Morning Joe | September 27, 2012
>> have one here.
>> i wake up in 3:00 in the morning. i'm in chicago. i find out that mr. bucket list is on my set. very excited to have with us rock 'n' roll hall of famer and member of 12-time grammy award winner marking the anniversary of the organization they founded to provide health care to kids in needs. the children's health care fund. gentlemen, it's a great honor to have you both here. not only, paul , because of the remarkable music that you've provided us for so long but also 25 years of this organization taking care of children in need . talk about what's happened over the past 25 years and what you hope to accomplish over the next 25.
>> well, first of all, thanks for your kind words, joe. sorry that you're -- what are you doing in chicago?
>> i'm cursed. i'm cursed. i'm just stupid. i'm always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
>> he thought this weekend was l lallapalooza.
>> i'm in the wrong place at the wrong time. i'm dr. john here. talk about your organization and what's happened over the past 25 years.
>> it started with explosion of homeless people in -- not a literal explosion but homeless people in new york city in the late '80s and the doctor and i met because i was trying to get some money from usa for africa, the michael jackson video that i was in to give it to a homeless shelter on the west side of manhattan . and his interest is children's health care , pediatrics and we went around the city and saw the single room occupancy hotels and saw the situation of what was going on with homelessness and how it affected children. it was honestly like the third world. it was just mortifying. and so we came up with this idea to have a mobile medical clinic that would go to the various sites and provide health care with a doctor and a nurse on board and a computer records and we were associated with a hospital in new york and that's how we began. we started in manhattan and then we went to a few other boroughs and now we have 50 units all around the united states in urban areas and in rural areas . that in a nutshell is our story. there's been -- since we started there's been 3 million doctor/patient visits over the 25 years.
>> you guys have been working this issue for a long time. we talk about presidential campaigns and how a lot of big issues don't get talked about. this is one of them. how frustrating is it for you to watch this campaign play out in 2012 and have this issue that means so much to you never mentioned? not ever really discussed in any substantial way by either party or either candidate.
>> that's an important question. we have been speaking to the campaigns and trying to get both of the campaigns to say something in terms of their plans for what they'll do not just access to health care for all children, especially poor children, but access to all of the safety net programs from hunger support and early education and so forth. and in fairness, the last few years have shown significant growth in some of the strength of these programs and expansion of programs for the poor under president obama . that said, we would like to see more articulation of this as a major issue for the u.s. the thing about children and poverty is it's very different from the situation with adults. with adults people are enduring situations that they should not have to. for children, not only are they enduring conditions that are horrendously adverse but there are consequences. if kids are not getting health care they need and not getting nutrition and so forth in the early brain development years or while they're in school, then we see an unfolding disaster that will affect not only our present but our future.
>> doctor, could i interject? you've been doing this for 25 years. it seems 25 years ago you would hear studies saying if you don't get to kids before they're five, they're going to be problems for the rest of their lives. it seems the more we learn, the more we begin to understand that that age gets bumped back to four, to three, to two. if we don't make the investment to help these children, these babies, these toddlers develop in the first two to three years of life, they're going to be deficiencies in a lot of cases for the rest of their lives. critical to get in as early as possible, right?
>> no question. i have a niece that teaches a first grade class in new york and she was telling me a week about about children who fall asleep, 6 year olds fall asleep with heads on their desk. children who have been labeled as learning disabled when they don't have visual problems. the kids falling asleep turn out they have asthma not identified or treated. these kids are destined in many cases to be failures or not reach their potential and that is a -- that's really a disaster for the country. this is where that word you used, investment, is key here. paul always talks about children as a treasure of america. they are. but also a critical investment. just as important as anything else we'll do economically. it's one of the reasons that we're hoping that this election season will see more focus on children as investments in america's future.
>> if you don't make that investment early on, you're engaging in a false economy because you're going to be paying out a lot more in the out years whether it's medicaid or other government services. so when we were about to introduce you, paul , we knew it was the 25th anniversary of your organization. somebody said it's the 25th anniversary of graceland . it tells me how -- i thought that came out like a year or two ago which is how old i am. 26 years ago and it still is having a significant impact. your album last year so beautiful or so what? critically acclaimed. there are a lot of people that have their hits and then play those hits for the rest of their lives and don't keep growing. how do you keep getting up and producing great music? day after day or using sports analogy inning after inning after inning getting up for the next inning?
>> nice of you to say. well, for one thing, i'm not thinking about hits anymore. actually, i wasn't thinking about hits when i was making graceland . i certainly didn't think i know a great idea. i'll go to south africa and record and the whole world will fall in love with it. that's what happened. i'm just trying to keep myself interested in my work. that's really what goes on. the fact that other people are interested is gratifying but i would be doing it, always was doing it for myself and i still am.
>> joe brought up graceland . we talk about politics and music and there's very few records that have intertwined politics and music the way graceland did. you violated the buy coycott to make that record and you were the first artist to be invited to perform. talk about what that record means to you. it really was something that kind of -- i don't want to say changed the world but opened people's ears to music to a different culture and talk about that and what that means in the context of your whole career what kind of impact that had on you.
>> well it was the great teaching experience of my career because i began to learn about rhythm. i was always drawn to rhythm. playing with african musicians and with west african musicians, that was great. in retrospect was most gratifying is i always had this idea that cultures were not as separated as we perhaps imagined. that comes from early rock 'n' roll listening to it. when you take country music and african- american experience and you combine it, you're taking different cultures because you are putting them together and that was rock 'n' roll. the graceland experience was very similar. there were places that connected american music and south african music and we found those bridges and we built a hybrid that worked as an example and had political implications as well that i couldn't foresee at the time. they turned out to be a good teaching device as well. quite an extraordinary thing in my life to have done graceland .