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Gallup Podcast
Ambassador Andrew Young on Faith, Justice, Government, MLK
Gallup Podcast

Ambassador Andrew Young on Faith, Justice, Government, MLK

Andrew Young -- former U.S. congressman, mayor of Atlanta, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and ally of Martin Luther King Jr. -- joins the podcast to discuss his life and career.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio is posted above.

Mohamed Younis 00:07

Hello, Gallup Podcast listeners, and thanks for tuning in. This Black History Month, we look back on one of our favorite interviews with a civil rights icon and legend, Ambassador Andy Young. I interviewed him back in 2019, but his words of wisdom are more relevant today than they were when we spoke with him back then.

Mohamed Younis 00:37
From Gallup's studios in Washington, D.C., this is Mohamed Younis, back with another episode of The Gallup Podcast. In this episode, we're honored to host civil rights legend and American leader Andy Young to discuss both his own as well as America's journey and quest for civil rights and social change. In this truly one-of-a-kind interview, we delve deep into Ambassador Young's family history as well as some of his most vivid memories and experiences working alongside Dr Martin Luther King and other leaders of what came to be known as the civil rights movement. We'll also discuss his experiences leading one of America's largest cities as well as global affairs and much more. We're honored to have joining us today in the studio an American hero. I really was struggling to come up with a proper way, ambassador, to describe you or sort of read out a bio. But on your Twitter feed this is how you describe yourself: minister, U.S. congressman, Atlanta mayor, U.N. ambassador, confidante of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., philanthropist, adviser, historian. Ambassador Andy Young, welcome to the podcast!

Andrew Young 01:54
Well thank you very much.

Mohamed Younis 01:56
I want to start off, first of all, just learning a little bit more about your upbringing, your family, history and story and how it all started.

Andrew Young 02:06
Well see, that's, that's why I have, I've always known that I was blessed. I said, you know, I grew up in a neighborhood that was educationally and economically mixed, but it was mostly working poor -- except my parents were the only ones in the block that had an opportunity to graduate from college. But it was an Irish grocery store in one corner and an Italian bar on another; Nazi party headquarters was on the third corner. And I had to deal with Nazism and people Heiling Hitler since I was four years old. And my father trained me and raised me to live In that kind of world. So what's going on in today's world doesn't bother me because I've been dealing with it for 80 years.

Mohamed Younis 03:03
Yeah, and that's what that's fascinating. That's why I was so honored and excited to have this conversation with you. Because in so many ways, America has made so much progress. But in other ways, we sort of struggle with some of the same issues.

Andrew Young 03:19
Well, it depends on how you calculate it. And I think this is so much better world than it was then, when I was growing up. But, because I lived in the center of New Orleans, and New Orleans was one of the more liberal cities in the South. So I went to, I went to a public school, which was not a very good school only because it was overcrowded. And, but I was the only one in my class, practically, that had lunch money; everybody else had, was on the free lunch thing.

Mohamed Younis 04:10
What did -- at first, sort of for your earliest developing memories as a young person, what were, what were you passionate about? What would, what did you kind of feel like, you know, I want to give my life to this? Was it that clear to you? Did it take some time to figure it out? Did it change?

Andrew Young 04:23
My first life was sports. And I, I sort of wanted I wanted to go to the Olympics and be Jesse Owens. I wanted to box like Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis. And, I mean it was, it was I was just a kid that grew up in a neighborhood where those skills were, I mean it wasn't a luxury to be able to box; it was a necessity to be able to box. And, but I had a father who, who said, "If you know how to fight, you don't have to fight." And --

Mohamed Younis 05:06
What did he mean by that?

Andrew Young 05:08
Well, he meant that I should take boxing lessons, and he meant that I should not be afraid to -- well, it's interesting because it was, he always said that if you use your mind, your head is where your strength is. And the quarrel I have with this generation of young people is everything that they think of as militant, my father thought of as ignorance -- that it was only ignorant people that got angry.

Mohamed Younis 05:50
I heard you previously say he would tell you, "Don't get angry; get smart"?

Andrew Young 05:54
"Don't get mad, get smart."

Mohamed Younis 05:56
"Don't get mad; get smart."

Andrew Young 05:57
He said, "Your mind, your brain is your most powerful weapon." And when you get emotional and get angry, the blood runs from your brain to your fists and your feet, and you're never gonna win a fight or outrun everybody. You might be able to outrun everybody, but you'll feel bad about running from a fight. The only hope you have -- because he was 5'4,'' and he said, "You're probably not gonna be much more than 5'7", 5'8"," and I'm not. But he said, "So you're never going to be big enough to beat everybody, but you can be calm enough and rational enough and thoughtful enough to outthink anybody and everybody. Because in a crisis, most people panic and get emotional and get angry, and that's a weakness; that's not a strength."

Mohamed Younis 07:02
Man, that's, that is deep wisdom.

Andrew Young 07:04
But that was, see that -- and then he would box with me.

Mohamed Younis 07:08
Like literally?

Andrew Young 07:09
Literally, I mean we'd shadow box and he'd tap me on the face. But if I ever kind of got wild and started swinging wildly at it, he'd slap me upside my head with his whole hand, see, and said, "See, you lose your temper, you lose your head."

Mohamed Younis 07:32
I can't, I, I wanted to be disciplined and wait not to bring this up, but I gotta ask you: How, how did you see that, lesson unfolding throughout the, what later became to be known as the civil rights movement? So many different organizations, approaches, ideologies?

Andrew Young 07:50
Well, it wasn't an ideology or organization or approach; it was the way I had to get to the grocery store. But he also put a big deal on honor and integrity, see. If I were playing on the corner with a bunch of kids, I was the only, probably only Black kid there, because everybody else in the neighborhood was White. If the police would come up, inevitably they would pick on me. "What are you doing here, boy?" And I was taught to, first of all, look and see what the policeman's name is and address him by name. "Well, officer so-and-so, I live three blocks across the, down the street." See. But I've called him by name and, and I've demonstrated that I'm not intimidated or afraid. And usually, he'd say, "You ought to be home." Well, he wouldn't tell any of the White kids to go home, see, but I'd go on home. Because that wasn't worth fussing about it. I probably would have gone home anyway if he hadn't driven up.

Mohamed Younis 09:08
And it seemed like a lot of, obviously, this was about survival, right? This was about a kid and a parent or parents and a family trying to make, give that kid the tools to survive --

Andrew Young 09:22

Mohamed Younis 09:22
throughout that situation. How did that, later in your life, sort of develop into joining these movements of folks that were trying to do more than just survive as kids in their own neighborhood -- or maybe were trying to create a reality where that kind of approach wasn't required, is maybe one way to put it?

Andrew Young 09:43
Well, it was required everywhere. You, you know, you, you either kowtow and be intimidated or you stand up like a man. And I tell this story because I was with, when I first went, worked with Martin Luther King, he went to jail with Rev. Abernathy. And my job, he was going to be in jail for about 10 days.

Mohamed Younis 10:11
What year was this?

Andrew Young 10:12
1962. And I had to go in there and see him all the time. Well it was a great big sergeant, he must have been almost, at least was 260, 270 lbs. And I walked into the Albany jail, and I said, "Excuse me sir, but I'd like to see Dr. King." And he didn't even look up. He said, "Little *** out here wants to see them big *** back there. What do I do?" And somebody said, "Send him back." So when I went back, I told Dr. King what he -- I said, "Do you know what he called me?" He said, "Look, I don't care what he called you. Your job is to get back here and keep me informed as to what this, this movement is going on and what --

Mohamed Younis 10:55
You're here to do a job.

Andrew Young, 10:56
Yeah, and Ralph Abernathy said, "Why didn't you jump across the desk and slap him?" And I said, "Obviously because he's twice my size, and he's got a stick and a gun." See. So Martin said, "Well, look, take your time. Think about it. But you gotta figure out a way to get in and out of here for at least once a day, sometimes twice, for the next 10 days. So take your time and think it through." Well, I remember what my father said. So when I went back, I said, "Thank you very much, Sergeant Hamilton," see, and called him by name. I had read his name on his tag.

Andrew Young, 11:40
And then when I came in the next day, I greeted him by name. I said, "How are you doing today, Sergeant Hamilton?" He said, "Oh" -- before he realized it was me, he sort of, you know, looked, checked himself. "Oh, OK." And then I engaged him in conversation. I said, "You had to play football somewhere." And then he smiles. I said, "What position did you play? Where'd you play?" And it turned out that he played tackle at Valdosta State University. And I knew something about Valdosta because I had pastored a little church in Thomasville, one of the next towns, and I said, "Valdosta always had great big linemen." I said, "In fact, the line in the Valdosta High School was bigger than the Green Bay Packers line that won a Super Bowl." He said, "You, is that true?" I said, "Yeah, I said, I, I said they had an average line of only about 225 lbs.," see. And I said, "You all were 255," see. And so from then on,

Mohamed Younis 12:54
You got in his head deep.

Andrew Young 12:56
From then on, we, we, when I came back, he wanted to talk about football. And so every day, going in and out of there, I had some, you know, conversation that I would start up with him, because he's sitting behind a desk, bored. And, and I made, I mean I wasn't, well, I used to get teased by the other guys in the movement because they'd call that, "He went in there and tomin' to those White folks." I said, "No, I wasn't tomin'." And I said, "I was just showing them the same kind of respect I'd have shown my daddy or your daddy or anybody else in a position like that -- or your brother."

Mohamed Younis 13:43
And you, you, you kind of find that human connection.

Andrew Young 13:47
But let me jump, because this was 1962. In 1976, Jimmy Carter appointed me ambassador to the United Nations, and I was invited up in Maine to speak at a, a country club. And when I finished speaking, this tall, skinny guy in a green sport coat and white pants and white buckskin shoes came down and said, "That was a great speech. I'm sure glad to see you again." And I said, "Again? Where, where did we, where did we meet?" He said, "You don't remember me, do you?" I said, "Where from?" He said, "The Albany jail." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "I'm Sergeant Hamilton." And I said, "How did you get here?"

Andrew Young 14:40
He said, "I came here tonight to thank you, because when you all left, I packed my family up in a station wagon and took all my belongings, because I found that there was an ad in a law enforcement journal. They were looking for a security guard up here, one of these country clubs." And he said, "I decided I didn't want my children growing up like that -- like, like, like I grew up, and so I brought them up here." I said, "Well, where are your kids now?" And he started calling out all names of these New England Ivy League schools that his children were going to. And I said, "You've done pretty well." I said, "You really are looking good." He said, "Yeah, I got rid of about 150 lbs. of fat."

Mohamed Younis 15:32
Well, that'll do it. That's, that's an amazing story that it's easy --

Andrew Young 15:36
But the other thing was, the chief of police, I mean, halfway through the 10 days I had to go in there, he said, "Would you mind talking to the chief? He wants to meet you." So then I went in and I talked to Chief Pritchett. Now he was the one that that put, put us, Martin in jail in the first place. And so I went in, and it turned out that he had married, remarried a woman who was a Roman Catholic. And she was trying to get him to join the church, and he felt like he couldn't join the church and still do -- treat people like he'd been treating us. And he was almost asking for forgiveness. And I was telling him, I said, "No, the church," I said, "I'm not sure about, don't know about the Catholic church," but I said, "in my church, that's where you go when you feel guilty and sinful. You go to the church for forgiveness, and God's grace and mercy will make a new person of you."

Mohamed Younis 16:45
And that's a perfect segue for what I wanted to ask you next, which is in addition to that sort of mental intellect element, you know, understanding the environment you're in; developing a human relationship with your adversary at times, when others would just kind of go to battle with their adversary. What role -- on the other side of intellect -- what role has spirituality and God and religion played in your journey thus far and moving forward, of course?

Andrew Young 17:12
Well that's, that's probably the source of strength and power. And as I was saying out there, that my grandmother was never afraid to die. In fact, she used to look forward to death. And she lost her sight when she was about 80. And I had to read the Bible and the newspaper to her every day for 6, 7 years. Well, the spirituality was a natural part of it. And if you're not afraid to die, you're not afraid to live. I mean, you, you have the courage to live only if you're not afraid to die.

Andrew Young 18:01
And so one of my favorite theologians, Paul Tillich, calls it, "the courage to be." But the courage to be -- and I think he'd sort of developed that coming out of World War II and in dealing with the German Nazi training, I mean Nazis and Jewish concentration camps. And it, the one thing that that we all shared -- Dr. King used to say that that is the ultimate democracy, is death.

Mohamed Younis 18:47
Death is the ultimate democracy.

Andrew Young 18:49
Everybody's got to die. Nobody's gonna escape death. So you, you don't need to fear it; you need to find a way to embrace it. And, and I think that's what my grandmother's faith and Dr. King's faith. Dr. King knew -- well he was, between his being 25 and 30, his home was bombed, he was jailed, he was stabbed. He was thrown in a paddy wagon at midnight in Georgia and driven for 6, 7 hours down a dark lonely roads in Georgia in the back of a paddy wagon with nothing but a German Shepherd. And every time he said, every time he rolled, the German Shepherd would growl.

Andrew Young 19:51
Well, fortunately he, he had dogs at home and he wasn't afraid of dogs. And I think that the thing that kept him from a nervous breakdown at that age was the fact that he was not afraid of dogs, and he talked to the dog when he growled, to kind of calm him down. And that was the way God used to keep him calm. Because when, when, when people are in that kind of situation, you can crack up emotionally and mentally easily.

Mohamed Younis 20:35
What I'm, and, and it's easy for us now to look back and sort of see, you know, what's often presented as this linear, beautiful path, you know, filled with struggles and challenges. But there's this assumption that it was, you know, the civil rights movement was on a linear path. And you know, just from the short readings I've done and from hearing you share some of your stories, it was a lot of ups and downs. And it was a lot of moments when it looked like maybe it wasn't gonna really work and folks were gonna kind of throw in the towel.

Mohamed Younis 21:03
I just wanted to bring sort of a historical perspective, and I'm dying to hear your take on this. In the '60s, Gallup was asking Americans all about the civil rights movement. And one of the things that fascinates me is when you look back, when you, when we were asking Americans, "Do you think that the peaceful civil disobedience that's being pursued by the civil rights movement actors will actually achieve their goals and more equality?" most Americans said "No," for, for, all throughout the '60s, which is just fascinating.

Andrew Young 21:34
Well, no, but that's, that's --

Mohamed Younis 21:36
For you, of course, you were there.

Andrew Young 21:38
No, but I, but I would have said, "No" too, before I started, before I got involved. Before -- you say, "No," because to say, "Yes" means you have to commit. In fact, the first time I read about Gandhi was right after I graduated from college. And somebody gave me a little book on Gandhi; and the other person who got the book was Eduardo Mondlane, who ended up founding the FRELIMO freedom movement in Mozambique about the same time our movement was going.

Andrew Young 22:16
And Eduardo Mondlane was sure that nonviolence would work in Mozambique because he hadn't seen Gandhi work, how it worked with Gandhi in South Africa and in England. I was, I was, well, one, I didn't want to, I didn't want to think it would work because to think it would work meant that I had to do it. And I wasn't looking to do anything courageous. I mean, I wasn't, I wasn't trying to be a leader.

Mohamed Younis 22:52
What were you trying to do? What -- ?

Andrew Young 22:53
I was trying to have a good time and I really wanted to make the, I mean I wanted to make the track team and the swimming team. And I wanted to, you know, well, I didn't even have a girlfriend. And I was from the South and I was young, and Howard University back in those days was the home of the Black bourgeoisie. So I was, I was a kid and, you know, they were wearing these high heels and fancy dresses, and they weren't looking at a little nerdy kids like me.

Mohamed Younis 23:39
It's fascinating, we're literally just, you know, a little bit of a walk from Howard and, and kind of where it all started sitting here. Let me ask you about American --

Andrew Young 23:49
Actually, the guy that probably helped me most at Howard was David Dinkins, who later became the mayor of New York.

Mohamed Younis 23:59
How so? You mean with the girls or -- ?

Andrew Young 24:02
I mean just, he had been to the Marines before he went to, came to Howard. And so he, he was more mature and, and he would kind of calm me down and encourage me and, and you know, make sure I was getting my studies and things like that.

Mohamed Younis 24:23
Well that's, that's that and that's huge.

Andrew Young 24:25
But with the girls, you're on your own.

Mohamed Younis 24:27
You're on your own. If -- any true friend will tell you, with the girls, you're on your own. I wanted to also ask you, sort of moving to today -- not, not walking too much away from the history we just kind of delved through. From your perspective, you know, you know, a majority of Americans say corruption is widespread in government. Most Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country generally. And that's been the case now since 2004. You know, you don't need me to rattle off a bunch of data points to you about challenges America's facing. From your perspective, what, what are the major challenges America's facing?

Andrew Young 25:00
Well, I think that you faced it. I mean, you, you listed it -- that, that it's the corruption of our values. And the reason for it is we're afraid; we're insecure. So we want to find some way to make ourselves secure and safe in a, in a very, very volatile, changing environment. And so our worst, we cling to the worst part of ourselves, trying to be a little more secure and safe.

Andrew Young 25:44
There's an old spiritual, "There's no hiding place down here." I went to the rock to hide my face/The rock cried out, 'No hiding place. There's no hiding place down here.'" See? And, and so, corruption is the lack of courage. Corruption is a form of cowardice because you're trying to make yourself safe and secure, when I don't think the human body was designed for safety and security. I think it was designed for challenge. It was designed to, to, you know, to lift up somebody else. And in order to keep yourself strong, you have to be willing to help those around you.

Mohamed Younis 26:38
As, as you look across the country today, is it fair, maybe not, to ask the question, Do you feel that that's happening more or less compared to when, you know, you were coming up as a younger person in this country?

Andrew Young 26:51
Well, I think that I came up, really my conscious maturing was done in the Second World War, from, it was mostly the '40s to '50s when I was, you know,

Mohamed Younis 27:14
Developing kind of your worldview

Andrew Young 27:15
Yeah, and, and I was fortunate even there that I had parents, I mean, I wasn't a particularly good student -- not because I wasn't smart, but because I wanted to be accepted; and I wanted to be one of the boys; and I wanted to get along with the girls. And the books were and the teachers were the last on my list. And so, but my parents said I had to read a couple of books for the summer. And one of the books I read -- that must have been the summer of '42 was One World by Wendell Willkie. My parents happened to be Republicans, and I picked it -- well that was in the South in the '40s. Now they became Franklin Roosevelt Democrats. But until Franklin Roosevelt, they were basically Republicans. It was the Black-and-tan Republican Party in the South.

Andrew Young 28:26
And so I read this book about one world. Well, well that's still something that, you know, I wish every leader had, had, was required to read something like that. The other thing is that I had a friend of my mother's; my mother's best friend was a teacher that my mother said, "I wish you could do something with this boy. He just refuses to study." And she started talking to me about the Marshall Plan. And she made me read in the newspaper about General Marshall's speech at Harvard about the Marshall plan and discuss it with her.

Andrew Young 29:18
Now those two things shaped my life intellectually. And the third book I picked was a little book about Jesus. And the title of it was, How One Man Changed the World. And it was talking more about Jesus as a man than as a religious figure, and how, how his, his version of manhood in the Bible changed the world, over and against Caesar -- Christ versus Caesar -- and

Mohamed Younis 29:53
And that kind of form, framework of manhood and, yeah.

Andrew Young 29:56
But it was spirituality versus materialism, see. And that was my parents' -- and my grandparents', especially -- kind of, I mean that was their frame of reference for life. And my grandmother lived till, you know, 88 and was very comfortable with her dying and not the least bit afraid of it. And, and so she, I think you, I sort of came up in a family of faith. My father was a very disciplined moralist that had a an amazing sense of honor. I remember I couldn't have been more than 10 years old, but they, they gave me the wrong change at the grocery store four blocks away. And I came back with more change than the money I had been given. And my father said, "Didn't you see that he made a mistake?" I said, "He said, 'Yeah,' but he may, he gave it to me." She's, he said "Yes, but don't you know that that belongs to him?" And he started taking off his belt while he was, while he was talking to me.

Andrew Young 31:26
He said, "You have five minutes to get back there" -- it was four blocks away -- "get there and back and apologize for not correcting him and giving him the money that's his money." And he said, "Your honor and your self-respect should not, you shouldn't sell that for $5. And that that is priceless. Don't ever, you know, don't ever cheat yourself or, or out of your ultimate humanity and power for, for a couple of nickels."

Mohamed Younis 32:10
That's a perfect segue to ask you my next question about opportunity and money and free enterprise. I know that you know, you have a, a particular viewpoint that is really sort of, I wouldn't say changing, but is still continuing to develop at this phase. Talk to me about free enterprise. First of all, you know, we talked a little bit earlier off the air about capitalism and, and the concept of capitalism, socialism, free enterprise. What is that? How does that tie into opportunity? What does it mean to you? Where do you stand on all that?

Andrew Young 32:42
Well, where I have evolved through the years, I mean, I was a New Deal Democrat, and I think government should supply and should provide the basic tools of survival, and that is education, health and, you know, those things that, the things that government can do for everybody cheaper than we can do it one at, one at a time. And in fact, government has done it for everybody. All of these buildings, you're going up down here in Washington, much of that is government-financed. After the Second World War, most of the people who were in Congress with me got educated on the G.I. Bill. They also bought houses on the FHA government financing plans. Government has done a great deal to create a White middle class. And so we felt that the same advantages that created the suburbs should be available to the inner cities. And I tried to do that when I was mayor. And we did it, well, for one thing, we did not do any government spending on city funds unless minority and female-owned companies had a fair chance to compete. In fact, we had government set-asides of 40% on the Olympics, for instance. And people said, "Well, isn't that too much?" No, because government is, in Atlanta, was the smallest sector. The government would be $1 billion and there'd be $10 billion of private funds.

Andrew Young 34:56
Now as the government got, as, as, as the government shared 40% of government spending with minority and female-owned businesses, it gave them an opportunity to get a leg up to compete for the $10 billion dollars' worth of private spending that was going on. And, but without, if there was turmoil and crisis and crime and riots, the $10 billion wouldn't be there. The $10 billion depends on stability and fairness and a kind of enlightened government. So Atlanta has grown from 600,000 people when I got there to over 6 million now. And during the term I was mayor, we, I think it was about $70 billion dollars' worth of private foreign direct investment. And 1,100 companies moved into Atlanta from around the world, foreign direct investment. But we, we, and we built the world's busiest airport.

Mohamed Younis 36:25
Yeah, I was just gonna bring up the airport.

Andrew Young 36:26
And it, it did -- I mean the Atlanta airport now lands 125 flights an hour.

Mohamed Younis 36:32
An hour?

Andrew Young 36:33
An hour -- lands or takes off. And we we've got five runways going all the time somewhere. And the second-largest airport in the world is Beijing in China, which lands 90 flights an hour.

Mohamed Younis 36:51
And, and tell us why, how you all pulled that off in a unique way compared to most major airports in the country.

Andrew Young 36:57
Well, what we did was we went to Wall Street for our financing, and we used tax-exempt bonds and we created an enterprise zone. And people could invest their money and make money on those bonds and not have to pay taxes on the money they made on, as a result of those bonds. Now I don't know why that's not, it is available through what I think that the government now calls "opportunity zones," but people are still not comfortable with that. We were, we were in on that in the beginning. And Maynard Jackson, my predecessor, started, but I was, I was still in Congress.

Andrew Young 37:52
But I could never get the Congress -- Jack Kemp was a friend of mine, and when he became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, I tried to work with him -- Democrat and Republican -- to get the whole enterprise zone philosophy of Atlanta nationalized more. But we were not, people were not comfortable with it yet. But we went on building. And our, our airport probably cost us $30 billion. But nobody complains, because its earning capacity is about $50 billion every year. So that's a good investment

Mohamed Younis 38:39
And it's creating jobs --

Andrew Young 38:41
And we brought the Olympics, and we raised $200 -- $2 1/2 billion privately, with little or no government money. And our Olympics in Atlanta was bigger than China or Russia, and theirs were government-run. But we had more, we had more countries, and we had more athletes, and we had more seats filled in the Atlanta Olympics than any other Olympics in history.

Mohamed Younis 39:13
And getting an Olympics is truly one of the most competitive endeavors that's out there globally.

Andrew Young 39:20
But it was easy for me, because I had been at the U.N. And I had been, I was, been around the world with Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King. And so I knew, I mean I, I knew the world, and, and, and more --

Mohamed Younis 39:38
More than the average mayor of Atlanta would.

Andrew Young 39:39
Well, more than the average congressman. I mean, I got started, and I was going to Africa as a missionary when I was 18 years old.

Mohamed Younis 39:51
What was the first country you ever visited in Africa?

Andrew Young 39:54
Well, the first country I visited was Kenya. But the first year I went to Africa, I visited Kenya, Congo Kinshasa and South Africa, all in the first year, first time I went to Africa -- three different trips. But by the time I got to be mayor, I had been to 120 countries, at least. And then going for the Olympics, I was also working for an engineering company that had 32 offices in Africa. And an Atlanta engineering company bought the South African -- I mean bought a British engineering company that was an old colonial company that wasn't doing well. And we took it over, and one thing or another, between the church, the U.N. and the Olympics, I knew people in 150-some countries.

Mohamed Younis 41:06
This is another just great segue to go from the macroeconomics and macroreality to the microeconomics and microreality. You're somebody that's spent your whole life, as you just mentioned, meeting world leaders, literally changing the world and, you know, being part of a movement that has become what many -- I mean, I say this as an African, as an Egyptian -- of what many throughout the world really study is how to create social change. I want to ask you about that journey and what it mean, and what it's meant for you sort of financially. I know now you've really championed, and we had you today here at Gallup headquarters to enjoy the screening of a documentary you were a part of called, "The Color of Money." Talk to us a little bit about microfinancial realities -- in America, in the developing world, and kind of the role you see them playing in people's opportunity moving forward.

Andrew Young 42:03
Well I think that, let me start with the U.S. Because I think that one of the things we have to realize is that we are endowed with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You're not guaranteed happiness; you're guaranteed the right to pursue it, see. So you can't sit back and wait for somebody to take care of you. You've got to develop your own initiative and self and ingenuity. And you have the freedom to do that in this country, see, as opposed to, say, an authoritarian country. And it, in, in my time in government, I've always fought to make that an equal opportunity to pursue. And, and also, you have to, but I think the government, again, as I said, has to be responsible for basic things like air, water, health.

Mohamed Younis 43:18
I mean or else an equal opportunity is not attainable. Right?

Andrew Young 43:21
Yeah, that's right. And so that, there that that you, you have to have responsible government, but everything can't rest on the government. There has to be a free-enterprise system that allows you to do stupid things like develop, you know,

Mohamed Younis 43:48
A company that fails.

Andrew Young 43:50
Yeah, a company that fails, but also a company that succeeds. Exactly yeah. And we do with Operation Hope, a lot of, of business competitions, just to give people a, a chance to learn to, to do things, to, to create things, to save money, to invest money, you know, and, and --

Mohamed Younis 44:23
And develop financial literacy.

Andrew Young 44:24
Actually, I was, I was blessed there too, because as a result of growing up in the Second World War, we had to collect newspapers on weekends -- and coat hangers. And, and we brought them to school to sell them. And the money that we, we made, we bought defense stamps that were converted into war bonds when they got to be $18 -- when you got $18.75 worth. And so there was part of my education during that wartime, a part of it was teaching me about savings and investing. Actually, when my father finally said to me, "Well I've gotten you through college; now you're on your own," I would have been broke if it hadn't been for those savings bonds that I had that people gave me.

Andrew Young 45:30
I had somehow gotten in his, somebody was trying to sell him some mutual funds, and I was about 10 years old and overheard him, and said, "Can I buy some of those?" And I had some money that people had given me for my birthday, and I bought a mutual fund, you know, going into, well 10, 12 years old, something like that. But when I, by the time I finished college, all of the savings that I had -- and I used to, I mean I used to go from door to door to, and cut my neighbor's grass. And I had peaches, peach trees and fig trees in my backyard, and I'd sell peaches and figs to my neighbors. And I mean, I was, I was encouraged to make money for myself as a child. And I was always given a little more than I earned, but I was able to buy my first car, and, for $450. But the fact that I didn't, I had it saved up and I didn't have to have it on interest meant that I, I was, I didn't start with a burden.

Andrew Young 47:03
The tragedy of this day and age, maybe the largest tragedy, is that to get an education, our children, our young people, have to become burdened with debt. And some of my friends, you know, have been, with the interest rates and things like that, they've been 20, 25 years paying off their debt. The problem is that they can't save money to help their own children. And so the debt crisis is, is a financial crisis not only for the government. But well, if the tax cuts that we had last year for the rich -- $1.5 trillion -- if it had been applied to student loans, it would have wiped out student loans, but it would have also resulted in a trillion and a half dollars going directly into the economy. Whereas the tax cut I think went so high at the top, it never trickled down. But if it had gone in at the bottom to wipe out student loan debt, it would have given every, every family that got rid of their debt would have been a candidate to buy a new house or to, to send their own children, you know, to a better school.

Mohamed Younis 48:51
I want to end on a note -- an optimistic note, if you will, but I had no pressure. Jim Clifton -- our, our chairman and CEO, a mentor of mine, a friend of both of ours -- he often describes you as the most optimistic person he knows. I know that you don't think of yourself as an optimist per se. But talk to us about optimism. Is there a reason to be hopeful about America's future at this point?

Andrew Young 49:19
Yeah, but it's not at -- optimism is different from faith. And I'm not optimistic about America. America's is a very sinful place. And it has done some awful things for which we will end up paying dearly. But there's still faith -- I still have faith in the American way and in the American people. And because I think that that one word that we inserted into the "one nation under God, indivisible," Rev. Abernathy used to say to us all the time, "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future," see. And because of my faith in, in the, in the spiritual side of life -- life is not the things we eat and drink. I mean we are not, we're not physical beings; we're spiritual beings, and we have certain physical aspects to us that we have to take care of.

Andrew Young 50:45
But ultimately, our physicality does not describe us. Martin Luther King was only 5'6" tall, and never had any money to speak of. And, but he had a tremendous amount of faith and courage because he wasn't afraid to die or to live. In order to live, you have to be willing and able to risk death because, I mean, you have choices. But you know, I don't want to get hit by a truck or blown away by a hurricane. And hurricanes, growing up in New Orleans, are a concern of mine, and it's a concern of mine all down the Mississippi River. And it's a sad day for me that the Congress and the president cannot get together on the question of infrastructure. Because its absence, it's the, the frailty of our infrastructure that is contributing to the flooding along the Mississippi.

Andrew Young 52:10
And I mean, the flood damage in Iowa in 2008 was $64 billion. And they haven't done anything to fix it up much since. And everybody running for president is in Iowa, but I have called, but, but nobody's talking about the Mississippi flooding, see. And the president is not talking, he was talking about infrastructure, and those are states that for the most part along the Mississippi that, that are led by Republicans. And they're sitting there complaining, and I don't know what they're complaining about. But the, the Iowa Senator who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and he knows that the it costs $64 billion to watch his state flood. We have enough engineering. We have enough intelligence. We have enough resources for that not to happen every year.

Andrew Young 53:17
And we lack vision, we lack leadership and we lack courage. But those are not missing in the United States; they're just misapplied. The private sector is doing extremely well. There's some courageous inventions. The medical profession and health is doing, I mean that little, I don't know whether you've ever seen that little, I was a biology major, so I'm fascinated by the, the cell that is burning, eating up another cell as a cancer cure. Well that kind of DNA, sort of, they didn't even teach me about that when I was in school. It did not exist. All that is new science. And so the world is not going to hell in a handbasket. The world is doing really better everywhere than it's ever done before. It's just that we don't have, it takes 60% in a democracy to establish that vision. And we don't have -- we, we, we, we've been 50-50 for the last couple, well for the last few elections, all the way back, all the way back to, I think Bill Clinton only won by 11,000 votes.

Andrew Young 54:50
But all the way back to Hubert Humphrey in 1968, right after Dr. King's death. His loss to Nixon was only one vote per precinct. See, one vote made the difference between Nixon and Humphrey. And for me, that was the difference between peace and war. It was the difference between wealth and poverty. It was the difference between enlightenment and education and ignorance and corruption. And I was in the Congress when, when the Nixon impeachment was going on. But I don't, I'm not a fan of impeachment, because we did more damage to America during the impeachment dialogue.

Andrew Young 55:54
And it's something I, well let me just say it, because It's it has been worrying me since 1974. But I was in the banking committee when Arthur Burns, George Shultz and Paul Volcker came in to end the Bretton Woods agreements. Well, I was in the Banking Committee because mass transit was under banking. But I didn't know anything about banking. And I leaned over and I asked, "What, what, is that, what's Bretton Woods?" And Ed Koch was next to me; he didn't know. And he asked Walter Fauntroy, and he was, gave me some kind of answer. But we had a chairman of the committee had a Ph.D. in economics. But he didn't ask any questions. He was intimidated by those three, and they ended the Bretton Woods agreements. And I asked, I asked the question, finally -- the last one, nobody -- I said, "If the dollar isn't tied to," I mean, if, they finally told me that the Bretton Woods, the agreement, was the agreement where the --

Mohamed Younis 57:08
They decoupled the valuing of the dollar to gold.

Andrew Young 57:10
Dollar to gold, but every other currency was tied to the dollar. And I said, "Aren't people going to pay, ah, aren't people going to play games and with, with,

Mohamed Younis 57:26
With the value of currency.

Andrew Young 57:27
With currency. And Arthur Burns told me, after puffing on his pipe, so you know how long it was, "Young man, you'll soon learn that the dollar does not need you to defend it." But oil, the price of oil was $2.50 a barrel.

Mohamed Younis, 57:51
A barrel, not a gallon!

Andrew Young 57:52
No, a barrel. And it went up to about $3 a barrel almost immediately. This was, it was September of '74. By, by December, it was, you know, $10 a barrel. And it went up as high as $150-some a barrel. But what happened was all of the countries that had been built on exporting oil became extremely wealthy, and those of us who were trying to play it fair and balancing in imports and exports ended up deeply in debt. Now, there has never been a discussion of that in public to my knowledge, see. And Paul Volcker wrote a book 25 years later with the Japanese Finance Minister, and he admitted that he and George Shultz and Arthur Burns had been sent a memo from the White House to come over to end that Bretton Woods agreement, but they had not discussed it amongst themselves. Now the three most powerful men in the finance world, as far as I was concerned, received a directive from whom?

Mohamed Younis 59:17
From the other branch of government.

Andrew Young 59:28
No, from whom? See, and, and Nixon wasn't thinking about that, see, and he was the elected president. And, and if, if the head of the Federal Reserve and if the head of the Treasury and the chief monetary officer didn't discuss it, who made the decision and why? But whatever it is, that is the decision that has upset this planet --

Mohamed Younis 59:54
At least financially, in more ways than one.

Andrew Young 59:57
Well, no, I mean, Saudi Arabia became wealthy. Japan became wealthy, Nigeria became wealthy. But the United States dragged. Countries that did not have oil did not prosper for a long time.

Mohamed Younis 60:15
It's fascinating that you bring this up, because it's, in your explanation, it really encapsulates so much of the perception that's not necessarily partisan in America, of corruption and not necessarily understanding how the system is exactly working for the average citizen.

Andrew Young 60:35
Well, the system is not working for the average citizen. And, and, and we do not have an egalitarian democracy that is fair and righteous. And our parties are not, I mean, and it's not, I mean, people now put money into campaigns -- and I learned this when I was in running, that the first time I ran, the experts told me I needed to put the money in the campaign into getting out advertising and things like that. And they'd spend a lot of money on television ads because they get 15% kickback.

Andrew Young 61:26
See, and so this, and I lost -- the second time, I didn't spend any money on television; I think $3,000 on television. But I spent the money on getting out the vote and getting voters registered. And it would pour down rain, and I had a 74% turnout in the rain, and I won an election that I wasn't supposed to win because it was -- I think we only, the district was only 36% Black. And, and it, it I mean it's, I have watched this now in every election, that the experts are always the ones who corrupt the process, along with the Russians.

Mohamed Younis 62:17
And on that extremely powerful note -- and, you know, it's very telling that somebody who has walked the path that you have would end on that note.

Andrew Young 62:28
Well, let me -- one thing I haven't said anything about. I mean, I give Martin Luther King all of the credit and glory I can. But there's another person who has been almost equal to Martin Luther King in my life, and that's Jimmy Carter. Because we served this country for four years and did not kill a single person, as no American soldier killed a single person and no American soldier got killed in battle for four years.

Mohamed Younis 63:12
I was not aware of that.

Andrew Young 63:13
And he also ended up almost balancing the budget, the budget -- and he gave up the presidency in order to balance the budget. He had a decision, two decisions to make: one on, on the Iranians and the hostages, and he decided that yes, he could drop a bomb on Iran, but all the hostages would die. And he'd rather bring them home. And then he also decided that if we were going to get a hold of inflation, we had to put somebody in the Federal Reserve that was willing to raise interest rates. And, and he did that, knowing that it meant he would not be reelected

Mohamed Younis 64:09
Because of the economic impact that would have.

Andrew Young 64:12
But it was right for the country. And in the meantime, though, we put, put Egypt and Israel together. And they have not killed anybody for 50 years, see, and it didn't cost any money.

Mohamed Younis 64:30
Not only held; there was cooperation at the highest levels until today.

Andrew Young 64:33
Yes, Sadat, I mean the South Africa. He sent me down to see the South Africans and ask them, and I, I went in to see Volker, I mean Botha, who was the defense minister, who they said was the toughest racist in the in the nation.

Mohamed Younis 65:00
This is during apartheid, of course.

Andrew Young 65:02
During apartheid. And, and one of the questions he asked me revealed the problem: He said, "How long do you think we have before the, the bloodbath?" And I said, "I don't think you'll have a bloodbath." He said, "How can you say that?" And I said, "Because President Carter" -- "two reasons: one, India went back, gave up Gandhi got India back from England, and I don't think a single Englishman was killed." And I said, "Plus, Jimmy Carter grew up in a county that was 80% Black." And I said, "He has lived all his life in this, under this kind of threat that you're talking about." But I said, "We have made democracy work and we have proven that you could have a multiracial democracy and learn to live together as brothers, rather than perish together as fools."

Andrew Young 66:05
And all he did was grunt. But he agreed to meet with Vice President Mondale in Spain somewhere, I think, Austria. But they met somewhere in Europe. And, and that was the beginning of the decolonization of Southern Africa. That was where Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe all began. That was where we stopped the Russian advance on Africa. And his whole war, his philosophy of turning back the communist advance was basically based on freedom and democracy and an ending of apartheid. And he never gets the credit that he deserves, because that ended up stabilizing the whole planet.

Mohamed Younis 67:11
And, and the and the Russian angle to that is I think often forgotten and overlooked. Ambassador, on that note, we are immensely thankful for your time, your wisdom and your service to this country. Thank you, sir!

Andrew Young 67:24
OK. God bless you.

Mohamed Younis 67:26
Thank you for tuning into one of my favorite interviews. I'd also encourage you to spend some time this Black History Month checking out our latest findings from the Gallup Center on Black Voices at And that's the podcast. Thank you for listening. To subscribe to the podcast on your mobile device from any podcast app, just search "The Gallup Podcast." For more of our content, go to or follow us @gallupnews. If you have questions or feedback on the show, write to us by emailing The Gallup Podcast is directed by Curtis Grubb and produced by Justin McCarthy.

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