JUST CHEATED AND LIED TO THESE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS.

AND LYNDON JOHNSON, WHOM I LOVE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS AND MEDICARE AND OTHER THINGS, BUT YOU LOOK AT HIM AS A WAR PRESIDENT, AND BASICALLY ALMOST 60,000 AMERICANS DIED THAT DID NOT NEED TO.

HAVING WRITTEN ABOUT JOHNSON AND VIETNAM, I RUN INTO FAMILY MEMBERS WHO TELL ME, TELL ME THAT MY SON AND SOME DAUGHTERS DIED FOR A CAUSE THAT WAS WORTH IT.

AND I'M STRUGGLING.

WHAT IS THE ONE MESSAGE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONVEY?

WE AMERICANS ARE LIVING IN DANGER, AND THE DANGER IS THAT ONE PERSON, ONE PRESIDENT CAN GET THE UNITED STATES INVOLVED, POTENTIALLY WILL BE TEMPTED TO GET INVOLVED IN A MAJOR WAR.

IT MAY BE NECESSARY, BUT IT ALSO MAY BE FOR POLITICAL REASONS.

THAT'S EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THE INTENTION OF THE FOUNDERS.

BUT WE'VE COME TO THE POINT WHERE THE LIFE OR DEATH OF SO MANY PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD WILL DEPEND ON ONE PERSON.

THE FOUNDERS NEVER FELT THAT ONE PRESIDENT WOULD HAVE THAT KIND OF BRILLIANCE.

ALL RIGHT, MICHAEL.

THE BOOK IS 'PRESIDENTS OF WAR.'

THE EPIC STORY FROM 1807 TO MODERN TIMES.

IT TOOK TEN YEARS TO WRITE.

IT'S WELL WORTH THE READ.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, RAF.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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