NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Last week's confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor provided a reminder of a classic American success story: the triumph over adversity. Raised in a housing project in the South Bronx, the Supreme Court nominee lost her father at the age of nine, grappled with diabetes since childhood, and won scholarships to Princeton and Yale. It's easy to be dismissive about some of these Horatio Alger stories. George H.W. Bush, for example, came from a wealthy family, the son of a United States senator. But it's also true that he flew combat missions in World War II and made his way as an independent oilman in Texas.
I, too, am a child of privilege - the son and grandson of successful doctors, a graduate of an elite private school, but also somebody who never went to college and made his own way since the age of 17. Almost everybody believes they've earned their way in this world, that it hasn't been easy, and they're right. How did your struggle shape your character? Does that experience make it easier to relate the stories about presidential candidates and Supreme Court nominees?
Our phone number: 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com. You can also tell us your story on your - on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Later in the program, the murder of Steve McNair, as an example of domestic violence. But first, overcoming adversity. Our guests are Annette Gordon-Reed, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in History for the "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family." She is with us from our bureau in New York. Nice to have you back on the program.
Professor ANNETTE GORDON-REED (Author, "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family"): Good to be here.
CONAN: And here with us in Studio 3A is presidential historian Robert Dallek, the author most recently of "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power." Good to speak with you again.
Mr. ROBERT DALLEK (Presidential Historian, Author): Nice to be with you.
CONAN: And Annette Gordon-Reed, let me begin with you and ask if this begins -since all of us, except Native Americans, uprooted our lives to come to the new world.
Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, definitely. Most of us - many Americans could trace their ancestry to people who came to America either voluntarily or forcibly, but under circumstances that required struggle. And yes, this is something that's a part of the founding - understanding of who we are as Americans. And it sort of carried over until today.
CONAN: And Robert Dallek, it's the old presidential joke of the candidate who, born in the log cabin, he built himself.
Mr. DALLEK: Oh, yes…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DALLEK: …quite so, or the old saying that anybody can be become president, and there are some instances in which that's been certainly true.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DALLEK: But yeah, I mean, Americans are in love with this idea of up from the boot straps, and - because so many people across the country are not born to the purple, don't have that silver spoon in the mouth. And they have to make their way in a competitive society, a free enterprise system. And they take pride in their achievements and they admire and look up to others who achieve that, as well.
CONAN: Annette Gordon-Reed, also, the idea that this is part of the myth of the country, that it didn't have an aristocracy when, of course, it did. But nevertheless, I guess they comes to the criticism of some people who are, I guess the saying goes, born on third base and thought they hit a triple.
Prof. GORDON-REED: Yes. I mean, if you reject nobility - reject monarchy, which is sort of at the head of any society that's based upon class, you take another founding myth, understanding of who you are. And if are a democratic society, you champion people who worked their way up. You don't brag about your roots. I think Europeans would, in times past - although it's sort of changing now - but much more likely emphasize their aristocratic heritage as a way of trying to get into a system, because they're very, very elitist. But Americans, as Robert Dallek just said, you know, focus in on the log cabin, the humble roots as a way of affirming what America is supposed to be about.
CONAN: And not that America doesn't have its class consciousness and its elites, too, but…
Prof. GORDON-REED: Oh, no, not at all. I mean that's - I was, you know, saying that's what we like to think of ourselves, as a classless society. But that's the sort of myth of who we are.
CONAN: And in a - and a society where even if you are born to humble beginnings, like that housing project in the South Bronx, you can rise above your station and become the justice of the Supreme Court.
Prof. GORDON-REED: Absolutely. It's a dynamic society, not a society that was built, you know, 1,100 years ago and stayed - remained static.
CONAN: And there's also this sense - anybody, every individual can relate to every individual story. Then you get to groups and say, you know, well, we had it harder than you did. And you had it harder than - and my parents had it harder than your parents did, and, Robert Dallek, you get to this point of - sometimes it develops to the level of grievance.
Mr. DALLEK: Yeah. I mean, there are those who complain that it was hard of them to make their way. And, of course, it's certainly true for African-Americans and for…
CONAN: Absolutely. And Native-Americans, too.
Mr. DALLEK: Yeah, and Hispanics and women. Women had a harder time for such a long period of time in this country being accepted as competitors in the -whatever, in the marketplace of ideas or going to law school or gaining admission to medical colleges. So there is a kind of mythology to this. And what I find most interesting, in a way, is the fact that while Americans are in love with this idea of people who rise from limited beginnings, they also love to hear that these people have feat of clay.
I think it makes them feel better about themselves. All right, think back to the O.J. Simpson trial. And the fascination with that, I think, was not simply the fact of - or the question of whether this man who allegedly killed two people was going to be convicted or not, but there was some attraction to the idea that someone who was so wealthy, so famous, so much of a celebrity was being brought down, being put in his place, so to speak, and not because he was an African-American, but because he was so successful.
And why do we love scandals so much? Why do we love to hear about all these famous people who are embarrassed by revelations from the press?
CONAN: Yet Simpson would have seen himself as the poor kid from Potrero Hill who had to scrabble against all kinds of obstacles…
Mr. DALLEK: Yeah.
CONAN: …to achieve that success.
Mr. DALLEK: Absolutely.
CONAN: Annette, you were about to say…
Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, I was going to say, I think at some level, there's a push to sort of humanize people, as well, because it goes along with that, the idea that there is no - no one actually has blue blood.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Prof. GORDON-REED: People are people, and no matter how - how you rise, you can fall prey to some of the temptations that are part of the human condition. I mean, the Greek tragedy, those kinds of things. I mean, it reaffirms the notion of people's humanity.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get some listeners in on this conversation. All of us seem to have overcome sort of obstacles in our life. It shaped our character. How does that experience help you, or not, relate to other people in our society? 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's begin with - this is Patricia, Patricia calling us from Detroit.
PATRICIA (Caller): Hi. I am calling from Detroit.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: A city that would see itself as a city that has a lot of obstacles to overcome.
PATRICIA: Yes. And I've grown up here. I've lived here all my life with two Detroit public schools, which are experiencing a lot of problems right now as well. I was just saying that I currently worked three jobs. I go to school full time. Neither of my parents are employed right now. I'm supporting my four other siblings. And, you know, my own personal struggles have really just - it's made me see people like Barack Obama and Sotomayor, and it's given me some hope because this is still America. And this is still the place where anything can happen.
CONAN: And obviously, these are difficult times for you, and clearly you're destined for great things.
(Soundbite of laughter)
PATRICIA: Why, thank you. I'm actually in journalism at the University of Michigan, and I hope to do what you do some day.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Well, you could. And I hope it'll take you a while to get out of school before you come and take my job.
(Soundbite of laughter)
PATRICIA: Just another year.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: I'll start saving.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Patricia, thank you very much. Appreciate your phone call.
PATRICIA: Thank you.
CONAN: And Annette Gordon-Reed, what she was saying about President Obama, clearly, that was something that so many people related to during the course of the last presidential campaign, the kid who was basically raised by his grandparents in Hawaii and had to struggle against, well, all kinds of obstacles. Then, also people say, hey, wait a minute. He went to Harvard and to Columbia.
Mr. DALLEK: Yes, yes.
Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, he did all those things, though, after struggling, after rising. I mean, it wasn't an easy road for him. I mean, he did have a private school in Hawaii, but he was a student who, you know, did not feel that he felt in - fit in, in a way, and so he did make it to Harvard, Columbia and Harvard, but it was after a struggle. So even once you get to the Ivy League, at that point, I guess a number of people think that your days out of the elite are over, but that doesn't overcome - it did not overcome his early childhood.
Mr. DALLEK: Yeah, I agree, and I think that the campaign message about hope resonated brilliantly around the country, not only because this has been a time of economic downturn and suffering in the country but because Obama seemed to be genuine about this, that he could preach hope to people, because this is what had carried him to the top echelons.
CONAN: And that brings us to the subject of authenticity, that idea that struggle against adversity builds that character, that uniquely American character, Annette Gordon-Reed, that gives you a story that so many people can relate to.
Ms. GORDON-REED: Yes. It shows that you are genuine as an American and that you are - this is not - nothing has been handed to you. And as the caller said, it sort of reaffirms the American - the notion of what America is supposed to be about.
As I've been traveling the past year, I've encountered so many people in other countries who see his - Obama's rise as an affirmation of the truth of America. Someone said: I didn't think America was real, and the ideal is real, but this was something that proved that it was true for them.
CONAN: Let's talk with Roy, Roy calling us from San Francisco.
ROY (Caller): Hi. You know, we're talking about adversity and struggle, but I, myself, struggled with depression, anger issues and alcoholism and drug abuse for years and years and years and got evicted from my apartment and all that. And I decided that I needed change, and I got into a halfway house and managed to get some money together, get accepted to a local college here in San Francisco, and I graduated with a high GPA, and now I work in finance in the city. And, you know, I never forget where I came from, and I always look to the future to show me a path.
CONAN: And sometimes those obstacles are things that we can put in our own path, not necessarily those that society or circumstances…
ROY: Oh, completely. I mean, they were things that were avoidable, but once you fall prey to them, they just, they can take hold, and it's only through perseverance that we can overcome them.
CONAN: Roy, thank you very much for sharing that story of redemption. Does it help you, by the way, that background, never forgetting where you came from, when you hear the stories?
ROY: Absolutely. You know, it always pays to remember that you've come so far. Regardless of whether or not your struggle was large or small, every little victory is still a victory.
Mr. DALLEK: What's wonderful about it, also, as someone who taught in the University of California for 30 years, that junior college system, community colleges, open the way, open the door for a man like this caller.
CONAN: Right, right. Thanks, Roy, very much. Appreciate it. Good luck to you.
ROY: No problem. Thank you.
CONAN: We're talking today about how our struggles shape our character as individuals, as groups and as a nation. 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington, and we're talking today about the American story of triumph over adversity, a story many of us share. How did your struggles shape your character? Does that experience make it easier to relate to stories about presidential candidates and Supreme Court nominees? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tell us your story on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Just click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Annette Gordon-Reed and Robert Dallek are with us. Annette Gordon-Reed teaches law and history. She won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family."
Robert Dallek wrote biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman. His latest book is "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power."
And Robert Dallek, just those four presidential biographies, people from very different kinds of families - obviously, Kennedy and Roosevelt, the children of very extreme wealth, and well, Johnson and Truman, not so much.
Mr. DALLEK: No, quite so, quite so. They're really more on the Abraham Lincoln side of the equation. But, you know, what was common to all of them in the success they enjoyed - not that they had uniform success in office - but when they were successful, it was because they resonated with masses, numbers of people across the country.
I always think of that anecdote about Franklin Roosevelt that after he died, somebody stopped Mrs. Roosevelt on the street and said to her: I miss the way your husband used to speak to me about my government. And I think it speaks volumes about what people want from a president.
CONAN: Yet his story of polio and his struggles with that…
Mr. DALLEK: Exactly.
CONAN: Well, he declined to exploit that. I mean, he pretended he could stand and walk.
Mr. DALLEK: Well, you know, I think people knew that he had this terrible disease, but they thought he had kind of recovered from it. And it gave the country extraordinary hope at a time of economic collapse. You see, what he did in his personal life, we can do as a nation now. And I think he was, so to speak, the right man at the right place at the right time, and his personal story resonated brilliantly in the midst of that depression.
CONAN: Let's turn to Natalie, Natalie with us from San Antonio.
NATALIE (Caller): Yes.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
NATALIE: Hi, yes. I just wanted to say that I came from a background of working-class people. I was first-generation college. My parents had gone through high school, and my grandparents had only gotten maybe, like, a ninth of 10th-grade education, and…
(Soundbite of coughing)
NATALIE: Excuse me. So we did not have any money. And my parents had always instilled in us that education was the key, and if you worked really hard at whatever you did and had a good education, you could get where you needed to go. And so, as a result, I worked very hard to make sure that I had academic scholarships that paid for four years of college and also allowed me to realize that, you know, even if you are a woman, a minority, you come from roots that didn't have money, you can be what you want to be. You've just got to make the decision and do what you need to do. And you may work a lot harder than some other people, but that's still no excuse because, you know, Barack Obama's presidency and Sonia Sotomayor being, right now, being considered to be a Supreme Court justice just lets you know that the American dream really is true. It's real. I didn't - I mean, I've always heard it and always felt like that, but it really materialized and made it really real to see that presidency and Judge Sotomayor…
CONAN: Had you been skeptical earlier?
NATALIE: I had believed it, but kind of half-heartedly, because as I I've said, I am an African-American woman with a family that had no, you know, not a lot of money. My grandfather was a janitor. My mother and my father both were blue-collar workers. You know, our hope - when I say first generation, I mean, me and all my cousins. We were first-generation college. So…
CONAN: Sounds like you had some strong parents, too.
NATALIE: Yeah. Well, my mother and father always taught us no matter what you have, you make it work. And they instilled in us to have strong ethics and do right, and we had a strong religious background. So, you know, I'm just proud that I was able to work my way up. And I teach my daughter that, because she'll have it a lot easier than I did. Both my husband and I both have college degrees. We are professionals, and we'll be able to provide for her. But we are committed to making her participate as far as earning some money to put herself through college because I don't want her to lose that.
I think that strengthens your character so when things aren't as well as you - you know, as - you know, when the stock market crashes, or when you lose everything, you're not devastated. You know that it will get better because it's been like this before, and it's not going to kill you.
CONAN: Natalie, thanks very much, and good luck to your daughter.
NATALIE: Thank you.
CONAN: Appreciate the phone call. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Mitch, Mitch with us from Tustin in California.
MITCH (Caller): Hi. I called because I have a - I have leprosy, a primary case, and they asked me - I was curious because it's a really - having something that - like leprosy, because it puts you in a totally different world…
MITCH: …that's quite a disconnect from, for example, politics and social interaction in general. It becomes - like, occasionally, I'll watch the news, but I try not to because my entire life is constantly, you know, checking up on myself to make sure I don't cut myself or injure myself in some possible way.
CONAN: So that this all seems a little beside the point to you?
MITCH: It just seems - I understand it's, like, what's occurring. I understand the idea of someone - I mean, I had my health at one time, and I understand success. It's just - and I understand people like Sotomayor earning their way to - I mean, earning their way from their - you know, lifting up by their boots, I guess, the straps of their boots.
MITCH: It's just - it just doesn't change, ultimately, anything. I mean, no matter what, no matter who's the president, who's the vice president, I'll always be, you know, kind of - considered unclean, and so…
CONAN: Yeah, Mitch, first of all, our sympathies for your problems. And you're right, it's not going to go away no matter what stories we tell here on the radio or anywhere else. We wish you the best of luck.
MITCH: Why, thank you. And you, too.
CONAN: Bye-bye. And Annette Gordon-Reed, that reminds us, no matter how uplifting this all is, there will be many people always excluded.
Ms. GORDON-REED: Absolutely, absolutely, because of economic problems, because of illness, things of that nature that just can't be overcome. And at some level, there's been a number of writings about people, particularly people who have cancer, this sort of notion of fighting and that the people who don't survive haven't fought or haven't tried is a little unfair because illness puts you in a different category altogether, when your body turns against you. And that's not in the same thing - same level of trying to get the education or the other things that the callers are talking about. Mitch and other people are in a special, special place.
CONAN: Let's go next to Marwa(ph), Marwa with us from Stockton in California.
MARWA (Caller): Hi, Neal, how are you?
CONAN: I'm well, thanks.
MARWA: Okay, I just wanted to share my story. I'm - excuse me. I'm an immigrant from Iraq who came to the United States in 1990 with my family. My father had come here to get his Ph.D. in statistics. And right after we came, the Gulf War started, so we were cut off from any sort of scholarship that we would have had from Iraq.
So my parents were in America with two kids, one on the way, and absolutely no money. So we grew up - I grew up in public housing, and I just - I saw the struggle that my parents went through, you know, every day, just him trying to get an education, and then eventually things started to pick up once he got his Ph.D.. But just, you know, with my humble roots, and the fact that education was really pushed on me by my parents, I, you know, did the hard work, and I just graduated from pharmacy school and starting my pharmacy residency as of now. But, you know, my parents with five kids still work 10 hours a day. But it really shows you that the American dream is real, and it's applicable to everyone in the world, not just Americans, but immigrants, as well.
CONAN: Well Marwa, that's such an inspiring story, and there's so many people coming from Iraq in more recent years…
CONAN: …who are facing that same struggle that you did. But again, other Americans can look back and say yeah, we landed at Ellis Island, and we made it, too. Thanks very much for the phone call.
MARWA: No it's - thank you.
CONAN: And good luck with the pharmacy.
MARWA: Oh, I thank you very much.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: And Robert Dallek, this is a universal story. This is the America, the melting pot. This is the ship sailing underneath the Statue of Liberty.
Mr. DALLEK: Yeah, because so many millions and millions of Americans, if they're not first-generation, they are second or third-generation immigrant families. And I think also that President Obama's appeal to the public partly rested on the fact that his was an immigration narrative. It wasn't the slave narrative. It was the immigration story. And I think this had a kind of resonance for millions of people in this country. It appealed to them greatly.
CONAN: And, Annette Gordon-Reed, I wanted to ask you how this myth, this story - it's both a truism and a myth, I suppose. But how this all plays into the politics of affirmative action, where people feel that one group is getting a helping hand up? Of course, that group also suffered more than any other group in American history.
Ms. GORDON-REED: Well, it's complicated because we're still trying to figure out what merit means. If you have a person who is overcoming some of the obstacles that people have talked about calling in who people who have poor backgrounds and so forth and that person does pretty well on the SATs or on tests, and then you have another person who has every single advantage that they could have - could imagine from the very beginning and that person does better on a test, are those people similarly situated? How do we reward merit in the country? And so, it is problematic.
If you think it in terms of raw scores and basic numbers, just sort of a much more cold calculation, it causes a problem. But if you take into account, you know, what the person's life story has been. And that's what I think affirmative action tries to do, certainly in the context of schools, then it complicates the picture. But it - this notion of merit and rising, the story really does make the affirmative action story a bit problematic. But - and I think we're still trying to work all of this stuff out.
CONAN: And where you leave off with equal opportunity, is there equal opportunity, is there equal justice? Questions that will not end with this generation, Robert Dallek.
Mr. DALLEK: No. No.
CONAN: They haven't been answered in the first however many generations of Americans.
Mr. DALLEK: No, it will be debated, disputed for years and years to come. And I think what the country needs to recognize is that there are imperfections in our system. You know, we - I remember what my teacher, Richard Hoffsteader(ph), once said that America is the only country in the world that believes it was born perfect and strives for improvement.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DALLEK: So, you know - but we are imperfect. And I think people need to accept that. And there is no ideal way of dealing with these things. And so, we blunder along. But we have a great tradition of flying by the seat of our pants. And politicians and presidents do that as well.
CONAN: Robert Dallek is with us here in Studio 3A. His book coming out next year is "The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope." Also with us is Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of law at New York Law School, a professor of history at Rutgers University, and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Story - Family," excuse me. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And here's an email from Marie(ph) in Reno. My husband and I both had very hard childhoods and believe this helped to make us empathic - empathetic and interesting people. We are afraid if we are successful in having the solid, loving family we worked so hard for that our kids will lack the depth of character that comes from struggle. And, Annette Gordon-Reed, that's another classic American story. You kids don't know how good you have it today.
Ms. GORDON-REED: Oh, absolutely. In television shows and stories and so forth, it's the generation that struggled is portrayed as the strong one and the kids are always weak and spoiled. And so, that is a concern that everybody has and people work to try to make people understand, their children understand what struggle really means. But that's always the danger, once you get to that level, what happens to the next generation of people?
CONAN: And, Robert Dallek, I can't remember how many times in history that -particularly, if you read about the 1930s, how others regarded Americans as soft and no longer the products of struggle, no longer as hard enough to compete with, well, the Aryan Sons, just to pick one example.
Mr. DALLEK: Yes. Yeah. Well, I mean, this was one of Franklin Roosevelt's great challenges that fascism, Nazism, communism, socialism, they were all out there competing with America's capitalist system and democracy. And he had to sell the world on the idea that America was still vital and a viable system, and he succeeded.
Ms. GORDON-REED: Well, he certainly succeeded through the war, obviously.
Mr. DALLEK: Yeah.
Ms. GORDON-REED: The people who thought - who mistook Americans as soft found out what the real story was.
CONAN: Dan(ph) is on the line from Phoenix.
DAN (Caller): Hi. Can you hear me?
CONAN: You're on the air. Go ahead.
DAN: All right, great. Thanks, Neal. Yeah, I have a story that, you know, it's a legitimate story. It's my story. And I use it when necessary to sort of establish my bona fides with people and just for our purposes, the real basics of it is that, you know, my dad died when I was five months old, left my mom behind with four kids. She remarried and, you know, had some more kids. And my step dad was, you know, very frequently unemployed, had an income that had to be divided eight ways. And we all paid our way through colleges, all very difficult for us, but we made it.
The thing that I think is really interesting, though, is that I personally don't really feel very comfortable being put on the spot to share that with people. Though I'm often kind of drawn or pushed into situations where it seems to be necessary in order to establish your bona fides. I'll give one example. There's a whole bunch, but I think this one is a good one. It was my wife's family, you know, they don't have as much money as I do now. So when I was first getting to know them it seemed to be necessary to share a lot of these details and disclose a lot of these things for them to believe that, you know, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, so to speak, in order for them to accept me.
And now, it's like, I mean, it's something, you know, all of us, we have these discussions about authenticity, but the necessity to share these stories sometimes gives me a feeling there's something inauthentic or impersonal that's being required.
CONAN: Well, it's also - it strikes me and I thought Annette Gordon-Reed might be interesting on this, that the bona fides you had to provide were, yes, I came up poor, too, and I had to fight my way to some sort of degree of success. It's not, yes, here's my heritage and you can see that I'm related to the Duke (unintelligible).
Mr. DALLEK: Mm-hmm.
Ms. GORDON-REED: Mm-hmm.
DAN: Yeah, I agree. I mean, it does seem to be sort of the - they're like the social requirement.
CONAN: Indeed. Interesting. Annette?
Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, I was going to say, we're a much more confessional culture than we were in the past. And so…
CONAN: And we talk show hosts say, thank heavens.
Prof. GORDON-REED: Well, yes, yes. But, you know, we talk, I mean, we talk -we're talking earlier about FDR and his - and polio, and JFK actually overcame a lot of adversities, as Mr. Dallek well knows, with his illnesses during his life. But that wouldn't be something that he would've talked about because people just - we talk about more things now than we did in the past. And the sort of reticence that private people have about sharing sometimes bumps up against this notion of you must show all the wounds.
CONAN: Hmm. Dan, thanks very much for the call. Interesting.
DAN: Thank you for having me.
CONAN: And we'd like to thank our guests today, Robert Dallek, here with us in the studio, presidential historian. His most recent book is "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power." Thanks very much.
Mr. DALLEK: My pleasure.
CONAN: And Annette Gordon-Reed, with us from our bureau in New York. Her book is "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family," winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. As always, we appreciate your time today.
Prof. GORDON-REED: Glad to be here.
CONAN: It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.