Transcript - July 5, 2002
ANNOUNCER: You're watching NOW with Bill Moyers. With contributions from NPR news. This week on NOW...BILL MOYERS: Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
MICHAEL CURTIN, PRESIDENT, AGUAS DEL TUNARI: In Cochabamba, you had people who only had water one hour a day, one day a week.
MOYERS: An American multinational giant thought it had the answer, until the people stood up and rebelled.
LUIS BREDOW, BOLIVIAN JOURNALIST: Housewives, people that you wouldn't believe could become violent were there, throwing stones at the police.
MOYERS: All over the world, water is the next Gold Rush.
And the birth certificate of a nation brings Americans to tears. It's coming to them....A modern patriot takes the Declaration on the road. An interview with Norman Lear.
MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.On this Fourth of July weekend, we want to take you to where protest and dissent still matter. In 1776, it was a tax on tea that had stirred the rebellion.
In our story tonight, it's the price of water yes, water.
Where I live in New York, we take water for granted. Turn on the tap and there it is on the cheap. You'd have a riot on your hands if you tried to auction it to the highest bidder. But elsewhere in the world, water is scarce and becoming as valuable as liquid gold.
In the name of globalization, it's being argued that only the market can distribute this scarce commodity more efficiently, and water rights are being bought up by multinational corporations. Those who need water are pitted against those who want it for profit.
Our report from Bolivia is a collaboration with the new PBS series FRONTLINE/WORLD by producer David Murdock and the NEW YORKER'S William Finnegan.
WILLIAM FINNEGAN: Who does water belong to? Who should control it? In a globalizing world, these questions drive an increasingly polarized debate.
On one side are those who believe water is a public good a human right which cannot and should not be controlled by interests out for profit people like Oscar Olivera, a Bolivian labor organizer.
OSCAR OLIVERA: God, has given us water. It rains in the high country, it rains on the lakes, it rains on the fields… The only thing the water company should do is to help St. Peter get the water to the people so that we all are able to use it.
FINNEGAN: On the other side are those who believe in the privatization of water that the free market is the most efficient mechanism to deliver the water that people need.
JOHN BRISCOE, SENIOR WATER ADVISOR, WORLD BANK: If you are genuinely concerned with them getting water, what is the best route to do that? It's a practical question, not a moral question. And a declaration that water is owned by the public to be managed by the public for the good of everybody -- we've had decades of that, and it hasn't worked. It's a -- it's a -- it's a simple reality that it hasn't worked.
FINNEGAN: I went to Bolivia because I had heard about a conflict in which the forces of corporate globalization met fierce local resistance.
It was a fight over water and it took place in a town called Cochabamba.
Bolivia is blessed with great natural beauty but it's the poorest country in South America.
Seventy percent of its citizens live in poverty. Nearly one in every 10 children born here dies before the age of five.
Since the 1980's Bolivia, has been financially dependent upon the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
These powerful institutions lend money to strapped governments with conditions such as privatizing public assets on the assumption that where government has failed the market will succeed.
Bolivia's leaders have followed their instructions, dutifully selling off national industries airlines, utilities, mines, railroads to private companies. Usually foreign corporations.
Many Bolivians resent the idea that their country's policies are being dictated by outsiders.
ANGEL VILLAGOMEZ: Bolivia's a very poor country but we are sitting on a chair of gold. We have gold mines, oil, gas. We have everything but we sell it all off to other countries.
FINNEGAN: The Bolivian economy got dramatically worse after the United States pressured Bolivia into eradicating its most lucrative export coca the leaf that can be turned into cocaine.
JORGE QUIROGA, PRESIDENT OF BOLIVIA: Drugs, illegal as they may be, they were 3% of the GDP. 18% of exports, that was the estimate that we had. To put it in context, 3% of GDP in the US is agriculture and mining sector combined.
FINNEGAN: Jorge Quiroga is Bolivia's President. He's a former IBM executive with a degree in industrial engineering from Texas A & M.
QUIROGA: Illegal as it was, bad as it was, damaging as it was, if you look at it from a purely business standpoint, it was, a business with high value added, going coca to cocaine. It was Milton Friedman or Hayek heaven: all privately run, no taxation, no regulation and in essence if you want to look at it cynically duty free access to markets. As long as you're willing to lose part of the merchandise in seizures every once in a while.
FINNEGAN: Politicians like Quiroga fully supported the coca eradication, but the loss of drug money only increased Bolivia's dependence on international financial institutions, particularly the World Bank.
LUIS BREDOW, BOLIVIAN JOURNALIST: The World Bank is the government in Bolivia and I think in many developing countries. There is no developing country that can get a foreign credit without the World Bank accepting it. So the World Bank said, all the countries that have a huge debt well from now on your water systems have to be privatized. Because if you don't do this you don't get money from, from the international loans.
FINNEGAN: In the 1990's Bolivia put up for auction the water rights of its largest cities, including Cochabamba.
Half of its 800,000 citizens were not yet hooked up to the city water system. Many were paying exorbitant prices for water delivered by trucks. Cochabamba looked like a perfect opportunity for foreign investment.
But when the government put the city's water up for auction, only one bidder appeared a company created solely for the occasion called Aguas del Tunari.
Doubts about the wisdom of the deal surfaced immediately among local environmentalists and peasant farmers even the World Bank, didn't support the plan.
FINNEGAN (ADDRESSING QUIROGA): Why didn't the government stop the process?
QUIROGA: Because it was, it's necessary to bring, to bring private investment to develop the water project
FINNEGAN: Sure, but...at some point the government seems as some point to have been at a terrible disadvantage with just this single bidder getting this contract...
QUIROGA: Well I, I think it's happened in several times. I mean Bolivia is not, it's not the Brazil of the world where they're lining up to invest in different things. I think we've had lots of processes where we'll wind up with not as many bidders as we thought.
FINNEGAN: Aguas del tunari leased the Cochabamba water system for 40 years. It was a two and a half billion dollar deal. The contract promised the Bolivians improved service it also guaranteed the company an annual profit of 15-17%.
Then two months after taking over the Cochabamba system, Aguas del Tunari raised water rates by as much as two hundred per cent.
People making eighty dollars a month were being asked to pay 20 dollars a month just for water. As soon as the rate hikes went into effect, people took to the streets in protest.
Graffiti began appearing on city walls, this one is typical: "with the people mobilized, we will cancel the contract with Aguas del Tunari." "Thieves."
But who exactly was Aguas del Tunari? Jim Shultz, an American journalist and activist living in Cochabamba, undertook to find out.
SHULTZ: Nobody understood really who Aguas del Tunari was. Mostly we knew that Aguas del Tunari had a parent company, that owned it and managed it which was International Water Ltd. So I went to their home page to see if there was anything on their website that actually mentioned Bolivia by name. And it was from this page that we figured out that International Water Ltd. was founded in 1996 by Bechtel.
FINNEGAN: Bechtel was a name people knew. Based in San Francisco, it's a huge, privately owned engineering, and construction company with vast political connections.
In recent years, it's been getting into the world water business through its subsidiary International Water, Ltd.
SHULTZ: And this was not something that the press here had reported. Nobody, nobody understood who International Waters was. Nobody understood really who Aguas del Tunari was.
FINNEGAN: To Shultz, it appeared the Bechtel Corporation had come to town under an assumed name.
All around Cochabamba, people were meeting to talk about water…
OSCAR OLIVERA, UNION ORGANIZER: We are the owners of these fields, we own the roads, we used to own the oil wells, and the airlines, and the railroads…
FINNEGAN: Oscar olivera, who once a shoe factory worker, was now one of the most effective organizers against the water privatization…
OLIVERA: We once owned the mines, but they've been taking everything from us little by little, my brothers.
LUIS BREDOW: Oscar Olivera is a very respected labor leader in Cochabamba. One or two years before the revolt he already told me water is going to be the, the thing. And he was right, he was right.
FINNEGAN: Olivera understood that selling off a water system is not like selling off a phone company. Water isn't manufactured, it falls freely from the skies, it's essential to life. In Cochabamba, peasants said Bechtel was trying to lease the rain.
Cochabamba's water problem has worsened over the last 25 years as hundreds of thousands have moved into the city from rural areas and smaller towns. The water system has been overburdened and the water table beneath the city is dropping rapidly.
Many of Cochabamba's new residents moved to the city after losing their jobs when national industries were privatized.
In the market district you'll find displaced miners, factory workers, and farmers jammed together hawking cheap foreign-made products.
Cochabamba's ever expanding market district filled with migrants from the countryside now takes up 25 blocks in the center of the city.
The neighborhood of San Miguel is filled with migrants from depressed mining areas. Fredy Villagomez showed me around.
FREDY VILLAGOMEZ: This whole block is family and people from my village. For example, in this house is my cousin, then another cousin, then my house, and above that another family all from the same village.
FINNEGAN: Like many of Cochabamba's neighborhoods they've never been hooked up to the water system. So eight years ago, the residents of San Miguel took matters into their own hands and dug themselves a well.
FREDY VILLAGOMEZ: This is the well that was finished in 1997. All of us from the region built it by working together, everyone as a group so it belongs to all of us by right, because we all invested our hard work in this well. We fought a lot and sacrificed a lot to build it...
Right now, 210 families get water from this well.
FINNEGAN: A single tap provides water for all the household needs of Fredy's father, Angel.
ANGEL VILLAGOMEZ: This barrel we use for washing clothes, that barrel is to store our drinking water, we wash ourselves in the sink here. And since this is a poor neighborhood, the sewage goes out into the street.
FINNEGAN: Even in parts of the city that were hooked up to the network, Cochabamba's water service was always inconsistent.
MICHAEL CURTIN PRESIDENT, AGUAS DEL TUNARI: I think it's very difficult for Americans to understand this, because we have water 24/7. But in in Cochabamba you had people who only had water one hour a day, one day a week. You had others who had water eight hours a day, seven days a week. We can provide public service in providing safe, secure water supplies to people. We're doing this in Estonia, Manila and Bulgaria. We see no reason why we could not have done it in Cochabamba.
FINNEGAN: The government wanted to expand the city's water network, but according to Aguas del Tunari, it simply couldn't afford to.
CURTIN: Cochabamba operated at a loss of better than a $2 and a quarter million a year for the past five years, six years. They have debts of $35 million. They're running a deficit. How can they possibly expand their water under those conditions? So they have now turned to the private market to do that. In so doing, the rates charged for those services have to be increased to where they cover at least costs.
FINNEGAN: With rates soaring, people in Cochabamba felt the company wasn't just covering costs, it was gouging them.
The demonstrations grew. The streets of Cochabamba filled with protesters.
Word spread that not only were rates going up, but Aguas del Tunari could start charging people for water it didn't even provide including the water from privately dug wells like the one I saw in San Miguel.
FREDY VILLAGOMEZ: When word got around that the wells would pass into the hands of Aguas del Tunari and they could start charging us for the water, the people took action.
FINNEGAN: Fredy Villagomez joined a group of protesters blocking roads going into town.
FREDY VILLAGOMEZ: This whole road was blocked. There was a big tree here that they dragged out with a tractor…then they piled an old car on top of that. And nothing, nothing could pass.
FINNEGAN: The water protests…were becoming a water war.
BREDOW: We have protests every day in, in Bolivia. They go on hunger strike very often or they can even crucify themselves and nothing happens.
FINNEGAN: But this time was different…
BREDOW: Housewives, people that you wouldn't believe could become violent. They were there, they were throwing stones at the police. Everybody was protesting, everybody.
OLIVERA: We have always repeated those slogans death to the World Bank, death to the IMF, down with Yankee imperialism…But I believe that it is the first time that the people understood in a direct way how the policies of the World Bank free trade, free market that is putting us at such a disadvantage among the most powerful countries.
FINNEGAN: Aguas del Tunari's initial response to the protest was blunt if people didn't pay their water bills, their water would be cut off.
The response of the government, fearing the demonstrations would threaten foreign investment in Bolivia, was blunter still.
Cochabamba's water war expanded to include the rest of the country, and a multitude of concerns. Demonstrations broke out over indigenous people's rights, police wages, official corruption.
On April 7th, 2000, the government declared a state of siege. Though a major American corporation was at the center of the Bolivian unrest, not a single U.S. newspaper had a reporter on the scene.
And yet, news of the uprising was reaching a worldwide audience through the internet.
The source was an electronic newsletter with thousands of readers written by the American who had uncovered the Bechtel connection Jim Shultz.
He was in the streets during the uprising, and filing daily accounts about events in Cochabamba.
SHULTZ: I was really taken aback by how powerful this was. Not as just a story but it was something we could communicate and get around to so many thousands of people. So then the question was, how do we put pressure on the company? Then one of my readers sent me a note and said, you know, I can get you the CEO's personal e-mail address. So within about 24 hours we were able to give thousands of people in the United States the personal email address of the head of Bechtel.
And people started in the States started bombarding Bechtel with emails, telling them basically that they should get out of the country, that it was the only way that they were going to stop the violence in Bolivia was if they left. FINNEGAN: Meanwhile, in the streets of Cochabamba, the water war was about to turn deadly. A local tv camera caught an army sharpshooter in civilian clothes firing into a crowd of unarmed protesters.
Victor Hugo Daza, a seventeen-year old student was in the crowd. He was hit in the face and died instantly.
It was becoming clear that there was no future for Aguas del Tunari or Cechtel in Cochabamba... The company executives fled the city. Celebrations broke out in the streets.
From the balcony of his union office, Oscar Olivera announced victory.
But did anyone really win Cochabamba's water war?
Late last year, Aguas del Tunari filed a claim against the Bolivian government seeking more than 25 million dollars in compensation.
The case will be heard in Washington DC in a trade court run by the World Bank.
MICHAEL CURTIN PRESIDENT, AGUAS DEL TUNARI: We're not looking for a windfall from Bolivia. We're looking to recover our costs. Now, we can also claim lost profits. We may do so. That's a very large number.
FINNEGAN: The government is fighting the suit, insisting the company spent less than a million dollars in Bolivia.
President Quiroga remains a champion of foreign investment. But in the wake of the violence, it's hard to find foreign investors.
JOHN BRISCOE SENIOR WATER ADVISOR, WORLD BANK: If this is considered too risky, they'll go away. And then we'll have declarations of human rights and all these good things, and no one'll have any water. And, you know, I think that's a tragedy; because the countries need investment, they need expertise. They need all of these things. These are all healthy things to have.
FINNEGAN: In Cochabamba, the water warriors who chased out Bechtel took control of the water system vowing to treat water as a human right not as an ordinary commodity.
But without new investment they are unable to expand the network or improve service.
They're searching for a new model - something between state control and the private market. Neither the Bolivian government nor the World Bank, has any plans to help them.
MOYERS: All over the world there have been outbreaks of protest against globalization like those we just saw in Bolivia. My next guest knows first hand about those protests, and she's written a book on why people have taken to the streets. It's called, THE SILENT TAKEOVER, and it's already a best seller in England where the Sunday TIMES OF LONDON named it one of the year's best.
Noreena Hertz was born in England, received her MBA from the Wharton School of Business and her Ph.D in economics from the University of Cambridge, where she is Associate Director of the Centre for International Business. Ten years ago she helped Russia organize its first stock market. Welcome to NOW.
MOYERS: Tell my audience what you mean by THE SILENT TAKEOVER.
HERTZ: Governments have been ceding power to big multinational corporations in the market. We see the manifest in a variety of ways. Where governments are giving up power to big international institutions like the World Trade Organization or NAFTA, which are disabling governments' ability to protect the rights of their own people.
MOYERS: How much is the real issue, those international finance institutions that you talk about, the World Bank, the IMF,the World Trade Organization. I mean, to whom are they ultimately accountable? THE ECONOMIST of London says that the World Trade Organization is an embryo world government which no one has voted for. Now how much are they the problem?
HERTZ: Well, the World Trade Organization is an organization that defends trade interests. I think the problem is less that they exist. The problem is that internationally we've only got an organization that protects trade interests. Surely we need some kind of counterweight to protect human rights and the environment too.
MOYERS: In Bolivia, we saw that effort at privatization. Would you place that into the category of the silent takeover?
HERTZ: Well that's a case of public utilities, public goods being increasingly handed over to private enterprises to run. Now there's nothing wrong per se with things being handed over to the private sector to run, if you have, for example a really strong regulator in place.
MOYERS: But take the situation in Bolivia. Those people before Bechtel arrived there did not have good, clean water. Bechtel was trying to set up a system that would deliver then safe, clean and abundant water. I mean, do you think that the effort at privatization of that natural resource was wrong?
HERTZ: Well, Bechtel was trying to set up a situation that would realize to its corporation profit which, you know, is not necessarily the same thing as delivering clean water to everyone out there.
MOYERS: It is the natural task of the corporation to gather the capital needed for projects that cannot come elsewhere. I mean, why shouldn't the corporation in tandem with the government of Bolivia be trying to do to capitalize that water project?
HERTZ: There's nothing wrong with what a company is doing. Companies have to realize profit to their shareholder. They have a legal responsibility to do so, their fiduciary duty. It's the responsibility of states to ensure that in that in that process the poor are still being served and looked after. In Bolivia, the price of water doubled almost overnight. A quarter of an average Bolivian's salary was now to be spent on accessing water. So it's not that there's anything necessarily wrong with private companies providing these functions. It's just that when we have a weak state, no regulator, no competition and you leave it to companies. The poor, the marginalized will often be the losers.
MOYERS: You talk very sensibly. You talk very reasonably and yet the subtitle of your book is a very dire one, Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy. What do you see that justifies such a dark description?
HERTZ: Well, I think if we look at patterns of voter turnout over the past decade, we see this real disillusionment and lack of faith in governments. Seventy-five percent of Americans believing that big business has more influence over their lives than government…Part of the problem is the embeddedness that big business now has with politics. Funding of political parties, campaign finance.
MOYERS: You're talking to a true believer on that.
HERTZ: Well, I mean you know that creates huge conflicts of interest. George W's environment policy clear dictated by the interests of the energy companies that bankrolled his campaign. So part of what would be needed would be the disenfranchisement of corporations. Would be...
MOYERS: What do you mean by that?
HERTZ: ...the breaking of the financial stranglehold that big business has on politics.
MOYERS: What does this do for what you call in your book, "The social contract?"
HERTZ: Well, it completely destroys the social contract, this idea that government and citizens together have a relationship to provide public goods, a sense of community, a better world. The social contract has been privatized, has been handed over to the private sector to safeguard with incredible conflicts of interest. Scientific research. Scientific research, something that, you know, we want to be able to trust, to believe in, increasingly being funded by private corporations. When the FDA tried to remove saccharine off the list, or decided to remove saccharine off the list of cancer inducing chemicals, its work was based on the findings of the University of Nebraska researcher who was funded by Sweet and Low.
MOYERS: And therefore...
HERTZ: And therefore the conflict is we can't even trust the information we now receive. We need to have much clearer regulations on things like corporate funding of scientific research. Things need to be made explicit which are implicit. We don't want the takeover. We shouldn't allow the takeover to be kept silent any longer.
MOYERS: Have you been out to any of the protests? The protest in Seattle or Genoa or in Quebec?
HERTZ: Yeah. I was-- the last protest I was at was in Genoa, where I got tear gassed and I hate tear gas and I hate being in crowds. But...
MOYERS: Why were you there?
HERTZ: Because I'm really supportive of the protest movement, because I think it's capable of changing the political agenda and because we already see signs of its success. In Europe, Guy Verhofstadt, the President of the European Union when he was, talked about a need for global binding agreements on ethics in the environment. He hosted a one-day session last October to which he invited me-- other people who are seen as voices of the movement, but also Bill Clinton.
MOYERS: Have you seen any evidence though, Miss Hertz, that the protests are actually making a dent...
MOYERS: ...in the market ideology, the globalization that girdles the world now?
HERTZ: Yes. I see it in terms of changing political rhetoric in the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown, our Chancellor of the Exchequer, his willingness now to double Britain's aid to least developed countries.
I see it on the lips of every CEO of every big company I see today. They're all saying we cannot ignore the voices of this protest movement. One third of CEOs of big multinationals polled say that they view the anti-globalization movement as a serious threat.
MOYERS: Who's on the side of those people in Bolivia?
HERTZ: The people in Bolivia unfortunately only have each other, but the international activist community is doing something in keeping their story alive. As we saw in the film, it's an activist who through the Internet and using technology for globalization in a positive way managed to get the story of Bolivia across to very many constituencies.
MOYERS: A Bill Finnegan goes there, the mass media pay no attention to that sort of thing.
HERTZ: And that is the tragedy of our times. That's the tragedy of a public information environment that is increasingly being commercialized. It's so hard to get those kind of stories on the airwaves. Broadcasters are so desperate for ratings, for advertising revenues, but they don't really wanna run stories about the poor somewhere else, or even for home.
MOYERS: Is that why you say in your first chapter, "The revolution will not be televised"?
HERTZ: The revolution may not be televised, but word of the revolution is getting out.
MOYERS: I was gonna say you're too young to be a pessimist. Are you a pessimist?
HERTZ: Oh, no. I'm very optimistic. I think that we already see signs that the world is changing. I think in the context now in the United States of Enron, of Tyco, of Adelphia, that 75 percent of Americans who already thought that big business had too much influence over their lives is beginning to say, "You know, hey. Maybe it's not such a good thing that these big corporations are running amok."
So I think we're seeing a ground swell dissent and we're seeing the mainstreaming of a lot of these ideas.
MOYERS: Well, thank you very much for joining us on NOW and thank you for THE SILENT TAKEOVER.
HERTZ: Thank you.
MOYERS: It shouldn't surprise Americans when people rise up to protest a foreign power's encroachment on their rights. We started it all because of a multinational company called the East India company backed by the British Crown.
Here's our call to arms, the Declaration of Independence, a single sheet of parchment that became the birth certificate of rebellion. The one you see here is the only copy in private hands. It belongs to Normal Lear, the Emmy award- winning producer of "All in the Family" and other television hits, and founder of the liberal advocacy group, People for the American Way.
He paid $8.2 million for this copy of the document, and like every good showman he's taking it on the road from the Superbowl to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Norman Lear is with me now. He's a long time friend, a patriot known to shed a tear when the flag unfurls. Welcome to NOW.
LEAR: Thank you. Happy to be here, Bill.
MOYERS: Why did you buy this copy of the Declaration?
LEAR: Because I had read that it was going to be auctioned off by Sotheby's, and learned that it was three blocks away in Los Angeles.
Walked over to look at it, started to cry a bit.
MOYERS: At what? What were you crying about? Not the...
LEAR: Well, you used the expression birth certificate. The birth certificate of the United States, "the" United States of America, written July 4th, 1776, for the very first time. And it goes back in my life to a grandfather. If you've got a minute I'll tell you about my grandfather.
My grandfather, I lived with him for a couple of years when my dad had a problem and I was shunted to my grandparents. My grandfather loved this country, stood holding my hand so tightly it hurt, on street corners when a parade went by. And they went by often, you know, July 4th, Veteran's Day, President's Day. There were always parades. And he wrote the president.
MOYERS: The President of the United States?
LEAR: He wrote...he was an inveterate letter writer to the president. And so I was with him, I heard these letters, he read them to me. Every letter started off, My Dearest Darling Mr. President, don't you listen to them when they say such and such and so and so. You know, giving him advice. And when he disagreed, which was rare, but when he disagreed he wrote, My Dearest Darling Mr. President, didn't I tell you last week....And he would read them to me with this inflection.
But, I would go downstairs, three flights, 74 York Street, New Haven, Connecticut, and in that little bronze mailbox every now and again, this little white post card that said, White House. And my nine, 10 year old heart would just thumping, I couldn't get over it.
MOYERS: So did you feel the same evocation when you stood in front of this document?
LEAR: Every bit of it. Every bit. And instantly thought, people's document, it will travel. If I am lucky enough to secure it, it's the people's document, they'll never have to hunt for where it is, it's coming to them.
MOYERS: And you've been taking it on the road as I said earlier. What's been the reaction out there?
LEAR: Well, it's phenomenal. You know, in our culture if you pay a lot of money for something you get a lot of press. So it was a lot of press.
MOYERS: We asked your team for some reactions from the people who were coming to...have been coming to see the Declaration of Independence. Let's look at what they gave us.
[VIDEO OF PEOPLE AT THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE EXHIBIT]
Woman: You can actually look at the document that set in place America.
Officer: You grow up learning about it in school and stuff like that. And then to actually see it, to hold it. It just kind of touches little deep. It really means what this country's standing.
Boy: It's really a standard for a lot of revolutions around the world.
Teenage Girl: I definitely believe that it will inspire people, especially people in my generation. Helping them realize that it's in their power to reclaim their freedom.
Man: It just brought this heartfelt feeling.
LEAR: ...this was in Salt Lake City at the Winter Olympics, there were well over 100,000 people who came to see it. It sits in a bed of 1,000 pounds of stainless steel that kids can come up over and look at, see the document at close hands.
MOYERS: Is it possible that we are more sentimental about it than we are devoted to living it out? Any danger of that?
LEAR: I think the culture has trivialized our point of view about such things. The last line of the document, you know, we pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. The words "sacred honor" -- where in our culture do we propagate the notion or do we help kids understand the beauty of the words and the proposition, sacred honor? You know, I often think you have to go to The Godfather, you know, you have to go to places like The Godfather to find people who are for wrong reasons pledging sacred honor.
MOYERS: What do you mean by sacred honor? What do you think they mean, and do you mean what they mean?
LEAR: I think sacred honor means if I say to you, count on me, you can count on me. As simple as that. If I say I'll be there, if I say you matter to me, you can count on it.
MOYERS: Did your heart leap with joy last week when the Federal Court in California said that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because that phrase one nation under God violates the separation of church and state? Were you pleased with that?
LEAR: I won't say I was pleased; I wasn't upset. I wasn't upset. A ceremonial deity. Somebody used that phrase, some great thinker. The Senate says...uses the word God in the first sentence of prayer every morning, that doesn't trouble me.
MOYERS: Do you think it would surprise people, particularly people in the religious right, to know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Christian socialist?
LEAR: I think it would surprise them very much as it does me. It was.
MOYERS: In fact, he originally had in it, equality, justice for all. Equality and justice for all. But the superintendent of education on his commission did not believe women and African Americans were equal so he took that out. But as a Christian socialist. The words under God were added...
LEAR: In 1950 something.
MOYERS: In 1954 after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus. So these, our friends on the right, the Protestants, conservative Protestants, are pledging allegiance to an oath written by a socialist, and the Catholics.
LEAR: You know, interesting the word conservative, because there are sometimes when I think, who's really the conservative? I hold a very narrow view about my First Amendment, my Bill of Rights. Don't mess with my Bill of Rights. Isn't that a conservative point of view? It's very focused, it's very narrow. I would think very conservative.
MOYERS: What do you mean my Bill of Rights?
LEAR: It's mine.
MOYERS: How so?
LEAR: This is my country, this is my flag, that's my president, this is my Bill of Rights. That's what my grandfather would say were he sitting here, and I'm speaking through him.
MOYERS: What is written in the Declaration, Norman, in today's terms, that is still revolutionary, that's still is important to remember.
LEAR: All men are created equal, endowed by their creator with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If one takes those words very seriously and then examines all of the policy that's necessary to make those words real...
MOYERS: Do you think...
LEAR: We haven't made good on all these promises.
MOYERS: One doesn't hear that much anymore, the word equality. Do you think that idea is still revolutionary, and is it...
LEAR: I think equality before.... We're not certainly all equal. We don't all run as fast, we're not all as smart, we...there are lots of differences. But equality before the law, I think nine out of 10 people would tell you they believe...I think 10 out of 10 people would tell you they believe totally. When it came to what is necessary to ensure that, that's where the differences come.
MOYERS: You have lived through over one-third of this country's history. You've won some and you've lost some. How do you feel about the country this fourth of July weekend?
LEAR: You know, I don't want to wake up the morning I don't have hope, and I don't think that's only the...that's the only reason why I have hope. The co-chairs of the Declaration of Independence project are Presidents Ford and Carter. Among the...on the board are Lady Bird Johnson and Nancy Reagan.
And I'm here, everybody knows me to be progressive or liberal or whatever the term they care to use. But we collect around this document and those basic ideas: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, created equal. And I couldn't be prouder of that. And that and the people's response to the document give me great hope.
MOYERS: What do you think is American's greatest contribution to political science?
LEAR: I think the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
MOYERS: The protection of the individual...
LEAR: The protection of the individual conscience, of the right to speak, of the right to gather, the right to protest.
MOYERS: You think we do much protesting?
LEAR: I don't think we do enough protesting. I don't think we do enough protesting. And when we do we hear from the establishment that for all kinds of reasons that perhaps we're doing the wrong thing. We're not going along. Well, America isn't about going along. America is about being heard.
MOYERS: So this is still a revolutionary country.
LEAR: In that respect it is still a revolutionary country. May it never change.
MOYERS: Thank you very much, Norman.
LEAR: Thank you.
MOYERS: The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, thought every new generation of Americans should revisit the revolution and test it against the new realities, recreating it in their own experience.
Frank Wu is doing just that. He's the son of immigrants, one of a handful of Asians among the students at his high school. We invited Frank Wu to be our commentator on this Fourth of July weekend.
FRANK WU: I remember how much fun it was when I was growing up to see fireworks on the Fourth of July. My parents would bring my brothers and me to the local high school in our Detroit suburb.
My father reminded us fireworks had been invented in China. My parents had been born there, but they fled the Communists and eventually found their way to the United States — drawn by hope and opportunity.
They had faith in the American Dream. If I came home from school and complained that kids picked on me, my parents told me I should try harder to fit in.
I thought they blamed me. I'm ashamed to admit it now but I was embarrassed of them then: they had accents, ate funny-smelling foods, didn't laugh at the right time when watching tv, and needed my help writing a letter if there was a problem with the phone company.
I realized only recently that my parents blamed themselves, not me. In my parents' daily lives, they faced everything I did, but they accepted it as their fault. They assumed they had brought the problems on themselves, because they had accents and the rest. They figured that because I knew American culture, I would be accepted automatically within it.
Over time, I've come to understand the debt I owe my parents. They did what I would never dream of doing: they moved half way around the world, not for their future, but for mine.
Yet even as I try to follow their example of studying and working hard, I doubt I'll be just like them. Immigrants and their children are bound to make different choices. My parents believed the nail that sticks up is pounded down; I believe the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
They never protested about civil rights, for themselves or anyone else because they literally didn't know the language. I care about civil rights and equality and free speech and dissent, not just for myself but because we need principles to guide a diverse democracy. A little controversy is good thing — a patriotic thing.
Hey, I am my parents' child. But I am an American, too. I like to light my own fireworks — and I want them to go off with a bang.
NARRATOR: Now a look at stories coming up on NPR radio this weekend.
SCOTT SIMON: Hi, I'm Scott Simon. Tomorrow morning on the weekend edition from NPR news we'll visit a tiny land mere the Black Sea that some believe was the original Garden of Eden.
We'll find out how libertarians feel about national security and civil liberties. And we'll read a new version of a controversial children's book, LITTLE BLACK SAMBO.
You can find your local public station on our website, npr.org.
Hope you can join us tomorrow.
MOYERS: Now, my colleague from NPR News, Scott Simon, hosts the African musical sensation Angelique Kidjo.
SCOTT SIMON: Angelique sings as easily in French as she does in English, not to mention her native west african language of Fon.
But the singular voice of Angelique Kidjo is recognized all over the world for its effortless beauty. Dave Matthews has said that "If God had a voice it would sound like Angelique."
Her seventh solo album has just been released. It's called BLACK IVORY SOUL, and it explores the people and culture of the Brazilian state of Bahia. It's the second in a planned trilogy about the African Diaspora.
And we're pleased to welcome Angelique Kidjo. Thanks very much for being with us.
ANGELIQUE KIDJO: It's my pleasure.
SIMON: BLACK IVORY SOUL, maybe we should explain. Black ivory was a term that was used in the slave trade, wasn't it? KIDJO: Yes, slavery used to be called like that. I wrote the song in 1999, being more focused on the soul, talking about our soul. We need our soul to be strong. We need our soul to be filled with joy, happiness, and love, and strength for us to stand on our both feet, being proud of being a human being.
SIMON: You wanted to be a human rights lawyer when you first got to Paris?
KIDJO: Yes, I did. Since I was a child, man. I hate injustice. I can't stand it. It just turn my head upside down.
SIMON: Are you trying to accomplish some of the same things with your music as you envisioned accomplishing if you become a human rights lawyer?
KIDJO: Yes, that's what i'm trying to do. I'm trying to get my culture to be known by the whole world, because in my culture, I learn to be the person I am.
And I learn to accept every differences. The music, the traditional music in my country, teach me tolerance; accepting other people difference.
When you come from a different country and you come with an instrument they are playing, they say, "come and sit and play with us." It's not a matter of your color. It's not a matter of your language. It's a matter of how your spirit, your soul can join their soul. And you can get together and play music.
We don't talk to each other. We don't interact that much with each other. What i'm trying to do in my music is to bring people to realize that, "okay, this is the beginning of a step for us to go together, to start talking to each other."
SIMON: Now, when you recorded BLACK IVORY SOUL, musicians from all over the world were there. And you recorded it live.
KIDJO: What was funny and really interesting and uplifting was to see that the music once again make every boundaries disappear. I flew the percussion player from Bahia. He doesn't speak a word of English. The electric bass player, I flew him fromParis. He's from the French West Indies, from Martinique. And you have three guitar players, one from Guinea Bisseau, West Africa, and two from Brazil...
SIMON: Well, we're fortunate to have them with us in the studio today. Now, we get to hear your band perform the song "Tumba."
SIMON: I love "Tumba." I was very careful to write down the lyrics, because I thought they must be significant. And I'm told they say, "Get yourself ready for dancing. I'm waiting for you."
KIDJO: Definitely. That's what I said. Even though in the public, some people might be very self- conscious about themselves not being ready to dance. I'm telling them in that song, "Even if the... Even though you don't want it, you gotta dance. Let it loose. Let your body go. And free your body for your mind to be free."
SIMON: So that's a kind of liberation, isn't it?
KIDJO: It is, definitely. When you dance, you come out of it. You go, "Oh, I feel good."
SIMON: I wonder about this. You live in Brooklyn now.
SIMON: And when we open the newspapers in the United States and we see Africa in the headline, it almost always at least it seems to me crisis, urgency, emergency, words like that. You can count on being in the same headline. Is there something in your music that reveals another part of Africa you'd like people to know about, too?
KIDJO: Yes, the song "Afrika," for example.
What I'm saying in that song is that if we African people, we don't think the best for ourselves, for our continent, nobody else will do.
It's easy to be sitting down and saying, "Africa is in a bad shape." But we have to refuse that card. We have to refuse that attitude because it's in our hand to make it better. And it's true that every time you open a newspaper, what you hear about africa is not a great thing.
And every day in Africa, people woke up... I know people that wake up at 6:00 in the morning and work hard and went to bed at 8:00 with a bowl of rice as a result at the end of the day. But that doesn't keep them away from hoping. That doesn't take away the joy and the happiness they have.
You come to that house that day, they will share that bowl of rice with you. That's what Africa is.
That's what keep me going because I know that my people... If they have the opportunity, they will make it good for themselves. That opportunity have never been given to any country in Africa since what they call independence happened.
SIMON: As I understand it now, we're going to see the group perform the song "Afrika," which is on your CD. Thanks very much for being with us.
KIDJO: It's a pleasure.
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