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Myanmar Resistance; Interview With U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Michael R. Carpenter. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 01, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): A rare public statement from Putin himself, while another round of intense diplomacy grinds on behind the scenes.
I ask the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, Michael Carpenter, if all the talk is actually making a difference.
Then: One year after Myanmar's military coup, the resistance is stronger than ever. Can democracy stage a dramatic comeback? Dr. Sasa, a member of
Aung San Suu Kyi's ousted government, joins me from exile.
BRIGHAM KIPLINGER, PRINCIPAL, GARRISON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Children cannot learn if they are not well and if they are not in school.
AMANPOUR: Vaccination rates among America's children are stubbornly low. But school principal Brigham Kiplinger tells Michel Martin how he's managed
to buck the trend.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First thing I saw walking off the airplane is a sea of hazmat suits.
AMANPOUR: An Olympic odyssey. With the Beijing Olympics just days away, what it's like to try to cover these Games under the world's most strict
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Better the exchange of words than gunfire. This new month is beginning with renewed diplomatic efforts to avert war in Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State
Antony Blinken spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, today. The State Department said Blinken expressed a willingness to
continue substantive talks.
But in his own press conference with the Hungarian prime minister, Vladimir Putin says the West has ignored Russia's main concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have analyzed the written answer from the United States, which we have on the 26th of
But I have informed Mr. Prime Minister that our main proposals were ignored.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: He then reverted to the vernacular. And he said, "They have screwed us over, they have deceived us," of the West.
Meanwhile, the man caught in between the great powers has a message of his own. Ukraine's president is urging world leaders to stop hyping the threat
of war, fearing economic pain and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now, a key player in all of this is the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. It fosters dialogue between East and West.
Michael Carpenter represents the United States there. And he used to be a Russia adviser to then-Vice President Joe Biden. He tells me that, while
dire threats still emanate from Moscow, diplomacy hasn't been exhausted yet.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Carpenter, welcome to the program.
MICHAEL R. CARPENTER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE OSCE: Good to be with you.
AMANPOUR: You have quite a lot of experience in this field. And it's really vital to try to get the picture of what's really going on. You were
at one of the meetings with the Russian negotiators during that flurry of diplomacy last month, that face-to-face diplomacy.
What impression did you get from that? And do you believe anything's actually happened in these intervening weeks because of diplomacy?
CARPENTER: Well, I took away from that initial meeting here at the OSCE that the Russians had real concerns that they wanted to place on the table.
Now, they obviously view the situation in Ukraine through a very different lens than we do. We see this unprecedented massive buildup of troops and
equipment and tanks and artillery on the border. And we're very concerned. They claim they have concerns.
And so we said, OK, let's sit down here at the OSCE. Let's have a dialogue. You can bring your concerns to the table. We're going to articulate what we
see as threatening. And let's talk about it. Let's have either a discussion or maybe, in the future, a negotiation.
And now it remains to be seen whether they actually want to follow through on what we have proposed.
AMANPOUR: So you're still waiting for answers.
I have to say, it looks like there's a kind of a stasis. The Russians say that they haven't yet fully delivered to the United States the written
response that they promised. You're talking about responses to invitations to negotiate.
Are we still in that process, that there's still more to be talked about?
CARPENTER: Well, Christiane, I can confirm that the Russian side has provided us with additional written responses, which we're studying right
But we have said that -- consistently, from the very beginning, we have said we're happy to have a bilateral discussion through our strategic
stability dialogue. And I hope that that continues. We have had an initial discussion in the NATO-Russia Council, and we have had an initial
discussion here at the OSCE, where we had the chairperson in office proposed an enhanced European security discussion.
But we haven't really gotten into the meat of it yet. And so we need to get down to brass tacks. We need to start to discuss details of military
transparency, of confidence-building and risk reduction and those sorts of measures. And we haven't even really begun yet. So we have to give the
process a chance.
AMANPOUR: The OSCE has a lot of experience in the field, whether it's monitoring elections, whether it's checking out what's happening on borders
in disputed situations.
President Putin has had several discussions, at least with President Macron. And, in the last one, the French readout from Paris was, to my
mind, kind of significant. And he's also spoken in Moscow today while he's meeting with the Hungarian prime minister.
But, in Paris, he told President Macron that he was not looking for confrontation.
Do you agree that they are not looking for confrontation, as we would understand it, i.e., invasion or that kind of thing? And why do you think
they're moving things like -- or at least the West says -- supply lines of ammunition and blood and the kind of stuff that you might need if you're
actually involved in a military confrontation at that border?
CARPENTER: Well, Christiane, I think you have put your finger on it.
We are not going to look at words.We're going to look at deeds. And in terms of what we see in terms of Russian actions, we see this unprecedented
build up and, as you have said, a surge of ammunition, of blood, of other types of enablers to the Russian border with Ukraine that would all be
necessary and seem poised for an imminent invasion.
And so we don't know what President Putin's calculations are. We don't know what his intentions are. It may be that he does not seek confrontation.
But, militarily, he is showing us that he is.
And so we need to have a discussion and offer that possibility for having real diplomacy take root here, so that we can avoid a military escalation.
But it is very difficult to speak to his intentions.
AMANPOUR: Meantime, in the weeks in which this has become front-page news that the NATO allies have stood firmly, that a huge amount of stern threats
are coming out from the NATO alliance, it seems in unity, should Russia invade a sovereign country, the president of Ukraine himself, the country
in question, has pleaded with you all not to keep up this hype about war.
He's talked about it affecting the economy and other such things. But I wonder if he's also worried that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And this is what the Russian ambassador to the U.N. said to the Security Council yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VASILY NEBENZYA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS (through translator): They themselves are whipping up tension and rhetoric and are
provoking escalation. The discussions about the threat of war is provocative, in and of itself.
You're almost calling for this. You want it to happen. You're waiting for it to happen, as if you want to make your words become a reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, it's a valid point, isn't it, Ambassador, that the more it gets hyped in public, the more, in this case, potentially Putin's back
gets stuck to the wall, and it becomes potentially a very dangerous dynamic?
What do you make of that? And how do you react to the Russian ambassador's comment?
CARPENTER: Well, look, I think it's absurd to claim that we should remain silent about this massive buildup of aircraft and helicopters and troops
AMANPOUR: No, I'm not suggesting silent, but I have heard the president and his secretary of state and many others just keep saying, it's imminent,
it's going to happen, we see it.
And even in his press conference, President Biden said that he thinks potentially Putin has to -- quote, unquote -- "do something."
I'm just wondering about that kind of rhetoric.
Well, I think there's a -- look, I think there's a fine line between warning about what is possible and what could well be imminent, based on
all the things that we're seeing across a variety of different domains, but then, I mean, we have been very clear, I think, very consistent with our
NATO allies and partners, that we much prefer to see both the Russian side and the other side pursue the path of diplomacy and de-escalation.
So we have been very clear. We don't seek to panic anyone. We don't seek to stir trouble. But we do want to avoid a situation where we have a sudden
military escalation. And the way to do that is to telegraph on the one hand that there will be severe consequences if we go down that path of military
escalation, and, at the same time, to offer an alternative, which is diplomacy and de-escalation, with very specific proposals as to what we
could do together.
And so we're trying to flesh out those proposals right now. As I said, here at the OSCE, we have just begun the process of fleshing it out.
So, I would ask our Russian partners to bear with us and work with us on fleshing out what we could do together to de-escalate tensions.
AMANPOUR: So, some analysts have obviously pointed out the rather ignoble memory of the U.S. insistence at the Security Council that Iraq had weapons
of mass destruction, which then led to a war, and then there were no weapons of mass destruction.
Some are saying, what about the U.S. and the allies' credibility in this case? Does that concern you at all, as you try to put your very serious
point of a united front against an invasion that would violate international law?
Do you worry about the past and what Russia may be taking from that?
CARPENTER: Look, we could go way back into the past. I don't think it's useful for anyone to relitigate that.
But let's take a look at very recent history. In 2008, we had Russia complaining about a supposed provocation and threat from Georgia. And then,
using the guise of a massive troop buildup, an exercise on the Georgian border, we had Russia invade militarily in 2008.
The same thing in 2014, where, under the guise of a large-scale military exercise, we have had so-called little green men invade and occupy Crimea.
So, I think the recent past signals that we have to take this sort of a troop buildup and the bellicose rhetoric that goes along with it. Let's not
forget that the Kremlin is talking about Ukraine as if it were not a sovereign state entitled to be able to make its own foreign policy
So, when you combine those things, it does paint a picture of a very dire threat. Now, again, let's hope that we don't end up in a military
escalation. We very much are trying to pursue the path of having a conversation with the Russians about, what are their legitimate security
So let's have the conversation.
AMANPOUR: And so the flip side of my previous question, then, would be what you have just mentioned. Potentially, Putin saw that the West talked a
good game over both Georgia and Crimea, but didn't do a huge amount about it.
Are you convinced now that the West's position is united, no matter what, and is very serious, should Putin, again, invade a sovereign country?
CARPENTER: Yes, I am.
And here at the OSCE, we have 57 participating states, all of the countries of NATO, all of the countries of the E.U., and every other country in
Europe and Eurasia, to include all of the former states of the Soviet Union.
And I think we are united here in saying, look, if you want to talk about military transparency, if you want to talk about reciprocal restraints,
risk reduction, that's what we do here at the OSCE. We have the military experts to have this conversation here.
So let's have it. But what we're seeing in terms of rhetoric and in terms of the buildup is not consonant with the very core principles that actually
the Russian side likes to cite itself, which is the inviolability of borders, respect for sovereignty, respect for territorial integrity.
We very much value those principles. But we want the other side to show that they value them too.
AMANPOUR: Just because you mentioned the OSCE, just give me, if you can, a precis of your advantage on the ground.
What is it that you do that can give you eyes and ears and potential avenues to solutions that might not be available to other institutions?
CARPENTER: Well, the OSCE is the largest regional security organization in the world. We have almost 1,500 special monitors in Ukraine as part of a
mission to provide transparency into what is happening around the line of contact in the Donbass.
The OSCE is also a signatory to the Minsk agreements that offer a pathway to resolving the war in Ukraine between Russia and Ukraine, also
signatories to those agreements. And the OSCE sits in some of the so-called trilateral contact group. It's essentially a diplomatic grouping that
discusses security and humanitarian issues.
So there is a pathway that the OSCE is very central -- as a central player in, that would see us implementing a resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.
But it takes the Russian side to be able to sign up and implement its side of the agreements, which are cease-fire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, and
allowing the OSCE full access to Ukrainian territory.
If we can move down that path, then we can start to resolve the conflict.
AMANPOUR: Let me just read you a little bit from what Foreign Minister Lavrov said recently in an interview. And he quoted and spoke about
precisely your organization, the OSCE, quite copiously.
He said: "In 2010, in Astana, and, before that, in 1999 in Istanbul, all presidents and prime ministers from the OSCE countries signed a package
that contained interrelated principles to ensure the indivisibility of security."
Then he says: "The West ripped out just one slogan from this package. Each country has the right to choose its allies and military alliances. But in
that package, this right comes with a condition and an obligation on each country to which the Westerners subscribed, i.e., not to strengthen their
security at the expense of the security of others."
That seems to be the fundamental issue at play here.
CARPENTER: Look, Christiane, we couldn't agree any more the no state should undertake actions that undermine the security of another state.
I would point to the Russian invasion of Georgia and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2008 and 2014 as examples of where that principle is
undermined. But, I mean, if taken to an extreme and ridiculous extent, then no state could take any action in any foreign policy sphere if it was not
consonant with the desires of its neighbors.
Clearly, every state has a right to take decisions that are its sovereign right in terms of its foreign policy, but no state can violate another
state's borders. No state can surge troops into another state and occupy a piece of its territory.
So, we very much agree with the principles that Foreign Minister Lavrov has set forth that were agreed at the head of state level in 2010 and in 1999
in those documents that you cited. But we just think that precisely those commitments need to be implemented in full.
And we see the Russian side as not having done that in the recent past. So, let's sit down, let's talk about these commitments, and let's strengthen
them, rather than try to dilute them or use language that pretends that we're not abiding by them, because we are.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, at the OSCE headquarters back in 1994, the Budapest Memorandum was signed, in which Russia signed, the U.S. signed,
France and the U.K. signed, to respect and to guarantee Ukraine's territorial integrity, in return for Ukraine handing over its nuclear
It had a huge stockpile. And after the fall of the Soviet Union, it handed them over, gave them to Russia, but in return for not being invaded.
What does -- what do the Russians -- what do your interlocutors say when you raise that? I mean, do they -- why don't they respect that treaty?
CARPENTER: Well, we keep raising this point over and over. I mean, if Foreign Minister Lavrov and his colleagues in the Russian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs want to talk about some of these principles that we just discussed, that no state should take an action to undermine the security of
another state, here you have Ukraine in 1994 giving up its nuclear stockpile in return for guarantees as to its sovereignty and territorial
And those were brutally violated in 2014 and remain violated to this day. We have had more than 14,000 casualties, more than 14,000 killed in Eastern
Ukraine as a result of this ongoing war. And so we would ask the Russian side to please abide by those commitments that they freely undertook in the
1990s and even since in the 2010s.
So the question is for them, you cite these principles, but you don't live up to them. So let's talk about how we can better implement the documents
and the declarations and principles.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Carpenter, thank you very much for joining us.
CARPENTER: It's my pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Turning now to Myanmar, and today marks the one-year anniversary of the coup that saw the military junta seize control there.
De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted and detained. In early January, she was sentenced to another four years in prison. On the eve of the
anniversary, the U.S., the U.K. and Canada hit top officials with new sanctions, with President Biden blasting unspeakable violence against
The junta has spent the past year trying to squash resistance, but it's stronger than ever.
In a moment, we will talk to one of the opposition leaders, but, first, correspondent Ivan Watson shows us how the opposition has gone from
peaceful to armed.
And here's the report he filed back in September.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seven months after the military overthrew Myanmar's elected government,
resistance to the junta has grown increasingly violent, the opposition waging a campaign of bombings, assassinations, and infrastructure sabotage,
destroying cell phone towers, for example, apparently belonging to a telecommunications company partly owned by the Myanmar military.
(on camera): Have you yourself planted any bombs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a couple of times.
WATSON (voice-over): This man, who asks not to be identified, once organized peaceful anti-military protests, but now calls himself a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It used to be holding protest signboards. Now it's about using explosives and sometimes even guns for our own safety.
WATSON (on camera): Any of you have...
(voice-over): In fact, when I first interviewed him in March, he had rejected violence.
(on camera): Do you support violent attacks on the military?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all.
WATSON (voice-over): For weeks after the February 1 coup, opposition demonstrators staged colorful, peaceful protests, but the military cracked
down hard, shooting at protesters by day, arresting them in their homes at night.
As the death toll swelled to estimates of more than 1,100, the once peaceful protester says he embraced armed resistance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm no longer the same person I was before. It's just about six months ago. And I think that applies for everyone in this
WATSON: The army general who declared himself Myanmar's ruler calls the insurgents terrorists.
MIN AUNG HLAING, MYANMAR MILITARY CHIEF (through translator): Extremists and their supporters chose the act of terrorism, instead of doing or
solving it in line with the law. They incited anarchy and committed armed insurrection.
WATSON: Military-run media claim the opposition carried out more than 2,000 bomb attacks and killed nearly 800 people in the last seven months.
On September 7, Myanmar's opposition government in exile endorsed the many small cells of armed resistance that have cropped up, calling on them to
attack the military regime.
NYI THUTA, FORMER MYANMAR MILITARY CAPTAIN: This is a war, because our military create the war.
WATSON: Until late February, Nyi Thuta was a captain in the Myanmar military. But he says the slaughter of civilians pushed him to defect.
(on camera): When you see these videos of a bomb exploding next to soldiers, how does that make you feel?
THUTA: I feel sad. But we must fight them, because they are killing our people.
WATSON (voice-over): Now a wanted man, the former officer says he doesn't fight in the streets, but instead resists the regime online on weekly Zoom
calls like this, during which he urges members of the security force to quit.
The urban guerrilla fighter I talked to estimates more than 50 people he knows in the opposition movement have been captured or killed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of my colleagues are either dead or in prison. I'm still lucky to be alive. But I don't know when that luck is going to run
WATSON: The stakes for these would-be revolutionaries could not be higher.
AMANPOUR: Ivan Watson reporting there some five months ago.
Now the U.N. says at least 1,500 people have been killed in protests over the last year. Can the resistance beat back the military to reclaim
Joining me is Dr. Sasa. He is a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's party. And he was with her the very morning of the coup a year ago today. He escaped, and
he's now in exile. And we're not disclosing his location.
But welcome back to our program, Dr. Sasa.
That is a really interesting report that Ivan Watson filed, and it's a really important reminder, because just like one of the army soldiers in
there who's changed his view, you have changed your view as well. When I talked to you a year ago, you said to me: "I don't think that my people
will be taking any kind of weapons against anyone.
What's happened? And do you endorse it?
DR. SASA, MYANMAR SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Yes, Christiane, the fact is that we are left with no other choice.
We want to live, not die. We are being forced to defend ourselves in order to live. There was the choice was put in front of us, the choice to live or
to die. The choice to live is to defend ourselves. That's true to the whole population of Myanmar, because the military junta that we are facing today
have been discharging better fatal weapons across the nations, killing our people from village to village, town to town, city to city, homes to homes.
They are killing us. So it's no choice. We have to defend ourselves.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Sasa, I assume you have your ear to the ground on the inside. Even though you're in exile, you must have contacts.
And I wonder first whether you're hearing anything from the military perspective. Did they make a mistake? Did they expect people to just sit
back and take the coup? Did they expect to be confronted like this in the streets? What are you hearing, if anything, from that perspective?
DR. SASA: Yes, Christiane, the fact is that, again, the military junta went to establish military dictatorship forever, authoritarianism forever.
But that all fell, because they lost in elections. They cannot take it that they lost. So, another way, they have no choice, because they want to
establish like military dictatorship, which will rule the people of Myanmar like kings forever, and the Myanmar people will become slaves to them.
But the people of Myanmar have said no to military dictatorship, authoritarianism. And they say, enough is enough. Therefore, it is the
fight between military dictatorship and an inclusive democratic political system. So, unless they give up their evil, taking the people of Myanmar as
a slave, then the people of Myanmar will never back down in front of them, no matter how long it take.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Sasa, the U.N., as I said, thinks some 1,500 people protesters, opposition, resistance have been killed since the coup last
year. That's a lot, but it could be a lot worse, right?
The junta is massively armed. It's completely overwhelms what weapons that the opposition and the resistance has. How do you explain the success, if I
can put it that way, of the resistance against the junta? Where are the weapons coming from? Are they united? Because we know that many, many
different ethnic groups who fought their own battles over the decades against the central government.
What is happening within the resistance? Is it uniting?
DR. SASA: It is the first time in the history of Myanmar that we have come to realizations and raised to the highest levels of unity in diversity.
In fact, Myanmar is a multiethnic country, multireligious country. Myanmar have now realized the military coup have united the people of Myanmar from
all backgrounds, regardless of race, religions, culture, languages, background, and ethnicities.
In fact, the government that I'm representing today, a spokesperson of National Unity Government of Myanmar and international cooperation
minister, we have achieved this government together with the people of Myanmar. And we are united. We are unshakable. We are resilient. We are
determined to eradicate authoritarianism from our soil and eradicate military dictatorship and replace them with federal army and build our
nation into Federal Democratic Union of Myanmar for all the people of Myanmar.
AMANPOUR: As you very well know, the junta says that anyone who's fighting them is a terrorist.
And I wonder where -- what's your reaction to that, but where is the resistance getting its help from? Where does it get its money, its
ammunition, its support, its weapons?
DR. SASA: Our people, our brave people, they have given their life for freedom and democracy.
And now, if you look at the battle, in 100, 95 percent, they are winning. Now what is happening is peoples to people. The people of Myanmar support
the people of Myanmar. Therefore, we are not getting any outside help. No government in the world are helping us with our self-defense system or
It is local self-defense forces. It is not just about the military. It is about the moral. It is about the politics. It is about diplomatics. It's
about economic. It's about social.
In all those fronts, the military is losing every day as the people of Myanmar are stepping towards freedom, towards democracy, towards victory,
the equation is not. It's not a matter of if we will win, it's a matter of when. We are asking International Community to put maximum pressure on the
military junta so that we can end this nightmare as soon as possible. So that needless life is not lost anymore, so that we can end this coup to an
So, we need the International Community to take divisive action to bring these military perpetrators who are guilty of crime against humanity to
justice so that they can face the justice.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Sasa, they presumably have the unreserved support of China. But on the other hand, the United States, along with the U.K. and Canada
has imposed new sanctions. They're narrowly focused -- it's not like sanctions against the people or the whole country and it's avoided some of
the key economic sectors. It's targeted individuals in the junta. Is that sufficient? Are you satisfied with that pressure from the West?
DR. SASA: We greatly appreciate the country and International Community that have come to our aid. But it's not enough. The brutal military junta
in Myanmar is guilty of crime against humanity, they're guilty of ethnic cleansings, they have been committing crime in front of the world. If they
are not stopped, another genocide is imminent. Therefore, in the way International Community and China or India, our neighbor, Asia, they have
the power to stop this another genocide.
Again, they question is, are they willing to stop this? If they want, they have the power to stop. It's not just enough of sanctions, they have to be
coordinated, targeted, and tougher. They need to cut off the military from accessing weapons, the international financing.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, in our last minute or so, you were with Aung San Suu Kyi. She was the emblem of leadership in democracy in Myanmar. Of
course, she had a lot of pushbacks, you know, because she didn't, you know -- as we know, she was criticized for not standing up to the military over
the Rohingyas. But she's now in prison. She's going to go on trial again in a couple of weeks.
What are your personal reflections on her role and you were there with her this time a year ago when the coup happened and she was taken in?
DR. SASA: All the charge that she's facing has nothing to do with rule of law. In fact, there's no rule of law under the hands of (INAUDIBLE) Min
Aung Hlaing, the co-leader. It's all makeup. It's all unfounded evidence. It's everything to do with prolonging of military rule in Myanmar. It's all
destructions to our freedom and our democracy. And the people of Myanmar will never surrender, will never give up.
Though Aung San Suu Kyi is elected leader of Myanmar, and she is the leader. And, therefore, all the illegal detaining of her and Mr. President,
Win Myint, is totally unacceptable. It's illegal. And we are not going to surrender to them. We are not going to give up. We will fight until the
end. We are there on the front lines holding our freedom and democracy.
AMANPOUR: Dr. Sasa, thank you so much for joining us on this sad -- actually, this very sad anniversary. Interesting to hear your perspective
of what the resistance is doing to claw back democracy. Thank you so much.
Next, as Pfizer prepares to seek U.S. authorization for use of their vaccine in children six months to five years old, hesitancy among parents
is the next hurdle. In the United States, just 28 percent of five to 11- year-olds have had one dose.
Garrison Elementary School in Washington, D.C., has bucked that trend with 80 percent of students receiving their first shot. Michel Martin sits down
with the school principal, Brigham Kiplinger, to explore how they accomplished this feat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Brigham Kiplinger, Mr. Kip, thank you so much for joining us.
BRIGHAM KIPLINGER, PRINCIPAL, GARRISON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Thank you. Good morning.
MARTIN: Good morning. In the spirit of full disclosure, I want everybody to know that we actually know each other because you were my children's
fifth grade teacher.
KIPLINGER: That's right.
MARTIN: The reason that you're on the front page of "The New York Times" is that your school has become noteworthy in that a lot of parents, even
parents who have vaccinated themselves, have proven to be very hesitate about getting the littlest vaccinated once those vaccines became available.
So, at about 80 percent of the kids in your school have had at least one shot. That's -- that is a vast difference from the sort of the national
averages where I think it's about 17 percent are fully vaccinated around the country and maybe 28 percent have had one dose. So, you know, just --
you're just definitely an outlier.
So, the first thing I wanted to ask is, when did you develop an urgency around getting the littlest vaccinated? How did that come to you?
KIPLINGER: Yes. Really it was from the very first sign that a vaccine was coming online for our age group, which was many months ago and then, of
course, it went through rigorous clinical trials and research and the approval process. We started laying the groundwork for this even last year.
We had been through a similar, you know, sort of learning curve and challenge in getting staff and families vaccinated, which we approached
more than a year ago through outreach with local black pediatricians and a lot of connecting to resources of various kinds, targeted in families' home
languages and that kind of thing.
And so, we had to start with the grown-ups to get them, more or less, comfortable first. And then, as soon as we learned that the vaccine would
be approved likely in late October, early November, for five to 11-year- olds, we reached out to the city to line up clinics here at school through D.C. health and the children's hospital team who have been wonderful. And
then, we started spreading the word and really just making sure that every family knew about this opportunity and that we were shaping a path straight
to our door so that there was no logistical barrier to families making that decision.
MARTIN: Well, that (INAUDIBLE). What do you think the hesitation has been? A lot of these communities -- people have had multiple family members get
sick. You know, in some cases, die. In Washington, D.C., the mayor's own the sister passed away from COVID. So, it's not like people don't know that
this is serious. And in fact, adults in the Washington, D.C. area have embraced, you know, vaccines.
MARTIN: But do the littles, the little kids are the ones that people have been hesitant about. Even, as I said, parents who have got vaccinated
themselves. So, what were you hearing in terms of the hesitation?
KIPLINGER: You're right, Michel. And COVID has been devastating nationwide and especially here in our very own community, many of your families have
been directly affected. And that made some of them probably just want to hunker down and not leave this house, which is completely understandable.
When we're talking about our children, that's our pride and joy and it's almost like our heart living outside of our body, is how I've heard my wife
And so, any time we're putting something inside our children's body, we want to be absolutely sure that it's safe and is going to keep them safe.
And that's -- people go through that learning curve and that journey at different paces. And, of course, that's complicated by the complex and
painful history of medicine and medical science in communities of color, in particular, which is a majority of our school community, and families know
the history, whether they -- you know, whether it's at an academic level or just being passed down through the generations. And we have to overcome
that understandable and very rational mistrust of the disparate health outcomes born of systemic racism.
And so, you know, we were up against a fair amount of that and also, just the misinformation that's rampant online and on social media. And that's a
slow process. It's a lot of face-to-face conversations. It's connecting families with experts who look like them and speak like them. And then,
just listening to people's questions and their worries and validating those and not also letting them stay where they are, but constantly moving
towards what the science is saying.
MARTIN: What did you do exactly in terms of getting people in front of people who you say that look like them and they -- like, what did you do?
KIPLINGER: Well, it was a few things. One was that we have some amazing leaders of our parent-teacher organization, including one whose
pediatrician, is a local pediatrician, who served the community for many years, Dr. Hay (ph) is her name. And she was willing to come on Zoom and
host a Q&A with our families. That was a fall a year and a quarter ago. I guess fall 2020.
And then, we've had her return for smaller group conversations since with staff and with families. And so, that was part of it. And then, enlisting
families as our vaccine ambassadors, if you will, there's something most powerful about hearing directly from a parent who shares your experience
and can meet you where you are and assure you that their child got the shot and they woke up the next day with a slightly sore arm, but nothing else.
And they're safer for it.
MARTIN: You have a mobile vaccination vans come to the school. Like, why was that important, after hours, like 3:30 to 7:30? Like, why was that
KIPLINGER: Yes. The shots got to go where the people are, and in this case, where the kids are. And the kids are at school and the parents are
picking them up from school. And so, we worked with DCPS and Children's Hospital to bring the clinics to our gym and cafeteria here at school, what
we call the Garrison Commons. And it's a familiar environment and kids could play on the playground while their parents waited in line. And we had
popcorn and music and a movie playing in the background and popsicles after their shots and we just made it fun and joyful but also convenient for
families, not having to make an appointment with their pediatrician or miss any school.
They could pick up at regular dismissal or aftercare dismissal until 7:30 in the evening. No excuses for not popping in and at least asking your
questions and sharing your worries, whether or not you decided to stay for your shot that night or not. And we've now had three or four clinics. And
each one -- the first one, we got about 100 wildcats with shots in their arms and then, another 25 at the next one, another 30 at the next one. And
we've got another on Friday and are hoping for even more, you know, inching closer to full vaccination.
MARTIN: You know, some people would say that that's not your business as an educator. I can imagine what some people are saying, well, what I would
do would get my shots and whatever, it's just not your business. You know, notwithstanding the fact that you have to get a lot of shots in order to go
to school, you know, for years. I mean, for years, that has been the case. But this particular one, a lot of people say, it's not your business. What
would you say?
KIPLINGER: Yes. I mean, I'm glad you pointed out that there was never a similar controversy around the polio vaccine when my parents were growing
up or around, you know, MMR shots that children around the country get every year for school, it's required. And for whatever reason this has
become so polarizing and politized given the schisms in our body politic at the large.
But, you know, to your question about whether this is my or our business, I understand the concern. But the nature of school has changed fundamentally
in the last two years. And children cannot learn if they are not well and if they're not in school. We saw that crystal clear in the early months and
first year of the pandemic. And once we know better, we have to do better.
And so, we have put all of your focus in the past year or so in -- well, even since the jump into meeting our family's physiological needs, whether
it's for housing or grocery gift cards or rent assistance, whatever it is. We need to remove the barriers for learning, and the vaccine is one of the
most important and powerful weapons in our arsenal to keep kids in school.
And so, as the leader of the school, I believe it is my business and our moral imperative to do everything we can to keep children in class and
getting their hearts and minds stronger every day.
MARTIN: One of the parents interviewed in "The New York Times" piece said that you harassed them, and she said that that's OK though because you are
family, which is a high compliment. But tell me both about of those things, do you harass them and are you family? Do people think of you as family?
KIPLINGER: Yes. That's Kemika Cosey and she's not wrong. My own family and my former students and friends, everyone who knows me, knows I can be hard
charging at times and not always take no easily for an answer. But I try to save it for when the stakes are the highest and it's the most important and
this feels like that moment and that issue.
I try to and I think I do respect families' wishes and their worries and give them the time and the space and the grace to go through that -- you
know, that decision-making process themselves while respecting their unique context and circumstances. But also, continuing to reach out and not just
take the first no as the final answer.
MARTIN: What are the things that you hear from some people who say that they're resistant to getting the vaccine because they feel like people are
talking down to them? And you can see where race could be part of that. And I'm just wondering how you navigated that.
I mean, obviously, you have a long history in this particular school district. You've worked with diverse kids, you know, kids with backgrounds
who are not from your same background for a long time. I'm sure other people are facing that, that they feel like, well, I don't really have a
right to tell other people what to do or people feel like, you don't know me, you know or -- you know what I mean? How do you deal with that?
KIPLINGER: We try to start with listening and listening with curiosity, genuine curiosity and humility, that we don't have all the answers. We're
all trying to figure this out. This is unchartered territory and we're all learning together and we're learning in our own ways from our own sources.
And when the information that they've -- that a family has been reading is straight-up wrong, such as that the vaccine is going to alter their child's
DNA, then I walk them over to the nurse from children's health right there in the commons at our clinic and they talk about it.
And it's not leadership if you're not helping people to outgrow themselves and if you're not outgrowing yourself each day. And certainly, as a white
man in a diverse school community and in a city that -- with the fraught racial dynamics that D.C. has, this is my hometown and I will be here
forever and love it to death and I am well aware of the fraught history and try to approach that with grace and curiosity.
MARTIN: Has anybody ever just straight-up hung up on you?
KIPLINGER: Yes, yes.
MARTIN: -- everything. Like, what was that like and how did you handle it?
KIPLINGER: It's hard. You know, I -- despite five years in this role and many -- and almost 20 years in urban education, I like being liked and I
try to be a people pleaser, and the pandemic has made that impossible. Leadership, in general, it makes that impossible, but especially in the
pandemic. Not everybody wants the same thing or expects that. And so, you know, my gentle, you know, loving, harassing, sometimes, I think has -- you
know, has either hit the wrong note or rubbed people the wrong way and I always try to circle back with love and a hug and ensure -- assure them
that it's coming from a place of love and respect.
But, yes, we've got to keep moving forward. We can't stay where we are. And inevitably, that will involve growing through some discomfort for myself
and for our school family.
MARTIN: You're at 80 percent. Like, what would it take to get to 100 percent?
KIPLINGER: That's a great question. I think inevitably it's going to take the city and the district mandating the vaccine for those final few hard-
core holdouts. But we're -- again, we have another clinic on Friday and I've been touch with people who were soft or hardnosed a few weeks ago at
our last clinic, and I'm hoping and expecting that a few more of them will come out and then, we'll keep chipping away at it.
I got an exciting push notification that we all hear that the FDA is moving forward with potential provisional authorization of the vaccine for babies
to four-year-olds, which will help keep our pre-k students safe and welcome another round of clinics through the spring to get them fully vaxxed. So,
onwards or towards brighter days.
MARTIN: Do you think that it should be mandatory for the youngest? I mean, the (INAUDIBLE) has just taken that step. Do you think it should be
KIPLINGER: Yes, it should. We've done that with many other vaccines through our history and this one needn't be any different. We know from the
experience of the past couple of years that we're not done with the virus or with its constantly evolving variants. And the vaccination has been
proven to be the best protection, hands down, against serious illness and worse. So, we need to take every measure for every child, to keep them in
classrooms, getting their hearts and minds stronger.
MARTIN: Is there something that you -- I mean, you're not in the business of telling other educators what to do. But is there something that you
think you've learned here that you would like other people to -- that you would share with other people, you know, share your experience, if they're
kind of pulling their hair out at this point?
KIPLINGER: The trust that we have been building over the past five years was prerequisite and foundational to getting through this latest stage. And
so, certainly begin there. But wherever you're beginning, we now know that while blended learning and flexible scheduling and that kind of thing have
their benefits, that there's no substitute or shortcut to joyful, rigorous in-person learning and that that needs to be safeguarded and ensured at all
And we now know that the vaccine is one of the ways to do that, as well as masking and outdoor dining, such as we implemented a year ago and continue
to do, even on chilly days like today as well as routine testing that some of our staff members were instrumental in helping the district to get
Let's just -- let's throw every possible public health and safety measure in place that we can and then, keep kids in school and keep loving on them
and holding them to high standards and connecting with their families, listening to their worries and then also holding their hand and helping
them through and past those.
MARTIN: Lots of hugs and popsicles.
KIPLINGER: Absolutely. It always helps sweeten the deal.
MARTIN: All right. Brigham Kiplinger, Mr. Kip, the principal of Garrison Elementary School, thank you for talking with us.
KIPLINGER: Thank you, Michel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, it's Chinese New Year. The massive nation could be seen sparkling from the skies as millions celebrated the start of
the Year of the Tiger. Chinese state TV released this footage taken by an astronaut, Wang Yaping, from its space station. It comes as Beijing gears
up for the Winter Olympics, sticking to its zero COVID policy, athletes and journalists covering the games will be living in a closed loop. 200 COVID
cases have so far been reported inside this Olympic bubble and several nearby neighborhoods have been sealed off.
Meanwhile, major sports broadcasters like ESPN won't send any reporters at all because of these COVID restrictions.
Correspondent Selina Wang has made it to Beijing, though. And here, she takes us through the process of entering the bubble.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)s
SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): My team and I are traveling to Beijing for the Winter Olympic games, held under some of
the strictest COVID countermeasures in the world. Our journey starts weeks before I'm.
WANG (on camera): I'm here in Tokyo. It's 14 days before the games but I've already got to download this Olympic health app, start tracking my
health in here every day and upload my vaccine certificate. I'm getting some deja vu using this app since we had to use a similar one for the Tokyo
WANG (voiceover): But this time, I'm using a burner phone because of cybersecurity concerns in China.
WANG (on camera): For the next two weeks, I'm limiting physical interactions with others as much as possible. 96 hours before departure.
Here I go in for my first test.
WANG (voiceover): Back home, I upload my information to get this green QR code.
WANG (on camera): Here we go. We're taking off. Just landed in Beijing. It's totally surreal. I haven't been back here since I moved about a year
and a half ago. First thing I saw walking off the airplane is a sea of hazmat suits. Feels a bit more like going into a medical facility than the
Olympic buzz you would expect getting off the airplane.
That was extremely painful. I just had a nose and a throat PCR test. I was tearing up a bit.
WANG (voiceover): I clear customs immigration and get my Olympic badge without seeing a single face. I'm officially in what organizers are calling
the closed loop. Multiple bubbles connected by dedicated transport. The goal, to keep Olympic participants separate from the rest of China
WANG (on camera): Finally on my way to the hotel on this special bus that's just for transporting Olympic participants. Arrived at the hotel.
They've got this giant wall all around the hotel so you can't just walk in and out easily.
WANG (voiceover): The local staff here are also part of this bubble. They'll have to quarantine for 21 days before leaving the bubble and
returning to their homes in China. Beijing isn't taking any chances. Entire communities in China have gone into lockdown over even just one COVID case.
WANG (on camera): I've been waiting six hours, just got the call. My results came back negative. I am so relieved, but it's not over yet. I'll
be tested daily and will be mostly confined to this room and Olympic venues during my entire stay here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Selina Wang reporting there. And the games start this Friday. And we'll be joined by renowned artist and activist, Ai Weiwei. He designed
Beijing's 2008 Olympic Stadium where these Winter Games will also start and end. But he since grown disenchanted with his homeland. So, tune in on
Friday for his reflections. Until then, Happy Lunar New Year.
And that's it for now. If you ever missed our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs our podcast. You can find that at
cnn.com/podcast and on all major platforms, just search for Amanpour or scan the QR code on your screens right now.
Remember, you can catch us online and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.