Trump Knew, with Julián Castro
To kick things off, Andy and former presidential candidate Julián Castro wrestle with the recent revelations from Bob Woodward, including that the President acknowledged the gravity of the pandemic in interviews with the journalist back in February. Despite that start, the conversation ends in a hopeful place about where the country is headed and Julián’s new Lemonada Media podcast, Our America. Plus: Andy announces the show’s latest donation!
Keep up with Andy on Twitter @ASlavitt and Instagram @andyslavitt.
Follow Julián Castro on Twitter @JulianCastro and Instagram @juliancastrotx.
Check out these resources from today’s episode:
- Pre-order Andy’s book, Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response, here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250770165
- Subscribe to Our America wherever you get your podcasts: https://smarturl.it/ouramericapodcast
- Watch Bob Woodward talk about his interviews with President Trump on 60 Minutes: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-bob-woodward-rage-60-minutes-2020-09-13/
- Read more about Kristin Urquiza, who spoke at the DNC after her father died of COVID-19: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/17/us/politics/kristin-urquiza-dad-covid-trump.html
- Learn more about how the pandemic has affected migrant workers in America: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/08/08/900220260/without-federal-protections-farm-workers-risk-coronavirus-infection-to-harvest-c
- Check out this opinion piece Julián wrote about how to prevent the next housing crisis: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/perspectives/next-housing-crisis/index.html
[00:43] Donald Trump: Now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out.
[00:50] Bob Woodward: Yeah, exactly. Give me a moment of talking to somebody going through this with Fauci or somebody who kind of caused a pivot in your mind, because it’s clear just from what’s on the public record that you went through a pivot on this to, ‘oh, my God, the gravity is almost inexplicable and unexplainable.’
[01:23] Donald Trump: Well, I think, Bob, really, to be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down. Because I don’t want to create a panic.
[01:42] Andy Slavitt: Welcome to In the Bubble, this Andy Slavitt. What you just heard was a rather disturbing interview with President Trump, where he confessed that as early as February he was aware that COVID-19 was coming to the U.S., was highly contagious, and in other recordings, that it was very, very lethal. So far more deadly than the flu. And he then proceeded over the next four or five, six weeks, until such time as the NBA shut down and made it so that I’m no longer able to avoid the topic. He sort of was able to put it out of his head or at least avoid talking about it publicly.
[02:22] Julián Castro is on the show today. I should mention that, and we’re going to talk about this. Julián, as you probably remember, was a presidential candidate, was the secretary for Housing and Urban Development under President Obama. And he is hosting a new podcast called Our America, which he’s hosting with the Lemonda people, who are the people who put this show on. They’re good people. You should listen to all their shows. We’re going to talk a little bit about this situation with President Trump and kind of what it means. But before I do that, I want to tell you that I’ve got a personal challenge that’s probably been building for some time with the show that I want to talk to you about, which is, you know, this show is supposed to be as much about uniting people and looking past our differences as it does, you know, bringing in place the politics. And you all know that my political party is not a secret to any of you listening to this. I hope that there are Republicans and Independents who listen to this and feel like I’m playing it straight all the way through. And I really aim to do that. But I recognize that, you know, I’m not perfectly good at keeping the politics out of this. It slips into my thinking, into these conversations. But I try. I do try. And many of you know, I work with the White House and Republicans as much as they need help. And my view has always been that if anybody has a good intention and goodwill to solving this problem, to saving lives, I’ll get in the room. I’ll get in the Zoom with anybody and try to help and try to do whatever it takes. But the presumption there is always that people are of good intent. And even if they’re messing up and even if they’re failing and if they don’t get everything right, the bigger picture is more important.
[04:32] Andy Slavitt: But I’m having a difficult time. The actions of the president are making it harder and harder and harder for me to not be partisan on this show. It’s a real challenge because I don’t feel that the president is motivated by all the right things. I’m not sure what he’s motivated by, but I can’t — I don’t think I could be on this show and be intellectually honest and pretend there’s not a problem here, to pretend that we don’t have a leader that’s going to not get us out of this in the way we need to. I think we absolutely have a problem. I don’t think it’s a Republican/Democrat thing. You know, you’ve heard me have Lanhee Chen on the show, who is a Romney-ite and would have done a fine job. Mitt Romney would have done a fine job. Charlie Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, would have done a fine job. Hogan from Maryland would’ve done a fine job. George W. Bush was ready to go and did a decent job in this arena. But this is not a president serving our interests in this global pandemic. And I just have to say it. And I beat around the bush on it and I’m going to try to best I can to speak to everybody and to our common needs. But I have to put that out there because I think it’s obvious how I feel right now. And I don’t know if you agree with me or disagree with me, but at least you’ve heard me say it.
[06:07] Andy Slavitt: I don’t know if you’re aware, we announced last week that I’m writing a book that’s coming out March 16th. It is called Preventable, and it is the inside story of how leadership failures, politics and selfishness doomed the coronavirus response. It is really intended to be kind of on-the-ground version of what happened in this first year of the pandemic response. I’m very excited about it. There’s a lot of good stuff in it, a lot of the interactions of the people I’ve talked to. Trying to make it interesting, trying to make it read like kind of a Michael Lewis book, like The Big Short. You know, that’s my aspiration. I know he often compares his writing to mine as well. Anyway, helping me out on the show today is my awesome research assistant, Nath Samaratunga, who I want to chat with a little bit about the book before we get to Secretary Castro.
[07:07] Nath Samaratunga: Hi, everyone. Thanks, Andy. Yeah. As Andy said, Preventable and his book was just announced last week and it’s coming out in March. In my very, very biased opinion, I think it’s great. It really chronicles the story of the U.S. health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it does a lot more, I believe, than just telling the story of what solutions we need to create right now for the current crisis. But it really works to identify just the longstanding cracks in our society that we should have fixed a long time ago. And this pandemic is really just exacerbating a lot of problems that have existed for a long, long time. So Andy, does I think a great job just analyzing and telling stories about these different cracks, and shares his point of view as to how we can best move forward.
[08:02] Andy Slavitt: So. So back up a second. First, you got to tell us about you.
[08:06] Nath Samaratunga: So I am Andy’s research assistant. I’m also a graduate student at the School of Public Health here at the University of Minnesota. And I’m also an aspiring physician, which is why getting to see all of these frontline healthcare workers do just such amazing things have been a constant source of inspiration for me throughout this time.
[08:26] Andy Slavitt: So you’re the perfect person, in other words, to help with this book. The question I think most relevant is, are we going to get it done in time?
[08:33] Nath Samaratunga: That’s a big question. We’ll circle back to you on that. Keep listening to the podcast and you’ll find out.
[08:40] Andy Slavitt: I see a little mystery. Anyway, you can preorder it now, I think your only question is debating between Amazon versus Independent bookstore versus Barnes & Noble. That I’m going to leave up to you. Anyway, great to have you here Nath. And thank you for all of your amazing help. One more thing before we head to the interview. As you are probably aware, we donate all of our profits here from the Slavitt household to COVID relief causes. And we have done that twice already. And we’re about to do it for the third time. And I’m about to announce that we’re going to donate just over $19,000 to an organization called Project Ayuda, which helps farmworkers, particularly undocumented farm workers, that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the Central Valley, which is essentially San Joaquin Valley. These are people who are getting no relief. They are dying in record numbers. They are forgotten. They are putting food on our table. We take them for granted. They are living in our country, growing our crops, getting us our meals. We are allowing them to die without doing much. And I am so, so grateful to you for allowing us to make that gift. There is no way we could have done it without you. And we could increase the size of those gifts if you tell 10 friends to listen to the show. Then we can do even more. So happy to make that donation. OK. Now, let’s go talk to Julián Castro about this and many other things.
[10:35] Andy Slavitt: Hello. How are you doing?
[10:37] Julián Castro: Oh, I’m all right. I’m here in my closet.
[10:40] Andy Slavitt: I see that. So this is our first episode after the news that Bob Woodward talked to the president and discovered that the president knew that this virus was highly lethal. He knew it was highly infectious. He understood that it didn’t just affect older people. He knew that it was far more dangerous than the flu. He sat on that information basically until his hand was forced. So help us react to that. I think we’re probably used to by now that he’s mishandled the virus and that he’s not always telling the truth. But help us put some context around that revelation where he lied to the American people.
[11:26] Julián Castro: It was amazing to hear. The person that is supposed to be in charge ultimately has the ultimate responsibility for keeping our nation safe. To admit that he understood how deadly this virus was and instead of acting on that and letting the public know so that mothers and fathers, you know, families could take this as seriously as they should. Instead, he called it a hoax. He didn’t act and invest in PPE and other equipment that medical healthcare providers needed. He didn’t urge governors or require governors to take certain steps immediately, whether it was mass mandates or social distancing or stay-at-home orders. This was a failure on the grandest scale. And because of that, over 150,000 people have died that would not have died otherwise.
[12:28] Andy Slavitt: So I used to think it was a failure and now I wonder if it’s a cover-up.
[12:32] Julián Castro: Well, I think it’s definitely a failure. And it sounds like a cover-up as well. I mean, this guy was putting his own political interests ahead of public health, ahead of the interests of the American people. I think the president thought that it would maybe just subside, it wouldn’t be as bad, even though he should have known. He did know that it was a deadly virus. He took a gamble because he thought he had a good economy. The election is coming up in November. He didn’t want to create a bad narrative of a problem. And he was just hoping, putting his own interests first, hoping that maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as he knew it could be. And he was dead wrong. And because of that, so many people passed away, they didn’t have to pass away. It was a complete betrayal of his duty as the president of the United States.
[17:26] Andy Slavitt: This show tries not to be about politics because a public health response has to come from everyone and people shouldn’t be alienated. But if someone can act and isn’t coming from a good place and they’re having a hard time, we’re all into helping. But if someone’s not coming from a good place, or doesn’t have the right best interests at heart, and could get away with it, because I think they know they appeal to people on a very different level.
[17:51] Julián Castro: It’s been amazing to watch. And you do have to give Donald Trump credit for that. In political, strictly political terms, I mean, he has a tremendous amount of loyalty from a sizable percentage of people out there in the country. They think that he does speak the truth. They accept the idea that there are a lot of people out to get him and that he represents that truth and he represents doing good. There’s a lot of evidence to the contrary of that. But ultimately, it’s not really about him as a personality or any other politician. It’s about how are you and your family going to be safe in the midst of a very real virus, a very real public health issue. And one of the good things, I think that we’ve seen after these mask mandates have been put in place, after the stay-at-home orders, when there’s been more precaution taken, we’ve seen the results of that. I mean, the numbers have gone down, whether you look at what’s happened in the United States or you look at what’s happened around the world.
[18:57] Julián Castro: My hope is that that will be a lesson learned in case there is another wave or in the future another experience like this. People often ask, well, what would it take for some of his supporters to abandon him, not to support him anymore? And to me, one of the most heartbreaking testimonials that was offered a couple of weeks ago at the Democratic National Convention was of a young woman named Kristin Urquiza, who spoke of her 65 year old father who lived in Arizona, who was a Trump supporter. And he listened to Donald Trump when Trump downplayed the virus and how dangerous it was. So her father did not take the precautions that he should have taken. He went and he spent time with his buddies, you know, didn’t socially distance, didn’t wear a mask. And he ended up contracting the coronavirus and dying of COVID-19. Unfortunately, I think that it’s going to take the hard reality sometimes of understanding the real consequences. And it shouldn’t be that way. But over 190,000 Americans have died. And by some estimates, more than 150,000 of those people would not have died if the administration had acted quickly, had acted responsibly the way that some other leaders around the world have acted.
[20:32] Andy Slavitt: And I think those numbers are about right, by the way. And we would agree with them based on just looking at if we would have handled this the way Germany did. Nobody can handle this thing perfectly, but they handled it with science. They handled it in a smart way. And in some ways, this is like a starter bug because we have all the tools to beat it back. You just don’t breathe near other people. And while I know that that requires people to change their habits, that’s all it is. There are other viruses that spread much more aggressively. There are other viruses that spread much more lethally. And you talk about the climate. I talked to a climate scientist last night who told me climate change is basically a pandemic with no vaccine and no mask. And so we have tools. We need to use these tools. But there’s also this — and I wonder if you have some thoughts on this — this element of being able to choose to believe scientists and guide ourselves for long-term decisions in the face of things that people can’t see and touch and believe. And it may not affect them, may affect future generations more, or they may not feel like the bullet’s gonna be in the Russian Roulette chamber that’s theirs, so they might as well do what the heck they want. But you’ve talked with quite some passion about features of our country when you ran for president that I think a lot of us aspire to see and that are probably the solution to some of that thinking. How do you describe the gap between kind of the culture we have today and how you think we get to where we can start to take on some of those issues?
[22:17] Julián Castro: You know, it’s true that in the United States, we’ve always had a spirit of individualism, your anti-government sentiment, not wanting to be told what to do. I was a mayor here in Texas and so, you know, I grew up here in Texas. I live here in Texas. And so I’m very, very familiar, like a lot of listeners are, with the fact that Americans generally enjoy their sense of individualism and not necessarily being dictated to. I mean, sometimes I think that some of this slowness to respond and to abide by the best public health practices stems from that culture within us, you know, within this notion still of resisting government. Now, that’s not true with everybody. But I’m saying that that’s still a very real strand within our country. At the same time, what’s ironic here is that our nation is the one that if you went around the world and you said, take a look at the last hundred years and who has been leading on science, scientific advancement, the advancement of basic knowledge and then utilizing that basic knowledge to turn that into vaccines, products that improve quality of life, infrastructure advancements. Whether that’s reaching the moon or getting into space or any other thing, you know, most people would say the United States. Now, you know, it’s not like there are no competitors out there, but, you know, for a long time, we’ve been the clear leader.
[24:08] Andy Slavitt: Sure. But draw a distinction, though, between we can always out-tech our way places when that’s the solution. But there’s this other flip side of it, which is the sociology of it, which is, you know, when you don’t need tech, but it requires the goodness and decency of people like my grandmother — like, you know, your grandparents, your parents, like if you said, hey, we have great individual liberties here, they would ask what’s the responsibility that comes with that? What’s the price of that freedom? That feels like, when you talk about the last hundred years, that used to be part of who we are. We’re proving right now that that’s if it’s not been lost for good, it at least has been misplaced.
[24:56] Julián Castro: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I’ve said for a while now that one of the hardest things to do right now is to summon unity in our country. I remember President Obama telling a story a few years ago right before he got out of office. In an interview, President Obama told a story of traveling to make the pitch for Chicago to get I think it was the 2016 Olympics. So this would have been before 2016. And he said, you know, when it was announced by the IOC, the International Olympic Committee, that Chicago didn’t get it, President Obama said he was surprised that folks on the other side of the aisle were cheering that, as though it was a loss for him because, you know, in times past, everybody would have been cheering. America wants to get the Olympics and that’s our city. And, you know, so that’s our chance to get the Olympics. A lot of people have said — and it’s true that we’re very polarized these days. It’s hard to summon a sense of national unity. And part of that as well is it’s harder to ask some people right now to sacrifice what they want to be able to do. They’re individualistic pursuits for the sense of community good. And that’s unfortunate because, you know, every nation, not only the United States, that’s made progress and has improved quality of life, has improved economic mobility has done that because you have that balance. It’s not just about the individual, it’s also about the community. And we need to get back to that.
[26:38] Andy Slavitt: Well, you were it. You ran for president and you may run again. And I hope you do. See, you obviously believe it’s possible. I mean, I don’t I don’t think you ran for president to divide the country the way Donald Trump has the other way. I don’t think that was your vision.
[26:54] Julián Castro: No, not at all.
[26:55] Andy Slavitt: I think your vision is there is a craving, something in people I think feel they’re missing. If we’re called to it. But it’s not easy. And it feels like I think one of the most discouraging things about these moments is not just the science and the death toll, but what is it saying about our country? And is there, in fact, a path back to that, because so many things are less possible if we can’t do that. And it’s been quite some time since we’ve seen ourselves that way.
[27:27] Julián Castro: I’m still hopeful that we can get to a time where people are willing to come together and do big things again. And also make sure that every single person in our country counts and is able to pursue their own dreams. I mean, I ran for president because I want to make sure that everybody counts in this country, and that if we could create a country where even the most vulnerable people were able to have a shot at opportunity, a shot to prosper, that it would work for everybody. I think that we can create that in the years to come. And I’m hopeful when I see more people that believe that every single person in our country should have healthcare now. I mean, you ask that question in 2020 versus asking that question in 2010, more people believe today than they did a decade ago or two decades ago that healthcare is a human right. To the credit of many folks, but including Senator Sanders, who led that effort. Well, I think one day we’re also going to come on a time where people are more likely to see safe, decent, affordable housing as a human right. And one of the things we’re covering this coming week in my podcast deals with the Flint water crisis. And I remark on how amazing it is that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, people are not guaranteed something as basic as clean water. Yeah, we’re bigger than that. I think, as a country.
[28:58] Andy Slavitt: Sure. Well, I want to talk about your podcast in a second. And I worked on a part of that Flint water crisis. I don’t know if you recall, we decided in Medicaid — this was a couple years ago when we were both in the government. And for those who don’t remember, children were getting poisoned from the lead pipes. We basically decided to provide free healthcare to every person under 18 in Flint. And then we were asked if we would consider blatantly coloring outside the lines, which was would we pay for pipe remediation in these buildings? And our lawyers looked at it and said there’s absolutely no legal authority to do that. And in fact, you really can’t. And we looked at it and we just asked the question, if we don’t, who will? So we did that. I will willingly say that that was part of making a decision that could be criticized as using federal funds for something that arguably wasn’t designed for.
[30:00] Julián Castro: But was essential, was absolutely needed by the community there urgently at that time.
[30:08] Andy Slavitt: I was struck by something I was looking at last night, which is one in about 1,800 Latinx people have died since the virus began. I think the rate of death is 55 people per 100,000, which is, you know, I think for white Americans it’s about 30, for black Americans it’s like 90. But it’s also climbing at a very scary rate. And I’ve been connected to and doing some work with people in the Central Valley, California, the ag workers, obviously the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. I would say the indigenous curve is also dangerously high, largely in the Navajo at Hopi areas. So a common thing that I hear is, Andy, how bad could this crisis be because I don’t know anybody who’s died? And my response is always the same one. It’s that’s because you don’t know the people that grow your food on your table. That’s cause you don’t know the people that drove the truck to bring the food to your table. You may know them, but you don’t know the names of the people who work in the grocery store, who deliver the food to your house. And you probably don’t know anybody in the county jail by name. This is obviously a population of people that you’ve talked very openly and explicitly about and been a leading voice for.
[31:32] Julián Castro: You know, it’s sad that this pandemic has shone a bright spotlight on those two Americas. And as many people have said, it has just laid bare the inequities in our country. And the hardest hit have been the most vulnerable people, those that are working in the fields as farm workers, all of the folks in those meatpacking plants, grocery store workers, frontline healthcare workers. To me, the saddest part of this is that the most vulnerable people that have been hit the hardest by this pandemic health-wise and economically are also the ones who have stepped up and in many ways done the most, whether we’re talking about farm workers that every single day right now in California, even as they’re working with an orange sky, smoke all over the place, inhaling, you know, who knows what, they continue to pick crops, do their work with meager pay and meager benefits and bad working conditions in the hot sun so that everybody can have food on their table. Or meat-packing plant workers that do a hard job for little pay and meager benefits so that people can have meat on the table. Grocery store workers, fast food workers, many of them that barely make the minimum wage and also don’t have great benefits. People that have been working in these fast food restaurants for 15 years and, you know, they’ve gotten like a dollar’s worth of a pay raise in that amount of time. This pandemic, I hope, if any silver lining comes out of it, it’s that we make a real commitment in this country to bring them up to par. That we don’t forget about the way they stepped up during this time. There are a lot of people that don’t know somebody that has died from COVID-19 because, you know, they don’t have a connection like that. But that’s changing. By one estimate, you saw the other day, more than 400,000 people may have died by the end of the year from COVID-19. It’s a reminder that people might believe that they’re insulated and in some ways they are, but eventually, what impacts one segment of our society is going to impact every segment of our society.
[36:00] Andy Slavitt: Can we flip a little bit? A couple of other things I would love to talk about. When we talk about healthcare, the thing that’s inescapable is how fundamental housing is for people to be able to lead a life where they can stay healthy, where they can recover. Kids can be free of trauma. There’s stability. It’s almost impossible if someone is housing insecure for them to get better. It’s one of the things that I think other nations have known and they invest far greater in affordable housing than we do. I’m wondering if you can help us reimagine housing for the future. What does it look like?
[36:44] Julián Castro: I mean, as I see it, we’re the wealthiest nation on earth. We ought to see housing as a human right. We ought to treat it that way. What does that mean? It means that we should work toward having an ample supply of safe, decent, affordable housing for everyone. And right now, we have an evictions crisis that is on our doorstep. But we had a rental affordability crisis when it comes to housing well before COVID-19. I mean, we’ve been grappling with that for a while. So what I think we need to do is make a massive investment in building out more units across the United States and also ensuring that people can get into those units. During the campaign, I proposed investing $10 billion to create housing units, millions of housing units, over the next few years, and also doing things like a refundable renter’s tax credit. Just like the tax code right now has a benefit in there for homeowners through the mortgage interest deduction, why not a benefit for renters that would help them pay their rent? Because what we saw pre COVID-19 was that rent was spiking all over the country, not only in the usual suspect cities like D.C. or New York or San Francisco, but even in smaller towns. And I also proposed making universal the housing choice voucher program so that if an individual or family makes less than 50 percent of an area’s median income, they would be able to get a housing choice voucher. You get that voucher and then you can take that into the private market, and that’s basically a supplement to be able to rent out a unit. You still have to put about 30 percent of your income toward the rent, but it helps you get a decent place to live.
[38:37] Andy Slavitt: How much of a dent do you think we could make if we implement those things, given the enormity of the challenge?
[38:42] Julián Castro: You know, in the Obama administration, we reduced veteran homelessness by 47 percent between 2010 and 2016. And we had a plan to end family homelessness within 10 years. I believe if I’m remembering correctly that the cost was $11 billion. Something like that.
[39:05] Andy Slavitt: Wow. I say wow because in Washington talk, that’s nothing.
[39:09] Andy Slavitt: You know, I mean, that was family homelessness, that wasn’t the whole thing. Right. But, you know, let’s say the whole thing is a couple of multiples of that. It’s something that is feasible if we have the political will to do it. Unfortunately, 40 years ago or so, around the beginning of the Reagan era, we took our foot off the gas in investing in housing opportunity. And we’ve had blips up and down during the Obama administration, the Clinton administration. But generally, we haven’t had the kind of commitment that we did in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
[39:43] Andy Slavitt: One point I want to make for people listening is I think one of the things we learn is when you elect a president, you elect the president, but you also elect somebody who is going to be at the helm of HUD, who’s going to say, like Secretary Castro, we’re going to end family homelessness within a decade. Or you elect Ben Carson. And I don’t mean to disparage anybody individually, but we sometimes look at this as about the person, but if we’ve learned anything over the last number of years is you elect a number of people that sit around that president who really are responsible for painting a vision and executing on things in our country, whether it’s Health and Human Services, HUD, Treasury, Defense, State, etc. But, you know, all of those choices that a president gets to make is one of the things that we don’t look at. Let’s about the podcast. So I’m a total amateur at this, as everyone who listens know. You’re actually my fiftieth episode.
[40:51] Julián Castro: Oh, is that right? Congratulations. I wish I were at 50. I only have one under my belt.
[40:58] Andy Slavitt: I’ve learned that interviewing people is harder than being interviewed. My whole thing was just to try to talk to people. Expose people to the truth of what’s going on. And then, you know, our ethic is intended to be 50 percent Winston Churchill, 50 percent Fred Rogers, which is can we be helpful? Can we provide a unified message. And then the Lemonada people, man, they are bossy.
[41:34] Julián Castro: They know what they’re doing, for sure. I never knew how much goes into actually putting one of these things together and making it sound great. I got to give him credit, w=so much happens behind the scenes. In so many ways, you and I have the easy part. So much of piecing this together and the expertise of understanding what listeners will find fascinating and what they’ll listen to goes into it behind the scenes.
[42:03] Andy Slavitt: Yeah, they take so much pride in the quality of what you do as much as you do, and they want you to be you and do your best. And I think that’s great. So I’d love to hear, tell people about what they’ll get to hear on Our America.
[42:19] Julián Castro: So this is my very first podcast called Our America. And really, it’s about telling the stories of people across our country, many of whom I’ve met over the last six years. I’ve visited over 100 different communities, more than 40 states. People that are struggling, people in this country that are chasing their dreams, but oftentimes unable to reach them for different reasons. I want to tell those stories in a hopeful way, in a humanizing way, in a constructive way. You know, to throw out there how do we change our country for the better so that everybody can reach their dreams? The first episode that we did was about my own family’s American dream story. My grandmother, who came here from 1922 in Mexico and worked as a maid, a cook and a babysitter for her whole career. You know, my mother got more of an education. She actually graduated from high school and then went on to college. And then my brother Joaquin and I kind of took that baton of opportunity and went even further.
[43:24] Andy Slavitt: You guys must be a couple of disappointments.
[43:30] Julián Castro: I wanted people to know in that first episode where I’m coming from because I feel tremendously blessed, tremendously fortunate to have had the opportunities in our country that everybody would hope to have. To get a good education, to be able to become a professional, to provide for my own family today. But so many people out there are working hard in the same way and they’re not able to reach their dreams. In next week’s episode, we’re talking to a couple in Flint, pastor Ezra Tillman and his wife, Catrina Tillman, who set up this thing called a water box to provide filtered clean water to the residents of Flint in the middle of the water crisis. And they’re still at it today. And why they were moved to do that and the impact that they’ve made, which I hope will be a way to talk about what happens when our government fails people and, you know, how do we change it. But then also, what are these stories about people who step up and fill that gap? And where do those two meet? We need Americans that are willing to do that, but we also need to improve our government so that it doesn’t feel like that, so that it does make the investments that prevent a Flint water crisis in the first place, so people can get something as basic as clean water in the future. One of the episodes I’m excited about is the Las Vegas storm drainage tunnels. These strange storm drainage tunnels they run underneath the Vegas Strip. Hundreds of people are homeless, live in these tunnels. And I visited them when I was a candidate for president. I never knew about them, even though I had been HUD secretary already, you know, and visited Vegas several times as HUD secretary. It was just amazing and ironic that people were living there, homeless, sleeping inside a wet concrete drainage tunnel that runs underneath these hotels that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, sometimes billions of dollars. So we’re going to talk about that. And, you know, what does that say about our country? But more importantly, how do we fix that?
[45:39] Andy Slavitt: I think it’s a beautiful vision. And even though there’s some challenging stories, it’s also a hopeful one as well, because you’re capturing some of the richness of our country, people in it that are persevering. Who do you hope listens to it that is not part of people who follow you and support you today?
[45:58] Julián Castro: I hope that folks listen who are looking for a place to be hopeful, to understand some of these subjects a little bit better, but also to be hopeful about what we can create together as one community, as one nation in the future. And one of the things I think that we have to do in our country right now is we have to be willing to dream again and then work toward achieving that collective dream. And one of my dreams is that in our country, in the years to come, whether it’s those people that are sleeping in the storm drainage tunnel, or it’s those children that should never have drunk that contaminated water in Flint, or any number of people who are struggling today, that they don’t have to struggle in the future because we’ve made it better together. I hope that people come for some hope.
[46:51] Andy Slavitt: I think everybody who listens to this show should do that.
[46:56] Julián Castro: Thanks a lot. And I hope folks will check it out. Our America.
[47:00] Andy Slavitt: So great. And. And yeah, the Lemonada people are great. So glad to have you in the family. We can, like, text each other some secrets if we can find some.
[47:14] Julián Castro: I’ll give you my cell number right now.
[47:37] Andy Slavitt: All right. Well, thank you to Julián. You know, I was really proud to share my podcasting expertise just now with him. Of course, I am going to teach him a lot of the tricks of the trade. You could tell by that that he was very needy and interested in kind of all of my experience from my 50 episodes. My journey as a podcaster. I actually found him to be phenomenally personable. And, you know, one thing that I tried to do in the show is see if I can get people past their talking points and into talking what they really feel. You don’t have to do that with him. Like at all. Like he didn’t have any talking points. He was him. I mean, I was watching him, every time I asked him a question, he kind of closed his eyes and thought. And I mean, I honestly feel like he was speaking from the heart. And I know a lot of political people, and it’s just hard to do that because you get really, really into your routine and think things over and you know what sounds good and so forth. And he didn’t do that at all. So I think he’s going to have a spectacular podcast. And I hope you enjoyed this episode. Anyway, speaking of spectacular podcasts, I am really excited about the upcoming podcasts. I’m kind of geeking out a little bit for our Monday podcast because it’s Ed Yong, who is a writer for The Atlantic. He wrote the column in 2016 about how would Donald Trump handle a pandemic? And if you read it today, it will blow your mind. And he is such a good writer. He started out writing about science and now he writes about the sociology of this thing because that’s where a lot of the stuff is rooted. He says so many of the things that I believe that I am positive he’s stealing them from me, except he says I’m better and he has a British accent, which is just killer. Wednesday, another governor, and a governor who has done a phenomenal job leading his response for his state, Kentucky’s Andy Beshear. And I think you’re really going to enjoy that. We’re going to talk about a couple of governors and we’re going to really provide the perspective of what a real chief executive does in a crisis. And then the following week, great shows, including Rajeev Shah, who is the head of the Rockefeller Foundation, who has made it their mission to get the country from where it has been to tens of millions of tests. We’re gonna have a great time talking to him. But for now, I’m going to have to let you go. I’ve kept you too long.
[50:33] Andy Slavitt: Andy Slavitt: Thanks for listening to In the Bubble. Hope you rate us highly. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen, produce the show. Our mix is by Ivan Kuraev. My son Zach Slavitt is emeritus co-host and onsite producer. Improved by the much better Lana Slavitt, my wife. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs still rule our lives and executive produce the show. And our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, and additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me @ASlavitt on Twitter or @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you like what you heard today, most importantly, please tell your friends to come listen. But still tell them at a distance or with a mask. And please stay safe. Share some joy and we will get through this together. #StayHome.