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CNN Special Report: Living History With Ken Burns And Doris Kearns Goodwin. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired January 23, 2021 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. do solemnly swear.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: At the place where democracy was just pushed to the brink, a new president takes office and a new vice president makes history.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Kamala Devi Harris solemnly swear.
COOPER: A disgraced president, twice impeached leaves the scene.
DONALD J. TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So have a good life.
COOPER: And leaves the nation wounded from the insurrection he incited, divided by the lies he spread. And dying of the virus downplayed, mishandled and mocked.
TRUMP: COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID.
Did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?
BIDEN: In my first act as president, I'd like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer. Remember all those we lost in this past year to the pandemic. Those 400,000 fellow Americans, moms, dads, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors and coworkers.
We'll honor them becoming the people and the nation we know we can and should be.
COOPER: The question at the 46th president gets to work is how. How to conquer not just a virus that kills but also the politics that corrode, the fear that none of it is fixable after four years of American carnage.
BIDEN: Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations to pass along a new and better world your children. I believe we must. I'm sure you do as well. I believe we will and when we do, we'll write the next great chapter in the history of the United States of America, the American story. COOPER: A new chapter and what it may hold for all of us, living
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: This is such a consequential chapter in the story of our nation that we wanted to talk to two remarkable storytellers to help us put it in perspective. Joining me now, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian, biographer, Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author, most recently of 'Leadership in Turbulent Times.'
Ken, when we spoke on Tuesday night, the night before the inauguration you said I feel like tonight is New Year's Eve. I think we just got the dates wrong. It's now the New Year. How are you feeling?
KEN BURNS, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: I'm feeling relaxed. I feel like I've exhaled. I feel like there's a little bit of later bounce in my step and a sense that some great tension, I think it was that existential threat of whether we would still be who we have claimed we will be. Now I don't pretend nor should we ever sugar coat our history and think that it'll all be OK just because we hope it will be, it will be not and there's lots of hard work ahead of us.
But I think what we saw yesterday where the signals of adults, the signals of people who understand how to use the instrumentality of government, people who don't automatically see government as an end in and of itself and people who understand that there's something bigger than themselves.
The outgoing president felt that that the Buck stopped with him only in the sense that it was about him. Joe Biden clearly serves a God and a savior and the government and the ideals behind those governments and the idea of cooperation and the idea that there is no communication except among equals.
So we begin again yesterday and today and tomorrow with an idea that we can press the restart button and get going again.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think I felt in a certain sense that the hunger for leadership that the country was experiencing was met, both at the inaugural address but even more by the talk that Biden gave the next day with his national plan for action with the virus.
You know what FDR was able to accomplish in 1933 was not simply that phrase there is nothing to fear but fear itself but more important I'm going to take action, I'm going to be a wartime leader. I'm going to put a plan in place. I'm going to call Congress and the day after the inauguration what Biden did was to say he was a wartime leader to talk about the national plan, to give all of us the feeling that we'll be working on this together and that that goal of 100 million vaccines in arms will be met with hope. At the same time I think there was a certain sense of normalcy that returned. Just even saying a press briefing that first night, you thought oh my
God, this is great. They have press briefings and all of these things you should take for granted. You should take for granted that when they exchange gifts, there's a warmth between the congressional leaders between Pelosi and McConnell but there was and to see them together at the mass and to see them at Arlington with the three presidents there.
You just felt like the government was living again and that's sort of what happened after FDR, the headlines said we have a leader, the government still lives. And that's what I felt so maybe a little political normalcy. Now the dream is to get back to everyday normalcy once the virus is under control. That's the real dream.
BURNS: You know, we really do have that opportunity now when we talk about these divisions and perhaps they're permanent but with the way you change those is by delivering the services that you need, you think as Doris pointed out, the first days and years of FDR's administration, he brought power to the Tennessee valley.
He electrified parts of rural America, rural America needs the same attention as we were talking about the other day. It needs to feel like somebody cares. There are little tiny main streets hollowed out for decades now and the sense of place and a sense of belonging has left people adrift and of course they will become susceptible to lies which of course assassinate nuance and complexity and don't allow us to get things done and they're susceptible to grievance which then promotes that division and makes it impossible to find allies, your natural allies.
In fact you're told that your natural allies are your enemies and then we find ourselves at war with one another. You know, I was reminded by a moment in Richard III by Shakespeare where someone says where is comfort and a character responds, comfort is in heaven. You know we live - the president brought up Saint Augustine in his inaugural remarks the other day and Saint Augustine said and had to remind people we live in the city of human beings, we live in the city of men.
We don't live in the city of God and so there's lots of work to do and it's so nice to see someone saying, I'm rolling up my sleeves right now and I'm going to get something done.
COOPER: There were so many - there was an extraordinary moment on the day of the inauguration that I want to - I want to play because I happened to be anchoring at the moment. The president - the then president's plane took off and left Washington DC and it was the moment of transition really from the past to the present and it was such a stark juxtaposition that I actually sort of didn't want to have anybody talk over.
I just wanted to hear the sound that was actually happening which happened to be a song playing that the president plays at rallies. I just want to play that moment and talk about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's just watch in silence as this Airforce one takes off and the Trump family leaves Washington, leaves the seat of power.
SONG PLAYING: Yes, it was my way.
COOPER: And inside the church, the Biden family, Harris family, a new beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And that was it. I mean it's so startling to me seeing that juxtaposition.
BURNS: If autocrats listen to the soundtrack of their own design, people small d democrats, people who subscribe to the idea that we are intelligent enough to govern ourselves, this is the great by-product of the enlightenment.
Serves something higher, whatever that might be the D-ism of the founders, the specific Gods of various religions, the power of art, of rationalism, philosophy, whatever it might be and you see in all the people assembled in the church submitting to something bigger than themselves.
And in the former case, you see someone who believes that he is the end in and of itself and in that negative feedback loop, emphasis negative, nothing can be accomplished. In the other loop you have the ability of bringing in a Mitch McConnell and permitting the stirrings of that democratic impulse to be reawakened again as it has throughout our history fallen dormant but as Doris suggests, we are now with this gigantic wave breaking over our head of all of these crises, sort of all of the rolled into one.
A division, an insurrection and racism and pandemic and economic collapse. It's the perfect storm and the only thing that's going to get us out is not Frank Sinatra. It's going to be you know submitting to something bigger than ourselves and let us just say for Americans, you can just start with the constitution.
Four pieces of parchment written at the end of the eighteenth century, a deeply flawed operating manual but one never the less that has at least suggested that we are permitted to serve something bigger than ourselves in order to agree to cohere.
That's how we get things done, there's lots of work to be done, it of course referenced people as three-fifths of a tolerated slavery. We have lots to improve on that but we need to do that. You know when Benjamin Franklin made the motion at the constitutional convention to adopt this flawed document filled with compromises, horrible compromises, he none the less that our enemies are waiting for us, expecting to be slashing each other's throats he said. And we're not, we would enforce - and however many years later, we
seem to be on the verge of that now but we have the possibility to remember that however imperfect the system we established, it's there to check the baser instincts of lies, of grievances, of paranoia that have been promoted over the last four years.
COOPER: Doris, I just want to play something that President Biden said about the challenges ahead at the inauguration.
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BIDEN: We face an attack on our democracy and on truth. A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America's role in the world, any one of these we've been up to challenge us in profound ways but the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we've had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Can we have a common purpose? I mean can we as a country, it seems like in our past Doris, in times of true crises and Ken has talked four great crises in this country and we are in the fourth one right now. The civil war, the Great Depression, World War II, the country has come together to - not obviously in the civil war but besides come together and were able to mobilize.
Can we come together for a common purpose, Doris?
KEARNS GOODWIN: Well, I think that's the task not only of leadership but of the citizens. When you think of all the changes that have really taken place in our society, they often come from the ground up. When Lincoln was called the liberator, he said don't call me that. It was the anti-slavery movement and the union soldiers that did it all.
So that anti-slavery movement is born in controversy. There's pro slavery, there's anti-slavery and then eventually there's abolitionism and the emancipation. The progressive movement started in the cities and states long before Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt got there.
There were settlement houses that were created, there were church gospels, social gospel movement. Obviously, the civil rights movement made whatever Lyndon Johnson was able to do possible, the women's movement, the gay rights movement so right now we have to depend not just on the leadership that's going to be coming from Washington or our state governors.
It's got to depend on us and we have a responsibility right now to own up to this crisis, to take - to take the actions in our local and community areas that can begin to deal with the racial divides, begin to deal with the economic inequities. I mean that's what citizenship is about.
And as Ken said the last time we were talking, there are real good signs of this. We voted in massive numbers that we hadn't before. They voted in Georgia in numbers they hadn't before. Young people are taking part in the system, more women have been running than ever before.
If we can take hold of the democracy that we feel as citizens, you know in the end the only thing I'd like to say about the difference between those two things you served with Frank Sinatra and the church is that it depends on the ambition of the leader and the ambition it seemed for President Trump was for himself.
And now we have to hope that Biden being older, at a different level than when he ran the first time, that his ambition is to leave something behind. That's what you want in a leader that they know their legacy and they've got the character to want to be remembered for having done something good.
If we feel the trust in government is the trust in ourselves, if we can trust in Biden because he's reached a different stage in his life where his ambition is to create a legacy, that he has the character and he's a good man and we have to trust in ourselves in our character right now as a nation because these problems are huge but we have to believe that somehow, not only we'll endure but we're going to fight to endure. We're going to fight to make this right.
BURNS: You know Doris just gave that mic drop of all mic drops just then. That's about as good as it gets and you bring up Lincoln and I've been haunted all of my professional life Anderson, by a quote that that Doris knows, it's from a speech given by a tall thin lawyer prone to bouts of debilitating depression.
He hasn't even turned 29 years old. The young man's Lyceum. He's addressing one afternoon in Springfield, Illinois and he says whence shall we expect the approach of danger, shall some transatlantic giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track in the Blue Ridge in the trial of 1000 years.
If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we will live through all time or die by suicide. Now he's like acknowledging the two great oceans, east and west that have shielded us from so much of what has happened in the rest of the world like the caucuses and yet he understood that that protection also incubated the worst kind of habits along with the very best and so he continually spend his life - we - it's become now built in cliche appealing to our better angels everywhere he went.
But he was not mindful of the fragility of where we stood at any given time and was willing to sacrifice everything for that and you begin to hear in American politics the best of the leaders have echoed from Lincoln who was himself trying to re write, remember his Gettysburg address is essentially the 2.0 on the operating manual that wasn't so great.
You know this is - we really do mean all men are created equal. We have echoed him and when we call him to mind, when we summon his own better angels then we're in a much better position to sort of address the problems that may at first blush seem intractable or the divisions that seem impossible to resolve.
COOPER: Got to take a quick break. In a moment how president Biden chose to acknowledge the terrible toll this virus is taken with the lights the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool and what the past tells us about what lies ahead and then later inaugural poet Amanda Gorman in what her work as an example mean for this nation.
Our conversation with Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin continues in a moment.
COOPER: Welcome back. We are living history right now and who better talk about what that means than presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and documentarian Ken Burns. It's one of the things though Ken and I heard you say actually when we talked last time, you said to me, so much of this is about having their problems magnified in a negative way.
That that's something the former president did. He magnified real problems that people have but he magnified in a negative way as a - and there is an alternative to that and really it is about, that is what leadership is about.
BURNS: Well, you know this the campaign of the former president began when he came down the escalator and lied first about Mexican immigrants and he left on the tarmac at Andrews lying again about his accomplishments or ignoring other important things and between that, we were told there were 30,000 plus lies told, I think it's the Washington Post that accumulates this total lies as Biden said, they've been told for power and for profit.
What you have in good government is the opposite of that. The willingness to say, it's tough and it's going to get tougher. FDR was never afraid to say how bad it was. He was able to as Doris mentioned explain the whole theory of the banking system on a Sunday night and people had pulled their money out on Friday and they put it back in on Monday.
He put it in the terms of neighbors and friends and you know there was something, I don't think that people rhetoricians are going to look back at Biden's inaugural as any great spectacular flowing prose the way we've heard from a Kennedy or particularly a Lincoln but it was as good as it gets because he said folks, he spoke to people as if he knew their problems.
And this is an amazing thing you know all of us experience grief in our lives, everyone in this conversation, everyone listening to us has experienced grief and one of the things we know is that the half-life of grief is endless and the difference between leadership and the absence of leadership is somebody who is able to come in and say, I get it. I can't take it away but I tell you I have been there and let me walk
with you and if anyone remember where Joe Biden you know was sworn in next to the hospital bed of his young sons after his wife and daughter had been killed and just in the last 5.5 years ago, Beau died.
I mean this man is book ended by unspeakable loss and yet he is able in some ways to translate that into an understanding as his mother admonished him to make an effort to walk in other people's shoes.
And I think out of the result of that, just as FDR was able to do and one can presume that it was being stricken by infantile paralysis at age 39 as sort of young, handsome, kind of ambitious rather thin in every sense of the word guy suddenly acquires a kind of gravitas, when the brackets go on, the braces go on his legs and he's able to literally without being physically able to walk, walk us through the depression and then the second World War, the two of the great three crises. The first one being the civil war before that.
COOPER: And Doris, it was so interesting to me that that President Biden, at that moment president-elect Biden chose to begin the entire inauguration events with the memorial for 400,000, the recognition of 400,000 dead in this country.
That number has already risen and will continue to but to me, there was such power in that. It was not, I don't want to panic people. I'm uncomfortable with loss and therefore I'm going to you know, there's nothing worse when you've lost somebody and you know the people around you don't know what to say because they feel awkward when in fact they don't really have to say anything but they do just acknowledging it makes all the difference.
KEARNS GOODWIN: And I think what had made the difference too is that everybody had been experiencing the losses in their own lives, the way in which a loss spreads out but there was no sense of a collective understanding of that and that's what you need to go through.
I mean that was one of the most difficult parts of the virus that people couldn't be with the people they loved when it happened. They couldn't express it because we weren't even acknowledging how big this problem was and somehow just seeing those lights that night and feeling the solemnity of it, made us experience it for everybody else.
And I think you know I'd just like to follow up on something that Ken said, I think it was so important when Biden talked about being able to walk in other people's shoes and it's true that FDR did that through the adversity of his polio but I think the other person who did that and I think the time that really parallels ours before the pandemic set in is Teddy Roosevelt.
Because he warned that democracy would faulter when people in other classes or other sections of the country began regarding each other as the other, rather than as common American citizens and that that if they didn't understand each other's points of view or their political persuasions or their passions then we wouldn't feel able to deal with our common problems and look at where we were at the turn of the century.
This goes back to what you were Ken, saying about a lack of concern for rural areas, country was split apart from city, big gap had developed between the rich and the poor because of the industrial order which had shaken up the economy in the way the globalization and the tech order has done today.
People are living in big cities and the people in the countries feel left out. You've got populism, you've got anarchism, you've got bombs in the street, you've got nationwide strikes, anti-immigration. It was a really turbulent time and there was a feeling that democracy itself couldn't survive it and what Theodore Roosevelt was able to do was to somehow call for a square deal of fundamental fairness for the rich and the poor.
The wageworker and the capitalist and he was able to deal with the worst exploits of the industrial order. We need still to do that today. Before the pandemic we had a problem of rich and poor, we had a problem with people lacking mobility in the rural areas of their feeling bad about the cities.
A problem with people not feeling like they were being treated fairly and a true inequities in the society and that faced us before the pandemic. That still faces us now and I think we need that kind of leadership as well so there's so many parallels. You've got the civil war parallel, you've got that, you've got the depression, you've got the pandemic, you've got the racial injustice.
And while they're all together on Biden's hat.
COOPER: We have to take a short break. When we return, the attack on the capital and how that terrible moment changed our history. Also some moments in history are best captured in prose, others in poetry. We'll discuss the impact of Amanda Gorman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA GORMAN, INAUGURATION POET: When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find lights in this never-ending shade. The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We've braved the belly of the beast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Welcome back to our special report Living History. It's been less than three weeks since the capital was attacked changing our history forever. We're back with Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Well Ken, you actually said something that I think is really important because it's kind of - I was looking the attack on the capital and I think at some point I asked the questions of some of the people on my program over the last couple weeks.
You know is it the start of something or is it the end of something. You - I read a quote where you said, was effects of ' the attack on the capital was neither a start nor an end. You said it is a moment when we each get to decide how we want to proceed.' I think it's so interesting and so important to look at it is that way. It really is. It is - though that is one of those moments, it is a choice.
BURNS: Well, I think we tend to be over dramatic and throw out scenarios either of too much hope or too little hope and of course democracies you know is really the action that happens between unreasonable hope and cynicism but I think what happens is is that that moment in the capital was so shocking to everybody, everyone that you had to stop and say what about me?
Where do I stand in relationship to this and that that was a perfect thing. If you notice we've been on a high-high alert and yesterday there was a photograph I saw from yesterday of one lone protester outside I believe it was the state capitol in Albany you know and he was all by himself with a MAGA Trump flag and there was a sense that that you know, we kind of went too far.
That kind of sense even we know this on an intimate level and we keep forgetting that history is intimate, that the affairs of men and women are exactly that. How we operate as a country is also how we operate as families and as friends and things like that and so we all know the experience of exploding and then sort of being stunned at what you saw of yourself.
And I think what happened on January 6 is that we couldn't believe that was us and yet it was clearly was us and let's remember that us is the lower case plural pronoun that also in it's capitalized version is U.S.
And they are, it just is the architecture of the solar system is the same as the architecture of the atom. We can bring our politics, we can bring our history, we can bring it down to an intimate level that we know how to conduct ourselves and so Biden himself said you know was it you know this was a test but you know, we have the possibility to write a new American story.
And Amanda Gorman, my God, you know she said history has its eyes on us and we have to step into the past in order to repair our way forward and I mean that woman was probably the perfect example of our possibilities as a country just as all of the negative stuff that we have to talk about because if it bleeds, it leads.
We need to invest as I know you have personally Anderson in this remarkable young woman who just rearranged my molecules and I can't even talk about it without getting choked up a bit and I'm still two days out, I've looked at it five times you know.
COOPER: I want to play--
BURNS: She's the daughter of America.
COOPER: She is the daughter of America. I want to play some of the lines of the end of her poem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORMAN: We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the West. We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful. When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEARNS GOODWIN: Incredible, right? And what she's saying--
BURNS: What more can you say?
KEARNS GOODWIN: - it follows on what Ken was saying. What she's saying is that the story is still up to us to write and that it's our destiny to decide where we go for the future.
KEARNS GOODWIN: I mean that's the problem you know as historians we look back always and we see how it all ended and it makes it feel like it was all easy somehow. You know the civil war comes to an end and we have the union restored and emancipation is secured.
The depression comes to an end when we mobilized for the war. The allies win World War II, we forget how those early years of World War II could have gone the other way. Nazism could have controlled Western Europe. We don't know where it would have gone.
The anxiety that we all feel today is the anxiety all those people living then felt but their story ended in part because of the way they acted. Now it's up to us to finish the story and that's what that poem is telling us in the end and that story is not going to necessarily be the one that ended with the capitol.
I think Ken, you're right. I think the capitol was us, the attack on the capitol hit a fundamental sense of right and wrong in an overwhelming majority of the people and once you feel that, it doesn't mean that divisions aren't still out there but you know you're going to fight to not let that be our story. We're going to have a different story than the civil war.
We're going to have a different story than those early days of World War II. We're going to have to figure out how to win this battle and it's a battle but it has to be fought and I think we're now more ready to fight it than we were before.
BURNS: Joe Biden said take a measure of my heart and if you still disagree so be it but let's keep the disagreement from descending into the kind of places as it has recently. You know he also cited this song called American Anthem which has as far as I know but it's only been played once in our film on coincidentally World War II that came out in 2007 and he cited part of the chorus.
Let them say of me I was one who believed in sharing the blessings I've received. Let me know in my heart when my days are through. America - America, I did my best for you. I told my four daughters when that film was over that that's what I wanted on my headstone but I will yield to our new president and let it be his anthem and his banner.
COOPER: We need to take a quick break. Coming up the struggles this country has faced and what it tells us about what lies ahead.
COOPER: Welcome back. We are all living history and we're talking history with two remarkable American storytellers Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin. I think all three of us are people who believe very much in the power of storytelling and the importance of it in different ways obviously.
But one of the things that that really gives me hope. I follow on Instagram a site called the Aids Memorial and it's somebody set it up in which loved ones send the photographs of their loved ones who died of HIV-AIDS and whose names you know aren't recorded in history books and it writes - people can write whatever they want about their stories.
And to me I look at it every single day and it stops me in my tracks and it's sad but at the same time it also gives me tremendous just a sense of the history, just that the fact that there have been when I look at the Aids Memorial, I see myself and I realize there are - there has been a me here before, there has been a you, Doris and you can hear before in different forms but we've all been here before.
We've all had you know people have gone through things for generations and they have - they have died and they've lived and history hasn't remembered their names but they were good and decent people and they've lived lives and they were loved and I think and they've been through trials and some of them didn't make it through and some of them did and I don't know, there's something to me that's very hopeful in that, Ken.
BURNS: You know, I agree completely Anderson. The novelist Richard Powers said that the best arguments in the world won't change a single person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story. We've been arguing too much. Joe Biden suggested it in his inaugural address.
We've been arguing. Now we have to tell stories and part of story- telling is a reciprocal action, it's not just talking, it's also listening and when you do that and when you see that your story is my story is her story then we have the opportunity to rearrange our own molecules and by doing that rearrange those of people around us and as Doris suggests in an outward rippling, our communities and our states and our nation and our world.
And that's really kind of our obligation as human beings, full stop. We are not here alone but the fact that we are or at least have the possibility of connection is in itself a huge responsibility, a great obligation but one that we can - that we have to fulfill with modesty and humility and reject the rest of that.
The vulgarity, the hubris, the dishonesty, all of those things are distractions and interruptions from the possibility of becoming and remember that's what pursuit of happiness, that means that's what a more perfect union means, this is not about getting there, it's about the process.
And we are in the process of becoming and too often, we think that we want things to be running smoothly but more often than not, all of our lives here the three of us and everyone listening are defined by the challenges and indeed the sadnesses and the loss.
And more of who we are is made up of how we met or didn't meet those losses. Then anything when we would say it was smooth sailing or everything was great. I am - I am completely defined by the loss and the sickness for 10 years and the death of my mother at age 11.
Man, there's not a day where I don't think about that. In fact, my late father-in-law once told me that he said look what you do for a living, you wake the dead. You make Abraham Lincoln and Jackie Robinson come alive. Who do you really want to wake up?
COOPER: My dad died at 10 and that does--
KEARNS GOODWIN: You know Ken and I have talked about--
COOPER: Go ahead Doris.
KEARNS GOODWIN: I was just going to say Anderson, that Ken and I have talked about this because I lost my mother when I had just turned 15 and I think that's connected us as friends and what happened is that she had had rheumatic fever as a child so that she was mostly an invalid in our house and I used to ask her to tell me stories of the days when she was young, when she could skip a rope or jump the steps two at a time so I could imagine her younger and that somehow that would make her still the young woman that she had once been that I had never known.
So I would constantly say to her mom, tell me a story about you when you were my age not realizing how peculiar that was, until I had my own children who never once have said to me, tell me a story about you when you were my age but in many ways those stories have become the anchor of my life because I remember the story she told me and I want my kids to hear the stories about her even though they never met her.
They never met my father either who died when I was 29 but I constantly tell them stories about his love of baseball and how that connected me to the Brooklyn Dodgers and that's what you really hope that you tell a story so your kid will be able to tell it to their kid and then you'll be able to remember your parents and grandparents.
Or Anderson as you said, you'll be able to remember those people who died, that they haven't really lived - they haven't died as long as they remain in our memory and that's why memories so important and that was what was so important about Biden said.
You know we can only heal when we remember. I mean that's what we talk about with the Holocaust, that's what we talk about with AIDS, that's what we talk about with the civil war. We have to remember the things we went through in order to be able to go forward in the future but to make us live in the past and the present. We're all part of something and this is an incredible conversation but I think it really is one of the meanings of the intense moments of the times that we're living right now, that it brings out these kind of feelings and they're very real.
COOPER: One last quick break and more of Living History with Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
COOPER: Welcome back to Living History with Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Ken, my dad died when I was 10 and my brother when I was 21 and he was a story teller. He was a writer, he was from Mississippi and he was a huge fan of call of Faulkner and you know Faulkner of course famously wrote you know the past is never dead, it's not even past.
And my mom used to repeat that all the time and I never really when I was a kid, I didn't really understand it but I think it's such - such an interesting thing. I'm not sure if it's that way for everybody but I certainly feel - I feel that so strongly.
BURNS: You see, it's the universal truth you know he also said and Barbara Fields in our civil war series, the Columbia University scholar said that Faulkner said history is not was but is and that's hugely important. It goes - speaks to what Doris was saying that somehow because we know how it turned out, we somehow presume that the end was clear at the beginning for people like the civil war or World War II or the depression and it wasn't.
I mean we are all in a moment which if we're present, we realize the vast, malleable past that is brought us to this and whatever this unknown future lies ahead and our responsibility is as human beings and I think as Americans is to be responsible to that moment and responsible for the people around us. [23:55:00]
So that we are not the tribal expressions that Doris was listing before but we are in fact civilized in which differences are discussed as Biden suggested, disagree but let's do it in a way that does not devolve the way it is devolved for so many of the most recent years.
COOPER: Doris, what do you want to leave people with?
KEARNS GOODWIN: What our conversation reminds me of is a quote by Ernest Hemingway that everyone is broken by life but afterward many are stronger in the broken places. Adversity comes to us all as individuals and nations and we're certainly feeling it right now.
So the real question is how do we respond as individuals and nations to adversity. Some people can never recover, some nations can never recover. Others return to their ordinary way of life but still others and this is the hope, somehow through reflection, come through this ordeal and transcend it, armed with a greater sense of purpose.
And that's what I'm really hoping for us as individuals, having lived through COVID, what I'm hoping for us as a nation having lived through this adversity, that we will come through this, armed with a greater purpose and with a greater dedication to the future of our country. That would be great.
COOPER: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ken Burns, you are both truly remarkable. Thank you so much. The news continues right here on CNN.