Michele Norris: 2010 National Book Festival


Uploaded by LibraryOfCongress on 14.10.2010

Transcript:
>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

>> Let me say, first of all, that Michele is here
with a couple members of her posse who I have to recognize.
One of them is from the McNeil Lehrer News Hour.
It's Gwen Ifill who's right down here,
who's tried to remain anonymous.
[ Applause ]
I do that not only because I love Gwen and respect her work
but because she and my wife also went to Simmons College and I have
to be able to go home tonight [laughing].
And also I want to recognize another one of the great reporters
of the Washington Post, Athelia Knight.
[ Applause ]
Now, I had the distinct pleasure some 20 years ago
of hiring Michele Norris at the Washington Post.
And we interviewed her at a convention
of the National Association of Black Journalists.
And the person who was directly responsible for bringing her
onto the staff who worked for me has most recently been the chief speech
writer for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,
Lissa Muscatine.
And when I asked Lissa after she had breakfast with Michele,
So what did you think of her?
She said, She's incredibly smart.
She's really very good.
And, when she talks, she sounds like a black Lauren Bacall [laughing].
Because she has this deep voice which, of course,
those of you who knew Catherine Rehm [phonetic],
Mrs. Rehm also had a deep voice.
You know, we'd say, How are you, Mrs. Rehm?
[Deep voice] I am fine.
How are you?
Okay. That will work.
Catherine Wingus [phonetic] does not have a deep voice.
That doesn't really matter.
You know, the interesting thing about Michele Norris is
that we introduce her in the long shadow of the current headquarters
of the National Council of Negro Women.
And Michele, through her work, has really been someone
who I'm sure the pioneers in that organization,
Mary McCloud Bethune, Dorothy I.
Height would be very, very proud of.
Many, many reporters who are really very good come
to the Washington Post newsroom.
Most of them do not win the Livingston Award
for Young Journalists.
Michele Norris did.
Most of them write --
[ Applause ]
Most of them write a lot of stories
that no one really pays too much attention to.
Michele Norris wrote stories that the President
of the United States paid attention to and talked about.
And the fact that she writes now an American story, American memoirs,
her own memoirs which tells us something about the nation
in which we live, the good as well as the bad is really a tribute
to her and to a whole cadre of young writers
who are telling us very, very important stories.
Some 20 years ago, I had the distinct privilege
of introducing a young promising reporter
to the newsroom of the Washington Post.
This afternoon, with great pride, I have the privilege of presenting
to you an award winning reporter and an author, Michele Norris.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you, Milton.
Boy, you know, when we met all those years ago --
we're not going to say really how many.
>> Please don't.
>> I never dreamed that I would be standing here.
Milton mentioned a few members of my posse that are in the audience.
I have to call out some very important members of my posse
that are also at the fringe of the audience over there:
my husband, Broderick Johnson;
[ Applause ]
our son, Broderick Johnson, Jr.
;
[ Applause ]
And the littlest people in my household,
Norris Johnson and Asia Johnson.
And they're both saying, Mom, why are you doing this right now?
[ Applause ]
And they're with their god mommy, Marcia Jones Ferguson.

[ Applause ]
I'm calling out my family
because this is a -- this is a family memoir.
And, in many ways, it's an accidental memoir.
It's not the book that I set out to write.
You see, I thought that there was this interesting conversation going
on across the country in the lead-up to the election
of President Barack Obama and in the wake of his election.
And I thought that this conversation was not the one
that you were hearing necessarily on the evening news.
It wasn't the one you were hearing on cable television.
It was the conversation that was out of earshot.
It was taking place in private spaces.
And I wanted to try to chronicle that conversation,
to eavesdrop on it and then to write a series of essays on that.
When I began listening to the hidden conversation in my own family,

I began hearing profound things.
I realize that my parents kept certain things from my generation.
There were secrets that they kept to themselves, secrets they locked away
because they didn't want to clutter our path forward.
They didn't want to saddle us with their pain and their frustration.

And at first I thought that these things might be an anecdote
in that book that I was planning to write about other people
and how other people talk about race.
But, over time, I couldn't let go of the things that I was learning.
The more I learned, the more I had to know.
And the more that I knew, the more I had to learn.
These stories got up on top of me and they wouldn't get off my back.
And so I had to pivot, and I wound
up writing these -- this accidental memoir.
And among the things I learned was that my father was shot
by a police officer in 1946 when he was a young man,
when he had returned to Birmingham,
Alabama after his service in World War II.
Now, you noticed that I paused before I said that;
because I've written the book, I've told the story,
but I never will get used to saying that sentence, My father was shot.
Apparently, he chose not to say that sentence to anyone.
He didn't tell the kids.
He didn't even tell my mother.
I learned of this only recently, and she learned of this only recently.
And, if you think of all the conversations, if you're married,
you know what I mean; and if you're
in an intimate relationship, you know what I mean.
all the conversations you have in intimate moments,
how you think you know everything about a person;
and then imagine realizing that something that monumental,
that profound was kept from you.
So, when I wrote this memoir,
I wound up pulling family members along on this journey.
And they didn't necessarily buy a ticket.
And so we had to lock arms and do this together.

My father, when he was a young man, after serving in the military,
in a segregated military at that time, returned to Birmingham
as did many black war veterans.
Black war veterans were -- black World War II veterans were streaming
into Birmingham and many other cities.
And they were wearing the uniform.
They had a certain pride after serving in the military.
They had greater expectations.
They wanted to participate fully in civic life.
They wanted to vote.
And they faced in Birmingham
and in many other cities a white wall of resistance.

My father was a postal worker.
He was a very gentle man.
If you met him, one of the first words you would use
to describe him would probably be kind, maybe funny, probably calm.
He was someone who liked things a certain way.
He was always dressed in exactly a certain way.
When he wore his postal uniform, everything was laid out.
When he went out, you could practically cut your finger
on the crease of his pants.
He took care of his home beautifully.
He was very quiet, very reserved.
But, in 1946 when a police officer tried to stop him
from entering a public building, a building he had the right to enter,
he did something that was as surprising
to me as learning he was shot.
He stood up to that policeman and he paid a price for it.
A scuffle ensued.
He was shot in the leg.
I never knew any of this.
My mother never knew any of this.
But it turned out she, too, had a secret.

She never talked about something from her past.
Her mother, in the late 1950s -- in the late 1940s -- excuse me --
and the early 1950s had spent years traveling the Midwest doing pancake
demonstrations, dressed up as Aunt Jemima
with a hoop skirt and a head scarf.
My mother didn't talk about this
because it made her feel a certain degree of shame.
Now, when I learned of this, I didn't immediately go to that place.
I didn't immediately feel shame.
I felt a certain amount of fascination and a great deal
of surprise; because the woman that I remember,
the Ion Brown that I remember, was someone who was very elegant.
She always had pastel dresses or church suits.
She was very bossy, and she used that to great effect
to control her grandchildren but also to do some great things
in my hometown of Minneapolis.
She founded a senior citizen center that still bears her name,
and she was always getting awards from the city.
And I remember, when I was young, she got the key to the city.
And she was fussing at mayor Fraser
because something wasn't happening fast enough.
That's the kind of woman that she was.
She was always dressed to the nines.
She would wear -- now, some of you
in the audience may remember the days when women would go out
and their shoes matched their handbag.
You would never, ever, ever wear brown shoes and a black handbag.
I have black shoes and a brown handbag;
that would be like a major fashion faux pas at that time.
So the shoes matched the handbag, and the handbag had a little pair
of gloves that kind of peeked out over the side of the purse.
And she always had like a silk scarf
that would cover her well-coiffed hair.
And she would tie that scarf underneath and very --
sort of "Jackie O" style.
But when I learned about the work she had done,
I had to imagine what it must have been like for her to get dressed
up as Aunt Jemima and wear a different kind of scarf.
You probably couldn't call it a scarf.
Maybe call it a kerchief; maybe you'd call it a rag.
And she'd have to reach up behind her head and put that rag back here
and tie it up on top of her head.
Now, I don't know what kind of hard bargains she made
with herself before she dressed up, before she hiked up that hoop skirt.
But I was fortunate in that I found a newspaper --
I found some newspaper clippings that described her work
under the headline Aunt Jemima's Coming to Town.
I saw her picture.
And then it became very real for me.
And I also saw what she told a reporter at that time,
and it was like her speaking to me almost from the grave.
And there was no shame in her description.
Now, again, I don't know what, you know, what went through her head
when she was in front of the mirror.
But, when she talked to the reporter,
she talked about how she used that position
to serve as a kind of ambassador.
She had a six-state region: Minnesota, Wisconsin,
Michigan, the Dakotas, and Iowa.
And, when she went to these small towns,
she knew that she was facing an audience
that didn't see very many people of color.
So she spoke a certain way.
She carried herself a certain way.
She said that she would sing gospel songs because she wanted people
in these towns to know that she was a church woman, "chuch woman,"
as she probably would say.
And she would speak in a way that probably was quite different
than the Aunt Jemima that people in those small towns would encounter
if they picked up a magazine of the day.
Because Quaker Oats, the company she worked for, was a huge advertiser
and they advertised in all the women's magazines.
And the Aunt Jemima you would meet in the women's magazines was someone
who wore the head scarf and the hoop skirt but she spoke
in a certain slave patois that was totally made up by advertising men.
Her catch phrase was lawd --
her catch phrase was "I's in town, honey."
And she would talk about "Lawsy [phonetic],
my pancakes are tantalizingly delicious."
And they would spell this out phonetically so you could see
that she didn't exactly use the King's English.
Well, apparently when Ion Brown was serving pancakes,
she did use something that was a bit closer to the king's English.
So Quaker Oats, in that sense, got more than they bargained for.

My mother hated this story.
She didn't want me to talk about it.
And I had to wait her out because, once I learned about it,
I knew I had to learn more.
And I knew eventually it would have to be a stop along my journey.
And finally she started to give me signals and clues
that she was ready to talk about this.
And she started telling me not just about grandmother
but about her experiences.
And there were yet more surprises.
My father's from Birmingham; my mother's from Minnesota.
Her family has lived in Minnesota for several generations.
They were for a time the only black family in Alexandria, Minnesota.
My grand --
my great-great-great-grandfather was a barber.
When she and my father purchased their home on the south side
of Minneapolis, the home that I grew up in,
they weren't exactly welcomed by the neighbors.
Now, I didn't know any of this.
I grew up in a highly integrated neighborhood; took it for granted,
this little rainbow community on the south side of Minneapolis.
But it wasn't exactly a rainbow community when they moved in.
They purchased their home in 1961, the year I was born.
I guess I shouldn't say that out loud.
[ Laughing ]
But they were the first black family to purchase a home on that block
on the south side of Minneapolis.
They were blockbusters.
Now, in some cases, blockbusters were recruited by the NAACP
or the Urban League or civic organizations.
In this case, they were recruited by no one.
They wanted to live where they wanted to live.
They wanted to live near water.
It being Minnesota, there was a lot of water
and they wanted to be close to it.
They wanted to send their kids to certain schools.
So they purchased this house, stucco Tudor house on the south side.
And, immediately, every neighbor whose property line touched ours
moved out or at least tried to move out.
Because those that didn't move quick enough found
that it was awfully hard to sell.
I discovered these stories by accident.
My parents had been carrying these around for years.
But once I finally gave them permission to talk about this --
I never had the chance to talk to my father about this.
He took his secret to his grave.
But once my mother started talking about these things,
through her strength and through her wisdom
and through her great courage, she started to share her stories.
And some of them were quite painful; and some of them,
frankly, were delightful.
And I'd like to share one with you, if you don't mind.

My parents moved into their home within a week.
And, as I said, the white families whose property line touched ours
soon put their homes up for sale.
Three who owned houses across from my parents also decided to decamp.
As my parents celebrated their new home
with the picnic supper amid boxes in the living room,
their neighbors furiously burned the dial: calling each other,
calling my folk's mortgage lending to complain,
and eventually calling real estate agents
to put their homes up for sale pronto.
Mom says she watched the white flight
with a mixture of anger and amusement.
The desperation of her new neighbors
to sell gave her an opportunity for a little mischief.

Every time a real estate agent pulled up with a prospective buyer,
she would send my older sisters, Marguerite
and Cindy, out to play in the yard.
[ Laughing ]
Or she would saunter out herself, holding her back or stretching
out her arms -- hmm -- so anyone could plainly see
that another child was on the way.
That child was me.
My sisters and I never knew any of this until recently,
but now Mom loves telling the story.
I'd wait until they got inside the house and had time to check
out the bedrooms and look inside the closets.
And right about the moment I thought that they were
in the kitchen giving it a real good look see,
I'd say to myself, "Showtime."
[ Laughing ]
So I learned a lot of things that made me laugh.
Some of them tickled me.
But many of them made me cry.
Many of them made me curious.
Many of them made me think about the country I lived in
and what I really didn't know or didn't understand
and how I was shaped, not just by all the advice that I got
from my parents and the love and the wisdom
but how I might have also been shaped by the weight of silence,
all the things that were never said.
You see, I'm left with this image of my father and his secret,
of a man who was carrying around a weight all his life,
a big heavy 50-pound barbell that none of us could see
but he was quite aware of, dragging it around and trying very hard not
to let the world know what was behind him.
I see that image almost like a shadow next
to the man that I remember.
And, when I went back and tried to understand what Birmingham was
like in 1946, I realized that, despite the horror of what happened
to him, that he was actually lucky.
Black veterans were returning to a country that they loved
but didn't always love them back.
I learned that, in the first six months of 1946 --
excuse me, the first six weeks of 1946,
that period in which my father was shot,
that half a dozen black veterans were killed by police officers in
and around the city of Birmingham.
I learned that, throughout the year in 1946, black veterans
around the country were beaten and burned and maimed and castrated
and lynched and blinded and, in some cases, killed.
In fact, it was the blinding of a veteran named Isaac Woodard,
three hours after he was honorably discharged, that so moved,
so incensed President Harry Truman that he created a commission
that ultimately led to the full integration of the military.
I did not know this.
I'm ashamed to say I did not know more about this.
But what I know now is that my father was part of a generation
that experienced horrible things but didn't let that define them.
I called my book The Grace of Silence for a reason,
and it's not the just because they kept silent
about what they experienced.
I realized that a group of people, a cohort, really,
that had every reason to be angry at the world,
every reason to be disappointed, every reason perhaps
to live their life as malcontents, instead chose to look back not
with anger -- at least not look back and hold that anger
in such a way that it was manifest.
They decided to look forward with hope.
They decided to show America what they could be and, in doing so,
decided to show America what it could be
by leading lives of utter rectitude.
They put their hope and their faith in their children, in my generation.
And they chose not to arm us with their rage but, instead,
to arm us with their ambitions.
They wanted us to soar.
And, if you want your children to soar, you don't send them
out into the world with boulders in their pockets.
And so that is why I call this book The Grace of Silence.
But I hope that you will read it and buy it --
that's a line that bears repeating [laughing].
I hope that you will buy it and read it.
And I hope that, when you do, that perhaps you decide
to exercise the grace of silence in a different form,
and that is to listen to people in your own lives,
to capture your own histories.
The thread that runs through this book is a simple question:
How well do we really know the people who raised us?
You know, they keep things from us not because they're dishonest
but because they want the best for us.
They're very careful about what they say.
And sometimes when you're actually ready to capture
that history, it's too late.
They're gone.
That's what happened in my case.
I had to go through this anthropological exercise to find
out what happened to my father.
I'm lucky.
I'm honored that I had the chance to sit down and talk about my history
with my mother and with other elders in my family.
So I hope that you will consider practicing a special grace
of silence in that sense but also
in another sense: to hear each other out.
Because, in doing this work, I went back and I tried
to understand how life was lived on both sides of the color line.
I tried to talk about race and racial attitudes today.
And I heard things that made my hair stand on end.
I heard people talk about how they hated people of another race;
how they weren't ready to have a black family in the White House;
how they thought that things might have been better under segregation.
I learned things and I heard things
that I didn't necessarily agree with but I listened.
And we don't always do that.
When someone says something, speaks candidly,
if they say something that's impolitic,
particularly if it involves race, we tend to bark them down.
We send them back to their corner.
How dare you say that.
Sometimes we have to listen.
Sometimes you have to go to the table, stay at the table,
sit down at the table and remain there,
even when someone says something that you don't like;
even when someone says something that might make your stomach turn.
That is exercising the grace of silence in a different way.
And so I hope this book, in the end, even though it's called The Grace
of Silence, may be the first step on a journey that will lead you
as individuals and maybe in some small way us, as a nation,
towards something called a great conversation.
And I'm hoping that we can have a bit of a conversation today.
I wanted to make sure that we left time for questions and answers.
And so, if there are any questions, I'll try to be as honest
as I can in answering them.
[ Applause ]
Thank you.
>> Hi. My name is Miss Martin.
I, too, have found some secrets in my family.
My mother and my grandfather told me
about something just before they passed away.
And most of my family are now gone,
and I'm not married with no children.
And I found out I have a few family members who've made history.
But once I started doing genealogy research recently,
and I put it on the back burner for a long time
because it's emotional -- I now have about seven family members
who have made history in some way.
And I can go back to 1600 now, my family.
>> Wow. Good for you.
>> Oh, my gosh.
I'm so excited.
So my question is: How do you begin to write
about your genealogy research?
I mean, can you talk a little bit about ghostwriters and publishers
and editors and how do you bring this about?
Because I understand it can be quite expensive to do.
So, economically, I mean, how do you get started
with something like that?
>> One sentence at a time; one word at a time.
I mean, I don't know very much about ghostwriters.
I know that through self-publishing and through the proliferation
of smaller houses, it's become easier to get published as a writer.
So I think that there's probably a lot of information
that you can get even here at the National Book Festival.
But I can talk about to you about writing
because I have more experience with that.
And a writer writes.
And it's one word and one sentence at a time.
And we often think that writers are those other people.
For a long time, I did, even though I swim in words all day long,
first as a newspaper reporter, then in television, now on the radio.
And I tell you, when someone gave me a badge today
that said author, I almost swooned.
Because I thought, oh!
New adjective that applies to me [laughing].
I mean, I'm not used to that.
But we all have stories, and we can all tell them.
And so I just encourage you to write.
And, if you're intimidated by a blank page, write in a journal.
When I did some of the writing I did for this book,
I had to find my authentic voice as a writer.
So sometimes I would write in email form.
I would pretend like I was sending --
literally, I would call up an email window; and I would pretend
like I was sending an email to my husband, Broderick;
or to my best pal, Gwen; or to, you know, a family member
that I was trying to elicit information from.
And I would write an email because I felt free to use bad punctuation
and sort of say the things that I would normally say.
And then I would cut and paste and move it into Word
and then turn it into English.
So, you know, whatever you have to do to tap into that voice;
but I will say one last thing.
A writer does write and a writer writes every day.
Because it's a muscle; and the more
that you use it, the more that it builds.
And if you don't use it, it does atrophy.
So I empower you to write your story.
May the force be with you.
[ Applause ]
>> Hi, Michele.
Thank you very much.
It was very inspiring.
I wanted to ask you a question that involves the craft also.
Was The Grace of Silence your working title?
>> No.
>> How long ago did you start,
and how did you get that authentic voice?
And I just need to preface this by saying --
talk about six degrees of separation --
I met Miss Brown by the River Raisin in Monroe, Michigan.
>> Wait. My grandmother, Ion Brown?
>> Yes, yes, yes.
Aunt Jemima was coming to town.
It was my first year of teaching.
I had just graduated from Michigan State,
and I was their first black teacher.
And she spoke the King's --
>> Wait. You met my grandmother?
>> Yes! That's how old I am [laughing].
Six degrees of separation here.
Monroe, Michigan by the River Raisin, okay?
[ Laughing ]
>> If it was your grandmother, that's who I met.
Michigan.
>> Oh, my goodness.
>> And she spoke the King's English to me;
because I'm wondering why is Aunt Jemima here in Monroe, Michigan.
I was the first black teacher for the city.
There was a first black teacher for the county.
We both ended up at the Episcopal church, and they thought it was
because they were nice to us when that just happened
to have been our religion.
But the point I wanted to make --
[ Laughing ]
-- is that it was Aunt Jemima talking to me as a person that I
"got it," because I knew she was making a living
when she was doing that.
And a couple months later, I was asked to play the maid
in a school play put on by the Monroe school system.
And I said no because of Aunt Jemima.
Because I didn't have to play a maid any longer.
Just because she was doing that, it was clear it was a role.
And she didn't have any shame about it.
She was putting food on the table or whatever.
>> Serving pancakes and making bacon.
>> Yeah. And she did not speak a dialect to me.
We had a conversation.
So it made my hair stand up on my arm to hear that story.
>> Oh, my goodness.
>> So I definitely will get the book.
So my question again was --
[ Laughter ]
What was your working title?
>> What's your name?
>> Gloria.
>> Okay. Don't go way when we're done.
We need to talk, obviously.
The working title initially was Say What?
And that was when I was planning to write this other book.
And I liked it because it had a double entendre.
Among people of color, "say what" is sort of a term
of slang, like, Say what?
You know, or sometimes it's incredibly, Say what?!
And then it also was sort of plaintive, you know,
for people who were having a hard time figuring out what to say.
What do I say?
Say what? Say what?
I'm walking through eggshells.
How do I say anything.
But, then, when the book turned, it didn't seem like the right title.
It seemed flippant, too much like a game show almost or something.
So we thought about You Don't Say for a time.
And, actually, I was with my children.
We were hiking in a canyon.
And we were so far away from civilization, it was silent.
And you could hear the wind create almost like a certain kind of music.
And the title came to me, The Grace of Silence.
And that's where we are.
And how did I find my authentic voice?
It was basically just trying to write the way I write emails
to Gwen all day [chuckling].
That's how I told the story.
>> Thank you.
>> Two more questions.
>> Okay. We can take two more questions.
>> Michele, I'm very much looking forward to reading your book.
My question is: How did your reporting background and skills
as a journalist inform your work on this memoir?
And, then, also, what were the memoirs that you found inspiring
or useful as a guide in your own writing?
>> That's a great question.
I had to shift my reporter's hat when working on this
because I couldn't stand on the sidelines.
I had to get inside the story.
I had to begin a lot of sentences with "I,"
which I generally don't do a lot of in my role as a host.
I'm a host, not a columnist.
But it helped me do a lot of digging.
It helped me do the kind of investigative work that I had
to do to unpack this story.
And I think it helped inform the kind of story I ultimately told,
in that I tried to understand things from lots of different sides.
So I very much wanted to know what life was
like for the police officers involved
in the shooting, where they lived.
And I realized that their lives were a lot similar,
they were very similar to the lives
that my grandparents lived in Birmingham.
And maybe if the color -- the color line wasn't 100 miles high
and 100 yards thick, they would have seen that, you know,
something of themselves in each other.
In terms of memoirs that were inspiring to me,
The Color of Water was something that very much helped me,
that the courage that he had in telling that story.
And my mother had given me -- actually, she didn't give it to me.
I have it [laughing], I should say.
The book Eleanor and Franklin, which is not truly a memoir.
But, in that book, Eleanor Franklin talks about the letters
that she received from service members.
And I wound up going back and looking at a lot of those letters.
It's not exactly memoir, but it is a way of telling their own stories.
And those two things really did have a strong impact on me,
the letters of the serviceman, black servicemen, in particular.
Thank you for your question.
>> So you spoke a lot about burdens that were not given to you.
And so that's kind of like the negative space,
the white space on the paper.
What I'm curious about is --
is if you can tell us what messages you got,
what positive messages you got from your parents and your grandparents
that have -- that have -- that have driven you to where you are, I mean.
>> You know, I think I might have been a little bit
of a different person if I had known some of what they kept from me,
particularly about the Birmingham shooting.
I went to Birmingham almost every summer when I was a kid.
Birmingham would have been a very different place to me if I had known
that it was the place that my dad got shot.
And so I didn't -- you know,
I probably had a more expansive view of the world.
And when they would tell me look for the good in everybody,
it was easier to do because I didn't know about, you know,
some of the things that they'd locked away.
I mean, though they didn't use the words of Gandhi,
that was essentially the message they passed on.
Be the change that you want to see in the world.
They taught me to try to be fearless.
But, at the same time, you know, they also did tell me you might have
to work twice as hard to get half as far.
You might not meet people who are always going
to treat you with respect.
And they basically said ignore them [chuckling],
because we expect great things of you and we want you
to expect great things of yourself.
Thank you.

[ Applause ]
Thank you.
One last question.
>> What was the most astounding thing you've learned in your career,
whether it was positive or negative?
>> The most astounding thing that I've learned?
Well, I've been -- oh, boy.
I've had several periods of great astonishment over the past year.
So if I had to say which was the most astounding,
I guess I would answer simply that I am astounded every day
that people are willing to tell their own story.

I tell stories on the radio all the time.
I ask people to tell me about themselves or I ask them questions.
And I'm always somewhat astounded that they answer.
And it's a simple thing.
But I truly am every day astounded that Americans are willing
to tell their story, less astounded, though, as time goes on because,
now that we're in the Twitter universe
and maybe people are sharing too much, like maybe, you know,
there's a few things we don't need to consider.
[ Laughing ]
My parents love your TV show -- I mean your radio show.
>> Oh. Do they make you listen?
Are you a prisoner of public radio [laughter]?
>> I don't know but I listen some times.
>> It's worth listening.
If you want to conquer the world, you have to understand it.
Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> And thank you all for coming, and also thanks to Jennifer Ramos.
And thank you [inaudible].
>> Thank you.
Michele Norris.
>> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress.
Visit us at LOC.gov.

[ Silence ]