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The First Black Chaplain to the Queen and Parliament: Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin; The Year of Trump; Aftermath of the Grenfell Tower Fire. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET


[13:59:40] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, former dire poverty to becoming the first black woman to be chaplain to the Queen and to

Parliament. My conversation with Britain's Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin. Plus, the year of Trump. We look back at the disrupter in chief's first

year in office and what 2018 could have in store.

Good evening everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. This time of year, people of many different faiths are

celebrating. With the Jewish festival of Hanukkah over, Christians around the world are now waiting for Christmas. For many, it's a time of rest

with loved ones. But for my next guest, it is the busy season. The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin has lived an extraordinary life.

After a tough start in Jamaica, she knew she wanted to be a reverend from a very young age, moving to England, where she steadily climbed towards the

pinnacle of power. She is now chaplain to the speaker of the British Parliament, the first woman and the first black person to hold that

position. She's also a chaplain to the queen. Her incredible story is about overcoming poverty, prejudice and sexism.

As I heard, it's a triple whammy that defines her and her ministry. Reverend Rose, welcome to the ministry.


AMANPOUR: So Reverend Rose, you grew up in Jamaica. And you actually have -- there is a sad, sad start to your story, whereby you talk about being

abandoned by your mother at the age of two. What happened?

HUDSON-WILKIN: Well, I don't know whether I would have called it being abandoned. But she wasn't there. It was, at the time, in the early `60s

when a lot of adults (ph) were leaving for the United Kingdom. And so my mother just happened to be one of those who left for the U.K.

AMANPOUR: She came to work?

HUDSON-WILKIN: She came here to work, yes. I just knew she wasn't there, I knew she was in England. But that was all, until I met her some seven

years later, when I was approximately nine years old.

AMANPOUR: And she had another family.

HUDSON-WILKIN: She had another family. I think at the time, back then, people -- you know, one parent would leave and another parent would join,

then the children would join. But my father was quite a difficult character. And I suspect that things were already difficult in their

relationship. They weren't married, so it meant that she was really free, in a sense, to start a new family. And she did.

AMANPOUR: And how did that impact you?

HUDSON-WILKIN: Well, I think it would be fair to say that because it was a completely new family, you then joined at (ph) this family and you're a

stranger. And they are strangers. So we're all getting to know each other, which was not always (inaudible) catholic spirit. (ph)

AMANPOUR: And you were -- clearly must have been looking -- I mean if we read modern psychology today, we see that children who've been in some way

or another ripped apart from their mothers, from their primary carers, from the main attachment are always looking for something or always longing for

something. Did you feel that?

HUDSON-WILKIN: I think -- I think I was looking and longing for love. And that's a strange thing to say. But your folks growing up in the Caribbean,

they weren't very necessarily tactile (ph) in saying I love you, you're a wonderful child or anything like that. You were fed and watered and

clothed, so you ought to know you're loved. And I guess there was -- that's something in me that needed more than that.

AMANPOUR: Do you think, looking now, 20/20 hindsight and in your career as a religious -- as -- as a chaplain now, as a reverend, is it something that

filled that gap for you?

HUDSON-WILKIN: I think faith did make me whole. And there were also -- the people who are regarded as my adopted mom and adopted dad who for me

were gentle and caring and said I love you and all those things that made it possible. But definitely my faith was the core of that. Because at the

heart of faith is about the god who loves.

AMANPOUR: And where did that come to you? How old were you when you understood that faith was your future?


HUDSON-WILKIN: I think I was about 14 years old. So pretty young, still. And I just had this overwhelming sense that I was being called and led to a

vocation of ministry. But of course, it's a weird thing to be called to something that does not exist. Because women were not being ordained in

leadership -- being in ordained leadership within the church at that time. I had a little pact with God and it was I believe you have called me so

it's up to you to make it possible.

AMANPOUR: And then he/she did.

HUDSON-WILKIN: Absolutely it became possible.

AMANPOUR: How did you bring the community around? I mean there were people in your first church when you came to London who just didn't want

you there, didn't think you should be there.

HUDSON-WILKIN: Yes in all my churches in the past. But do you know what? Because I believed that God calls me to be somewhere I go obediently and I

actually love the people including the prickly ones. And you, you love them and you just get on with ministering around them. And then they in

turn will know hopefully if they are being lead by the same spirit that this is of God.

AMANPOUR: And I've said you've been many firsts, so you're the first Chaplin to the speaker in the House of Commons in parliament, the first

black woman to do that.


AMANPOUR: Were you hurt when there seemed to be an argument about whether you should be chosen? And when the press stared talking about tokenism and

how the speaker was being politically correct?

HUDSON-WILKIN: I think that was the most painful bit of it all really when they talked about tokenism or political correctness. Because from my

perspective, you know if all those people who applied someone sits down and well a group of eminent people they sat down and they made their short

list. If they were short listing me simply out of tokenism then frankly it says something about their own inadequacies.

And not about me, but this is how the world is at the moment. Every time we say we want more women, or we want more black people or pink people, or

blue people, we say oh but we need to have people with the skills. Of course we need to have people with the skills. Who wouldn't want it?

But there are those who feel that they have a right to be in certain positions and in certain places. And if we don't look like you, speak like

you speak like you then perhaps you aren't quite, you aught not be in this room.

AMANPOUR: And what about the deep abuse that's being exposed in every walk of life right now? The me to movement. How does that figure in your

ministry and in your thoughts?

HUDSON-WILKIN: But it see that also comes from a background where we dehumanize the other person, so whether we dehumanize in a sexual way or in

a way to do with color or ethnicity. It stems from the same saying it is a failure to understand that we are one human race. Actually, I know we talk

about racism and it does exist, but there is only one human race and in the world.

And if we can show the respect to someone as a woman as a man as a black person as a white person, or whatever our various ethnic background, if we

could just show the respect that is due and not treat someone else, like a thing or an object then we will be doing a good thing.

AMANPOUR: This past year has been one in which terrorism came to the streets of London and Manchester. It had been France the year before. This

past year was Britain's time it was very painful and you were in parliament when that horrendous vehicle a knife attack took place.

And also you were there, just a year before when Joe Cox, the beautiful young British MP was murdered by a white nationalist. This was your group

of people suffering and how did you deal with that?

HUDSON-WILKIN: It was a very, very painful time what we really needs to do is not to allow those incidents to pull us apart and set us up against each

other, either because of religion, or color the, or ethnicity and we must when those things happen we must hold together all the decent people of

what ever color, what ever religious background. We must stand together because what we see in those incidents is evil.


Evil being personified and we should never be defined by that evil we should instead be defined by our acts of love our acts of forgiveness and

our acts of love, our acts of forgiveness and our acts of being able to stand with each other, irrespective of our various backgrounds.

AMANPOUR: Another one of your accomplishments is that you are chaplain to the Queen as well. One of several chaplains to the Queen.

HUDSON-WILKIN: We're all available to her, and we all have a huge responsibility of praying for her. And when folks were remarking about her

longevity and how well she is - I remember thinking, yes, that's amazing.

And then I caught myself saying, but why are you amazed Rose? You're all praying for her. Of course she's good.

AMANPOUR: And you get to talk to her?

HUDSON-WILKIN: -- talk about her heritage - we speak to her from time to time.


HUDSON-WILKIN: In different ways -in different - whether it's services that we meet her at.

AMANPOUR: And she is the head of the Church of England.


AMANPOUR: Does she have a strong faith? Does she ---

HUDSON-WILKIN: She has an amazing faith. Her majesty has a deep faith and I know that that is the faith that has sustained her. I like to think of

her as a mother, and a grandmother, and a wife. And so a woman, and when you are a woman then you face all the different travails (ph) that life

throws at you.

And I know that she's in particular position as Queen of our country and commonwealth. But nevertheless, if we think of her as a woman, then we can

respond it to her and understand all that she - the love she has for her family, and an (ph) oppose in (ph) press.

AMANPOUR: I understand that you are a very good singer. And you will be doing lots of carols during the holiday period. Many different religions

are celebrating their holidays right now. You as a Christian, it's about Christmas. Would you like to serenade us out with any last minute thingy?

HUDSON-WILKIN: Gosh - (ph) - oh my goodness. What can I think of? I have lots of different ones that I really love. (SINGING) I think I will stop


AMANPOUR: That is beautiful. Reverend Rose, thank you so much. And happy holidays to you.


AMANPOUR: Harmony and a message of mutual respect. Let's hope it's heard in the halls of power everywhere, like Washington, which has witnessed a

year of bitter political division. President Trump has finished 2017 on a high with his first major legislative win this week the most sweeping over-

haul of the U.S. tax system in more than 30 years.

But the investigation into alleged links between Moscow and Trump's campaign team is ongoing. And the President's approval rating has hit a

record low last month. What will 2018 bring the Trump White House?

I spoke to journalist and Daily Beast's Editor-in-Chief, John Avlon, who's been following the year's twists and many turns. So here we have a year

end legislative victory, a very, very rare one, but nonetheless, a big one for Donald Trump.

This tax reform, first time since Ronald Regan in the '80s. How significant is it - not just for him but for his base - his voters?

JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, from a political standpoint, it's a big win for the President and he needed it. There had

been no major pieces of legislation, Republicans were staring a perspective of not having a single big legislative win with unified control of


So for them this was let's get it done. Let's not focus even on the policy. Let's focus on the politics. And they got it done in a record

amount of time. That said, the devil's always in the details.

And this is not a great bill if you line it up with what the President proposed and promised to do. He built it as a middle-class tax cut. This

is not a middle-class tax cut. It's focused overwhelming on the wealthy and (ph) rolled over in corporate taxes.

He (ph) billed it as a tax simplification. That's something that conservatives have help out for a long time with good reason. It needs to

be done. But this doesn't do that.

This is basically about cutting the corporate rate, without closing any loop-holes. There are cuts across the board, but they will expire in a few

years time. And the net effect is a massive - trillion dollar ballooning in the deficit and the debt. So all those fiscal hawks (ph) who's been

fighting and finding comfort and (ph) the Republican party basically (ph) wove the white flag on this one.

I think the question is what does this bill really promise in terms of relief on (ph) Main Street, because it's been celebrated on Wall Street and

there's been quite a run. And that's where the real problems lies. Trump and the Republican basically believe that if you cut corporate taxes

dramatically that that will necessarily have a knock (ph) on effect. If there (ph) will be more employment, more hiring, more manufacturing, more

building of factories.

But that really is a wish, and a prayer, and a hope. And we'll have to see over the next year if that begins to materialize. This bill seems much

more geared to Wall Street than Main Street.


And that's going to be a political calculation they're going to have to confront come the midterm in November.

AMANPOUR: I mean, even the conservative think tankers said and let me just name it for all of us the nonprofit group called the 45Committee shows that

40 percent support the republican tax spend. Less than 49 percent that oppose it, of course. Now, that's not good is it for an election that's

coming up and already you see the other side not a single democrat voted for it is planning to use it as further in the midterms?

AVLON: No question about it and it's yet another example of these partisan line votes on major bills which is a departure from our best traditions in

America. You know the Reagan tax cut had over 30 democrat senators voting for it. But we have and it was true for the ACA, Obamacare, these party

line votes on major legislation that I think is a canary in the coalmine about just how corrosive hyper partisanship has got in our country.

So democrats are planning to use this as a wedge issue in the election. Republicans are really hoping they'll be able to point to the economy and

see it had positive effect. The really long term danger is that actually exacerbates inequality. You know that was one of the riffs Trump hit over

the campaign very effectively.

The system is rigged against you those forgotten Americans and that he would somehow do something about it. But a lot of the structural issues

here promise to exacerbate income inequality. If that happens that's bad for society as well as republicans in the upcoming election.

AMANPOUR: Indeed and, of course, around the world. Now, by and large, around the world most people are kind of drawing a sign of relief that it

hasn't been as disruptive or as, you know, completely chaotic as was promised during the campaign. But there have been significant areas


U.S. sort of signaling from Asia to the climate to other places that is traditional leadership role is being rethought. How - I mean, how is that

going down with his voters?

AVLON: Well, the president campaigned on America First which is a slogan that is resident with an isolationist impulse in America but since

achieving office what's fascinating is that there - he has a National Security team which has basically been playing a game of contain the


Trying to restrain him from his worst impulses. These aren't people who are more internationalist than the president. Secretary of Defense James

Mattis for example is National Security Advisor McMaster. So, they've been trying to reframe it as America First doesn't mean America alone.

That said, America is the only country in the world now not supporting the Paris Climate Accord. That's not leadership. That's an outlier. A

president abandoned TPP the Trans-Pacific Partnership. At the same time while he's trying to get tough on China, those two things are


Now, he's trying to form a broader coalition against North Korea, ratcheting up rhetoric and that's something unfortunately I think we're

going to see more of in 2018. But from a global perspective, I mean, President Trump isn't just historically unpopular at home, he seems to be

historically unpopular abroad.

There are certainly strong men who see a kindred spirit in Donald Trump and he is warmed up to sort of the soft authoritarian generation of leaders

from Duterte to Erdogan to others. That's not a good sign though from a pillar of liberal democracy that American has been.

Those broader coalitions that have helped to have a half century of peace in the Second World War. Those are still very much in question. It hasn't

fallen apart yet. There are powerful forces constraining the president but his impulses are outside those historic norms.

AMANPOUR: And, just to get back to the United States, apart from the tax victory, he has also had success, hasn't he, quietly and kind of, sort of,

under the radar of rolling back regulations in the United States, the whole regulatory system covering many, many issues and of having his own judges

and others confirm that we'll have, you know, their lifetimes of effect on the benches. How much of an impact will all of that have for the people of


AVLON: Well, the judges are significant. They really have - republicans have unified control and the president has pushed forward a record number

of federal judges but in the last few weeks a couple have really have fallen apart and had to withdraw because of withering questions from fellow

republicans in the Senate basically asking do you have any experience at all.

Can you ask basic questions about the law? And what it exposed is a lot of the vetting process today coming out of the White House has been focusing

almost exclusively on ideology not experience. Now that also is outside out traditions as a county where the judiciary is supposed to be beyond


But there's starting to be some scrutiny because even if you're approaching things from a partisan perspective you can't accuse fundamental

incompetence in the name of ideology. And that's the danger. For the regulations that the president is famously saying he's trying to remove two

regulations for every one he puts in place.


And, we'll see what the long term knock out effects are. But with the president's view of, for example, environmentalism is out of step with the

vast majority of Americans as we see in many cases and his politics and his policy have been preoccupied with playing the debates which may be why he

comes out of his first year historically unpopular in the history of polling we've never had a president this unpopular.

AMANPOUR: Well you can imagine President Trump's longevity preoccupies much of the rest of the world as well, and not just about the Russia

investigation but about the #MeToo Movement (ph). And I asked because recently because some 50 Congresswoman have asked for a committee to

investigate allegations of President Trump's alleged sexual abuse and, you know, those people came out -- the ladies in a press conference not long

ago to reiterate their allegations. Do you think that has any legs in Congress? Will the President's conduct be investigated like other

Congressional, you know -- like other people in Congress have -- have been?

AVLON: At the moment, it seems unlikely. But the whole #MeToo Movement (ph) has been a wave washing though industries and displacing powerful

people at a -- at a unbelievable pace. What's different about this, I mean, we have 12 -- more than a dozen accusers against the President. And

the White House line has been the American people decided they didn't care after the election. I mean, you know, the -- the -- the American people

spoke, the accusations were out there, let's move on.

If a Congressional inquiry is conducted, what will be different is they will actually have subpoena power. They can compel testimony, that's

different than, for example, what journalists can do. But the -- the -- the primary focus of Congressional investigations to date has been

absolutely on the question of Russia, on -- on attempted influence in our election, and what the President and his campaign knew, and when they knew


This is a new line of inquiry. Democrats are taking it seriously, despite the albatross of Bill Clinton's precedent two decades ago in a very

different time. If it goes forward, that'll be fascinating to see what happens with testimony and subpoena power. But it's a definitely second-

tier priority at the moment, but this is happening quickly and calculus (ph) can change in a second.

AMANPOUR: Now at the end of the day, politics should be all about the people. This year, Londoners suffered the most devastating fire since the

Blitz, when a high-rise apartment block known as Grenfell Tower literally went up in flames, sparked by a faulty fridge. Seventy-one people, mostly

low-income families and immigrants were incinerated. It happened in one of the richest neighborhoods in one of the richest cities in the world. Food

for thought and prayers this holiday season, as we see now from Phil Black.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christmas in London is for most people a truly joyful time, but not here. In this pocket of west London, you'll

find some efforts to mark the season but they're rare and overwhelmed by a monstrous dark presence. The black husk of Grenfell Tower looms over

streets where there are no decorations, just memorials to 71 people, suddenly taken in one horrific night six months ago. Photos, messages and

tributes to people whose families must endure their first Christmas without them.

The Tabernacle Christian Church is one of the places the fire's survivors come to collect donated clothes. Volunteers here are making a real effort

with the decorations. They haven't given up on trying to make people feel some happiness, but their expectations are modest.

CLARRIE MENDY: A lot of parents will try and make Christmas for the sake of their children. But the elders, like me, I ain't (ph) got no Christmas

-- forget Christmas this year or anything (ph).

BLACK: Clarrie Mendy lost two cousins in the fire, Mary Mendy and her daughter Khadija Saye.

MENDY: I miss -- I miss the gentleness, the smile, the warmness.

BLACK: For the Jafari family Christmas is special, but it's never been about faith. They're devout Muslims who fled Afghanistan and lived in

Grenfell for more than 15 years. Satamah (ph) escaped the fire and she's cried every day since. Her husband Ali (ph), was overcome by smoke as the

family fled.

HAMID ALI JAFARI: An ambulance (ph) couldn't save him. He passed away next to the Tower. My mom and my dad used to celebrate my birthday on the

Christmas because I'm (ph) born on Christmas.

BLACK: You were born on Christmas?


JAFARI: Yes. And then my dad was born on the 5th (ph) of January, so we still celebrate.

BLACK: Elise (ph) and Hamid (ph) stood outside as the fire consumed the building. Helpless, desperate, knowing his father was somewhere inside.

This 33-year-old man is now too traumatized to sleep in the dark. His mother is terrified of tall buildings. His young son is scared of birthday


For the Jafari's there is some solace in community. On the 14th of every month, the day of the fire, crowds walk silently through the streets

surrounding Grenfell. December's turnout was the biggest yet. The event's quiet (ph) power is a demand for justice from ongoing investigations. It's

a respectful tribute and an active mutual support. Hamid Jafari is grateful, but it can't fill the absence left by his father.

JAFARI: You know, 1 hour, 2 hour, 24 hours I just miss him.


AMANPOUR: And as Phil Black says, Grenfell still stands above the London skyline as a monument to suffering. And many who survived still have no

permanent homes. We hope that 2018 brings better times for those who have lost so much. And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can

always listen to our podcast, see us online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.