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CNN Live Event/Special

Town Hall Meeting with Marianne Williamson (D), Presidential Candidate. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 14, 2019 - 18:00   ET



BASH: Good evening from Washington, D.C. We're live back to back for our CNN Democratic presidential town halls with Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang. I'm Dana Bash. We'll hear from businessman Andrew Yang later, but first, Marianne Williamson.

She is a bestselling author and activist who says she's running to bring a moral and spiritual awakening to America, and if elected would make history as the first female and first Jewish president. In our audience tonight are Democrats and independents who say they plan to participate in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Please welcome Marianne Williamson.


So before we get started with audience questions, and we have a lot of them tonight, people from all over the world have read your books looking for guidance. So what is the best advice and guidance that you have gotten as you've begun this journey and this candidacy for president?

WILLIAMSON: Well, the best advice I've gotten about this journey is to make it an extension of the journey I've been on for the last 35 years. I've worked up close and personal with people trying to navigate their trauma and turn it into transformation, a lot of that trauma has been the consequence of damage done by an irresponsible political establishment.

So that has given me a lot of passionate beliefs about that damage and what needs to be done, and people have told me stay with that, make it clear that what you would do for a nation is exactly what you do for individuals.

BASH: OK, well, let's get right to the audience. Our first question comes from Olivia Mugenga. She is a law student at Howard University clerking for the public defender's office here in Washington and a supporter of Bernie Sanders. Olivia?

QUESTION: While your call to healing America is touching, what is the political knowledge that you bring to the scene? What experience do you have that makes you fit to lead this great nation? Thank you.

WILLIAMSON: You know, the -- the Latin root of the word "politeia" doesn't mean of the government. It means of the people. And I think our political establishment has gotten too far away from the people.

We have a political establishment that doesn't get to the heart of the matter, doesn't speak to what's really wrong. Politicians don't really get down and talk about what's really wrong, even though they know it. And because they don't talk about what's really wrong, they don't get to what can really be made really within us.

So in a way, for me, I challenge the idea that people whose careers have been entrenched in the same limitations that are endemic to the system that got us into this ditch are the only people we should possibly consider qualified to take us out of the ditch. I challenge that, and that's why I'm running.


BASH: A follow-up to that. You have said and we know that you have a career in inspiring action inside people. And you've said that that gives you a unique qualification or set of qualifications for the presidency. But as you well know, being president is more than inspiring people, so running a government, that particular qualification, why do think you have that?

WILLIAMSON: You know, Dana, as you well know, what has happened in this country didn't come out of nowhere, and we have a crisis in our democracy. And that crisis is due to the fact that we've been sliding for the last 40 years away from democracy and into aristocracy, because of tax policies, because of corporate subsidies, because of the nefarious influence of money on our political system. We have gone from a system where we prize, as we should, in an economic as well as political democracy, equal opportunity for everyone to a situation where a small group of people -- this is what we repudiated in 1776.

You don't have to be a politician to get this. And sometimes I think everybody else gets it more than the politicians do. We repudiated an aristocracy in 1776. We repudiated a situation in which only a small group of people are entitled to the major resources of a country. We repudiated the idea of a government advocating for a small group of people as opposed to everyone else, and we need to repudiate again. I'm running because the politicians aren't doing it. My qualification, if anything, is that I'll name what everybody knows and apparently they won't name.

BASH: OK, let's get back to the audience.


Bring in Brian Chamowitz. Brian is a property manager and yoga teacher here in Washington. And Brian was moved by the spiritual text, A Course in Miracles, just like you were. Brian?


QUESTION: Hi. Hi, Marianne. Like you, "A Course in Miracles" is my primary guiding spiritual text. And I, too, recognize love as the most important aspect of life. Knowing that geopolitical threats are real, however, how can you assure Americans that you will be ready to act decisively to deter our enemies if and when it is necessary?

WILLIAMSON: Anybody who takes the oath of the presidency, part of that oath is to protect the people of the United States of America as well as the U.S. Constitution. And I would certainly do that.

But this is the issue. One of the reasons there are so many threats is because there has not been enough love. We should see large groups of desperate people as a national security risk. There are four factors which we know cause an increase in peace and a decrease in violence: expanding economic opportunities for women; expanding educational opportunities for children; decreasing violence against women; and addressing and ameliorating unnecessary human suffering wherever possible.

If the United States spent more of our resources waging peace in those ways, and those things that I just said are an extension of love, then these desperate people wouldn't become what in too many cases they have become, and that is vulnerable to ideological capture by genuinely psychotic forces.

So then we end up having to fight wars that perhaps might not have even occurred had we been more proactive in creating the kinds of situations with our foreign policy over the last few decades that create less toxic conditions that make these psychotic forces so able. They are like opportunistic infections.

BASH: You have said that you want to create a Department of Peace Building, which you say would champion peace through mediation and diplomacy. How would that differ from the State Department?

WILLIAMSON: Well, the State Department works with international issues. And I do believe that we need a far more robust relationship between the State Department and the Defense Department. I have great respect for the U.S. military. We all should and must. My father fought in World War II.

And as I said, you know, you're the president. You're the commander- in-chief. But I see the military like the surgeon. If you're going to have surgery, you want to have the best surgeon. And I don't think anyone would doubt that in America has to have the best possible military.

But at the same time, as I -- you avoid surgery if at all possible. Even Donald Rumsfeld, who was the secretary of defense for George Bush, said we also have to wage peace. General Mattis, before he left the Department of Defense, said if you're not going to fully fund the State Department, I'm going to have to buy more ammunition.

I want a far more robust relationship between the State Department and the Defense, and I also want the moral leadership of our State Department back. When you're willing to -- for the sake of a $100 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, go along with support for a genocidal war that we know has starved tens of thousands of Yemenis, including all those children whose pictures are all over the Internet, when Mike Pompeo says, well, sometimes you can have strategic partnerships with people who do not share your values, no, you can't, Dana. It means you have sacrificed your values.

So I want the moral principles, the moral core of American foreign policy back. People all over this world used to see the United States as a moral leader. I don't think they ever thought we had it perfect, but that we always tried, and they don't see that anymore. So I want a moral robust peace waging and peace creation on the part of the State Department. I want the moral principles that should be central to American foreign policy back.

And then a Department of -- U.S. Department of Peace Creation has to deal with domestic issues. We have so many -- we have millions of American children living in chronic trauma. We have the most violent streets. We have domestic war -- war zones in this country. We need wraparound services, antitrauma, restorative justice, conflict resolution, domestic...


BASH: OK, we want to get to -- we have questions about the domestic situation in this country and in the past. I want to bring in Ogo Orizu, who is a law student at Howard University and a supporter of Andrew Yang.

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Prince Ogo Orizu, and question for you tonight is one of your signature campaign promises is reparations for Africans and African-Americans. So in order to implement this plan you would have to reallocate that money from someone else. So where do you think we can allocate this money from?

WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all, you know, it's not a zero-sum game. So, you know, when people want to do things like tax cuts for the very, very wealthiest or invasions, war -- you know, invasions of countries that didn't even do anything to us, nobody asks where they're going to reallocate the money from.

The issue of reparations is an issue that speaks to when I was saying before. We need to get real in this country. We need to talk about what's really going on in this country. I don't believe that the average American is a racist.


I actually don't.

But I do believe that the average American is vastly undereducated about the history of race in the United States. And at the end of the Civil War, there were 4 million to 5 million slaves in the United States. And General Tecumseh Sherman promised at that time 40 acres and a mule for every former slave family.

That money -- well, most of that time the acreage was not given. Even when it was given, most of the time it was taken away. The economic gap -- and, remember, that two-and-a-half centuries of slavery was followed by a hundred years of what today we would call domestic terrorisms. You know, what do you call lynchings if not domestic terrorism? What do you call Ku Klux Klan if not domestic terrorism? Full on institutionalized white supremacy and segregation.

Even though we answered that with the Civil Rights Act that dismantled segregation, the Voting Rights Act, that gave equal rights of voting to black people, even that we started chipping away at since 2013, we have mass incarceration. We have racial disparity in sentencing. This is not a debt we can afford to delay any longer.

The economic restitution for two-and-a-half centuries of slavery followed by 100 years of domestic terrorism. Germany has paid $89 billion to Jewish organizations since World War II. And in 1988 Donald -- Ronald Reagan signed the American Civil Liberties Act where all surviving prisoners from the Japanese internment camps during World War II were paid between $20,000 and $22,000. It's simply a debt we owe.

This country will not heal until we take a serious moral inventory. People -- a nation must undergo the same level of deep moral inventory, admission of our character defects. Racism is a character defect. Let's end this. Let's fix this. Let's solve this.

Reparations won't end everything, but it will be a profound gift. It implies a mea culpa. It implies a recognition of a debt owed and, therefore, it carries not only economic power, but spiritual force. Whatever it costs, it's time to do this.


BASH: Our next question comes from Dennis Jaffe, who has worked in non-profits here in the D.C. area. Dennis?

QUESTION: Thank you for that answer. I wanted to ask -- and speaking of trauma, transformation, and I'd add a third word beginning with letters "TR" of Trump, do you now support -- have you supported before impeachment of President Trump? What is your reasoning? And if I could also clarify that we as D.C. residents don't have an opportunity to go to congressional representation who would vote on that issue.

WILLIAMSON: I think there are two questions here. Has he committed impeachable offenses? And should he be impeached? And there are two different questions. Do I feel that he has committed impeachable offenses? Absolutely.

I think this president clearly has fascist leanings, and I think that all of us, conservatives as well as liberals, need to stop pretending that this isn't true. So there are many things about the president's behavior, his policies and so forth which I would consider impeachable offenses.

But that's a very different question than whether or not he should be impeached, given the fact that as long as the Republicans, which they are and will be for the next years, are in charge of the Senate, they wouldn't remove him anyway.

So I leave that to Nancy Pelosi. I think she's got it together on this issue. And I'm sure she understands the quandary very, very well. In terms of D.C., of course, you should have representation. I think

when the founders said that D.C. should not have representation, they simply did not foresee a time when the kind of population in D.C. would exist as it does now. Absolutely D.C. should have representation.


BASH: We have a whole lot more coming. We have to take a quick break. We'll be back with CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Marianne Williamson but after a quick break. Stay with us.



BASH: Welcome back to (inaudible) presidential town hall with Marianne Williamson.

I want to start by asking you about your rise to prominence. You rose to prominence about 20 years ago with one of your many books, "A Return to Love." Oprah Winfrey had you on your show and during that interview she said that your book transformed her. And you two have become friendly since then. Have you talked to her about your run? And has she given you any advice since she has some experience now with campaigning for candidates?

WILLIAMSON: No, I haven't talked to her. I sent her an e-mail and...


BASH: Did she respond?

WILLIAMSON: I don't want to...

BASH: OK. You're going to leave it private. Got it. OK. Let's talk about your book and the fact that it came from, as we heard earlier, "A Course in Miracles." The first time -- you write that the first time you picked up that book, you saw that it was filled with Christian terminology and the fact that you're Jewish made you just put the book right back down. And you were given a copy of it a year later and decided to read through it. Given your Jewish faith, what changed your mind?

WILLIAMSON: Well, it's -- once I started reading the book, I realized the book is not the Christian religion. The book is not a religious text. It's a psychological minds training on forgiveness. It's a book about how to forgive.

It uses Christian terminology, but there's no dogma, there's no doctrine. It's not a religion. And the "Course in Miracles" is based on universal spiritual themes that are at the heart of all the great religious teachings of the world. I think if anything it's made me a better Jew. I think...

BASH: How so? WILLIAMSON: Well, because I think that the actual practice -- you

know, the basic themes -- my favorite -- my favorite Jewish principle, there is a part from the Talmud that says the following. Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.


You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you permitted to abandon it. I think a study in the "Course in Miracles" has given me more practical understanding of how to do that, how to love mercy, how to do justice, how to walk humble, and how to make sure that I -- although am not obligated to complete the task, I certainly -- certainly do all I can to get it done in the time that I have here.

BASH: OK, we have a lot more questions about what you would do as president. I want to bring in Vanessa Scott, an employee benefits attorney from Maryland who specializes in issues related to the Affordable Care Act. Vanessa?

QUESTION: Hi, Marianne. In addition to being an Affordable Care Act attorney, I am also a cancer survivor. So the state of the U.S. health care system is very important to me and to my family. What is your plan for making sure that the protections enacted by the Affordable Care Act are preserved, specifically the pre-existing condition protections and also the protections related to annual and lifetime limit restrictions?

WILLIAMSON: I think not only must they be preserved, they must be augmented. I'd like to see a Medicare for all type of plan that's presented as a public option. I think a lot of people would gravitate to that. And I think in addition, if people want private insurance, if they like their private insurers, or want to augment it, then they should be able to.

To me, the issue is not just the technicality. The issue is not how are we going to do that. The issue is why are we going to do that. The reason we are going to do that is because you are a citizen of the United States. You should not have to worry about any of this in the richest country in the world. No citizen in the richest country of the world should have to be worrying about this.

And, by the way, the stress that so many people feel based on what will I do if I get sick, what will I do if one of my children gets sick, the fact that 40 percent of Americans are struggling on a daily basis to make those basic costs of health care and rent and transportation and food causes sickness. That's part of the stress, the economic stress.

And the fact we don't have health care and the fact we don't know how we're going to pay our college loans and we don't know how we're going to pay our kids to go to college is part of the unhealthy aspect.

So what we do with health care in the United States is that once people are already sick, we're talking about how to provide health care. But we need to have a deeper conversation in this country. We don't really have a health care system. We have a sickness care system.

Because what we're saying is, OK, once people get sick, what do we do about it? When I'm president, we're going to be talking about how to create greater health from the beginning. And that's going to save a lot of money, by the way.

There is so much about our diet, so much about our lifestyle, and so much about the economic stress that actually causes this very conditions that produce illness. That's why if we're really going to talk about health in America, we have to talk about our chemical policies, we have to talk about the foods, the toxins, the carcinogens in our food. We have to talk about our environmental policies. So we need to go a lot deeper. The old politics talks about how we're going to take care of you if you get sick. The new politics and what you're going to have if I'm president, we're going to talk about how you might live well.


BASH: You mentioned stress, about paying for college. We have a question about that. Sarah Mitchell is a graduate student at the George Washington University. Sarah?

QUESTION: Hi, thank you so much for being here tonight.

WILLIAMSON: Thank you.

QUESTION: As a student, something I worry about is being able to pay off my student loans. And this is a something that a lot of students and young people are facing. Right now, Americans currently owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. As president, what would you do to address this?

WILLIAMSON: OK, once again, the issue is not only what I'm going to do but why I'm going to do it. What I'm going to do it is there are studies going on right now about the possibility of cancelling all of them and at the very least renegotiating these loans.

But why? I can't even imagine, Sarah, what it would be like to be your age and to graduate with $30,000 of debt. And the largest debt, by the way, is being held by Baby Boomers. So how -- I mean, at what point do you get to relax?

America will be made great. America will be great when you and you and you and you and all of us have the opportunity to be all that we can be. You can't be all that you can be when you're so weighed down. What am I going to do? How am I going to pay for health care? How am I going to pay these college loans?

This is where our economic good comes from. Economic good does not come from a few major corporate moguls who just drop some crumbs off the table when they're in the mood to. Our economic good comes from the fact that each and every one of us are able to actualize the extraordinary, unlimited, God-given potential. Every single American has so -- the dreams. We need to actualize our

dreams. We need to unleash the spirit of the American people. That's why I want to take these college loan debts away. It's why I want health care, so people can...


BASH: Let me drill down on the practicality of that.

WILLIAMSON: OK, let's do it.

BASH: Because as we just heard $1.3 trillion. Other estimates, $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.


BASH: Where is the money going to come from to eliminate the student debt?

WILLIAMSON: First of all, there are a lot of plans, including...

BASH: What's yours?

WILLIAMSON: Well, Oregon has one where kids then -- once they start working, they pay 2 percent. But even that, the issue is we're the richest country in the world and every dollar that we put into education is a dollar that is put into our economy. Every dollar that somebody doesn't have to pay on their student loan is a dollar that, number one, they're putting into their own self-actualization, they're putting into their own expenditures. Therefore, it's a consumer base. Therefore, it's a tax base.

This whole zero-sum conversation is just propaganda that was created by people basically who wanted to keep all the money to themselves. This is crazy.


BASH: OK, let's get to another audience question. Camille Glover -- is a lawyer right here in Washington. Camille?

QUESTION: Thank you. If you were elected president, what measures would you take to enact and address the current immigration crisis using constitutional, policy, and faith-based measures? And how do you believe the current administration is getting this wrong?

WILLIAMSON: My father was an immigration lawyer, and brother is an immigration lawyer. And all four of my grandparents came through Ellis Island. I grew up as a child going to those ceremonies where I saw people become -- you know, the ceremony by which they became U.S. citizens. And I'm very aware that the average person who becomes a citizen of the United States, because of what they have to go through in order to do so, actually knows more about American civics, American history, and American Constitution than the average American born here does. So I have had a lifetime of deep, visceral understanding of the gift

that immigrants are to this country. It is a foundational moral and spiritual, as well as political, issue in this country.

This entire crisis at the border, even the extent to which it is crisis -- first of all, I want to talk about the extent to which it's not a crisis. It is a made-up crisis. It is a made-up crisis that has had to do with this president wanting to speak to his base. We all know it has racial overtones. I mean, the American people are ready to have a real conversation about all of these things. And that's what I will do as president, by the way, is have a real conversation about what's going on.

So first of all, let's talk about the part that's not even a crisis. Second of all, the part that is a crisis. The real crisis is not just that so many people are on the border -- are coming over the border. The real crisis is the human despair and desperation that has led them to take their children on their backs over hundreds and even thousands of miles of desert. Nobody does this because things are going well.

And one of the things I think we as Americans need to look deeply at is American foreign policy in Latin America over the last few decades and how if not directly at least indirectly we have contributed to situations where in our own hemisphere there was level of despair because too often in our foreign policy, just like in our domestic, our government has done more to be supporting short-term profits for major corporate interests than people.

BASH: One quick follow-up on the notion of not just immigration but borders. You wrote in 2017 that God didn't draw a line between France and Spain or the U.S. and Mexico. Natural boundaries are manmade and not God created.


BASH: What did you mean by that?

WILLIAMSON: Well, my father used to show us when we were kids, he would make us look at the atlas. And he would show us the atlas. You know, when you see an atlas that doesn't have nations on it, you just see the geography, and he would point out that we're all one humanity.

If I'm president of the United States, the world will know that America's greatest ally is humanity itself. But that doesn't mean that I'm saying or that my father was saying that we shouldn't have borders, national borders, but we should have borders to organize our societies, not divide our hearts.

BASH: Thank you so much. We have to take a quick break. We'll be right back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Marianne Williamson. Don't go anywhere.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BASH: Welcome back to CNN's live Democratic presidential town hall

with Marianne Williamson. And we want to get straight to the audience. Luke Lorenz, who is a U.S. Army veteran and the president and founder of a veteran's nonprofit in Arlington, Virginia. Luke?

QUESTION: Thank you. As a veteran who served with NATO forces, I'd like to know what you're going to do to counter Russia's ongoing disinformation and election interference operations and what you would do to safeguard America's voting machines?

WILLIAMSON: Well, one of the things that I would do, contrary to the way this president behaves, is I would actually listen to the U.S. intelligence agencies.


And the U.S. intelligence agencies have an uncommon uniformity on this issue. They're very clear that there has been Russian interference. That's the first thing. I will join with them in making it clear to the American people. I will not use the bully pulpit to obfuscate, but I make it clear to the American people, number one, that I agree with our intelligence agencies that this is happening and, number two, that we're on it.

I would listen to the recommendations of those intelligence agencies and also have a very serious come to truth meeting with everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to everybody else concerned with U.S. technology, companies such as Facebook. I want to hear their ideas. I want to hear the ideas of the various experts who actually set up those systems, et cetera.

And in terms of the voting machines, we must have paper ballots. We absolutely must have paper ballots. But in addition to this, I want to say something. No matter who is messing with the United States and no matter what form they're messing with the United States, there's only one thing that none of those forces will be able to counter. And that is an uprising of passion and consciousness on the part of the American people. We must vote. Too much of what has happened...



BASH: Let's get to next question. Laura Cofsky is -- excuse me, next question is from Laura Cofsky who works in communications for a non- profit here in Washington and is a member of the Arlington Young Democrats in Virginia. Laura?

QUESTION: Thank you. So my question is, where do you stand on Israel and Palestine? And how much will your stance be driving your foreign policy goals?

WILLIAMSON: How much will my stance on Israel and Palestine be driving my foreign policy goals?

QUESTION: Yes. WILLIAMSON: I believe that the United States must have an absolute

simultaneous and equal support of the legitimate security concerns of Israel and the human rights and dignities and economic opportunities of the Palestinian people.

It has been a long time since the United States could actually be considered by either side as an honest broker. With me as president, they will know that they have in the United States a president who listens deeply and totally hears -- the leaders of the Palestinian Authority will know that I listen very deeply, I hear you very deeply, and nothing you say is going to sway me from my commitment to the legitimate security of Israel, and Israeli leaders similarly will know I hear you, I understand, but nothing you say is going to sway me from my commitment to the human rights and the dignity of the Palestinian people.

It's been a while since we've had a president -- it's been since Jimmy Carter that we've had a U.S. president to say flat out those settlements are illegal. In me, you would have a president who says those settlements are illegal.


BASH: So you said that -- that you would be an honest broker.

WILLIAMSON: Yes, absolutely. Well, do you want me to say the rest of it?

BASH: Please, go ahead.

WILLIAMSON: I would rescind the president's affirmation of sovereignty of Israel over the Golan Heights. I understand the occupation, but that occupation should be only until there is a stable democratic -- stable government in Syria with whom one can negotiate.

And we must be very clear. The fact that you're occupying a territory does not give you the right to annex it. So those kinds of signals that Israel is getting from Donald Trump that you can do that, and if you even go in that direction, it's OK with me -- as you mentioned, I'm a Jew, Dana, and my love for Israel is second only to my love for the United States. I have a deep visceral desire.

The alliance of the United States with Israel is extremely important. It should be extremely important to all of us. But as I said before, if I'm president of the United States, the world will know our greatest ally is humanity itself.

The real healing of that situation in Israel and Palestine will actually not be on a mortal level alone. It will not be on the level of the green line. It will not be just on the level of the military. The people that I have met who are so inspiring, Israelis and Palestinians, are doing the peace work of the heart. Because two people with conflicting historical narratives are going to have to share the same piece of land.

BASH: There was... WILLIAMSON: And you know what? I want to tell you something, ladies and gentlemen. The fact that I've had 35-year doing counseling with couples is something I bring to this table.



BASH: There was an election just last week in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won, and you said that you were, quote, "very disappointed" that he won a fifth term. So as president, how would you work with him, especially considering how important Israel is, as you just mentioned, as a U.S. ally?

WILLIAMSON: Well, Israel -- Netanyahu -- listen, these people -- Obama made it very clear with Netanyahu that he did not agree with everything that Netanyahu was doing. And Netanyahu will understand that when I am president there are certain policies that he promotes that I, as president of the United States, do not agree with.

You work with somebody. We work with nations all the time that we may or may not agree with at any particular point.

BASH: OK, let's get back to the audience. Frank Schwing, he is a government scientist from right here in Washington. Frank?

QUESTION: Thank you. Climate change is perhaps the greatest threat faced based by our environment, but also our economy, security, and society. What would you do as president to get bipartisan action to address climate change?

WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all, I would say to the American people in unequivocal terms that the debate is over. It's not just one of our greatest challenges; it is the greatest moral challenge of our age.

We would have, if I were president of the United States, a world-class environmentalist at the head of the EPA. No more chemical company executives heading the EPA. No more oil company heading the EPA.


It would be -- it would be a magnet for the most powerfully, brilliant environmental scientists, sustainability experts, et cetera.

The people at the EPA would know that the president of the United States has your back. The full force of the executive branch of the U.S. government would be put at your back. I know we have 12 years.


And I would say to the American people, the debate is over. I would say to the American people, as I'm saying to you now, you know all those forces, like the fossil fuel companies that have spent all those billions of dollars obstructing climate change -- the adequate response to climate change? They were wrong before, and they're wrong now. And hopefully what I can help provide is a consensus among the

American people that we need to be on this now. We need to sequester this carbon. We need carbon sequestration. We need the reforestation. We need to deal with the animal factory farming. We need to develop sustainable energy systems. We need new modes of electric transportation, et cetera.

And also we need to remember we're Americans. We can do this. We've done great things before. But the United States, the people of the United States, partly because of leadership of the United States in too many cases, has forgotten. We do great things. Enough with this moral equivocation on the part of our government. Enough with these incremental changes here and these incremental changes there. The climate is a crisis. We have 12 years to deal with it. And when I'm president of the United States, I promise you, we will.


BASH: OK, we're going to take another quick break. When we come back, more with CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Marianne Williamson.



BASH: Welcome back to CNN's live Democratic presidential town hall with Marianne Williamson. I want to get to the audience once again. Zach Valdez is here. He's originally from Texas, just like you, and is now a project manager for a nonprofit here in Washington. Zach?

QUESTION: Hi, Marianne. Thank you for being here.

WILLIAMSON: Thank you.

QUESTION: As a fellow Texan, how do you create a platform for both sides to find common ground and support you on controversial topics such as abortion and gun rights?

WILLIAMSON: First of all, President Eisenhower said that the American mind at its best is both liberal and conservative. I think he was right. I think that there are high-minded conservative values and there are high-minded liberal values. And they are sort of a yin and yang, a complementary dance at their best.

The things that are a real problem in America today that are serious opponents of democracy and that are an assault on our democratic freedoms aren't conservative any more than they're liberal. They're an authoritarian corporatism.

So I think high-minded conservatives would know that in me they have a friend and they have someone ready for an honorable debate and a gracious conversation. Now, you mentioned two particular issues. You mentioned abortion and you mentioned gun rights. Now, on the issue of abortion, I believe that abortion is a moral issue, but I believe that it is an issue of private morality. So I think what conservatives would appreciate about me is that I

acknowledge, which I think most Americans do, that it is a moral issue. But I believe that it is an issue of private rather than public morality. The government should have nothing to do with our private morals. And therefore, I do not believe the government should have anything to do with when a woman is -- decision a woman is making for her body, anything that she does or does not do.

So I think the conservatives would feel my acknowledgement of the moral issue. Once again, it's private and not public.

In terms of guns, I certainly understand that it's a Second Amendment right. And I even agree with the conservative position about why the founders put it there. So there's no problem with that for me.

However, we know that they were talking about a well-organized militia. And we know that our gun policies in the United States are not driven by Second Amendment. That's just an illusion. That's just propaganda. This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.


You know, we don't adequately fight -- we don't adequately fight climate change because of profits for fossil fuel companies. We don't have universal health care because of short-term profits for health insurance companies and big pharma. We don't have wage peace as much as we wage war because of short-term profits for defense contractors. And we don't have commonsense gun safety legislation because, God forbid, it should cut into the short-term profits of gun manufacturers. That is immoral.


That is obscene. And this is an example of how the new aristocracy works. It overrides the will of the American people. The majority of the American people want universal background checks. The majority of the American people want to outlaw bump stocks. The majority of the American people want to get these military assault rifles out of the hands of the average citizen.

And until the American people realize that we absolutely must, we need to fix our democracy, we need to get rid of the nefarious influence of money on our political system, we're going to ultimately need a constitutional amendment establishing public funding for federal campaigns.

But until then, if you want commonsense gun safety legislation, you're going to not only have to vote for a president who stands for that, you're going to have to vote for congresspeople who stand for that and senators who stand for that. This issue is in your hands, not just mine.


BASH: OK, let's get back to the audience. Let's bring in Ashley Burnside, who works as a researcher at a progressive think-tank right here in Washington. And Ashley has a question about the Equality Act which aims to halt discrimination based on gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation. Ashley?

QUESTION: Thank you. As a lesbian, I often worry about being harassed and denied my basic rights in this country based solely on who I am. In my home state of Michigan, it's legal to fire someone or deny them housing simply for identifying as LGBTQ. As president, what would you do to support the LGBTQ community, especially the transgender community who faces disproportionate rates of violence in our country? And would you support the Equality Act?

WILLIAMSON: Absolutely. And this is another issue where it's not just what I would do, but why I would do it. I realize that the transgender issue in the military, what's happening right now with the president's -- it's horrifying what he's done with the military. But also, as you were saying, housing discrimination and so forth.

But I want you to know why I would support you as a LGBTQ person. I would support you because you're an American. I don't want to just talk to you as a lesbian or as an LGBTQ. I don't want to talk to somebody else because you're black, you're white, you're gay, you're straight, you're a Jew, you're Christian, you're Muslim. I want to talk to you because you're an American.

All men are created equal. That's what it says in our Declaration of Independence. It says in our Declaration of Independence, which all of us need to take into our hearts again. It's not enough for these principles to just be inscribed on marble walls somewhere or written on parchment behind glass.


You were talking about being Jewish. It says in Judaism, every generation must re-discover God for itself. Every generation must rediscover these principles for ourselves. God gave inalienable rights of life, of liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all men and governments are instituted among men to secure those rights.

Martin Luther King said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I'm not a lesbian woman, but what you do to a lesbian, you do to me. Stop right there.


BASH: Let me get a couple of more questions in real fast. Brendon Frye is a teacher here in Washington and is active in the D.C. Democratic Party.

QUESTION: Yes, your campaign promises to focus on crime prevention and educational equity, two things that I feel like are inextricably linked. How will you negotiate across the aisle to ensure that not just the school, but the community has the proper support to sustain and prosper, no matter their socioeconomic status?

WILLIAMSON: We are the only country that bases so much of our educational funding on property taxes, which is absolutely ridiculous. That means that if a child wins a birth lottery and they go to a -- their parents are financially privileged, then they are liable to get a very good public education in America.

But it shouldn't be that if you do not have financially advantaged parents that you do not. Every school in the United States should be a palace of learning, every school. We have millions of American children who go to school every day in schools that do not even have the adequate school supplies with which to teach 8-year-old to read. If an 8-year-old cannot read by the age of 8, if they can't read, the chances of high school graduation, it's drastically diminished, and the chances of incarceration is drastically increased.

We have millions of American children living in this chronic trauma, living in America's domestic war zones, where the PTSD of a returning veteran from Afghanistan or Iraq, psychologists tell us, is no more severe than the PTSD of these children.

We should rescue these children, no differently than we would rescue them from a natural disaster. And that's why when I'm president, we will have a massive realignment of resources in the direction of children 10 years old and younger. We need a United States cabinet- level Department of Children and Youth. If you want to see the economic potential of this country, if you want to see the economic vibrancy of this country, if you want to see the entrepreneurial spirit of this country, you go to any kindergarten in any neighborhood in this country, and these children are full-on citizens of the United States, and I will be their president.


BASH: One final question from Duvalier Malone. He's an author and community activist right here in Washington. Duvalier?

QUESTION: Thank you. In today's hostile political environment, can a presidential bid be supported by love? If so, do you think love can win the White House?

WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all, I think it's the only thing that can win the White House. I think far more people in this country love than hate. Far more, and that's true in this world. The problem we have today is that those who hate, hate with conviction. And conviction is a force multiplier.

Those who hate today, those who fear, they are effective, they are organized, and they are convicted. Those of us who love now need to become convicted and organized and strategize. We need to do more than small random acts of kindness. We need huge, strategized acts of doing the right thing.

Look at terrorism. We know that -- hey, how powerful it is when it is turned into a political force. But it's nothing compared to how powerful love is when it's turned into a political force. That's what I'm trying to do with my campaign. That's the message I'm giving.

What we need to do is the right thing. We need to rescue these children. We need to pay reparations. We need to wage peace. We need to purify the heart of a nation, just like we need to purify our own hearts. And then when we do that, when we're honest about the darkness we need to deal with, we will get to such incredible light, and we will have a new birth of freedom, as Abraham Lincoln said. There is nothing compared to what this country is going to do when we release the truth of who we are.

BASH: So you're talking about love. That's obviously your calling card...


BASH: ... and the force behind your books. How do you do that in a debate with Donald Trump?

WILLIAMSON: Well, first...


Let's not pretend that he would debate me, Dana. He would insult me. He would bait me, but he would not debate me.

BASH: So on the stage with Donald Trump?

WILLIAMSON: You know, what do you do with a child? How do you treat a psychopath?


I would not go in expecting a reasonable conversation. I would be open to a reasonable conversation. I would not go in expecting one. My conversation is with the American people.

I think we're so exhausted. I don't think the American people need me to tell them who Donald Trump is or what Donald Trump is. I'm going to tell the American people what America could be and what it will be if they elect me president.


BASH: Marianne Williamson, thank you so much.

WILLIAMSON: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it.

Don't go anywhere. When we come back, CNN's Ana Cabrera will be right here with businessman Andrew Yang for another CNN Democratic presidential town hall.