African-American Oral Histories
Clip 2: Transcript
Bill Clinton Coexisting
Running Time: 6 min 12 sec
GB: He's a brilliant man, because I think that, and personal life and all that aside, you have to look at what made other people fear him so much. And you couldn't really pigeon hole him. He did some things I didn’t agree with, that I still would say I did not agree with. But you couldn’t say that he was all environmental versus business, or that he was all business versus environmental. You couldn't say he was all minority versus southern white. You couldn’t say that. He tried to ingest information, understand the dynamics that were involved, and the likely impact on different constituencies, and tried to come up and shape something that was wise for everyone. So it may not be exactly what someone wanted. Because I guess that’s one thing, if you really look at the things he pushed through, except for his health care proposal, his ability to compromise did show. And so he would always listen to the right, or listen to the left because he was really a centrist. And he’d come out with something that may not make anyone feel great, but it was the best thing with all in the hodgepodge. And that's what it's about you know, instead of having someone say, “Well I'm on the left, it’s all going to be about the left.” “I’m on the right, it’s all going to be about what’s on the right.” Because really the answer is not necessarily on the left or the right. Sometimes it might be, sometimes it may not be. But most people are in the center. So he’s probably the one human being that I can think of that has been able to do that. There are some other presidents and folks that I admire, but in terms of melding that or what have you, and having a true genius for that, he’s really the one. He’s really a genius in that regard. So I really think he’s a great example. And so he is somebody, I would think is somebody that I would like to take to a page from in that regard. You just could not pigeon hole him.
NK: How would you see your work going in the future?
GB: It’s very frustrating. I happen to live in a very difficult time to choose to do what I do. Because the winds of time are not with me. And the winds of time are with the other side of people who want to divide, who want to hate. Justice Jackson once said one thing that’s so profound. He said, “We don’t live in a pure democracy because if we did the majority would run roughshod over the minority.” And that has been the beauty of the American system, that there is protections built in for minorities that you don’t have elsewhere. So you can go and be a different religion, different racial group or ethnic group and coexist, and be under the same flag and support the same institutions. But we just have not lived up to what the possibilities are, and we’re moving away from how far we’re going. I think we were closer in the 70s than we are now, because I think people know--one of the biggest problems we have is individual ambition. Because of individual ambition, politicians can’t ever do the right thing.
And it may be kind of a contradiction to what I just said about Clinton earlier but I don’t think so. Because I think that Clinton really didn’t please the left when he did welfare reform, or when he said mend affirmative action, but don’t end it. I don’t think it got him a lot of support. What I’m saying is that it’s a whole melting pot, we have to all live together and coexist together. You know an old friend of mine, Joe Crews said that he was--I asked him who he was supporting for student body president after the student body bar association president was removed at the Law School. He said, “I’m supporting David Smith. He’s a good white guy like me.” I said, “Oh okay.” So I hadn’t really thought about that. We had minorities running and winning, and I supported a couple of minorities. And I said well, “You’re right.” I supported the same guy, because it made sense. You just can’t have this is not all me and you get nothing over here because you happen to be a white male.
But everybody has to give and to meet each other somewhere, somewhere in between. That’s where the genius is. If you can get people to see that, where it’s just not fundamental like we’re back in caveman days. Well, you know, you look a certain way so you’re my enemy. So all you have to do is see somebody who looks different, and they’re your enemy. And that’s where you are. What we’re trying to do is set an example for the world and say, “Look over in the Middle East, you can live, you can coexist together. You don’t have to hate each other.” There is a way to do that and it’s really up to us to do that or we’re going to end up, especially with the sophistication of weaponry and all that, we can see where we’re going now with terrorism and things like that.
Martin Luther King’s words are just so, so omnipresent in my mind. Because if we don’t learn how to live together as brothers, we are really going to perish as fools, because these kinds of weapons are getting on the black market and none of us are going to be safe. People can use airplanes for weapons and just kill people indiscriminately without regard to who they are or their families or whatever, innocent people. You know it’s a sad time that we live in, that people would do that, and thinking that they’re doing something to honor God. And it’s just going to get worse right now. Unless we really grab the bull by the horns and somebody that’s really got the true conviction and the belief of what it’s going to take to bring about humanity within humanity, we’re not going to be around another year.
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”
Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.
Gary L. Bledsoe
Date of Interview:
February 24, 2004
W24th Street, Austin, Texas
Digital Voice Recorder, Olympus .dss format