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Students demand action after Florida massacre; Joan Baez's final "Fare Thee Well" tour

Aired February 22, 2018 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, students keep up the pressure after the Florida school massacre and President Trump shifts his

views closer to their cause. I'm joined by one of the student survivors who started the Never Again Movement and a young conservative who might be

ready to challenge the NRA.

Plus, the folk legend Joan Baez on her "Fare Thee Well" tour, Bob Dylan and her lifelong activism.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Left shouts at right, right shouts at left. But on

guns, in America, could a group of high school students turn tragedy into breakthrough.

President Trump today appears, if only incrementally, to want act on gun control. Listen to what he said from the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I called many senators last night, many congressmen, and Jeff and Pam and everybody in this room, I can

tell you, Curtis, they are into doing background checks that they wouldn't be thinking about maybe two weeks ago.

We are going do strong background checks. We are going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18. We're getting rid of the bump stocks. And

we're going to be focusing very strongly on mental health.


AMANPOUR: This comes a day after he was confronted by a father, Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was shot and killed last week at the

school. Pollock poured his sadness and the frustration shared by millions in America.


ANDREW POLLACK, DAUGHTER KILLED IN THE STONEMAN DOUGLAS SHOOTING: It doesn't make sense. Fix it. Should've been one school shooting and we

should have fixed it. And I'm pissed because my daughter I'm not going to see again. She's not here. She's not here. She's in North Lauderdale at

whatever it is, King David Cemetery. That's where I go to see my kid now.


AMANPOUR: It's so hard to hear. But could a solution to all of this lie with America's young people. Sofie Whitney is a senior at the Stoneman

Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And we're also joined by a rising star in the young conservative movement, Charlie Kirk. He is

president of Turning Point USA, which advocates for conservative principles on American college campuses.

I want to welcome you both to the program. And this country - your country appears to be in the midst of a truly profound conversation. And I want to

first ask you whether you believe that it will be more than just this one week of tragedy.

Sofie, what have you heard from your leaders, from the president that gives you hope one week later?


AMANPOUR: Yes. Can you hear me all right, Sofie? OK. What do you feel today, after the big town hall, after listening to so many of the political

leaders, after hearing President Trump talk about raising potentially the age of those who could buy these guns, of more background checks, of

addressing mental health?

WHITNEY: I feel like the political leaders all across the country are really understanding that we're serious and that we're not backing down.

AMANPOUR: And do you feel like you are really having an effect? You've all been marching on the state capitol. You've spent a week in the

aftermath of this tragedy, really showing an amazing and unprecedented activism.

WHITNEY: I think that we actually are going to have an effect and we are going to change because no one has ever seen anything like this before. No

one has seen high school students have this kind of voice about something so important that our government really has avoided for so long.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to you, Charlie, because I believe you're coming to us from the CPAC Conference. And the head of the NRA was there. And he

gave a rather blistering counterpoint to some of the words that we're hearing from left and right about trying to find a solution.

I wonder whether his fiery rebuttal is something you expected to hear and what you made of it today?

CHARLIE KIRK, TURNING POINT USA PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I want to say that Sofie and the students that are doing this activism are no short

of American heroes in what they're doing.

[14:05:00] I run a student organization and I know how important student activism is. And it's horrific what has happened last week. And the best

way to get change is to go do something about it, which I'm full support of.

And as far as the comments here, I mean, look, I think this transcends politics, and that's the position I'm coming from. I'm a lifelong NRA

member. I'm a legal gun owner and I support the Second Amendment, but the status quo is just not OK.

I mean, our generation puts everything on the Internet. We have limitless access to technology and information, yet somehow we don't have laws that

are calibrated to make sure that psychopaths and crazy people are not able to obtain weaponry that can do massive harm, that's just not OK.

And it's our generation that is suffering because of it. And I think that transcends politics. And I come at it from a conservative perspective,

mind you, one that respects the Second Amendment, but we need to readdress our public policy and incorporate new age technologies, so that this never

happens again because this is our generation that has to make these decisions.

AMANPOUR: I'm sure, listening to you, and I can see Sofie nodding her head, that there is a meeting of the minds. And those words will be of

great comfort to people who want some basic safety.

So, what are you suggesting, Charlie? I mean, what are the parameters? Obviously, nobody is going to abolish the Second Amendment. Nobody is

talking about taking guns away. But what is your specific solution?

KIRK: First and foremost, I don't think you should be able to purchase a weapon in this country on cash alone. Just after 9/11, it was a wakeup

call for this country. And it's a horrible analogy to make, but I'll just entertain it for a second.

After 9/11, it was a wakeup call. You know what? We totally changed the way that people interacted with air travel. We didn't ban air travel, but

there were no fly lists. You had to buy almost every air ticket with a credit card. You had to show a photo ID to get on to an airplane.

And I think, look, if you look at the amount of information that is available out there, you just take a company like MasterCard or American

Express, they know more about me and you than the federal government knows about the people buying these weapons.

So, the solution is, there has to be some form of national legislation passed that we can use new age technology, whether it be these big Silicon

Valley firms, so that these nutcases are not able to get the hands on the weapons.

And you know what? This guy should have had his weapons taken away, should not have been allowed to even purchase these weapons in the first place.

What that looks like? I'm not exactly sure, but I would support using technology, using information that is already readily available, so that

this sort of stuff can never happen again because, I guarantee you, right now, as we have this topic, there's someone that is unhinged, that is going

try to purchase a weapon right now. What are we doing to try to prevent that right now? And that's a conversation we need to have.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to get to Wayne Lapierre who made a comment on this notion of lists. But, first, I do want to follow up on what you've just


I want to play for you and Sofie something from the town hall that CNN hosted last night. It was one of Sofie's classmates, Ryan Deitsch, who

confronted, in a very passionate and a very logical way, Sen. Marco Rubio. Listen to this.


RYAN DEITSCH, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: We'd like to know why do we have to be the ones to do this? Why do we have to speak out

to the capitol? Why do we have to march on Washington? Just to save innocent lives?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You're absolutely right. And let me start by saying, and it goes without saying that what you've lived through and

what you live through, is not supposed to be a part of your high school experience. It's just not supposed to happen.


AMANPOUR: What did you make of that, Sofie? I know you say you believe that the politicians are, for the first time, hearing you, listening to you

and they understand what's going on. But were you surprised that he did seem to really hear the pain in the room and at least he showed up there to

have a live discussion?

WHITNEY: Yes. I mean, I think that Sen. Rubio is probably scared of that question because, like Ryan said, we're the ones doing this when it's

supposed to be his job.

AMANPOUR: So, how long do you think you are going to be able to continue doing this? I mean, activism is a really - a 100 percent job. And I think

everybody wants to know whether this is going to be a major momentum that you're going to hang on to. What are you all talking about with your

classmates right now about day two - or rather week two, week four?

WHITNEY: I mean, from what I have talked about with my team at Never Again, I feel like we are all in, we are ready to do whatever it takes to

make this movement - make it big enough and strong enough, so we can pass legislation, so no one else has to die.

AMANPOUR: I want to turn to you again, Charlie, because you have just given us a specific proposal to be able to track through credit cards,

through all these other issues.

But Wayne Lapierre, the head of the NRA, was - totally sort of dissed that in his speech today. Let's just play a little bit of what he said.


[14:10:05] WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO AND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFFLE ASSOCIATION: Good, law-abiding people were automatically and

unjustly declared mentally incompetent and put on a new government list. And, oh, how socialist love to make lists, especially lists that can be

used to deny citizens their basic freedoms.


AMANPOUR: So, Charlie, he is dismissing the notion of any kind of lists, the one you said, the one he has just said that people want. How are you

actually - from your end - going to fight this leadership?

KIRK: Well, look, I don't need to fight it. I know Wayne. I am an NRA member. I support what he says. He is not wrong that lists are abuse when

government gets their hands on it.

But you have to have a conversation about what expense. Are you going to sacrifice a little bit of freedom for safety? And I think, at this moment,

yes, people that have questionable mental health backgrounds, that's a list that is worth taking. And that's a conversation that I'm willing to have.

And whether it's a few points of disagreement here and there, I think that's OK to have.

But, look, here's the broader question is, how many other people are out there right now that should not have hands on weapons, should not have

firearms? And I don't think it's wildly controversial, and I can see this as a legal gun owner, I don't feel my rights would go away if there's more

serious mental health checks.

And I also think there needs to be more pressure put on the community that's actually communicating with these individuals, such as the mental

health community. They need to put more red flags out there. They need to be incentivized to do so. And then, the FBI needs to also do their job

when they're notified.

But even more than that, if you look at the amount of information that's out there and if you look at what that horrible evil person, Nikolas Cruz,

if you look at it, there was a lot of warning signs that we could've found in basic consumer behavior and data.

If he was taking - he was taking medication. He had to - both of his parents died. He said questionable things. He posted negative comments.

Any sort of somewhat sophisticated artificial intelligence platform can be programmed to detect these things with readily - already publicly available


And then, also some of the burden has to be on the firearm industry as well. It cannot only be government. I mean, the firearm industry has to

take more responsibility of who they're actually selling these weapons to.

Look, it's not an easy discussion. It's a highly personal issue. For those of us that own weapons and those that take this really personally,

you have to understand that there is this fear that government is going to take our guns away. And it's not going to happen, but it's a conversation

worth having.

And, look, it transcends politics.

AMANPOUR: Well, I want to - on that note, I would like to play you something that Van Jones, the political and social commentator told me last

night. He is, obviously, a progressive, he is a liberal and he had a message for both liberals and conservatives on this issue about hearing the

story of the other. Just listen to what he said.


VAN JONES, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think liberals have to do a better job of saying we want you to be able to defend yourself in your home, we recognize

you have a right to hunt, we are talking about a particular set of super- lethal weapons that we don't think have a place in civil society. And, on those, we want to have more restrictions. But, first, we've got to do a

better job of giving that respect.

On the other side, I think the gun-owning community and the responsible gun community has to recognize even the First Amendment is not without any

restrictions. You can't cry a fire in a crowded theater. All of our rights have to be balanced with certain responsibilities. And the Second

Amendment is no exception to that.


AMANPOUR: So, I want to give you both a last word - a short last word. Sofie, what do you make of what he said that liberals have to do in terms

of accepting the rights of gun owners and all of that.

WHITNEY: I completely understand and I agree. We're not trying to take guns out of the hands of mentally stable, law-abiding citizens. And it's

not what we want. We're just trying to make it safer for people to not get killed.

AMANPOUR: And I guess, Charlie, you have addressed some of these restrictions that you think need to be put in. But do you believe perhaps,

and listening to what Van just said, that this is a game-changing moment that your generation, you young conservatives and young liberals perhaps

are the ones to take this further and change the conversation in a respectful, safe and productive law-abiding way.

KIRK: Why not? Look, what we're having right here, you don't see very often. No one raised their voice. It's a highly emotional issue. We

probably don't agree on every set point of issues.

But I think our generation is kind of looking for solutions because our generation are the ones that are actually, unfortunately, being targeted by

a lot of these horrible events. Even the one in Las Vegas, the country music festival was mostly millennials under the age of 30.

So, yes, I do think it transcends politics, but it has to be built on mutual respect for finding solutions, but also understanding where both

sides are coming from.

[14:15:05] And also, we come from a different era and an age where we say, wait a second, we have a 19th century process of purchasing weaponry in

this country in the 21st century. It just doesn't make any sense.

So, how do you balance the freedom with necessary security, while also understanding the heritage of the legal gun ownership in this country. And

I am confident our generation can come to that solution.

AMANPOUR: Well, I think you two have said some very important things here tonight. And I think you really demonstrated the possibility of having a

civil conversation. And I think the country, and certainly the world probably depends on your wise generation.

So, good luck to you as you tow this very difficult, but very vital road ahead.

Charlie Kirk, Sofie Whitney, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

And as you just heard today's student activism is a timely reminder that it is a long and proud American tradition. One of my next guests - one that

my next guest embodied even as she wrote and sang some of the world's best- loved folksongs.

Joan Baez was the musician who could hit all the high notes. And she also used that voice for civil rights and against war. She's indeed a legend

and a hero to generations of Americans. And now, at 77, she's releasing a new album and embarking on a "Fare Thee Well" tour.

She may be parking her tour bus, but she is still true to her beliefs. And in the twilight of her career, she has been brutally honest about the

limitations that age brings.

Joan Baez, welcome to the program.

JOAN BAEZ, FOLK SINGER: Thank you very much for having me.

AMANPOUR: Tell me what it actually takes to be on the road for six weeks. I mean, how much more difficult it is at your age to get your voice ready

to be on stage?

BAEZ: Well, it's just that. This muscle in here is not flexible the way it used to be. So, if you just picture a tennis player and somebody says

why don't you play the way you used, well, spending all that time keeping the muscle toned up. So, it takes a lot of effort and time.

AMANPOUR: I want to play a little excerpt of one of your most famous songs. It's "Diamonds and Rust" and we're going to play it and then we'll

talk about it.


AMANPOUR: You talk about the muscle that created that voice. It's one of the purest, one of the truest notes in music history. And many have

described it like that. Do you miss that voice? Do you still have that?

BAEZ: I do not have it. And I do miss it. I had to come to terms with what I do have. And that took me - actually, it took me several years

because I was ready - I didn't like the sound coming out. I didn't like any of it.

And then, I saw ear, nose and throat guy. I thought maybe I've got a pimple on my vocal cords, they take it off and I'll be fine. He said, no,

this is you, this is it.

So, the first half was accepting what I had to work with, was what I had there. And then, he suggested a vocal therapist. So, this woman, in two

sessions, gave me so many new tools that the fun came back.

I wanted to be able to walk out on stage and enjoy myself. And so, that started coming back and that was a real treasure.

AMANPOUR: So, this is "Whistle Down the Wind". This is some of the new stuff.


AMANPOUR: OK. So, it does sound different. What did you do differently? How have you had to reengage, reemploy your vocal cords and your muscles?

[14:20:00] BAEZ: You reinvent. Materially reinvent, yes, because this is now a much more honest voice that reflects 60 years on the road.

If you ask me, I like the results of what we got on the album.

AMANPOUR: And you have said that for about a quarter of a century, I mean, literally 25 years, you didn't write a word, a lyric until the election of

Donald Trump.

BAEZ: Yes.

AMANPOUR: You found Donald Trump inspiring on many levels, not just that he got you to write again, but also the activism, which is so dear to your

heart. Seems to have had a whole new flourishing.

BAEZ: Well, I think, in the past week, it's had the biggest bump that it has since the million woman march. It's come out of nowhere. It's honest.

It's huge.

I mean, we never heard the CEO of the National Rifle Organization out there defending himself and making politically remarks later.

The kids are not really interested in that talk at all. And they suddenly have this momentum and they have people wanting to support them and be with

them. They're making sense.

Maybe we kind of have written off that generation, saying, well, they always think about themselves. And some of them, yes. But this is


AMANPOUR: I'm going to play a little bit of what Emma Gonzalez said.

BAEZ: Please.


EMMA GONZALEZ, GUN REFORM ADVOCATE: They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS.

They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS.

They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS.

They say that no lives could have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS.

That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.


BAEZ: I've got my makeup on. She makes me cry every time I see that. Just astounding.

AMANPOUR: They've really put themselves out there, these kids. You did that when you were 15.

I mean, one of your first acts, if not the first act, was refusing to salute the flag. You were 15 years old. Why was that?

BAEZ: Because my family became Quaker when I was about 8. And in Quakerism, the most important thing is to put a human being before the

nation state and you don't get to kill people for any reason.

But looking around, the main reason that we're fighting each other is we have partitioned ourselves into these nation states. And so, as a symbol

of that, I wouldn't salute anybody's flag.

That didn't matter. I mean, in the States, if you don't salute the flag, they just - they can't believe it. And I was immediately labeled a

communist and whatever else they could possibly say to denounce me.

AMANPOUR: You stayed true to what you believed in despite the prevailing winds, despite getting knocked around frequently. How hard is it going to

be for them to stay firm on this issue, of all issues, in today's climate of all climates?

BAEZ: The climate may help them stay strong. Sure, I mean, I would want to talk to them about when there's a dip, when you feel as though it's not

going to work, when you get discouraged and all of that stuff and how to try to stay on track because that will happen and how to keep from

infighting with each other - I mean, three people leading this right now. They're going to have problems. You have to be prepared for that.

For me, what always prepared it was Gandhian non-violence because then I was ready to kind of deal with whatever came my way and not expected

everything was going to be wonderful.

AMANPOUR: And it is extraordinary - I can't believe I'm sitting here. And you actually were at the 1963 March on Washington, there with Dr. King and

all the others who were there, and you sang.

And I believe you were with Bob Dylan at that time. You went together. Did you sort of steer him into activism?

BAEZ: Well, he didn't become an activist. He wrote the songs. And I think he had been in the South and the deep South a little before all of

this happened, doing some things that, I think, he really didn't want to do, be present and visible for the marches and the demonstrations.

So, he wrote our background music.

AMANPOUR: I mean, everybody always wants to talk to you and ask you and focus on your relationship with him. I mean, it just seemed to be the most

perfect union in terms of voice, in terms of -


AMANPOUR: Because it ended up not being right.

BAEZ: Well, it never does. Anybody, you're there for a while. Then you're gone. And how did it work out?

And I think, right now, I think each of us - I don't see him, but I've heard him say lovely things about me and I will certainly say lovely things

about him. So, whatever went wrong back there doesn't really matter.

[14:25:01] AMANPOUR: What was Dr. King like? So many people - people who've never met him, obviously, talk about him as a demigod. But you have

a much more personal view of him. And you said he was actually - had a wicked sense of humor as well.

BAEZ: He was very funny. And he knew he couldn't afford to be funny on camera. So, he saved it all for offstage. And, yes, a lot of laughter, a

lot of eating southern food, a lot of hanging out, and then he'd have to get serious again. Go preach.

AMANPOUR: And what do you want to tell everybody when you go out on your final hard-slog tour? What are you hoping to get and to give?

BAEZ: I will sing. I'll try to bring beauty to the world as best I can. I will tell people they should happily choose denial 80 percent of the time

and then figure out what they're going to do with the 20 percent where they could be of use to somebody.

Going to reintroduce empathy, compassion, kindness, intelligence. All of these things to take that 20 or 15 percent of your life and do that on any


I mean, when a kid says, or somebody says, well, what can I do? I can't tell you what to do, but I'd say follow your heart where - any

compassionate news is giving you, listen to it and act upon it.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's a very good note to end on. And a masterclass. Joan Baez, thank you very much indeed.

BAEZ: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Notes from the activist.

That's it for our program tonight. Goodbye from London.