BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Patricia O'Toole, author of "Money & Morals In America," where did you
get the idea for this book?
Ms. PATRICIA O'TOOLE, AUTHOR, "MONEY & MORALS IN AMERICA": I was in
Washington in Lafayette Square about nine years ago on a summer day,
and I woke up early in the morning, was staying at the Hay-Adams
Hotel, which is a very fancy hotel. Went for a walk in Lafayette Park
and was surprised to find there, at 7:00 in the morning, some two or
three dozen people sleeping there, homeless. When I fir--saw the
first couple, I thought, `Well, maybe they're fresh air eccentrics,
you know, and just spending a nice summer night out of doors.' But I
was just shocked to see this many homeless people basically in the
front yard of the White House.
So I first thought I would write a book about the '80s and the growing
gap between the haves and the have-nots, but the more I thought about
it, I--I started wondering whether this problem had been with us for
longer than the '80s and--and started re-reading American history from
the Puritans forward. And this is just something we've been
struggling with from the beginning, the--America has always
represented both the opportunity to get rich and the aspiration to
create a better society. And we cherish both sets of possibilities,
so we often find ourselves in a big wrestle with them.
LAMB: So how did you approach this book?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I thought that the way to do it was through stories.
And that's probably because I really like stories, and stories about
people rather than tracing the ups and downs of the GNP over 350 years
or whenever they started keeping track of it. So to take this issue
of the--the--wrestling between `getting mine' and `taking care of
ours' and put that in the hands of people who had actually tried to do
that, in one way or another were somewhere along the spectrum of
idealism and opportunism. So I picked the best stories that I could
find in different periods from the Puritans to the present.
LAMB: Who is your first story?
Ms. O'TOOLE: The first story is about John Winthrop and the Puritans
coming in 1630, and they had the absurd notion that they could create
a society based on Christ's most exacting command, which is to love
one another. And they lasted for about a week and a half before
the--the fighting broke out. But they really--they really did try,
and I--I think that was a--a wonderful beginning to our American
struggle with this issue.
LAMB: Was that the first person that you thought of, or is that--I
know it's the first person in the book, but what was the first one
that you wanted to write about?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I was--I had done some work in the late 19th century,
and Andrew Carnegie is an intriguing figure to me. He set
himself--when he was 33, he decided he was making way too much money
and it was making him very nervous. So he said he was going to retire
and set himself the task of giving away his entire fortune. And his
retirement didn't actually come about until a lot later, but he gave
away $350 million. I was always intrigued by that story and what made
LAMB: How did he make his money, and where was he from?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He was born in Scotland, came as a very young child to
western Pennsylvania. His formal schooling stopped when he was about
eight, and he went to work as a bobbin boy in a factory and then was
working on his own ever since. Bright, young lad who attracted the
notice of a railroad executive and was his assistant--he was a
telegraph boy at one point. Then he started a bridge-building
company, and out of that came a big steel company. So that's where
his money came from.
LAMB: What was the steel company called?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It was called the Carnegie Steel Company. And later,
when J.P. Morgan bought it at the beginning of the 20th century, it
became the US Steel Company, now known today as USX.
LAMB: What did he look like?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he looked a little bit like you, actually. He
had wonderful blue eyes--penetrating blue eyes--and white hair from
quite a young age, I think, and built on the sk--not on the
string-bean model but more compact. Lots of energy, very electric.
Everybody--even if people disagreed with him, they seemed to like him
personally a lot.
LAMB: What were his business ethics?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, here--here comes the paradox because he thought
that poverty was a wonderful thing and poverty built character. It
had done that for him, and he imagined it could do it for other
people. He also thought that as an employer, even though he made tons
of money, he shouldn't raise wages because you just couldn't trust the
poor. So he--he seemed to trust poor children; that they would grow
up to be just fine, but he didn't trust their--their fathers who
worked for him. So he kept wages low.
And then his idea was to take all these profits and--and give them
away, which is an attractive idea if you have a lot of money because
it gives you much more control over what's going to happen with it.
You can build lots of libraries and swimming pools and donate lots of
church organs, all of which he did, and you don't have to worry that
anybody's spending it in some indulgence, as he put it.
LAMB: How did he spend it?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he ga--he--he gave money for about 2,500 public
libraries. There were some towns in western Pennsylvania who were so
angry with him after some bitty--bitter strikes in the 1890s that they
said, `No, thank you,' to this offer of a library. And he would build
the building, but the town had to then come up with a way to keep the
library going and get all the books and so on. And he was a little
bit that way with church organs, too. He loved organ music, so this
was a special project of his. He gave away something like 7,500 of
them, but you had to show that your church's finances were in good
order before Mr. Carnegie would--would give you an organ.
Carnegie Hall, it was a great--one of his benefactions. He gave other
concert halls, museums, funded a lot of educational programs and kind
of late in life discovered that there were all these elderly college
professors who weren't retiring because they didn't have any money.
And he started--started a pension fund for them, the Teachers
Insurance Annuity Association, which survives today. It's one of the
biggest pension funds in the country.
LAMB: How long did he live?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He lived a long time. He lived from the 1830s until
toward the end of World War I. So 75 years.
LAMB: What about the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and all the think
tank stuff? Is that him, too?
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's him, too.
LAMB: Did he want that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yes. He--early on, wh--in his steel business, he could
have made a lot of money from armaments, and he just didn't believe in
doing that at all. So he gave a lot of money to peace and believed in
arbitration and was instrumental in setting up a--a peace organization
in The Hague.
LAMB: What do you do when you're not writing books?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, I do magazine articles and I teach at Columbia
University, the writing program there.
LAMB: What--what year do you teach?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Graduate students. You know, I teach them how to do
research. It's a lot of fun.
LAMB: What--let me ask you about the research for this book. How
many different places did you go to find your information?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh, a couple dozen, from Lowell, Massachusetts, out to
Berkeley, California, and up to Minneapolis and down to Chapel Hill
and Savannah. The stuff is all over the place. And I looked at all
different kinds of things, from the standard manuscripts and letters
and diaries to corporate records, congressional documents,
presidential papers and even sheet music at one point.
LAMB: When you think back on the--on the research--and you said
this--did it take nine years to do it or...
Ms. O'TOOLE: No, it took about six years to do it.
LAMB: How much of that was research?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Probably about half. And then I ended up not doing
some of the chapters that I thought I would do, just because I
couldn't find an original aspect of them to ……
LAMB: Give us an example of something you didn't do.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Something I didn't do was--one of the really great
stories in American history is the story of the writing of the
Constitution. And because it's such a great story, it has attracted
really wonderful scholars forever. And I just couldn't find a little
piece of it that was unique enough for me to want to tell the story.
LAMB: So of all the places you went, where were you the most
surprised about what you found?
Ms. O'TOOLE: One of the big surprises was out in Berkeley,
California, where the archives for the Kaiser family are. Henry J.
Kaiser was a big industrialist. In the--in the '30s, he helped build
a lot of dams and bridges in the West through public works programs.
And then when World War II came along, he built some shipyards on the
West Coast and turned out about 1,000 ships, mostly cargo ships. And
most of them were built just across the bay from San Francisco in the
town of Richmond. And these archives are amazingly complete. He was
quite an innovative employer. The Kaiser HMO is a descendant of the
health care that they started in a large way at the shipyards in
LAMB: So the Kaiser Permanente name is his?
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right. Mm-hmm. They first started it in a very
small way. They were doing a construction project in the '20s out in
the boondocks in California, where there wasn't any health care. So
he built--brought in a doctor, built a little hospital and wanted to
make it a nice place to be. You know, they had colored sheets
and--and then that--and Permanente was some name in California where
they were, out in the middle of nowhere. And then when they built the
shipyards--working in the shipyard is quite a dangerous thing--the
company paid a lot of attention to safety, and there're just
wonderful, very rich documents there. He ordered up reports on all
kinds of things. And my sense was that there was a lot more candor in
them then than we might find now.
It was very interesting because a lot of women went to work for the
first time during World War II, so all of a sudden you have--they
reinvented welding, for example, so that women could actually weld for
eight hours a day. They assembled everything on the ground so that
you would hold your welding rod this way rather than up over your head
and--and get tired faster.
And after I looked at those archives, I sat down to write the--I
thought I had the whole story, and I sat down to--to write it and I
just kept thinking, `I--I don't have any workers' voices in here. I
really miss that. I'd love to know what they thought about all of
this.' So I sent some letters to the editor of various newspapers
around San Francisco, inviting people to--who had worked in the
shipyards to call me. And about 75 of them did. So I conducted about
60 interviews. Some called to say they didn't remember anything. But
I conducted about 60 interviews and got just wonderful material about
the daily experience of working there that I wouldn't have been able
to get any other way.
LAMB: What did you learn about the daily experience?
Ms. O'TOOLE: How hard it was, what really hard work it is to be in a
shipyard, noisy, dangerous. And this little town of Richmond had had
about 25,000 people before the war and then boom, overnight there were
100,000 people there, putting a great strain on everything in the
town. People not only working around the clock, but sharing rooms
around the clock. They had what they called hot beds, you know. It'd
be your bed for eight hours and then somebody else's bed for the next
And--and the other thing that--the thing that impressed me most about
it was how cooperative--maybe this is just the rosy glow of 50 years
of--of distance, but it made me wonder whether we could do that again,
have--have that kind of cooperation between so many different kinds of
people without endless wars over turf.
LAMB: I--I'm old enough to remember the Henry J. Kaiser automobile.
Ms. O'TOOLE: In the early '50s, right. That was one of his...
LAMB: And whatever happened to that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He just was no match for Detroit. He thought having
won World War II, he would be able to go conquer Detroit, but it
didn't exactly work out that way. Apparently, a wonderful car by all
accounts, but some problems on the marketing end. And I think his
swagger offended a lot of people in Detroit as well.
LAMB: Do you find, like, in the case of Kaiser or in Carnegie's
case--and there are a lot of other names in your book--that the--are
the descendants still--are there many here that would talk to you or
did you try?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I didn't try in the case of the Carnegies. In the case
of the Kaisers, I made a couple of efforts, neither of which was
LAMB: And why was that, do you think?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I don't know. I don't know. I mean, when people don't
answer a series of letters, you don't know why they're not answering.
So I don't know.
LAMB: I read your book "The Five of Hearts," which was--when I
started to read your introduction in this book, I thought, `That's
interesting that she should would go to the Hay-Adams Hotel to--to
stay.' Explain why that would be important if somebody hadn't read
"The Five of Hearts."
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, "The Five of Hearts" is a story of five friends
who lived in Washington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
And the two key figures are John Hay and Henry Adams, who had
adjoining houses that were on the site of the present Hay-Adams Hotel
at 16th and H Streets, just across from Lafayette Park. So it is a
hot bed. I finished one book that's all about that neighborhood, and
the idea for the next one is born right there. I hadn't expected that
LAMB: And you were writing a--an article for Lear's magazine.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Right.
LAMB: Is that still around?
Ms. O'TOOLE: No, it isn't. Hasn't been around for about five years.
LAMB: What was it?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It was a women's magazine started by a woman named
Frances Lear, and she wanted to aim it at an older audience. And it's
an idea that many very smart women in magazine publishing have had,
and it's--it's very difficult to attract advertisers. They have it in
their heads that older women don't have money. So...
LAMB: Go back to what you said in the introduction about being at the
Hay-Adams, and I think I remember you had the fancy robe that they
provide on or something like that and the food that they brought to
the table in the restaurant or whatever. It--it--what moved you, as
an individual, to take that food out to the Lafayette Park and give it
to the people that were on the benches out there?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, after I went out for the walk and saw these
people, I went back up to my room, which was a wonderful room on the
eighth floor with a little balcony looking out on the White House.
And I looked down into the park to see if I could see any of those
people, and I couldn't because all the--the trees are--were full of
leaves. And I realized that I was just eight stories away from them,
but I might as well have been eight planets away from them for the
difference in our lives. And I just wondered, you know, `What went
wrong here? Why are these--why are these people here? Why aren't we,
the rest of us, taking care of them? How did they slip through
the--through the net?'
So after I finished my breakfast, I got a laundry bag out of the
closet and there were tons of leftovers. And I--I took them, gave
them to these two first men that I saw on a bench. And what--what got
me were their eyes. I--it--I'll--I'll just always remember their
eyes, the--the deadness of their eyes. There was no joy there at all.
And it didn't look to me as though they'd lost their joy. It looked
as though they'd had it bombed out of them somehow. And I thought,
you know, `Whose sons are these? Whose brothers are these?' And it
was because of my little encounter with these two men that I wrote
LAMB: You have a st--statistic. As of '95 or whatever, '96, 1
percent of the people in this country own 40 percent of the wealth.
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right.
LAMB: Is that going up or down?
Ms. O'TOOLE: These--these--this is '96, and the numbers l--always
lag by a couple of years, so I don't know. But I would imagine with
the great run we've had in the stock market that that concentration of
wealth at the top continues.
LAMB: Are you in that 1 percent?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I wish. No, not by a long stretch. No.
LAMB: What do you think of that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: What do I think that I'm not in it?
LAMB: No, no. What do you think of the fact that in this country, 1
percent of the people own 40 percent of the wealth?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I think it's a bad sign. I think that it creates a
kind of erosion that is hard for us to see now because there is so
much prosperity and nobody is paying attention to the people who've
been left out. But people at the bottom, they don't have benefits in
the way that--that most other people do. Sixty percent of American
families are not as well off as they were 25 years ago, despite the
fact that many of those families now have two breadwinners instead of
just one. So that doesn't mean that, you know, the system isn't
working for a handful of people. It means it isn't working for 60
percent of the people. And I think we're starving the goose that lays
the golden egg when you get rid of the middle class.
LAMB: Why did you put Control Data in your book?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Control Data was started after World War II by a man
named William Norris and a couple of partners, and they built big
supercomputers. And in the '60s, looking at all the riots, William
Norris thought, `This just shouldn't be. You can't do business in a
society that's on fire,' is more or less what he--he said. So he
started building factories in inner cities.
And there were lots of problems associated with trying to make
employees of people who had perhaps never worked or hadn't worked in a
long time, didn't have good educations. So he started a--this series
of support programs for them that evolved into the employee assistance
program, which is now a--commonplace at a lot of corporations. And
then he got the idea that corporations could actually turn a profit by
solving social problems, so that's how he was thinking about the
direction of the company. It was a fascinating i--idea to me.
LAMB: You say he ended up losing his job when they lost--lost some
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, there's n--there's no real connection. People
are always trying to say that it's these social programs that made
Control Data go down the tubes, and that's not really what happened.
They made big mainframe computers, and in the '80s there was a
shake-out when microcomputers--we all started getting laptops. And
there were certain people who made a bet that mainframes would always
be really big and important, and those people who bet that way turned
out to be wrong.
LAMB: Did you talk to Bill Norris?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I did. I went out to Minneapolis.
LAMB: How old is he now?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He's in his late '80s, and he still has a little--still
goes to work every day, has a--a little non-profit organization called
the William C. Norris Institute, which carries forward some of these
ideas: working on low-income housing built of materials that people
don't usually think of building houses of--various plastics and other
inexpensive materials. Educational software is an area where he was a
real pioneer, and he continues to support efforts in that area.
LAMB: Go back to what he--he specifically did when he was at
Ca--Control Data on the north side of Minneapolis building a plant in
a--in an area. How did that--what motivated him to do it? Does he
think it worked? And what did he specifically do?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He--it's a wonderful story, really, because he didn't
come riding in like the big sh--white knight on the shining horse. He
went about it very quietly, held a lot of discussions with leaders in
the African-American community to find out whether, first of all, they
even wanted to have a plant there. And all of this--these discussions
went on for a very long time. And he said to his--his people who were
working on this, `You know, we're not going to do something trivial
and unimportant there. We want to build one of our most important
components in that plant.' And I think, by doing that, he wanted to
demonstrate that these people who had not worked before or whom many
considered not the cream of the labor force could make good, high-tech
products as well as anybody else. So they made these a key component
of these big mainframe computers. And it--it worked very well.
I mean, there were--there were lots of headaches they had to deal
with. The--a key manager in the plant had a pad of bail bonds, more
or less, so he could go down to the jail on Monday morning and bail
out people who'd gotten in trouble over the weekend. And the company
made a real commitment to develop these people. They put in a
day-care center that was sponsored by several companies in that
neighborhood. And it still is--is a model one. That's--there's a
whole lot of learning that goes on there. It's not just a place to
warehouse kids during the day.
LAMB: What didn't work?
Ms. O'TOOLE: What didn't work is this thing I was alluding to
earlier about the--the mainframe--the spi--the juncture in the road
when--between mainframes and microcomputers.
LAMB: But did they learn anything about the ability to train
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yeah.
LAMB: ...in the--in the minority community? Was it--was it just a
matter of putting things in front of them they learned or was there
a--something missing from their past that they couldn't catch up to?
Ms. O'TOOLE: No. They--they feel that they made successful
employees out of just about everybody. They had a very good employee
retention rate at this plant. But it took a real commitment. And
they hired a lot of black employees--I shouldn't say a lot but a
handful of black employees in key positions to--who had advanced
degrees in psychology and social work and that--that sort of thing to
make sure that in their training programs, they were addressing all
the baggage of poverty that people bring with them when they come to
Interestingly, this had to be done somewhat at the Kaiser shipyards in
World War II because there were a lot of people who came to work who'd
been out of working during the Depression or had never worked before.
They were not used to coming to work every day, all day. And there
was program after program to make that happen, lots of training
programs, lots of rewards for, you know, having good attendance
records at work and that sort of thing.
LAMB: Where did you get the title for this book, "Money & Morals"?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It's actually a compromise kind of title. The--the
phrase money and morals is one that I--I used a lot when I would talk
about this book with people while I was working on it. But I wanted
to called it "All That Glitters" and then have a subtitle that was "A
History of the Tension Between Money and Morals in American Life."
And "All That Glitters" just--there were lots of people who didn't
like it, so we settled on "Money & Morals In America."
LAMB: Now what do you tell you students at Columbia about research?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I should have them there to--to tell you. They come to
the class with a subject they want to research, and that's what they
work on for the whole semester. And we skate through all kinds of
things, the classic archival kinds of research with letters and
manuscripts and diaries and the whole new world of electronic
research. The Internet's just a very small part of that. There're
all manner of specialized databases now available, whole books online.
And then they learn the basics of interviewing because most of them
haven't done that.
LAMB: What do you...
Ms. O'TOOLE: They should come and study that part with you.
LAMB: What do you tell them the basics are from what your--what your
Ms. O'TOOLE: Of research or...
LAMB: No, of interviewing.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Of interviewing? Prepare, prepare, prepare. And
benevolent skepticism and...
LAMB: What's that mean?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, that you--you--they--they sometimes have an idea
from having watched confrontational interviews on television, I guess,
and in the movies that an interview is a--a knock-down, drag-out
fight. And I make a pitch for it's eliciting the best this person can
give you in--in the situation and that you want to approach all these
people you're interviewing with a lot of good will but not believe
everything they might tell you, that everything needs to be checked
LAMB: What's the difference if you confront vs. the benevolent
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, the difference is that you get theater, I
suppose, when you confront. But when you get benevolent skepticism
combined with a lot of preparation, I think you have a lot of respect
from the person that you're interviewing and trust. And often when
you're interviewing people, as you know, you just see them once. So
if--it--it's always a tricky business to make this stranger feel that
he or she can trust you.
LAMB: What would you do if you sensed somebody wasn't being truthful?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I think I would take in what they're telling me in that
encounter, I would check it out with other sources and then I would go
back to them and say, `You know, your account of this doesn't square
with so-and-so's account of it. So how are you going to--how do you
explain the difference between these two things?'
LAMB: Can you remember anything that you did for this book where
somebody was misleading you or maybe didn't remember correctly and you
had to go back and say, `That wasn't the way it happened'?
Ms. O'TOOLE: No. And that's mostly, I think, because this is a book
where the number of interviews that I did was rather small in
proportion to the whole of the book. I mean, most of the time, you're
struggling with a written historical record and, you know, you search
for every document you can think that bears on what you're trying to
do. And in the end, some--some questions just have to go unanswered
and you just can't find out.
LAMB: What part of the world were you--were you--did you grow up in?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Michigan.
Ms. O'TOOLE: A little town called Rogers City, which is way up
north. It's the same latitude as Montreal.
LAMB: Is that up in the UP, up in the Upper Peninsula.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Not quite that far. It's about 50 miles short of the
LAMB: What were you parents like then? What'd they do?
Ms. O'TOOLE: My father worked on--he actually worked for US Steel on
a ship on the Great Lakes and was gone most of the time, home only in
the winters. And my mother, before my brothers and sisters and I were
born, was a schoolteacher and went back to that.
LAMB: I see a lot of names here: to Kathryn and Paul and Rob and
Melissa. Who are these folks, by the way?
Ms. O'TOOLE: These are my nieces and nephews, plus the three
children of my oldest childhood friend.
LAMB: Sean and--how do you pronounce the...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Maive.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yeah.
LAMB: And Emily and James and Kate and Joe and Ellen, `who inherit
this world.' Do you like what the--do you like the world they're
going to inherit?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, I have--I--I finally figured out that I'm a
short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist. Looking at 350 years
of our history makes me realize that there--it's just full of
wonderful examples of people who made a difference and real
contributions to society and do care about the balance between getting
rich and--and taking care of people who are not rich.
But in the short-term, I worry about this income gap; this, you know,
increasing concentration of wealth at the top; the fact that despite
this long economic boom, we still have 20 percent of children living
in poverty. And the only thing that's really changed in that is that
there are two and a half million more of them. And, you know, there
are people who don't like welfare and they don't like programs for the
poor because they think the poor should pull up their socks, but we
shouldn't think that way about children. It's not their fault they're
living in poverty and...
LAMB: When did you leave Michigan?
Ms. O'TOOLE: In 1968, I graduated from the University of Michigan
LAMB: What'd you study?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I studied journalism and a lot of American history.
LAMB: Then what'd you do?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Then, like everybody in the Midwest--I think a lot of
students in the Midwest and in the South have to--feel they have to go
somewhere else. So I went off to California. It was the late '60s.
Everybody was going to California. So...
LAMB: Where'd you go?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I went to Los Angeles. And I worked at a little wire
service for business and financial news, and on weekends I'd work on
my own writing.
LAMB: And then where from there? What'd you...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, I kept thinking I didn't like my job very much,
but my employer was generous. And when I would talk to people about
other jobs, they would say, `Well, you're going to have to start all
over at $600 a month.' And I couldn't think of another job that I
wanted. But the idea of being on my own as a writer really appealed
to me. So I saved up $10,000, which is what I thought I would need to
live on for a year back in 1976, and quit my job and I thought, `If it
doesn't work, I'll go do something else.' But it worked.
LAMB: And so what did you do in the writing world?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I--well, the first day I sat at my desk, I thought,
`Oh, gee, now what?' And I was embarrassed to have declared myself a
writer that I couldn't actually write to a real magazine. I had an
idea for Esquire, but I thought, `Well, I don't have anything to
demonstrate that I can do this.' So I actually proposed some story
ideas to Ranger Rick, which is the nature magazine of the National
Wildlife Federation. And they said yes to one of them. I wrote them
a little piece about cactus. And then from Ranger Rick to The New
York Times Magazine, it was a year and a half.
LAMB: So for 22 years you've been a writer?
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And the 10 grand, did you ever spend it all?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh, sure. Yeah. I--I had a little financial
management system that I picked from--remember Marlo Thomas in "That
Girl"? Well, she had this thing she called the `envelope system,'
where every month, when she got her money, she would put this much for
groceries in this envelope and this much for clothing and so on. So I
created an envelope system that I never really could live with. I
mean, all the money was always spent before the month was up, so that
just spurred me to earn more.
LAMB: How long did you work with The New York Times Magazine?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I only freelanced for them, and I've over the years
written a number of pieces for the magazine and the rest of the paper.
LAMB: Now in this book, there are 13 chapters.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Most of them revolve around a person.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: A couple of others, Henry Ford--why'd you pick him?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he's an interesting sequel to Andrew Carnegie,
who had to, you know, give people low wages and then collect all the
money and disperse it for his idea of the good of society. Henry Ford
was more of a populist than that, and he thought, `I have all the
money I could ever want. I'm not particularly interested in
philanthropy. I'll double everybody's wages,' which is what he did
when he announced the $5 day in 1914. But if that had been all there
was to it, I think I would've just written a paragraph about it. What
intrigued me was he didn't really trust people anymore than Andrew
Carnegie did not to waste the money. So he up this whole brigade of
snoops and gave them all Model T's, and they would come around to your
house and say, `Let's see your bankbook, Brian. We wanna make sure
you're saving money. And is this woman over here really your wife?
We'd like to see the marriage certificate.' And so there was kind of
a--a creepy aspect to his--his paternalism. But he did some good
things, too--set up a sort of forerunner of the credit union,
gave--set up a staff of lawyers to help people h--employees with
contracts for houses and that sort of thing.
LAMB: By the way, when you were doing the book, did you ever sense
that you had enough information to do a full book on any one of these
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh, any one of these people has been the number of--has
been the object of any number of books, yeah. I mean, there are lots
of books about John Winthrop and Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford and...
LAMB: Are you going to go back and do one then? Are you...
Ms. O'TOOLE: I don't think so. I don't think so.
LAMB: Go back to Henry Ford for a moment. What did he do with his
Ms. O'TOOLE: He mostly--he paid out a lot of it in wages and then
after his death, two things happened. The Ford Foundation was set up
with a huge amount of money. The Ford Foundation was for a long time
the largest foundation in the country, maybe the world. And then the
company was--went from being a family-owned business to a publicly
held corporation. So it's a whole different set-up now with
stockholders to please and...
LAMB: Did you find anybody that you wanted to write about that didn't
give their money away, didn't do anything at all for anyone?
Ms. O'TOOLE: You mean someone who's a total greedy, miserly kind of
LAMB: Just kept it all, yeah.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Just kept it all? Well, I thought about writing more
about the atmosphere in--on Wall Street in the '80s. And then by the
time I was--I--I ended up just writing a couple of pages about that,
because I--to me, the individual examples came to mean less than sort
of the aggregate, a fact that we see in this disparity of wealth. So,
you know, rather than do it anecdotally, I think the numbers are a
more powerful way to tell that story.
LAMB: Why did you put Whitney Young Jr. in your book?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he was an interesting person to me. He was the
leader of the National Urban League in the '60s and that the...
LAMB: What's that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It was founded around World War I--a little before
World War I, an organization to help blacks who were migrating up from
the South to the cities of the North and experiencing all kinds of
LAMB: But funded by?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Funded by businessmen, for the most part.
LAMB: Rockefeller Foundation?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Rockefeller Foundation, Henry Ford II was a big backer
of the Urban League. And Whitney Young built the Urban League into a
much bigger organization than it had been. It has this national
organization, as well as chapters across the country. And he--it--he
really became a person who could talk to corporate leaders on--on
their level and get them to see the wisdom of hiring and promoting
people who were not white.
LAMB: You--you have an area in that chapter where you--you're
painting the scenario around the march on Washington in 1963 where
John F. Kennedy didn't want the march for some reason or other and...
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right. John F. Kennedy was working on civil
rights legislation, and in the original planning of the march, it was
thought that they would focus things on Congress, and Kennedy was
afraid that that would make Southern congressmen in particular
antipathetic to doing something about civil rights, that they would
feel, you know, sort of they had a gun to their ribs to do something
about it. So they actually kind of turned the march around. Instead
of marching toward Congress, they started at the Washington Monument
and--and marched toward the Lincoln Memorial.
LAMB: Because we've done a recent book with John Lewis...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: He's in the book--in your book in that Whitney Young chapter
where you had A. Philip Randolph, who organized the march, and then
whether or not Whitney Young would join the march and whether or not
then John Lewis would tame his remarks. Can you explain all that?
Why would Whitney Young not automatically join this march?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, the white men who sat on the board of the
National Urban League didn't think very much of protest marches. They
thought protest marches were what you did when you couldn't get in
through the front door. And Martin Luther King more or less said that
was--was--was true, that we have to write our essays with the blunt
pen of marching ranks, is what he said. It's the only way to get
people to pay attention to you. And at the National Urban League,
they thought, `No, no, no. The way we're going to make a difference
here is we're going to talk to our powerful white friends and--and
enlighten them, and they will make change happen from the top down.'
So they didn't think the Urban League should be mixing it up with all
LAMB: What did you learn about either Whitney Young or white people
a--based on doing that chapter and--and the whole business of race?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I was fascinated by Whitney Young's strategy that he
set for himself. I--I called that chapter The Man in the Middle
because he always--he got criticism from both sides. He'd get
criticism from whites who didn't think he was sufficiently
appreciative of all they were trying to do, and then he got criticized
by more militant blacks who thought that he had sold out to whites.
And he deliberately positioned himself in the middle so that he could
be the one that everybody talked to and--and that he could be the one
to sort of conciliate and bring together these disparate interests.
And I th--I think that's a fascinating style of--of leadership.
What I learned about whites, I think, is--I mean, I was fascinated by
the openness of these corporate leaders to a man like Whitney Young,
and they--they were willing to change. And I think that a lot of
quarters of the businessworld, especially large corporations, were
very influenced by this period and are much more progressive in terms
of affirmative action than they're often given credit for.
LAMB: How did Whitney Young die?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Very suddenly. He drowned when he was 49 years old.
He was at a conference in Africa and went on a picnic one afternoon,
went for a swim and drowned.
LAMB: Do you remember what year?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I think it was 1971, early 1971.
LAMB: And when you went to research Whitney Young, where'd you find
Ms. O'TOOLE: It's at Columbia University. It's where he gave his
papers. And the--there--various things had been written about Whitney
Young, and when you come along after that kind of thing, you wanna
see, `Well, what can I do that's original here?' Very little
attention had been paid to his speeches, which is what I mostly worked
with. And he participated in the writing of those speeches to a
degree that's, I think, now uncommon for most people high in
government or business or the philanthropic world. And one of the
things that interested me was after the riots in the middle '60s, you
might think that a black leader would say, `Well, I have to tone down
my message now because we have this big white backlash,' you know,
people--there were a lot of anti-riot measures, you know, calling for
more police, more appropriations for police, that kind of thing, as a
result of the riots. And he took a very tough line, and I admire him
a lot for that.
LAMB: Now did you listen to any of his speeches or watch any of them
Ms. O'TOOLE: I saw a few--a few video clips, but mostly I read them.
A lot of tapes were not available.
LAMB: What was--he was--I think you mentioned, like, he was, like,
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yes, 6'2", very handsome, magnetic...
LAMB: Had he lived, what do you think he--you know, 49 in '71. That
would make him--What?--in his late 60s or so today. What do you think
he would've turned out to be in the civil rights movement?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, various people have said that he was looking to
leave the National Urban League and go on and do something different.
I'm--I'm not sure what he would've done. Certainly, he was
discouraged by the Nixon administration's attitudes toward school
integration and lax enforcement of voting rights in the South and--and
that sort of thing. So I don't know whether he would've wanted a
break from what he was doing or--or what.
LAMB: Anyway, we were talking earlier about you had the 13 chapters
and other people--Andrew Carnegie--your research on him, most of the
material was where?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Library of Congress.
LAMB: In Washington?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Research material on Henry J. Kaiser.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mostly in Berkeley.
Ms. O'TOOLE: At the University of California.
LAMB: Did these men all give it to the universities or did their
ancestors give it to universities? Do you know?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I believe in the case of Kaiser, for example, that
there came a point when the company decided it didn't wanna keep these
records anymore, and so they made some kind of arrangement with the
universities--hundreds of, probably, thousands of boxes of material.
LAMB: Henry Ford's material that you found.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Henry Ford's people did a very interesting thing. In
the--in the late '40s and early '50s, I don't know who commissioned
the book, but there was a big three-volume history of him and the Ford
Motor Company that was undertaken by a man named Allan Nevins and an
assistant. And they kind of invented the modern version of oral
history. They conducted a lot of interviews with people who'd been
key to Ford in the early years, and this project has continued, and so
when you go out to Dearborn, Michigan, to Greenville Village, where
all these records are, it's amazing what you can draw on--you know,
recollections of people who were there in 1908 and that kind of thing.
LAMB: When did you decide then in your own life to teach?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It came about by accident. I had an invitation to do
this about four years ago, and so I tried it out and it seems to have
worked, so I continue.
LAMB: And you teach students how to research. How about in your own
case? How do you gather the material physically when you go around?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh...
LAMB: What little techniques do you use?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I try to take as many notes on the spot as I can,
because otherwise there's a temptation to copy everything and
you--you're just postponing the inevitable task of--of distilling
things. So I travel around with a little laptop--before there were
little laptops, I had a little Panasonic portable typewriter that
operated on batteries, had a memory of 16 characters--that was
all--and you typed on this funny thermal sort of paper--and a lot of
cutting and pasting. I--I think I will--for another book, I will
master some kind of database software and get as high-tech as I can.
LAMB: You mentioned the Internet earlier. What is that doing for
research? Helping or hurting?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I think that I'm very glad to have learned how to do
research before the Internet so that I didn't imagine that everything
in the world I could possibly want is there. But it is amazing,
what's available. For the last chapter of my book, which is about
these religious shareholders who use their standing as shareholders to
lobby corporations for social change, one of the issues they're
concerned about is the incredible debt of Third World nations to
Western banks. And usually when you read about this in the Western
press, the line is kind of, `Well, they borrowed the money, so they
have to pay it back.' But with the Internet, I could actually find
things written by finance ministers in countries in Africa, for
example, and their point of view is a little bit different. It's
thinks like, `Well, you know, it was Mobutu who borrowed this money
and it was Idi Amin who borrowed this money. And why should we get
stuck having to pay what these dictators that we finally--pay for
these dictators that we've finally thrown out?'
Also, in Burma, which is now known as Myanmar, there's a very
repressive militator--m--military dictatorship, and there's the young
man at the University of Wisconsin who has organized the Human Rights
Campaign on the Internet and he's organized student actions all over
the world to protest companies who do business there. And it's
achieved certain things like--Pepsi was one of them, and these
students got together and they kept a Pepsi restaurant company, Taco
Bell, from operating on the campus at Stanford University, and
finally, Pepsi has made some changes as a result of this. So it's a
wonderful democratizing tool.
LAMB: Who's Tim Smith?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Tim Smith is the executive director of the Interfaith
Center on Corporate Responsibility.
LAMB: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, ICCR...
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...you call them. And wh--h--I know at one point you said he
was 28 and--when he started this whole thing. How old is he today?
Ms. O'TOOLE: He's in his late 40s.
LAMB: Still doing it.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Still doing it, yeah, and...
LAMB: How does it work?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, the way it works is they now have, I think, about
400 members, and the members are organizations that might be as small
as a little order to monks and nuns in Pennsylvania and as large as
the Baptist Church. And they all have investment portfolios, and a
lot of people don't know this, but when you're a stockholder in a
company, you have a right to present certain issues to the board of
directors, and these things can find their way into a document that
comes to shareholders of every corporation in advance of its annual
meeting. So you can do things like say, `We think you should get out
of South Africa.' That was a big campaign of ICCR in the '80s, and
they were the ones who led that in the United States and were
instrumental in getting American corporations to--to leave. They've
al--they also do things like they say, `We notice you don't have any
women or minorities on your board of directors, so we're going to
withhold our vote for your slate of candidates and...'
LAMB: Does it work?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Sometimes it works and the best thing about it is it's
a really--it's really, in my view, a wonderful David and Goliath kind
of tool because all you have to do to participate in this is own
$1,000 worth of stock, a stock, for a year and then you can begin
talking to them about some of these issues that you're concerned
about, and eventually, you could get one of these resolutions into a
proxy statement and all shareholders would vote on it. So it's a
wonderful way to bring an issue to a vote. And often, it's rare that
you have to win 51 percent of the votes to get some kind of change.
Usually when the vote gets up to 10 percent or 15 percent, there's
enough publicity and heat that the corporation does respond.
And a lot of issues are settled even before this. There was a famous
one in the '80s when some religious shareholders discovered that an
Asian affiliate of Colgate was selling toothpaste in Hong Kong called
Darkie toothpaste with a blackface logo on it, and they went to
discuss this with the chairman of Colgate-Palmolive and--and said,
`What would you like to do about this?' And he said, `We'd like to
get rid of it right away, thank you very much.' And so lots of things
don't even happen in a confrontational way.
LAMB: Other people in your book, other chapters include Ben Franklin.
Why Mr. Franklin?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he's the one who synthesized this getting rich
and doing good in himself better than anybody else I came across. He
was a printer, very successful and prosperous printer until he was
about 42, and then he gave himself to good works for the rest of his
life, which turned out to be about another 42 years. And he--he
started in his community, which was Philadelphia, did all kinds of
things. One of them was he redesigned the streetlamp. Before
Benjamin Franklin, streetlamps were globes and they were always
getting broken, and they--the smoke was collecting in there, so he
figured out that if you made four panels of glass around them, one
panel got broken, that's all you had to replace. And he put a little
vent in the bottom to let the smoke out so that they didn't have to be
cleaned every day.
He also invented, I think, the challenge grant, as far as I--I never
found an earlier example of this. You know, now we have these in
non-profit organizations all the time, `I'll give you $1,000 if you
can raise $1,000 with somebody else.' And he wanted to build a
hospital in--in Philadelphia, and the Legislature for the rest of
Pennsylvania thought, `Well, we don't wanna spend money on that and
it'll be--all just be in Philadelphia. We don't even know if the
Philadelphians want a hospital.' So he said, `If I can raise X amount
of money, will you match it?' and they said, `Yes,' thinking he
wouldn't be able to do it. But he did.
LAMB: Now you pointed out that in 1776, when the Declaration of
Independence was written, that Ben Franklin was 70 but that Thomas
Jefferson was 33...
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right. Isn't that amazing?
LAMB: ...and that John Adams was 40 and George Washington was 44.
And then when they--you didn't say anything about this, but when he
went to the constitutional convention later on in 1787, in that time
frame, he was in his early 80s.
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right, he was 81, yeah.
LAMB: And the rest of them were still young.
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's right, yeah.
LAMB: What did his age have to do with anything in that time period?
Did it matter to the younger ones that he would--had been around a
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, it's interesting to me--it seems he was the most
radical of all of them, and I think sometimes you can afford to be
that when you're older. So that w--that was...
LAMB: What would he d--what'd he do radic--what were--what was
radical about him?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, he was--he called for a plan of union a long time
before anybody else was ready to do it. He called for that in 1754
and none of the governors of the colonies--they just saw that as
having to give up some of their authority over the colonies. So that
was kind of a radical idea.
LAMB: Poor Richard's Almanack was his. How did he start that?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Mm-hmm. He basically copied it from other almanacs
that he knew about that were successful.
LAMB: How'd you research Ben Franklin?
Ms. O'TOOLE: The Benjamin Franklin papers--it's an enormous,
long-standing project at Yale University. It's many volumes of--of
papers and they'll be going on probably for another generation before
they get all the way to the end of his very long life. So most things
are right there in those papers.
LAMB: Did you go to Yale?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yes. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Many times.
LAMB: When you do a project like this, who pays all that travel?
Ms. O'TOOLE: The author, yeah. It was very expensive to do this
LAMB: You gonna end up making money on the book in the end?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, maybe if you'll run this show about 100 times.
LAMB: Will it matter to you?
Ms. O'TOOLE: It's up to you, Brian.
LAMB: I mean, are--at this stage in your life, are you trying to make
money off this book or th--are there other reasons for doing it?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, this one--I c--I can't imagine ever getting out
of the hole with this one. My publisher was as generous as it felt it
could be. We didn't have any higher offers. But the amount of money
that they put up is--was about a sixth of what it cost me to live
during the time I did it and to take on all the research that--that
needed to be done. So all I know for sure is that I can't do this
again. It has to be a paying proposition next time around.
LAMB: In--in another chapter, you focus on the transcendentalists and
the Concord, Massachusetts, folks--Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo
Emerson. What--what impact have they had on this whole discussion?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, they're very interesting to go back to at--at our
time, look back 150 years, because they were really the first ones who
said, `Hey, this--this marketplace frenzy that we're in is crowding
all the rest of society to the margins, and that's probably not a good
thing.' And in the beginning, they thought that what they would do is
drop out, you know, `Well, we can't save them, so we'll just save
ourselves and forget the rest.' But the issue of slavery made
activists out of them. They felt they had to use their powers of
persuasion and their privilege and influence to change people's minds
about this issue. So I don't know what w--issue we need in our time
to mobilize the people who've dropped out, but...
LAMB: Which one do you like more, Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henry David
Ms. O'TOOLE: I have such a soft spot for Henry David Thoreau. I
even thought one time about trying to talk somebody into letting me go
live at Walden and try to repeat his--his experiment.
LAMB: How long did he live there, by the way?
Ms. O'TOOLE: A couple years, two years and a couple of weeks.
LAMB: What was the story about--he wanted to do something or somebody
wouldn't let him--I remember you writing about it--at--at Walden Pond,
either the fellow that owned the house or somebody refused him.
Ms. O'TOOLE: Oh, it was a--a different pond that he wanted to camp
on the shores of and the farmer...
Ms. O'TOOLE: ...the farmer wouldn't let him. Actually, he ended up
camping on land that Emerson owned, so Em--Emerson was a wonderful
benefactor of Thoreau.
LAMB: How much of--of Thoreau do you like because of his civil
disobedience and that whole political side of it?
Ms. O'TOOLE: I am very attracted to that. I think that's a
wonderful example. I--during the Vietnam War, that was a very
important touchstone for me. My form of civil disobedience consisted
of protest marches and writing a lot of letters, and then I, through
the whole Vietnam War, wouldn't stand up during "The Star-Spangled
Banner" but always with Thoreau--and I never did go to jail the way he
did. Also, his--his love of nature and he's such a misfit, s--sort
of, you know, very awkward and socially awkward. And his brother, to
whom he was very close, died when they were very young, when they were
in their 20s, and I think he never really got over that. There was
one point when his parents thought that he should go away and live on
his own, he's all grown up now, and he just got tears in his eyes and
they said, `All right. We won't--we won't make you--we will let you
stay.' He's a very touching figure to me.
LAMB: Wh--where do you think you got your--either your political view
of the world or your anger about money and morals or money and things
like the Vietnam War? Where--where was the first place in your life
that somebody kind of tipped you in that direction?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Well, I don't feel angry about money and morals. I
think Emerson said that poverty demoralizes. That's why it's a bad
thing. In other words, goodness requires spare change, you know. You
can't expect people to--you can't expect those two men I saw on the
park bench to care very much about the well-being of society when
they're hungry and they don't have a place to live. So I really
believe that that's why we need to have a basic level of decency for
every citizen, whether we approve of their behavior or not, because
otherwise they're just disconnected from the rest of society. And
where that comes from is, I think, growing up in a small town in the
Midwest, because you can see how the whole town works. You can see
that it is a community, you know everyone and you see people taking
care of one another. So you just--you know, what I want is that to be
extrapolated to the whole society.
LAMB: You say earlier in your book that one of the guides for you in
your life is--or maybe just for this book is Henry James. We just did
a book on William James, his brother. Why Henry James? What's
the--what--what do you like about him?
Ms. O'TOOLE: That's a wonderful book, by the way, that Linda Simon
book. I--I saw your show and enjoyed it. What I like about Henry
James is that he--he said--well, what pertains to this book in
particular, he said, `It's a complex fate to be an American,' and I
think it is, because we have enormous natural resources and enormous
opportunities. So we're--we always need to be thinking about, what
kind of a society do we want to have? Now that we've created all this
wealth we've created in the last three years in the stock market in
particular, what--what do we want--what kind of society do we want to
have? And this was a question asked in a novel by--I forget who at
the moment, but what kind of society would you create if you couldn't
know in advance your place in it? And I think that's how I would like
every--everyone to think about it.
LAMB: Our guest has been Patricia O'Toole. The name of the book is
"Money & Morals in America: A History." And last quick question: On
the front page--or the f--cover of your book is a--either a photograph
or a painting. What is it? Do you know?
Ms. O'TOOLE: Yes. It's a cityscape of St. Paul, Minnesota, back
around the turn of the century.
LAMB: Thank you very much.
Ms. O'TOOLE: My pleasure.
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