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From Northeastern University the National Information Network presents urban confrontation. The liberals of this country gave up on politics some time back and had a great cause. We've tried to violent confrontation politics the last few years and we have earned Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and Attorney General Metro Lana her whole sheep politicians that are riding the kids in the blacks and the intellectuals into public office throughout this land. This week on urban confrontations Walter Mondale Democratic senator from Minnesota. Today's program. What can we do. What must we do. After traveling throughout America and seeing many different races and classes of people Senator Walter Mondale young Democratic senator from Minnesota feels that
many Americans are morally wrong for believing that all of America is well fed. Somewhere along the line Americans blocked out the reality of other Americans going to bed hungry every night. I think that I serve on more human problem committees and subcommittees than any of my colleagues in this effort. I've literally been over parts of my country in numberless migrant camps in California Texas Florida. On Indian reservations throughout this country in most of our ghettos in pockets of rural poverty and have listened to literally thousands and thousands of pages of testimony by the best minds that the Congress could find to explain to us this tragic phenomenon of poverty in the midst of the world's richest
and most powerful society. And I come away from this experience with a growing belief that one of the key problems if not the key problem explaining the curse of poverty in the United States is the unanalyzed assumption that we are a kind generous and thoughtful people who deal you mainly with those who depend upon us believing that yes we instinctively create and hold to a series of institutions which Foster dependency. We must be greatly rewarded by this Guardian and Ward relationship. We hold to it so firmly despite unquestioned evidence that it's been a tragic failure and the institutions have now by and large established that case beyond dispute. We can begin with the Bureau of Indian Affairs
which should disabuse us of any of our notions about our generous instincts. The Indians are America's first Americans. We have made them the last Americans. They have become indisputably that. When you look at their life span the statistics on health the statistics on school dropouts the statistics on alcoholism or suicides. Or any other recognized indicator of social disorganization and failure. The American Indian is number one. Despite the fact that unlike any others in American society they have almost been totally dependent upon the Bureau of Indian Affairs created early in American history which is assume the responsibility indeed proclaimed it time and time again making
good white people good Americans out of our fellow red citizens. It has failed so tragically that it stands as one of the most searing indictment not only of that institution but I don't believe that America itself can escape responsibility for its activities. And this phenomenon I think has created what I regard to be the most profound moral crisis in America today. Senator Mondale then goes on to tell us why this phenomenon is a moral crisis. He found out that since Bobby Kennedy's exposé on hunger in Mississippi there are still millions of Americans malnourished and America continues to close her ears. They panel of five doctors who had gone to the delegate County in southern Texas on a field foundation financed survey
and had intended to make an analysis of the health conditions of migrant families in that one county when the word got out that there was medical care nearby literally hundreds of migrants showed up and crowded around the building and they immediately had to junk their plans for a rational study and spend a full week trying to care for people some of whom were on the verge of death. And this is what Dr. Wheeler the head of that medical team said quote I doubt that any group of physicians in the past 30 years has seen in this country as many malnourished children assembled in one place as we saw in one week and who don't go counting the children we saw that day have no future in our society. Malnutrition since birth has already impaired them physically. Mentally and Emotionally they do not have the capacity to engage in the sustained physical and mental effort
which is necessary to succeed in school learn a trade or assume the full responsibilities of citizenship. The younger children especially were undersized thin anemic and apathetic. The muscles of their arms were the size of lead pencils a sign of gross malnutrition. What is different in Florida and Texas from the rest of the rural south is the deliberate cruelty contrived and highly effective system which has been devised to extract the maximum work and productivity from other human beings for the cheapest possible price. And he ended by saying this. How can the Congress in our nation's leadership pretend to be related in any sane way to a world around them. When they spend their time in the nations wealth building roads and guns and planes and elaborate government buildings while families live at 10 or 12 in one room without water heat
ventilation or even a place to wash their hands. A few years ago in 1967 we saw the same phenomenon. This resulted in the disclosure of hunger in southern Mississippi. I still remember Bobby Kennedy showing me the report from some of these same doctors who had visited the delta and seen this incredible health condition in southern Mississippi. There followed a two year period while the nation thrashed around trying to determine whether in fact this was an isolated phenomenon or whether there was in fact widespread hunger in this country. We finally after substantial difficulty established a committee in the United States Senate under the gifted leadership of Senator McGovern and we went on a field trip and we found hunger wherever we went.
And we were attacked in many quarters including one by the press secretary in the White House. But finally after two years of work by our committee and by a distinguished doctor and a CI Debbie and others we were able to establish beyond dispute that millions of Americans suffered seriously from malnutrition. Many of them to the point that they were permanently stunted in body and mind exposed to other illnesses and death. From serious malnutrition. And this society which is the most abundantly supplied agricultural society in the world. Senator Mondale wonders what kind of government does America have if it takes as long as a year and a half to debate a bill that probably won't pass. He notes ironically that this bill is to feed starving Americans.
The McGovern Javits bill only sought to bring food stamps to the very poor. Less than one third of those it is estimated to be suffering from malnutrition. We passed the Senate proposal overwhelmingly. It has been in the House Agriculture Committee now for a year and a half. I would say there is no hope at all for its adoption. And although this nation held a White House conference on hunger not even it was able to persuade the president the United States to support this proposal. So once again a nation's conscience is shocked. A human condition that is utterly beyond the fence is exposed. We have this spasm of moral outrage and only marginal limited responses leaving the bulk of the problem and the tragedy with those who must live their lives in such a tragedy. But we go on to other things.
And I believe that's exactly what has been happening. And unless we can develop a new strategy will continue to happen in American life. And I believe the first shock through which America must go through if we have some hope to bring a decent life to every American is to first see ourselves as we are and look at the record. I think as Al Smith once put it not what we say but what we do. As Mr Mitchell would have us follow their performance and what we've done is without any rational or moral defense to the disadvantaged in America power spirit and justice are all within the people. Senator Mondale feels that the disadvantaged must be reminded of this with the lowering of the voting age and the growing awareness of you. He feels that they might
be America's new hope for achieving equal justice for all the people. And I'd like to cite just a few things that I think ought to be considered to overcome this basic paternalistic approach that we've had. And in an effort to substitute to the extent that it's possible. Some power in the hands of the disadvantaged to speak for themselves. I think it's significant that while the Senate cast 900 votes for unemployment compensation Cesar Chavez signed up on his own 80 percent of the grape growers in southern California he did more for the farm workers of Southern California and for this country than the Congress has ever done for all migrants. And he did it pretty much alone. So I think the first answer must be that liberals must pursue not only their national conclusions and strategies
but we must look again for local answers for community organization efforts to harness the strength of the poor them south. And community organizations and union efforts political efforts which Well opportunities for reform at the local level. It's significant that Cesar Chavez never would have a poverty program and delay no California he didn't want one around. He never had a poverty lawyer. He didn't want one because he thought whenever there was federal money there was usually an invisible chain around each dollar that sooner or later you'd find out about it. So he decided to do it on his own and he wanted the people he was working with to realize that they had the power themselves within themselves and the brains and the spirit and the courage to gain justice in their own lives. And that's a much more important
lesson and can ever be taught by such outside support. We have to try to tap the political power of the poor the voting levels of the disadvantaged are very low and we must seek in every way we can to encourage far broader voter participation. I'm very hopeful that the Supreme Court will sustain the 18 year old vote because maybe our kids will help save us if we give them a chance. Senator Mondale wonders why courts are tied up with traffic and other minor violations when they should be concerned with major issues such as hunger and justice. He questions when the day will come when the have nots have their due justice. Also it seems to me we must look to the courts and the legal authority for the poor to assert their just rights
in the courts of our land for well over a century American courts have been predominately institutions which have heard commercial cases and such things as who got into the intersection first. And I think it's far more important that such things as hunger and justice be the key principles with which our courts must grapple. Now we're beginning to fashion a strategy so that so many of these latent constitutional rights and legal rights that exist but are not used because of the unavailability of legal talent for the poor shall be made available through legal services the Legal Services Program of the. Are we all which I think is being very seriously threatened today in its four years of honest activity has brought more broad social issues to the United States
Supreme Court and before our local courts than all the private practitioners in this country put together over the last 50 years. I think a standard strategy has been to pass a law providing rights for the poor because we know damn well they'll never have a lawyer to get them into court. Well maybe we can catch him up on the strategy by providing a lawyer for the poor as well. Part of that strategy I think we see in making it possible for a private practitioner to make a living representing the poor. We've just proposed and I hope will adopt the possibility that consumers can join together. In a single lawsuit and a collection of identical complaints and assemble enough of them to make it possible to have the kinds of legal talent and undertake the kinds of terribly expensive discovery proceedings and all the rest and appeals to permit consumers for the
first time to have an equal hearing before the courts of this land so that it will be financially possible to go into court with General Motors and not be outgunned and destroyed simply by the costs and the length of litigation. I think there is a genius to that approach which might be found and applied as well to issues of civil rights issues of social reform and welfare and the rest under the Civil Rights Act today. Lawsuits. That have been one for public accommodations to eliminate discrimination there can result in legal fees being paid to the successful plaintiffs. And I'm told that that's been an important engine for the success of the Public Accommodations Act in this country. The president has asked for a billion and a half dollars for the end of a lacy legal defense fund for the several Liberties Union and for private lawyers to bring
lawsuits to enforce the Constitution. Since the Justice Department seems to be busy on other matters a strategy then to make it possible for the late into nonuse constitutional legal rights of the disadvantaged to be asserted I think should be very seriously considered. Foundations with vast resources are extending themselves into the community. Senator Mondale feels that this unity will be strength for the disadvantaged. Also and I'm been attacked by some of my liberal friends for being a supporter of foundations. Now there's a lot of bad foundations just like there are a lot of bad everything. But I think creative and courageous leadership in problems of community organization school decentralization voter registration community services and such things is the field Foundation survey that I described earlier. Many
international efforts like the miracle seed varieties have been the result of this unique American institution the tax exempt foundation which is free to hire the best and most creative talent. Free to reach around the institutions and the political structure and help those outside of it and free to expose the ugly sores for all to see through competent and carefully about your weighted studies. And I would place movement by the foundation in this direction as a terribly important potential source of strength for the disadvantaged. In Senator Mondale's conclusions he feels that community action must come from the people and then spread up to higher government leaders. Justice and humanism must prevail through any kind of system. Finally I would say that I believe poverty will get worse
because our schools are deteriorating in American life and the best weapon you can give to the poor continues to be a good education. The capacity to fight for themselves to speak for themselves and to know and to learn and to enjoy. We have hundreds of thousands of children in this country who are receiving no education at all. They would be better off if they stayed home and watch television if they had a television set. Now it seems to me that if we really wish to assault poverty we need to look much more closely than we have at this nation's deteriorating system of education. We have millions of children with language difficulties Mexican-Americans Frederica's Portuguese Indians most of whom start school without even understanding our language and with textbooks that have no
relevance. I was in an Arctic Village in the middle of an ice cap. And saw a white teacher who couldn't speak Eskimo teaching out of a Dick and Jane book. It's a runner for a formula for disaster and it's been very successful. Early childhood education sensitive education in my opinion and willingness to have overruns in the first grade rather than on the C-5 airplane when I hear that we wasted two billion dollars in the first grade I'll figure we're on our way. And finally may I say this in my opinion the liberals of this country gave up on politics some time back and had a great cost. We've tried to violent confrontation politics the last few years and we have earned Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and Attorney General Mitchell and a
whole host of cheap politicians that are writing the kids in the blacks and the intellectuals into public office throughout this land. It is in my opinion because we thought there was an easy way to direct American society outside the political process. And as tough as it is that realisation I don't believe there is. I don't believe there is. I think the United States Senate is the last vestige of a time when most American liberals still took politics seriously and we saved your Supreme Court for you. We've saved most of the modern social economic legislation as inadequate as it is. We've kept this nation directed at the problems of hunger. The problems of equal education the problems of integration the problems of the migrant labor. And we have been the forum for the peace movement in this country and we've tried to adopt legislation and keep attention on this tragic war to bring it to an
end. But I don't think unless American liberals get serious about politics once again that in 1071 you're going to have a Senate worth visiting. That's my personal opinion because time is running out on that institution. I'm less those who really care about this country and about social justice get back into the precincts and start electing those who believe in such causes and start defeating those who don't. Nothing moves this system so fast as a defeated politician. It's worse than cancer. Perhaps the sign of our times and unreported for members of the Detroit School Board. Who would murder for a modest plan of racial balance. Well recall from their posts by the citizens of Troy by a vote of two to one and that continue and have a society that is worthy of the
word justice or humanity or compassion or humanism. And my plea to my fellow Americans is to help us get back into the precincts and to elect some decent people before it's too late to do anything about it. Thank you. Northeastern University has brought you a Walter Mondale Democratic senator from Minnesota. Today's program. What can we do. What must we do. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program were not necessarily those of Northeastern University or the station. This week's program was produced by David Brown in collaboration with the international humanist and Ethical Union directed by Sheila Sylvester. The technical supervision by Phil Cox.
Urban Confrontation
What Must We Do? What Can We Do? Walter Mondale
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Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Urban Confrontation is an analysis of the continuing crises facing 20th century man in the American city, covering issues such as campus riots, assassinations, the internal disintegration of cities, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. Produced for the Office of Educational Resources at the Communications Center of the nations largest private university, Northeastern University.
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Producing Organization: Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 70-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Chicago: “Urban Confrontation; What Must We Do? What Can We Do? Walter Mondale,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2022,
MLA: “Urban Confrontation; What Must We Do? What Can We Do? Walter Mondale.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Urban Confrontation; What Must We Do? What Can We Do? Walter Mondale. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from