Milton Friedman: Drugs Should Be Legalized (1991)

The economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman argued in 1991 for the legalization of drugs in the US. He was an opponent of government intervention.

The complete transcript is available at the NorthWestReport.com

Paige (Presenter) : Let us deal first with the issue of legalization of drugs. How do you see America changing for the better under that system?

Friedman: I see America with half the number of prisons, half the number of prisoners, ten thousand fewer homicides a year, inner cities in which there’s a chance for these poor people to live without being afraid for their lives, citizens who might be respectable who are now addicts not being subject to becoming criminals in order to get their drug, being able to get drugs for which they’re sure of the quality. You know, the same thing happened under prohibition of alcohol as is happening now.

Under prohibition of alcohol, deaths from alcohol poisoning, from poisoning by things that were mixed in with the bootleg alcohol, went up sharply. Similarly, under drug prohibition, deaths from overdose, from adulterations, from adulterated substances have gone up.

Paige: How would legalization adversely affect America, in your view?

Friedman: The one adverse effect that legalization might have is that there very likely would be more people taking drugs. That’s not by any means clear. But, if you legalized, you destroy the black market, the price of drugs would go down drastically. And as an economist, lower prices tend to generate more demand. However, there are some very strong qualifications to be made to that.

The effect of criminalization, of making drugs criminal, is to drive people from mild drugs to strong drugs.

Paige: In what way?

Friedman: Marijuana is a very heavy, bulky substance and, therefore, it’s relatively easy to interdict. The warriors on drugs have been more successful interdicting marijuana than, let’s say, cocaine. So, marijuana prices have gone up, they’ve become harder to get. There’s been an incentive to grow more potent marijuana and people have been driven from marijuana to heroin, or cocaine, or crack.

Paige: Let us consider another drug then, and that is the drug crack.

Friedman: Crack would never have existed, in my opinion, if you had not had drug prohibition. Why was crack created? The preferred method of taking cocaine, which I understand was by sniffing it, snorting it, became very expensive and they were desperate to find a way of packaging cocaine…

Paige: The entrepreneurs?

Friedman: Of course, they’re entrepreneurs. The people who are running the drug traffic are no different from the rest of us, except that they have more entrepreneurial ability and less concern about not hurting other people. They’re more irresponsible in that way. But they’re in business and they’re trying to make as much as they can. And they discovered a good way to make money was to dilute this crack with baking soda or whatever else–I mean, cocaine, whatever else they do–I don’t know the procedure–so that they could bring it out in five dollar and ten dollar doses.

Paige: Let’s talk about that more in a minute. But with regard to crack, considering the fact that it’s very addictive and considering the fact that…

Friedman: That’s very dubious. It is addictive, but I understand from all the medical evidence that it’s no more addictive than other drugs. In fact, the most addictive drug everybody acknowledges is tobacco.

Paige: Well, let me rephrase that then. All of the information I’ve seen on it suggests that it is a drug which is very pleasurable.

Friedman: Absolutely, no doubt.

Paige: And the effect of it is also very short.

Friedman: Yes.

Paige: And it is very expensive because multiple doses cost a lot of money. My question is: If drugs were legalized and if crack cocaine were available at a low cost, could it not be devastating in that it is so pleasurable, I am told, that more people could get it and stay on it for longer periods of time?

Friedman: Well, maybe. Nobody can say with certainty what will happen along those lines. But I think it’s very dubious, because all of the experience with legal drugs is that there’s a tendency for people to go from the stronger to the weaker and not the other way around, just as you go from regular beer to light beer. That’s the tendency that there is: from cigarettes without filters to low-tar, filtered cigarettes, and so on. But I can’t rule out that what you’re saying might happen, but, and this is a very important but, the harm that would result from that would be much less than it is now, for several reasons. The really main thing that bothers me about the crack is not what you’re talking about, it’s the crack babies, because that’s the real tragedy. They are innocent victims. They didn’t choose to be crack babies any more than the people who are born with the fetal alcohol syndrome.

Paige: As you now, we are already experiencing epidemic proportions of that. One out of every four babies going into one hospital, I can tell you, in Maryland is addicted.

Friedman: But I’ll tell you, it isn’t that crack babies are necessarily addicted, but they tend to come in at low birth weight, they tend to come in mentally impaired, and so on. But you know that the number who do that from alcohol is much greater. So, the same problem arises there. That’s what bothers me.

Now suppose you legalized. Under current circumstances, a mother who is a crack addict and is carrying a baby is afraid to go the prenatal treatment because she turned herself into a criminal, she’s subject to being thrown in jail. Under legalized drugs, that inhibition would be off. And, you know, even crack addicts, mothers, have a feeling of responsibility to their children.

And I have no doubt that under those circumstances, it would be possible to have a much more effective system of prenatal care, a much more effective system of trying to persuade people who are on drugs not to have children or to go off drugs while they have children.

Paige: Let us turn to the early genesis of your belief that the drug laws may not be working the way the nation would hope them to. Tell me about the elements that you saw early on that changed your mind or changed your way of thinking.

Friedman: Well, I’m not saying “changed.” I would rather say “formed” my way of thinking, because I do not recall at any time that I was ever in favor of prohibition of either alcohol or drugs. I grew up–I’m old enough to have lived through some part of the Prohibition era.

Paige: And you remember it?

Friedman: I remember the occasion when a fellow graduate student at Columbia from Sweden wanted to take me downtown to a restaurant for a Swedish meal and introduced me to the Swedish drink aquavit. This was a restaurant at which this Swedish fellow had been getting aquavit all during Prohibition; they had been selling it to him. And this was just after the repeal of Prohibition. We went there and he asked them for some aquavit. They said, “Oh, no, we haven’t gotten our license yet.” And finally, he talked to them in Swedish and persuaded them to take us into the back where they gave us a glass of aquavit apiece. Now that shows the absurdity of it.

Prohibition was repealed in 1933 when I was 21 years old, so was a teenager during most of Prohibition. Alcohol was readily available. Bootlegging was common. Any idea that alcohol prohibition was keeping people from drinking was absurd. There were speakeasies all over the place. But more than that. We had this spectacle of Al Capone, of the hijackings, of the gang wars…

Anybody with two eyes could see that this was a bad deal, that you were doing more harm than good. In addition, I became an economist. And as an economist, I came to recognize the importance of markets and of free choice and of consumer sovereignty and came to discover the harm that was done when you interfered with them. The laws against drugs were passed in 1914, but there was no very great enforcement of it.

Keith Barry: Brain Magic

Keith Patrick Barry is an Irish illusionist, mentalist, and close-up magician. You can visit his website, KeithBarry.com, here.

An interactive transcript can be found here, on the TED website.

From the amazing TED lectures: talks from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, where leading thinkers talk on science, business, development and the arts.

Keith Barry: : Brain magic. What’s brain magic all about? Brain magic to me indicates that area of magic dealing with psychological and mind reading effects. So unlike traditional magic, it uses the power of words, linguistic deception, non-verbal communication and various other techniques to create the illusion of a sixth sense.

Now, I’m going to show you all how easy it is to manipulate the human mind once you know how. And I want everybody downstairs also to join in with me and everybody here. I want everybody to put out your hands like this for me, first of all. OK, clap them together, once. OK, reverse your hands. Now follow my actions exactly. Now about half the audience has their left hand up. Why is that? OK, swap them around, put your right hand up. OK, now, cross your hands over, so your right hand goes over, interlace your fingers like this, then make sure your right thumb is outside your left thumb — that’s very important. Yours is the other way around, so swap it around. Excellent, OK. Extend your fingers like this for me. All right. Tap them together once. OK, now, if you did not allow me to deceive your minds, you would all be able to do this. (Laughter) So, now you can see how easy it is for me to manipulate the human mind, once you know how. (Laughter)

Now, I remember when I was about 15, I read a copy of Life magazine, which detailed a story about a 75-year-old blind Russian woman who could sense printed letters — there’s still people trying to do it here — (Laughter) — who could sense printed letters and even sense colors, just by touch. And she was completely blind. She could also read the serial numbers on bills when they were placed, face down, on a hard surface. Now, I was fascinated, but at the same time, skeptical. How could somebody read using their fingertips? You know, if you actually think about it, if somebody is totally blind – a guy yesterday did a demonstration in one of the rooms where people had to close their eyes, and they could just hear things. And it’s just a really weird thing to try and figure out, how could somebody read using their fingertips? Now earlier on, as part of a TV show that I have coming up on MTV, I attempted to give a similar demonstration of what is now known as second sight. So let’s take a look.

(Video) Man: There we go. I’ll guide you into the car.

Kathryn: (Laughter)

Man: You’re OK, keep on going.

Kathryn: How are you?

Keith Barry: Kathryn, it’s Keith here, I’m going to take you to a secret location, OK?

KB: Now, Kathryn, there was no way you could see through that blindfold, at all.

Kathryn: OK, but don’t say my name like that.

KB: No, but you’re OK, yes?

Kathryn: Yes.

KB: There’s no way you could have seen through it, agreed?

Kathryn: No.

KB: OK, I’m just going to take it off, you’re OK, you’re OK. Do you want to take off the other part of it? Go ahead and take it off, you’re OK. We’ll just stop for a second.

Kathryn: I’m so afraid of what I’m going to see.

KB: No, no, you’re fine, you’re fine, take it off. You’re OK, you’re safe. Have you ever heard of second sight?

Kathryn: No.

KB: Second sight is whereby a mind-control expert can see through somebody else’s eyes. And I’m going to try that right now.

Kathryn: God.

KB: Are you ready? Where is it? There’s no way …

Kathryn: (Beep) Oh, my God!

KB: Shh. Don’t say anything, I’m trying to see through your eyes. I can’t see.

Kathryn: There’s a wall, there’s a wall.

KB: Look at the road, look at the road.

Kathryn: OK, OK, OK. Oh, my God!

KB: Now, anything coming at all?

Kathryn: No, no, no, no.

KB: Sure there’s not?

Kathryn: No, no, I’m just still looking at the road. I’m looking at the road, all the time, I’m not taking my eyes off the road. (Beep) (Beep) (Beep) Oh, my God!

KB: Where are we? Where are we? We’re going uphill, are we going uphill?

Kathryn: Look at the road — (Beep) Still got that goddamn blindfold on.

KB: What?

Kathryn: How are you doing this?

KB: Just don’t break my concentration. KB: We’re OK, though?

Kathryn: Yes. That’s so weird. We’re nearly there. Oh, my God! Oh, my God!

KB: And I’ve stopped.

Kathryn: That is weird. You’re like a freak-ass of nature. That was the most scary thing I’ve ever done in my life.


Thank you. By the way, two days ago, we were going to film this down there, at the race course, and we got a guy into a car, and we got a camera man in the back, but halfway through the drive, he told me he had a — I think it was a nine-millimeter or something, stuck to his leg. So I stopped pretty quick, and that was it.

So, do you believe it’s possible to see through somebody else’s eyes? That’s the question. Now, most people here would automatically say no. OK, but I want you to realize some facts. I couldn’t see through the blindfold. The car was not gimmicked or tricked in any way, the girl — I’d never met before, all right. So I want you to just think about it for a moment. A lot of people try to come up with a logical solution to what just happened, all right. But because your brains are not trained in the art of deception, the solutions you come up with will 99 percent of the time be way off the mark.

This is because magic is all about directing attention. If, for instance, I didn’t want you to look at my right hand, well, then, I don’t look at it. But if I wanted you to look at my right hand, then I look at it, too, you see. It’s very, very simple, once you know how, but very complicated in other ways.

Now, I’m going to give you some demonstrations up here, live, right now. I need two people to help me out real quick. Can you come up? And let’s see, down at the end, here, can you also come up, real quick? Do you mind? Yes, at the end. OK, give them a round of applause as they come up. You might want to use the stairs, there. (Applause) Now, it’s very important for everybody here to realize I haven’t set anything up with you guys. You don’t know what’s about to happen. Is that agreed? OK, would you mind just standing over here for a moment? Your name is?

Nicole: Nicole.

KB: Nicole, and? (Telephone ringing)

KB: OK, oh. Tell them, actually here’s the thing, answer it, answer it, answer it. (Laughter)

KB: Is it a girl?

Man: They’ve already gone.

KB: Oh, they’re gone, OK. I’ll tell you what, swap over positions. Can you stand over here, this will just make it a little bit easier. OK, that was a pity, I would have told them it was the ace of spades. OK, a little bit closer. (Laughter) A little bit closer. (Laughter) OK, a little bit closer, come over — they look really nervous up here. Come in a little bit closer.

OK, now, do you believe in witchcraft at all?

Nicole: No.

KB: Voodoo?

Nicole: No.

KB: Things that go bump in the night?

Nicole: No.

KB: Besides, who’s next, no, OK. I want you to just stand exactly like this for me, pull up your sleeves, if you don’t mind. OK, now, I want you to be aware of all the different sensations around you, because we’re going to try a voodoo experiment right now. I want you to be aware of the sensations, but don’t say anything until I ask you, and don’t open your eyes until I ask you. From this point onwards, close your eyes, do not say anything, do not open them, be aware of the sensations.

Yes or no, did you feel anything?

Nicole: Yes.

KB: You did feel that? What did you feel?

Nicole: A touch on my back.

KB: How many times did you feel it?

Nicole: Twice.

KB: Twice. OK, extend your left arm out in front of you. Extend your left arm, OK. OK, keep it there. Be aware of the sensations, don’t say anything, don’t open your eyes, OK. Did you feel anything, there?

Nicole: Yes.

KB: What did you feel?

Nicole: Three —

KB: Like a tickling sensation?

Nicole: Yes.

KB: Can you show us where? OK, excellent. Open your eyes. I never touched you. I just touched his back, and I just touched his arm. A voodoo experiment. (Laughter) Yeah, I walk around nightclubs all night like this. (Laughter) You just take a seat over here for a second. I’m going to use you again, in a moment. And can you take a seat right over here for me, if you don’t mind. Sit right here.

Man: OK.

KB: OK, take a seat. Excellent, OK. Now, what I want you to do is look directly at me, OK, just take a deep breath in through your nose, letting it out through your mouth, and relax. Allow your eyes to close, on five, four, three, two, one — close your eyes right now. OK, now, I’m not hypnotizing you, I’m merely placing you in a heightened state of synchronicity, so our minds are along the same lines. And as you sink and drift and float into this relaxed state of mind, I’m going to take your left hand, and just place it up here.

And I want you to hold it there, just for a moment, and I only want you to allow your hand to sink and drift and float back to the tabletop at the same rate and speed as you drift and float into this relaxed state of awareness, and allow it to go all the way down to the tabletop. That’s it, all the way down, all the way down, all the way down, and further, and further, and further, and further, and further, and further. Excellent. I want you to allow your hand to stick firmly to the tabletop. OK, now, allow it to stay there. OK, now, in a moment, you’ll feel a certain pressure, OK, and I want you to be aware of the pressure. Just be aware of the pressure. And I only want you to allow your hand to float slowly back up from the tabletop as you feel the pressure release, but only when you feel the pressure release. Do you understand? Just answer yes or no. Do you understand?

Man: Yes.

KB: Hold it right there. OK, and only when you feel the pressure go back, I want you to allow your hand to slowly drift back to the table top, but only when you feel the pressure. (Laughter) OK, that was wonderfully done, let’s try it again.

Excellent. Now that you’ve got the idea, let’s try something even more interesting. Allow it to stick firmly to the table top, keep your eyes closed. Can you stand up? OK, just stand, stage forward. I want you to point directly at his forehead, OK. Imagine a connection between you and him, only when you want the pressure to be released, make an upward gesture, like this, but only when you want the pressure to be released. You can wait as long as you want, but only when you want the pressure released. OK, let’s try it again. OK, now, imagine the connection, OK. Point directly at his forehead, only when you want the pressure released, we’ll try it again. OK, it worked that time, excellent. And hold it there, hold it there, both of you, hold it there, only when you want the pressure to go back, make a downward gesture. You can wait as long as you want. You did it pretty quickly, but it went down, OK.

Now, I want you to be aware that in a moment, when I snap my fingers, your eyes will open, again. It’s OK to remember to forget, or forget to remember what happened. Most people ask you what the hell just happened up here? But it’s OK that even though you’re not hypnotized, you will forget everything that happened. (Laughter) On five, four, three, two one — open your eyes, wide awake. Give them a round of applause, as they go back to their seats. (Applause) OK, you can go back.

I once saw a film called “The Gods Are Crazy.” Has anybody here seen that film? Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Applause) Do you remember when they threw the Coke bottle out of the airplane, and it landed on the ground and it didn’t break? Now, see, that’s because Coke bottles are solid. It’s nearly impossible to break a Coke bottle. Do you want to try it? Good job. (Laughter) She’s not taking any chances.

You see, psychokinesis is the paranormal influence of the mind on physical events and processes. For some magicians or mentalists sometimes the spoon will bend or melt, sometimes it will not. Sometimes the object will slide across the table, sometimes it will not. It depends on how much energy you have that day, so on, and so forth. We’re going to try an experiment in psychokinesis, right now. Come right over here, next to me. Excellent.

Now, have a look at the Coke bottle. Make sure it is solid, there’s only one hole, and it’s a normal Coke bottle. And you can whack it against the table, if you want. Be careful. Even though it’s solid, I’m standing away. OK, I want you to pinch right here with two fingers and your thumb. Excellent. Now, I’ve got a shard of glass here, OK. I want you to examine the shard of glass. Be careful, because it is sharp. Just hold on to it for a moment. Now, hold it out here.

I want you to imagine, right now, a broken relationship from many years ago. I want you to imagine all the negative energy from that broken relationship, from that guy, being imparted into the broken piece of glass, which will represent him, OK. But I want you to take this very seriously. Stare at the glass, ignore everybody right here. In a moment you’ll feel a certain sensation, OK, and when you feel that sensation, I want you to drop the piece of glass into the bottle. Think of that guy, that ba — that guy, (Laughter) I’m trying to be good here. OK, and when you feel the sensation — it might take a while — drop it into the glass. OK, drop it in.

Now, imagine all that negative energy in there. Imagine his name, and imagine him, inside the glass. And I want you to release that negative energy by shaking it from side to side. (Laughter) That was a lot of negative energy, built up in there. (Laughter) (Applause) I also want you to think of his name. Look at me and think of his name. Have you got his name? OK, think of how many letters in the title of his name. Think about how many letters in the title. There’s five letters in the title. You didn’t react to that, so it’s four letters in the title. Think of one of the letters in the title. Think of one of the letters. There’s a K in his name, there is a K. See the way I knew that, because my name starts with a K also, but his name doesn’t start with a K, it starts with an M. Tell Mike I said hello, the next time you see him. Was that his name?

Nicole: Mm-hmm. KB: OK, give her a round of applause. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) I’ve got one more thing to share with you right now. Actually, Chris, I was going to pick you for this, but instead of picking you, can you hop up here and pick a victim for this next experiment? And it should be a male victim, that’s the only thing.

Chris Anderson: Oh, OK.

KB: I was going to use you for this, but I decided I might want to come back another year. (Laughter)

CA: Well, to reward him for saying “eureka,” and for selecting Michael Mercil to come and talk to us — Steve Jurvetson.

KB: OK, Steve, come on up here. (Applause)

CA: You knew!

KB: OK, Steve, I want you to take a seat, right behind here. Excellent. Now, Steve — oh, you can check underneath. Go ahead, I’ve no fancy assistants underneath there. They just, they insist that because I was a magician, put a nice black tablecloth on. There you are, OK. (Laughter) I’ve got four wooden plinths here, Steve. One, two, three and four. Now, they’re all the exact same except this one obviously has a stainless steel spike sticking out of it. I want you to examine it, and make sure it’s solid. Happy?

Steve Jurvetson: Mmm, yes.

KB: OK. Now, Steve, I’m going to stand in front of the table, OK, when I stand in front of the table, I want you to put the cups on the plinths, like this, in any order you want, and then mix them all up, so nobody has any idea where the spike is, all right? SJ: No one in the audience?

KB: No one in the audience, and just to help you out, I’ll block them from view, so nobody can see what you’re doing. I’ll also look away, so, go ahead and mix them up, now. OK, and tell me when you’re done. (Laughter) You done?

SJ: Mmm, almost.

KB: Almost, oh. OK, you’re making sure that’s well hidden. Now — oh, we’ve got one here, we’ve got one here. (Applause) So, all right, we’ll leave them like that. (Laughter) I’m going to have the last laugh, though. (Laughter) Now, Steve, you know where the spike is, but nobody else, does? Correct? But I don’t want you to know either, so swivel around on your chair. They’ll keep an eye on me to make sure I don’t do anything funny, No, stay around, OK. Now, Steve, look back. So, now you don’t know where the spike is, and I don’t know where it is, either, OK. Now, is there any way to see through this blindfold?

SJ: Put this on?

KB: No, just is there any way to see through it?

SJ: Um-umm.

KB: No?

SJ: No, I can’t see through it.

KB: You can’t see through it. Excellent, OK. Now, I’m going to put on the blindfold. Don’t stack them up, OK. Give them an extra mix up. Don’t move the cups, because I don’t want anybody to see where the spike is, but give the plinths an extra mix up, and then line them up, like this, all right? I’ll put the blindfold on. Give them an extra mix up. No messing around this time. OK, go ahead, mix them up. My hand is at life, here, so — at risk. (Laughter) Tell me when you’re done.

SJ: Done.

KB: OK, where are you? Put out your hand. Your right hand. Is that — no, OK. Tell me when I’m over a cup.

SJ: You’re over a cup.

KB: I’m over a cup, right now?

SJ: Mm-hmm.

KB: Now, Steve, do you think it’s here? Yes or no?

SJ: Oh! (Laughter)

KB: I told you I’d have the last laugh. (Laughter)

SJ: I don’t think it’s there.

KB: No? Good decision. (Laughter) (Applause) Now, if I go this way, is there another cup over here? SJ: Can we do the left hand?

KB: Oh, no, no, no. He asked me could he do the left hand. Absolutely not. (Laughter)

KB: Now, if I go this way, is there another cup?

SJ: There’s a cup that way, yes.

KB: OK, tell me when to stop.


KB: There?

SJ: Yes, there’s one.

KB: OK. Do you think it’s here, yes or no? This is your decision, not mine. (Laughter)

SJ: I’m going to say no.

KB: Good decision. (Laughter) OK, give me both hands. Now, put them on both cups. Do you think the spike is under your left hand, or under your right hand?

SJ: Uh, neither.

KB: Neither, oh, OK. But if you were to guess. (Laughter)

SJ: I think it’s under my right hand. KB: You think it’s under your right hand? Now remember, you made all the decisions all along. Psychologists, figure this out. Have a look.

SJ: Oh! (Applause) Thank you.

Thank you. If anybody wants to see some sleight of hand later on, I’ll be outside. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you.

Thank you. (Applause)

Severn Cullis-Suzuki: The Girl Who Silenced the World

Severn Cullis-Suzuki is a Canadian environmental activist, speaker, television host and author. In school she founded an environmental group called ECO. Aged just 12, she spoke at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, a major UN conference with over 108 heads of state and 170 governments attending.

The transcript is from the Schools for a Sustainable Future website, SFSF.com.au, and has been edited.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki: : Hello, I’m Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. – The Environmental Children’s Organization.

We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds trying to make a difference: Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We’ve raised all the money to come here ourselves, to come five thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways.

Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak, speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in our ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don’t know what chemicals are in it.

I used to go, I used to go fishing in Vancouver, my home, with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear of animals and plants going extinct every day — vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry of these little things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I don’t – I want you to realize, neither do you!

  • You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
  • You don’t know how to bring the salmon back up a dead stream.
  • You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct.
  • And you can’t bring back the forests that once grew where there is now a desert.

If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

Here, you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organisers, reporters or politicians – but really you are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles – and all of you are someone’s child.

I’m only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and borders and governments will never change that.

I’m only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.

In, In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel.

In my country, we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, buy and throw away, and yet northern countries will not share with the needy. Even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to share, we are afraid to let go of some of our wealth.

In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter. We have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets. The list could go on for two days.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent time with some children living on the streets. This is what one child told us: “I wish I was rich. And if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicines, shelter, love, and affection.”

If a child on the street who has nothing, is willing to share, why are we who have everything still so greedy?

I can’t stop thinking that these are children my own age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the favelas of Rio; I could be a child starving in Somalia; or a victim of war in the Middle East, or a beggar in India.

I am only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on finding environmental answers, ending poverty, and finding treaties, what a wonderful place this earth would be!

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world. You teach us:

  • to not to fight with others,
  • to work things out,
  • to respect others,
  • to clean up our mess,
  • not to hurt other creatures
  • to share – not be greedy.

Then why do you go out and do, ah, do the things you tell us not to do?

Do not forget why you’re attending these conferences, who you’re doing this for — we are your own children. You are deciding what kind of a world we are growing up in.

Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying “Everything’s going to be alright, it’s not the end of the world, and we’re doing the best we can.”

But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My dad always says “You are what you do, not what you say.”

Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown-ups say you love us. But I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you.

John F Kennedy Visits Ireland: British Pathé (1963)

John F. Kennedy visits Ireland, 1963. British Pathe newsreel

Narrator: The wheels of the Presidential airliner were running on Irish soil. The cheers of Berlin were still ringing in his ears. But how different it all was now.

John F Kennedy was in the land of his forebears. And there to bid him welcome was President De Valera, himself no less a fighter for freedom than the chief executive of the United States.

This youthful man who has revivified the government of the great republic across the ocean had a firm determined step as he went to inspect the guard of honour of 187 men drawn from the 5th Infantry Battalion. Soldiers, these men, who have known active service, for the battalion served the cause of the United Nations in the Congo.

Mr Kennedy is the first American president ever to visit Ireland during his first term of office. That alone would make this a memorable occasion. But there is more to it than that. For as many reflected while President De Valera made his speech of welcome, this is the man whose grandfather Patrick Kennedy somehow scraped together the 4 pounds for a sailing ship passage nd emigrated to the United States.

In the hungry years of the mid-19th century, when adversity drove hundreds of thousands to leave their beloved Ireland, they used to call it seeking their fortune. And the man now driving to Dublin has achieved fortune beyond their wildest dreams. He was coming to the capital of Eire as the head of the greatest nation in the world.

Already thousands were converging upon O’Connell St. For several days the Kennedy visit had been the number one topic of conversation. At last the President was in Dublin. Ireland and America, warm friends for 100 years share in this dynamic man a symbol of their common faith and liberty. The motorcade was cheered by fully a quarter million people.

Wexford beckoned Mr Kennedy on a sentimental pilgrimage. At nearby Dunganstown is cherished the family homestead on which Patrick Kennedy turned his back 100 years ago. The hostess today was a second cousin of the President, Mrs Mary Ryan, who farms there now. Many Kennedys are to be found in the district, several of them the President’s cousins. Scores of people who could claim no relationship had come from near and far to be present. Even to see this teaparty was something none of them will forget.

Mr Kennedy was spending four days in Ireland but the programme was crowded. So all too soon the time came for him to bid Dunganstown and its friendly people goodbye. And there to whisk him away was something few of them had seen before. Certainly not on the doorstep. A helicopter!

Wexford shared with Dunganstown in the President’s homecoming. They could hardly muster the enormous crowds who had cheered him in Germany, but this was a different kind of warmth. Welcoming one in whose veins there’s not a drop of blood that’s not Irish. The Mayor presented Mr Kennedy with a casket containing the scroll of freedom, making him the 13th freeman of an historic borough.

The President then left to return to Dublin. And what a crowd there was in the grounds of the Presidential Residence for the garden party Mr De Valera gave in the visitor’s honour. The film star June Thorburn got close enough to see Mr Kennedy, which is probably more than hundreds there were able to do. Everywhere Mr Kennedy, went they could apply that famous old saying:

It was a great day for the Irish.

Ben Chifley: ‘The Light on the Hill’ (1949)

Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley gave this speech to a meeting of the Australian Labour Party in 1949. The speech was voted one of the most important Australian speeches in a survey by the Australian ABC network.

He describes the reason for the Labour Party’s existence, not just in Australia but worldwide.

The complete transcript can be read on the Australian Politics.com website. The recording is not the original, but a re-enactment from the series ‘Great Rural Speeches’ on ABC in 2007.

Ben Chifley: The Light on the Hill (extract)

Ben Chifley: When I sat at a Labour meeting in the country with only ten or fifteen men there, I found a man sitting beside me who had been working in the Labour movement for fifty-four years. I have no doubt that many of you have been doing the same, not hoping for any advantage from the movement, not hoping for any personal gain, but because you believe in a movement that has been built up to bring better conditions to the people. Therefore, the success of the Labour Party at the next elections depends entirely, as it always has done, on the people who work.

I try to think of the Labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labour movement would not be worth fighting for.

If the movement can make someone more comfortable, give to some father or mother a greater feeling of security for their children, a feeling that if a depression comes there will be work, that the government is striving its hardest to do its best, then the Labour movement will be completely justified.

Ben Chifley, Australian Labour leader