The Cycle | March 11, 2013
>>> we're back now in a special guest spot with former defense secretary and his wife. she has written a play about two martyrs. frank was captured. she died a year later in a concentration camp . and emmett was brutally beaten and shot to death by two white men in 1955 , mississippi. he was accused of flirting with a white woman . the stories unfolded a year apart from each other but contain a common thread . first, janet , congratulations on the play and i have to say growing up in massachusetts, i have some memories of you on tv in boston so it is nice to meet you through tv like this.
>> well, thank you, thank you. i'm enjoying your show.
>> what inspired you to write this play?
>> it was actually ann frank and emmett till . i've known these two entities my whole life. like most americans in school, i learned and read the diary of anne frank and learned about man's inhumanity to man. and i learn about he willett till who went to police miss to visit his relatives. because he whistled at a white woman , he was murdered. and i thought of these two characters when i wrote my memoir from rage to reason. my life in two americas. a friend of mine said, janet , why do you want to talk about growing up in segregated america? inthat was part of my life. he said that would be so unbecoming of you to bring that up. and i wondered, what would anne frank say to emmett till ? here are these two teen martyrs. what would they say to each other? even though they're disparity carings, they had so much in common. i hope the play goes to broadway but i would be delighted if it lives in the classroom. i wrote it for students. i think there's a lot these two teenagers could still say to us.
>> secretary, we have a lot of questions for you. janet , i want to put one more to you about this play. i find it really fascinating. this historical fiction . imagining anne frank talking to emmett till . go deep entire the commonalities and what are the things they don't understand about each other?
>> the commonality that's.
>> reporter: the tactics. their respective oppressors used against them. in nazi europe, when they walk on the street they had to wear patches. in apartheid america, black people don't have to wear patches because the pigmentation shows up. but they could not look them in the eye. the same in this country. when the jewish people could go to the movie houses, to the theater, they would have to sit in the balcony. the same for black people in this country in the south and the early days when we went to the theaters, we would have to sit up in the balcony. there were curfews for jewish people in nazi europe them couldn't be on the street after 8:00 at night. in this country, there were sun down rules for black people . we couldn't be in certain areas without a passport. so those are things i think a lot of people knew but hadn't connected that. and the thing that i want them to learn from each other, no matter what back ground you come from, each history has some struggle in it. we can learn from that. the message of the play is the call to action . to call young people and older people to do something when you see bullies, when you see racism, ant semiat this. when you see people who have prejudices against people because of their preferences. speak up and say something because equal people can only prevail when good people do nothing.
>> do you think, i was thinking about matthew sheppard as i was reading about this play, a young man brutally murdered at 21 years old for being gay and inspired the prevention act. would he fit into this story as a modern day version?
>> absolutely. when i was workshoping the shepherd. i testified on capitol hill to expand hate crimes legislation to include orientation. at the beginning of the play, anne & emmett meet in a place called memory and emmett comes on the scene. she says, who are you? he says, who are you? then they have their conversation and then it ends and it starts all over again the same way. they're inquiring who the other is because they have to have this conversation until we get it right. and when they do this, at the end when they recur with this, who are you, a young white boy walk onto the stage. they look at him and say together, who are you? and he says, matthew. matthew shepherd . so he is included.
>> secretary, i want to make a hard turn, if we can, and i want to take this opportunity --
>> light turn.
>> -- to ask you foreign policy questions, of course. if you look around the world right now, hostilities are ratcheting up in a number of different theaters. iran, syria is a mess. there's practically a popup al qaeda shop in mali now. i'm wondering how different, maybe it's not very different at all, how different the world is now than the one you left in 2001 as secretary of defense?
>> well, it's become more complicated to be sure. the world is more turbulent than it has been. i think also with the spread of information, technology now being in the hands of virtually anyone, technology has miniatureized, shrunken the world so that it's a very small ball now spinning faster and faster. you have a lot of turbulence. a lot of discontent. and you have information that now travels at the speed of light . so you have people who are educated, let's say egypt by way of example. young population. some of them, many of them, quite highly educated with no jobs so they're in the street. they're very unhappy with their election results, with president morsi at this point in terms of what he's trying to do. so it's a more complicated world, and also we have a diminished capacity to influence it and shape the world as, in ways that are advantageous to us as we have had in the past. we don't have a mubarak, well, we have somebody else who now, quote, is elected, but how is that election going to turn out? we have one vote, one time, in egypt. one man, one vote, one time. so i think it's more complicated. it requires a lot more sensitivity on our part before we commit ourselves to a military engagement, we need to understand if you take step one, what's three, four and five before you take that first step? and i think to president obama 's credit, he's been very reluctant to commit us to more engagements until such time as we know who's with us, is that a mission that can be accomplished, at what cost and how to we get out? we're trying to find out, how to we get out now in afghanistan and do it in a way that still continues to help stabilize the region and has our allies with us to the extent that we have a presence after 2014 ?
>> all right. secretary cohen, you're a lucky man. i was about to grill you on the state of republican party . we're out of time.
>> thank you.
>> thanks so much for joining us.
>>> up next, a little straight talk on politics, courage and marriage, departed style.