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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company” from Dublin, Ireland. Here’s what’s
The world weeps for Notre Dame as hundreds of millions pour in to rebuild. Why it’s so cherished and global reaction, including from Speaker of the
House, Nancy Pelosi. My exclusive interview with the most powerful woman in Washington. She’s here in Dublin with a stern warning for Britain about
Brexit and the Good Friday Peace Agreement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL S. JACKSON, AUTHOR, “SURVIVAL MATH”: A drug dealer had become an identity rather than something that I did, and I never wanted that to
become who I was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A tale of survival. The award-winning novelist, Mitchell S. Jackson sits down with our Alicia Menendez.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in Dublin.
Today, Paris mourns its lady as Notre Dame smolders but last night’s catastrophic fire is out and miraculously, much of the cathedral’s gothic
While the cause of the devastating blaze is not yet clear, what is clear is that the City of Lights has been profoundly shaken, and much of the world
is too, embracing Paris from afar and grieving a shared cultural loss. From the people on the streets singing hymns to the heights of power in
Washington where President Trump tweeted, “God bless the people of France.”
And much closer to Paris, here in Dublin, so did the powerful Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a committed catholic herself, she said the sight
of Notre Dame burning was nothing short of heartbreaking.
She’s here in Dublin to address the Irish Parliament as it marks its centenary on Wednesday, and also the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday
Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland and was brokered by the United States, Britain and Ireland.
Speaker Pelosi joined me for an exclusive interview at the Irish Foreign Ministry here.
Speaker Pelosi, welcome to the program.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): My pleasure to be with you.
AMANPOUR: Here you are in Ireland for all sorts of political reasons, but I first want to ask you to weigh in with your thoughts on Notre Dame, the
great gothic catholic cathedral that burnt so badly.
PELOSI: So sad. What a tragedy. And just such an historic place. Of course a place of religion, a place of culture, a place of history. I remember
going there with my family when I was a girl and taking my own children there, my grandchildren going, and it’s just sort of a central place of
AMANPOUR: Let’s move on to the nuts and bolts of your visit. You’re here in Ireland because you’re going to be addressing the parliament here on its
100th anniversary on Wednesday, but you’ve also been in England, and Brexit is a big focus of your visit.
Did you — did you feel like everybody was focused on Brexit? I mean were you surprised by the political atmosphere that you found?
PELOSI: I wasn’t surprised, but it was different because when we come, we’re always about national security, global security. We’re about economic
success, prosperity that is shared. You have a variety of — climate change, a variety of issues that we would be addressing, but everything
this time was focused on Brexit.
AMANPOUR: I think you gave the prime minister a pretty stern warning, saying that if the good Friday peace agreement between Britain, northern
Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland here, shepherded by the United States, if that is harmed in this process, there will be no brilliant U.K.-U.S.
bilateral trade deal.
PELOSI: I wouldn’t call it a stern warning. I would call it a prediction. And that is to say, the U.S. was very much a part of this historic peace
agreement, but it’s not just that agreement. It was something bigger. It’s a value that — that just took us to this place of success on the part of
the U.K. having a role in it, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the United States. And we are guarantors of that, not just the agreement, Good Friday
Accords, but the idea of it and what it is as a model to the rest of the world. And as a model to the rest of the world, it can’t be something that
AMANPOUR: I mean you are a long-time experienced political hand and the Brexiters have been telling their people and their voters that it’s just
going to be really easy to exit the E.U. and strike all these wonderful trade deals in short order with the United States, with Australia, with
wherever. Is that realistic?
PELOSI: No, but let me just be respectful of the vote of the people. They made their vote. And the government is trying to implement that. And that’s
the business of the U.K. and the E.U. It’s very hard to pass a trade agreement in Congress. Very, very hard. And at one — a U.S.-U.K. trade
agreement that would be a reward for weakening of the Good Friday Accords is just not a possibility. But maybe they can accomplish it without doing
that. We just wanted to make sure they understood that as a consolation for leaving the E.U., they’re not getting the U.S.
AMANPOUR: You also met with the leader of the Labour Party, the opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn, and you also met with several of his party who have
defected over the anti-Semitism row (ph).
What did you learn about that and why did you take the occasion to meet with the opposition to the opposition?
PELOSI: Well, let me just say that on our trip we met with the speaker of the House, which is a colleague that I have worked with in the past as
speaker. We met with the — we’ve spoken with the leadership of the government and those who oppose the government’s position. We spoke to the
leadership of the opposition and those who oppose the opposition’s position. So it wasn’t just the — those who disagree with the Labour
What we found, though, in that conversation was, yes, the anti-Semitism was unacceptable to all of us, but some of those people had other reasons in
addition, anti-Semitism was sort of the deal breaker, but there were other concerns about the policies of labor and so they were forming a new entity,
perhaps it’s called a party, as they go forward. And it will be interesting to see what impact it may have on the European Union elections as they come
AMANPOUR: Well, do you — do you fear that there may be sort of a nationalist, populist wave in these upcoming elections? What do you think?
PELOSI: That’s a possibility. I mean no fear elections. They are the voice of the people — the voices of the people. But for the Europeans, they have
to weigh in, in a way that keeps the European Union strong.
I think it’s really important. We, in the U.S., have a strong commitment to transatlantic relationships, whether it’s NATO, whether it’s working with
the European Union, and other transatlantic comings together. So we want to — the E.U. and the U.K. to come at a whole — this whole Brexit debate
AMANPOUR: As you know, Steve Bannon, the president’s sort of campaign — he says he won the campaign for the president, has been advising the
nationalists in the European elections.
But just to ask you, you mentioned NATO and — do you have concerns right now about the health of the transatlantic alliance and the institutions
that underpin U.S. and the rest of the world, Europe and others?
PELOSI: No. Well, NATO, of course, is the backbone of that relationship, the security alliance, and Senator Mitch McConnell and I and the other
leaders in the Congress, in a bipartisan way, invited the secretary-general of NATO to speak to a joint session of Congress, first time ever. It was to
observe the 70th anniversary of NATO and it was a very reassuring presentation about how we can work together for security. And I think that
the intention is, we support NATO and we want to strengthen NATO.
The other transatlantic relationships, and they’re different manifestations of it, are strong as well. I believe that people see — recognize the need
for that and not to the exclusion of other things. Of — you — we in the United States, we look to the Atlantic, we look to the Pacific, we believe
in collaborations, we believe in respecting other countries, we believe in working together.
I — since we’re in Ireland, I’ll quote President Kennedy and his inaugural address, everybody knows what he said, the citizens of America ask not what
America can do, but what you can do for your — for our country. But the very next sentence, which most people don’t know, the very next sentence,
citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do working together for the freedom of mankind. And that’s what our
attitude has always been.
AMANPOUR: People will ask whether the president or the administration is as committed as you in a bipartisan form in Congress.
PELOSI: To NATO?
AMANPOUR: And to the institutions that underpin the transatlantic alliance.
PELOSI: Well, I certainly hope so, but don’t underestimate the power of the Congress of the United States when it comes to funding, in terms of our
involvement there, as well as policy.
And I think that the president has moved a bit from some of his statements that question our commitment to Article V.
AMANPOUR: I just want to move again to the anti-Semitism row (ph) because it’s not just happening in the U.K., in the Labour Party. It’s happening
actually in the United States right now.
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has come under fierce criticism, including from within your own party, but certainly from the Republican
Party. The president has tweeted against her, suggesting that, you know, there’s some sort of linkage with this video he’s tweeted about the towers
and what she said about 9/11.
Are you concerned for her well-being, first and foremost? You asked for more security around her.
PELOSI: Yes, but I — I don’t think that the congresswoman is anti-Semitic. I wouldn’t even put those in the same category. I think the president —
AMANPOUR: But she’s been accused of it.
PELOSI: Well, she’s being accused of it, but I’m — I criticized the president for using film of — video of 9/11 as a political tool. I think
he was wrong to do that.
But to enlarge the issue back to the anti-Semitism as the premise of your question, for a long time now I have said to our people that we have sent
to these meetings, whether it’s the NATO interparliamentary group, this group or that group, there are all kinds of places where parliamentarians
come together, whether bilateral or multilaterally. And I’ve always said, you know, you — you go there, use your judgment. You know the values of
our caucus. But one guidance I give everyone is that I want you to say, when you’re there, that we are concerned about anti-Semitism raising its
head all over, including in our own country.
But some of this predates it, raising its head in our country in the recent way. And so — so this is nothing new for us. So when we met the leader of
the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, we said we have concerns about how the Labour Party is perceived in terms of anti-Semitism
AMANPOUR: For the Democratic Party, are you concerned that your opposition going towards the next election, or however they wish to use it, will use
that to call, as the president has done, you know, the Democrats are not the party of friend to the Jews.
PELOSI: Well, no, no. No, I think the president is bankrupt of any ideas. I don’t want to talk about the president here because I’m overseas. But come
see me in Washington, D.C., and I’ll tell you what I think about that, the president.
But, no, I — because the — we are not. And we have no taint of that in the Democratic Party. And just because they want to accuse somebody of that
doesn’t mean that we take that bait.
AMANPOUR: Do you think, as some in your own party have suggested, that you, yourself, weren’t swift enough to defend Ilhan Omar?
PELOSI: Well, that — I haven’t had a chance to speak with her. I’m traveling, she’s traveling, but we couldn’t catch up with her. Until I talk
to somebody, I don’t even know what was said. But I do know what the president did was not right.
AMANPOUR: Another issue going forward about the elections, and — and you’ve heard it and — and it’s going around quite a lot now, this idea of
socialists. The Democrats are going to be feeding — fielding socialist candidates on the point to calls for Medicare for all, Medicaid for all.
They point to the green new deal. They point to all sorts of things. And you can see the plan, clearly the political plan, would be to try to say
that, you know, we don’t want socialists in the White House.
PELOSI: Well, you know, let me just say this. There’s a bankruptcy of ideas in the Republican Party. We ran an — had an election just now for the
people, lower healthcare costs by lowering the costs of prescription drugs, bigger paychecks by building infrastructure of American in a green way,
cleaner government, HR-1, our bill, to clean up — take out big money, big darks, special interest money out of politics and the voter suppression. We
won a net gain of 40 seats in the most gerrymandered, voter suppressed, political arena you could ever face. We won big because we had a message
that addressed the — who we are, what our values are, and that is to connect with America’s working families. That’s what unifies us. People may
have other exuberances, but what unifies us is our — is our commitment to America’s working families. So I don’t — I think they can say whatever
Actually, they called Medicare a — that Medicare would lead to a socialist dictatorship. That’s what they said.
AMANPOUR: You mean back then when Medicare —
PELOSI: Back then.
PELOSI: They’ve never really — not that far back then, even into the ’90s they said it should wither on the vine. And, since then, Medicare has no
place in a free society.
So, what — it isn’t about how they want to label something, it’s what it is, raising the minimum wage, a path to health care for all Americans,
addressing the climate crisis, fairness in our economy, and how people are paid and work is rewarded. That’s what we’re about. They can call it
whatever they want. We’ll be positive in how we communicate our message to the American people. I feel very certain of that.
And, by the way, we have spectacular new members of Congress, over 60 new members. Our Democratic caucus is over 60 percent women, people of color,
LGBTQ, the number is growing. We have 91 women. There are 115 women in Congress — 116, 15 are Republican, 91 are Democrats. We made a decision to
grow our numbers. We want more.
AMANPOUR: So it’s really interesting because really the whole world is watching because America is endlessly fascinating and has an endless impact
on the world. So everybody wants to know how the next election is going to shape up.
To that point, they say, well, the president is going to have, obviously, the Republican nomination, but who is it going to be for the Democrats? And
there are these mega stars that have erupted on to the — on to the horizon, AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the very more, I don’t know,
more progressive, more liberal, more left wing of the party, I don’t know how you would describe them.
What is your view about that and about what it takes to successfully field a Democrat against the president.
PELOSI: Well, let me just say I’m very proud of all the Democrats who have put themselves forward. They show why they are running. They know what
they’re talking about. They know how to communicate with the electorate. And the electorate, the people, will decide who our nominee is. Not
anything from on high.
And I do believe, though, that the way we won this last election, which was a message of simplicity, for the people, lower health care costs, bigger
paychecks, cleaner government, that’s the kind of message we’ll have to go bring forward, a unifying message that, again, addresses the financial
insecurity of America’s working families. And it’s going to be pretty exciting. But, as I say, that will be determined by the people.
AMANPOUR: But is it more centrist or is it more to the left of the party? I mean what does your midterms —
PELOSI: Well, it’s probably center left. Probably center left. That is to say, you have to — we want to win in the whole country. First of all, we
have to win. There’s — everything is at stake in this election, the Constitution of the United States with the president who’s trying to usurp
the power of the legislative branch of government, the environment in which we live, a Republican Party that is in denial about the assault on climate
and the climate crisis, which is a health issue, a national security issue, an economic and jobs issue, and a moral issue to pass the planet on to next
generation in a responsible way. As God’s creation, I believe, but if you don’t believe that, even the responsibilities we have generationally.
Everything is at stake in terms of who we are as a people. Every president, Ronald Reagan on, in terms of modern times, has been — recognized that the
value of newcomers to America, that we’re a nation of immigrants, unless you’re blessed to be born as a Native American —
AMANPOUR: Well, on that, as you point out, Ronald Reagan said thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity. We’re a nation
forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality
is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever close to door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.
PELOSI: Beautiful. I quote him all through the campaign.
AMANPOUR: So how did America lose that spirit?
PELOSI: Well, America didn’t. I think that the last presidential election, there was some fear mongering going on about it. And I do think that the
American people — well, we’re all immigrants and so the spirit of Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack
Obama, all of those presidents recognized that newcomers bring vitality and courage and optimism and determination to make the future better. Those are
American traits. These newcomers make America more American.
This president decided to use it as a campaign tactic and there are some financial insecurities that people have, he blamed it on trade, he blamed
it on immigrants, and — and it found a market. But I don’t think that’s where the American people are.
AMANPOUR: What about this week? It appears that the attorney general is going to finally send to the Congress the redacted version of Robert
Mueller’s investigation and his nearly 400-page report. What do you expect to see and from — you must have been having conversations — how redacted
do you think it will be and do you think you’re going to be able to accept it?
PELOSI: Well, first of all, we don’t know, and that’s why we said, show us the report. For the attorney general, though, to say, I’ll use my own
judgment about what I redact, that’s not necessarily going to be the final product.
The American people deserve the truth. They need to know the truth. There was an assault made on our elections by the Russians, the — all of our
intelligence community in high confidence have said that the Russians tried to disrupt our election. That is the heartbeat of our democracy. We have to
find out what happened so it doesn’t happen again.
And it isn’t up to the attorney general, who has said, basically, that the president is above the law and the rest, so he’s there to redact whatever
he wants. Well, let’s just see what he puts forth before we make — we can’t make a judgment about something that you haven’t seen yet. And so we
look forward to seeing it. We have very smart people who will be reading it from the standpoint of our committees and the rest, and we’ll go to the
next step in determining — it depends on what is in there and what is re – – how redacted it is.
AMANPOUR: Are you — are you concerned that in the first wave, many of the president’s critics and the Democrats and those on the left are — were
really almost foaming at the mouth about what might come out of the Mueller report? Do you think you over expected? And do you accept what Mr. Mueller
said is that he found no evidence to base a collusion charge or a conspiracy charge, but he also could not exonerate the president.
PELOSI: Yes. Well, let me say this, we’re — if you go throughout the country, as I do all the time, people are concerned about their kitchen
table issues. Are they going to be able to pay the bills. Fifty percent of the American people could not withstand a 50 percent surprise, whether a
broken car or broken water heater or whatever it is. So that’s what people are concerned about.
So, I have not been one of these focusers on impeachment and reports and the rest of that. Let the chips fall where they may when we have the
evidence and the facts.
But we also do have to honor the oath of office we take, which is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We’ll see what
comes forth. We’ll see how much the attorney general decided that it was at his discretion to redact.
Now, I’m an intelligence person. That’s where I was — one of the places I was forged in the Congress. I respect protecting sources and methods. I
don’t support hiding the truth from the American people.
AMANPOUR: The green new deal is on everybody’s lips.
AMANPOUR: Everybody’s talking about it. People want to know what it is. Some have suggested that there is no way to address injustice, whether it’s
economic injustice, health, race, immigration, refuge, all of that, without addressing climate injustice.
PELOSI: Oh, agreed. No.
AMANPOUR: What do you think the green new deal is?
PELOSI: Well, it —
AMANPOUR: And is it something that you can pursue?
PELOSI: Let me just say this. With all due respect to you, your — everybody’s saying this and everybody’s — everybody isn’t. A lot of people
have different things to say about subjects.
When I was speaker for the first time, my climate was my flagship issue. And we — under President Bush we accomplished some things and on energy,
like taking millions of cars off the road with emissions standards and the rest, but he was in denial about climate so it couldn’t go to the next
step. And of course when Obama — President Obama came in, we moved on to health care and tried to do some more things on climate. So let me just
give you my credentials there.
This time, I — as I did before, I’ve established a select committee on climate. And that is now, though, beyond that select committee, I’ve made
it a House wide, a congressional wide pursuit, every committee is tasked with, whether it’s defense, whether it’s — every committee, whether it’s
the Ways and Means Committee in terms of funding and how we deal with how we address the climate, it is the challenge to our generation. There are
many good ideas out there. I said, I’ll look for the green ideal. Let’s get everybody’s good ideas, see what we can do as soon as we can do it because
the clock is ticking on this.
AMANPOUR: And do you feel public opinion shifting? Look at the young people all over now.
PELOSI: Well, they want — the young people have always been ahead of everybody else on this. And the — to the extent that the green new deal
has raised the visibility of the issue, and I salute them, but it’s as a list of aspirations. Some people share, labor (ph) has — is opposed to it,
not that they’re not for addressing the climate crisis, but they’re concerned about some other features in it.
So it’s not a question — the idea is not to address that. The idea is to get the best thinking that we can pass legislation that the — that
everybody can support.
That — this — this should be the most unifying imitative that we’re engaged in because everybody is affected by it.
AMANPOUR: You have a lot of criticisms of the president. I wonder, as a long time women’s activist, you support the Women’s Global Development and
Prosperity Initiative, which the president introduced, which Ivanka Trump is campaigning. She’s in Africa right now. It’s aimed to empower some, I
think, 50,000 female entrepreneurs — sorry, 50 million women.
PELOSI: I don’t — let me be very brief.
AMANPOUR: Yes, go ahead, by 2025.
PELOSI: I don’t have the faintest idea of what you’re talking about.
AMANPOUR: You have no idea.
PELOSI: I mean, I know that there’s some initiative that they have, but I have no idea about any particulars of it.
PELOSI: So, mark me down as one of, good for them for talking about women, but what we’re interested in is, will the president sign the Equal Pay for
Equal Work legislation that is there? Will he support an agenda that supports a woman’s right to choose instead of appointing judges who are
there to make sure that doesn’t happen? So, PR is one thing, policy is another. And I salute Ivanka for raising the visibility of some of these
issues. But I have no idea what you’re talking about.
AMANPOUR: Because I’m not saying it right or because you’ve seen no evidence?
PELOSI: No, I don’t — we — it’s not — I mean it’s not — I’m a legislator. I’m not — I’m not —
AMANPOUR: It’s an executive order, actually.
PELOSI: Well, yes, it’s not — it’s not anything that we’ve been working on. We work on advancing women. If I ruled the world, I ruled the world, I
would say, educate women and girls. That’s the most progressive thing, the most transformative thing that you can do to advance everything, families,
women, girls, the economies of countries, saving the environment, growing economies. It is the most important thing that you can do. That takes
resources. It takes resources and it takes investments and it takes respect for women.
AMANPOUR: Speaker Pelosi, thank you very much indeed.
PELOSI: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And on that note, I would warrant women all over the world agree with that.
Now, as we said, Speaker Pelosi also joined millions around the world offering prayers and support as fire threatened Notre Dame last night. The
855-year-old Catholic cathedral represents France like few other monuments. It inspired Victor Hugo’s landmark novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
which in turn inspired a Disney film.
Over the centuries its bells have run throughout French history, in coronations, declarations that ended wars and condolences in time of great
tragedy also like on September 11th.
As the smoke clears, there is a bright ray of hope, significant parts of the cathedral have been saved. The building’s grand organ and relics, like
the Crown of Thornz, both escaped the flames thanks to the tireless work of local police and a human chain of firefighters. And as the inferno rage,
President Macron swore that France would rebuild.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): I am announcing it tonight, we will rebuild this Cathedral. The project we will have for
years to come, starting tomorrow, a national donation scheme will be started that will extend beyond our borders. We will appeal to the
greatest talents. We will rebuild Notre Dame because that is what the French expect, that is what our history merits, and this is our deep
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, already hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring in, in response to that appeal. So, why does this building mean so much to so
many? The historian, Simon Schama, joins us from New York to talk about our lady’s legacy.
Simon, welcome to the program.
SIMON SCHAMA, HISTORIAN: Hello, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: I just wondered because, you know, you have done so much work in art history and bringing the legacy of civilizations’ art to people through
many, many different platforms and on TV as well. Just walk us through a little bit of why you think this church matters so much, not just to the
French people but to people around the world.
SCHAMA: Well, you know, when the French king sponsored what the church would do in the 12th century, they thought of it as a Jerusalem. And by
that, they meant a kind of sanctuary from the raw poverty and brutality of the rest of life.
And I think now in our universe of instantly disposable sensations, Instagram and Snapchat there’s an astonishing and paradoxical appetite for
that which endures something that was made long, long ago. And will survive after us.
What Notre Dame is, and it’s right in the geographical center of a great city. That centrality is very important. It was the tallest building
before the Eifel Tower. But what it is I think above all is a place where hustle cannot go, where the marketplace just stops and the kind of raw and
often contemptible antics of self promoting politicians do not pass.
And therefore it is something which is indispensible to the civilization long may it remain of modern life. And that’s felt above all in Paris,
above all in France but you saw the immense colossal outpouring of emotion because what is actually housed in that sanctuary is beauty.
AMANPOUR: And Simon, many of us, many people around the world literally were holding their breath and in shock until they understood that the
flames had been controlled.
AMANPOUR: And that most of the building still stands. And you actually early on tweeted about that dramatic fall of the spire and also the
collapse of the wooden roof. So, I just want to read a little.
You said, I know it’s no consolation at all but the Notre Dame spire was 19th century, much damaged original taken down in the rain much earlier.
And also the roof of course was much more recent. So, just put that in to perspective because the gothic remains, the flying buttresses–
AMANPOUR: — all that makes it so dramatically special.
SCHAMA: Well, I think that was important because we think of Notre Dame as something which is fixed and then moveable. But that never, never has been
the case. There were three architects at change during the Middle Ages.
It resisted the (inaudible) of attacks from (inaudible) and then from the French Revolution that converted it in to a temple of reason. Really we
think of the way Notre Dame moves us because it’s always been the same. But actually I would argue the opposite is true, Christine.
It moves us because it is a kind of (inaudible) which means stage after stage, generation after generation. Notre Dame is a living organic thing.
Yes it stays the same, those towers have always been pretty much the same.
But the 19th century for example, it was rebuilt very extensively again because the two restorers of Notre Dame hated what was happening to modern
Paris. They hated the rubbishing of the medieval city and building of that grand boulevard. They wanted yet again to restore a kind of medieval dream
of this magnificent gothic sanctuary.
So, once one knew thank heavens that the essential fabric of the (inaudible) has survived then it would be possible with the help of an
enormous amount of money and good will and we hope for once governmental efficiency and competence that this will be another chapter in the ongoing
organic multiple lives of Notre Dame.
AMANPOUR: So, take us back to 1163 when it was–
AMANPOUR: — commissioned. When the king at the time commissioned it. And what makes it so unique. And the heaviness and the uniqueness of the
bells and that big organ and particularly–
AMANPOUR: — the stained glass windows. I think they’re amongst the oldest in the world.
SCHAMA: Well, some of the oldest in the world. And it is the north transit window I would say straight away which seems to have survived in
best shape. And that has the most medieval glass, incredibly beautiful medieval glass from the — essentially from the 13th century.
Some of the other windows which may or may not have been damaged have much less medieval glass and were also restored in the 19th century. But when
the kings of France and the church sort of collaborated on that, on this revolutionary new style of gothic, they were doing something very special.
They were above all changing the style of architecture from a kind of fortress like cave of strength which was the roman etches style. So the
extraordinary kind of intoxication of uplift that you get from those slennder columns and this beautiful color of light vitiating through the
The medieval mind thought of jewelry, jems, you’ll get this Christine, I think not just simply as glittering rocks, but as talisman, healing
objects, things that would actually have medical properties, there were, above all, redemptive, magical, jewel-like sources of radiance.
And everything about the theology as well as the politics of that moment in the Middle Ages was essentially about illumination, it was a theology of
And over the centuries, actually people have been in charge, whether it was the kings or the church or the republic in the 19th Century has worried
that that theology of light became rather obscure and dim inside the darkness of Notre Dame.
But when you go in, and you’ll remember this, there is this extraordinary kind of negotiation between the spirituality of the glowing darkness and
the beams of light which eradiate you.
So, it is a kind of perfect refuge from the crude, raw, noisy, white noise, the drone, the hustle and bustle of all the compromises and the routines
and the bloody traffic jams we have to put up with everyday.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. I mean, I consider myself so lucky to have lived in the shadow of that fantastic building all the time I was posted there during
the ’90s. And it was truly — it just had that just sort of unbelievable presence.
And actually to what you’re saying, President Macron raced down there as it was burning and he said this, quite similar to what you’re saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC (through translator): The Notre Dame de Pares is our history, our literature, the life of our
imagination. The place where have lived all our great moments, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations. It’s the epicenter of our life. It
is a cathedral that is one of all French men and women, even those who have never come here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And I wonder, you talked about the time in which this fire happened, whether perhaps there’s something sort of redemptive about trying
to bring France together to try to rebuild.
SCHAMA: Yes, I think I would say that that’s really important. As I say, actually, it’s very crucial. Emmanual Macron is right — excuse me, I just
lost my. It is, oh yes, there it is.
AMANPOUR: Nevermind Simon.
SCHAMA: OK, forget me. The angel of Notre Dame did not come to my help there. So, it is incredibly important that it is right in the heart of the
city, Christiane. Oddly enough, someone who is a Londoner, even though we think of Westminister Abbey in the middle of London, in fact, it was right
at the west end and St. Paul’s the opposite from St. Peter’s church at Westminster is at the east end. But, Notre Dame was always at the
beginning. In fact, it was built on the site of an ancient Franskish Merovingian Basilica.
So, it’s always been kind of at the heart, not just of worship, but of the life of a great metropolis and a great metropolis to which people have gone
from all over the world for ideas, for beauty, for poetry, for everything we that we think of as making civilized life, not just to fall on your
knees and worship the savior. So, that — that is — I think that was saturated what Macron was saying at that point. And it’s why it strikes
such a kind of extraordinary resonance with us.
AMANPOUR: Simon Schama, always good to hear from you. And, of course, this happening on holy week as we prepare for Easter.
So, as France does vow to rebuild, our next guest looks back to the moment he decided to rebuild his life. Mitchell S. Jackson was a teenage drug
dealer and he ended up behind bars before he was old enough to legally drink.
Fast-forward and today he’s an award winning author and well-known criminal justice reform advocate. His memoir, Survival Math: Notes on an All-
American Family, takes us through the calculations he made to overcome his trouble youth, as he told our Alicia Menendez.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ALICIA MENENDEZ: A lot of people have described this book as like a black family growing up in Portland, but it’s way more
complicated than that. What is — how would you describe your experience of growing up in Portland.
MITCHELL S. JACKSON, AUTHOR: When people say this is a black story it almost puts all the onus on like being black rather than the circumstances
that oppress black people. And so, I really think this more of like an exploration of the systemic forces that kind of push black people into
these circumstances to have to survive.
MENENDEZ: Right. And yet you managed to thread that needle without ever falling into a one dimensional portrayal of the people in your life as
victims. So for example, very complicated and front relationship with your mother.
MENENDEZ: Can you tell us a little bit about her?
JACKSON: Yes, well my mom struggled with addiction from the time I was about 10 years old until I think I was into my — maybe in my 30s or at
least into my late 20s. And there’s an essay where I’m trying to kind of reckon with that.
And the analogy then (ph) I use is that long term addiction is almost like long term marriage in that there’s all these kind of fallout from it.
There’s also what she was also committed to something for that long.
So I analogize it to a long term marriage. And that was me, I guess, trying to figure out a way to kind of — just kind of trying to reckon with
the kind of disappointments that I was feeling.
But I — but I also have an old mentor, the editor named Gordon Lysch (ph) who used to say never put yourself above the other in your work and so I
really do try to do that. Right. Like if you can see critique in someone else you have to be able to turn that back on yourself.
And so that’s really how I look at all of the people that I right about with compassion and then like I’m not better than anyone else on the page.
So I think that really helps me see people who kind of would be subjected to very harsh criticism with the most compassion.
MENENDEZ: When you look back at your own life though, what do you see as the moment where it became inevitable for you that your life would
intersect with crime?
JACKSON: So I grew up in a neighborhood and there were — at this time there were drug houses kind of popping up in the neighborhood. So it’d be
places where people who were using would congregate, usually some dilapidated house.
And there would sometime be guys outside like looking out to make sure other people didn’t wonder up to the house. So I remember had been gone, I
don’t know how long, a few days or something. And she came back and I wanted her to stay but she didn’t stay.
She came back and like got some money and then she left but I was looking out of the window and I saw that she had gone to this house that was like a
kiddy corner from house. So like a block or so away from my house.
I must have been like maybe 11. And I watched her go to the house and then I — when she walked in I walked out of my house and walked around to what
now I know was a drug house.
And there was a guy and he answered the door and he was like what’s up little man. And I was like hey man, is my mom in there. He was like your
mom; no, no, she ain’t in here. And I just remember feeling like defeated in that moment because I saw her go in that house.
And I think something in me was like I got to figure out a way to get on the other side of this. And the other side of this to me meant I was not
going to be victimized, which ended up me victimizing other people by selling the same thing that my mom was addicted to.
So I started — it took probably three or four years but I started selling drugs pretty earlier. I mean I was maybe 14, 15 years old and by the time
I was 21 I ended up in prison.
MENENDEZ: Wouldn’t be the last time your mom’s drug use and your drug selling would intersect in the story.
JACKSON: No. Yes, right about that moment. I guess I must have been in my 20s because I hadn’t gone to prison yet and I had a guy that used to
sell drugs for me and called me. I thought to pick up some product.
And my mother was in there at — I mean I can’t imagine how — how, I guess, far she had fallen into her addiction that she had the audacity to
ask me for drugs but she did and it was very upsetting to me. I didn’t give them to her and I — you know I yelled at her.
And I think that was a moment — so if I could think of the moment that kind — that started it was a moment of walking around to that drug house.
The moment that ended it was my mother asking for drugs from me.
Because it, to me, that confirmed — or maybe not confirmed but it — it — it kind of implied that a drug dealer had become an identify rather than
something that I did. And I — I never wanted that to become who I was.
MENENDEZ: Let’s talk about the title of this book.
MENENDEZ: “Survival Math,” what does that mean?
JACKSON: Well, it came from an incident that happened to me in my early 20s. I was selling drugs at the time and one morning I woke up and my
partner’s children were screaming that someone was trying to kick in the back door.
And so I ran downstairs to kind of see who it was and luckily my neighbor scared off the would be assailants.
And then a few weeks later — a week or two later I was talking to a guy who was like my mentorship in the – mentor in the community. And he was
like, “Yes, I heard it was this guy named Stitches,” who was a gang member that I actually had gone to school with.
And then so, I don’t know, a month or so later, I’m coming out of a house very early in the morning and I see a guy bicycling towards me in all
black. It’s like summertime, and by the time I figure out who it is I’m, like, at my car searching for my keys.
And he jumps off the bike and he was like, “Yo, I heard you was looking for me,” and I was like, “What?” And then he says, “Yes, you looking for me,”
and he pulls out a gun and points it at me. And between his question and my answer, I started to do all these kind of calculations, like, would he
shoot me, where would he shoot me.
I had looked down the street. There were no witnesses that early in the morning. I had a gun in my car. I’m like, if I let him go, could I get in
my car and chase him down. Would there be repercussions on my family, all of these things, and really in, like, a few seconds. And then ultimately I
said “No, I’m not looking for you.”
And he pointed his gun at me and he was like, “Yes, yes, because I’m a real killer.” And he got on his bike and rode off. And then, I don’t know, a
year or so later, he actually did kill someone. And so that literally made me start reflecting on that incident, years later, when I was writing the
book, and I was like, “Oh, what do I call those calculations.” And ultimately, I christened it survival math (ph).
MENENDEZ: Right, because those calculations happen in those moments, but then it’s also a larger algorithm –
MENENDEZ: — that anyone who lives in a marginalized community makes all the time.
JACKSON: Yes, there’s the kind of immediate survival math and then there’s the, like, long form, you know, kind of algebra you have to keep on trying
to perfect, you know. I know a lot of people that weren’t able to do that, but luckily I was one of the ones.
MENENDEZ: All of the photos on the cover are from men in your families. You also include them in your survival files.
MENENDEZ: Tell me a little bit about that part of the book.
JACKSON: So, when I was reflecting on my kind of incidents, I was like, oh, I think that men in my family have gone through, if not something like
this, but their own kind of survival incidents. And so, I asked 16 men in my family to sit for me for a portrait session. So I shot them and then I
asked each of them, what’s the toughest thing you survived.
And then I wrote their survival stories as second person narratives, choosing the second person because I thought that the second person works
as like an “I” so it makes it very intimate, but then it also works to kind of involve the reader in a more intimate sense, like make you imagine
yourself as the protagonist. And I really wanted to close what I thought might be empathy or experience gaps between reader and the person in the
MENENDEZ: So much of this book is about grappling with America’s complicated history. It’s also about grappling with your own complicated
MENENDEZ: No section speaks to that more than your past relationship with women, sometimes incredibly problematic.
MENENDEZ: Why choose to include that as part of the book?
JACKSON: I challenged myself to critique my own behavior and because I had — it was the last essay that I revised and the other essays I really try
to, like, historicize whatever the idea is, so to kind of look — frame it in history and culture.
I also knew that I had to do that with what I call the men on the scale which is really, like, the kind of degrees of womanizing. And so I ended up
doing a lot of research, but I was also, the whole time, very fearful that what — where was the line between contextualizing, historicizing and,
like, making excuses for myself.
There – it was only my voice in the essay –
JACKSON: – so that’s when I came up with the idea to offer former partners the chance to speak about our relationships and not to edit it down but
just to present as they told it to me.
MENENDEZ: What was the hardest thing to hear?
JACKSON: The hardest thing to hear, really, was about what my — the way that they felt about themselves while I was doing these things and, like,
the way that they were trying to rationalize my emotional traumas to themselves.
MENENDEZ: So how would you characterize your own behavior during those relationships?
JACKSON: I mean, I say it. It’s very emotionally abusive. And I had, you know, I think, in reflecting on it, I had – there were – there were, like,
I guess, they’re not coping mechanisms but there were ways in which I was trying to cut myself off from intimacy because if this works out like I
think it’s going to work out, like I’m really going to be hurt at the end of this. So, like, how can I both, like, be involved in this and then also
prepare myself for this hurt. No way, obviously, to be in a relationship, right?
MENENDEZ: We talk about systems and structures. You write about your personal experience with the criminal justice system.
MENENDEZ: During the time you were (inaudible) from college.
JACKSON: Yes, yes. Good college student too.
I was on the Dean’s list.
MENENDEZ: That is one hell of a double life.
JACKSON: Yes, it is. It is. Bit again it’s like the first identity that I really committed to I think was being a writer. So before that I was
like I sell drugs, and I go to school. Like I’m not a student necessarily, but I do well in school because that’s important to me.
I’m not a dug dealer because I don’t want to commit to all the things that necessitates. But I do sell drugs. And then I guess it was like me trying
to figure out what was going to be a purpose in my life before I kind of decided OK, this is who I am.
MENENDEZ: Did being a writer give you cover for selling drugs? Like you didn’t have to think of yourself as being the drug dealer if you could
think of yourself as being a writer?
JACKSON: No, because I didn’t think about writing until after prison. I wrote the first — I guess my first kin of attempt at writing seriously was
while I was incarcerated.
MENENDEZ: Tell me about that.
JACKSON: Guys in prison often like — well if someone wrote my life story down like it would be a bestseller. So we were all in there trying to one-
up each other. And I actually got restriction which is where I was it was like the version of — we didn’t have a whole guard (ph). But I had to
stay on my bunk for like a week.
And I was like — and I was also getting ready to go back in to college because I had mu scholarship held for me. And so, I was like well maybe I
should start preparing myself. I think I’ll start writing. And so initially it was going to be my life story.
And I was going to fictionalize it because the stuff — some of the stuff that I was writing about involved people who were still in those
activities. And so, I came home with like — I don’t know, 50 or 60 loose- leaf pages of my fictionalized life story.
And I remember telling my partner at the time very early when I got — maybe the first day I got home I am going to be a writer. Having no idea
what that meant.
Years later I ended up in graduate school at Portland State University and then I actually moved to New York and went to New York University in my
(inaudible) program all the while I was just working on that same book. And luckily I finished it and published it in 2013.
MENENDEZ: It’ll be very easy to read your story and be like this is a success story.
MENENDEZ: He has it all figured out.
JACKSON: Yes, yes.
MENENDEZ: That how it feels?
JACKSON: Absolutely not. I recognize that I was always — I think one of the things that I have in my 40s realized how I was always holding these
paradoxes in me like I’m just like the people from my neighborhood and I’m also exceptional.
And that I have to believe myself exception to kind of scale what seemed like booby-traps but then also like I recognized so many of my paradigms,
so many of my characteristics, so many of my experiences and the men that I grew up with.
And even in these — the generation that I go home and see now. And so, no I don’t have it figured out but I’m very happy that I’m a writer and that I
can work through some of these things on a page.
MENENDEZ: Given your front relationship with your mom, I think a lot of us want to know where that relationship is now.
JACKSON: My mom was — she’s the most generous person that I know. And I say that because I decided to be a writer, she didn’t. But she has been in
both of these books really the central figure in the books. She was also the person that I’m — that I called most often to like verify family
(inaudible) or to ask about her own experiences.
And like I cannot imagine what it’s like to have to relive those traumas. Really for no kind of immediate explicit benefit for yourself other than
you want someone else to in someway see this an for it to be helpful for them. And this was no more I guess evident to me than the day that book
published I had an SNA that ran out in the New Yorker.
And the New Yorker is famous for their fact checking and the SNA ran was on my mother’s addiction. So she had to fact check with the New Yorker about
her addiction, about the first time that she used drugs. And she called me afterwards and was like Mitchell, wow.
Like that could’ve triggered me like that was traumatizing. And I thought — like I don’t know what the question — I mean I know what I out in the
story, I don’t know what questions they asked but to me for her to do that for me is the most gracious loving thing that she can do.
And also knowing that this is going to be published so not only am I fact checking this, like this is going to be in the New Yorker which I would
imagine has a broad reach. So, there were like two levels of like grace.
MENENDEZ: Mitchell, thank you so much.
JACKSON: Thank you for having me, yes.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.