Metrofocus: June 29, 2022

Tonight, the votes are in and we’re breaking down Governor Kathy Hochul and Congressman Lee Zeldin’s big primary wins. Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max joins us with the results and what’s next in the race for New York’s highest office.

As part of our Chasing the Dream initiative, Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi shares his journey from living in poverty to becoming a world-renowned astrophysicist. His path did not come easy, as he confronted his own personal demons as well as the entrenched racism and classism in the scientific establishment. Dr. Oluseyi’s memoir is called “A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars,” and he joins us to share how he was able to overcome the odds.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, THE VOTES ARE IN.

WE ARE BREAKING DOWN GOVERNOR HOCHUL AND CONGRESSMAN'S ZELDON'S PRIMARY WINS AND THE RACE FOR NEW YORK'S HIGHEST OFFICE.

FROM THE STREET TO THE STARS, A BLACK ASTROPHYSICIST SHARES HIS REMARKABLE RISE FROM POVERTY TO OUTER SPACE AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

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

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY --

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

YESTERDAY WAS THE FIRST OF TWO PRIMARY DAYS IN NEW YORK.

VOTERS ACROSS THE STATE CAST THEIR BALLOTS FOR GOVERNOR, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR AND STATE ASSEMBLY RACES.

THE TOP PRIZE WAS THE NOMINATION FOR GOVERNOR.

THE TWO FRONT RUNNERS FROM EACH PARTY BOTH SECURED THE NOMINATIONS OF THEIR RESPECTIVE PARTIES.

THE VOTES ARE STILL BEING COUNTED AS OF THE TIME OF THIS TAPING, IT APPEARS THAT GOVERNOR HOCHUL, CONGRESSMAN ZELDIN AND THE DEMOCRATIC LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR WON THEIR RACES BY LARGE MARGINS.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THE RESULTS AND WHAT THIS MEANS LEADING UP TO THE NOVEMBER ELECTION IS BEN MAX.

A FREQUENT GUEST HERE WITH US ON 'METROFOCUS.'

THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF THE 'GOTHAM GAZETTE.'

GOVERNOR HOCHUL WON BY A GOOD MARGIN.

SHE CAME IN AHEAD OF WHAT MOST PEOPLE THOUGHT SHE MIGHT DO IN TERMS OF HER PERFORMANCE, WINNING TWO-THIRDS OF THE VOTE.

THAT'S IN LINE WITH ABOUT THE PERCENTAGES THAT ANDREW CUOMO WON IN THE LAST ELECTIONS.

SHE DIDN'T COME INTO THE RACE WITH THE KIND OF POWER THAT HE CAME INTO THOSE WITH AND THE BACKGROUND.

SHE OVER PERFORMED SOME EXPECTATIONS.

WILLIAMS SEEMS TO HAVE UNDER PERFORMED.

IN TERMS OF WHY GOVERNOR HOCHUL PERFORMED SO WELL, I THINK THERE'S A FEW THINGS AT PLAY.

ONE IS THAT SHE HAS BROUGHT A DIFFERENT STYLE OF LEADERSHIP TO THE STATE IN HER SHORT TIME AS GOVERNOR, TEN MONTHS.

SHE'S ACCOMPLISHED QUITE A BIT.

YOU COULD DISAGREE WITH SOME OF THE THINGS SHE'S DONE, OF COURSE, AS MANY PEOPLE DO.

BUT SHE HAS PUT A LOT OF WINS ON THE BOARD, SO TO SPEAK, FOR RUNNING IN A DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR GOVERNOR, HER FIRST BUDGET COMING IN AT $220 BILLION.

THAT'S A LOT OF FUNDING FOR DIFFERENT THINGS.

A VARIETY OF NEW POLICY INITIATIVES.

I WON'T GO INTO THE SPECIFICS.

OF COURSE, IN RECENT WEEKS WE HAVE SEEN HER SIGNING BILL AFTER BILL COMING OUT OF THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION.

THOSE HAVE EFFECTIVELY BEEN CAMPAIGN EVENTS.

THEY ARE GOVERNMENT EVENTS WHERE SHE'S SIGNING LEGISLATION.

BUT THEY HAVE HER OUT THERE SIGNING BILLS ON ABORTION RIGHTS IN THE STATE, GUN CONTROL, VOTING RIGHTS AND MUCH MORE.

SO SHE'S HAD THOSE ADVANTAGES.

THEN WE HAVE TO OBVIOUSLY MENTION THE FACT THAT SHE RAISED TENS AND TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND VASTLY OUT SPENT HER COMPETITION.

WHY DO YOU THINK SHE WAS ABLE TO RAISE SO MUCH MONEY?

WE KNOW SHE'S BEEN INVOLVED IN POLITICS FOR A LONG TIME.

NOT IN A SIGNIFICANT, HIGH PROFILE -- NOT AS HIGH, I SHOULD SAY, AS THE GOVERNOR, HAS ONLY BEEN IN THE CHAIR FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS IT THAT ALLOWED SO MANY PEOPLE TO SAY, HERE, LET ME WRITE A CHECK FOR YOU?

FIRST OF ALL, THE POWER OF THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE IS SO IMMENSE.

PEOPLE WITH INTERESTS IN THE STATE ARE, OF COURSE, EAGER TO FUND A SITTING GOVERNOR AND HOPE TO BE IN THE GOVERNOR'S GOOD GRACES.

GOVERNOR HOCHUL WILL TELL YOU THAT CAMPAIGN DONATIONS DO NOT IMPACT HER DECISION MAKING.

BUT WE HAVE HIGH DONATION LIMITS IN THE STATE.

THOSE ARE COMING DOWN FOR NEXT ELECTION WHERE THERE WILL BE PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING FOR THE FIRST TIME.

FORMER GOVERNOR CUOMO MADE SURE THEY DIDN'T APPLY TO THIS ELECTION WHICH HE WASN'T AROUND FOR.

GOVERNOR HOCHUL HAS BEEN ABLE TO RAISE AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF MONEY VERY QUICKLY FROM MANY WEALTHY INTERESTS AROUND THE STATE, INCLUDING LOTS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE EITHER DOING BUSINESS WITH THE STATE OR LOOKING TO DO BUSINESS.

THERE'S LOTS OF QUESTIONS TO RAISE THERE.

THE POWER OF THE OFFICE LENDS ITSELF TO THAT.

IT HAS TO BE NOTED, THIS RELATES TO HER PERFORMANCE, SHE'S KIND OF THE KIND OF DEMOCRAT, MODERATE BUT WITH PRETTY BIG LIBERAL TO PROGRESSIVE STREAKS, THAT'S BROADLY APPEALING TO A BIG SWATH OF THE ELECTORATE, INCLUDING SOME MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN HER, BECAUSE SHE'S PRO DEVELOPMENT.

SHE'S GOT BIG INFRASTRUCTURE IDEAS.

SHE'S ALSO DOING LOTS OF THINGS ON CHILDCARE AND OTHER THINGS.

SHE'S A BIG TENT DEMOCRAT.

YOU MENTIONED THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR WINNING.

THAT WAS NOT NECESSARILY WHAT PEOPLE WERE ANTICIPATING GOING INTO IT.

WHY DO YOU THINK HE WAS ABLE TO PERFORM AS WELL AS HE DID?

I DON'T THINK GOVERNOR HOCHUL WINNING IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR GOVERNOR WAS A SURPRISE.

I DONE THINK LEE ZELDIN WAS A SURPRISE.

I THINK DELGADO'S WIN, ESPECIALLY THE MARGIN, WAS A PRETTY BIG SURPRISE TO PEOPLE, AS YOU ARE GETTING AT.

I THINK THERE WAS A LOT OF ESTIMATION THAT THE PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATE IN THE RACE, WHO WAS RUNNING WITH WILLIAMS, BUT SHE HAD MORE MOMENTUMWILLIAMS, BECAUSE THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO WERE WILLING TO ENDORSE HER.

BUT HE OVER PERFORMED.

HE SPENT A LOT MORE THAN HIS COMPETITION.

HE FLOODED THE AIRWAVES WITH ADS SO PEOPLE COULD GET TO KNOW HIM.

HE HAS ONLY BEEN IN THE JOBS A FEW WEEKS AFTER THE BRIAN BENJAMIN SCANDAL BROUGHT HIM DOWN.

GOVERNOR HOCHUL HAD TO NAME A SECOND LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR.

HE WAS AT LOTS OF THE EVENTS WITH GOVERNOR HOCHUL.

HE GOT A LOT OF LABOR UNION SUPPORT THANKS TO HIS POSITION NOW AS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR.

HE WAS ABLE TO OVER PERFORM.

THE VOTER TURNOUT IS A FACTOR AS WELL.

THE TURNOUT WAS SURPRISINGLY SUPPRESSED HERE.

SEVERAL REASONS WE COULD GO INTO AS TO WHY THAT I WON'T TOUCH ON NOW.

WHEN TURNOUT IS LOW, IT FAVORS INCUMBENTS.

ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU HAVE ORGANIZED LABOR AND THE PARTY APPARATUS BEHIND YOU, THAT'S VERY HELPFUL.

LET'S SHIFT TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE.

OUR FOCUS TO THE REPUBLICANS.

MENTIONED CONGRESSMAN ZELDIN.

WINNING.

SAME QUESTION TO YOU ABOUT GOVERNOR HOCHUL.

WHAT FACTORS DO YOU THINK WERE INFLUENTIAL IN THAT WIN FOR HIM?

I THINK I WAS SLIGHTLY SURPRISED BY THE MARGIN THERE.

IT WAS A LITTLE HARD TO KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY, BECAUSE YOU HAD ANDREW GIULIANI WITH NAME RECOGNITION AS RUDY'S SON AND HIS TIES TO FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP, WHICH ARE STILL STRONG CURRENCY IN A REPUBLICAN PRIMARY IN MANY PLACES, INCLUDING NEW YORK.

IT WAS UNCLEAR.

HARRY WILSON, WHO SEEMS TO BE COMING IN FOURTH, WAS FLOODING THE AIRWAVES WITH MORE THAN $10 MILLION OF HIS OWN MONEY IN ADS.

IT WAS HARD TO KNOW.

MANY PEOPLE DID EXPECT CONGRESSMAN ZELDIN TO WIN.

THE MARGIN WAS A LITTLE WIDER THAN SOME EXPECTED.

THIS IS A FAIRLY CUT AND DRY STORY.

HE GOT INTO THE RACE VERY EARLY.

IT WAS A VERY SMART MOVE.

HE JUMPED IN QUICKLY.

HE STARTED TO AMASS ENDORSEMENTS FROM PARTY OFFICIALS ALL ACROSS THE STATE.

HE WAS ALMOST UNANIMOUSLY CHOSEN AT THE REPUBLICAN STATE CONVENTION AS THEIR DESIGNEE FOR THE OFFICE.

HE HAD THIS VERY STRONG REPUBLICAN, BOTH ESTABLISHMENT GAME AND THEN ALSO HE CRISSCROSSED THE STATE AT A BLISTERING PACE AND REALLY -- WE HAVE THE TWO MAJOR PARTY NOMINEES IN THIS ELECTION ARE VERY HARD WORKERS.

KATHY HOCHUL AND LEE ZELDIN REALLY GET AFTER IT.

THAT'S WHAT HE DID IN THE PRIMARY.

FROM VERY EARLY ON.

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THE REPUBLICAN SIDE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR RACE.

ALLISON ESPOSITO RAN UNOPPOSED.

WHAT DO PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HER?

SHE'S A PERFECT FIT FOR THE REPUBLICAN STATEWIDE TICKET.

SHE AND ZILDIN FORM A TICKET.

SHE'S A LONGTIME NYPD OFFICIAL.

A DEPUTY INSPECTOR BEFORE JUMPING INTO THIS RACE.

I BELIEVE SHE'S ON LEAVE.

SHE FITS PERFECTLY IN TERMS OF THE WAYS IN WHICH THE REPUBLICANS WANT TO MAKE THIS ELECTION FIRST AND FOREMOST ABOUT CRIME AND PUBLIC SAFETY.

WE HAVE SEEN THE INCREASES IN CRIME THROUGHOUT THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS COINCIDING WITH THE PANDEMIC AND OTHER FACTORS.

SHE'S ON THE TICKET IN LARGE PART.

THERE'S GENDER BALANCE THERE AND THEN TO HAVE THE FOCUS ON CRIME AND PUBLIC SAFETY.

OF COURSE, THEY WILL RUN ON OTHER ISSUES BUT TO HIGHLIGHT THAT IS PART OF WHY SHE'S THERE AND HER NYPD BACKGROUND.

LET ME COME BACK TO WHAT YOU MENTIONED BEFORE, THAT WAS TURNOUT.

GOING INTO THIS, THAT WAS ALWAYS A QUESTION.

THE FACT THAT THERE WERE GOING TO BE TWO PRIMARIES THIS YEAR.

CONFUSION ON THE PART OF THE ELECTORATE AS TO WHY AND WHEN.

WHAT DID YOU SEE IN TERMS OF THE TURNOUT?

DID IT SURPRISE YOU?

I DON'T THINK I WAS SURPRISED HERE.

MAYBE SLIGHTLY AND DEFINITELY DISSPIRITED AS SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO SEE A ROBUST DEMOCRACY IN ACTION HERE.

I THINK THERE'S A BUNCH OF FACTORS AT PLAY.

WE NEED TO DISSECT IT MORE.

THE SPLIT PRIMARIES YOU ARE MENTIONING, ONCE THE NEW MAPS FOR THE STATE SENATE AND U.S.

HOUSE SEATS WERE THROWN OUT BY THE COURT, NEW MAPS ORDERED TO BE DRAWN AND THEY ORDERED IT THE SAME TIME TO EXTEND THE CALENDAR FOR THE RACES TO AN AUGUST PRIMARY, THEY REALLY SHOULD HAVE MOVED THE STATEWIDE AND ASSEMBLY PRIMARIES TO AUGUST AS WELL.

BUT FOR SOME OBVIOUS REASONS, GOVERNOR HOCHUL AND THE SITTING ASSEMBLY MEMBERS DID NOT WANT TO DO THAT.

THEY DIDN'T WANT TO GIVE THEIR OPPONENTS MORE TIME TO DING THEM AND RAISE MONEY AND SO FORTH.

SO THEY DIDN'T.

THE SPLIT PRIMARY IS A BIG PROBLEM.

I THINK WE'RE SEEING A DROP-OFF IN DEMOCRATIC ENGAGEMENT IN THE POST-TRUMP ERA.

THERE WAS NO ANDREW CUOMO ON THE BALLOT.

HE OFTEN STIRRED UP LOTS OF ENERGY ON BOTH FOR AND AGAINST.

A NUMBER OF FACTORS AT PLAY HERE.

VERY LOW TURNOUT ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE.

THERE WERE ABOUT 1.5 MILLION VOTES IN THE PRIMARY.

I DON'T KNOW IF WE ARE GETTING TO A MILLION HERE.

A SIGNIFICANT DROP-OFF THERE.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU.

ABOUT TWO MINUTES HERE.

WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE MOVING ON BETWEEN NOW AND THE ELECTION IN NOVEMBER?

AS YOU MENTIONED, BOTH THE TOP CANDIDATES ON THE TICKET, HOCHUL, ZELDIN, THEY ARE ACTIVE CAMPAIGNERS.

YOU CAN CALL THEM RABID.

I THINK THEY WOULD BE PROUD OF THAT TITLE.

WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE ARE THE ISSUES THAT EACH OF THEM WILL FOCUS ON?

JUST ON THE FIRST POINT, I'M GOING TO BE INTERESTED TO SEE WHAT GOVERNOR HOCHUL'S STRATEGY IS.

I THINK SHE'S PROBABLY GOING TO TRY TO AVOID TOO MANY INTERVIEWS AND DEBATES.

SHE'S A HEAVY FAVORITE IN THE DEMOCRATIC NEW YORK.

IT WILL BE INTERESTING HOW SHE APPROACHES THAT AND HOW MANY DEBATES IF ANY SHE AGREES TO.

THERE'S NO REQUIREMENT TO DEBATE.

SHE MIGHT INSIST THAT ALL THE CANDIDATES ON THE BALLOT ARE THERE.

THAT TYPE OF THING.

THAT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE.

IN TERMS OF THE ISSUES, I MENTIONED -- WE ARE GOING TO SEE A BIFURCATED ELECTION HERE.

ZELDIN IS GOING TO RUN ON CERTAIN ISSUES.

HOCHUL WILL RUN ON DIFFERENT ISSUES.

WHERE THEY CAN PULL EACH OTHER IN WILL BE INTERESTING.

HE IS GOING TO RUN ON CRIME AND PUBLIC SAFETY.

TAXES, INFLATION, COST OF LIVING, EDUCATION, BUSINESS GROWTH, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, GETTING GOVERNMENT OUT OF PEOPLE'S PERSONAL LIVES, LOWERING REGULATIONS AND TAXES.

GOVERNOR HOCHUL WILL RUN ON THINGS SHE'S BEEN PASSING, CHILDCARE, INFRASTRUCTURE PLANNING AND A LOT MORE ABORTION RIGHTS, GUN CONTROL.

SHE'S GOING TO REALLY TRY TO TIE ZELDIN TO TRUMP.

HE VOTED TO OVERTURN THE ELECTION RESULTS ON THE NIGHT OF JANUARY 6, 2021.

THAT WILL COME UP FAIRLY OFTEN I'M SURE.

SHE'S GOING TO PAINT HIM AS A FAR RIGHT EXTREMIST, TRUMPIST.

HE WILL TIE HER TO ANDREW CUOMO AND PAINT HER AS AN INEFFECTIVE EXECUTIVE TAKING THE STATE IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.

I SUSPECT WE CAN SAY IT'S GOING TO BE A SPIRITED CAMPAIGN LEADING UP TO THAT NOVEMBER ELECTION.

BEN MAX, GOOD TO HAVE YOU.

WE LEARN SO MUCH WHEN WE HAVE A CHANCE TO CHAT WITH YOU.

THANKS.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING WITH YOU AGAIN.

THANKS, JACK.

MY PLEASURE.

♪♪

> HOW DOES A BLACK CHILD GROWING UP IN SOME OF THE TOUGHEST AND MOST IMPOVERISHED URBAN NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE COUNTRY RISE THROUGH ACADEMIA TO BECOME A LEADING ASTROPHYSICIST?

THAT'S THE STORY OF THIS DOCTOR, A WORLD RENOWNED SCIENTIST AND PROFESSOR WHO OVERCAME SEEMINGLY INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS TO BE WHERE HE IS TODAY.

IT'S A STORY OF RESILIENCE, DREAMING BIG, AND OF THE MAGIC OF SCIENCE.

HE DESCRIBES THAT JOURNEY IN A MEMOIR.

HE JOINS US NOW TO SHARE THAT STORY AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY, JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

DOCTOR, WELCOME.

THANK YOU FOR SPENDING TIME ON THIS.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THAT JOURNEY.

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE MESSAGES IN THE BOOK.

IT'S A MARVELLOUS BOOK.

IT'S A WONDERFUL, COMPELLING READ.

AN INSPIRATION, CERTAINLY.

OFTEN, SPEAKING OF INSPIRATIONAL, WE WILL HEAR ADVICE SAYING, YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE IF YOU REALLY WANT TO.

YOU LOOK AT YOUR STORY AND WHERE YOU GOT TO, THE HIGHEST LEVEL, WORLD RENOWNED SCIENTIST.

THEN YOU LOOK AT WHERE YOU CAME FROM.

YOUR FIRST REACTION HAS TO BE, HOW UNLIKELY IS THAT JOURNEY?

LET ME ASK YOU TO GIVE US A SENSE OF CONTEXT FOR THIS CONVERSATION.

GIVE US A SYNOPSIS OF LITERALLY WHERE YOU CAME FROM AS A CHILD AND ADOLESCENT.

RIGHT.

YES.

I GUESS WHAT'S SO UNUSUAL IS THAT I MAKE IT THROUGH -- I MADE IT THROUGH ACADEMIA AND THERE WERE ZERO ACADEMIC HISTORY IN MY FAMILY.

MY FATHER DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL WHEN HE WAS 9.

HE WAS BORN IN RURAL MISSISSIPPI IN 1933.

MY MOTHER DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL WHEN SHE WAS 16.

SHE WAS PREGNANT WITH MY OLDER SISTER.

TO GIVE MORE CONTEXT, MY MOTHER'S MOTHER ALSO DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL AT 16 PREGNANT AND SO DID MY OLDER SISTER.

NOT ONLY WAS I THE FIRST PERSON TO GET AN ADVANCED DEGREE, I WAS THE FIRST ONE IN AT LEAST MY IMMEDIATE LINEAGE TO ACTUALLY GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL.

PREVIOUS GENERATIONS, IT DIDN'T HAPPEN EITHER.

ON TOP OF THAT, MY FAMILY WAS INVOLVED IN CRIME.

ON MY MOTHER'S SIDE, HER FAMILY HAD EMIGRATED FROM NEW ORLEANS TO LOS ANGELES.

IN MY GENERATION, I WAS ONE OF THE YOUNGEST IN MY GENERATION.

MY OLDER FIRST COUSINS WERE MEMBERS OF A NEWLY EMERGING SOCIAL CLUB IN LOS ANGELES CALLED THE CRIPS.

ON MY FATHER'S SIDE, MY FATHER CAME FROM A FAMILY, THEY WERE FARMERS, HUNTERS AND BOOTLEGGERS.

MY FATHER TOOK THE BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL BY BECOMING A LARGE IMPORTING AND WHOLESALER OF MARIJUANA.

MY FATHER INCORPORATED ME INTO HIS BUSINESSES FROM THE AGE OF 9.

YOU TALK ABOUT HOW OFTEN YOU MOVED.

RIGHT.

CONSTANTLY.

PACKING UP, GETTING INTO THE RED MAVERICK.

DIFFERENT PLACES AND STARTING AGAIN.

YOU MENTION THE INVOLVEMENT IN THE WORLD OF CRIME.

THE TERM IS USED IN THE BOOK ABOUT BEING A GANGSTER NERD.

THAT'S RIGHT.

WHICH IS A FASCINAING TERM.

I DON'T KNOW I HAVE SEEN THOSE TWO WORDS LIKE THAT.

TELL US WHAT IS MEANT BY THAT, TALKING ABOUT YOU AS A CHILD AS AN ADOLESCENT AS A GANGSTER NERD.

I LOOKED AT MY LIFE WITH MY FAMILY AND MY COMMUNITY.

I CALLED IT CRIME SCHOOL.

RIGHT?

NOT EVERY FAMILY WAS LIKE MY FAMILY.

WE WERE SORT OF OUTLIERS IN THAT WAY.

I FELL IN LOVE WITH BOOKS.

I DID MOVE EVERY YEAR FROM THE AGE OF 4 TO RIGHT BEFORE I TURNED 14.

I WOULD LIVE WITH OTHER PEOPLE.

MY MOTHER WOULD LEAVE ME WITH OTHER PEOPLE TO LIVE.

IN THE LAST 16 MONTHS OF THAT TIME PERIOD, FROM THE AGE OF 11 TO 13, I ACTUALLY LIVED WITH NINE DIFFERENT FAMILIES AND ATTENDED FIVE SCHOOLS ACROSS THREE STATES.

IT WAS -- THE COMMUNITIES I LIVED IN WERE SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES, NEW ORLEANS AND ULTIMATELY RURAL MISSISSIPPI.

I LEARNED THAT HUMANS ARE DANGEROUS.

INSTEAD OF BONDING WITH HUMANS, I BONDED WITH BOOKS.

MY MOTHER WAS AN AVID READER.

AS A CHILD, YOU DO WHAT YOUR PARENTS DO.

NOT WHAT THEY SAY.

RIGHT?

MY MOM ALWAYS HAD A BOOK.

I ENDED UP ALWAYS HAVING A BOOK.

I FOUND MYSELF IN BOOKS.

THERE'S A MOMENT, A STORY YOU TELL IN THE BOOK -- SO MANY ARE GRIPPING.

BUT THIS ONE IS ESPECIALLY GRIPPING TO ME.

IT'S YOUR EMERGENCE AS SOMEONE WHO IS FINDING A LIFE IN BOOKS.

BUT IS ALSO LIVING A LIFE ON THE MARGINS.

MAYBE OVER THE OTHER SIDE.

YOU TELL THE STORY ABOUT IN HIGH SCHOOL AND YOU GET A NEW COMPUTER.

YOU ARE MEETING WITH THE SCIENCE TEACHERS.

THEY HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO WORK THIS.

YOU ARE THE ONE WHO HAS TO TAKE IT OUT OF THE BOX AND START IT TO WORK.

YOU ARE TALKING TO ONE OF THEM ABOUT THE SCIENCE FAIR THAT YOU WANT TO DO.

THE DESCRIPTION OF WHAT THE PROJECT IS, I'M READING THIS SAYING, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS SAYING.

NOR DID THEY, WHICH WAS FASCINATING.

THE ONE TEACHER SAYS, WE'RE NOT GOING TO LET THIS GUY TAKE THE COMPUTER HOME.

HE IS OUT SELLING WEED.

YEAH, YEAH.

TELL ME ABOUT THAT AND HOW THAT IS SYMBOLIC, THAT PERIOD OF YOUR LIFE.

YEAH.

I WAS REALLY LUCKY.

WHAT WAS SYMBOLIC IN MY LIFE IS I ALWAYS SAY THAT I GOT BY BASED ON HOPE, HUSTLE AND HELP.

THE HELP SIDE DIDN'T ALWAYS LOOK LIKE HELP.

IT WAS COINCIDENCE.

SOMEONE POPS INTO MY LIFE AND LEADS ME TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

BACK WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, I HAD A GIRLFRIEND.

HER MOTHER WAS A TEACHER.

THEY BOUGHT HER A COMPUTER FOR CHRISTMAS.

WE WERE LIKE 16.

IN THE COUNTRY, YOU DO WHAT'S CALLED COURTING.

YOU DON'T DATE.

YOU GO TO THE GIRL'S HOUSE ON SUNDAY.

SIT THERE ON THE COUCH.

THE FAMILY WATCHES YOU FOR THREE OR FOUR HOURS AND THEN YOU GO HOME.

I THINK, WHY AM I SITTING HERE WITH YOU WHEN YOU HAVE THAT NEW COMPUTER OVER THERE?

LET ME LEARN HOW TO COMPUTER, QUOTE UNQUOTE.

COURT THE COMPUTER HERE.

THAT'S RIGHT.

COURT THE COMPUTER.

IT CAME WITH A BOOKLET THAT TAUGHT YOU A BIT ABOUT THE PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE BASIC.

I TAUGHT MYSELF THIS PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE.

LO AND BEHOLD WHAT HAPPENS?

OUR SCHOOL GETS A GIFT OF THE IBM COMPUTERS.

NO ONE HAD ANY IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH THEM.

I'M LIKE, HEY, LET ME HAVE A CRACK AT IT.

WHAT HAPPENED IS I WAS A HIGH SCHOOL MUSICIAN.

LUCKILY, THE BAND DIRECTOR HAD IDENTIFIED ME AS A TALENTED STUDENT.

I WILL GO TO COMPETITIONS AND HE ALLOWED ME TO TAKE THE EXPENSIVE UPRIGHT BASE HOME.

I COULD CONVINCE THE SCIENCE TEACHER, MR. CROSS LET ME TAKE THE UPRIGHT BASE HOME.

I'M ALL STATE IN MUSIC.

GIVE ME THE COMPUTER AND I WILL PUT US ON THE MAP.

IT TOOK CONVINCING.

BUT I HAD THE SUPPORT OF THE PRINCIPAL, THE VICE PRINCIPAL AND OUR LEADING SCIENCE TEACHER, MR. BARBER.

THEY ALLOWED ME TO DO IT.

WHAT HAPPENS IS, AGAIN, IT'S A HUGE COINCIDENCE.

THE PROFESSORS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI ARE DOING OUTREACH.

THEY WANT TO GO HELP THE KIDS THAT NEED HELP.

I LIVE IN A COMPLETELY SEGREGATED SCHOOL SYSTEM.

IT WAS MY PUBLIC SCHOOL, A MILE AND A HALF DOWN THE ROAD FROM THE PRIVATE ALL WHITE ACADEMY.

OUR SCHOOL WAS ACADEMICALLY CHALLENGED.

THE AVERAGE ACT TEST IN MY SENIOR CLASS WAS 7.

NATIONALLY, IT'S 15 OR 16.

WE HAD SEVERAL PEOPLE IN MY CLASS BROKE THE RECORD.

COINCIDENTALLY, I HAD THE HIGHEST SCORE UNTIL MY YOUNGER COUSIN BROKE IT A FEW YEARS AGO.

I HAD THE RECORD AT MY SCHOOL.

THE IDEA HERE IS THAT BEING A SIMULTANEOUSLY, A GANGSTER AND A NERD.

AT THAT END OF THE TIME PERIOD, WHEN I'M OUT THERE ON MY OWN, I LEARNED IT'S BETTER FOR ME TO PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE THAN YOU PUNCH ME IN THE FACE.

IT'S BETTER FOR ME TO INTIMIDATE YOU THAN YOU INTIMIDATE ME.

BY THE TIME I'M DOING THE SCIENCE FAIR, I'M CARRYING A GUN EVERY DAY.

I GOT MY OWN BUSINESS, LIKE THE TEACHER POINTED OUT.

I HAD MY FEED IN THESE TWO WORDS.

I WAS PULLED IN TWO DIRECTIONS.

YOU TALK ABOUT A COUPLE OF THINGS IN THIS THAT ARE SO VERY MOVING AND COMPELLING.

YOU MENTION THE COINCIDENCE OF PEOPLE.

YOU HAD A MARVELLOUS PROFESSOR WHEN YOU GOT TO STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL THAT YOU TALK ABOUT.

YOU TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF RESILIENCE.

OH, YEAH.

TELL ME ABOUT -- WHAT DO YOU SAY TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO LISTEN TO YOUR STORY AND SAY, MY, AND YOU SAY, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT RESILIENCE.

THAT'S REALLY ONE OF THE REASONS WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK.

I FEEL LIKE, YOU KNOW WHAT?

YOU THINK YOUR LIFE IS MESSED UP.

LET ME SHOW YOU WHAT IT TOOK FOR ME TO GET HERE.

PEOPLE -- I HAVE BEEN ON BOTH SIDES OF THIS EQUATION.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT FROM MY PERSPECTIVE PEOPLE WITH -- FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN I WAS COMPLETING HIGH SCHOOL, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT COLLEGE WAS ABOUT.

I KNEW YOU WENT TO COLLEGE TO DO -- TO BECOME A DOCTOR, A LAWYER OR A TEACHER OR ENGINEER.

I HAD NO IDEA WHAT AN ENGINEER WAS.

BEING AN ATTORNEY SOUNDED AWFUL.

THERE WAS NEGATIVE PRESS ABOUT LAWYERS.

IT SOUNDS BORING TO MY SCIENTIFIC MIND.

BEING A MEDICAL DOCTOR FROM MY PERSPECTIVE IT WAS LIKE BECOMING PRESIDENT.

IT'S POSSIBLE, BUT HIGHLY UNLIKELY FOR ME.

RIGHT?

BEING A TEACHER SOUNDED LIKE, I DON'T WANT DO THAT.

I SEE TEACHERS AROUND ME.

THAT'S NOT WHAT I WANT TO DO.

I DIDN'T REALLY EVEN SEE A PLACE FOR MYSELF.

I THINK THAT'S THE THING.

IDENTITY IS SUCH A FACTOR IN PEOPLE DETERMINING WHAT THEY WANT TO DO AND WHERE THEY WANT TO BECOME.

THE FIRST THING IS TO LET YOU KNOW THAT, LOOK, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE RICH, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE FROM A CERTAIN COMMUNITY, YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE A CERTAIN HISTORY IN YOUR FAMILY, AND CHANCES ARE, YOU HAVE BEEN PSYCHED OUT THINKING THIS AIN'T FOR YOU WHEN IT IS.

I ATTACK IDENTITY.

THAT'S THE INSIDIOUS THING.

IF YOU LOOK AT MY STORY, A LOT OF WHAT I DID THAT WAS NEGATIVE, I WAS ACTING OUT WHAT I THOUGHT THE WORLD WAS TELLING ME, THIS IS WHO YOU ARE, THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO.

IN A SENSE OF, HERE IS WHERE YOU ARE COMING FROM.

YOU TALK ABOUT AND HERE IS THE COLOR OF YOUR SKIN.

EXACTLY.

THIS IS PART OF IT.

ABSOLUTELY.

THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.

YEAH.

I'VE GOT ABOUT THREE MINUTES LEFT.

I WANT TO GET TWO THINGS TO YOU.

ONE IS THE POWER OF MENTORS.

YEAH.

PEOPLE WHO SAY, I SEE SOMETHING IN YOU.

ABSOLUTELY.

TELL US YOUR LIFE.

AT EVERY STAGE IT HAPPENED FOR ME.

MY NAVY RECRUITER, MY PEOPLE IN HIGH SCHOOL, TO PROFESSOR McGUINNESS AND BRUNO WHO WERE LIKE -- YOU WANT TO HEAR HARD CORE MENTORING?

MY FIRST TWO SUMMERS IN COLLEGE I WAS HOMELESS.

THE SECOND SUMMER, I'M SLEEPING IN A DORM ON A MATTRESS.

I WOULD BREAK INTO THE DORM TO SLEEP THERE.

MY CLASSMATE COMES AND WAKES ME UP AND TELLS ME I'VE BEEN ACCEPTED TO THE SUMMER RESEARCH PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA THAT I DID NOT APPLY FOR.

I CONTACT MY CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR.

HE SAYS, I RECOMMENDED YOU FOR THIS PROGRAM.

THEY GOT A GRANT LATE IN THE YEAR AND DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO RECRUIT.

THANK YOU, BUT I DON'T HAVE MONEY TO GET TO GEORGIA.

IT DOESN'T MATTER.

HE WENT IN HIS POCKET AND PURCHASED MY TICKETS TO GO TO UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA WHERE I WAS INTRODUCED TO RESEARCH, SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH FOR THE FIRST TIME.

THE PROFESSOR BLEW ME AWAY AGAIN BECAUSE I WAS JUDGED BASED ON THE MERIT OF MY WORK.

THEY TREATED ME WITH TRUST.

THESE WERE THINGS THAT HAD NEVER HAPPENED TO ME BEFORE.

I WAS LIKE, RESEARCH IS THE PLACE FOR ME.

THEN I GO TO STANFORD UNIVERSITY.

LO AND BEHOLD, THERE'S A PERCENTAGE OF THE FACULTY THAT WAS LIKE, WOULD LET THIS GUY IN HERE?

WE GOTTA GET HIM OUT.

YOU WOULD THINK A KID WHO RAISED HIMSELF UP THE WAY I DID AND WHO COMMITTED HIS LIFE TO SCIENCE AND PHYSICS WOULD BE LIKE, LET'S DO EVERYTHING WE CAN.

NO.

SOME PEOPLE, THERE WAS HIERARCHY.

HE IS NOT ONE OF US.

I WAS ROUGH.

I WAS ROUGH.

I WAS UNDEREDUCATED.

BUT I HAD THIS STRONG WILL.

I COULDN'T BE STOPPED.

I HAD A STRONG MENTOR.

YOU AND I COULD TALK FOR A DAY ABOUT ALL OF THIS.

I JUST WANT TO SAY, DOCTOR, YOU ARE PROOF THAT YOU CAN, INDEED, GET THERE FROM HERE.

WITH HELP.

WITH HELP AND THE RIGHT ATTITUDE.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

LOOK FORWARD TO LOOKING WITH YOU MORE.

THANK YOU, SIR.

YOU BE WELL.

YOU AS WELL.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE

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