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Staying Focused on Afghanistan; Corporations and Social Justice; Delta Variant Spread Growing; Interview with Roy Weathers and John Miller; Interview with Rodrigo Garcia. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 30, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an American tragedy. People are dying and will die who don't have to die.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Frustration grows, as the Delta variant wreaks havoc across the country.
I talk to Dr. Reed Tuckson from the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 about the mounting pressure to get vaccinated.
Then: As Afghanistan descends into chaos, the world can't afford to turn away. So says my guests Saad Mohseni, head of Afghanistan's largest media
JOHN MILLER, CEO, DENNY'S: Look, forget the politics. Focus on solving these problems.
GOLODRYGA: Two CEOs tell Hari Sreenivasan what it will take for corporations to embrace social justice.
And inside the last days of literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his wife, Mercedes, or, to the author, mom and dad. I talk to Rodrigo Garcia
about his "Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
The Delta variant is surging in the U.S. and around the world. And it's even more troubling than we first thought. That's according to an internal
document from the CDC. The U.S. public health agency now believes the strain is as contagious as the chicken pox and that it likely increases the
risk of severe illness and hospitalization, this as President Biden upped the ante with a number of measures to get more Americans vaccinated,
including a requirement that all federal workers must be vaccinated or face strict protocols.
While vaccine disparities between racial and ethnic groups have improved in recent weeks, black and Hispanic communities still lag behind.
As we know, these groups have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Joining me now from Atlanta, Georgia, to unpack all of this is Dr. Reed Tuckson. He's a founding member of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 and
former public health commissioner of Washington, D.C.
Doctor, welcome to the program. We can't have you on, on a more crucial day right now, as we are delving into these revealing documents from the CDC.
And what really stood out to me was the vaccinated individuals now infected with Delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are
unvaccinated. Is this a game-changer, in your opinion?
DR. REED TUCKSON, BLACK COALITION AGAINST COVID: It is certainly significant.
And it is certainly something that now requires all of us to redouble our commitment to protecting the health and safety and the lives of those whom
we encounter as we move throughout society. So, yes, it is a game-changer, in the sense that even now that I am fully vaccinated, and have been so for
quite a while, I am wearing my mask when I'm going indoors or around other people.
I think it is so important that I -- now that I understand and learn that it is possible for me to transmit unwittingly and unknowingly this virus to
someone else, even though I am protected from serious injury, hospitalization and death, I have a responsibility to others around me.
And I intend to act on that moral imperative. I will be wearing my mask when I am indoors with other people who do not share my own household.
GOLODRYGA: As a public health official and physician yourself, I'm curious to get your take on how the CDC has been handling this.
Obviously, we say we follow the science. Science changes. As we learn new things, as we learn about more variants, we follow up on that. But there is
confusion within the country among those who were vaccinated and questioning why they should now wear a mask, those who are not vaccinated
and don't want to wear a mask now saying, see, neither work.
What is your response to them and how would you rate how the CDC has been handling this these moving pieces?
TUCKSON: I have nothing but empathy and sympathy for the dedicated workers at the CDC and other health professionals who are trying to fight this.
You have stated the issue very clearly. The science does change. We learn. We grow. That is what intelligent people do. We study things. We get data.
We reevaluate. Only a fool would stay locked into a position when you have new information, important information that will change your recommendation
And so, given that there are so many people who are working overtime to sow the seeds of confusion and mistrust, who are looking to blame and point
fingers, the people at the CDC are almost in a no-win situation.
But let's just be very clear and very specific. We have learned. We have new information. We now are communicating that information to the American
public. And rational people will use information and modify their behavior as the science tells us. There's nothing wrong with that. And they should
not be shamed because we are in fact learning and growing and have new knowledge.
GOLODRYGA: You talk about rational people, and only a fool would believe certain things.
In this country, people are entitled to be fools, right? And we're now at a crossroads, where even CNN is reporting that the president, among his
closest allies, is frustrated that more people are not getting vaccinated right now.
Do you support this sort of both carrot-and-stick approach by perhaps offering those who are unvaccinated $100, and also what we're seeing on the
corporate side and even on the federal side by mandating -- not mandating, but as close to mandating requiring vaccines for employees? Do you think
that's the right approach?
TUCKSON: Bianna, if we have learned anything in this pandemic, it is that we will need multiple strategies together, comprehensive, across-the-
We're going to need -- some people will respond to incentives. Some people will only respond if there are mandates. For others, mandates will be --
will push them even further away from being vaccinated. There are trusted messengers of a variety of sorts who can transmit the message that some
people will hear. Other people will need to hear other messages.
The point is this. Let's look at what's at stake. What's at stake is the very survival of hundreds of thousands of people in the United States
alone. What's at stake is the health and survival of our children.
So, whatever it takes. And it will take a variety of approaches. And so, is the president correct in being frustrated? Of course he is. But I think
probably any of us who are fighting for human survival and life are frustrated is with the amount of energy and effort that is being spent to
confuse, to politicize, to obfuscate, and to really just make this as hard a fight to win as it as possible.
It is very difficult, Bianna, to understand how people can be so invested in supporting the death of their country men and women and children.
GOLODRYGA: And you have a very important role that you have taken on now in not only sending this message to all Americans, but in particular to
Americans of color.
And I want to just put up some statistics; 48 percent of white Americans have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine in the states that
actually are tracking this. And in terms of colored Americans, the number of black Americans in this country and other -- and Hispanics, it's lower.
It's at 36 percent.
What are -- what should be done to get that number up and to break through not only just the noise of politics, but the access that many colored
Americans and minorities in this country don't have.
TUCKSON: I think that what we -- first of all, look at the bigger picture, which is not going to be solved in the short run, but we can certainly make
And that is this. We have to overcome the distrust, the historical and contemporary distrust that people of color have with the government, with
elites, with the medical care system. These seeds of distrust have been sown in our culture for generation after generation.
But, unfortunately, they are watered every day, so that, when people of color see the active engagement of voter disenfranchisement, when we see
the elements of unfairness in our criminal justice system, all of those things bleed over into health care and into the decisions that people make
Secondly, we do know that there is available -- easy available access to vaccines. That's not the issue. The issue is, how do we overcome the
politicization, the tribalization? How do we overcome the elements of the social media that is working overtime to seed the field with anger, with
distrust and misinformation?
And then, finally, we have work that we are doing and must do urgently. And that is to help people of color embrace science and innovation.
Unfortunately, we are reaping the seeds of generations of underfunding in the education system of people of color in this country, and certainly
undereducation in science, and so that this enormous innovation, this technological genius of a breakthrough of a vaccine developed so
effectively and so quickly ought to be celebrated.
And, instead, it is looked with concern and distrust and derision. We have work to do.
GOLODRYGA: You have work to do.
And you look at the work that was already put into the rollout anticipating that there would be this distrust, the warranted distrust, given the
history of health care and vaccines and the black community in this country, the first person who was vaccinated in America was a black nurse.
One of the people who developed, helped develop the vaccine was a black doctor.
And yet you look at the history there, specifically with the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study, the Ad Council has just -- which works hand in
hand with the federal government, has just put out an ad specifically talking about this. Let's watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were a number of opportunities for the men to receive treatment, and they were very intentionally barred.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And everyone involved in that study wanted it to go untreated until their death. Their body would then be sent to be autopsied
to see the effect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Around 1947, penicillin became widely accepted and widely used. The doctors of the study prevented the men in the study from
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first thing those doctors should have done for these gentlemen was to make sure that each and every one was treated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: How has the history of the Tuskegee study played into this distrust and the low number of black Americans and Americans of color who
have been vaccinated thus far?
TUCKSON: It is almost impossible to overemphasize the impact of the Tuskegee study generation after generation in the minds of African-
Americans. And so it is a real issue and a fundamental issue.
But let's be very clear about the chance that -- what you didn't have a chance to show in that clip. We at the Black Coalition Against COVID were
producers, along with the Ad Council and the JOY Collective, for what you just showed.
And we had a reunion of those family members and a celebration of their message just three days ago in Washington, D.C. And here's what they said,
every single one of them are vaccinated. And what they are saying to the black community, in loud as possible terms, is that the point of the
Tuskegee study was that black people were denied access to a drug that would have saved their lives.
It makes no sense to use the Tuskegee study as an excuse to deny yourself today access to the vaccine that would save your life. They are very
articulate about that. And, hopefully, the more we can spread the video of those family members talking to the black community, we can at least take
this issue off the table as a reason not to get vaccinated.
They want America to get vaccinated, in honor of their loved ones who suffered so terribly because of the outrageous behavior of the past.
GOLODRYGA: I so appreciate your voice on this issue and the impact that it is making throughout the country, in particular in communities of color in
I was just on Twitter, and I saw you there as well, part of an ad, and you were talking about the need for more research and more attention, I guess,
towards treatments as well, right, and the enhanced monoclonal antibody treatment that you were talking about in this video, where it's not just
about the vaccines and masks, but now we're also talking about how we can help those who are now infected and are seriously ill.
TUCKSON: I'm so glad you paid attention to that, because we don't realize, many -- most Americans don't realize that there are drugs now, if we can
catch this disease early, that can make a significant difference in survival once you are infected by this virus.
And so these monoclonal antibodies are very important. And we need to let people know that, once you become symptomatic, immediately call your
physician, so that you can find out whether or not in fact you are eligible and are a candidate to use one of these drugs. It's not a complete magic
bullet, but it is certainly very effective. And it will certainly make a difference in extraordinary number of cases in whether you live or die,
once you are infected with this virus.
But let's also remember and keep our minds totally focused. The number one most important thing is to get vaccinated. And, number two, the most
important thing you can do, wear your mask. Let's get out of this it's all about me, I can do whatever I want, and I don't care about you thinking.
This is horrific. And it bodes not only poorly for the future of our fight against COVID, but imagine what kind of a nation we're going to have once
people have decided that they are more important than the common good.
This is a frightening moment in American history. And it's going to take love and compassion from all of us to turn this around.
GOLODRYGA: And not being selfish, right? We want to get our kids back to school. We want our communities to be safe. We want our communities of
color to have access to vaccines. We want more parity.
And all of that starts with focusing not just on ourselves at home, but on our neighbors and as a collective.
Doctor, thank you so much for all the work that you continue to do to make sure that you are spreading this message: Put your mask on. Get a vaccine.
It's as simple as that.
TUCKSON: Thank you so much.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you.
Well, as vaccination efforts push ahead across Europe, some nations are taking steps to impose vaccine passports and mandates in an effort to
protect their citizens from the more transmissible variants. But not everyone's on board.
Correspondent Fred Pleitgen has the details.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Unrest on the streets of Paris, the crowd protesting new vaccine mandates put in place in an
effort to stop a surge in coronavirus infections.
But, despite the mayhem, France's president says he won't budge and that he's had it with people refusing vaccination.
"What is your freedom worth if you say to me, I don't want to be vaccinated, but if, tomorrow, you infect your father, your mother or me?"
France just passed a law mandating so-called virus passes or green passes for visits to restaurants and for domestic travel. One reason why the
government remains steadfast in the face of often violent protests, the vast majority in France endorses the stricter measures, experts say.
MICHEL WIEVIORKA, SOCIOLOGIST, EHESS: These people speak only in their own private name. They don't take into account the collectivity, the fact that
protecting oneself is also protecting the whole society.
PLEITGEN: As that Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads fast, countries across Europe are turning to green passes and in some cases vaccination
mandates to get people protected.
Starting in early August, Italy will require green passes for all indoor hospitality. The passes provide proof that people have either been
vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or have a negative PCR test no older than 48 hours.
Germany, Austria, Denmark, Portugal, and others are already using varying forms of green passes for access to dining and other aspects of public
PLEITGEN (on camera): Here in Germany, for instance, we have what's called the digital vaccination certificate. It looks like this. And people who
have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection just have a lot less hassle getting into bars and restaurants and even
traveling around Europe.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): More and more countries are turning to green passes. And while thousands recently protested against vaccination
requirements outside the Greek Parliament in Athens, at restaurants nearby, diners were enjoying dinner, but only for those who are fully vaccinated.
GOLODRYGA: Fred Pleitgen reporting there.
Well, among those being offered vaccines in the U.S. are some 200 Afghan interpreters and their families. They arrived in Virginia today, the first
group to receive special immigration visas after helping American forces during the war.
Underscoring the persistent danger back in Afghanistan, the U.N. says a police guard was killed in an attack on its compound today in Herat City.
Watching this all play out is Saad Mohseni. He heads the biggest media organization in Afghanistan, the MOBY Group, which includes Tolo TV.
His latest article for the digital newsletter Air Mail entitled "The View From Here" gives a stark warning of what Afghans stand to lose if the
Taliban seize power.
He's joining me now from Greece.
Thank you so much, Saad Mohseni, for joining us.
First, I have to get your reaction, when you see Afghans arriving in the U.S. that first group of those who helped in assisting the U.S. over the
past two decades in Afghanistan now seeking shelter and a new life for their families in the U.S.
SAAD MOHSENI, OWNER, TOLO TV: Well, it's wonderful news for the interpreters, and they do need the protection and these visas, obviously,
for themselves and their families.
But I also ask, what about the other 35 million Afghans who are going to be stuck inside of Afghanistan, as the fighting rages across the country?
GOLODRYGA: You have written an important piece on this, on those back home in Afghanistan.
And you say that Afghanistan will not be who the Taliban may think it is at this point, some 20 years later, with the resurgence of the Taliban. What
do you mean by that? How has the country changed and how can they resist another insurgence from the Taliban?
MOHSENI: Well, Afghanistan is a vastly different country. We have the youngest population outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Median age is 18. The
majority of Afghans are under the age of 20.
Most Afghans were now educated. Some 65, 70 percent of under 30s hardly remember the Taliban times. They are used to media. They're used to social
media. They're used to mobile telephones.
And they're much more progressive than they were and much more modern. It's a vastly urbanized country. Obviously, I mean, there's not -- they're not
going to be able to pick up a gun basically and fight. But I think they will resist in other ways.
And they're going to refuse to accept a Taliban-style regime in a country that really has moved on from the late 1990s.
GOLODRYGA: I want to read from your piece.
You write: "Afghanistan will not go back to the country it was under the Taliban. It now has the youngest population outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
Afghans now live in cities and towns. The majority of our youths are literate and receiving an education and have access to the Internet. More
Afghans than ever accept the rights of women and minorities. The country's media revolution has forever changed the way Afghans see themselves and see
each other and how they engage with the wider world."
I understand the point you're making there. It's much more difficult now to put the genie back in the bottle. But I have to say, it's hard to be
optimistic after seeing the images and the reports of the Taliban coming back at that the pace it has and the brutality that it has used.
Many may say that or some may say that this is a different Taliban, but how can you be so sure?
MOHSENI: No, they're definitely not different.
The way that they have treated women in the areas that they have taken over, the way that they have served on media operations, the way that they
have executed their perceived enemies, they're not very different. Taliban 2.0 is very similar to the first Taliban.
I think the Americans have made their decision to leave. And I think most people accept that. It's just the transition and how they have managed this
withdrawal that concerns us and hastily executed plan, where they effectively have left the country within three months. And the transition
has been managed very, very badly. And it's very disappointing to see.
So I think we have been left in a lurch. And certainly we are very worried and not as -- not optimistic at all about the future prospects of the
GOLODRYGA: Saad, we have spent time now focusing on the transition and the future of the country from a military perspective and from a political
But you bring a different angle, and that is covering life there among Afghan citizens through the lens of journalism, and the incredible
reporting that has been done, and the programming, the wide array of channels and programs and journalists that have been able to flourish over
the past two decades.
Can you just give our viewers a sense of what they may not know has happened within the country?
MOHSENI: Well, the people have changed. And it's very organic, and it's very Afghan. It's not an imposed change.
It's come from within the country itself. The interesting thing is that, for the Americans, it may have been a stalemate, but it was -- for us, it
was precious time to really grow and develop. And the presence of international troops or just the interest of the international community
allowed, for example, the media to flourish, which we have.
And to a large extent, we have been able to sort of amplify positive messages in terms of what our values mean in terms of treating women and
minorities. We have reported on things, obviously, and that's news. But we have also managed to facilitate positive social change in the country.
A young Afghan today is very different to a young man, a young Afghan in 2001. And that's really across the country. It's in the villages. It's in
the cities. It's in our smaller towns. So the people have changed, for sure.
But without the protection and without the interest of the international community, it's very difficult to be optimistic.
GOLODRYGA: It's so important that you bring us this piece that you have written and talk about how lives have changed there. Just seeing images of
young girls playing sports and going to school, it's a different country. And it's so important that we focus on what we can do as a collective to
make sure that that blossoming continues in these challenging months and years ahead, unfortunately.
Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time. Stay safe.
MOHSENI: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, earlier, we spoke about bridging racial divides.
And now we want to take a look at how big business is tackling the problem. Over 100 CEOs have come together and formed CEO Action for Racial Equity.
Their goal? Addressing systemic racism and creating lasting change through public policy.
The CEO of that initiative, Roy Weathers, and Denny's CEO John Miller are determined not to let politics stand in their way.
Here they are speaking to Hari Sreenivasan about how they plan to achieve that.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks.
Roy Weathers, John Miller, thank you both for joining us.
Roy Weathers, let me just rattle off a quick list of some of the things that your CEOs and the organization kind of came up with together to say
that we can tackle these problems. And it was the digital divide, declaring racism a public health crisis, policing misconduct, telehealth, food
equity, early childhood education, decriminalizing poverty, expanding financial access.
Now, these are all usually the purviews of state and federal legislatures, right? I mean, what -- why do you think that your group is going to be able
to solve some of this or accelerate progress toward it?
ROY WEATHERS, CEO, CEO ACTION FOR RACIAL EQUITY: John and many of our other corporations employ hundreds of thousands of employees throughout the
And so our ability to know our state legislature, governors, city and city council and mayors, because we work in those communities is a natural fit.
And so we do our work internally. I call it the think tank part. And then the do tank part is really, how do we support and collaborate? Many times,
encouraging bipartisan behavior is something that's missing. And that's one of the things that we pride ourselves in doing is saying, stay at the
table, continue to work on these issues, do it in a collaborative way to get an outcome.
And we -- in business, obviously, policy is not new to business. Regulation and the regulatory environment is not new to business. What we're doing is
turning some of our attention, our talent on the area of societal change and racial equity and equality.
SREENIVASAN: So, Mr. Miller, some of these are going to sound like progressive or liberal causes.
And in the polarized country that you are operating all of these restaurants in today, does a manager in one location or a franchisee say,
you know what, this really shouldn't be your business, let's just work on getting pancakes, waffles and dessert on the table and keep customers
happy, and let's leave the politics to the politicians? Why are you, corporate office, talking about these things and doing these things?
MILLER: I think brands taking stands is dangerous territory. Historically, people said, we're staying out of politics, we have constituencies, we have
guests, we have shareholders that are from all these different and disparate backgrounds that don't agree on politics.
But, at the same time, I think there's a certain mood in the country that says, but we do need problem solvers. Business leaders tend to have people
with all these disparate backgrounds working together side by side. And so I think, more and more, the mood of the country is, can we do things that
bring us together in a powerful, united way?
United, we stand. Divided, we fall and fail. And that's true of our country, our families, or anything you apply a division of logic to. And so
now, more than ever, we need to step up and say, look, forget the politics. Focus on solving these problems. Can we come together and apply some reform
where it's needed?
We're always put -- someone will stick a microphone in front of you and say, do you back the blue or do you back BLM or do you -- any number of
ways which within a sound bite can divide people, rather than unite them.
And so I always say, I am for solutions that bring people together. And if we can just sort of move the narrative there, people tend to drop their
guard and go, you're right. How can we solve these problems together?
How can we do something powerful through collaboration together? We're really not worried about the politics these days.
SREENIVASAN: So, Roy, for example, on digital divide or telehealth, how would you measure that sort of success? How would you know that this
problem is moving away from a problem and toward a solution because of your involvement?
WEATHERS: Whether you're talking about the digital divide or whether you're talking about telehealth, that gets to the heart of unique
challenges in the communities.
Primary health care in certain neighborhoods, for example, is a well- documented, long, many, many years of well-laid-out reasoning and observation. We believe that there are aspects of telehealth that starts to
move that forward and close that gap, as evidenced by what we had to do in the pandemic, right?
When you couldn't get to a doctor, you actually had to rely on telehealth. And we saw and we continue to see that it was a meaningful adjustment that
we made that could help the communities.
And so, from our perspective, we look at the data, we talk to the community, we talk and listen to what policymakers are thinking and we look
for those gaps and opportunities to say, look, here is what the data is telling us. And here is where we think the opportunity is with Telehealth.
When you talk about the digital divide, I mean, from an educational perspective, just start there. All the challenges that we saw firsthand
around kids and certain communities not being able to connect and receive basic education because they didn't have the broadband capabilities. Those
are obvious. Just obvious problems. I mean, and so, our area is what through the racial equity lens through a data-led analysis, listening,
collaborating, where do we think we can help make a difference? And that is where we're focusing.
SREENIVASAN: So Roy, for example, let's tackle decriminalizing poverty. What kinds of policies would you want to be supportive of? Where would you
try to get involved and, you know, try to tip the scales, if you will, on making progress here?
WEATHERS: Yes. So, decriminalizing poverty area is really about fines and fees. And so, if you look at the country there are a number of states. And
there is, you know, legislation in flight, for example, at the federal level where fines and fees impacting one's ability to maintain their
driver's license, for example. We're not talking about serious crimes. We're talk about parking tickets and other things that ultimately impact
one's ability to continue to work. You find that those hit, those who are - - who have less economic means harder than those who have the ability to pay.
And so, scaling and looking around the country, which is part of what we do in business, we do analysis. We do analytics. And understand where things
are working that benefits the community, benefits the state the city, the municipality and helping to scale those in other areas of the country are -
- that's the kind of work wore doing.
And so, when we talk about decriminalizing poverty, we're essentially saying, if you don't have the means to pay your parking ticket and there
are ramifications to that, that starts to circular event around your life, should we pause and look at that? Those are the types of things that we're
focused on there.
SREENIVASAN: So, John Miller, what does that mean for your involvement as a company and perhaps your involvement as an individual? Because
unfortunately we are in a system that rewards access to those who contribute more.
So, whether it is a corporate donation to a political action committee or individual donation to a senator, that's how you get your voice heard in
America. And pardon my cynicism. But -- so, does that mean that Denny's will start making contributions to candidates or groups that support these
JOHN MILLER, CEO, DENNY'S: Many companies like ours have lot of experience where we've had our own corporate social responsibility contributions. We
have, you know, deep efforts with our entire team engaged from our headquarters and throughout our entire franchise community in a number of
areas that matter a lot to us. So, one of those is food inequities.
So, we are a fairly significant contributor every year in raising money for the No Kid Hungry Campaign but also to end childhood hunger in America we
focus a lot of on early learning centers locally and then we focus a lot on giving access to education through our Hungry for Education program. And I
don't say those things to sort of give credits to Denny's.
A lot of big corporations do lot of great things. I say that to say we know a lot about those areas. So, we can contribute influence on what success
looks like and programs that work really, really well and seem to be moving the numbers a lot. And we can also give evidence from quality research that
we've funded and supported through the years on programs that fail.
So, when it comes to the CEO action effort, setting the agenda on the top priorities for the nation, we're able to influence in a positive way
through our fellows the kinds of programs that should be taken out to more of a national problem-solving effort. I don't think any one corporation has
enough money to buy policy change. It has to be done through influence and narrative towards solutions that actually work.
SREENIVASAN: John, I know that, you know, 1994 there was kind of a painful chapter. You had to pay up on a class action lawsuit. It was $50 million.
You started a racial sensitivity training program over the treatment of black customers. What have you learned in that time? And what is the thing
that, you know, triggered for you maybe after the death of George Floyd or how this reckoning conversation is happening in the country that there
needs to be more done or take some of those lessons that you have learned and scale it larger?
MILLER: Well, first, going back to 1994, that was obviously a long time ago. There are number of employees that were here then and lived through it
and lived through the pain of it and would say that even then, that did not represent the spirit of our organization and they are quite proud of the
heritage over time, but those stints were quite unfortunate and I would say probably fairly well mismanaged and the records stands for itself.
But today, the whole goal is to be a model organization as a result of that. So, out of the broken places can come tremendous strength and
commitment. And we are very, very proud of our workforce diversity, our DEI Department, their efforts, it is quite extraordinarily. And we think it is
important to be able to, you know, demonstrate for people how things should be done. So, where we fall short, you know, we humbly continue to strive
and close the gap. But we are a company that arrived a little ahead of many other companies that our multi-cultural groups represent the majority of
our customer base.
So, the majority of our customers are minorities. And we think that our workforce should reflect that. We have nearly an 80 percent minority
workforce at manager level but more than 50 percent minority workforce. Our board is 55 percent people of color. 44 percent women. Our system is 96
franchised owned. Of those 1,600 plus franchised restaurants, half of those are owned by minorities.
So, in terms of being able to provide a starting place, a restart for people that had been imprisoned, a place to build a career, a place to jump
off from a career and get a good start, a place to build ownership through franchising, we'd like to be model in all of those areas to demonstrate
what good corporate governance should look like in terms of philanthropy and giving back and community investment. We'd like to be model there as
So, I think that, you know, out of that history comes a deep commitment that runs throughout the enterprise. It is literally who we are. These are
not debated topics. These are not strivings of someday we'd like to be kind of ideals. These are here and now, with every decision, every day, running
every shift every day, a makeup of Denny's.
SREENIVASAN: Roy, how do you council companies on the idea of brands taking stands? Because even in just the last six months, we have seen a
backlash where a company said it is going to put its neck out there do the right thing, and nothing more than that. But in this political climate,
they were penalized by customers and then eventually shareholders for doing that.
WEATHERS: My simple message is, there is a lot of common ground. There was work to be done. The corporate community, when they look at their own
principles, when they look at who they are as organizations, being involved if their communities matched up perfectly with their agenda and their
mission. And so, what we've done is we've tried to come together in a way that we think is constructive and where we can make contributions. We try
to stay out of the political fray, as you would imagine and focus, on as John, the said the things that we all agree need to be done, that make up a
A healthy society is good for business. It's good for the communities. And so, it is not easy. My hats off. It is challenging, but I wake up every day
impressed and inspired by the companies that continue to say, we need to be part of the solution. We don't know exactly how to get there, but we want
to stay at the table and we want to continue to move this forward.
WEATHERS: You know, John, I want to ask, you said earlier that you take this approach as a problem solver. And in a way, when I look at the very
need for this organization to exist or this fellowship to exist, I wonder if it is a reflection of the fact that our existing system is not working,
is that we have elected people who cannot do this basic task that you and many other business people have to on a daily basis is figure out some sort
of common ground and move forward and get to the next day.
MILLER: Oh, no doubt. The practice, the habit, the tribalism of partisan politics exists. We'd have to have our head in the sand to suggest that's
not so. But our job is not to disparage one side or another. Each of us as business leaders have our own biases. We have our own views. We have our
own preferences and we have our own voting habits.
But at the same time, we do believe that the role of government is fairly well-defined. And if we stick to the knitting, public education, national
defense, whatever the item might be, it requires people to come together and see to it that those items are well looked after. And there is a lot of
common ground there. We want to see our children properly educated. We don't want people left behind that have not participated at the level of
averages. And we want to see problems solved. We want to see solutions to that.
The cost of not solving it, whichever side of the aisle you are on, is much higher than turning and facing it and addressing the challenges. So, again,
I think if we focus on problem solving and not partisanship, there is a solution in there. And I'm actually optimistic and hopeful that that tied
turns in our nation.
WEATHERS: All right. Roy Weathers. John Miller, thank you both for your time.
WEATHERS: Thank you, Hari.
MILLER: Thank you for having us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: More problem solving and less partisanship is something we definitely need in this world.
And finally, tonight, imagine writing a memoir detailing the last days of your parents' lives. It's not an easy task. Now, imagine one of your
parents is the literary giant and Nobel prize-winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It's an even more daunting task. And that is exactly what
my next guest has done. Rodrigo Garcia's new book is "A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes." And he's joining me now from Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for joining us.
Let me just preface this conversation by saying, I don't remember seeing our team and producers more passionate and more excited about a
conversation and a topic than this book of yours. If it were up to me, they would all be sitting here joining this conversation. Because we were just
blown away by it.
RODRIGO GARCIA, AUTHOR, "A FAREWELL TO GABO AND MERCEDES": Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
GOLODRYGA: Congratulations on the memoir. And just picking up on that. And your parents, your famous, he died in 2014. I was struck though that it was
actually the death of your mother last year that ultimately led you to write this memoir. What was it about losing both parents that changed the
calculus for you?
GARCIA: Well, initially, you know, I took notes in those last three weeks of my dad's life when we knew his time was running out. And I didn't quite
know what to do with them. I thought I would write them for myself or a memoir for my brother, our kids, etc. But I sat down and wrote it quickly
after he died. And I had something there that I didn't know what I was going to do with. I felt a little, you know, uneasy about publishing
something in a rush about the death of not just my dad but a famous man.
So, I put it aside. And it was only last August when my mother died that I realized what my theme was, as it were. Which was, you know, saying goodbye
to both your parents. You know, the death of your second parent is like I say in the book, it's is like the end of a planet, the death of a religion.
So, I wanted to make it about both of them. Obviously, she was not as famous as he was. But it really is a book about saying goodbye to your
parents and to that world.
GOLODRYGA: You write, the death of a second parent is like looking through a telescope one night and no looking finding a planet that has always been
there. I was watching an interview you gave earlier and you said it was like closing a door to the church that you and your family had been to
throughout your life.
This is a subject that any child, anybody that has parents can be touched by and become emotional in reading and discussing. And yet, you do it in --
obviously, it is sentimental, but you do it in a beautiful way as well. Were you cognizant about not writing something too morose or too
GARCIA: You know, any time -- I mean, most of my writing has been for film or TV. But, you know, writing is writing. And what you are always trying to
find is the right tone. You know, I didn't want it to be so aloof that it seemed like I didn't care.
I didn't want it to be, you know, all about my own feelings. You know, you try to make the particular universal. You try to see things as others would
see them. You know, I think when you are writing, you kind of assume you are everyone and everyone is you. So, you have to find that balance where,
you know, the private might be interesting to others.
GOLODRYGA: Your father died in April of 2014, as we said, after he had been battling with dementia. And he died on Good Thursday. That's the same
day that one of his most famous characters, the matriarch "One Hundred Years of Solitude" had passed away. And on that day, a bird was found on
the sofa that your father used to sit in in his home in Mexico City. And it was a dead bird.
And when Ursula, the character, dies, disoriented birds fly into the walls. It is very symbolic, I guess the visual of that all. Did that impact you?
Was this a coincide for you? Did you think twice about it?
GARCIA: You know, when the bird was first found it was surmise that it had flown into an area that's enclosed by glass and probably crashed into the
glass and probably fell where my father usually sat. And then, you know, later that afternoon, after he died, someone reminded us that the same had
happened Ursula had died in "One Hundred Years of Solitude," disoriented birds that crashed into walls and fell dead on the floor.
You know, I was confronted with that and what can you say? I mean, you know, coincide, poetry, destiny, who knows? I mean, like I say in the book,
all I knew when I heard it was I couldn't wait to retell it.
GOLODRYGA: Well -- and your father, you write about his sense of humor and your write, my father complained that one of the things he hates most about
death was that it was the only aspect of his life that he would not be able to write about. It's something, I guess, no one has full control over.
Without sort of, you know, going into the what would they think if they were here, do you think just the events surrounding his death and that
bird, do you think he would find that funny? How would he react to that if it were told to him?
GARCIA: You know, he would say what he said before, you know. He did not invent the term magical realism. He didn't particularly subscribe to a
school of natural realism. He said, you know, I write about things that I saw and heard in Columbia growing up and things that either happened or
people believe they happened. So, he just would have said, how about that. You know, and passed no judgment.
GOLODRYGA: How about that. Well, for those that don't know --
GARCIA: How about that.
GOLODRYGA: For those that don't follow you very closely, you are a success in your own right as a filmmaker and writing screenplays. This is your
first adventure now in taking on writing books. And I know this is something that you were thinking about, not wanting to obviously exploit
your father's story, your mother's story and their fame. What was this journey like for you? What was the experience like? This book has received
incredible reviews. It is their story but it is told by you. And in a very beautifully written way.
GARCIA: You know, it is -- my father used to say or feel about his fame, you know, and his success as a writer, that it wasn't -- he felt sometimes
like it wasn't something that he had achieved but it was something that had happened to him. And I feel a little bit this happened to me with this
book. I had no aspirations of writing a book. It had never occurred to me, even after I'd taken notes that I would write a book about their deaths. It
sort of crept up on me and -- you know, and now, it is out here.
And it happens to me like it will happen to me after I'm done with that interview, I will be sitting here thinking, did that really happen, did
they die? Did I write this book? Was I just talking about it on a news show? It is all, you know -- it is all strange.
GOLODRYGA: You spent those last few weeks with your father and sort of, you know, that odd space when you know what is about to happen and yet, you
don't know when exactly it will happen and he wasn't of sound mind, obviously, at that point up unlike your mother who you describe as
physically not being well, obviously, at the end but mentally she was.
Can you read us a line from your book passage about what happened after you had discovered that your father had passed way when you finally told your
GARCIA: Yes. I called my mother who was downstairs and told her that may father's heart had stopped. And so, she walked up. And this passage is from
that moment. My mom's first instinct as she crosses through the door is to take charge.
The nurse and the aide are propping my father's head up and working to keep his mouth shut by tying his jaw with a towel around the head. Tighter, my
mother calls out as she approaches the bed. That's it. She looks my father up and down with detachment as if he were her patient. She pulls the sheet
up to his chest. Smooths it over. Puts her hand on his. She looks at his face and caresses his forehead. And for a moment, she is unfathomable.
Then a brief convulsion overcomes her and she erupts into tears. Poor little thing, isn't he? Even before her own pain and sadness comes a
profound sympathy for him. I've seen her cry only three times before in my whole life. This one last no more than a few seconds but it has the power
of a burst of machinegun fire.
GOLODRYGA: Wow. And you are describing a relationship that lasted for decades. They were married 56 years. If I get this right. They met when she
was only nine and he was 14. I mean, this is, in and of itself, a true love story. Your father was the famous one. But your mother was no shrinking
violet. And while you may focus a lot on him in the book, she's there with you. She obviously lived another six years. And she plays a key role in
your life even after her death. You still stop and look at pictures of her.
GARCIA: Yes. You know, I found that she wasn't famous. But while I was taking notes and writing the book, even the part about my father, before I
concentrated on her, that she had -- you know, her gestures, her words, her actions were so specific and so unique to her and so strong that, you know,
I was able to just pepper the book with some of her choices, some of her words. And she became, you know, I think an unforgettable part of the text.
You know, she was -- my father used to say, that she was the most surprising person that he ever met. So, you know, that means a lot for a
man who met, you know, a lot of people and imagined and invented a lot of other people.
GOLODRYGA: You said that you had initially been taking notes in his final weeks of life and I thought that it would be something you share with your
brother and your children, your nieces and nephews. Obviously, it took your mother's death to realize there was something more here to share with the
world. But you've also said that -- and I'm sure this would apply to anybody who loses a parent, that you wish not only that you had more time
with them, but you had more conversations with them.
And I was struck by something you said and I think it just speaks volumes about the impact your parents had on your life that if you were asked the
famous game, you know, the question of which three people from the past would you want to have dinner with, famous or none, and you said, no
question, it would be your parents. And it's when they were their 40s, right, in their 30s and 40s, when you were a young kid.
GARCIA: You know, I can't even think of a third guest. You know, they are so far up ahead. You know, that feeling of wanting to -- you know, to see
them and know them when you are 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, you know, preadolescence before you start seeing, you know, the cracks in your
parents as it were and start, you know, developing your own personality and independence.
And obviously, as long as we're dreaming, why not, you know, the sheer curiosity of seeing them when they were 9, 10, 11, 12 and they -- you know,
they had no idea the life that awaited them. You know, they grew in a very small and, you know, in the worlds of the small towns in Columbia.
So, yes, you know, I wish I would have asked them more. I'm sure this is the kind of regret that people have. And, you know -- but it was very --
GOLODRYGA: It's life, right?
GARCIA: Yes. It was very little left on the table. You know, all you can hope for is no big regrets. Those are not big regrets.
GOLODRYGA: As someone who's now spent time writing about both of his parents who I'm sure you thought you knew from A to Z, was there anything
else that you learned about them that perhaps you didn't, you know, realize or focus much on while they were still alive?
GARCIA: Well, you know, there is -- while I was writing the book and even after the book came out, I have the feeling that your parents become kind
of giants after they die. And that is not necessarily because we idealize them.
They -- you know, I think even for people who did not have good parents or were not good children or had, you know, broken relationships or even lost
their parents early on and never knew them. You know, they are these -- I use the word ghosts but I'd rather use the word giants. They are these
giants that, you know, walk beside me and they are there every day. And, you know, I'm not a religious person. But certainly, the death of your
parents makes you think that perhaps the dead are not dead.
GOLODRYGA: It makes everyone think about that their own lives and their parents, whether they were famous or not, good parents or not, it's
something everyone can identify with and you do it beautifully in this book. Thank you so much for joining us, Rodrigo. We appreciate it.
GARCIA: Thank you very much. Thanks.
GOLODRYGA: And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Christiane will be back on Monday. Thank
you so much for watching and good-bye from New York.