On February 19, U.S. presidential candidate, spiritual lecturer, and number one New York Times bestselling author Marianne Williamson spoke at HDS on the topic "Reparations for Slavery: The Role of Repentance in Politics."
The event featured an opening talk by HDS student Kassi Underwood, MDiv '19.
KASSI UNDERWOOD: Hi, everyone.
KASSI UNDERWOOD: Hello! Welcome to Harvard Divinity School. We are so thrilled to have United States presidential candidate Marianne Williamson here--
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]
--here to talk about reparations for slavery. It is a privilege to have you here again with us, Marianne, and it is the greatest honor to open for my heroine. My name is Kassi Underwood. I'm a fourth-year Master of Divinity student and Harvard's Meditation Advisor. I am also a student of A Course in Miracles, which is how I was first introduced to Marianne Williamson's work. For 35 years, she has been the leading teacher of this text.
A Course in Miracles is a metaphysical text that transforms your thinking from a thought system based on fear to a thought system based on love. It consists of three books-- a theological text, a workbook for students with 365 lessons, one for each day of the year, and a manual for teachers. I first met Marianne during my first year at Harvard Divinity School when she came to speak in 2015. I was fairly new to A Course in Miracles at the time and had been on lesson 135 for approximately six months.
After her lecture, I wanted to ask her what I thought was a very important question. What do I need to do in order to disrupt the status quo? I thought this question was so complex and so complicated that it would take her at least 10 minutes, but maybe even a lunch, to answer. So just to be considerate to all the other people waiting in line to speak with her, I waited to be the last person in line.
An hour later, I said, "Marianne, how do I disrupt the status quo?" And Marianne said, "Are you a student of A Course in Miracles?" And I said, "Totally. I've been on lesson 135 for about six months." And she said, "Keep doing it." And I said, "That's it? Just keep doing it?" And she said, "Keep doing it."
So I went home, and I was like, lesson 136. I finished all 365 lessons in the workbook, and now the course is my daily spiritual practice. I went on to write my master's thesis on A Course in Miracles, and I argued that human beings cannot build a revolutionary future in our personal lives or in humanity on a foundation of anxiety and limiting beliefs. So I have come tonight to talk to you about conditioning our minds for the revolution.
14 years ago, I was a college student double-majoring in bad relationship decisions and warm PBR.
Who wasn't? I hit rock bottom and got sober at age 20. And I believe that the choice to get sober was my first true act of defiance against the status quo, deciding not to be numb. But then I had to learn how to manage my mind.
In the 12 Step Program, they say the problem of the alcoholic centers in the mind. But in order to quit drinking, in order to heal the mind, you have to get your spiritual house in order. Getting sober is not about avoiding the bars or RSVP-ing no to every wedding or party or family holiday. Getting sober is about conditioning yourself to go anywhere alcohol is served with peace and ease.
In order to do that, you don't work on getting sober. You condition yourself for sobriety. You work on your spiritual condition. And I've been doing that for 14 years. You face yourself over and over again, looking at the truth of self-centered actions, making amends to those you've harmed. And by doing this work, you are building a relationship with a power greater than yourself and, I would argue, becoming a power greater than yourself.
I understand spirituality as having a discipline in moral psychology in order to create space for divinely inspired thoughts to come in. For me, the daily spiritual practice is how the revolution begins. And the status quo does not like this.
For centuries, women with spiritual power-- personal spiritual power-- have posed a major threat to the status quo. Here are a few examples of women who have threatened the status quo with their divinely inspired spiritual practices-- Mary Magdalene, shamans in the East, European and American witches, and midwives.
Here at HDS, I have learned that Mary Magdalene who is commonly misinterpreted as a sex worker in the New Testament, had a Gospel with her name on it that was not included in the canon. So we have John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew and evidence to suggest that Mary was a serious disciple of Jesus, perhaps even his most beloved disciple. But there is no Gospel of Mary in the canon, even though there is enough material on it that we spent a semester studying a Gospel of Mary with Professor Karen King.
Predominantly female shamans in the Philippines were maligned, discredited, nearly erased by organized religions and forces of colonization, patriarchy, and elite feminism, as I learned in a class called Women and Shamanisms taught by research associate Grace Nono. An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 wise women, also known as witches, were burned in early modern Europe. And here in the United States in the early 1800s, the medical establishment marshaled the forces of racism and sexism and, I would argue, classism in a calculated smear campaign to discredit midwives.
We still see remnants of these acts of trivializing and discrediting female visionaries and leaving them out of the canon today. One example to consider is, when you turn on mainstream news stations, which presidential candidates are included in the list and who is left out.
Professor Karen King teaches three questions that I think are relevant here. What work does that do, for whom, and with what effects? The answer to those questions are for you to consider. The common denominator among the Gospel of Mary, the shamans, the witches, and the midwives is that women were teaching that the power of healing and of liberation is within us, not the established institution, that we each have a voice within us, what A Course in Miracles calls the internal teacher, that gives us unexpected direction and insight.
I believe it's time we step it up with our spiritual practices. Just one minute of meditation a day can condition your mind for an insight. And I think we should have good meditation hygiene personally. So sit up straight when you meditate, no lying down in bed, and please, no meditating while driving.
Meditate in the morning, not just the evening. Meditate before you meet the events of the day. And pray in the mornings. Ask that your thoughts be placed on a higher plane. A Course in Miracles suggests asking, "What would you have me do? Where would you have me go? What would you have me say, and to whom?"
And I think we have to go even deeper. I believe the revolution requires us to take three metaphysical steps, exposing our character, our defects of character, our unforgiveness, our judgments, our self-pity, our dishonesty, allowing these defects to be transformed in the light of forgiveness, and turning our minds over completely to the light.
If all of this sounds esoteric and kooky, fear not. A Course in Miracles contains exercises that involve looking at our unforgiveness and our judgments. The spiritual life is not a theory. It is a daily discipline, like brushing your teeth. And nobody can do the work for you. You must train your mind out of the status quo.
White women in particular are susceptible to being instruments of the status quo because we have benefited from it. We have benefited from systemic and institutional racism and colonization. I learned in Women and Shamanisms that we see all these white women going to one indigenous ceremony, hanging up a shingle, and calling themselves shamans because we don't know our own history.
We need to learn the damage that our ancestors have done. We need to trace and understand our own lineages. And we need to condition ourselves to have the spiritual fortitude to sit in meditation and prayer and face the truth about ourselves. We have blind spots, and I believe we need to learn what they are. We need to listen to women of color.
A big learning experience for me at Harvard Divinity School was taking a class taught by Professor Cheryl Giles called Talk About It-- How Race Matters. Before that class, I admit I had been having superficial conversations about race and racism, and I realized I needed to change my whole way of thinking and living.
White women especially ought to use these tools to face themselves. It's my job to look at the hidden parts of ego that are motivated to hold onto privilege, the resentments that I hold about not having my feelings centered in conversations about racism, the defensiveness I have felt toward people of color when my ignorance is identified. This work is about being sober people. This work is about the choice to stop being numb anymore, and that includes numbness to our participation in white supremacy.
Part of spiritual work is hearing hard truths and learning how to sit with them and absorb them so that we can be spurred into action. If we deflect the truth, we deflect love, and we deflect the revolution of love that we need right now. So last year, I became pregnant. And being knee-deep in my resistance to the status quo, I decided to have a home birth, which meant no epidural.
I see the interventions being done at birth-- the non-medically necessary interventions done at birth-- as an extension of the same patriarchal forces that leverage sexism and racism to try and end midwifery. So I researched epidurals and the toxic ingredients that they contain and their effects on the birthing process, and what I learned is being numb makes it harder to give birth.
Part of the benefit of home birth is that you don't have to actively resist the well-meaning hospital staff when they come at you with all of their interventions that quite often aren't necessary. You can just focus on giving birth, focus on that internal revolution. And when you decide to give birth without an epidural, you don't wing it.
You train yourself. So I used my spiritual tools. I examined my fears about birth on paper. I prayed, and I meditated. And I realized something. It didn't work for me just to picture all the, like, you know, the happy things, like giving birth on a cloud of cotton candy. I really had to picture everything going wrong and still being OK.
So labor begins, and I'm doing my thing at home. And I'm, like, in excruciating pain. And I'm hanging out in the living room. And at 30 hours into the labor process, we found out that my son had lost weight in the womb. So my husband turned to me and said, "Should we just go to the hospital?" And I said, "Yes, take me to the hospital."
And this is where my training really came in, all the daily meditation and all the daily prayer and allowing myself to be uncomfortable while knowing I would still be OK, listening to that internal guidance, right? I knew that I had to be centered while giving birth in the depths of the institution.
I knew I was going to have to have the same conversation over and over again-- no epidural, no C-section, no inducement, no IV. The list goes on and on. And I would also have to remain completely calm because I was giving birth. So I went into a primal state of meditation and prayer, and I could do that because I've been practicing every day. Fear and anxiety did not get to take over. My spiritual practice took over when it was showtime. And in this country right now, it's showtime.
I moved into the executive state. I pointed at the nurse, and I said, "You, regulate the water temperature." I pointed at my husband and said, "You, hold my hand." I pointed at my mother and said, "You, leave the room if you're going to talk the whole time."
Around 11:30 PM, the nurse told me that she had lost my baby's heartbeat, and everybody flipped out. Nurses were running around. Somebody was calling the NICU. And at one point, I looked up, and there were eight hospital staff surrounding me. But I had trained for this. I could not get wrapped up in the drama.
In that moment, I knew that I had the most power in the room. It wouldn't help if I started picturing the most disastrous outcome. My job was to stay with my spiritual practice, keep calm, and give birth. 45 minutes later, my son was born and let out his first little squeal. And today, he's a healthy little boy who just learned how to walk.
KASSI UNDERWOOD: We are being conditioned and told what to think and how to think about it at all times. We are being conditioned by the information we are given or not given, by the stories we are told and not told, by religion, by media, by the education system, by our families' beliefs and old sayings, by relationship dynamics and social norms. It is a constant deluge of thoughts and beliefs that are not our own. We are drunk on all this conditioning, and I believe it's time we get sober.
I'm here to tell you we can't wing it. We have a daily reprieve from the status quo. So if you wake up, and you check your cell phone before you've meditated in the morning, you've just been had.
If you find yourself festering with resentment and are not praying for the person or people with whom you are angry, that is status-quo thinking, and you've just been had. And if you accept information being fed to you without questioning what work it is doing, for whom, and to what effects, you've just been had.
If we're prepared, we can do it. We can get sober from status-quo thinking. We can dismantle the patriarchy and the white supremacy. We can give birth to this revolution that I believe Marianne Williamson is leading. If we're not prepared, you're going to want to be numb. So I am going to tell you what Marianne Williamson told me. Whatever you're doing to conditioning yourself for the revolution, keep doing it. Thank you.
So as I shared, Marianne Williamson has been a force in my life. I am so grateful that she is here with us at Harvard Divinity School. What a privilege to have you back, Marianne. Marianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed lecturer, activist, and author of four number-one New York Times bestselling books. She has been one of America's most well-known public voices for more than three decades. Seven of her 12 published books have been New York Times Best Sellers. And Marianne has been a popular guest on television programs such as Oprah, Good Morning, America, and Bill Maher.
A quote from the mega bestseller of Return to Love, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure," is considered an anthem for a contemporary generation of seekers.
Marianne's other books include The Law of Divine Compensation, The Age of Miracles, Everyday Grace, A Woman's Worth, Illuminata, Healing the Soul of America, A Course in Weight Loss, The Gift of Change, Enchanted Love, A Year of Miracles, and Tears to Triumph-- The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment. Her newest book, A Politics of Love-- Handbook for a New American Revolution will be published in April.
Marianne is a native of Houston, Texas. In 1989, she founded Project Angel Food, a Meals on Wheels program that serves homebound people with AIDS in the Los Angeles area. To date, Project Angel Food has served over 11 million meals.
Marianne also co-founded the Peace Alliance. On November 15, 2018, Marianne formed a committee to explore the possibility of seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. On January 28, 2019, Marianne announced that she is running for President of the United States. Please help me welcome Marianne Williamson.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Thank you! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much, Dean. It's an honor to be here at Harvard Divinity School. Thank you so much for having me back. And Kassi Underwood, that was a wonderful talk. It was an honor to hear you. I thought it was just fabulous. There was so much there. Thank you so much. That was a beautiful talk. Thank you.
I'd like to talk to you tonight about the role of repentance in national politics. Kassi was talking about getting sober. She was talking about the kinds of internal changes that are necessary in order to change our lives.
And all that a nation is is a group of individuals. So the same psychological and spiritual and emotional processes and dynamics that prevail within the journey of one individual prevail within the journey of a nation. And what we come to understand as individuals is that if you really want your life to change, you can't just tweak things on the outside.
Now when our country was founded, our founders thought of themselves-- they wanted to be Newtons of politics because they were products of the Enlightenment. And the Enlightenment was an important phase in world history, the Enlightenment, which overthrew the mystification of the early church and posited that we didn't need church dogma and doctrine to tell us what to do and who to be, but rather that we could be individuals with a capacity for a reason.
But what civilization-- Western civilization-- has gone through is what many people in our own spiritual lives go through. And that's when you throw out the religious dogma and the religious doctrine that you might have felt had simply imposed itself upon your thinking, but then later come to realize that you were throwing away the baby with the bathwater.
And so what has happened in our civilization is that, while it was certainly a step forward to throw off the shackles of an overly mystified religion, which those early religious forces were, what happened by the 20th century, of course, starting with the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 19th, was that we became so mesmerized by things of the outer world that our mesmerization with things of the external plane became another kind of shackle. And we had actually thrown off not just the over-mystification of religious dogma, but we had sacrificed a deeper connection with our own souls.
Now the science that became so popular during the 20th century aligned itself with this kind of mechanistic Newtonian science. But by the end of the 20th century, some new changes began to occur. And those new changes had to do in large part with quantum physics. It's interesting, because Einstein said, "The more I know about physics, the more I want to know about metaphysics."
And as we enter the 21st century, we're entering a period of the New Enlightenment. And the New Enlightenment is one in which we realize that, in the words of a British physicist named James Jeans, it turns out that "the world is not one big machine so much as it is one big thought."
There is a Scottish painter-- there was a Scottish painter named Edward Burne-Jones who used to paint these extraordinarily huge angels. And I always loved these. When I was in college, I used to have posters of those, of his angels, on my wall.
Years later, I was walking down the street in New York City, and I saw that at the Metropolitan Museum, there was a whole exhibit of his angel paintings. And I was very excited, and I went in. And I did that thing where you put on the headphones, and you get to hear more than you would have known otherwise.
And unbeknownst to me, he had painted these angels because he was part of the philosophical and artistic resistance, both in England and in the United States, against-- a resistance to what was happening with the industrialization of Western society, as they feared that industrialization would take us too far away from our spiritual lives. And he actually said, "Every time they build a machine, I will paint an angel."
By the beginning of the 21st century, many of us have come to understand that something became deeply unbalanced in the 20th century. We became so mesmerized by the outer world that we became unbalanced and, in too many ways, lost contact with our souls. And we came to understand that, just as it says in the Course in Miracles, religion and psychotherapy are, at their peak, the same thing.
Religious principle in terms of universal spiritual themes is not about doctrine, and it's not about dogma. It's about the things that Kassi was talking about. It's about the laws of consciousness. The real laws of consciousness aren't a matter of opinion. Books that really deal with deep spiritual truths aren't really trying to persuade anyone of anything. They're written more with a tone of "just thought you might like to know."
Because how consciousness operates is unalterable truth. There are unalterable rules of external phenomenon, and there are unalterable rules of internal phenomenon. If I drop this book, I know that it's going to fall on the table. You won't say about me, "She's so faithful that she knew that." It's not that I'm faithful in the law of gravity. I just know that there is a law, and that if I drop the book, it will land on the table. Same with the laws of consciousness. And one of those laws is the law of cause and effect. It's simply an unalterable law.
Now one of the notions-- one of the universal themes of the heart of all the great religious and spiritual teachings is some version of the idea that the universe is self-organizing and self-correcting. Now you see this in the way the body operates. The cells know what to do. The cells follow a kind of natural intelligence by which they're assigned to work with other cells, to collaborate with other cells in order to serve the healthy functioning of the organ and the organism of which they're a part.
Every once in a while, as we know, a cell goes insane, and it disconnects from that natural intelligence, disconnects from its collaboration, from its collaborative function with other cells, and goes off to do its own thing. That is cancer. That is a malignancy in the body, and it is also a malignancy in consciousness.
The human race has been infected by a malignant consciousness which says, "It's all about me. I'm not here just to serve the healthy functioning of the pancreas. I'm not here to just serve the healthy functioning of the lungs. I'm not here to serve the healthy functioning of the whole. I'm here to do my own thing. That is a diseased thought. Separation from collaboration with the other is a diseased thought.
But the body also has an immune system. So nature does know how to organize itself, but it also knows how to repair itself. And the repair work of the body is mirrored in the repair work of consciousness. And the repair work of consciousness is where, when we recognize that our thoughts have been mistaken, we have the capacity to rethink. [FRENCH], repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
In all great religious systems, there is a version of the atonement-- in Catholicism, when Catholics go to confession. In Judaism, the holiest day of the year is the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. Kassi was talking about sobriety. In recovery and the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is a very central part of recovery, the notion that we must take a serious moral inventory. We must be brutally honest with ourselves. We must atone for our mistakes, and we must make amends.
Now when we do that, it's kind of like a cosmic reset button. The idea is that, at heart, we are all perfect creations of God, but living on this planet, we get confused. Living on this planet, we are lured into a thought system, as Kassi was saying, based more on fear than on love. It is the status quo of this planet. And that's why a spiritual journey, the journey of enlightenment, is the unlearning of the thinking of fear and the acceptance instead of love into your heart.
However, the law of cause and effect is such-- karma, it's called in the East-- that whatever you think is going to take form on some level. Whatever you think will take form, and whatever you think and do will have a consequence. So the way to affect the consequences is to rethink the thought that produced that consequence.
If you only try to change things on the level of effect, it's like going up to a screen at a movie, saying, "I don't like the plot. So if I change something, manipulate the screen somehow, it will be different." The atonement takes more than just manipulating the level of effect, because all effects will ultimately result from the thoughts that produce them.
Atonement is much deeper than that. Atonement is where we must come to understand to recognize and acknowledge the error. It is where we must, as they say in recovery, not only atone, but make amends where possible and appropriate.
I'd like to read to you from a National Day of Fasting and Prayer proclamation written by Abraham Lincoln. On March 30, 1863, he said, "We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.
We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us. And we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all of these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."
And then he went on. "It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness. It is the duty of nations as well as of men to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon."
There was no doubt much was written by Lincoln and done by Lincoln to make it very clear that he recognized the Civil War as a great shedding of blood that was a consequence of a great American sin. But when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation as well as the 13th Amendment, these were, while extremely significant, they were external remedies.
And the stroke of a presidential signature and the passage of a constitutional amendment could abolish a particular institutional evil, but, of course, those external remedies could not abolish racism. And racism, in many ways, burrowed even more deeply, if one can even imagine even more deeply, into the consciousness of many Southerners after the Civil War.
Now I don't believe that the average American is racist. That's not my sense or my experience. But it is my sense and experience that the average American is deeply undereducated and mis-- not so much misinformed-- under-informed about the history of race in the United States, particularly since the Civil War.
This is not to minimize the progress that has been made, the sacrifices that have been made, the struggles, or even the successes of any of our ancestors, black or white. But it is to say that healing is a journey. It is a process. And sometimes we might think more has been achieved than on certain levels has yet been achieved.
At the end of the Civil War, I think we would all agree that if you have kicked someone to the ground, you have a moral responsibility to do more than to just stop kicking. You have a moral responsibility to also say, "Here, let me help you get back up."
Now I feel strongly that in order for us to transform and heal our country, we need an integrative politics, just like there was a transformation in our thoughts about medicine and physical healing when we opened up to an integrative paradigm, realizing that there's more to healing than just external allopathic measures. There are also psychological and emotional and spiritual dimensions of healing the body.
There are also emotional and psychological and spiritual dimensions to healing the body politic. We are all immune cells. And so many things that have happened that are challenging, to say the least, in our country over the last few years can be likened to opportunistic infections that could not have taken hold of us, or certainly not as easily as they appear to have taken hold of us, had we not become weakened immune cells.
In order for us to become the immune cells that we need to be so that our body politic can repair the way the body repairs when the immune system is healthy, we must be activated on spiritual and psychological and emotional levels before the kind of activism that is necessary will have the kind of fundamental effect in changing and altering the status quo.
Now at the end of the Civil War, there were, historians say, anywhere from 4 to 5 million slaves. Now remember, I talked about how we needed a whole-person politics. So when I say we need a whole-person politics, I'm asking that you hear what I'm saying with the wholeness of yourself.
Because politics is usually a conversation that is so disconnected from emotion, so disconnected from heart, so disconnected from our deeper human reality, that, given that, no wonder it became so easy for that political system to separate us from our wisdom, to separate us from our heart, to separate us, in time, from our common sense. And we must return to those deeper oceans, those deeper dimensions within ourselves, if we are going to heal our country now.
Slavery started in the United States in the 1600s. Theoretically, at the beginning-- not just theoretically, historically, it is believed that about 400,000 were originally brought over from Africa. The slave trade began to really rev up in the early 1800s with the introduction of the cotton industry. And, as I said, by the time the slaves were emancipated, anywhere from 4 to 5 million slaves existed on this planet.
Now as Martin Luther King would say years later, it's not just an issue of that they were freed. What were they freed to? The former slave population was promised by General Tecumseh Sherman, for every slave family of four, they were to be given 40 acres and a mule. Now 40 acres and a mule is almost like this saying, "Oh, 40 acres and a mule." Think for a moment, please, what 40 acres and a mule would have meant.
One thing about slaves-- they certainly had a skill set, all of them, because they had been forced laborers. Now you are freed, but you have to make a living. You have to be able to live. So think what that 40 acres and a mule would have meant.
Now this is where the under-education of the average American begins. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, federal troops were stationed in the South to ensure that slavery would not be reinstituted as an institution, and they remained there until 1877. During that time-- interesting-- many Blacks, former slaves included, were elected to roles in politics, both locally, on a state level, and federally.
However, think now with psychological perspicacity. The South did not give up slavery because they became wise one day. They gave up slavery because they lost the war. So think about the cold dehumanization that must exist inside your heart to even own a slave. Now add to that layers of revenge and hatred even beyond anything you had known before.
So the main emotional tone after the Civil War was a lot of resentment on the part of Northerners for what they had had to sacrifice to fight the war and resentment on the part of Southerners that they had lost it. So in many ways, the South just held its breath until the federal troops left. And at that point, the revenge and the hatred became enacted in full force.
The Southern legislatures passed what were called Black Code laws. And the Black Code laws were to ensure sub-par economic and social and political opportunities for the former slave population and their descendants-- Ku Klux Klan John Birch Society, spate of lynchings where any Black would be hanged, whites who supported them hanged.
Now follow this timeline. The war is over in 1865. The federal troops left in 1877. Then everything I just mentioned comes to full force and fruition by 1900, so that by the beginning of the 20th century, full-on, institutionalized white supremacy and segregation now existed firmly in the American South.
None of this was fundamentally challenged or altered until Martin Luther King in the 1960s. So you have 2 and 1/2 centuries of the violence of slavery followed by another 100 years of violence perpetrated against Blacks. It was not the violence of slavery, but it's certainly social violence and economic violence and political violence.
With the passage of the civil rights legislation, you have two major pieces of civil rights legislation in the middle of the 1960s-- first, the Civil Rights Act, and the next year, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act. So in 1965, the Civil Rights Act dismantled the external forms of segregation that existed in the South and elsewhere in the country until that time, and then the next year, the Voting Rights to ensure that Blacks could have full participation legally and freely in voting in the United States.
After that, there was a period when Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968. He had a domestic advisor who later became a senator in New York named Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And Daniel Patrick Moynihan said to Nixon, "Enough with the tumult of the '60s. The country needs to calm down."
And he told Nixon that that should be in terms of race relations in the United States after the turbulence of the civil rights movement and so forth, that that should be followed by a period of what he termed "benign neglect." So that meant, "We're not going to actively try to hurt you. That's kind of not legal anymore. But we're not going to try to help you either."
And so, just as Martin Luther King would point out so eloquently and in so many ways, although the freedom to Blacks and to former slave population and their descendants was, in many ways, achieved, and, as I said, I'm not-- this is not to minimize the extraordinary progress, the extraordinary progress that was achieved in many of the ways that I've just mentioned. Number one, that doesn't mean the whole job was completed, and it is the job of our generation to recognize all the ways we're sliding backwards.
In 2013, the John Roberts-led, obviously corporatist Supreme Court began chipping away at the Voting Rights Act. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent said-- she likened it to being in a rainstorm, but you're not getting wet because the umbrella is working. So she said, "So now we're going to take down the umbrella because we're not getting wet." And she said, "We will certainly get wet again once we take down the umbrella."
And that's exactly what happened. Because as soon as they began chipping away at the Voting Rights Act, behold all these voter suppression efforts that are active throughout the country, obviously aimed at people of color and disenfranchised communities. That means we're sliding backwards. Mass incarceration means we're sliding backwards. Obvious racial disparity in our criminal sentencing and our criminal justice system obviously means we're sliding backwards.
Now, as Abraham Lincoln said, we need to confess our national sins. We need to look at what in recovery is called our character defects. America has two main character defects. One has been with us from the beginning. One actually is relatively new. It's really only become this festering wound since the end of World War II. One is racism, and one is militarism. Now with racism, racism is inherent in this profoundly tragic dichotomy, this ironic dichotomy which is in our cultural DNA.
On one hand, in 1776, the most extraordinary principles were infused into the founding documents of our country, The Declaration of Independence, repudiating, overthrowing the status quo of aristocracy at that time, saying that this country would not belong to just a few people who were entitled to land, to education, to wealth, and so forth, but rather that in this country, all men would be seen as created equal, that all men would be seen to have been given by God inalienable rights of life and of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
41 of the men who signed that document were themselves slave owners. This is baked into the cake. This is the national tension that has been with us from the beginning as generation after generation has been filled, both by those whose hearts are ablaze with the possibilities inherent in a society dedicated to the equality of opportunity and also those whose basic has been, "No, we will not be doing that."
But the historical narrative of America is that we tend to get it right ultimately. That is why slavery was followed by abolition. And even the genocide and cultural annihilation of Native Americans has been followed even now by a rising tide of consciousness, by people standing at Standing Rock, by a conversation about giving back the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Sioux, as they were promised in 1863, in a spate of lawsuits by which treaties that were usually not even negotiated fairly to begin with were then broken by the United States government. And there are more and more people-- during the Obama administration, a suit that was settled for $83 million and so forth.
The oppression of women was ultimately followed by two major waves of feminism and the suffragette movement. And, of course, as we've already discussed, institutionalized white supremacy and segregation in the American South was followed by the civil rights movement.
It was one generation's job to abolish slavery. It is our generation's job to abolish racism. We-- it is our time, in our society, not just on the issue of race, but on the issue of so many things, to look at our deep character defects, to look at the places where we need to atone.
In my candidacy, I talk about the fact that millions of American children live in chronic trauma. I talk about the fact that we spend so many more of our resources preparing for war than we do actively waging peace, both domestically and internationally. But the issue of race continues to be this festering sore and will be until we address more than the external symptoms of this character defect, but also address the deeper areas of moral and spiritual dysfunction.
Now, as I said before, if you have kicked someone to the ground, you owe it to them to do more than just stop kicking. You owe it to them to help them get back up. If you have taken $1,000 from me, and you apologize to me, I'll say, "Great, thank you. I'd also like my money back." No one would say that if you took $1,000 from me, an apology would be enough.
By the 20th century-- first of all, it's to be noted, as I said, the former slave population was promised at the end of the Civil War reparations in the form of 40 acres and a mule. So even at that time, there was a realization for the need of economic restitution and economic reintegration or integration into free society in a way that otherwise would not be possible.
And I think that if Abraham Lincoln had lived, things might have been different. But he died shortly after the end of the war. So now we are left with a situation where it has continued to be true ever since the end of the Civil War that the former slave population and their descendants have never statistically been able to keep up to become equal and to keep up with white society because of so many of the systemic legacies of slavery which have held them back.
Now I know a lot of people point out that we've had a Black president and point out Tyler Perry and point out Oprah Winfrey and point out Magic Johnson, et cetera. The fact that a genius-- that we have achieved a state in our country where geniuses, no matter who they are, can rise, while much to be celebrated, is not of itself social justice. Because in America, you shouldn't have to be a genius to make it. You should be a citizen of the United States who is entitled to the same opportunities as everyone else. That is the American dream.
And so now, we are living in a situation where our generation is called to continue the process and the journey of reconciliation. Since World War II, Germany has paid $89 billion in reparations to Jewish organizations. Now the $89 billion that Germany has paid in reparations to Jewish organizations obviously cannot make the Holocaust not have happened. But it has had tremendous significance, not only economically, but psychologically in terms of the German reconciliation with the Jews of both Germany and the rest of Europe.
And many Americans don't realize that in 1988, Ronald Reagan signed the American Civil Liberties Act of 1988, through which all surviving prisoners, people who had been imprisoned in the Japanese internment camps during World War II, were given between $20,000 and $22,000. And I say that to point out that the idea of reparations by the middle of the 20th century is simply what civilized peoples do. It should not be considered some fringe idea. And that is why I believe it's so important to bring the discussion to the fore.
Very, very smart people, from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Sandy Darity and others, have done a lot of work on this. I think anything less than $100 billion would be insulting. Some people think it's insulting to even mention that small an amount. I think this is a big topic, how much money we would be talking about. Obviously, you can't put a financial number on the level of evil that you're talking about when you're discussing something like slavery.
But there is a full-on mea culpa that the Germans have made that I think has had a tremendous impact. I don't, with my own interest in metaphysics and understanding of how things work, I don't believe the German nation would be as up and successful and abundant as it is today had a couple of generations after the war not done the work that needed to be done, both in terms of reparations, in terms of full-on mea culpa, and also in terms of ensuring to Jews that every generation born in Germany would be given full-on Holocaust education, because it's when you know the history that you see things completely differently.
Two or three popes ago, John Paul, before he died, did a lot of apologizing for the Catholic Church. And a phrase he used I found very compelling. He talked about the, quote unquote, "purification of memory." And he said that if you do not apologize-- and I remember being particularly-- you were talking about the witches. One of his apologies that meant a lot to me, Kassi, was apologizing for the Inquisition. And I thought it should get much more news than it got.
And he talked about the purification of memory being so important, saying that if you haven't apologized, you will remain unconscious of the ways and the times in which you repeat the sin. And that is what has happened so much with race in America.
And that's why so often, Black people will see something through a completely different filter than white people, where a white person will say, "Oh, it's terrible that that happened," whereas a Black person is saying, "No, it's not just it happened. It happened again." That's a completely different framework. It's a-- one person sees an incident, another person sees a trend that's been going on for a long time and that, if unaddressed, gets worse.
Inertia means the tendency of the object to move in whatever direction it's been moving until there is a pattern interruption, the disruption of the status quo. At this point, so much of the status quo in America in terms of legacies of slavery and deep systemic racism is so baked into the cake that, too often, we do not even see that the behavior or that the pattern represented legacies of slavery.
Paying reparations for slavery will not fix everything. The issue of race and racial reconciliation in the United States is obviously a multi-dimensional issue, and there is much repair work to be done, both internal and external. Kassi was talking before about white privilege. And so many of the ways that the mechanisms of white supremacy are internalized, and, just like after the Civil War, many of the external symptoms became internal symptoms that, in a way, were just as bad.
I don't think we have to minimize, as I said before, the successes and the struggles and the deep sacrifices of our ancestors, either Black or white, to simply acknowledge that it's time in our generation to take the next step in this journey.
When you're talking about people who were enslaved for 2 and 1/2 centuries, and then you're talking about the fact that there was another 100 years of institutionalized violence perpetrated against them, it shouldn't be considered so outrageous that it's taken us another 100 years and then 40 years-- well, not 40 years, 60 years, almost 60 years, 55 years since the civil rights movement-- for us to get to the next point where we are ready to complete-- well, to further the task.
And once you really understand and recognize that a nation is a group of people, that the same psychological and emotional and spiritual dynamics that prevail within the journey of an individual prevail within the journey of a nation, and when you read words of no less than Abraham Lincoln talking about how a nation must confess its sins, and particularly, when you realize this is the 21st century now, our politics needs to keep up with the 21st century.
What has happened in terms of paradigm change in medicine needs to happen now in terms of paradigm change with politics. We are treating politics today the way we used to treat medicine-- strictly allopathically. You don't take care of any of the psychological, spiritual, or emotional, or even nutritional issues involved in keeping your body healthy. And then you just get sick and hope that you can apply some external remedy to making it well.
We know better than that. And so now we need a whole-person, integrative, holistic politics. It is not enough when a country has a stage IV cancer in so many ways, like ours does, to just continue to talk about which topical ointment might make us well. We need to do some deep work in this generation. We must have a politics that is in keeping with 21st-century thinking. And 21st-century thinking reclaims some of the ancient truths of the great religious and spiritual traditions.
You know, if this were the Middle Ages, spirituality was reflected in the architecture of a medieval town, where the church was in the center, and all of the streets went off from there and radiated like the spokes on a wheel. Today, we treat spirituality and religion like it's just one other category. It's just another category. It's over here, and then there's health over here, and then there's relationships over there, and then there's business and money over there.
We are reclaiming the realization that spirituality and deep religion-- and I'm not talking here about dogma and doctrine-- but deep religious principle are the loss of consciousness. And they are unalterable, and they are set. And when we have deviated from love, we have deviated from righteousness or right use-ness, then atonement and amends are the way that we cosmically reset the trajectory of our future. And so, for the United States, there are many ways in which we need to own some deep, deep errors.
William Faulkner said, "The past isn't over. In fact, it's not even past." If you look at Germany today, and you look at generations of young Germans, you can feel it's energetic. It's in the ethers. You can feel what a gift they were given by the generations that did the deeper work and paid the reparations. You don't feel them carrying around the karmic guilt, like even you felt 20 and 25 years ago. And that is because that work was done. And yet, we, with a Civil War that ended in 1865, are still seeing generation after generation after generation burdened by this awful karmic toxicity.
Some people say that we should just make incremental efforts at making this thing right. Isn't it funny? Whenever they want to do something really wicked in politics, they never talk about incremental efforts. Whenever they want to have huge, multitrillion-dollar tax cuts for the very richest among us, they don't talk about doing it incrementally, do they? When they want to talk about invading countries that did nothing to us and that turn out to be invasions that were the worst mistakes in American history, they don't-- foreign policy history-- they don't talk about doing these things incrementally.
We need more than small, random acts of kindness now. We need huge, strategized acts of doing the right thing. Now I'm running for the Democratic nomination for president, as you know. And the states that decide, really, what the political conversation will be that dominates our politics for the next two years or more are Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Now some people had said to me early on, "Marianne, you can't go to Iowa and talk about reparations for slavery." And I said, as would have been predicted by anyone who knows me well, "Just watch me."
Because this part of interrupting the pattern of the status quo when it comes to politics is not trying to figure out what to say to make people like you or agree with you. I'm not running to be people-pleaser-in-chief. I'm running to, to the best of my ability, articulate truth as I understand it.
And I can tell you that every time I have mentioned, after talking much the way I've talked here tonight, every time that I've then climaxed the conversation with saying, "Therefore, it seems to me we should pay reparations for slavery," every time I've talked about this in Iowa, I've gotten applause. And every time I have talked about this in New Hampshire, I have gotten applause. And every time I have talked about this, even among white audiences in South Carolina, obviously, among Black audiences in South Carolina, but even among white audiences in South Carolina, I have gotten applause.
Someone has harnessed fear for political purposes in this country. But you can't really fight dog whistles. You have to drown them out with angel voices. When Lincoln talked about the angels of our better nature, this was not a metaphor. Just as racism and bigotry, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia are demons of the inner nature, angels of the inner nature, of our better nature, are our love and our love for each other, and our compassion, and our love for our country, and our love for our Earth, and our love for our unborn grandchildren.
But those who hate, both in America and around the world, hate with conviction today. They hate with conviction, and conviction is a force multiplier. It's not that more people hate than love. I believe, in this country, as well as around the world, far more people love than hate. But we need to start loving with the level of conviction and seriousness with which some people clearly display their hate. We can't just say--
We can't just say, "I love my own children." The love that will save the world is a love that is just as proactive and just as passionate for children on the other side of town and the other side of the world. Just as the love for our own home is not enough to save the world, there must be a recognition that the Earth itself is our shared home.
And so I believe in a politics that gives people the opportunity to do the noble thing. Why don't we just see what would happen if we gave people a chance to do the right thing? This country has done the right thing before. Generations have risen up before and did the right thing. They abolished slavery. They gave women the right to vote. They dismantled segregation and institutionalized white supremacy.
If we stop the corruption of a politics that just tells people what you think they want to hear or tells them what you think they want so that they get what they want, and instead rise above that inherent narcissism and entitlement and selfishness which is the malignancy of consciousness, and instead remind each other that we have more than rights when it comes to democracy, we have responsibilities, a responsibility to repair it where it has been broken, make it better, even better where it is already doing well, and bequeath it to our children even better than we found it.
I believe that in the area of race and in many areas, we need to atone for terrible mistakes we've made, get much more authentically real about ourselves, get out of the denial, have a serious, authentic, fierce, and real conversation. And in my experience of religion and spirituality, as in Kassi's that means a no-bullshit zone. America needs to get real about race and do the right thing. Thank you very, very much.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. And we can talk about anything you'd like to talk about. Ask anything that you would like to ask, and-- isn't that what I'm supposed to say? OK, cool. All right.
Somebody-- Jean has a-- is it Jean?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Katie, I'm sorry, has a microphone there. So raise your hand if you'd like to ask or say something.
AUDIENCE: So I think I agree with your argument for as far as it goes. But I'm just wondering, what about the Native Americans? What about the indentured servants that were brought to the colonies? What about people like my grandparents who were wage slaves? Where do you draw the line for reparations?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: I'm not a black person, so I cannot speak as a black person. But I want to say something as a Jew. Any time we talk about the Holocaust, every once in a while there's somebody who says, well, you're not the only ones who had a Holocaust. And we think, but right now we're talking about the Holocaust. We didn't say there haven't been other holocausts. We always do that to black people. Why is it we're talking here-- it's like--
We have many things-- we have many things to address. And certainly when it comes to Native Americans, there is a serious issue to address there, as I mentioned before. But too often, we jump-- there's something about the psychology of America when it comes to race. We just find some way to jump off the topic. I don't know what that is, actually.
AUDIENCE: Well, I'm just saying--
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Yes, of course we do. Yes. And of course we do. And I don't think-- listen, there are some people in America today who only want to talk about what America's done right and have no listening for what we've done wrong. But there are other people who only want to talk about what we've done wrong and have no listening for what we've done right. We've done some things very wrong in this country, and we've done a lot that's right in this country. And we need to get to all of it. Do you know what I'm saying?
But I do think it is reasonable-- now, you can talk about the history. You can talk about the fact, which is true, that Native Americans had lived on this planet for thousands of years before the white European settlers came. So we can have this silly contest about which was America's original sin. But there is no doubt-- and I don't think that the idea of reparations for slavery means we don't have to do right by Native Americans. If you look at the issues of poverty, I are many, many deep issues there.
Although in my conversations, and I'm certainly willing to be corrected and I'm always open to learning more, most of the scholars and the leaders in that world that I know prefer that it be a conversation not about reparations, but first about the honoring of treaties that were unfairly negotiated in the first place and that were broken. So in every circumstance, there's a slightly different conversation. Does that make sense? But the fact that we need to heal in one area doesn't mean we don't need to heal in another. Yes, sir.
AUDIENCE: You mentioned in your talk that you had engaged some of Professor Darity's work. He has a piece about 40 acres and a mule in the 21st century. So my question is, have you engaged that work yet? And if so, are you willing to revisit the-- I think he threw out-- was it $100 billion initially? Are you reworking that given your engagement with Professor Darity?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: What I had said was that anything less than $100 billion would be an insult. And I have spoken to Professor Darity, and I look forward to the opportunity to speak to him again, hopefully in a public setting. We had one conversation where I said, this would be fascinating, a public dialogue. I think a lot of people would be so interested in hearing this.
In a nation's life, as with an individual's life, sometimes we go to the how before we have firmly rooted ourselves in the what. And I believe America-- and I believe where I can be of help, both as a candidate and hopefully one day as president, is to help build a consensus about the what. People such as Professor Darity have done much more work than I have on the how. Now, the way I see it is a council of black leaders in America that would be from culture, from academia, from politics, that would be a kind of council, a board of trustees, council of reparations.
The money, whatever was the decided amount, would be dispersed to that council to decide. Because Sandy was saying things like, well, would you give it to this or that? That would be-- white America gives you the money. Then we don't get to tell you how you disperse it. The whole point would be that it would be disbursed to economic and educational projects which led to a fundamental-- a fundamental repair and closing of that statistical gap.
So when Sandy and the other gentlemen who were on the phone with me asked certain things, how would it be done, one category of their questions was we would work that out. And the second category was-- that would be for you guys to decide. The whole issue of reparations is the money is paid. The money is paid. That is negotiated. How it is disbursed, to what economic projects, to what educational projects, it would not be white America's job to determine. That's part of the psychological reconciliation as well as economic reconciliation. Does that sound right?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Thank you. Yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: I'm trying to find the best way to phrase this, an easy way. I've seen a lot with women with domestic violence. And it's an under-talked about problem and epidemic in this country, as well as how our judicial system deals with domestic violence despite the laws that account for a lot of homelessness, but also has a link, a direct link to mass shootings and gun violence when family courts and our court system ignore laws and do not enforce other laws. And how would you address that issue considering that it is a big link to homelessness with women as well as trauma with children and the mental health issues?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: One of the things I talk about in my campaign is the fact that we spend so much more of our resources preparing for war than we do building peace. And this is true not only domestically but also internationally. And the factors of peace-building are expanding economic opportunities for women, building educational-- fostering educational opportunities for children, and ameliorating unnecessary human suffering wherever possible.
One of the factors which indicates a community or a country that is prone to violence is violence against women. That's why projects that have to do with decreasing violence against women is one of the ways we wage peace in the world. It is true, just as you said, that domestically as well as internationally, violence against women is both a sign of violence to come as well as a product of the kind of violence on the soul that is perpetrated on men as well as women through such things as economic injustice and a culture of meaninglessness and indignity.
Now, I don't think that the American criminal justice system is a monolith. So when you say that all of these laws are ignored or all of these laws are just passed over, I don't think that's true. I think it's important for us to remember that there are people of high consciousness seeking to disrupt the status quo everywhere. And we're not alone in the things that we're upset about.
I was talking to someone earlier today. I think one of the things that I've noticed, and I talk about this actually in my new book, when we were going through the tumult of the '60s, it was a whole counterculture. We knew that we were not alone. But today, we have built this narcissistic mentality where we think our trauma is ours alone. When I hear people talking about, I'm so traumatized by the Trump presidency, well, we don't have time for you to get over your trauma work before you show up to help your country right now.
Those who were walking across the bridge at Selma were certainly traumatized. And those women who were imprisoned, thrown into jail, who were suffragettes who had these mental contraptions on their neck because they were being force fed, surely they were anxious. So we're not precious dolls. We're not porcelain dolls.
Revolutions are neither convenient nor easy. So I think I want to tell you a story about the 1970s, when my mother's first cousin was murdered by her husband, shot in cold blood on their driveway in the middle of the day, and was given five years. And basically-- and this was in Houston. And basically-- I'll tell you. You know what the basic defense was? If you had had Jewish in-laws like he did, you might have killed somebody too.
Now, it wasn't spoken, but it was there. And I remember when the judge turned to my mother and myself and my cousins and my aunts as our jaws dropped when that kind of implication was made, and I remember the judge turning and saying, if I see one more facial expression from you women on that line, I'm kicking you out of this court.
So the older you are, the more you know about some things. And the younger you are, the more you know about other things. I also remember saying to my mother at the Medical Towers building in Houston when I was a little girl, why is there a sign between the elevators, "Colored Bathrooms Downstairs"? So some of us remember things enough to say, some things have gotten better.
And I think when it comes to abuse against women, I feel, and I think many people my age feel over 50-- yes, the problem might even be worse. I'm not even denying that. But the consciousness around the problem is infinitely better. Consciousness around the problem is infinitely better in our society. And I think all of us agree that, on a personal level, it is important that we have zero tolerance. And I think all of us agree that we want to build to the place where, in terms of our society, we have zero tolerance.
And you can see ways in which the way our police function-- there are all kinds of cases where a woman will call the police because she's been beaten, and the police come, and in the old days, she would be scared into saying, oh, it's fine, it's fine. But once she's made that call today, the police will not just take her word that it's fine.
One of the things that any knowledge of history shows-- and if you're old enough, you know you're old enough to know that this is true even just even in the history of your lifetime-- healing is a process. And cynicism is just an excuse for not helping, and whining is not an option. And no other generation owed you anything. And sometimes, we can look at other generations that gave a whole lot more than we have.
So I think sometimes the issue is not to whine and complain and bitch and moan about what's wrong but to set about the task of making it right. And there are many ways that we need to continue with that. And I believe that someone like yourself is an example of someone who carries that passion. And I think that on individual issues, where you feel passion, that's your assignment. It's like cells are assigned. One cell is assigned to the lungs, and one cell is assigned to the heart, and one cell is assigned to the bones, one cell is assigned to the blood.
Where we have passion, it's what's called in the East our dharma. Some of us are passionate about violence against women. That's your assignment. Some of us are passionate about sex trafficking. Some of us are passionate about the environment. Some of us are passionate about education. That's your personal assignment. And then politics is our collective assignment. Makes sense? Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I'm wondering how you would support people in shifting their consciousness on a personal level around racism.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Around?
AUDIENCE: Around racism.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: First of all, you don't change other people's consciousness. You change your own. You teach by demonstrating. And the last thing you need, especially from a religious or spiritual perspective-- a lot of evil has been perpetrated on this planet and still is by those who think they understand higher religious truth, and they're going to impose it on someone else.
The way to teach is to demonstrate. And what I've tried to do in my life-- this book was written in 1997. I'm talking about the corporatocracy. I talk about race-- reparations for slavery in this book that was published in 1997. I talk about racial and wealth inequality. I talk about mass incarceration. This stuff was already there. And if you are trained, you know if you have stage 1 cancer, the oncologist doesn't say, oh, it's only stage 1. We don't have to worry about it.
And so trained as a metaphysician, which means greater than the physical, when everybody at the end of the '90s was talking about how good everything was, I remember, and the point of this book was, well, doesn't it depend on what neighborhood you were living in? Doesn't it depend on what part of the world you're living in? Because everything we're seeing right now was already there.
Maybe wasn't in such great numbers. When I revised this book this last year, somebody said, what's the biggest change? I said, just the numbers are worse. The statistics are worse. That's basically it. So what I have tried to do in my work-- and I have a book called Illuminata and I also have this, where there are prayers of apology and atonement for slavery and racism. And I have done those apologies throughout the country for decades.
But I have come to feel in my life, in terms of what any contribution I might make, as I was saying before about this integrative politics, we must address both external issues and internal issues. Dr. King said we must have a quantitative shift in our circumstances and a qualitative shift in our souls. So I'm not trying to, either on the issue of race or on the issue of anything else, really trying to change anyone.
I'm singing my song. I'm speaking to the best of my ability what I feel to be true, and then, with the political campaign, putting it out to you as an option. You might choose this option. It's not my job to manipulate or to try to change my message for what I think you want to hear or anything like that. I've never done that in my career, and I don't plan to do it now. This is how I feel.
And as I said, on this particular subject, I've got a lot of applause in some of the whitest states in America. I think Americans-- someone said to me recently, how are you going to expand your political campaign so that people don't think of you as just someone who's talking within a religious box? And I remember saying to the journalist, first of all, we're a religious nation.
Second of all, if everybody who is into religion, spirituality, recovery, or psychotherapy gives me a listen, my campaign will be fine.
This totally intellectually disconnected, overly corporatized, overly secularized political conversation, they're the fringe. They're the oddity. And they're also deeply naive. Because if you think it's as simple as just dealing with this problem on an external level, the problem will be back in full force in '22 and '24. Yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: My voice is a little strange right now.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: So far, we're fine.
AUDIENCE: So somehow or other, I want to be able to address that it's not just about reparation. It's about changing our relationship with one another.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Of course it is.
AUDIENCE: And how do we do that unless we get together to do that? And that's not been an easy course to create.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Of course. I led a spiritual center for six years in greater metro Detroit, in Warren, Michigan. And I led racial healing groups there. So I've had a lot of experience in the kind of work that you refer to. In fact, I remember once a woman who was going on and on and on about racial issues, black woman. And there was a white man who he got very frustrated, said, I've heard all this.
You have to give him credit. He was there. But something very profound in that moment. Because when he said, I've heard all this, she turned around and she said, but you haven't heard it from me. And that was the power of that group. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton said we had to have a national conversation about race. But anyone who remembers that knows it didn't go anywhere.
But the reason it didn't go anywhere-- because in order-- you've got people who have hundreds of years of rage built up in their cells. That's not-- you can't have that honest conversation outside an emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually safe place. That's where the people who go to Harvard Divinity School are being trained. That's a skill set. People are just coming to understand-- and I'm dealing with this right now-- that spiritual facilitation is a skill set and it is a qualification.
People who know how to hold the space for that kind of dialogue, nonviolent communication, which is no different whether you're talking about a married couple, Israelis and Palestinians, whites and blacks in America. That's the deeper work that is so much a part of what needs to be done.
AUDIENCE: So where do we find that?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: It's happening everywhere. I don't know if you're doing those circles here at Harvard Divinity School, but they're happening at churches. They're happening in synagogues. They're happening--
AUDIENCE: But if you don't want to belong, if you don't want to participate in a religion-- like I actually don't trust religion now because so many--
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: But racial healing circles--
AUDIENCE: --bad things are happening.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: --are not-- right.
AUDIENCE: So I don't hear about those.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, I think if you Google racial healing circles, I think you'd be surprised. I think there is a lot of work actually going on in both secular circles as well as religious and spiritual circles. And I tend to think it even more because of how much listening I'm finding as I travel around the country for this topic. Something's coming up from the bottom of things.
But I think at this point, and I think this is one of the reasons I feel moved to discuss reparations, we need to do more than talk.
AUDIENCE: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Like I said, if you've taken $1,000 from me, I appreciate the apology. I appreciate your working through what happened inside your head to make you do it. But I'd like the money back. And I also think it's much easier to forgive people who have had the courtesy to not only apologize but to try to make things right.
AUDIENCE: Right. It has to be both.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Yes, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. Hi. I'm a little nervous. So there's a group of students here at Harvard who have started the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign. We only have access to $425 million of Harvard's invested endowment of $39 billion. But even within that minuscule percentage, we can see investments in private prison companies and bail bonds insurers. HPDC has asked President Bacow to divulge and divest these investments in the prison industrial complex as well as to reinvest in disproportionately affected communities and academic work to consider alternatives.
He has declined. And despite precedent set in divestment from apartheid, to a point, and tobacco, he says that the investment of Harvard University's endowment should not be used for social justice reform. What might you say to President Bacow, and will you sign our petition?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: What might I say to the president of Harvard and--
AUDIENCE: And will you sign our petition?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, of course, I don't think that the president of Harvard would really particularly care what I think. I would certainly be glad to sign the petition. But more, I just want to acknowledge you and acknowledge other students here who are doing that kind of work and want to see that kind of divestment. This is how democracy works. And this is how an activated citizenry works. And of course, I'll sign your petition, for whatever good that might do. But more, I feel about you what I felt listening to Cassie. With women like you, America is going to be fine.
AUDIENCE: Thinking in the context of a typical presidential campaign, what will your campaign look like?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: What you heard here tonight. What happens in a political campaign is that you spend most of your time at the beginning, like I said, these four states-- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, which I find really profound, actually. It's not these big powerful states like Florida and Michigan and Illinois and New York and California.
There's something I find very profound and kind of beautiful about Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. And I have not been to Nevada yet in this process. But I've been to the other three, and something very profound that you feel. These states take very seriously their role. They know how important they are. And they're listening to candidates, and they're going to listen all year.
Now, for the Democratic nomination, about 1,736 people are running. And as I say to those voters all the time, I'm not running against anyone. I'm running with everyone. And I'm having a wonderful time. It's hard, but it's also exhilarating discussing these kinds of ideas. I discuss reparations for slavery because I believe that we need a moral and spiritual awakening in this country.
And I feel that that's at the basis of our dysfunction. There is a moral and spiritual dysfunction that has led to political corruption, that has led to so much human devastation. And the other issues I talk about are the fact that there are millions of American children living with chronic trauma throughout our country who go to schools. Many of them don't even meet minimum safety requirements or have working toilets in classrooms where there are not the kinds of-- not the school supplies necessary to teach a child to read.
If a child cannot read by the age of eight, the chances of high school graduation are drastically diminished and the chances of incarceration are drastically increased. And these children experience a level of PTSD, psychologists tell us, that is no less severe than returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. But for a returning veteran, it's post-traumatic. For these children, it's really present traumatic because that trauma is triggered and re-triggered every day, many of them living in America's domestic war zones, violence in their homes, their communities, their families.
And yet these children who live with this chronic trauma in a way that, to me, should be considered a national humanitarian crisis-- if one person neglects a child, it's unethical at best and criminal at worst. Well, this is collective child neglect. But these children, because they're not old enough to vote, have a constituency, even though Declaration of Independence says all men-- and that should mean children.
We've gotten to the point of realizing women are not men's property, but we're still treating these children like they're our property. And they are full on citizens. So where's their right, their inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness? But they also do not work, therefore they have no financial leverage. So what possible chance do they have for competing with the financial clout of these major multinational corporate interests in our system of legalized bribery, which is what the United States government has become?
I talk about that. I talk about climate change also, as any sane, I believe, candidate would today. As long as we make short-term profit maximization of huge multinational corporate conglomerates-- whether it's oil companies, chemical companies, agribusiness, prison industrial complex, big pharma, health insurance companies, or military industrial contractors-- our bottom line and our government is working more to advocate for their short-term profit interests than for the people and the planet on which we live, then we will continue on this extremely perilous course, which could lead to not only the destruction of our democracy but possibly to life on Earth.
And then, the other issue that I discuss in some detail, in addition to the sociopathic economic system that underlies all this-- and I call it sociopathic because when an individual has no conscience and no morals and has no soulful sense of moral responsibility to the other, that's a sociopath. And so an economic system which has left behind any kind of ethical responsibility to workers, to community, to environment, and seeks only and justifies that somehow this is the better way to organize society, that only fiduciary responsibility to stockholders matters, this is a sociopathic economic system.
And it is an economic system that has infused the sinews of our civilization. And you cannot have that economic system, which is basically a veiled aristocracy, you cannot have that and have democracy. So what's happening in our generation is what's happened in every generation, which is a generation has to decide whether or not to recommit. You have to re-up. You have to renegotiate every generation in your heart.
It's not enough that the principles of all men are created equal, all men with an inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's not enough for that just to be inscribed on a marble wall somewhere. It has to be inscribed on our hearts. In the Jewish religion, it says every generation must discover God for itself. Every generation has to decide, how serious are we about this?
Because "of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth" is perishing, because a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations is not a government of the people, by the people, for the people. And the last issue where this is so perilous, possibly even to the survival of our species, is in the way we-- is in our agenda for national security.
Just as the economic system that I've described, as evidenced by these millions of children, has absolutely nothing to do with long-term economic planning. Nothing to do with long-term economic planning. The whole trickle down economic theory, giving huge tax cuts, tax breaks to the very richest, it absolutely has nothing to do with long-term economic planning. It has decimated our middle class. It has created the largest wealth inequality since 1929.
It's created a situation where 40% of Americans cannot even-- have to struggle making basic food cost, rent cost, transportation cost, and health costs, where you have millions of American living in chronic trauma. Chronic. What am I going to do if one of my kids got sick? What am I going to do if I get sick? How am I going to send my kids to college?
How am I going to pay these college loans? Where you have the average-- 70% of graduating college students in America have an average of $30,000 debt. I can't even imagine being in my early '20s with $30,000 of debt. The psychic burden of this. And if you want to have a thriving economy in 10 years, take better care of your 10-year-olds today.
We now know things neurologists tell us. We now know things about the brain of a child under 8 that we didn't even know when this economic system was designed, not to even mention that it had nothing to do with women within that conversation. So we now know about neuroplasticity and cognitive abilities and cognitive retention.
If you want to see the gold we should be mining, the energy we should be mining, the power that can fuel our economy and our society over the next 100 years, look into any American kindergarten anywhere in this country. That's where you see it. You want to see the power and the potential and the entrepreneurial spirit of the American? Look in any kindergarten.
However, we are the only country that funds our educational system through property taxes. So that means poor child, poor neighborhood, poor education, which only extends the trajectory of poverty. We need to do a massive realignment of investment in the direction of children 10 years old and younger. That's where we should be putting our money as a society.
And just to complete that, just as our economic system has nothing to do with planning for economic vibrancy 10 years from now, our national security agenda has nothing to do with planning peace on Earth. Donald Rumsfeld, who was the secretary of defense under George Bush, said, we must wage peace. General Mattis, who was until recently secretary of defense said that if you're not going to fully fund the State Department, I will need to buy more ammunition when this woman was talking about violence against women. State Department. Humanitarian efforts. Diplomatic efforts.
Efforts that cut violence against women. Expanding education for children. Expanding economic opportunity for women. And ameliorating unnecessary suffering wherever necessary, wherever possible. But who's going to make any corporate profits off that? So we have a little bit of money there, and all this money on preparing for war, which, as I said, is not an agenda in any way, shape, or form for creating peace on Earth.
That's not a criticism, by the way, of our military. That's not the military's fault. Those are civilians. Those are politicians, many politicians I respect. But this is the political agenda that we now have in our country. The US government has ordered 100 B21 Raiders. I don't know how many of you know-- does anybody here know about the B21 Raider? So let me just spend a moment to tell you, because I think we should all be very aware.
The US Air Force has ordered 100 B21 Raiders. Let me tell you about this plane. Each one costs $550 million. But this is something very interesting. Each one carries both conventional and nuclear bombs. 100 airplanes that can carry nuclear bombs. We have thousands of them, of those bombs. Now, you drop five of those, it's over for human civilization as we know it. You drop 10 of those, it's probably over for humanity on this planet for at least 200,000, 300,000 years.
So why is our money going there? And this is exactly what Eisenhower warned us about. So as long as you have a climate change not dealt with because of profits for oil companies, as long as you don't have universal health care in the richest country in the world because of profits for health insurance companies and big pharma, as long as you have that kind of national security agenda because military industrial contractors will make more profits, than you're leading to the moral corrosion of America's soul.
When we're willing for the sake of a $100 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia continue with that even though we know about the prosecution of their war on Yemen, tens of thousands of people starving, including all those pictures of starving children, and our secretary of state says, that, well, you can have strategic partnerships with people who do not share your values. No you can't. That means you have sacrificed your values. That means you have none. And that is what has happened to our country. So I figured I could either yell at TV or run for president.
AUDIENCE: Thank you so much. This is really fascinating because you have a really broad agenda. Having reparations, that's one part of it, but it seems to me that you have a whole agenda that really will be very comprehensive. Now, I'm thinking-- the Green New Deal, that's one thing. If you were at a table with people who are now trying to incorporate the new deal, the Green New Deal, how will your movement-- and I'm thinking movement here because I am one of those Hegelian people that think of the shift of history, the balance-- one pendulum here with the Trump administration really destroying everything that this country stands for, and needing now a new balancing act.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Let's hope so.
AUDIENCE: You go to the other-- and it seems to me that the timing is really right to really develop a systemic--
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: This is very pregnant moment. I agree with you.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, a fantastic moment. But you used the word atonement. Both of you used to word atonement. And it will require a really major-- you're talking about true reconciliation for people to come to terms with how they have benefited. These institutions, Harvard, the Law School, for God's sake, have benefited by slavery, and all of the natives and all of these other acts of violence against all the people and all. So how will that movement look like?
Because you were talking about these groups. But this requires a real national-- a real national reconciliation in the mind of people to come to terms with how they have benefited by slavery and all of it to come to then reparations. And that will take a while, really, I think.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: As the saying-- as the quote goes, the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice. The United States is not a monolith. And we have done terrible things. And every generation decides between the demons and the angels of our better nature. But we tend to move in the direction of doing the right thing. So I believe, and you just said it yourself, there is an awakening going on.
I do believe there is an awakening going on. We all feel it. And sometimes, it takes seeing real indignity in the public sphere to make all of us go, wow, dignity matters, to see real indecency and dishonor to make a lot of us go, wow, those things matter. I think what has happened in the last few decades in this country is that the moral search for goodness has been too much kept within the private sphere.
It's not that Americans aren't good people. It's not that we're not decent people. We're as decent and good as anyone anywhere else. But we have kept our search for goodness and righteousness too much about the private self and not enough about the public self. And I believe that that's what's beginning to change. Several years ago, a young man said to me, well, Ms. Williamson, you're just an aging hippie.
He said, your generation was just about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. To which I responded, that was just part of the day. I said, the rest of the day, we stopped a war. What have you done? So we read Ram Dass in the morning and went to anti-war protests in the afternoon. It's both-and. It's the search for personal moral purification and-- we think of Lyndon Johnson, and for very good reason, we think of the Vietnam War.
But when you look at his domestic policies, he was profoundly progressive. And he had a war on poverty, and he talked about wanting a good society. When was the last time we talked about a good society? Not just being a rich society, but being a good society. And the reason we're not a rich society for the majority of people is because we're not a good society, because unjust economic laws, subsidies, et cetera, are not good. They're immoral.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Is this working?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: When I came here tonight-- I've worked in New Hampshire politics and a tiny bit in the journalism aspect.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Are you a New Hampshire voter now?
AUDIENCE: I'm not currently, but if I go up there--
It's OK because you will have to meet people three, four, five, and six times--
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: I know.
AUDIENCE: --for them to be like, yeah, I might think about her.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: I know. After the fourth time we meet, maybe I'll consider you.
AUDIENCE: And that is a gift about working in New Hampshire. And a little quick anecdote about New Hampshire. In 2003 I believe it was, the old man of the mountain was the symbol of the state. He fell off the cliff--
AUDIENCE: He fell off the mountain.
AUDIENCE: --in-- and it was on Beltane Eve--
AUDIENCE: The rock.
AUDIENCE: --I want to say.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: It was on what eve?
AUDIENCE: It was on Beltane Eve.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Wow. That's interesting. And I actually had been driving through the notch that night, and it was the craziest energy I'd ever felt in my life. But on the other side of the mountain, there's an old grandmother. And she was just always waiting to get her word in edgewise. And pretty soon after that, we voted in more women to the senate in New Hampshire than men.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: As you have now.
AUDIENCE: And not talking just the federal one. The state one. There have been several women governors. So this could be a trend. So what I wanted to say is that I do really appreciate your perspective. I came here cynically political, like, hey, how's she going to play in New Hampshire and South Carolina and then other places. And so I really think that you're going to offer a really important thing to the conversation in New Hampshire. And I think that that spirituality infused down through Franconia Notch, which is almost like a birth canal, and Mount Washington, those places are all really powerful. And I think that you're going to offer a lot in this conversation. And I--
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all-- I'm sorry.
AUDIENCE: And I was just going to say, in terms of reparations, we were talking about something. We've been working at our church, the UU Church in Needham, about diving a little deeper. And we've been talking about the history of slavery and how we found it within our own church and what we need to do to help make it right. And we got into this conversation the other day where somebody brought up the idea of fear and trauma and the amygdala and how we just have this gut reaction to fear other.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: That's right.
AUDIENCE: And this goes across the board. And I think that that has to come along with our work. Now we see the most horrible example of fearing other right now in our country.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: That is so true.
AUDIENCE: How can we address that?
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON: Not only that, but nothing less than that will heal us. And that's not just true here. It's true what you just said-- Palestinians and Israelis. That's why the current political-- the conversation that dominates our politics today, our political establishment, is too narrow and too superficial to contain the energies that are needed to fundamentally disrupt the pattern that led us into this ditch. That mindset cannot lead us out of the ditch. The mindset that can lead us out of the ditch is one that goes deeper, and Cassie talking about recovery.
You talked about you bottomed out. New Hampshire. The fact there's been so much suffering in New Hampshire. The fact of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire has actually made New Hampshire a place where there is a deeper, deeper listening for something that goes beyond the obvious. Because where the heart has hurt sometimes is where the mind becomes more open.
So I just want to conclude by saying one thing, since it is the Harvard Divinity School. Some traditional Christians look at Armageddon, and they believe that there-- their interpretation of that part of the Bible is that there's going to be a great war, a great conflict. And after that, there will be 1,000 years of peace, but that that conflict will be a great global catastrophe.
Well, there is an enlightened way of reading that that does not predict the necessity of such a great cataclysm. It is one in which one person sees their divorce as their Armageddon, and another person sees their financial devastation and bankruptcy as their Armageddon. Another person sees their having fallen apart through drug or alcohol addiction and having been through recovery as their Armageddon.
Another person sees their experience of having gone through cancer as their Armageddon. Somebody else sees having lost someone they loved as their Armageddon. And having gone through cancer or having gone through a recovery, having gone through that divorce, having gone through that financial failure or professional failure, you become more wise.
So maybe you're not perfect yet, or you're not perfect yet, or you're not perfect yet, or you're not perfect yet, or I'm not perfect yet. But what is true for a lot of us is you're wiser than you used to be. And you're wiser than you used to be. And you're wiser than you used to be. And I'm wiser than I used to be. We can put all this wisdom together and change America. Thank you very, very, very much.
SPEAKER: Thank you.