Matthew McConaughey on Gratitude, Fatherhood, and Philosophy
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On this holiday weekend, we celebrate a favorite episode from earlier this year. Oscar winner and best-selling author Matthew McConaughey comes in the bubble to talk about the big lessons: what unites us, what he has learned about being a dad, what values really matter, and what we owe our kids. McConaughey tells Andy about the moments of decisive action that have shaped his life, which he explores in his book, “Greenlights,” and practices through his charitable work, including his just keep livin Foundation.
Keep up with Andy on Twitter @ASlavitt.
Follow Matthew McConaughey and his foundation, just keep livin, on Twitter @McConaughey and @jklivinFNDN.
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Check out these resources from today’s episode:
- Read Matthew’s memoir, “Greenlights”: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593139135
- Watch Matthew’s speech at the White House after the Uvalde shooting: https://www.c-span.org/video/?520803-1/uvalde-native-matthew-mcconaughey-joins-calls-gun-laws
- Find vaccines, masks, testing, treatments, and other resources in your community: https://www.covid.gov/
- Order Andy’s book, “Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response”: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250770165
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For additional resources, information, and a transcript of the episode, visit lemonadamedia.com/show/inthebubble.
Matthew McConaughey, Andy Slavitt
Andy Slavitt 00:18
Welcome IN THE BUBBLE, it’s August 22nd. I’m Andy Slavitt. Matthew McConaughey is on the show. After the horrible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, we were all reacting to a lot of stuff. All the bad, lost children, lost potential. One of the most awful things we’ve witnessed in maybe a decade, the parents, the family, the culpability of law enforcement, and of course, the political conversation about guns in the middle of it all. At some point, I remember hearing, hey, you know, Matthew McConaughey […]. And I was like, That’s a weird juxtaposition. I didn’t know he was from Texas. And I heard rumors like everyone else that he was potentially going to run for governor of Texas when he didn’t. And then a short while later, like the rest of you, I heard that he was speaking at the White House, after visiting us all day and meeting with parents in the community. And I talked to my friends in the White House, and watched it like everyone else did. And he made a really extraordinary statement, it was an extraordinary moment. It was also the short, nearly weird event. An actor, speaking in the White House briefing room. And of course, like everybody, he’s someone that I’ve seen for years, and seeking to speaking as an actor in movies, sometimes in settings like that. And then here he is, is sort of real life situation. And he’s asking Democrats and Republicans to come together and a green on a bill to reduce gun deaths. So he got my attention at that moment. And it made me want to bring him here in the bubble. And so preparing for that conversation, I decided to learn a little bit more about him as a person, you know, and like a lot of actors, he’s gotten very well defined in the public’s mind, in ways that are overly simplistic. You know, this guy did rom coms. And then there’s kind of a wild guy on the beach. And it’s a bunch of things that might cause people to discount you, if you’re an actor. And I think people get discounted, all of us get discounted for elements of our life. I learned he had a real childhood. And some of it was not dissimilar to mine. He’s figuring out life through, you know, loss and experience and what has worked for him and what hasn’t. He writes poetry, which my dad did. And he’s a massively best-selling author, which I wish I was. My book sold, okay, you can always still buy it. And we’re gonna get into his book, because it’s really interesting way of laying out how he views the world, and what he’s learned from it. So, as he comes on the show today, I wanted to share his story about those six days between the shooting in Uvalde. And the time he gave that speech, everything he did in between. But I also wanted to do something that I don’t think, is done very often with this person, which is, as I’ve watched, and listened to dozens of interviews, and let’s just have a conversation with him, not as an interviewer. But like a real person whose work and life experience are relevant. And, you know, having a real conversation with someone who you might know, because he’s a household name, or an actor is one thing. But I wanted to talk with him the same way. I would talk with you if I found you interesting. And you found me interesting. And I’d like to think that if you spend a little time on anybody’s biography, you’re going to find things that you find interesting. And I found lots of stuff with him. It was a great conversation. It’s hopefully not an interview. Hopefully, it’s conversation with a capital C. And that’s the goal. And it didn’t disappoint. So let’s get to it.
Andy Slavitt 04:33
Matthew before we start out to a couple funny things are interesting things. Maybe be interested to give you an orientation to who we are what we’re doing. I tried to get smart about Matthew McConaughey this last three or four days. Yeah, read your book. I loved it, went back and just read all the poems because I find like, it is impossible not to write embarrassing poetry and you wrote really good poetry. So I was really excited about that. And I was like, Okay, I’m getting smart. I’m getting ready. I’m getting into mode this morning. I’m talking to Larry Brilliant. And he’s like, he literally brings your name up. He’s like, I love Matthew. I love his wife. And I’m like, Well, I’m just I’m talking to him later today. He’s like, you are? And so he wanted to pass along his love and how much fun he’s had dinner with you all and everything.
Matthew McConaughey 05:17
Isn’t he awesome?
Andy Slavitt 05:18
He’s awesome. He’s a good old friend.
Matthew McConaughey 05:20
man. I mean, I’ve gotten to know him a little bit through a mutual friend. Then the other night, we got to have dinner together. And we had wildly prolific minds from way over here, to way over here, and the way he could engage, gather and bring him to a solid spot where you could go, now let’s discuss the nuts and bolts of these. He was wonderful at it.
Andy Slavitt 05:47
It’s beautiful, how he could own the room. I know, some of the people who were there. And he told me that you brought hope and optimism into a conversation that was like, where there’s some real doom and gloom stuff.
Matthew McConaughey 05:59
Awesome. Look at that. We’re in line, man. Things are falling into place, by design and on purpose. Good luck.
Andy Slavitt 06:06
Yeah. So let me tell you, […] bumper sticker. We started this thing during the pandemic and how we wanted to be was a safe, reasonable, family oriented place for people not to get scared, but to kind of get real information, real conversation, and […] said, Well, Andy, we kind of showed you what to do. And I said, 50% Winston Churchill, 50% Fred Rogers, 10% Dad jokes. That’s our bumper sticker.
Matthew McConaughey 06:29
Good math. That’s a good pie.
Andy Slavitt 06:31
Pretty decent math. Yeah, exactly. So I want to start a little bit by talking about a place that I found a lot of connection, if you don’t mind in reading your book, which is fatherhood. You know, you and I both, I think probably both lost our dads around similar ages. It’s similar points in our life. And I thought, sonhood was just like, incredibly important to you. And I’m just curious, like how your dad shaped your self-image, not just in the time he was alive, but in the time since he’s been gone.
Matthew McConaughey 07:09
Well, I think he’s probably more clear in the book of how you shaped while he was alive. My hero, unattainable hero for first 18 years, which is understandable, you don’t worry that dads aren’t there to be best friends with their best buddies with their children, raising them until they understand you know what you want to teach them and then you can become buddies. And as I wrote the book, we had a year of being able to be buddies there right at the before he passed away, we had a summer. And that was incredibly important to me is a rite of passage to be sort of on the level with my father where I could have a conversation and it wasn’t a teaching moment from him to me. And then in his passing, first and I think I wrote about this in the book. Our loved ones move on. And this pedestal we have on them and what they meant and what they taught us, you find out some of that they didn’t the rubber would meet in the road the messenger wouldn’t do and what the message was. And the first thing is that’s a gut blow. You meet your heroes. You’re not God dammit, well, I wish I would have never met him. I liked what I well, I’m not saying I wish I would have never had a dad. I’m very happy I did. But there was a gap between I saw some gaps between what he actually lived by and what he taught me. And the first part of that’s a gut punch. I was let down but I was very immediately thankfully, gracefully, something came to me was like, very immediately on the same day that I found out some of these, I guess ironies. I was like, oh, that’s okay. He’s, even if he didn’t walk the walk on those things. He’s passing those on to me and wants me to try to maybe be able to walk the walk more than he was able to on some of those. So he still lived as an inspiration. And that’s where the just keep living came from keeping those things that he was trying to create me and molded me into the man he hoped I would become keep those things alive.
Andy Slavitt 09:11
How often do you think about like, if he could see you at various moments in your life like a movie or just even a personal moment, like what that would be like?
Matthew McConaughey 09:20
I found out later after he passed away how creative he was, I found out that after dinner when I go to bed, he’d go to the garage and was sculpting things and he painted and he drew I had no idea. I knew that was going on. So he would have loved and I still think about this every time I break down a script he would have loved to read the script and then come and go. Hey, buddy, you know, this reminds me of […] because he knew, he was a people guy. He knew characters all over and he would have loved to talk about script and love to talk about character. So I think about him often when I’m breaking down the script and the character. I also think about him when we’re finished a film or project and we’re there to premiere and I’m like, put my hand over and he’s not there. But he’s there. I’m like, he would have loved being right there, he would have loved being on the front row. When I was getting an award or I was presenting something or I was talking, he would have loved being on the front row, where my mother doesn’t like being on the front row because she wants to be on the stage. In my place.
Andy Slavitt 10:23
Yeah, she looked good at the Oscars, by the way, she looked really good.
Matthew McConaughey 10:26
She did. And my father would not, he would not necessarily wanted to be on the stage, he would have really liked being on the front row. And I think about him there, often. Look, children, I have moments all the time with my children will have little initiations, they’ll grow up, they’ll hit a new phase. And I’ll be like, oh, Dad would love for pop to have been here for that to see that. I thought about, you know, starting to have birds and bees talks with my children. And I remember very distinctly my dad’s virgin bees talk with me and when it was and how cool it was, and how he did it, when it didn’t feel is weird as you would think it would feel. And so I think about him a lot, mostly now with the kid.
Andy Slavitt 11:08
Yeah, now that your dad, it’s interesting, like, my kids didn’t get to know my dad. But like when they were little. And if I was very lucky, they might say something like, hey, you’re the best dad. And I would always say the same thing. No, no, that was my dad. And me. I’m an imitation. There was a moment that really kind of moved me when you very nervously. We’re going to tell your dad you were not going to be a lawyer. Yeah, but you wanted to be an actor. I thought of this wrong, […] lawyers. Well, just there’s some poetry to that. But you know, you describe it as sort of somebody you need a hard ass with all kinds of dimensions to him. But he was someone who you really valued his approval. And you were very nervous about having this conversation with him. And there’s a lot of poignancy to what happens soon after that. What did it feel like? The way he responded to you that time?
Matthew McConaughey 12:03
So I make that call to him. I’ve decided in my mind, I don’t want to go to law school anymore. I want to go to film school. This is not gonna go well, dad’s paying for education. Hang on a sec. I gotta pick the right time. I remember picking out a Tuesday night at about 6:30 I was like he’ll get home from work at five, we’ll have dinner. Have a beer, he’ll be relaxing with mom on the couch. Good time to get it. Not Monday, because it started the work week, maybe too much stress. Tuesday, you know? And I called and I was very nervous. And I got right to it. He said, what do you want? I mean, call me monkey man or something or a little buddy or whatever. And I said, well, Pop decided I don’t want to go to law school more. I want to go to film school. Now getting that out of my mouth was the hardest part. And I expected a long pause and a you want to do what? And I got a short pause from him. And then I heard him say, Was that what you want to do? I said, yes, sir. And in hindsight, this is where I believe the beautiful response that he’s about to say that he gives me came from one that I spoke clearly when I said my intent. The first question, I don’t want to go to law school more I want to go to film school. I didn’t stutter when I said it. And I didn’t know whether I was thinking. When I said it, clearly, he gave a pause and then said, are you sure that’s what you want to do? And I immediately and clearly said, yes, sir. I didn’t pause. I didn’t go. I mean, I think, then he paused again. And then he gave me the three great words. Well, don’t half ass it. That was a launchpad. That was approval, privilege, freedom, responsibility, accountability, that was rocket fuel.
Andy Slavitt 13:46
Well, I think about giving that to somebody, and someone wants someone else younger, they get the expression was that you gave twice when you give quickly. And I think about that, when the ability to take someone who is you know, maybe they’re struggling with something, maybe they’re sure they want to do it maybe and you know what I you go I have the power to light the rocket for that person. And I think about that as the I’m sneaking up on really the philosophy of the book, you wrote green lights, which is another metaphor for basically saying, how do you help somebody see that there’s a path and get through into that path? Because I look at other interesting moments in your life. And not all of us can relate to being an actor. Not all of us can relate to a lot of things. But one things we can relate to is, this isn’t going as well as I hoped. I’m struggling. And I don’t know if I can fix it. And you know, with you, they were whether it was frustrations with your perception of Hollywood or time you spent in Australia as a kid where it was borderline abusive. And the thing you did with your book, which I have to say is very The unusual is there are books about philosophy, that are abject and high level and don’t meet the road. And there are memoirs, which are, you know, my trip through life, this was unusual. And this was a book about personal philosophy that you could adapt based upon some of the things that happened to you in your life. And how that made sense at that moment when you said, I see this script. And it’s a great script, but I don’t want that part. I want this part. You know what I mean?
Matthew McConaughey 15:30
Yeah, you know, I guide daily, work on it and think about it, and I’m trying to find, you know, define and crystallize my own philosophy and measure it, what works and what is not. And writing the book helps with that a lot, because I got to go backwards and measure things. And as and I tell you this when I, before I wrote the book, I thought that 95% of my successes or getting what I wanted in life, were going to be intentional engineering choices I made willpower go get see the goal, go get it. I had a lot of those. You brought up a few. But what I did not realize until after I wrote the book that probably overfit little over 50%. Were just tying my shoes and getting in the game gone. I’m not sure how the hell I’m gonna pull this off, I’m gonna figure out how to fly on the way down, more graceful divine order interrupted things that could not plan things that did not go how I planned, but I got out the door. And I put myself in a place to go, man, it’s just chaos. I’m not sure. But I know I got moving. And just to the movement to make it a little bit of that thing I write the book about sometimes it’s not important what choice you make. It’s just make the damn choice.
Andy Slavitt 16:50
All right, let’s take a quick break, Matthew, and then we’ll come back and I want to talk about how the way you think it dovetails into some of the choices you’ve made, both in movies, and then out of movies. And I think leading up to a conversation we’re gonna have about what happened in your hometown of Uvalde. We think about like, some of the things that were really iconic moments were a scene and dazed and confused. You showed up in uniform, if you will, to a scene you are not supposed to be in, you know, Wolf of Wall Street, there are things that people remember forever, that you were not planning on doing, Dallas Buyers Club, you’re like, no, no, this script isn’t getting made. Yes, it is. And I think about like, if you would have had 10% less courage in those moments, maybe not had a cup of coffee, maybe felt like not on your game, you’d have been like, no, no, I’m just gonna do what they told me to today. Like, where does life lead you to a different place?
Matthew McConaughey 18:04
Well, you said it a minute ago, and I’ve never heard it. I like it. The quick yes is worth twice as much. The first place we need to apply that is with ourself. Those were moments where I gave myself the quick yes. And I was scared. I was shaking in my boots, that little window of opportunity. Open it just as it opened, I went hit it. And if I said, well, maybe now’s not the time, it closed. It was a matter of seconds. It was a matter of timing. It was a matter of response. And I was nervous and every one of them. But I gave myself the quick, yes, affirming doing, find out what happens. And trust me many of those times, didn’t know if it was smart or the right thing to do. But I instantly had a little, little primal voice say, at least be a good story and at least you’ll know. So that’s the first place, I think is that taking that risk to give yourself the initial affirmation, the initial Yes.
Andy Slavitt 19:05
Well, so you dispel the myth that this is all about gut feel, and creativity and impulse. You talk a lot about preparation. I mean, you talk a lot about putting yourself in that moment in that ability. Like I always discretion I use with younger people, is you want to drive your BMW at 180 miles an hour. What’s the most important part of that car? The brakes, right? So have the dude that works on the brakes. Be the person you trust most in the world. Who put those brakes together? You’re gonna drive the car 180 miles an hour, you’re gonna break the records, right? And so I found that very compelling. Because it was a lot of the work you did, maybe someone was in your subconscious. Maybe some was actual that when you showed up, you didn’t maybe always know why you knew. But when you knew it was because you were paying attention and you’ve done some work. Which we got to be willing to do.
Matthew McConaughey 19:55
Well, I’m coming in I want to come into this situation. Some things I can rely on that I trust in the nuts and bolts, like you said, make sure you know the guy on the brakes before you do an ad I got in the book conservative early liberal late, check your sandbox out, don’t just go before you go. But naked doing backflips in the sandbox, check and see if there’s broken glass or things never, you know, check the pool has water before you do your double backflip off the diving board. It do some preparation because it’ll give you more freedom to fly and something to trust it. Now the weather will change. But it helps you create your own weather so you can blow in the breeze.
Andy Slavitt 20:36
And that’s a beautiful thing. When you can do it. It’s why I want to tell you about our bumper sticker first. I’m like, this guy doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know why he doesn’t know we’re gonna try to do is he’s gonna sit here like, where’s this gonna go somewhere? I better just tell him who? Who we think we are. So there’s an element of this Churchill thing, right, which I find really appealing, calling on us to be better, a calm voice in a time when people don’t know which way is up. But I listened to his speeches, sometimes, like those old recordings. And you know, I thought about you. And something you said, which is we are not as divided as people think we are. Yeah, as they are, as people are telling us that we are. Right. And I will tell you when I first heard that I’m like, Well, how the hell does guy know that? Right? He’s in Washington, DC, saying and everybody in Washington says stuff like that. And then when I read your book, I’m like, Oh, my God, this guy is actually from America. He spent years in a trailer, literally in every state in the union. And he seen the things and met the people and talk to the people that are very different than the way people try to perceive us. Yeah. And I thought, okay, you actually had you actually have some standing. And being able to tell us your values can overcome other things. And you’re, you know, other things that people tell us to fight about. What do you think, are some of the things that unite us some of the values that unite us?
Matthew McConaughey 22:04
Look, our Achilles heel right now is we have everything as a contradiction. Our political parties are only working off of making choices in displacement of the opposition and not forward. We think freedom and responsibility are contradiction. No, they’re not. They rely on each other. We think rights and duties are a contradiction. No, they’re not. They rely on each other. These are a paradox. It’s also what do we put first, like when I say trust first and don’t trust last. I don’t mean go be a fool. I don’t mean show up here and go, Man, I’ll say whatever. Because you want that, MO, I’m trusting you first, based on what we’re coming together and what the subject matters that you talk and the work that you’ve done. I’m aware, I’m not going to you know, if you wanted to pick my pocket in this interview, I gotta be aware, but I want to come in trusting first, if I’m trusting last again, like I was talking about those don’t I’m not going to fully be here. I’ve already got my arms crossed. Now, trusting first, I’ve found brings out the same level of trust from the person that you’re dealing with you and I may be on have two different opinions on political issues. But we already were I’m gonna lock in on compare before contrast. What about father’s? You and I, we got a whole book that we agree on. And we’re trying to work out independently, and we just met and trying to raise the best children we can and be the best fathers we can, we have that. So we already know, I already know comparatively, we have a lot of similar values, just as trying to be a good parent. Now, I’m going to put that first before into our conversation before you and I start to discuss and argue, a political position if that’s what we’re going to do, right. That’s not what people like to do, though first. And so you start off with the up the contrast, where do we contrast before you start off with what we compare. It’s really hard to find a comparison after that. And what we’re being sold is the contrast. And it’s the it’s some of the more entertaining thing to believe, I guess, because it’s we love to rub our neck. And it makes for good TV and it makes his ratings go higher. But it’s a load of crap. It’s not it’s much lower on the what should be important to us in our dealings with ourselves and other people and what we respect and don’t respect then it should be and we’ve just been sold. And we’re drinking the Kool Aid that it should be up top. And so we’re going out we’re not trusting us. We’re looking for the disease before the health. We’re looking for the crash. Before the miracle. We’re it’s just a and that’s more than what I’m talking about is I’m fully secure and saying that’s more than optimism. Think it’s reality. And it’s a choice though. And we just got to make that choice to put that first. And when we seek others see ourselves in them and let them see themselves in us. And all of a sudden, you’ve got more than conversation, we now have a social contract, just because I know you’re a father. And if you give a damn about being a father, there’s certain things where if you show interest, I already my trust level is raised with you, if you were with my kids, right? Now, I want to rely on that, want to trust it. So we’re finding a commonality. That is a value based commonality first. And it can be proven. I can prove I’m trying to find tribes constantly working on the mathematics and the science to show how responsibility breeds freedom. I found it my own life, I think I shared a lot of it in the book, self-sacrifice is today, you sacrifice the plastic ring for the gold crown tomorrow. It happens. It’s called investment in ourselves in our relationships, not burning bridges, though, like cheat steal thing. And I talk about it how we do that. And we start to screw other people over and are the negative comment all the time or how we treat others. We’re building reasons for walking out the door and having to look over our shoulder more. And that’s why I say it’s a selfish thing. Because we’re stealing our time.
Andy Slavitt 26:29
Alright, Matthew, let’s take a quick break, then I want to get to your speech that you gave from the White House briefing room, and everything that led up to it in Uvalde, Texas, and kind of what got you there, we’re going to come back and we’re going to start with your speech from the White House. You grew up in Uvalde, Texas, it’s a word that’s always been something to you, that would mean something, unfortunately, to the rest of the world. And you spoke at the White House shortly after the tragic shooting at Rob Elementary School. Let’s play some tape from you in the White House briefing room. I’ve been in that room a number of times the White House briefing room. And there’s a lot of weird things about that room. It’s not what it looks like a TV and all that other stuff. But you are in one place where you probably are talking to the country. And I pieced it together because I didn’t read your book until after I watched the speech. And it was just occurred to me that you were like, I don’t know how to really ask it a lot. I’m just asking you to understand each other and listen, and see if you think there are commonalities that exist. And it was, I don’t know if it was confidence in us, but it was some belief that we have that inner somewhere. I’m wondering if you can reflect on a little bit about your story around those couple of days and how you put your thoughts together. And what that felt like.
Matthew McConaughey 29:20
So when Camila and I pulled out of our driveway in Austin, Texas to drive down to Uvalde right after I heard the news. I remember just pulling out the driveway as the front two tires the truck hit the blacktop road to head down on the few hour trip. I knew there was no return ticket. So we went down and we ended up staying with on the ground and met families for about five or six days. And the first things that I learned and maybe you can help me deconstruct this is that and there is a slight difference. What I’m about to say is that the families that had lost their children in that tragedy. We’re not mourning the death of their child. They were mourning the loss of life, the future. And there’s a difference. Yeah, it wasn’t like they were mourning the pain of the loss. They were mourning the beauty of the life that could it, how could it live on? Then you heard personal stories, we listened. And then I went and did some things in the state of Texas, in the political spheres of check some things out, and then all sudden, the next thing was seemed we got to go, DC. And we pulled out of there to go to DC didn’t have any no plans. Besides trying to find Mitch McConnell’s door and knock on it. Within about 12 hours, I had some group reach out and say, you’re coming up here, you want to be deliberate. You want to be intentional. You want to know where you’re going, and why. And they helped me organize. And all of a sudden had over 30 bipartisan meetings for the DS and the RS and the Senate and the House. And as I started to learn, and I got my own frustrations along the way, and started to see it was a crash course, I’ve never, I’m not really part of the political system. And I’ve never really spent time up there. Then all of a sudden, I get asked if I’d like to speak again, I had that moment go through my head, like tomorrow morning at 8pm. And you will meet tomorrow morning, I will speak to the world speak to America. Well, I was like, a while I was gonna just like the wrestling match in Africa. I was like, like God, I have to say yes to this opportunity. So I said yes. And then as I got offered to meet the president in Kabul, and I got to meet the president. Now that that night, I got, you know, I got my thoughts together. What I wanted to say, and you know, I started with, you know, which was an intimidating prospect, but I started with what do I know? And what do I know that that most other people may not know. And it’s those six days that Camilla and I sat there with those families, and got things firsthand. And after that, I was trying to implore the things we’ve been talking about think you open up the conversation with Hey, we’re not as divided as we’re being told we are. And again, if the if the parties are working, especially in an election year, can you can you be a leader if all you’re doing is running for re-election?
Andy Slavitt 32:53
How many of us have had that thought, at that time and across America, I could feel people either nodding their head or exhaling when you said that.
Matthew McConaughey 33:02
Well, just in look, one of the things I’m into now in life is again, I want to maybe we need to quit judging as much and just started meeting more. Because there’s a difference between lying and bullshitting. The bullshitter let you know they’re lion. The liars doesn’t. So, I like bullshitters. Don’t appreciate liars. Let’s just start admitting where we lie and where we believe lies. And we know it’s a lie. But it’s easier to believe it, so, let’s believe it. And that’s part of this Kool Aid. I’m talking about that we’re drinking that we believing that we’re this divide, because it’s kind of easier. And it gives us identity. I get no identity if I have if I can push off of you. Even when you say well, what am I about? I don’t know. I just know him about what he’s not. So we’ve turned our country into a bunch of counter punchers. We don’t have a plan. And we’re just we’re just reacting. And then we see the political system do that a lot and in ways that are not as healthy and affirmative and visionary as I think they could be. And leading in the way that it can be because everything’s a reaction. And everything is a counterpunch based on only I’m not sure what I’m coming in to say, but let me hear what you got to say. So I can just go no, not that.
Andy Slavitt 34:17
And I’m not even listening. I’m just aiming my response.
Matthew McConaughey 34:20
And that’s second row stuff, we’re not our country’s second rowers. And we’re all on the second row doing that just kind of waiting and being told that your identity is not who you are. Your identity is based off of who they’re not. That’s a dolt. What do you call that? A false negative? Double entendre what it’s like it’s not affirmative. It’s not okay. It’s based off of immediate contrast. It’s based off trust last; it’s based off I don’t know who I am. Unless I can say […] to you or I’m against you, and what you’re about that’s not that’s is not our way forward. And I am an optimist in people in humanity and in America. Well, America, we gotta remember, what are we 270 years young, something like that. We’re like going through puberty or adolescence, you know, growing pains. So, but we got to admit it, and let’s quit judging things and just admit it and quit condemning immediately, even though condemnation makes us feel big and proud in the moment. It doesn’t last.
Andy Slavitt 35:27
You want to know something interesting; I have Chris Murphy on the podcast a couple of weeks ago. And I said to him, in effect, do you hope John Cornyn wins the sworn enemy blah, blah, blah, blah. But he took some courage. And he’s like, basically, hell yes. He’s like, I want people to see that. It’s not about reelection, we’re here to do something. And for him to sit here and say, I want people who supported this to be supported. Not because Republican or Democrat. But because at some point in time, that doesn’t matter. Are we here because Republicans Democrats, […] because we’re about coming to do something? I thought it was really interesting to hear Chris say that, because sadly, you don’t ever hear it.
Matthew McConaughey 36:17
That’s the kind of leadership thinking. And you know, I love to preach meet you in the middle. That’s a daring, courageous, badass place to go right now. That’s not the place of compromise. That’s no, I dare you to go there. You got the grounds for that one. That’s the place to go now, if you really want to step up, because it’s all about preserving the party. And every reaction is just about party preservation. People are left out of that. I mean, it’s why you have look the left gotta quit condescending. The right the science has got to kind of sending the religious the religious have to quit pushing away thinking that they’re completely contradictory that you can’t believe in science we saw going through with COVID. You know, anyone who had on their sign outside their store, Jesus is the only booster shot we need. Thought a mask was socialism. You know, like, whoa, these things exist at the same time, we can learn some things from science, I believe, science on that note, I believe what we can appreciate sciences, believers, and I’m a believer in and I say this to all believers, remember science is the prize. If you’re a believer, science is the practical pursuit of God. And our God loves the scientist. They want Him to keep working, keep trying to get up, keep trying to get over there to prove that I exist. Keep it up. I don’t think it’s gonna happen. But thank you scientists keep on a comment. And we don’t see, you know, we don’t like to see those as two dinner party partners.
Andy Slavitt 37:50
Yeah, I mean making me think of contact, right. The thing that’s so interesting about what you’re saying, and you said a number of times your book, is if you’re unwilling to accept what you just described as paradox. But contrast that multiple things can be true, you’re gonna have a tough time. Or maybe you’re gonna have an easy time, because you’re just gonna go, this is me, I’m only going to do this. And I’m gonna stop thinking about all the other stuff when the reality is, this is very complex stuff.
Matthew McConaughey 38:19
Well, on that note, I just add one thing, we talked about earlier, to have an identity and a point of view on something to be so strong and clear. To have something that is clear. Now this is black and this is white, […], it’s clear, I’ll stand for this, I’ll stand up for this, I won’t stand for this gives us identity and power. But it doesn’t exclude or weakened our fortitude and clarity, to admit that someone else has multiple ways of being right. Our human reaction is no, the world revolves around it should revolve around exactly how I’m thinking, because I’m so clear right now. Well, that’s true. We’re not saying that’s untrue. But that is for you. And if that can be expanded and scaled, beautiful, but it’s probably not going to be congestion as but someone else can have something just as strong. And if you can respect that as being a parallel truth and someone else’s conviction, it doesn’t weaken your own.
Andy Slavitt 39:18
Right, you just explain something better than I tried to when I was in the Obama administration, somebody would come in and lobbyists and say, you know, make a really compelling case. This is exactly the problem of the world. This is what needs to happen. And I would say to my staff, that said, what do you think? And I would say, everybody’s right, everybody’s a little bit wrong. But there is truth. They come in with their truth. And you have to respect it. You have to listen for it. You have to take it in, you have to integrate it. But they’re not going to know necessarily the places where they might also not be seeing the whole thing and that’s your job, if you’re going to make policy is to go put all these pieces together. When you had kids, you decided you were going to simplify your life, into three things that mattered to you. And he may have evolved since then, because you seem to be happy, you have so much that you give in so many different ways. But the three things you talked about, we’ve talked about two of them acting and family. The third thing was your foundation. And I almost feel like even describing it as your foundation, maybe people misunderstand that this is an actor’s foundation, I think to actually what I’d love to spend a minute talking about it. But all the things we’ve talked about are things that you as a young person from your dad needed to get. And you got, and you saw what they did for you. And I’m wondering if you could talk about how your work there, tries to push that forward onto young people.
Matthew McConaughey 40:45
When I got to a place in my life, I was like, oh, I want to be able to give back in some way I have so much. I looked around as we all do, there’s a million great places to give the view and the given, if you want to give back we got job security for infinite amount of lifetimes. But I knew I wanted something incentive based I wanted something hey, can I prevent before cure? Can I help the individual? Before just throw in the policy? Can we inspire the individual to take more than responsibility? Can we get to make a choice? Choice is even more powerful than the responsibility. And so chose, oh, young people, kids, then which ones. Oh, high school. That’s right. That’s the last four years where I was like trying to figure out who the heck I’m going to be what I’m going to do last years, I gotta listen to a principal and my parents. Once I’m out of here, I’m independent. I’m a citizen. I’m, you know, and but I’m responsible for me, you know what I mean? But I noticed that also the things for a lot of kids and I had some of these things, but I knew a lot in my own school that those things you’re doing where you’re screwing up in school and the high school that you get a demerit for, or back then it was licks or you get a D-haul for, you get suspended from school, you do those things, when you get out of school, you’re going to the clank going to jail, or worse. So I was like, alright, how can we help get students in this last little bridge before they’re independent. And living as adults? How can we get to keep the ones that are on the right track, keep on the right track ones on the wrong track, show them few more options of how to get of what’s out there. So we pick Title One schools. And we found that that’s where what we wanted to give as needed a safe place to go after school, which I did not know that we were giving, the students told us that at the end of year one that that was their favorite thing that they finally had a safe place to go after school that had gone completely over my head and creation of the foundation. We said, okay, physical fitness goals, you want to make the soccer team let’s help you get in shape to make the soccer team. Then we introduced community service. And this I did not think was going to go over. When we said 4:30am Saturday morning, we’re gonna put you on a bus, you’re gonna go pack things up for the troops or you’re gonna go clean up Venice Beach, or you’re gonna clean up this highway. I was like, who’s gonna do that? I wouldn’t give him my Saturday morning when I was in high school. 100% is their favorite thing. And what it did go back to this ownership. It was the young people telling us we don’t want the free lunch. We don’t want the one way give, thank you for holding us accountable and make and hold us responsible to show up and do something for others. They loved it.
Andy Slavitt 43:35
Earned feels different than deserved.
Matthew McConaughey 43:37
oh, earn feels so much better than deserve. They felt it, talked about identity and power, they got empowered by that giving back. And then the halo which really comes from how I was raised was gratitude. And I was raised to believe this. I do believe this now that there’s a science that the more things you’re thankful for in your life, the more things you will create your life to be thankful for. You will tend their garden, you will be more responsible to tending to those things if you have more gratitude for those whether it’s people things material things we have, or whatever we have in our life with things for thankful it doesn’t deny the hardships and things we don’t have. But it can sure a heck of a heck help us cope with those things. When we go well. I do have this and I’m thankful for this. And my mom raised us on the most basic gratitude. Like every morning, you had no guarantee the sun was gonna rise this morning. You better be damn thankful right now. Say a prayer that you got another day because nobody guaranteed you that.
Andy Slavitt 44:39
Well, we talked about dads, I gotta do shout out to my mom too. Then my mom is doing great. She’s around. She’s a big part of my life. Like you’re just so I want to I gotta do that as well. I don’t know if you know this and well, why would you? But we actually do this show to share understanding and make people feel better get better information and not At profits, I donate all the profits that come in from the show to different cause that’s worthy each month. And we’d like to donate the profits this time, to your just keep living foundation.
Matthew McConaughey 45:15
That will pay a salary of a teacher on the ground, our teachers are all stars, if they don’t have the commitment and the enthusiasm our program doesn’t work, that will help us get some of those field trips to go do the community service that the kids love to do. It’ll help us get certain equipment. Thank you. That goes a long way. And I promise you, you’re each penny of that is helping these kids make better life.
Andy Slavitt 45:35
And you know what this makes our listeners feel good, because they listen to the show. And they go and we’re doing this, I really want to send a message to you and everybody else that this work is worthy support. And I’m so happy that you’re on the right track. And it was so great to you to come and share.
Matthew McConaughey 45:49
A friend of mine says this. And it seems so true to me. And it’s what just keep living means and it’s why I’m dealing with young people is if we want better, leaders are better, politicians are better, CEOs or better whatever. We got to build better people. Start with our job, we talked about fatherhood parenting starts with the teachers and the mentors. That’s what we’re building them. That’s what we’re helping them form to become. That’s how we’ll really evolve is do we pass on next generation, we can have all the policies and legislature and acts and all those bumpers and but nothing’s really going to happen until we just have more better people that understand that play of responsibility for their freedom and the duty for the right etc, etc. That goes on in life and the expectations of herself and the ones with each other to go forward. And we got that, prophets meeting purpose and things like that all of a sudden, we’ve expanded I’m really right now working on expanding definitions of things like currency, ROI, profit, success, because over the years, those definitions of those have changed in our mind, and I think we’re off track on what the definitions of those mean.
Andy Slavitt 47:14
You made me think of the scene in Wolf of Wall Street where you’re like, you get all this stuff going up on here. Don’t forget down there.
Matthew McConaughey 47:25
Scorsese, he directed me in that scene. And he didn’t say one English word to me. He just came up with like, yeah, do more […]
Andy Slavitt 47:35
Thank you so much for being here. Matthew. It’s meant so much to us.
Matthew McConaughey 47:38
Great morning. Great way to start my day with you. Maybe I’ll see you next time with Larry.
Andy Slavitt 47:43
That’d be great. I’m here. Next time you’re in LA, I’m out here.
Matthew McConaughey 47:46
Thank you for having me.
Andy Slavitt 47:59
All right, I don’t know about you. But I’m gonna go back and listen to that one again. There was so much in there. What an interesting guy. Let me tell you about five shows that are going to be coming up five really interesting topics. Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci. You know him, he’s the President’s Chief Scientific Adviser is going to answer your top 10 questions, not just about COVID, but about monkey pox and polio and everything else. And you had a lot of questions and he answered them. We’re also going to be talking about schools and learning laws and what we need to do for kids. That’s going to be coming up before school gets going in earnest around the country. We’re going to do a show on January 6 hearings with one of its members, Jamie Raskin. We’re going to do a show that many of you have been asking for, and ventilation and how to improve ventilation so that we can all avoid getting COVID with Rich Corsi and Jim Rosenthal. And we’re gonna do a show on grief and loss with Sanjay Gupta, who is a great physician and a good friend. He’ll be here to take you through that. So five interesting topics coming up. And of course, we’ll have our Friday conversations with big news events of the week. Thank you all. Well, I want to say one more thing. I want to say. A deep Thank you to Kyle, our executive producer, producers, Jackie Harris and Katherine Barnes. James and Noah are awesome engineers. And, and Jess and Lizzie and everybody on Lemonada. And in the bubble, who worked on this episode with Matthew McConaughey, it was a ton of work to make that happen. And I think those things go invisible. Offered to me, but certainly to the audience when they do the jobs the way they do it. And this is the way that this could happen and come together with that amazing team. work for amazing people. And I love them. Talk to you on Wednesday.
Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kathryn Barnes, Jackie Harris and Kyle Shiely produced our show, and they’re great. Our mix is by Noah Smith and James Barber, and they’re great, too. Steve Nelson is the vice president of the weekly content, and he’s okay, too. And of course, the ultimate bosses, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, they executive produced the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, with additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia where you’ll also get the transcript of the show. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter. If you like what you heard today, why don’t you tell your friends to listen as well, and get them to write a review. Thanks so much, talk to you next time.