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Interview with "The Debt Trap" Author Josh Mitchell; Interview with Peace Activist Prem Rawat; Interview with Sylvan Esso Musician Amelia Meath; Interview with Sylvan Esso Musician Nick Sanborn. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 02, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and welcome to "Amanpour". Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Donald Trump in the MAGA Republicans represented extremism. It threatens the very foundations of our republic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: President Joe Biden delivers his most urgent warning yet about Trumpism and its threat to democracy. But amid deep polarization, will his
blistering speech cut through? Conservative commentator S.E. Cupp joins me. Then --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH MITCHELL, "THE DEBT TRAP" AUTHOR: Very quickly overnight, people took on a lot of debt, thinking they were making an investment in their future.
And for a lot of people, that investment has not paid off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The American college, "Debt Trap". Author Josh Mitchell tells Hari Sreenivasan how student loans became a national catastrophe. Plus --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PREM RAWAT, PEACE ACTIVIST: That's the journey I am on, helping people find themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: He's one of the world's most famous speakers, you may have never heard of him. I talk to bestselling author and world-renowned speaker, Prem
Rawat, about finding peace in a noisy world. And, dealing with controversy along the way. Plus --
SIDNER: The Grammy nominee's busting boundaries to reach indie pop stardom. Sylvan Esso, on life, love, and their new album, "No Rules Sandy".
Welcome to the program. I'm Sara Sidner in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
The setting was symbolic. The stakes were high. And the president minced no words. Joe Biden used a primetime address to rebuke Donald Trump and
Republican extremism. In a speech outside Philadelphia's Independence Hall, considered the birthplace of America, Biden warned, "MAGA forces could
The man who started his presidency, preaching unity and refusing to use his predecessor's name has made a choice to confront what he sees happening in
the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their
extreme ideology. I know, because I've been able to work with these mainstream Republicans. But there's no question that the Republican Party
today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Biden revived his 2020 campaign theme of restoring the soul of the nation. Donald Trump had his own message that further tested the limits of
justice and democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If I decide to run, and if I win, I will be looking very, very strongly about pardons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen.
TRUMP: Full pardons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Yes, that is the former president, dangling the idea that if he is elected president again, he may pardon and apologize to some capital
insurrectionists who were convicted and led a violent attempt to stop the Democratic process.
The split-screen lays bare the two Americas. And, the two vastly different choices facing the country, just months before the midterm elections.
Joining me now is political commentator S.E. Cupp. She's the host of "S.E. Cupp Unfiltered".
Thank you for joining the program.
S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course.
SIDNER: S.E., I know that you watch the speech. You are fierce in -- when you go after someone. If you've seen something that really strikes you. Can
you give me a sense of who you think President Biden was trying to get his message across to? And if that message worked?
CUPP: Yes. Listen, this was not an attempt at conversion therapy, right? He wasn't trying to get MAGA Republicans to sort of see Jesus. He was
speaking specifically to moderates, independents, and maybe even some disaffected Democrats who might be thinking about staying home for the
midterm elections. I think what he was, sort of, channeling was -- to say to voters, look you, might be the disappointed the meet, Joe Biden, or
Democrats. We might have delivered on a lot of the things that were important to you.
We might not be getting there as quickly as you want, but these are the stakes. They're bigger than me. They're bigger than politics. And this is
why voting in November is so important.
And I think if you look at it through that lens, A, it's impossible to say this speech wasn't political. It was. And B, I think that is an important
message for this exact kind of voter.
SIDNER: Biden argued that equality and democracy are under assault. Is he right?
CUPP: I think that's undeniable. I mean, you can look at any number of different metrics. Right-wing extremism is on the rise. That's according
to, you know, Department of Homeland Security. You can watch, in evidence, the kinds of dangerous things that Donald Trump has convinced his
supporters, many of them, to do. The insurrection, marching on the capital, you know, attacking capitol police, threatening to hang Mike Pence, that's
one example of the dangerous things he's convinced people to do.
But there are so many others. I mean, he's walked countless folks down rabbit holes of conspiracy theories into groups like QAnon where, you know,
people have lost family and connection to their friends and community, their jobs, in many cases. There's a lot that Donald Trump has done, and
that's to his own supporters.
Not to mention the rest of the country, turning Americans against Americans. Stoking racial and ethnic animosity intentions. You know, it's -
- we're on a precipice here. It's a real dangerous time. And Republicans have taken up the mantra in terms of implementing the policies of all of
this Trumpism from voter suppression, you know, lying about the last election continually, banning books. All kinds of awful, regressive stuff,
that I think, you know, most Americans don't really want to see happen.
SIDNER: I'm curious to hear from you. I want to listen a bit to what President Biden did say in his speech. But curious about the tone of his
speech. It seemed very different from what we've heard in the past where he stayed away, really, from targeting Trump, and certainly away from
targeting the so-called MAGA Republicans, those who are absolutely gung ho for Donald Trump. Let's listen a little bit to what he said in this speech
for the soul of the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embraced anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth, but in the shadow of
lies. But together, together, we can choose a different path.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: This is, perhaps, one of the strongest speeches, and most aggressive, if you will, speeches from President Biden, who has always
talked about himself as a consensus builder. Is this going to create more division, or is this going to work in his favor as the election cycle, the
midterms, come around?
CUPP: Well, I certainly think Trump and MAGA Republicans are going to use it to create more division. And you see that already happening. They're
going to insane, absolutely insane extremes to describe the speech comparing him to Hitler and all other kinds of ridiculous things.
So, yes. Republicans will use it to continue dividing Americans. But I think, like I said, Biden wasn't trying to talk to MAGA Republicans. He was
talking about them, to voters, who might be a little disaffected, disillusioned, not feel the urgency of the moment to get out and vote. And
for that listener, for that audience, I think it was really effective. He said things that need to be said. He called lies, lies. He called out
violence. I mean, he named things correctly. And I don't think fear that the other side will use that should stop the leader of this country from
saying the things that needed to be said.
SIDNER: To your point, House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, attacked Biden for his comments about Republicans, MAGA Republicans, being semi-
fascist. And said this before his soul of the nation's speech.
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REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The first lines out of his mouth should be to apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans as fascist.
What Joe Biden doesn't understand is that the soul of America is in the tens of millions of hardworking people, of loving families, of law-abiding
citizens whom he vilified for simply wanting a stronger, safer, and more prosperous country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Now, we certainly didn't hear McCarty saying anything like that for some of the comments that Donald Trump has made. But is he correct that
he -- that when Biden used this language, that he, basically, accused all Republicans with a similar brush, or do you think that he actually hit the
CUPP: I think he correctly identified a strain within MAGA world. I mean, it -- there are very few words to describe what Republicans are doing. Like
I mentioned, book bans, having students turn in teachers for wokeism? I mean, really chilling stuff. Stuff you see in fascist countries,
Republicans have adopted.
So, there's no real other way to say it. And I think Biden was very careful in his speech yesterday to specify who he was talking about. Say, it's not
all Republicans. It's not all Trump supporters. Look, you and I know Republicans, Sara. We know Trump supporters. They're not all attached to
this version of Trumpism.
But the party is going in a very bad place. And more and more candidates that are running all across the country for really important positions,
like secretaries of state and attorney general, want to do some really dangerous things. So, listen, I think he was going to get blamed for, you
know, and take some heat for using correct words to describe what's happening. But he was, I think courageous to do so.
SIDNER: You feel like he called a spade a spade. I do want to talk quickly about the strategy here. And if you think it is, indeed, a strategy,
because often, that's what politics is all about as elections come forward. Quinnipiac University had a poll out that 67 percent of respondents were
worried about the nation's democracy in America.
And I'd like to show this NBC poll that came out that says, you know, what is the most pressing issue facing the country? 21 percent said, threat to
democracy higher than the cost of living, the economy, and immigration. I mean, higher than the cost of living and the economy, in a time where we
have inflation higher than we've seen in decades, is pretty striking. What do you make of that?
CUPP: I think Donald Trump is making a great case. You know, the more he talks and the more he does, I think, the stakes become clearer and clearer.
I mean, Joe Biden gave a great speech. But no one is making a better case for why we need to protect our democracy than Donald Trump is on a day-to-
day basis and the Republicans who are parroting him.
I mean, just imagine that a lot of Americans are more concerned about democracy. The sort of, vague ambiguous, you know, idealistic notion, that
they are their own pocketbooks. That tells you something.
SIDNER: It does.
CUPP: Because they know when democracy breaks, you can't always put it back together again. It feels like --
SIDNER: Not easily.
CUPP: -- democracy is breaking.
SIDNER: S.E. Cupp, thank you so much for joining us on the program.
CUPP: Thanks, Sara.
SIDNER: And President Biden recently announced student loan debt relief for millions of Americans, a game-changer, some said. Too little, say
others. But how did American students become so burdened with debt in the first place?
Josh Mitchell is a reporter for "The Wall Street Journal". His new book, "The Debt Trap", traces the roots and explosive growth of $1.7 trillion
student debt, a behemoth in the United States. And he tells our Hari Sreenivasan why he thinks a lot more needs to be done to break the cycle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sara, thanks. Josh Mitchell thanks so much for joining us.
First, the word catastrophe. I mean, it's a strong word. And you don't pull any punches in this book. You have used phrases like predatory lending in
here, and cronyism. Lay out the problem as you started to see it as you've been investigating student loans.
JOSH MITCHELL, "THE DEBT TRAP" AUTHOR: Well, there are several big problems. One is just how expensive higher education is. If you look at how
quickly colleges have raised their prices, that's at triple the rate of inflation over the past 20 years, or actually probably the past 40 years.
So, it hasn't stopped.
I mean, it slowed in recent years, but it has gone to such a tremendous level that it now requires people to take on tens of thousands of dollars
in debt just to go to college. If you look at the amount of people that were defaulting on their loans, it was about one in five, prior to the
pandemic, with student loans were three months behind on their loans.
Eight million people defaulted on their loans. Meaning, they had gone at least a year without a payment. That is about the same amount of people who
lost their homes to foreclosure when the housing crashed, and we called that a crisis. So, if you look at all these different things, the price,
how many people are unable to pay their loans, I think it's pretty accurate to call it a crisis.
SREENIVASAN: $1.6, $1.7 trillion. I mean, that's a number that's impossible, for most people, to even visualize. Put that in perspective.
This is the amount of outstanding college loan debt that exists out there.
MITCHELL: Right. So, this is basically the highest form of household debt outside of mortgages. It's about the side of Canada's economy, that's how
big it is. And this happened very quickly. As of 2007 -- late 2007, there was about half of the trillion dollars of student debt. By 2013, it was
over a trillion.
So, this -- a lot of this has to go with that -- go back to the housing crash. When unemployment skyrocketed, people enrolled in droves in college
and grad school to escape the weak labor market. And very quickly overnight, people took on a lot of that, thinking they were making an
investment in their future. And for a lot of people, that investment has not paid off.
SREENIVASAN: When you think of the number of people who has outstanding that, give us a picture, if you can, just on how many people have, for
example, $100,000 or $200,000 in loans? And what's the likelihood, percentage-wise, of these people that are going to default?
MITCHELL: So, there's about 43 million people in total who have student loans. The average, coming out in college if you spent four years is about
30,000. There are many people now in graduate school who have gone to graduate school in recent years, and those are the ones where you see, you
know, people taking out 50, 000, 100,000, you know, in some cases, 200,000. I actually wrote about a borrower who had $1 million in student debt. He
went to UST to become an orthodontist.
The people with big student loans, they're still a minority. They are a slice. But they -- but they're -- there are growing ones. So, there's --
there are several million people with those big student debt or who have that much student debt.
And that's one of the things that I hear a lot as people say, you know look, the average student debt is only 30,000. Why should we worry about
this? But there's a lot of variation on the average. And I think the average that scares a lot of the problem areas.
SREENIVASAN: The Biden administration has launched a forgives this plan. They said, essentially, they're going to hand back about $20, 000 if you
did qualify for a Pell Grant. And 10,000 if you did not. What went through your mind when you heard about it?
MITCHELL: There were three things that went through my mind. So, I think it's very questionable whether what the president has done here is
constitutional. And we're already seeing Republicans talk about whether they're going to challenge this in court. It looks like they are.
But President Biden himself, as well as Democrats in Congress, said last year leading up to this that they had serious doubts about whether the
president had the authority to cancel student debt wholesale without approval from Congress. And so, after Biden -- after President Biden spent
months, you know, urging Congress to pass a law that he could sign, they did not do so. And so, he has gone ahead and said that he would cancel
student debt for people who make under $125, 000, $250, 000, per household.
So, there is a question of whether this is going to stick. And ultimately, it could end up in the Supreme Court. If this is a conservative court,
we'll have to see, you know, what happens there. But I don't think we should foreclose the possibility that this does not sick. That's number
Number two, aside from whether this is constitutional, I don't think people realize -- a lot of people in the public discourse realize how much toxic
debt is out there. How many loans were just not going to get repaid? If you look at the number of people who had subprime credit scores when they took
student loans, it was a very high share of people. I asked a private bank to give me the numbers. These were anonymized numbers. It was a very high
share. It was about twice the level of people who took on sub -- who were subprime in the housing market.
Point being is that there is a lot of bad debt on the books that was not going to get repaid. And I think that this is an acknowledgment that a lot
of that debt was not going to get repaid. And if this were a private bank, they would have written down this debt. They would've already done that.
But the third point is, you know, what is the Biden administration doing to prevent another runup in student debt? And I'm very surprised that they're
not really carrying this with broader changes to the program because, you know, without any changes, we're going to see another runup in student debt
in the next few years.
SREENIVASAN: One of the critiques of the Biden plan has been -- from economists, is that this is regressive. It's actually penalizing people who
are more impoverished which might seem counter to what is trying to do. And it's giving a leg up to people who already have more money, who might
already be on their way to a comfortable life where they can pay these loans off. Is there any modification that can happen to this plan?
MITCHELL: There is research to show that, you know, even with this plan, it's going to go to hiring com-workers. But really, these are not -- a lot
of them are not wealthy workers. Again, this is for people who are earning under $125,000 Somehow it solves $250,000.
Again, one of the points that I made though, and I think it is very important, is that even if some of these benefits are skewed, there is a
huge cohort of people that are just not paying down their loans. We're talking about millions of people who, again, went to community college,
went to a for-profit program, and they dropped out, or even if they graduated the program, they did not get the high-paying jobs that they
thought they were going to get. And that debt is just sitting there.
So, I think, you know, this going to, you know, wipe out a big chunk of that debt that probably was not going to get repaid. So, yes, on average.
You know, workers who go to college and who actually leave college and get a, you know, will get a decent job. But there's a huge cohort that aren't.
SREENIVASAN: I didn't realize how much of this stemmed from. Really, kind of, the space race and the Cold War and how America felt like we needed to
make these investments to be competitive on the world stage. And that's well-intentioned. We also made investments saying we wanted to try to get
as many of our people educated as possible. Again, noble interest, right?
MITCHELL: Yes, and one of the things that I don't think that Congress or society ever really decided early on was, should everyone go to college?
After the USSR launched Sputnik, basically, Congress created the first student loan program. And the idea, in general, was to, you know, have
schools graduate more scientist than engineers so that we can reclaim the space race.
It was really about STEM, you know, science and tech. But then, very quickly, you know, when LBJ enters office, he takes on, you know, this idea
that he wants to, you know, really help Americans. He wants to level the playing field and solve inequality or at least, reduce inequality. Give
everyone an opportunity to go to college.
And that's when really, you know, higher education and college sort of became known as this entitlement program that everyone should have access
to. But even he, back then -- and you know, would say things like, you know, this is for people who are able to go to college. You know this is
for people who have the academic ability to succeed in college. And it was never really defined what that meant.
And so very quickly, as the economy changes over the next 40 years, you know, and as we see the decline in manufacturing jobs. And as we see the
rise in technology and the computer age, people -- more and more people, more and more jobs require people to go to college. And -- but again, we've
never really decided whether it is for everyone. Whether you actually need to go to college to get every single job.
One of the things we've seen over the past few years, for example, is the college wage premium has gone down. And employers are dropping the
requirements to go to college because the labor market is so tight. Which makes you think, OK. If some of the -- if they're dropping these
requirements now, why didn't they do this, you know, prior to this -- prior to the pandemic?
SREENIVASAN: Let's talk a little bit about, kind of, the industry that you look at here. Now, when you're talking about running up student debt, part
of that is because the price of tuition keeps going up. You connect the dots, so to speak, between money from the treasury, Congress, a company
called Sallie Mae, which our overseas audience might not know about, and banks and universities. Kind of paint that diagram for us, if you can.
MITCHELL: Yes, so prior to 2010, most student loans were made by private banks and Congress would guarantee the loans. So, it was a federal loan,
but basically, taxpayers stood behind these loans. And this was a way for Congress to pretend like this program wouldn't cost taxpayers anything. It
would -- it was a way to keep a lot of these costs off the books. It would -- the program was essentially on the banks' books. And Congress paid
banks, feats (ph) to ensure that this -- that it stayed on their books.
Meanwhile, then when the students failed to repay, Congress would come back and reimburse the banks. So, for many, many years this was a very
profitable program for the private sector and for Wall Street. And if you look at, for example, for-profit schools, many of which were publicly
traded companies, and still are, on Wall Street, their biggest source of money was the student loan program.
Congress would give students blank checks. Students would use those checks to go to a lot of for-profit schools. And those schools, whether it wasn't
for-profit schools or nonprofit schools, kept the money regardless of the ability of students to repay. This is a program with the most perverse
incentives you could think of.
And that is the reason why student debt -- that is one of the reasons why student debt rose so quickly. Because even when students couldn't repay,
schools knew that they could continue to charge high prices regardless of the outcome.
SREENIVASAN: There is data that shows that somebody who graduates, a man who graduates college, is likely to earn somewhere around $900,000 more
than his counterpart that didn't go through college. And a woman, maybe $630,000 or $740,000 more, right?
MITCHELL: Yes. You know, so, there has been what you're referring to as the college wage premium. It's actually really opened up to '80s. I grew up
around that time. And so, you know, it was drilled in my head, as well as everyone's head, that if you wanted to make something of yourself, you had
to go to college. And then for a lot of people, it became a grad school in the 2000s.
And so, yes, there is a premium. But there's so many people outside of the average who are defaulting. There are -- there is a high level of people
who drop out of college. And so, they end up with student debt, but they don't have the college diploma that they need to get a lot of jobs.
And so, you know, there -- it's somewhat counterintuitive. But most people who default on their loans actually owe between $5,000 and $10,000 in
student debt. And again, that's because a lot of people only last a year and then they drop out.
You know, when you go to apply for a home loan, you have to get an appraisal for that loan. The bank requires you to get an appraisal for that
loan to make sure that you're not overpaying for the home because the bank, you know, wants to make sure you're going to be able to pay that back. And
that the investment you're making is actually worth it.
There's no similar appraisal process when students go to college. They go to the financial aid officer of their college. They say I want to go here.
They're 18 years old. They haven't really had any experience with, you know, taking out a loan of any sort. And there's -- they're just told that
this is what they need to do in order to get a good job. And so then, they come out and they realize real quickly that their loans are too big to stay
on top of the monthly payment, and they end up defaulting on their loans.
SREENIVASAN: As you've researched this space, what are the things that both politicians and economists and students and administrators can agree
on to try to fix this?
MITCHELL: One of the main points I argue in my book is, if you want to fix the system, there's got to be consequences for schools if they're going to
saddle students with debt that they simply can't repay. And this is what I meant by the lack of systemic reform that the Biden administration has
paired with this forgiveness program.
One of the provisions of this plan of his is if you take on college debt, you will -- your monthly payment will be cut in half compared to what you
currently have to pay. Basically, it's five percent of your discretionary income that you have to pay each month toward your undergraduate loans
under his plan. That will help students stay on top of their loans.
But it's a further -- it's a big gift to the schools because now schools can increasingly go to the students and say, don't worry about the balance.
Don't worry about how much student debt you're going to have to take on to attend this school. Because you're only going to have to pay five percent
of your income regardless of whether you owe, you know, $10, 000, $100,000. So, I actually think there is a very big risk here that this is going to
further incentivize schools to just raise their prices.
So, I think one of the things that both parties could agree on, and they both said this, members of both parties, is that schools need more skin in
the game. Now, how do you do that is the big question. And a lot of politicians talk about that but they have not, you know, put forward a real
One of the things that I point out in my book is that before the government got into the business of student loans, a lot of schools themselves
actually made loans themselves to students. And the default rates were very low. And I would argue that the reason why the default rates were low is
that the schools knew that if they were setting up students to fail, the schools would those -- would take on those losses. They would lose money.
And so, I would argue that if you really wanted to change the system, you have to change the incentives so that schools are responsible for some of
the losses if students default on their loans. And currently, they really aren't.
SREENIVASAN: What about the students that need to borrow this fault? What should they be doing? If they -- should they be factoring in that some debt
might be forgiven? Because universities are, as you said, likely to say, hey, there's a debt forgiveness plan that's on the table. Whether it's
passed or not, whether it's constitutional or not. I'm just going to put it in my brochure and jack up my prices perhaps?
MITCHELL: Yes. You know, I think that that's a big issue here, you know. It's -- President Biden has opened up a can of worms, I think, in terms of
not just with forgiving $10,000. But they've also -- it wasn't just him. So, it started with Trump where they put in place this pandemic pause, and
that lasted almost three years. President Biden has extended that to the end of this year.
So, we have in three years where people have not made a payment on their student loans. And right now, you know, inflation is very high. So, there
are problems out there. But the labor market is very hot. And people -- unemployment is very low. And so, there is this big question of, like, OK.
So, what happens the next time there is an economic downturn? How quickly is the administration just going to turn the taps off again, and that
require people to pay off for student loans?
So, I do think that there is an issue here of whether students are becoming more and more desensitized to paying down their loans. I think it's -- I
think the good thing about that is is that students are not going to default on their loans. But I think that there's this bigger issue that no
one is really addressing, which is it could further encourage students -- schools to raise their prices. And ultimately, taxpayers will have to take
on those costs.
SREENIVASAN: Josh Mitchell, the book is called "The Debt Trap: How Students Became A National Catastrophe." Thank you so much for joining us.
MITCHELL: Sure, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: In this time of debt and partisan anger and war, we next turn to a man who is working to give us a way to find peace. Since the age of four,
Prem Rawat has been going around the world to reintroduce people to what peace within feels like. But he, himself, has not escaped the sting of
controversy. Still, despite the challenges facing all of us, Rawat says the antidote is so simple that even a young child can understand it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PREM RAWAT, PEACE ACTIVIST: Pick the light, it'll automatically take care of the darkness.
SIDNER (voiceover): Prem Rawat is one of the most famous speakers in the world that you may never have heard of. The New York Times bestselling
author travels the world all year long. Teaching people how to access inner peace and contentment.
SIDNER (on camera): When did you start speaking about peace? How old were you?
RAWAT: I was four years old.
SIDNER (on camera): Four?
SIDNER (on camera): And would people listen to a four-year-old?
RAWAT: Actually, they, did. They did because they couldn't believe a four- year-old was talking about peace. So, they will hear this little child talking, and they would just come running to see what was going on. And I
could get peace, get a few words in. I didn't have any idea of what this huge audience was or what these people were really there for. But I knew I
wanted to talk about peace.
SIDNER (on camera): A four-year-old has, oftentimes, difficulty forming a sentence. Never mind, sitting in front of a crowd of hundreds and thousands
of people talking about peace. Where did the words come from?
RAWAT: The word came from an inspiration that's inside. It really says, you know, there is a possibility that is above and beyond all our things
that are going on in this world. We are so wrapped up in all the goods and bads of every single day that we forget there is another possibility. And
that possibility is the possibility to be fulfilled.
SIDNER (voiceover): Rawat did not come from humble beginnings. His early life looked like almost none other. His father was a guru in India and
Rawat followed in his father's footsteps. Controversy, eventually followed. Initially due to labels, Rawat was given.
SIDNER (on camera): So, when you first started this journey as a young boy, people would call you things like the perfect master. And what that
conjures up in my mind, in many people's minds, is this a cult? So, is it, what you are doing and spreading and the people who follow your message?
RAWAT: I will tell you something that I can say. I cannot tell you why they say what they said. All I can tell you is what I can say. What I see.
What I have always felt. And what I have always felt is this is not about me. This is about them. This is about them finding themselves. That's the
journey I am on. Helping people find themselves. And I want to be on that journey, too. Finding myself.
SIDNER (voiceover): In 1972, he left India to take his message to the west, arriving in London at just 13 years old. Back then, he was called
His following exploded. And decades later, so again, did controversy. A small group of former followers began questioning how he can afford to live
a lavish lifestyle. Like having a private jet, that the pilots himself. And a mansion in Malibu.
A representative for Rawat says he is not living a lavish lifestyle. His Malibu property was purchased when land was cheap in the '70s. And Rawat
spends at least nine months of the year on commercial and lease planes traveling to speak with hundreds of thousands of people all over the globe.
With the simple goal of offering a way to find peace. His charitable foundation spending is transparent at an independent organization that
rates charity spending has consistently given the foundation a high rating.
Over the past half-century, Rawat has traveled to every continent. Speaking about finding personal peace. His foundation has provided millions of meals
to the hungry. In recognition that peace is not possible if you don't have the necessities of life. His peace program is also being used in schools,
and more recently, for inmates in prisons in Africa and the United States. With the sole goal of giving people a way to feel peaceful inside.
He's been given keys to multiple cities across the globe for his work to bring people peace. And he's received numerous awards, including the
BrandLaureate International Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award.
RAWAT: Thank you so much. I'm very touched by the whole ceremony today.
SIDNER (voiceover): An award given to the likes of Nelson Mandela.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have so sacrificially given your life and your all in promoting peace to the world.
SIDNER (voiceover): But Rawat insists this is not about him. It's about you. It's about peace.
SIDNER (on camera): We are seeing right on the doorstep of Europe a war has started again. And it seems that we go back to this every time there's
a conflict. It is a direct line to fight or flight. And we tend to pick fight. So, how is it possible to have peace in this world?
RAWAT: The idea of peace has coexisted along the side with wars and all the controversies that we have had in this world. Peace, we have to find it
within ourselves. Only then will it manifest outside. Just as with wars, it first begins in the minds of human beings, and then, it goes and manifests
outside. The dissatisfaction that we feel in us, we see it projected all around us. This is not something that the buildings put up. This is not
something that the roads put up. This is human beings putting it up.
SIDNER (on camera): So, are you saying that the internal conflict that we have has to be dealt with before we're able to have so-called world peace?
I mean, how do you do that?
RAWAT: Well, you have to just get in touch with yourself. You have a phone. It communicates with everybody else. How do you communicate with
you? Know thyself --
SIDNER (on camera): Know thyself.
RAWAT: -- was no mistake. It echoes even today. With all the technology, if we don't have the technology of getting in touch with ourselves.
SIDNER (on camera): And I think that is where we will live it. That's hard to do to make that choice, but I suppose it is necessary to find that
peace, especially the inner peace.
SIDNER (on camera): Prem Rawat, thank so much for joining our show.
RAWAT: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Our next guest will help you along the path to some joy. They are the indie pop duo known as Sylvan Esso, Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn have
been at it for nearly a decade, combining soulful folk with cutting-edge electronica. The Grammy nominees just released their fourth studio album,
"No Rules Sandy". They are partners in love, as well as music. And when you sat down here in New York, I asked them about how it all comes together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: How does this work? Work-life, balance or is it all one thing?
AMELIA MEATH, MUSICIAN, SYLVAN ESSO: Everything all the time.
NICK SANBORN, MUSICIAN, SYLVAN ESSO: It's all one thing.
SANBORN: You can't -- I think when you make a -- turning your emotions into a thing, your, like, life's work, it's all wrapped up in one thing.
There's no way to -- for it to be, like, a separate situation, you know.
SIDNER: Can I tell you, when I first heard your music, "Coffee", which I love, both the song and the actual drink.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVAN ESSO, INDIE BAND: Get up, get down. Get up, get down. Feel the turn of rotation and stop. See the next one waiting. Get up, get down. Get up,
get down. Get up. Sentiment's the same, but the pair of feet change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: What are you trying to say here?
MEATH: Oh. Well, I wanted to talk about counter-dancing, which I grew up doing. In counter-dancing, it's a partner, kind of, dance. It's like square
dancing, except you do it in a line. And as you have a partner, and by doing a certain series of circulative movements, you progress up the line
to different couples. And I wanted to talk about that in terms of getting used to the sensation of falling in love.
SIDNER: When I first heard it, it hit my ears differently. I was like, what am I listening to? It was, like, I was trying to figure out where it
fits and genres. And it didn't really fit. You have this sort of siren, soulful, folky sound. And you have this electronic sound. And I'm like,
that's not supposed to go together. And yet, you made it work. Was it strange for either one of you to combine these two things together?
MEATH: I think, like, once we started after the initial period of us, like, daring each other to be creative, once it began, it wasn't -- it was
mostly just exciting.
SANBORN: We also -- we thought we were making a pop band, you know.
SANBORN: And like, it wasn't until we played it for people that they were like, this is a really weird combination. And we're like, what are you guys
talking about? It sounded really normal.
SIDNER: To you, it sounded normal.
SANBORN: Yes, it was -- she was totally natural, you know.
SIDNER: She was -- you know, for the rest of us, you know, it's very, you know, very pedantic humans. It was like, what? What is this? And then the
more you listen to it, the more like -- it's an earworm.
MEATH: Thank you/
SIDNER: And my -- "Coffee" is actually -- I'm singing it to myself as I walk in. I won't disturb you with my singing. But can you tell me, where
does this creativity come from? Like, what is it originate, do you think?
SANBORN: I don't know. Music, for us, has always been like a natural byproduct of us hanging out, you know. So, I think it's kind of, like -- I
think we're always listening. And we're always thinking about the next thing, you know. So, I think when you're, you know, when you're filtering
your experience in that way, it's just kind of a natural thing that happens.
MEATH: Exactly. It's a good -- creative conversation that we're constantly having.
SIDNER: When you create, what's a writing session like?
MEATH: Oh, you have to get snacks first. And then usually, Sandy (ph) will start improvising or I'll have, like, maybe a chorus or an idea prepared.
But right now, usually, Nick starts playing, and then I'll sit and listen and encourage him in the direction that I think is in -- more interesting.
And then when words come, I'll start humming them very quietly to myself, and then I'll write them down. And then we'll do a vocal take.
SANBORN: It's -- when it's working, it's like this, you know, kind of tennis match. We're both trying to keep the ball going higher and higher
and, kind of, challenging the other one. There's like a lot of arguing over what's good and what's bad.
SIDNER: Is there competition? Is it like --
SANBORN: I don't --
SIDNER: -- to keep the ball on the air?
MEATH: It's not really a competition. But it is like a -- no, you know what, you're right. I think there is an element of like --
SANBORN: You feel competitive about it?
MEATH: It's not competitive. But it's like who can make the most -- who can make the other excited?
MEATH: Who can, like, make a decision that makes the other person make it even wilder decision.
MEATH: And then we're able, you know, to --
SANBORN: That's the thing.
MEATH: -- and then by the end of it, hopefully, there's a song.
SANBORN: We're always really chasing that feeling of, like, surprising the other one.
SANBORN: You know, trying to do something that -- I'm always trying to do something that I don't feel like she would expect me to do.
SIDNER: That's hard, isn't it?
MEATH: It's hard
SANBORN: Oh, yes. It's really hard.
SANBORN: Especially, you know, for 10 years down the line.
MEATH: But it's really fun.
SIDNER: You know, after your first album, how would you say your lives changed? Morphed?
SANBORN: One huge shift that I think we finally got away from making this newest record was that when we made music after that, we were inherently
thinking about, you know, maintaining a career. Like, what is this kind of person going to feel about this? How is it going to work on the radio?
How's -- all these different things.
And it just kind of inherently changed a big part of the way we make things. And one thing that I was really excited about this was that we got
to make it in a bubble again, you know. And it felt like, you know, we've been together this whole time, and we finally came back full circle to that
first moment of just, like, surprising each other.
SIDNER: You just mentioned the "Radio", "Slave to the Radio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVAN ESSO: I've got the moves of a TV queen. Folk girl hero in a magazine. Faking the truth in a new pop song. Don't you want to sing along.
Slave to the radio, slave to the radio, slave to the radio. Three point three O. Slave to the radio, slave to the radio, slave to the radio. Three
point three O.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: What's it about?
MEATH: I wrote it, wanting to talk about -- it's mostly a song to myself about the -- when you're trying to write a song that will be impressive and
will be loved by a large group of people and how that can accidentally lead you to making and an interesting decision.
SANBORN: Or not being yourself.
MEATH: And it's also about -- it's the nature of consuming art that is only comforting instead of pushing the boundary.
SIDNER: Do you feel that, sort of, the word slave, obviously, indicates that it's like you have to do something for somebody else but it's not
really what's coming out of you? It's, like, trying to please someone.
SIDNER: OK. When you are sitting down and making this, I watched you on NPR's "Tiny Desk". Are you -- you're doing that all alive? Like, how do you
keep it all together in your head? You're moving your -- I'm going, how is he doing this?
SANBORN: I mean, I --
SIDNER: It's bananas.
SANBORN: -- I have pretty intense ADHD. And so, maybe that's part of where it comes. It's kind of, I mean, the way we have it set up now is kind of
like, each song is kind of this picture. And I can go in and smear all the paint up and change it and add all the things on top and then, kind of,
snap it back into focus if I want to.
And that's where, I think, this sweet spot is for us with this show. It's trying to be able to feel, even personally, really, in the moment and
pushing the sounds around. While also, at the same, time having this kind of net below us that -- just the nature of it being there allows you to,
like, think higher. You know what I mean?
But one of the things that I think we've tried to -- I've tried to lean into is that feeling of, like, a lot of plates spinning at once. And I'm
kind of watching all of them and moving the thing around. But I've -- I also always feel like if I don't have the danger of dropping at least a few
of them then I'm not going to have a good time, you know.
SIDNER: You're living on the edge a little.
SIDNER: Like -- feeling like something could happen --
SANBORN: It's got to be able to fall apart, you know.
SIDNER: OK. Has it ever fallen apart?
SANBORN: Oh, yes.
MEATH: Oh, yes.
SIDNER: When? Was it live?
MEATH: Oh, yes.
SANBORN: Oh, yes.
MEATH: One time, we were at ACL, and we were playing in front of the largest crowd that we've ever -- that we had ever played before at that
SANBORN: It was like --
MEATH: It was 30,000 people.
SANBORN: Yes, so many people.
MEATH: And the front house overheated. And then
SANBORN: It was like 100 degrees out. And it was --
MEATH: Yes, and then the mix computer overheated.
SANBORN: The minute the system comes back on, then my laptop dies.
MEATH: Yes, I had -- I have a reserve of sea creature-themed jokes for that occasion that can be told for very long periods of time if they need
to be. So, it can stretch for the length of a --
MEATH: -- mechanical problem? Yes, and I went through all of those. And then we were singing happy birthday to a couple of people.
SANBORN: That's true.
MEATH: And then we got everything back. But it was seven to 15 --
SANBORN: It was a long time.
MEATH: It was a long time.
SANBORN: I do think that there's one thing that's nice as an electronic band about screwing up, which is, I think when you're in the audience,
there's the potential to look up there and just be like, well, I don't really know what they're doing. Maybe it's just -- maybe they just hit play
And so, kind of every time we really screw up, or I really screw up I guess, because I'm the one on the paddles (ph). It -- it's -- I think it's
a nice reminder to people that we're like actually making it all happen right in front of you.
SIDNER: They're like, this is really live, so.
SANBORN: Yes, yes.
SIDNER: So, this could happen. Why did you write, "No Rules Sandy"?
MEATH: The album?
MEATH: Well -- so, we've started a tradition where every January we load our tiny studio into the back of our car. We drive from North Carolina to
Los Angeles. It's a great way to start the new year.
SANBORN: Road trip.
MEATH: Road trip. This time, when we got to L.A., the Omicron variant had spiked. We were going -- we had all these sessions booked. We were going to
go to the Grammys. And then everything got canceled. So, there we were in this rental with, like, a little baby studio.
SANBORN: With nothing to do.
MEATH: Nothing to do. And Nick and I just started waking up every morning. I would go on a skeeball (ph) and he would get breakfast, and then we would
come together around noon and just try to make a song. And the craziest thing kept on happening where we would just write a song every day.
SANBORN: Which, like, never happens for us.
SIDNER: Every day?
MEATH: Yes, for like three weeks.
SANBORN: It was so fun.
MEATH: It was so cool.
SIDNER: How many did you end up with? Was that -- is that the album?
SANBORN: Yes. Yes, and it was just like, you know, I think a lot of things led into it. You know, every decision you've ever made has led us to, like,
this moment, talking to you here, you know. But there was this something about getting there and everything getting canceled and all of the things
that we and, like, everybody have been through in the past couple of years.
And we were just able to just be there with each other and not care about anything else. And not even thinking about making a record. We weren't. We
didn't even realize it was a record until we got home, you know? We were just having fun. And --
SIDNER: That's delightful.
MEATH: It's really exciting. It's still really exciting.
SIDNER: The album, "No Rules Sandy", I think, comes from a lyric in one of your songs. What song is that?
MEATH: "Your Reality", that's the name of the song. And it's a part of a backup part that I wrote that was kind of a joke to Nick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVAN ESSO: Let me help it, let me fight. Let me remember how to live my life. Were there rules originally or --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MEATH: Because usually, whenever we're recording the vocals, it's the first time either he or I have heard them. And we, like, knit this one into
the heart of the record.
SANBORN: And our friend, Jen, pointed out when we played it for her that, like, that had to be the name of the record. And it's just so inherently
silly and true. I mean, the whole album is just us, like, letting go of all of these things and reminding ourselves that we can do anything we want.
And it just felt like the perfect summation of that the minute you pointed it out.
SIDNER: So, "No Rules Sandy" in your reality is, like, there are no rules. Last question for you guys. What's next?
SANBORN: Oh, what's next?
MEATH: Oh, boy.
SANBORN: We're --
MEATH: Touring forever.
SANBORN: We're touring forever. We're -- I've been really excited in working on this record label with some friends of ours. And that has just,
kind of, expanded our musical family in this wonderful way that that feels like this whole next frontier of possibility for us right now is this label
cycle that we're working on.
MEATH: Exactly. And we also have a studio called Betty's in our home in North Carolina.
MEATH: So, we'll probably -- we'll tour forever and then we'll go back to Betty's and make a new record.
SANBORN: After forever.
MEATH: Yes, after forever.
SIDNER: You guys really like touring?
MEATH: I love it.
SIDNER: Some people --
MEATH: It's the way --
SIDNER: -- hate it.
MEATH: Yes, we're --
SIDNER: You guys seem to like totally enjoy it.
SANBORN: To us, though, I think -- especially, this was something the pandemic really drove on us that I don't think we really felt like an album
is, like, done until we've gone and played it in front of everybody. And especially, we just have the best fans. I mean, they're like being in front
of these people who've, like, resonated with what we make is just like the most rewarding thing ever, like, I hope we never stop doing that.
SIDNER: Thank you both so much.
MEATH: Thank you.
SANBORN: Thank you so much for having us.
SIDNER: This was wonderful.
MEATH: Yes, thank you for --
SIDNER: I enjoyed it.
SANBORN: We really appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: They were a delight.
And finally, five female photojournalists living an extraordinary life. A new documentary, "No Ordinary Life", profiles five veteran CNN camerawomen
who traveled the world covering conflicts in a field dominated by men. Here's a clip from the trailer featuring Christiane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: These camerawomen blazed a trail that they didn't even know they were blazing at the time.
They were incredibly brave, incredibly resourceful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a sisterhood. When you go into these situations that are very difficult, very scary. It's nice to know that somebody
understands what you've been through. There's not that many people that understand what you've been through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Earlier this year, my colleague, Bianna Golodryga, spoke with the director, Heather O'Neill, and two of the women featured in the film, Cinde
Strands and Maria Fleet. She asked Maria about the difference of the female gaze while filming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA FLEET, FEATURED IN "NO ORDINARY LIFE": As women, we move through the world in a certain way. We have a certain perspective. And, I know that
that informs the pictures that we take. I can't say, as a class, you know, what it is. What it is that we do differently. I mean, I know that most of
the time, in conflicts, we don't spend a lot of -- we don't pay a lot of attention to the hardware of war and, you know, what kind of a tank that
is. I mean, to the extent that we have to know what it is we do.
But, you know, we pay a lot -- I know that we, Cynde and I, and Mary, and Jane, and Margaret, all paid a lot of attention to the people who are, kind
of, the bystanders in war.
The people who are just -- the war is happening around and they're kind of the victims of it, and that's most of the people. And they're just trying
to, you know, get their -- you know, take their kids to school or, you know, make a living. And instead, they're being uprooted from their homes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: I have been honored to work with Cinde and Maria. Important details that humanized harrowing stories from those ladies. It is an
incredible film. And "No Ordinary Life" premiers on CNN, Monday, the 5th of September at 10:00 p.m. in New York, 4:00 a.m. in Paris.
And that is it for now. Goodbye from New York.