Meet the Press   |  August 25, 2013

Roundtable: Governmental gridlock thwarts opportunities

A Meet the Press roundtable discusses how lack of progress in Washington can keep Americans from obtaining needed resources for success.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> sheryl, what is the optimistic case? facts are facts, and again the challenges of the american dream being within reach are still facts that government has to deal with and individuals have to deal with. what is the more hopeful case, though, about the american dream ?

>> well, i think that the problem is government gridlock. it really is. i mean, head start , as the reverend said, 57,000 kids have been shut out of head start . and illegal immigrant children have no way to move up. the chances of an american moving up is, you know, worse. it's 1 out of 12 versus in britain it's 1 out of 8. so what does that mean? that means as washington dithers america burn, and that's really important. the government used to be the provider of opportunities, mass education , you know, local community high schools , secondary and tertiary education . the president mentioned head start , and that may be the single most critical thing that actually could help us build the american dream again. but as washington dithers, america burns.

>> head start 's not a successful program. let me play the positives.

>> exactly.

>> i actually don't -- it's debatable.

>> i want to talk about something congressman labrador said. we are an amazingly tolerant country. you go school, you have names like juwanda goldberg in there. we still have these fantastic stories . i just had lunch with old man caity from a not great family, she's homeless, decides she's going to enlist in the navy. the officer says you should go to annapolis. she garage waits this year, number one academically in her class, gets a rhodes scholarship , runs track, she's a marine. you run across these stories all the time and they still are endem toik the way we live.

>> there's no question that those inspiring stories still exist. the question is, is there a generation where too many people are not having that inspirational moment. i mean, i grew up in the world war ii generation. there's a reason why that generation -- my father had an eighth-grade education. he left work because he was overfanned. he became a bank examiner. we had a house in the suburbs. i was part of a whole generation in the '50s that moved up together. why? there was full employment in world war ii , there was the g.i. bill of rights , an income tax that was passed. there was a sense of commitment at that point to bringing that generation going. that's eroded. it started eroding in the '70s and the '80s for the middle class and the poverty. it doesn't mean you always have these wonderful people that come up, but how many people with talent are not being realized? lincoln used to -- haunted about a person of a poem who had great talent and was in an unmarked grave because he never had that chance.

>> all those realities are true.

>> very quickly, think that as you hear dr. king's speech 50 years ago, yes, it was of hope, but it was pointed at what we had to fight. he talked about governors whose lips dripped with the words of interposition and nullification, which is no different than we're talking act changing stand your ground laws today. he talked about american gave blacks a bad check. so let's not act about all he talked about was poeltry. he went directly at issues that we're raising today. i agree with david that we are tolerant more than other countries. the question is not to compare us on how we are to other countries. it's compare how we treat some americans to other americans inside our country.

>> congressman, just a few seconds left for final thought from you on this.

>> you know, we're still the greatest nation on the earth. if you listen to what martin luther king talked about, we talked about making sure that we were not bitter about what was happening in america but that we had hope. it was a beautiful speech, and i think that the leadership, the african-american leadership, needs to start thinking about that hope that martin luther king gave us instead of trying to get the community to think that everything is hopeless and without -- without a future. i think when we tell our young people that in america they cannot succeed anymore, you will see more and more young people not succeeding.

>> quick response to that.

>> the quick response is that is why we marched yesterday, to tell them to do what dr. king did. you can change america . you can fight what's wrong. we are not hopeless, but we also know from the champion of hope, hope needs legs to it, and you need action.