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Honest Questions with Chris Gardner
Aired March 07, 2008 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GLENN BECK, HOST (voice-over): At 5 years old Chris Gardner made the decision that his own life would be different from his stepfather`s. Abused as a child, kicked out of his Wisconsin home, Gardner worked his way from homelessness to millionaire, keeping his son by his side the whole time. It was Will Smith who told his story in theaters.
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: You want something? Go and get it. Period.
BECK: But it`s Chris Gardner`s real-life message that you can`t miss.
CHRIS GARDNER, AUTHOR, "THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS": Becoming a parent for me was the most important, precious and loving thing I`ve ever been a part of in my life.
BECK: An incredible hour of honest questions with Chris Gardner next.
BECK: America, welcome. I`m glad you`re here. I am so thrilled. This is the first time that Chris and I have ever met. We`ve talked to each other several times.
I think the first time I talked to you was about a year before the movie came out. They were just starting to shoot it. I was intrigued by your story. I called you -- it must-have been six months after the movie came out, because I saw the movie, and the one scene with Will Smith on the bathroom floor, I know you haven`t even really watched the whole movie, have you?
GARDNER: I finally saw it very, very late. I couldn`t see the whole thing at one time.
BECK: OK. We`ll get into that later. But that one bathroom scene, I just -- man, I felt that to my core. And I watched that movie and I thought to myself -- and you remember I called you the next day. And I said you`re the kind of guy I want to find to help. You know what I mean? You were the kind of guy that, if there`s a homeless person out there that is -- is striving and fighting like you were, man, how do we find these people.
GARDNER: You know what, Glenn? There are many of them. It is estimated that 12 to 30 percent of the homeless people in our country have jobs and go to work every day.
BECK: Yes. I went to -- I went with my family to work at a soup kitchen in Connecticut, and we were serving dinner, and you could see the people who were playing the game and working the system. You could see the people who were there because of mental health issues. And you could see the people who were busting their butt and trying so desperately to get out. I mean, it is a tough, tough cycle.
Before we get into how you break the cycle, I want to start with where you were, how you got there. Let`s start at the beginning. You -- you had no father that was around. You had an abusive stepfather. What does that mean, exactly?
GARDNER: Well, that`s one of the reasons, Glenn, I`m so happy that I had an opportunity to do the book. The movie, as great as it was, was about one year of my life. I was 28 years old. There were 27 years before that. And the point that I always make to folks is, if I didn`t get the right stuff the first 27 years, I would have never made it that one year.
To your point, sleeping in that bathroom with my son tied on my back, I made that decision at 5 years old. I made a decision that no man was ever going to treat, talk to, or terrorize my children as I was. So, you can develop that in the book, but you can`t do it in a two-hour movie.
BECK: You know, it is really -- it`s -- I know a lot of people who are in abusive situations, and people who have grown up in abusive situations. My mother was abusive in my -- my family. It is extraordinarily difficult. It`s easy to say, "I`m not going to do that." It`s difficult to change the behavior, because it`s the only behavior you know. It`s the pattern that you can fall into so easily.
How did you -- how did you change it? How did you break it?
GARDNER: I made a decision, again. Not to get too deep. But I`m developing this concept now for my next book that we`re calling "Spiritual Genetics." Now, we all understand genetics. You`re going to get your mom`s eyes, your dad`s nose. Nothing you can do about it.
GARDNER: But the spirit, the soul of who you`re going to become as a person, I believe you can choose. I chose to embrace the light that I saw in my mom. I could have become my stepfather. I could have become another wife-beating, child-abusing, illiterate, alcoholic loser, and a lot of people would have said, "Well, look where he`s from. Poor him. He didn`t have a choice." I did have a choice. I chose to embrace the light.
And one of the things, Glenn, that I have learned in this part of my life is there are so many other people who chose to not become all that crap that was just right here in their face, made a conscious choice. A mindful. Just on your point it.
I met a gentleman a couple of years ago who was the chief of police in his hometown. I won`t say the city because I don`t want to embarrass him.
GARDNER: The guy told me he became a cop because every Friday night he could tell it was Friday, because his mother`s nose was broken. He became a cop to work on domestic violence issues.
BECK: You know, it`s -- my mother committed suicide, alcoholic, abusive, everything else. Yada, yada, yada. We all have the story. But for much of my life, up until I was about 31, I thought, speaking of your genetic spiritual -- spiritual genetics, I thought I was destined to repeat it. I thought -- I bought into the lie that you`re going to repeat it.
GARDNER: Had to. Didn`t have a choice.
BECK: Yes. And once you realize, "I don`t have to be this way. I don`t have to be miserable, I don`t have to repeat this," it is -- you know, where you are is not where you`ve been. Everybody thinks, well, I started here and now I`m here and so the trajectory is going here. This has nothing -- the beginning has no meaning.
GARDNER: No, no, no.
BECK: Unless you give it meaning.
GARDNER: Unless you choose to embrace, accept, settle, compromise and say, "There`s nothing I can do."
GARDNER: Those are bad words that I use sometimes, Glenn, and it`s B.S. That`s B.S. You can make a choice. And that`s one of the things that I`m talking to people around the world right now, is the ability to make a choice. And especially young people.
BECK: Let me go -- let me go back. Dad abusive, mom in and out of jail. You didn`t know. She just disappeared for a while.
GARDNER: My family invented that policy later adopted by the Clinton administration called don`t-ask, don`t-tell. So many things. Don`t ask, don`t tell.
BECK: I don`t know. OK. All right. And then, if I have the story right, she came back and burned the house down?
GARDNER: She attempted to kill him for beating her. Yes.
BECK: And what happened?
GARDNER: She was returned to prison, and my sister and I were returned to foster homes. And we stayed with foster homes. And we stayed with uncles and aunts and relatives, and we moved from place to place. From place to place.
BECK: What were you getting out of that (ph)? Was that -- In the foster system, was it a pivot point for you? Or where...
GARDNER: I was too young, Glenn. I was 3, 4 years old. All I remember about that experience is thank God, thank God I was placed, my sister and I were placed with some dear, loving, gentle people.
But the one thing I remember the most about that time is there was this woman who would come, and she would make me this candy in a skillet. There was this beautiful woman. She would come from no place, and she would make me this candy with syrup, and it turns out, of course, it was my mom.
And we developed this incredible nonverbal communication thing. We can look at each other. And I remember her once looking at me, asking, "Do you know who I am?"
And I remember saying, "Yes, you`re my ma." And that nonverbal communication, my mother and I had, until this day -- and my mom went to heaven 14 years ago -- to this day we still have it.
BECK: OK. So then you became a -- you wanted to become a doctor. You went into the Army.
GARDNER: Well, even before that. No, no, no. I wanted to become Miles Davis.
Wait. Wait. Go ahead. That goes to a very important point. I had one of those mothers who, despite the fact that she had too many of her own dreams denied, deferred and destroyed, she instilled in me that I could have dreams. But not just dreams; I had the power and the responsibility. And she told me I could do anything I wanted to do. I made up my mind I was going to be Miles Davis.
BECK: What happened to that?
GARDNER: After her hearing me say it for about nine years, I studied music, music theory, played trumpet for nine years. One day we sat down and we had what I called the talk.
GARDNER: She explained to me. She said, "Boy, you`re pretty good with that thing, but you can`t be Miles Davis. Ain`t but one."
BECK: Can I tell you something? I love your mother. Your mother is the one -- your mother is the one that I look for every time when I watch "American Idol," and say, where are the parents telling them they can`t make it?
We`ll be back in just a second.
GRAPHIC: Chris Gardner was expelled from high school for having a copy of: A, "Tropic of Cancer"; B, "Catcher in the Rye"; C, "Malcolm X`s Autobiography"; D, "The Bible."
GRAPHIC: Chris Gardner was expelled from high school for having a copy of: C, "Malcolm X`s Autobiography."
BECK: Before we get into the rest of the story, and your change, I`m a watch guy. But you`re wearing two. Usually only watch-makers wear two watches.
BECK: Yes. You didn`t know that?
GARDNER: I didn`t know that. I didn`t know that. I`ve worn two watches now for 20 years. When I was attempting to raise money to start my business. And I didn`t know you couldn`t start a financial services money company in your house with $10,000.
GARDNER: I didn`t know you couldn`t do it, so I did it.
BECK: Yes. That`s exactly right.
GARDNER: The one guy that I had that was serious about being an investor in my start-up business -- my first day of business, Glenn, was October 19, 1987. The day the market crashed, 508 points. It`s my first day. Not a good time to be trying to raise money.
BECK: Come on, man, I was sleeping on a bathroom floor. Can you give me a break?
GARDNER: Not the best time. And the things that got me messed up, I showed up for a meeting with this investor 20 minutes late. And he look me in the eye and said, "Son, if I cannot expect you to be on time, I cannot expect you to be make timely decisions with my money. No thank you."
GARDNER: And I got to tell you, at that point in time, that was all the money in the world that I needed to start this company. So, I figured it`s less expensive to wear two watches.
BECK: What are you wearing?
GARDNER: That is a knock-off imitation Rolex.
BECK: I`m sure it is.
OK. So your life, actually, a pivot point was you`re walking down the street and see a red Ferrari. And a guy was getting out of the red Ferrari. What happened?
GARDNER: Sharpest looking guy I`ve ever seen in my life. No flash, no B.S. He`s looking for someplace to park. I go over and I say to the guy, "Hey, I`m coming out. You can have my parking place, but I`ve got to ask you two questions. What do you do and how do you do that?"
Turns out this guy was a stock broker and not just a stock broker. He was one of the top institutional sales people on Wall Street. We visit in his office. The first time I walked in the office, Glenn, the very first day I knew, "Wow. Yes. This is where I`m supposed to be." Not "I think I can do this." That`s a different feeling. "This is where I`m supposed to be."
The ticker tape is rolling. The phones are ringing off the hook. People are screaming and shouting out orders. Buyers are flying all over the place. And what looked like chaos to anybody else, I could see the natural rhythm. And I knew. It was like reading music for me. And I knew, "This is where I`m supposed to be."
BECK: How do you explain -- because I have the same feeling. I mean, you just -- you just know. When you know you can succeed. You know? But it`s -- and it`s partially belief. I can believe -- I believe I can do it, et cetera, et cetera. But that`s not it exactly, because there`s a lot of people that believe, you know, I can paint. Paint on ice at painting.
What is the -- what`s the pivot point? What is the mysterious "X" factor?
GARDNER: For me it`s passion. Passion. You got to find that one thing that the sun cannot come up soon enough in the morning, because you want to go do your thing. You can`t teach it. You can`t coach it. And they don`t teach it at Harvard. You got to find that one thing, and then, Glenn, honestly, you got to be bold enough to go make it happen
BECK: OK. So you`re standing there and you`re looking at the Ferrari. And you`re listening to the phones ringing up in his office, and you`re thinking, "This is what I want to do."
But then you find yourself in jail, because you didn`t pay parking tickets. You weren`t homeless. I mean, you were kind of homeless, in a way. You were sleeping on other people`s couches. You didn`t have a home, but you weren`t living on the street. It was jail that put you out on the street?
GARDNER: No. It was something worse than that. I was literally -- after the jail experience of 10 days for not paying parking ticket.
BECK: Yes, yes.
GARDNER: I moved into a boardinghouse. The hardest part of this whole experience, that ten-day stint in jail, Glenn...
GARDNER: ... that was the first time I was away from my son. I was the first thing that boy saw when he came into the world. I was the first thing he saw every warning, the last thing that he saw at night. This was the first time we were apart. I don`t know if you`ve ever been forcefully separated from your child, but when you have that experience, that rattles you to your core.
GARDNER: And one day my ex showed up and decided, "You know what? I don`t want the baby any more, here." That`s how we became homeless. Where I was living, the boardinghouse did not allow children. And my son and I joined a class of people, again, invisible even among homeless people, working families, homeless.
BECK: I was fascinated in the movie about how you would run every night to be able -- that`s insanity. There should have been other ways for...
GARDNER: There should have been, and thank God now today there are for other families who are in similar circumstances. But the situation I was in, Glenn, it came down to I`m a commission-only salesman. And I know that if I stay on this phone another five minutes, I can get this commission. But if I stay on the phone another five minutes, I`m going to miss the bus.
If I miss the bus I`m late to the sitter. If I`m late to the sitter, I`m late to the shelter. So all that running you saw Will Smith do in the movie, all that running was real.
BECK: Now, you were a stock broker. You were just breaking in. Did you -- did you ever experience racism. Because I`ve heard you call it placism.
BECK: What is it? What is that?
GARDNER: Placism is -- look I didn`t go to college. Didn`t mean I wasn`t bright. When I came into the business, the industry had begun to require an MBA just to get into their institutional training programs. But I had never gone to college, did not come from a politically connected family, had no money of my own to invest in the stock broker. Who`s going to do business with you? That`s placism. That could affect anybody in the world.
But I knew this is where I`m supposed to be. The passion was more powerful than the placism.
BECK: I have to tell you, there`s something about, when you just know. I mean, I`ll do business with people -- they didn`t say anything about credentials. You can look them in the eye and you know.
GARDNER: You can feel it.
BECK: You do.
GARDNER: It`s like the color of your eyes.
BECK: It is.
GARDNER: You look right there. Sometimes it`s not there.
GARDNER: Right? And you like, "Oh, OK. No thank you."
BECK: We`ll be back in just a second. We`ll find out what Will Smith had to do to play this amazing story. Chris Gardner back in a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: If you have a dream you got to protect it. If people can`t do something themselves they want to you you can`t do it. If you want something go get it. Period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: Well, one of the most inspirational movies I`ve seen, and much more so than others because it`s real, except I remember you telling me at one point that story was reversed of what really happened.
GARDNER: Oh, man. That scene as you saw it was not written that way. Our writer, Steve Conrad, has a very, very dark view of the world. When that little boy said, "I`m going pro. I`m going to be a ball player," the father was supposed to come down on him very hard and say, "Forget it. It will never happen. You can`t do it. I was no good at it, so you can`t do it."
I waited until that day. You got to wait to fight these battles sometimes. And I went up to Will Smith that day on the set, and I said, "Will, you cannot tell that to the little boy, because that`s not what my mom told me. I was told that you can do or be anything. And when other people are saying something can`t be done, you got to hear them saying they can`t do it." We tore up the script right there on the set.
BECK: Will Smith, did he actually sleep -- he went -- he went to the places you went, right?
GARDNER: Oh, yes.
BECK: It wasn`t -- I mean, he was -- it was a method kind of thing. I mean, he really wanted to feel it.
GARDNER: We took walks, Will and I, funny story, man. Will Smith biggest movie star in the world, cannot go any place without a four-man security detail. But the very first night we went walking in San Francisco he says to me, "No, it`s me and you. Let`s go for a walk."
The guy comes downstairs, ready to walk outside and I`m saying to him, "Will, no, man,. You have to put a hat or a hood or something on, right." Goes upstairs to get his son`s baseball cap, comes downstairs. Now he looks more like Will Smith.
But the funny thing was we went into that train station, that bathroom in Oakland, California. He went to see it. I took him in. I only have to be there a second, Glenn. I`ve seen it enough.
BECK: I know.
GARDNER: But he said no, leave me here.
BECK: Was that your low point, that bathroom floor?
GARDNER: Absolutely. No place else to go with baby tied on your back. And you got to get up and go to work in the morning.
BECK: When you were in that scene, were you crying for you, or were you crying for your son?
GARDNER: You know what? I was crying for both of us. But I many, many years later realized, partially those were tears of joy, because I was not going to let anything separate me from my son.
When we finally did another TV show, my son said something, Glenn, that turned out to be second most important thing he`s ever said in his life. He was asked, "what do you remember about this point in your life?"
And what he said was, "All I remember is every time I looked up my father was there."
BECK: Wow. We`ll be back in just a second.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: Money is the least significant aspect of wealth. You do get to a point in your life what`s important to all of us is our health, our children, and to some degree of happiness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: Back with Chris Gardner, author of "Pursuit of Happyness". This guy, this guy is what America is all about. Here`s a guy who hasn`t had anybody pull you up by your boot straps except you, have you? I mean, no man is an island but you did it.
GARDNER: No. I had help, though, Glenn. I had help.
BECK: We all do.
GARDNER: I had help in that I had people who saw me trying to help myself.
BECK: Right. That`s what I meant.
GARDNER: That`s what I mean.
BECK: That`s what I meant when I called you. I said I saw the movie. Those are the people I want to help. You know what I mean. The government gets -- We get involved in just handouts and it`s faceless and it`s just whatever. I want to help the people who are out there busting their butt, who are like, I can do it.
GARDNER: It`s not just the government, it`s people who feel, hey, somebody owes me. There`s a sense of entitlement here, right. One of the most memorable experiences I had with this film. We`re shooting in downtown San Francisco. We hire 250 homeless people, a day`s work for a day`s pay, to be extras on the set. A couple walks up to me and says we want to thank you. We`re both working. We both have been living on streets for six months. All we needed was another $500 to get a house. And we made that money working on this movie.
Now think about that for a second, $70 million get spent to make the movie, $500 got a family off the street. And that was a family that was working, Glenn. Those are the people that I`m dedicating any and all energy that I can, those are the people I`m trying to help.
BECK: You know, you said, I loved a couple of your quotes here. You said, "The money thing will come. I know so many people have so much more money than I. They are miserable, so much more important to be happy."
You know, people have asked me about, you know, how do you make -- how do you make money. How do you make the business. Blablabla. Money is a byproduct.
BECK: If you`re focusing on the money, ain`t going make much.
GARDNER: You won`t.
BECK: You know what I mean. It just happens to come along because you`re focused and you`re good.
GARDNER: And you do the work. And you pound the anvil every day. And keep making the baby steps towards something you feel passionate about.
BECK: And then you said, cavalry ain`t coming you got to do this yourself.
GARDNER: That`s right.
BECK: There is a -- it is in every community - and unfortunately I am hearing it from way too many political candidates this time, Michelle Obama however comes to mind in a speech that she just gave where she said, you know, I`m still paying for my Princeton and Harvard education and that`s just not right. And I thought I couldn`t get into Princeton and Harvard. Okay you`re paying for Princeton and Harvard. Look how great that is. You could be the first lady. Shouldn`t we be holding these experiences up and saying, you`re damn right it`s tough but look what you could accomplish.
GARDNER: Glenn, we can sit here a long time and if you don`t mention pimps, politicians or preachers that would be all right with me.
OK. We can talk about anything you want but hey .
BECK: Is there anybody -- I mean I don`t want to get into politics if you don`t want to get into politics, but is there -- with what`s going on in the economy, we are seeing some really nasty things happening in the economy.
BECK: We have got a system of government.
GARDNER: It could get worse.
BECK: I think it`s going to. Are you a betting man?
GARDNER: It could get worse. No I`m not betting. I`m just stacking up cash.
BECK: I`m stacking up gold and putting it in my basement.
But you look at what the government and it`s all sides what they are doing is they are basically say we`ll take away the mistakes that you`ve made. They are doing it to banks. They are doing it to individuals. We`ll take -- you signed the loan for this house. Now those people who signed it and were legitimately, you know, screwed by a bank that was unscrupulous or a mortgage lender, those people should go jail. The mortgage lender should pay for that other than that do you think people should be let off? Do you think we should forgive people`s debts? Do you think we should say hey your bank and you`re important and we should .
GARDNER: Nobody forgave mine. Nobody forgave mine. OK. And if you look -- let`s talk about this for a second. This housing debacle.
GARDNER: You got three categories of folks that are really, really getting hurt right now, in my opinion. Number one, the first people that we should not try to help are the people who were buying houses on spec, making inaccurate loan applications and thinking they were going to flip the house, et cetera, et cetera. You know what? You took that risk. Eat it.
But the other two categories of folks, Glenn we have to give some serious consideration to. The people who`ve lost their jobs. Let`s look at not just how many jobs we`ve lost in this country, we`ve lost a few industries. I was in Detroit recently and I`ve got to tell you I love the city, it will never be the same.
BECK: Come on man.
GARDNER: It will never be the same.
BECK: I landed in Detroit about a month ago. I`m driving into Detroit and I swear to you it looks like Baghdad. It is in bad shape.
GARDNER: There is no traffic. You know why there`s no traffic there? Ain`t nobody got any place to go. There`s no jobs.
BECK: But isn`t that because of bad government?
GARDNER: You know what?
BECK: Texas, they are creating jobs left and right in Texas.
GARDNER: A portion of it might be bad government. But what about the guys who are running the automotive industry who didn`t see it coming? Who didn`t see, whoa, wait a minute, we`ve got to create a new kind of product.
BECK: You had to be blind.
GARDNER: Well, maybe that`s what happened. Look at it. Glenn, somebody should have seen this coming. You look at this whole housing issue right now. I was watching not to long ago, the Senate or the House was holding hearings and they are bringing everybody in and all the guys are going like this with their fingers, right, and I`m sitting there and saying to myself did anybody se this coming? Did anybody see it coming?
BECK: You know what? Four years ago, probably, on radio when no interest or interest-only loan, all these things, and I`m like, what the hell are you talking about? I`m getting on taxpayer and saying are you this stupid? You can`t be this stupid. If you`re paying interest-only at some point you`re going to have to pay it.
GARDNER: That`s right.
BECK: I mean, if you are that stupid -- maybe you`re too stupid to own a house.
GARDNER: Think about that person for a second who made that deal and all of a sudden one of two things happened, they lost the job or a catastrophic medical event. Boom. We`re going to see the creation, Glenn, I don`t want to be right, but I believe we`ll see the creation of a new class of homeless people in our country that I`m calling white collar homeless. Folks who play by the rules, went to school, then did all the right things but now suddenly in our economy there`s no jobs in their industry. New York City, alone, Wall Street alone last year lost 150,000 jobs in an industry that`s contracting not expanding. Where are all those guys going to go to work?
BECK: Wall Streeters?
BECK: Mm -- Don`t expect me to have a lot of compassion for Wall Street. They created this mess.
GARDNER: Glenn, I`m not saying you should care, but I am saying there are folks, there are families, and this thing, we don`t even know how bad this thing is going to be yet. It`s going to play out for the next two to three years.
BECK: I agree with you on that one. You know what?
I just think that, again, pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Again. We`ve got to be compassionate as people. We have to see people. People need to see people. I`ve never felt compassionate on April 15th. I`m going to a dinner tonight with you. I`m making a donation to your charity tonight.
GARDNER: Oh, good, thank you.
BECK: And I feel good about it. April 15th, I`ve never felt compassionate. Never felt yeah I`m doing something good. I feel screwed. You got to change your heart.
GARDNER: Absolutely. I feel the same way. That`s why, you know what? Out of all those political candidates who are out there for a second, the one guy who had my attention was Huckabee. When he said he wanted to abolish the IRS, I`m in. But, you know what the blessing is, Glenn, for guys like you and I, whether we like it or not we`re in a position to write the check.
BECK: But you know what? Are you telling me and maybe, maybe it`s just because I don`t -- you know, I don`t -- I`ve been so blessed and my career has, you know, six years ago -- six years ago I had a hard time making rent for $695.
Now I`m sitting on top of the world and I`m just so blessed. It can all go away. And you know what? It doesn`t matter. Because it ain`t about the money. So it can all go away.
GARDNER: That`s the key.
BECK: Right. So, I`m not so arrogant to say that I`ll always be the guy who can write the check. I may not be. I don`t know. I don`t care. But I`ll find a way to survive.
GARDNER: And not just find a way to survive, but to look in that mirror and feel good about who you are. It`s about more than money. Money, man. Money is going to come. Money is going to go. What`s in here is not negotiable. Huh? It`s nonnegotiable. No compromises here. So the guy that I felt the closest to during this whole filming of this movie was Jada Smith. You know why? Because either one of us could walk away from it at any second in time and still say man, it`s a nice day. If Will Smith woke up tomorrow morning and was Bill Smith and had to go the post office .
BECK: We`ll be back with Chris Gardner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARDNER: Movie, great, book, great, business, great. But the most important thing I`ve ever done in my life is to have broken the cycle of men who are not there for their children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: That is such -- that is such a huge thing and such a huge thing in our society. Bill Cosby trying to do the same thing, trying to say men be men, what are you doing? In the African American community and in much of the media-touted African American media he gets hammered for it. Why?
GARDNER: Well, you know what? I can`t answer that. But I can say this. What I`ve learned this part of my life is there are many ways a dad can be absent. It`s not just a matter of not being in the house. OK? I have learned from so many men around the world that a lot of men right now have holes in their souls the shape of their fathers.
And that just doesn`t mean the dad wasn`t in the house. Why is Cosby getting hammered? I van heard his comments firsthand, but I would tell you this. I`ll share this with you. Very interesting. I`m doing a little talk one day at a program on truancy, and big room, a lot of people and at this one table there are 10 black men sitting here at the same table and when I got to the part about men need to be there for their children, let`s break this cycle of men who are not there for their children, all of a sudden I glance over at this one table, Glenn, and can see everybody at the table like this. Right.
Now nobody said anything but the body language and the vibe and I know, you know what? A lot of those cats sitting at that table knew, they did have children that they were not supporting, knew, man, you talking about us. Yeah, you damn right I`m talking about you. I`m going to keep talking about you. Part of my role in life right now is to preach the gospel of fatherhood, parental commitment and breaking cycles. And a choice has got to be made. The other choice is, have less children.
BECK: A lot of people, I don`t know, maybe they think it`s easy to be a parent. It`s like a movie or something. I just figured out recently they never go away.
GARDNER: Oh, man.
BECK: I thought it was 18 and they are out. It doesn`t end.
GARDNER: No. No. Look, that`s why I`m not married. I don`t want any in- laws. I got children that won`t go away. Like a lot of parents, Glenn, I`ll be honest with you. Like a lot of parents, I try to give my children a better life than I had.
BECK: With that being said, how do you teach your children the value of the dollar, how do you teach your children -- you know you grew up with people that told us about the Depression. We`re entering a period where children have not seen real suffering -- yours have -- seen real suffering like the Depression was for everybody. How do you teach your children about the value of a dollar in your position?
GARDNER: You know what I had to do in my position is first, I`ll admit there was a point in time where my children were like the little chocolate Kennedys, OK. And I was partially responsible, Glenn. I tried to give them all this stuff, thinking that I`m doing all this stuff that nobody did for me and what you find out you`re not necessarily making them better people.
BECK: Can I tell you something? We have so much in common. There was one Christmas about three, four years ago, and I bought everything. I went to the store and I bought everything. I bought every single package, every gift I could possibly -- I`m not kidding you. You the packages under the tree were this high. I stacked them all around because I thought, yeah, I can do it. It was the most empty Christmas I ever had.
GARDNER: You know what? Let me tell you a Christmas story. That was the beginning of me saying to my children, you know what? Whoa. Hold up. Time-out. Christmas. Everybody, both children decided to bring home a report card with the back end of the alphabet at the same time. I cancelled Christmas. The tree, the packages, don`t touch them. We going to leave them right there until the next report card comes.
At this point in time we had a loveable 150 pound rottweiler named Bruno and he decided if it`s still here it must be for me. That`s right. I let the dog open every package under thee tree.
BECK: Good for you.
GARDNER: But the next report card, the following February it was different. You got to start taking stuff back.
BECK: Before we go to break I just want you to tell one story. Nelson Mandela. You met him.
GARDNER: Yes, sir.
BECK: And he said welcome home, son. Thirty seconds before break, can you tell that, what that meant?
GARDNER: The first time I met Mr. Mandela. He reached out and said welcome home, son. That was the first time in my life, Glenn, a man had ever said those words, welcome home, son. I cried like a baby. I mean, right now, I can feel that same sensation, and, God, man, see that`s unfair. That`s unfair that you bring that up.
BECK: We`ll rapid fire when we come back.
GARDNER: Oh, man.
BECK: All right. Final segment. When we have a full hour guest, rapid fire. Ask you a bunch of questions you answer in shortest period of time you can.
BECK: OK. Would you ever do a reality show.
GARDNER: We`re looking at it. One of the existing ones? No. Hell no.
BECK: Good for you. Would you rather wear a Timex or just not know what time it is?
GARDNER: Not know what time it is. That would be the wrong answer.
BECK: No, no. Define success.
GARDNER: Success is health, children and being able to do things that are important in your life.
BECK: Finish this sentence, if I knew then what I know now I would have .
GARDNER: I would have stayed in school. I would have stayed in school.
BECK: What was worse, being in jail or sleeping in the subway bathroom?
GARDNER: Subway bathroom.
BECK: Your daughter`s boyfriends fear you?
GARDNER: They better.
BECK: All right. God bless you. Buy low or sell high?
GARDNER: Buy low.
BECK: If I could -- if you could trade places with one person for one day who would it be?
GARDNER: My daughter.
GARDNER: Because I want to see if she would treat me like I treat her.
BECK: Did a dollar in 1981 mean more to you then than it does now?
GARDNER: Absolutely then. Absolutely then.
BECK: What are you pulling down here?
GARDNER: Not enough.
BECK: Which one of us has nicer accessories?
BECK: He just knows it to be true. You own any jeans?
GARDNER: Absolutely. Love them.
BECK: If it wasn`t Will Smith, who would you have wanted to play you?
BECK: Besides you.
GARDNER: Besides me?
BECK: And Will Smith.
GARDNER: Man, the way will did this, nobody else could have done it. Nobody else could have done it.
BECK: You didn`t think he could do it. Your daughter set you straight.
GARDNER: You know what? That`s why I want to be my daughter for a day. She knows stuff.
BECK: His daughter said -- Tell the story.
GARDNER: She said, if he can play Muhammad Ali he can play you.
BECK: Hybrid or hummer.
BECK: For some reason I can`t see you in a Prius. You give handouts in the street?
GARDNER: No. Absolutely not.
GARDNER: Because I give money to organizations in our communities that I know the people that are trying to help themselves know where those resources are. Done.
BECK: It is a pleasure, sir, to have you here. It is a pleasure to know you. Chris Gardner from New York. Good night, America.
GARDNER: Good night, America.