Schroeder gave this speech at Vanderbilt University.
Thanks so much, Ann [Cook Calhoun], and thank you, Dean [Connie Venita Dowell], and thank all of you. I am absolutely amazed on a Friday afternoon as beautiful as this there is anyone in this room. So thank you all for being here.
I must also say for those of you who are tied to the library, one of the other things the English Speaking Union does is we have the Ambassador Book Awards every year. And as you well know, all of these different groups around the world love getting these books because what they are is professors decide what are the best books in six different genres and then we send them to the different branches around the world. They are very, very appreciative because anymore we don’t have the US Information libraries overseas so we are kind of trying to build up their own, and it’s a wonderful way for people to understand what’s going on in our culture. Although, I must say, there are days when I don’t understand what’s going on in our culture…
But nevertheless, here I am and what do we talk about on Friday afternoon? You’re very lucky because here is a – well, maybe you're not so lucky – here is a politician in the 12-step recovering politician program. And you give them a mic and a light, you never what they’re going to do. I always love the San Blas Islands where the women control and they don’t allow any politician to speak longer than they can stand on one foot. Luckily that hasn’t been adopted yet so I’m safe.
I thought what I’d do was just talk a little bit and then let’s open it up and let’s have some discussion because a lot of you may have lots of questions about other things. I’m perfectly happy to discuss anything. If I don’t know, I will tell you I don’t know.
I've had kind of an interesting life in that it really reflects the time we’ve been through. I was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1940. My father owned the airport. It was before they had municipal airports. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they nationalized my father’s airport. They called him up to teach flying for the then Army airport. So we were moved all over the country. He almost got court-martialed for writing a book called "Aerodynamics for Morons" because the guys who were head of the Army airport didn’t know how to fly, and what they did is they had taken the Navy navigation and told him that they had to use the Navy navigation manual. So you were going to tell pilots to take shootings on stars to figure out where they were. He figured this was not going to be a good way. This was not how pilots wanted to do it.
When the war was over, we ended up in Dallas, Texas. My dad decided to go into aviation insurance so we lived in Texas for a while and then we went to Ohio for a while. I mean, there’s no federal form where I can fill in all the places. I looked like I was a migrant worker. Then he decided to form his own company in Des Moines, Iowa, where I graduated from school, high school, but I figured that this was good. This looked good for running for president because I have homes in so many different states. Then I went to the University of Minnesota because my father said, "The most important thing I learned in school was to support myself." I went, oh.
Luckily I had a pilot’s license and the University of Minnesota, I will always respect the Scandinavians, because at that time they had an ROTC program with Champion Aircraft. I don’t know if any of you fly, but it’s a little, you know, you have this stick. Somehow the federal government put this there, but it was for, obviously, only people in the ROTC and that was only males at that time. So, I talked to the school, and they said, "Well, you know, it says only males, but it doesn’t say we can’t rent them to you. How about $10 an hour?" I said, "Bingo." I got a job adjusting aviation losses when I was in the University of Minnesota and worked my way through in three years and made so much money the first year I was able to buy a Lincoln convertible. I went home and my father was really worried about what in the world I was doing at school to make so much money. Well, what had happened was this place had had, I don’t know how many, how many wrecks up in Alaska so I could fly up the Alcan Highway, stay in little Omni stations for $1 a night as guests of the Queen – so I’ve been fond of the Queen for keeping those places – and then come back for class.
So anyway, then I ended up at Harvard Law School where I was – I guess I was in absolute shock. I had gone to public schools all my life. I come out of the Midwest and the West. I got to Harvard Law School and almost everybody there had been in a sexegrated school their entire life. Even the women, there were 15 women in my class, and one of them was Elizabeth Dole. Bless her little heart, she kept saying, "I just don’t know how you can be a lady and a lawyer." Coming from the West, I kept thinking didn’t you think about this before you took the LSAT? Finally the school got very tired of it and said, "Okay, Elizabeth, you go work in the law library. We’ll give you one more year to use your thing and try to work this out, will ya?" She ended up being in a class a year behind me, but here we all were and most of the women had gone to sexegrated schools. They were totally freaking out because they were with men. I mean, they were like, "Oh, I have a date and my socks ran and I don’t know what to do," and I’d say, "There’s a drugstore across the street. You walk over there and they sell nylons or guess what, borrow some." So it was a real cultural experience for me.
I came into class, the first thing, we had assigned seats which we had never had at the University of Minnesota. The big gentlemen on both sides of me stood up and said, "We have never sat next to a woman in our entire educational career and we are not going to now." I thought, wow. What is this, estrogen poisoning? We had one professor, our property professor, who was so angry that we had gotten in to the school that he had what they called Ladies’ Day, and we never knew when the Ladies’ Day would be. There were four of us in the class, and on Ladies’ Day we had to sit in front facing our colleagues, and they could ask us any questions. He would just rage about how awful it was because letting that many women in meant they had to build so many more restrooms and that took volumes out of the Harvard Law Library. You know how hard up they are, Harvard? So, that was an experience.
Then there was our wonderful dean, Dean Erwin Griswold, who was then actually chairman of the Civils Rights Commission. So he really understood the black/white issues, but he didn’t really get the women’s issues at all. He had also voted against letting women in but obviously had been overruled. So he invited my whole class over for dinner when we came as freshman. I will never forget the dinner. First of all, it was sparkling Catawba juice, lima beans, and stewed chicken. Then when that was over, we thought, well, they really went out of their way. They put little folding chairs in a circle and he said, "We’re going to go around the room and I want to know why each of you came here." He said, "I just want you to know we let you in on the same basis we did the men, but then I counted how many of you there were and we let in that many more men because I just can’t imagine you’re going to use this degree." I was like, well, thank you, Dean. So now everybody was sitting there white knuckle, holding onto their chair trying to think what in the world am I going to say about why I’m here to impress the dean. We got to this wonderful woman in my class from Pasadena, California, who was probably the most important education I had in my three years at Harvard. She looked him straight in the eye, and she said, "You know, Dean, I’m here because I couldn’t get into Yale." And he went ballistic. He went totally ballistic. "No! Tell me more about that. I’ve never heard of that." Oh, my gosh, it was wonderful. The dinner was over, and I thought, That’s how you do it. You’ve got to have a little humor and you gotta know how to punch back. She, by golly, she did.
Then when we were married and my husband was from Chicago, we decided we didn’t want to go to Chicago and we didn’t want to go to Des Moines so we’d just go to Denver like so many people and out to Denver we went. The next thing you know, I was running for office, which was the craziest thing. My parents had gone off to Thailand on one of these People To People programs. They had since moved to Denver because my brother had moved to Denver, and they finally decided to follow us. Three weeks after they were gone, they came back and they got off the plane and everybody was there because their daughter had announced for Congress. My mother was like, "I will never leave town again. You did what?"
Everybody assured me I wouldn’t win. Jim was in this amazing law firm. Did any of you see "Secretariat"? Okay, well, Tweedy was my husband’s senior partner, and Penny Tweedy was his wife. We were very close friends. Penny Tweedy inherits this horse farm, and "Secretariat" left out Riva Ridge that won first and then, of course, here comes Secretariat, and she finally says to him, "I’m winning more races and making more money than you ever dreamed of so we’re going to Virginia or I’m out of here. I can’t do this commute." So he left the firm. Jim’s senior partner had run against an incumbent Republican that was in the Senate that nobody ever thought could ever be defeated. He was the chairman and everything. He won and then I won so the whole law firm blew up between races, horse races, political races, and as Tweedy used to say, "The difference between a horse race and a political race is in the horse race the whole horse runs," but nevertheless that was great fun.
Twenty-four years later I finally decided that was enough of that, but again, that was an amazing experience. When I was a freshman, they clearly didn’t know what to do with me. Ann was telling me that her congressman was a wonderful, wonderful speaker of the house, Carl Albert. When I got there, he kept trying to swear my husband in, and he kept saying, "No, it’s her, it’s her." No one would ever believe it was me and not him. He’d say, "Well, nothing is wrong with you. Why didn’t you run?" Poor dear man. He took so much crap, but we got through all of that.
They gave me this silly little committee on commemorative days and holidays. I guess they figured, you know, okay well, we have a women we should do something with her so they gave me this committee. I passed out all of this stuff because it was coming on to the bicentennial, 1976, and they were getting ready. All these things that I had done, I didn’t think were at all controversial. They seemed totally logical to me. Well, nobody paid much attention in the House. I'd go to the floor, and they think, "Isn’t she cute." Then some would go to the roll and we'd vote and they had no idea what they were voting for. They didn’t bother to read it, Commemorative Day. We celebrate pickles, what are we celebrating today?
Well, the Senate did read them, and we weren’t getting things through the Senate. Suddenly I get an invitation from Katherine Graham to a dinner party at her house with Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Well, I think I’m probably now the most important person in Washington, D.C. Wow, I’m going to Katherine Graham’s house with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Woo-hoo! So off I go. Here we are. I’m sitting at this table, and the other guests were United States senators who had said no to all the things that I had put through, but the main thing that they were really concerned about was a book called "Remember the Ladies." It had been edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and it was an amazing book. "Remember the ladies" came from Abigail Adams, as you know, writing to John. It was an amazing book about colonial women, all the stuff we never knew. I think one of the most amazing pieces was how Martha Washington spent all winters with the Continental Army. And George, after it was over, went to the Congress and insisted they pay her for it because he said if she hadn’t shown up, the whole army would have defected. But how can you defect when this gray-haired woman comes riding in on a horse? You’d look like a wimp.
All of these things, there’s a whole series of things in there, and I just wanted it to be part of the official bicentennial. These senators were like, no way. I’m sitting at the table thinking, "What am I doing in this town? They are saying no to the two most powerful women I know in the city." They kept saying no. They kept saying, "Our vision for bicentennial projects for women is beautification projects." We said, "Great, you know what? We can do both. Try us, we can beautify and we can also read the book." Guess what? They wouldn’t have any part of it. So finally, their great compromise was the book would go into the US Information Libraries overseas as part of the bicentennial, but they would not be allowed in the U.S. Then, of course, four years later, those libraries were closed. So, anyway, that’s when I thought, well maybe women aren’t supposed to be here, either. This is a little tough. They are not really welcoming if they are doing that.
Of course, my other great story that some of you have probably heard too many times: I wanted to be on the Armed Services Committee. There were no women. There were no blacks. Ron Dellums from Oakland also wanted to be on the committee. For the first time in the history of the Congress, the Democratic caucus overruled the chairman’s veto. The chairman always had a right to veto anybody that came on. The chairman then was F. Eddie Hebert from New Orleans, Louisiana. He was enraged. We went into our first meeting feeling very proud, Ron and I. We came in and literally the guy was like, "There’s no reason to be chairman anymore. They’ve taken away all the power. This is terrible. I can’t imagine how can it get any worse. The one thing I can still do is determine how many seats are at the dais, and these two people are only worth half of the rest of you so they get one chair. " So Ron and I sat cheek to cheek for two years. I love Barney Frank who is still around, maybe you know, he’s such a wit. He always says that’s the only half-assed thing you did when you were in Congress. I think probably I did more than that.
Anyway, it was really quite an experience. Finally in 1996 I decided it was time, 24 years had been quite enough. My book was "24 Years of House Work…and the Place Is Still a Mess," and it fits. It gets messier it seems.
Then I went to Princeton to teach, as Ann told you. I was then head of the book publishers and now I’m very, very happy to be part of the English Speaking Union, which is very exciting. I hope many of you, if you’re not members, think about it. There are these wonderful blossoming groups all over the world, and they really want to learn how to speak English. They would love to have you come. They love to have the books. They love to have dialogue. As one of the people from one of those countries said, the sad part of this is they probably want to do it so they can leave the country but not necessarily. I think all business, everything else, is done in English. It is just a wonderful thing to get involved in. That’s why I hope a lot of you find out more about it and do it.
Now where I live, I would have bet my first born that I would never have lived there so I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not a betting person because I kind of like him, and I wouldn’t want to lose him. We now live in Celebration, Florida, which is Disney’s experiment in new urbanism. The way we ended up there was, when I was at the Association of American Publishers my father had lung cancer. The doctors in Denver said you have to get him out of this altitude. It will give him a year. So I was working in Washington, and my husband was working in Washington and was working in New York, so we start that wonderful family dialogue. Florida was the thing that made the most sense because we could get there on weekends. They were like, "Hell no, we won’t go. It’s God’s waiting room. It’s flat, it’s ugly, blah, blah, blah." I don’t know if any of you have had this wonderful experience, but suddenly you’re the parents and they’re the children and it’s really not pleasant. One day my father called me and said, "I picked up the Wall Street Journal and I read about this new town Disney is doing, and if I have to live in Florida I might live there because it is not gated and it’s not just old people," and so forth and so on. I knew Michael Eisner. I called him. I said, "I don’t care what the house looks like, I don’t even want to see it. I want a house. Get me a house. I gotta have it now. It’s life and death." So we did. I sent the kids down. I said, furnish the house. They did. My parents were there in a week. The rest is history. When my parents died, we got ready to sell the house, and the kids said, "If you ever do, and we have grandchildren, we’re going to tell them that once upon a time…." Oh, that won’t be cool so, here we are. It’s really kind of an amazing thing. If you ever come down, come visit because we’ve got 55 miles of walks, fabulous hospitals, you can walk to everything, pools, the bit. Everybody’s got big old porches. The cars are all in back in the garages. We pretend like we don’t have cars. But, it’s really been a fascinating experience. I never thought I’d end up being a communitarian. Now, I am one. It’s terrific. But, we miss Colorado. We try to get to the mountains every summer. It is not a great place to summer, if we can use summer as a verb.
That’s kind of what has all happened. And now, I must say the things that trouble me the most as I look at the world and then we’ll open this up and see what troubles you and if I have any input. I’m very troubled with the level of discourse and how it had degenerated. People will say to me, "When you came, the issues weren’t so tough." I say, "You know, when I came, I’m really sorry, we had impeachment going on, that was a little tense." And we had those hearings going on in the Judiciary Committee where everybody was locked up and we’re reading this stuff and we’re sitting there with headphones on, and you know, everything was really, really tense and the Vietnam War. So, Washington smelled like tear gas. We had National Guardsmen sleeping in the tunnels connecting the – so they didn’t come and take the place over. It was really tough, but we had a different kind of feeling. That was, during the day you could argue like mad but at night you could sit down and have dinner together and talk about things. You understood that your positions, you know, and we argued on the facts. We didn’t call each other names. We didn’t, you know, if we didn’t agree with someone we’d say, "Well, the way I look at it is this and the way you look at it is that," but we didn’t call them socialists or communists or something else or start any other kind of name-calling.
I think we’ve now kind of changed it so it’s more name-calling and labeling and less factual debate, which is very troubling to me. It’s also, you can’t compromise because if you compromise you’ve capitulated. You know, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always figured that I don’t have a corner on truth. I change my mind all the time. I’m constantly learning and getting new facts, and when you get new facts you kind of say, "Oh, yeah, if you add that to it then yeah, maybe it does look a little different." That’s just how life is to me. So, of course you’re going to have to compromise a little bit, but this bit about I know and I’m not moving.
Then there’s the whole group in Congress who are very proud of the fact that they don’t even have passports because who would want to travel outside the United States. Well, I think it’s kind of important to see what’s going on in the world. We absolutely are a part of it whether we want to be or not. That kind of troubles me, too. It reminds me of the period in our history when we had the Know-Nothings. I really don’t want to go back to that era if we can avoid it.
But, that all has been an interesting experience as to how we tone this down. People keep saying they don’t like the negative ads and yet they work. So as long as they work, you are going to see more. That’s fascinating.
I went out to campaign this year for a lot of people, but I also went to Arizona for Gabby Giffords. There was absolutely no question it was the most toxic environment I had seen. They had smashed the windows in her office. There are people out there screaming all the time about Obamacare and how awful she was. She had a fundraiser. I gave my speech. I went out and started talking to one woman, and she said, "Don’t talk to me. I’m a spy. I don’t like people like you." I’m like, "Okay, well, that’s wonderful." What kind of a thing was going on?
I just came back last week from doing a keynote for the sheriff out there who has just been under siege. The state shut off his money and everything else because he talked about the toxic atmosphere and how it did have something, he thought, it affected the shooting. The idea, of course, a normal person would not react to all that negativism with a shooting, but unfortunately society isn’t made up of just normal people. Her opponent was running with guns in his posters, and he had shooting matches for fundraisers and all sorts of things and bullseyes, which was really quite an interesting, strong message we thought. So the civil society thing troubles me a lot.
The war things trouble me a lot. When I picked up the paper and read that a pilot that we had trained shot eight of our people, I don’t like that. And, of course, last week they shot six. What are we doing? Have we really figured that out? Do we really understand that region? Is this how we should be in that region? I don’t hear us having that debate at all. It’s like the whole thing about defense is just totally off budget. After that huge fight where they almost shut down the government, you know, fighting over things. What do they…they increase the defense budget more than Gates even asked for. So you’re going to cut everything else, but you keep increasing that. Even if they aren’t asking for it, we’ll give it to them anyway. I don’t understand why we’re not mature enough to at least talk about it and say, "What are we doing and is it the right thing?"
I worry tremendously about what is happening in education. I used to represent the textbook publishers so I really know what’s going on around the world because they’re all stealing our college textbooks. They know what they are. They’re golden. In India, they cut the following deal with our textbook people: They wanted the top of the line, not the old textbooks but the new ones so they created these little alcoves, or these little places where you could print the textbook. They pay the publisher for the rights to the textbook. They print it. There are no taxes on anybody in that region that is printing that textbook so they can get the text book locally made, without any taxes, and to the kids as cheaply as possible because they want the PHD in physics books. They ask for physics, the science, everything. They are doing it. China is not so nice. They just steal it and put it out as theirs. We’re constantly fighting that. But, you see all these universities that are popping up and people out there really learning and working and thinking and over here we’re saying, "Well, you know, why fund public education?" I went to a meeting in Orlando that I was very troubled by. They were talking about government-mandated schooling and how you really shouldn’t have government-mandated schooling. That meant public schools. Gone. Maybe we should give people vouchers or we should pay them to teach the children at home. What? So there’s a lot of that stirring around, and they seem to be very organized and the rest of us don’t seem to be as organized.
Of course, as a woman, I worry a little bit about the backsliding I’m seeing on women. I think there has been a tremendous amount of backsliding there. We made some gains, but the things we thought we had gained turned out to be more like beachheads. If you don’t keep working you lose the beachhead.
I could go on and on about all the other things that I’m concerned about.
But somehow we have to get our sense of humor back, too. I know when we were trying to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed in Colorado, which we did, by the way, unlike many states. Again, I thank Tennessee because you’re the state that allowed me to vote. With your vote, here’s a thank you, Tennessee. The feminists worship the young man in the Tennessee legislature who called his mother and she told him how to vote. He voted right. We created a little group called Ladies Against Women. Whenever a really conservative, anti-ERA guy would come to town, we would put on our little hats and our gloves and we would go in aprons and we would try to sit as close to the front as possible and cheer him on and had buttons that said, "I’d rather be ironing" and "59 cents is enough," and whatever. They had no idea what to do with us because here we were, we weren’t disrupting anything, but we were clearly mocking the whole thing. I think that’s been one of the problems, that we haven’t used our sense of humor. We get mad and we react back and then we just escalate it. I think all of us need to do a lot of thinking on how we return the civility back.
I almost worship at the feet of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Every time Stephen Colbert tells me he has been raised in Charleston, South Carolina, I am, like, I can’t flaming believe it. I can’t believe anybody with your sense of humor was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. Then I heard, was anybody watching that very moving night he had Andrew Young on? Anybody see that? Because it really explains Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert’s father was called in to run the biggest hospital in Charleston when Stephen was just a baby, I guess, and right after he got there, there was the second largest strike in the South of African-Americans because there was this huge pay gap between African-Americans and whites at this hospital. And it was a huge civil rights thing. The national press was there, everybody was all over the place. The town was split apart and the whole bit. Andrew Young came in to say that his dad had had the guts to call the Southern Leadership Conference and it was Andrew Young who became the point person who worked with his dad behind the scenes to quiet that whole thing and bring it down and work to an equitable solution that everybody could deal with, which was very moving. So you begin to think, "Well, that’s the kind of family he came from, and it must have been really tough in that environment." I don’t know how he hung on, but he hung on, and there he was. So, but they have taken the news, and they kind of deal with it the way I thought the regular news should be, but the regular news has kind of become, "Oh, look, a squirrel has learned how to water ski." "Oh, look, if it bleeds it leads." You get all done and you think, "Okay, that was news?" Not really.
So, here I am, as I say, feeling like an alien in my own culture some days wondering what in the world has happened in this world and did I miss something somewhere? But, it’s still an exciting and interesting time to be around, as they say in Chinese. I know I studied Chinese when I was in college, and I remember half way through it thinking, "Oh, they think they’re the Middle Kingdom and we’re a lot alike." We think we’re the Middle Kingdom. I think that’s why things like the ESU and people who travel and people who read, it’s terribly important because we really need a perspective outside of ourselves. It’s a huge world out there, and we’re a very small part of it. We really need to do everything we can to try to understand it and prepare our future generations for it, and we’re not preparing them by cutting education. We’re not preparing them by cutting back on public education. We’re not preparing them by cutting out preschool or anything else. We ought to be doing everything we can to get those things in their hands.
Let me shut up at this point and see what kind of questions you have because I love to do a Q&A. Somebody must have a question. I’m always happy when my husband isn’t here because he always has one and I never like the ones he has. Yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You may not want to talk about the ESU in detail here, but what were the top two or three priorities for you?
SCHROEDER: Well, the top priorities are education, education, education, you know. We do several pieces there. I’m blessed in that when I leave here I will be going to New York, and we’re having our wonderful high school kids that won in each region come to perform in the Lincoln Center, their Shakespeare pieces. So imagine a high school kid coming, whoo, to the Lincoln Center. But, this has gone on all over America and Mexico. I think we still have somebody from Mexico coming. They come and they compete against each other for who is the best, which is really thrilling to see them onstage performing. We do a lot for teacher enrichment, sending them overseas through exchanges, doing teacher enrichment here. The poor teachers here, you know, hardly are getting any enrichment at all. Everybody is pounding on the teachers. Nobody ever realizes what a tough thing it is, but you know, seminars on how to teach Shakespeare, how to do different things. We started a new program. It’s very exciting. It’s in the middle schools. You know, I think only angels can work with middle school kids. They are very hard. But, it’s teaching them to debate. It’s part of the civil society thing. We’ve really got to go back and learn how to debate. We’ve forgotten how to debate. Debate is not name-calling. It’s how you do a debate where you are trying to meet on facts. That’s exciting. We do the book things. We do scholarships. There are a range of things. Some of our local groups do other projects that aren’t, you know, not everybody does the same thing. Some help new Americans speak English better or teach them, some, you know, there are just lots and lots of different things that can be done in that auspices. I think it’s very exciting that somebody is trying to help the public schools in all of these areas. Learning English heritage, the English language, Shakespeare, history, literature, tradition, debating, it’s all very good. We hope that you get interested and we’d love to have you participate.
Anybody else got a question? I see someone over here with a 1988 presidential button. How in the world did you find that?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I had it.
SCHROEDER: I couldn’t believe it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I was there when you announced.
SCHROEDER: Oh, my gosh, how nice of you. Well, thank you. Did you live in Colorado?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No. It was the NOW convention.
SCHROEDER: Oh, my gosh, yes, in Philadelphia.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: In Philadelphia, yes.
SCHROEDER: That was a crazy one. Remember that? Oh, my goodness.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, it was.
SCHROEDER: We were so full of ourselves. We thought we would take the world.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, we did.
SCHROEDER: And then we met the world and realized –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: And the world met us and decided they weren’t going to give us help.
SCHROEDER: Yes, they weren’t going to let us do it. But, it was an interesting time. Yeah. Yeah?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Do you – is it your perception that the people generally are as extreme as the political environment appears to be? Or if it is not, why is the dynamic what it is? How do we change it? I guess that’s part of your answer.
SCHROEDER: Well, one of the problems I see, and I don’t know about Tennessee, but I know a lot about Colorado and other places. Colorado is lucky because we have a constitutional amendment, and we can do balanced districts, but the redistricting thing is a nightmare, I think. And it’s gotten – computers have made it worse and worse because the computers can draw districts where literally a yellow dog can win as a Democrat or a yellow dog can win as a Republican. It doesn’t matter. It can make all Republican districts or all Democratic districts. When I first went there, we didn’t have computers and the districts were a lot more mixed up. And as I say, in my state it insists that it’s mixed up, but most states don’t so it allows the legislature to draw these districts that are very heavily in one party or the other. Now, if you are an elected official from the heavily Republican district or a heavily Democratic district, your fear is not the general election. General election is nothing. That election in November, forget it, you know, because you’re just going to win. Your fear is the primary. Primary voters are usually many fewer than the general election, and the extremes in both parties tend to come out for the primary. So if you look at Republicans, they are terrified of Tea Party people coming out. I mean, look at Bennett losing in Utah. I mean, it was unheard of. He’s committee chairman, he’s very esteemed, Mormon, been there forever, nice guy. Nobody would consider him a radical except the people who went out and voted against him. And others. If you remember, there was a series of people who got dumped in their primaries. The Democrats fear real people far to the left coming out against them. I will never forget Tip O’Neill coming back once from Bella Abzug’s district and saying, "Oh, my God, Bella’s to the right of her district." All of these people who came to the district meeting were yelling at her that she wasn’t doing enough here and wasn’t doing enough there. So I think what has happened is that has pulled the Congress much further apart. Now, when you get to the Senate, they can’t change the boundaries. You have to run in the state so obviously you can’t draw a state that’s all one or all the other so the Senate tends to look at it a little differently. But, the House has become much more polarized. The other thing that I think has really, makes me crazy about what’s happened with politics is this money thing and the Supreme Court just keeps feeding it more and more. As a lawyer, I wish I could have argued that case because, as you know, when you appear in front of the Supreme Court, they give you so many minutes and that’s it. Now, when we would try to put any kind of limits on how much time you could buy on television or anything else, no, no, no, that’s interfering with free speech. So, I don’t know why the lawyer that argued the case didn’t pull out his wallet and say, "You know, you’re interfering with my free speech. What’s it going to cost to get another 10 minutes, you know, because I want to buy another 10 minutes." And the Supreme Court would have thrown him out on his ear, of course, but somehow their rules don’t interfere with free speech, but in the campaign area if you try to put any limits on, you’re doing free speech. What happens is, you’ve got every member getting up every day and they have a number in their head. That number is what their campaign manager tells them they gotta to raise that day. So they spend the day on the phone dialing for dollars, and they can’t do it in the office. They have to go across the street to all those little cubby holes. Well, you know, people don’t give you $5,000 or $10,000 because they believe in good government. I know, what can I tell you? They give you $5,000 or $10,000 because they want you to do x, y, or z. You have filled up your card by the time – you don’t have time to legislate on anything else. It’s like, please do this if…My biggest shock when I was on Armed Services, we did a terrible thing, again, I’m sure they thought that I, it was like I was wearing a bathing suit to church every day, but, as you know the House passes a bill, the Senate passes a bill, they go to a conference to work it out. Now, the conferees are selected by the chairman, and they are usually a very elite senior group. So, this younger freshman and I on the Armed Services Committee decided something was always happening in the conference. We’ve got another whole bill back that, you know, where did this come from? So, we decided that we would go to the conference. We walked into the conference and they were going to call the sergeant at arms to take us out. We said, "Okay, but we’re members of Congress so how can you do that?" Well, of course, the sergeant at arms agreed with us, and they were very upset so we watched it. Literally, this is how they were marking it up: How many F-14s? How many tickets did they buy to your fundraiser and how many to yours? How many to yours? You know, I’m sitting there thinking, "You should buy F-14s that they say they need not on the basis of the tickets they bought to your fundraiser." Now, I mean, that is the worst possible outcome, I think, but that’s the kind of stuff that you could see happening because of this total push to get money all the time. And, it gets more and more expensive. My first race was $7.50. That was my average campaign contribution. When I left, it was $32, but very few people could say that. I mean, I was just lucky. I had a nice, tight district: Denver, Colorado, and everybody knew who I was so I didn’t spend any money. But, most people get caught in these TV and radio things and on and on. Yes?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m guessing the ESU job is not forever, and you’ve done a lot of different things. What are you thinking about next?
SCHROEDER: What do I think about next? Well, if I can tell you my personal life, my daughter and son-in-law, who is a professor at Montana State. He was on sabbatical and they are living with us right now while he is on sabbatical at the University of Florida with their 4-year-old and their 6-year-old so most of all I’m thinking about July when I get my house back and a little more sanity returns to my life. I can hardly think at this point. In fact, I got so confused, I came here a day early. I’m like, I’m living in total chaos. I feel like I’m living in a hurricane. But, what would I like? I really want to find something that - I am on the board of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and we work with the poorest of the poor in this country. One of things that troubles me tremendously is while we go into these places overseas where we are seeing all this dissention and, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, they are all saying, "Yeah, well, who can be up – " I mean, 1% of the population controls all the wealth, right? Well, hello. Have you looked what’s going on over here? It’s like a mirror image. That tremendous inequality is amazing so we are working really hard down on the border and those areas with migrant workers, with all sorts of people who have very, very tough lives. So, the Immokalee workers, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but we’ve worked really hard with them. So, I really do enjoy that. And obviously domestic violence worries me a lot. I still am very concerned and working with shelters on that. Those kind of things. There’s just an awful lot of people left behind. I have a little story about Celebration that the realtors would absolutely kill me if they knew I was telling because, you know, they don’t want this story told, but it’s a wonderful story. Across the highway from us were a bunch of hotels, and we have lots of homeless people in Florida, or maybe you’ve seen this, but it’s really been hit harder than almost any state. So, the county bought the hotels and put homeless people in them so they started putting them in our schools in Celebration, and we had a few people going nuts. They moved or put their kids in private school, but the rest of the community raised $32 million and said, "We’re going to make this work." Last year, the valedictorian of the high school was one of these kids. This year the high school made national news because they elected a kid with autism as their king for homecoming, never been done. These kids are all into it, and they are excited. They all voted to go into uniforms so you couldn’t tell who was who. Part of the money went to get uniforms for the kids that go back and forth. I really do think, basically, Americans have good hearts and want to try these things. So, I’ve been excited about this communitarian thing that is going on in Celebration. The first time I saw that happen, we didn’t have a church. The church was meeting in the movie theater. They had raised the money and Disney had given them the land for the church and they are getting ready to have a meeting to decide what architect they’re going to hire and all this. You know how that game goes. Meanwhile, there had been like a hurricane or tornado go through a trailer park not far away and destroyed a lot of homes and stuff. It was really ugly. Within 10 minutes of the meeting, a guy stood up and said, "This is obscene. What are we talking about building a church when these people don’t have homes? We have to give this money to them." Wasn’t it crazy? And someone seconded the motion and the meeting was over in 10 minutes. I thought, As a politician, I’ve never seen this. All I’ve seen is the greedy, gimme-gimme-gimme. I decided that’s where I’m going to live. Now, the realtors never want that story told because they say if people think that you’re welcoming homeless in here, the property values will drop. So, it’s a fascinating discussion, but it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time on and I really do enjoy it because I just, I guess it’s still politics, but I keep trying to find the good in people.
I think we’re probably done. I’m seeing Diane looking at her watch. We’re not? Okay. Do we have another question then? If we don’t, we’ll let you all go have some snacks. Terrific. Yes, there’s one. If you wear a button you get to ask two. No.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Don’t say that. People know I will. No. The thing that worries, there are so many things that worry me about American politics and the dissension of forces is one of them. But, for the last, oh, since you’ve been running for president, I’ve been so concerned about the Supreme Court and when people say there’s no difference in the parties. I say, "Please, if only you vote for the Supreme Court." I wonder, you know, with all the instability that’s going on, I’m very concerned about the 5-4 division in the Supreme Court and want to know what your thoughts are, not even as a woman. It makes you want to curl up and have a headache for the rest of your life but on the other issues, what do you see happening there?
SCHROEDER: Well, it’s a very hard court. I mean, Justice Kennedy is the balance constantly. I feel like, you know, I ought to send him flowers and chocolates in court 24 hours a day. I don’t know what you do. He gets a lot of pressure. I am very worried because right now we are seeing state legislatures pass things that are unbelievable. I mean, they are unconstitutional. They are unbelievable. They are all over the place, but I just don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do. I was astounded when they came down saying all of these companies could give money to these groups and they could come into the political scene and you didn’t have to disclose who gave the money and on and on and on. You kind of think, well, if they’ll go there, where else will they go? You’re absolutely right. One of the big problems is people just don’t show up. If you look at our state of Florida, I can’t even believe it. We’ve got a governor that should be in prison as far as I’m concerned, Rick Scott. A billion-seven is the fine for Medicaid/Medicare fraud - $1,700,000,000? He takes the fifth 57 times and he’s living in the governor’s mansion. I said, "This is new political findings and campaigns." You steal it from the people. You pay the little fine then you use all this money. You campaign and you’re back in the public trough again. I mean, it’s frightening to me. But it worked! People have got to understand their votes count. When you look at Florida, 60% of the Republicans voted and 48% of the Democrats. They don’t seem to get the idea that elections matter and these nominees matter. But, I am happy – I think we’ve got a couple good appointments on there [ no audio ] want mandatory support systems for Justice Ginsberg every time I see her. I would go over and have cookies and tea with her, and I think if the wind comes through here she’s going to blow away. She’s just – I really worry about her. I’m really sad that Justice O’Conner gave up her seat. She had a very level head on her. I’m very sad. As you know, I led the march over to the Senate during the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas and we got Clarence. Yes, it worries me, too. I just don’t know what you do to educate Americans about that. We talk about it, but the people just don’t get it. It’s one step removed. I sometimes wonder if they are teaching civics anymore. I don’t think they are because people just plain don’t understand how this government works. You know, Jefferson used to say, “Education is more important than anything else." When you’ve got elected members of Congress talking about how Jefferson was against indebtedness and, excuse me, his debt was so big that’s how we started the Library of Congress. He had to sell his books to the government to pay his debts so I think he was for debt. You know, when we hear that the Founding Fathers were working against slavery, it’s like, really? I don’t think we know our history and I don’t think we know anything much about civics and how government works and that’s very troubling.
Thank you very much, and thank you, Dean. It was wonderful to be here.
Speech taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4HeLa0dJI4.