A GREAT Commentary ... And Watching the Dalai Lama : Tell Me More And, I hope you get a chance to listen to the interview about the Dalai Lama ... this is a part of the world I do not know at all. The Dalai Lama is quite a celebrity...
NPR logo A GREAT Commentary ... And Watching the Dalai Lama

A GREAT Commentary ... And Watching the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama of Tibet greets supporters in front of the Capitol during recent festivities in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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I am remiss.

I flew out of here yesterday to do a remote-location interview, and I did not give an appropriate shout-out to our girl, Teshima Walker (Supervising Senior producer — our girl for short) for her commentary, which broadcast yesterday, on Tyler Perry's newest film Why Did I Get Married?. I have not seen the film yet; I knew that Jill Scott is in the film because we talked about it when she came on the program. But I had NO IDEA the character she plays wears a "fat suit" and is subjected to some very cruel humiliation by the character who plays her husband in the film.

Anyway, Teshima and I were chatting about it via e-mail (How was your weekend? Blah, blah, blah...) when she unleases this critique that had me rolling! I jumped out of my chair, ran to her office — which I should have done anyway; she sits only five steps from me, but I digress — and said, "this is our Can I Just Tell You? for this week."


Anyway, I'll let her speak her for herself, which she is clearly able to do:

LORD, LORD, LORD. When Michel Martin asked me to write a commentary, I thought, Wow! She's so encouraging. She listens to us. She's amazing. But ... I smiled. I was gracious ... and I moved on to the list of 100 other things I have to do daily to prepare for the next day's show. Have I mentioned Michel is persistent? I started to sweat ... I got a little frustrated. You know how you feel when you're nervous — outside of your comfort zone? I mean, look, writing a special "guest" Can I Just Tell You? commentary is a big deal 'round here. Immediately, I started writing and, I swear, the entire office needed my attention. I couldn't concentrate. I didn't have writer's block, but I was a "Rambling Rose" for the first minute of trying to construct my thoughts! Eventually, I cussed. I thought, Am I going to have to get to work earlier than my 6:30a arrival just to finish this essay?! Then I prayed, Lord help me to hold out. And do you know that I couldn't sleep? ... A cute, fat black woman needs her eight hours, baby. Well, as you know I got through it ... As the segment was being broadcast, Michel sent out a staff e-mail saying, "Teshima is bringing the heat..." I felt happy. She always tells the staff that we shouldn't be afraid to try new things, and to not be afraid of our own success. I'm glad I wrote the commentary ... even if Michel had to "make" me do it. LOL.

Can I just tell YOU? The next time I tell somebody they should do a commentary, give me my props. I do know how to pick 'em, right?

And, I hope you get a chance to listen to the interview about the Dalai Lama today. I was quite interested ... this is a part of the world I do not know at all. The Dalai Lama is quite a celebrity, certainly a great figure on the world stage, but so are other people who have not had his impact. I wanted to know, what accounts for the enormous success of the Free Tibet movement over the years? Is it him, is it the times? I had so many questions...

We were fortunate to have Thomas Laird in town and willing to talk with us. He has just published a book based on some 60 hours of conversations with the Dalai Lama over a three year period. Laird is also quite an expert in his own right, having moved to Tibet at the age of 18 (he now lives in New Orleans).

We also had China scholar Kenneth Lieberthal with us to tell us how China views the United States' recent recognition of His Holiness with the high honor of the Congressional Gold Medal.

And ... Turkey. It's a part of the world that sits, literally, at the meeting of East and West, which makes for an interesting confluence of stories. The story quest by Armenian Americans to have the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks recognized as genocide has been the subject of an emotional debate in the U.S. in recent days. Armenian Americans and their supporters in Congress thought they were close to a Congressional resolution, but support is waning after intense lobbying by administration officials and the Turkish government.

And I just want to say that, while all historical events have their own meaning and do not (and should not) rely on comparisons to have importance, I think I understand both the intense desire for recognition of past acts and the resistance to it. I do, in part, because it echoes debates we have had here in the U.S. As an African American, I understand the emotion many feel as perpetrators of horrible racial crimes are finally brought to justice in the modern era. There is a sense that the victims' deaths were not invisible, nor in vain; a sense that the social compact has been restored to its proper place, a sense that society is willing to say, no more. And yet, as an American, I think I also understand those who say, "let the past be the past," that the only way forward is to go forward ... and that dwelling on the past is exactly what has kept so many societies mired in centuries-old grievances.

I hope it's not crossing the line to say that here is an area where I have compassion for those who struggle to balance moral leadership with political responsibility. It's times like this when I'm glad I don't have to do their jobs.

And, finally, The Women of Brewster Place. I'd love to know ... did you read the novel THEN, in 1982, when it debuted?
Did you LOVE it? ... HATE it?
Have you read it since?
And, does it still speak to you? A musical version is about to debut here in Washington, D.C. We give you just a taste of what you can expect.

We would love to know what you think...