Skip to main content
Libraries

Interview with Fred Grandy

:: ::

Contributor

Grandy, Fred, 1948- ; McKiernan, Stephen

Description

Fred Grandy is an actor and politician. Grandy is well known for his role as "Gopher" on the sitcom The Love Boat. He was elected congressman for Iowa’s Sixth District from 1987 to1995. In 1997, he became president and CEO of Goodwill Industries. He served as a speechwriter for various shows and hosted radio talk shows. Grandy received his Bachelor's degree in English from Harvard University and Master's degree from the Washington Shakespeare Theatre and George Washington University.

Date

1996-11-18

Rights

In copyright

Date Modified

2018-03-29

Is Part Of

McKiernan Interviews

Extent

60:47

Transcription

McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Fred Grandy
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: REV
Date of interview: 18 November 1996
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Start of Interview)

SM (00:00:02):
And I will double check here. Recently, within the past couple years, there has been a lot of criticism of the era of the (19)60s and the early (19)70s and for example-

Speaker 2 (00:00:15):
Peggy Archer, please call the operator. Peggy Archer, please dial the operator.

SM (00:00:20):
Part of the criticism is saying the breakdown of the American family, the increase of drug usage, a lot of the things that are the breakdown in America today are geared right back to the (19)60s and the early (19)70s and thus a lot of the young people of the Boomer generation. Could you comment if that is really a fair analysis of the Boomers and that generation?

FG (00:00:42):
I want to go back to what the analysis of the Boomers was, that somehow this is a misguided or failed movement?

SM (00:00:50):
Well, Boomers are the young people that were reared right after the war. And certainly within the Boomer generation there is a difference too. But they were in college, they were involved in a lot of the movements at that time, the late (19)60s and early (19)70s. The protests on college campuses, the women's movement, the gay and lesbian movement, even the Chicano movement. A lot of the movements happened at that time. So when we see a lot of critical analysis today of America and the wrongs of America, a lot of them are pointing fingers right back to that era.

FG (00:01:19):
Oh, I see.

SM (00:01:20):
And I would like to know what your thoughts are on that.

FG (00:01:23):
Well, I guess I qualify as an early Boomer because I was born in 1948 and was participating, although perhaps not as [inaudible] as some of my classmates in school during my... I think what is frequently left out of these retrospective criticisms of the (19)60s and what is called the Spock Mark Generation, that is quite the phrase, although I found it somewhat repugnant. The fact of the matter is, this was, I think, a kind of golden era of progressivity in American politics and culture and social change. Net impact of this generation is that they looked at the thinking of this country. They certainly heightened awareness. They heightened awareness about American foreign involvement and what the real role of American... And I think it is safe to say that that generation ended the Vietnam War or certainly provided the catalyst to end the Vietnam War. In terms of sheer output, in terms of sheer accomplishment, find me another generation since that can make those kinds of claims. There is not. The late booming generation of the people that were born in the late (19)50s, early (19)60s, that supposedly technically qualifying in your analysis, in your survey, have they upon reaching their legal maturity, their late adolescence, their legal maturity, cohered into a group and created a kind of national consciousness raising? I do not think so. I would like to know what they have done. My view is that this is a group that is much more narcissistic and much less altruistic. Now having said all that, I think we sometimes became infatuated with our progressivity and with our idealism and to some degree did not stay on the case. We created, I think, or participated in an awakening of civil rights injustices, participated in what was probably the incipient movement towards feminism and consciousness raising for women to a lesser degree, gays and lesbians. But I do not think we accomplished the change there that we did with the war in Vietnam because you still have a rift in thinking about civil rights. Women you can say are more accepted at all levels of society, but I assume they are motivated by a gender movement as opposed to a generation. The Baby Boomers, to some degree, lost steam as a movement when they graduated and got a life. And I think the fact that they were so aggressive, so in your face, in some cases, so over the top, it was a movement that was defined by extremism, not by its center, that we lost credibility over time. And then it began to trickle out into these kinds of, I think in many ways, Aersot's consciousness raising movements like Guest and Scientology and a lot of things that basically were I think sanctified leads to narcissism. Lost our sense of a cohesive society and became more involved with our own success or failure within that society and the movement began. In a way, I equate the generation of the (19)60s, at least the early Boomers, with their motivations and commitment to the changing of country. The generation that entered World War II, they were conscripted. But I still think there would have been an enormous, and there was, an enormous outpouring of volunteerism into a kind of national goal. And really the only example of a national goal I have seen since Vietnam, was the rallying behind our efforts. And that was almost over before it began, it stayed for a while. Well, I guess wistfully, I look back and say, I wish we had a movement in this country that was causing the kind of social cohesion that we had back then. It was controversial. It pitted parents against their sons and daughters, a very political time. But the balance, I think the dividends were pretty positive. I have to give that generation, not just because [inaudible].

SM (00:06:33):
I am going to check this. When you look at the critics today of that era, you do not agree with them in terms of-

FG (00:06:45):
Well, they tend to stress the excesses rather than the successes. There was another element though that I think cannot be left out of this discussion. This generation matured as a political force [inaudible] with the health of a tool that was maturing as a force itself and that was television. I am not sure you would have had one without the other. The ability to see these kids on TV, to basically broadcast and transcribe and transmit, really aided and abetted by a broadcast media that war of its capability. Obviously, through the (19)68, Kent State, places like that. And again, the serendipity of the awakening of this generation as a political force, the awakening of the media, a conduit for that force, but whatever it was, it provided that generation, I think, other the generations of either not taking advantage of or have not been able to take advantage of because now it is second nature. Inundated with information now, back in days it was exciting and you watched your television and you were not grazing... The focus, there was a kind of serendipity of focus that allowed our generation to perhaps get away with more than we should have. And I think what the critics now do is basically talk about the stuff we got [inaudible]. There was mischief, there was immaturity, there was a pandering to us. Clearly the media, I mean the media is struck gold with this generation. Having said all that, there is I think a forgotten heroism of this group. I do not see in present generations the desire to be part of a society as opposed to an individual player within it or in spite of it. This television changed... Happened to be back at Harvard a few years ago and of course Harvard was one [inaudible] student. Talking to some people at the Kennedy... About the time Robert Kennedy cranked this thing up. Now it kind of toddles along as a think tank and convener of seminars, but the problem is it does not act as a magnet now in discussion. You have got Asian Americans, you have got gay and lesbian Americans, you have got Harvard students who are interested in the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is back to being kind of an adjunct of academia as controlled [inaudible] of social discussion. [inaudible] kids do not get out of school and say, what kind of service do you want to want to fulfill before I go?

SM (00:09:54):
I want to check with... You have already reiterated some of the points in terms of the most positive qualities that you saw in the Boomers in terms of their activism and so forth. When you look... Have you changed your views over the last 25 years? When you were a young person and of course one of the characteristics of the Boomer generation is the late time we were going to change the world or we are the most unique generation in American history because we can do anything. We can stop the war Vietnam, we can hop out with the civil rights movement and all other movements are started. So there was a feeling that you can be change agents for the betterment of society, but you already reiterated as people got older, a lot of people as they had the job market, but they have the realities of raising a family and so forth and maybe there is still a few that are still idealists out there doing the thing they did 25 years ago, but it is in a minority. When you look at the Boomers again, what are the strengths, the weaknesses? Were they very positive for America in the long run and what are the things you most admire and things that you least admire?

FG (00:11:10):
Well, what I admired the most was the enthusiasm and the almost missionary zeal to exchange. What I admired the least was the frequent amount of self-awareness and self-serving and ego-driven activity that became, I think the product of that and probably an inevitable one. And that to they also kind of suppose inevitable swelling of the ego as the media began to embrace this movement as the new relative change. I mean I do not think there is a generation anywhere that has not thought of itself as the foremost generation of its era. I do not think you can not feel that. I remember actually saying that when I was a young, I guess I was a senior at Harvard or something, I mentioned to a professor of government named Louis Harts who was a guy who was basically taught about American government and democracy, good teacher, [inaudible] but anyway, I managed to try out on him this idea of being a unique generation. He came out of the depression and lived through World War. You have not lived through major depression, you do not know what it is to be in the bread line, blah-blah-blah. So historically, I do not think that really is important where we actually place on the spectrum of how unique we were. The fact was that we were able to kind of galvanize ourselves and create a movement that although it was kind of [inaudible] and in some cases and in other cases sometimes pernicious, on balance was a laudable effort and all of the people that I know now back upon that as a time when they were to some degree freed from the daily banality of earning a living and raising a family and mortgage payments or reconciling two income kind of commitment. That may just be a function of youth, but the interesting... This particular generation of youth had such more common goal in collective mission than the youth today does, which is seems to be much more individually oriented. And...

SM (00:13:53):
Yeah, I am from that era too. One of the common characteristics was the concept of passion.

FG (00:13:59):
Yes.

SM (00:14:00):
You got involved in issues, you were passionate about the issues. You really did care. It was not just a community case of altruism, it was just, I really do care.

FG (00:14:08):
Now, there was more passion than there was reason. I look back on some of the efforts that we before and had indicated for, and now that I have actually been in government and sat on the other side of some of those policymaking decisions as a public official, I can see that the pace at which we insisted on change was a much more accelerated rate than the country ever could have been doing. The converse of that is true now is that we are probably moving too slowly now and that we to some degree, I think go down to a snail’s pace because we are almost, I think, at this point victimized by our own success is that essential embodiment of capitalism and democracy and personal freedom, and there is really not much to complain about. As the last election indicated. I know from a corporate point of view now that the best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining and the tree that is I think somewhat complacent without crisis and that is somewhat vulcanized by its lack of universal purpose. But when it happens we tend to push ourselves in matters that deal with the nation. You can see that now in this is a nation that in 30 years has gone from being very internationally and globally focused to one that really could not care less about foreign loss because we are lulled into a sense of security now that the Soviet Union does not seem to show up on our screen. The things that we would... There is there is a lack, I think, of awareness to the global position, which was not true when I was brought up. We were obviously focused on Vietnam, but at the same time, Harvard was ginning out reams of activity against the war. Were also forcing the university to divest of its holdings in South Africa, the Harvard corporation held that had investments, low engagement, you do not see as much of that.

SM (00:16:48):
One of the comments that I try to raise with each of our guests is to look at the voting record of the Boomers and the voting record of their kids, which are now today's college age students. And to me it is a tremendous disappointment when you look at the voting records of Boomers as well as their kids, and here is a generation that was so committed to a lot of things and certainly the vote was something that he strove for and everything. I remember my first vote was 1968. I remember voting for Hubert Humphreys, my first vote, but what is the responsibility of the Boomers and how have they been raising their kids? In terms of, I think, this past election it was Bill Clinton won with a 23.7 percent of the electorate and only 48.6 or something like that voted. The voting trends continue to go down. This is the worst voting year in many, many years. Your thoughts on how the Boomers have been raising their kids in looking at the voting records of both groups?

FG (00:17:47):
I do not think the Boomers have insisted on the same passion and commitment or progeny that they insisted on in themselves probably because they are sadder and wiser and possibly a little bit of disillusionment has set in. Leave us not forget that the last chapter of Vietnam or the enthusiasm of the Boomers was not the fall of Saigon. It was probably the fall of the Nixon government. It was the collapse of confidence in government institutions and it is pretty hard now to find people of my era who will rigorously get up and defend every paragraph and subparagraph of the war on poverty, which is clearly a war that we lost. So the strategy somehow went awry and it was I think a collective withdrawal from public debate, which has now translated into the way we raise our kids. We are writing my kids a letter, my oldest daughter is apparently, but in 1991 when the balloon went up, so to speak, it occurred to me that my children had no knowledge of the war. They had no knowledge of risk for a nation. I had done nothing really, and I did not feel the need to do anything to apprise them of what it meant for this nation to be a war, to have various threat all, although it is a kind of little tinpot desperate over on the other side of the world, this was serious business. Personal delegation. I knew the guy's capabilities in terms of hardware alone, let alone his own... And I was not completely convinced that anything I had ever said or done could prepare these two children for the consequences of a war. Now, happily, that war did not have consequences beyond those that were in the aftermath of the chemical involvement in that war, which was not clearly [inaudible]. But would have never had to write a letter like that. My father had, he lived, would not have needed to write a letter like that to me in 1968. I had a better understanding of risk and dreams and losses, and I think the Boomers, once they started becoming parents, like most parents, tended to protect their children from the downside and the cynical side of the world as they saw it, maybe they had become sadder and wiser and maybe they did not think that their change was really lasting when they saw the Nixon government go up in smoke and out by various other scams. I have had great liberal impulse now kind of congealing into a rather stale bureaucracy that was spending more money than it could ever take in. So all lessons that I think have changed this generation from its original ideas.

SM (00:21:14):
Through the issues that is paramount to this project. It was about with was the concept of healing. That whole situation that I explained early on with Senator Musky was just one of the examples. Another one was I used to work at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and we had a panel with our top Vietnam veterans who put together memorial in Philly, Dr. Zuckerman, a well-known historian from Penn and Don Bailey, who was the Republican auditor general for the state of Pennsylvania. As the person who was just doing a program post-traumatic stress disorder, it became much bigger than just talking about the medical illnesses of our Vietnam veterans. He came to that event and refused to sit down with Vietnam veterans who were involved with Memorial and Philadelphia. So even though it was a non-political statement, he would not shake hands with them?

FG (00:22:03):
No-no.

SM (00:22:06):
This was Don Bailey, the auditor general of Pennsylvania around 1985 when they had this program at Jefferson and at that time again, it was just another member of the tremendous divisions over this war, even within the Vietnam veteran community.

FG (00:22:20):
And the guys that were involved in the memorial had attend, attended to what?

SM (00:22:25):
Well, they were just there to talk about the historical aspects of the war.

FG (00:22:29):
But were they tended to be vets who supported the US involvement in Vietnam-

SM (00:22:35):
Actually, they were split. I think there were some that were for and some that were against. It was a potpourri of mixed, it was mixed. Don Bailey was there just because he was, I guess upset with the Dutch Zuckerman, the historian who protested against the war and he was for the war and he was a Purple Heart and he said he felt we were treated poorly and he was one of the few people that was against the building of the memorial in Philadelphia. It was amazing because he thought it was a political statement.

FG (00:23:02):
No, I think that at least as I look at the aftermath of the war, if you factor out the public policy question of whether we should have been there in the first place, and the following question is whether we stayed too long and squandered assets, human and [inaudible], you still have the question of did we as a nation dishonor the people that served there and who did so because they thought they were committing an honorable act by obeying their call to go to service? If there is healing left, it is there. It is how we treated that era of vets because you got fairly prominent vets in this United States Center. Two of them are named Carrie, right, that were military heroes and [inaudible] critics of the war. You have got guys like John McCain that were prisoners of war, but I do not see him as some kind of defender of America's Southeast Asia policy in the late (19)60s. The real question is whether or not we pay tribute to a generation of mostly young men, got some young women, who got caught up in a political maelstrom and were essentially sacrificed to a bogus cause and some rebelled at the time, and some just put their heads down and did their job. Interestingly enough, the enthusiasm and support for American troops going into the Gulf acted as a home found for Vietnam vet groups that were to some degree vindicated by an American public that was finally acknowledging that it is important to bring what you believe in and that the use of force is not always a bad thing. A lot of these things got merged in the Vietnam question. It almost became that all American use of force is imperialistic and bad and a powerful military is merely a capitalist tool and a lot of, I think, notions wrapped up into the Vietnam War were over time, I think dispelled. The veteran groups themselves, because I am not a member of them. I do not know... It is hard to know what the level of post-traumatic stress will be in these generations, but I do not see us as a nation divided over our role in Vietnam civil rights. That is not where I think the healing needs to take place.

SM (00:26:15):
For example, that within a generation when Senator Musky talked about the fact that most of the people after the Civil War went to their graves with no healing and still hatred toward each other, even though there were things happening in Gettysburg ceremonies bringing back both sides, that many people in our generation... Some people have told me, Steve, you cannot win in this process, you cannot heal 60 million plus people and Vietnam veterans have their own healing, but there are still, I sense, still tremendous divisions between those people who fought the war, those people who were against the war and should not any effort be made to bring them together to try to create a better understanding that because of the passions of the time, that is the way they acted out their feelings. But that still, it was never against the Vietnam veteran. It was always against the government policymakers and to try to bring people together who were on both sides of the issue. That is where I thought when the Senator Musky the divisions within America, people go to their graves without any healing and now we have a possible another generation where there is no healing people going to their graves with still bitterness. I do not know. This gets beyond civil rights because I think you are exactly right about civil rights, the division is there, but still over Vietnam, I have gone to the wall the last four memorial days. I was at Veteran's Day on Monday. I have tried to get a feel and the hatred that still happens between those who oppose the war and those who have served is present.

FG (00:27:53):
Who is there a hater or a hatee at this point or is it mutual? I mean, is it on afar with the Serbians and the Bosnians in terms of the source of the animosity is almost lost in the intensity of it.

SM (00:28:14):
Again, I know that the wall's goal has been to heal the Vietnam veterans and their families. I think it is done a great job. I think Jan Scruggs and the memorial is right on there, but the healing is still not there because for example, they will make commentaries about Bill Clinton. I have talked to some of them. Many hate Bill Clinton because he did not serve and many do not... Jane Fonda and those people that were in Hanoi. So I sense it is still there that they have healed somewhat, but they are never going to heal toward those who hold-

FG (00:28:46):
See I see Jane Fonda and that movement, the people that were actively looking in an alliance with the NLF, there is an extreme fringe that did not define in any way, shape or form the spectrum of criticism of people. That is why I think that level of [inaudible] you are still talking about, that lack of healing, I think is happening more at the margins than in the center. A little of misunderstanding and denial about the lack of progress over civil rights is still very much very central issue. I was not sitting there with Edward Musky when he broke into tears, but if this is a guy that is replaying the Civil War, given his history, I would have to think about was the level of hatred that still exists between race and regions, and sometimes the legislative initiatives will change the concepts of the country. Principally the southeast become probably more progressive just by the nature of their economic growth as opposed to their cultural political growth but you still have these divides and that is still troubling. The Vietnam thing, I mean, I do not know how you ever make that hole because now you are almost down into a kind of reading exercise where you have to go back and relive all those hurts on a case level. There is no question that a tremendous injustice was perpetrated against a lot of soldiers that were over there. A guy that worked for me in my district when I was first offices and the guy was basically, he had been a grocer in a small town, without the need to become involved in politics at a kind of customer level, constituent level because although he had been in the military, he was one of those guys who were in the early (19)70s, this would have been the early (19)70s, he was on his way to Vietnam as a door gunner, which was the highest level of casualty of all of the professions that he could... His orders were cut, and he was sent somewhere. My impression from his discussions was my life was saved for some reason, and I do not know. This guy is not in any way a [inaudible] on the war or against the war. He was just one of those... He was just one of these mainstream Americans that reached draft age and went into the lottery and said, well, that is it. I am going. I got to do something. He did not come from any privilege or special status so that he could wangle his way out of the draft. So consequently, he was on his way and then it did not happen, and in retrospect, he said, I got to do something because my military service was essentially... I was able to avoid the contract, possibly serious. I cannot help... I think that there are a lot of people that came home and wanted to start over, although they might have a certain reverence and wastefulness, and I do not sense that vendetta. I may not be close enough to it. I do not participate in veterans’ groups, but there were a lot of vets in congress when I was there, and there were a lot of people that opposed the war too. For every Bob Dornan or Ron Dellums who might have represented two political extremes, there was a huge middle of people that had just kind of come to a quiet conclusion about what Nam was or was not and how we proceeded...

SM (00:32:53):
Were able to state emphatically that the student movement on college campuses is the main reason why the Vietnam War ended. In your opinion, why did the Vietnam war end and who were the people most responsible for ending it?

FG (00:33:11):
Well, I think, as I said, again, there was this serendipity of focus from students who opposed the war, and let us face it, these kids were at risk because they were the ones that were going out and peopling the escalation of the war, for the Tonkin golf resolution. A lot more kids were sent over. And that coupled with a national broadcast media that was beginning to understand its power, not just to record events, but perhaps influenced them themselves created a very powerful wedge from the American consciousness is to say that that guys like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden and Mario Savio and others brought the war to a close. I think the one person that we have to thank for ending the war in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh. He had a strategy for winning the war, and we did not. We had a strategy for engaging enemy and that strategy with the best and the brightest that began with the Kennedy administration and then was taken over by the inheritors of that responsibility administration, did not know what they were up against, did not have a strategy, took a military engagement, turned it into a political contest and it will be sustained. They were not going to commit the resources to win the war. Did not know how to fight. They did not know how to engage. There was no statement that people could understand. I would have to say that Lyndon Johnson, by his lack of understanding in Ho Chi Minh by his complete understanding are probably have more responsible for ending the war than Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger, or... Well, you sat around the peace table in Paris who actually into... There was a myth about American might already unraveled by the time Kennedy sent the group into that had changed in such a way that we did. We were basically fighting military engagement using tactics that we probably employed in World War II, and for all I know Korea. Oh, it was... Forget the strategy for them. It was a tactical disaster, and of course that eroded confidence within the rank and file of the military, and that had to be terribly frustrating, particularly for those people that were the door gunners or the second Luis that were running those platoons up the hill. This is where I think our real collapse in government as a chameleon that Kennedy had kind really developed.

SM (00:36:35):
And the next question that is one of the unfortunate results of the Vietnam War was the lack of trust. Was under the leadership and not being told the truth on television in terms of body counts. I mean I read McNamara's book in retrospect and all the things that were going on then, and then of course that led it into Watergate, and so this business of trust to me is a very serious issue in America today, and it directly goes back to that era. As a person who is really committed to public service, which you are doing here, not only here at Goodwill, but certainly United States Congress and working for others and constituencies, how do we get back the trust that is been lost in government because people do not want to serve. I know students today on college campus, only 18... Latest statistics in the Chronicle higher education at 18.5 percent have an interest in politics, but they do want to volunteer with 85 percent caring about volunteer activities. So it directly goes back to the sense, well, I am not empowered. I really have no interest. My vote does not count. The Boomers who did not have trust, saw that concept of trust lack thereof in their elected officials and policies and being lied to, and now that is probably carried down into their kids. So I know you probably do not have an answer, but how do we get back the trust?

FG (00:38:05):
Well, first of all, it is not that we have lost trust. It is that we have defined the standard progressively downward probably from Vietnam through Watergate, through Irangate, Iran [inaudible] the present occupant of the White House has done nothing to kind of trust in public officials, but the guy was reelected handsomely enough so that people almost factor that in and they say, forget what the guy says, let us just watch what he does, and if the minimum raise... The economy remains solid. I do not feel particularly threatened in my workplace... That I am going to be drafted and sent to some forsaken place on the planet. My politicians are not that important to me. The answer to this question really is mercurial because this is really a discussion about leadership. Who are the leaders out there that can make us really the major questions affecting our age truth among other things, different racial gaps that are now developing widening over public spending, ongoing schizophrenia over... For reform as long as we do not have to change anything, our desire for expanding public benefits and lower taxes, I mean, we are still, although the Cold War is over and Cold Warriors are gone, we still have, at least in our political classes right now, the apostles of the Cold War myth that we can be all things to all people at home and abroad, and that there is no real day of reckoning and that should we confront the [inaudible] of middle-class entitlements. It just makes for friction, your father, we have just been through that. You would have thought perhaps a third party might be able to capture this new consciousness. I think the American people are very realistic about these things and have just basically withdrawn from the rest of their lives culminating about campaign finance reform. I am just cannot save my money. The real problem with government right now is not that it is becoming irresponsible, but it is becoming... People are saying to perform public service, I do not have to be in public office. I do not need to be on a public payroll. Right now, I am part of a group, the Goodwill being one of the largest human service agencies in the United States, along with Red Cross and Salvation Army and Boys Clubs and others are actively sitting down with groups like the National Corporation [inaudible] America Group and of [inaudible] Life Foundation and talking about whether or not we need to create a kind of ad-on service, what it means to be a volunteer, to basically focus on and sense private civilian environment as an alternative to... This became an alternative to politics. I will shed Mary a tear. Say, well, that will just leave you with a bunch of threats to run. But what will happen over time is your political jobs will [inaudible]. A lot of this will really, I think, be fixed or changed or modified at least by a new generation of leaders that can actually make us want to confront the truth about our... Grow with the inevitable personal and public sacrifice that it will take to kind of... Sacrifice is not something that either our public institutions or their counterparts in the media are set up to do. The whole era, the following from the Vietnam War and the participation with television and sources of media has been more promising and more promises shattered and more illusions and more illusions dashed. So I think what we have done is we have created a generation of Americans that not only like to be lied to, they expect it. You cannot ask a politician to not be a politician. I have always got [inaudible] why are there no more... Why are not politicians’ states being [inaudible] I am not sure if there are any... Are ex politicians for a variety of reasons. In a country like this with freedom of speech, movement and basically... People like to be pandered to, they like the salesman telling them that these products are better than any they ever had. So that is kind of the dark side of a pre-market society, but I am seriously talking about changing that.

SM (00:43:38):
It is a really good point because today college students, when you talk about leadership, it is like it is going in one ear and out the other. The term that seems to be most applicable. Now, to them, that raises their ears as citizenship because we have had a leadership program where students meet leaders and they are excited, but they get thrilled when they have an opportunity of the concept of citizenship or they see that it is the local communities now or though-

FG (00:44:02):
[inaudible].

SM (00:44:03):
Right.

FG (00:44:04):
It is just what we do not have any more is that kind of national leadership. The thing that might be happening here, and this would be good, is that Americans, now that they are a little wiser to the constant assault of information that is barraging over television, radio, the internet, do not automatically associate leadership with celebrity, and quite honestly, politicians are celebrities and they are made to be celebrities and they are revered as such, and they are... At the citizen level very often, it is the quiet... It is a guy like Aaron Feuerstein who basically has a mill in Malden, Massachusetts that burns down and says they are not going to want these people, become another New England ghost town with an economy that used to be... That decision and then became a celebrity. I think most people associate politicians with the opposite reaction. Do something that will make you a celebrity. Supposedly get people to beat a patent to your door. So there is, I suppose the quick and dirty word for it is a kind of benevolent cynicism about these things and people are saying, I will make these solutions at my own level. Goodwill is an organization that has a national organization that I am the president of, but it is local community based, citizen driven organizations. It is not a new concept for us, but we are not an organization of celebrities. We have not been out basically. We may start doing that now because obviously there is a greater comfort with attention. But almost to me we are somehow kind of reached a point in our public consciousness that is somewhere between the preachings of Marshall McClellan and Andy Warhol. We are basically talking about the global village, balkanized around a set of information sources that are just coming right into your home. They are all saying everybody is famous for 15 minutes. Most people know that. Most people accept that, and most people know that when your 15 minutes are up, that is up. They have got to deal with the other 12 million minutes of their life. We have this particular focus... Couple of professions were becoming a celebrity [inaudible] itself, and that is how we got balance. I think people are pulling away from that. Solutions that lend themselves to show host or evidence that feel are pain.

SM (00:47:07):
There was one event when you were young that had the biggest impact on your life?

Speaker 2 (00:47:15):
When I was young?

SM (00:47:16):
By young, when you were in college of college age, during that time when you were at Harvard or either a junior senior in high school at Harvard or just getting started after... What was the most important... What had the greatest impact on your life? Was there a specific person, a specific event? I am just talking about Vietnam War now, but for example, for me, the event that turned my life around was the shootings of Kent State because I was a senior at that time and I had broken my arm and I was about two... I went to State University New York at Binghamton, SUNY Binghamton, and I was ready to graduate and I broke my arm two weeks before graduation, was in the hospital, and the shootings at Kent State happened, and the doctor that saved my arm that operated on my arm, came in and said, when he saw the front cover of the young woman standing over Jeff Miller, I wish they would kill and shoot all those students. Now, that is a moment in my life, and at that juncture I decided I want to be spend a career in higher education because of the lack of communication. But that was a moment for me. But was there any magic moment for you that sent you in the direction of public service?

FG (00:48:27):
At that point, no, because I did not pursue a career in public service. I had a quick interim stop when I got out of college working for a member of Congress as something in that experience that really kind of propelled me into my foray in politics several years later. Talking about a defining event... At that point in my life, no, I had a very serious accident on location in 1982 when I was... Television... And had period of convalescence where I was not sure just how rehabilitated I ever been and had more influence... But during that period, I found myself basically in the role that I carved out for myself during the anti-war movement, during the participant/observer and humorous because I was working in a small organizational and satirical comedy group in Boston that was obviously taking the stuff... I mean weekly on the campuses and turning it in...

Speaker 2 (00:49:55):
Steven please call the Operator. Steven please call the operator.

FG (00:50:00):
That I found was a very kind of valuable and a kneeling service to the community who would be laughing about something a week later that they had been screaming about.

SM (00:50:13):
And that was the week that was that-

FG (00:50:17):
That was the week that was, or the early Saturday night shows or... Penn City back before it became basically just a farm system for Saturday night, and I know that one of the things that did for me was always kind of forced me to try and get the perspective on the situation as opposed to just the passion... On this most of my plate.

SM (00:50:48):
Just a couple more minutes here on the tape, I want to throw out a couple names. People that were well known in that era, and I would like your thoughts on these individuals just with a couple sentences, whether you thought they were positive people or negative people, they had positive impact, negative impact for you and for the Boomers and the first of the people that I would like to list are the ones you mentioned earlier, the Abbie Hoffman’s and the Jerry Rubin’s. What are your thoughts on them in terms of that era?

FG (00:51:17):
I do not lump them all together. First of all, Hayden was part of that group and Hayden is pretty much as mainstream and liberal as you can be and put those two phrases together without creating an oxymoron. Jerry Rubin wound up becoming some kind of materialist, I do not know, and Abbie Hoffman just kind of became a fringe player. So again, they to me, fall under the Warhol theory of being famous for 15 minutes. Now their 15 minutes for glorious, but I think they represented a movement rather than ramrodded it and they were the celebrities, but I was never particularly impressed by anything that they said or did. I always thought guys like William Sloane Coffin were the real kind of soldiers of that movement because they kept going back and making their statements and were not as interested in throwing themselves in front of a camera.

SM (00:52:17):
That would bring up people like Dr. Benjamin Spock, another individual of that era, the [inaudible] brothers, catholic priests who put themselves on the line.

FG (00:52:28):
Well, again, Spock almost had a second career in the anti-war movement after being our renowned writer of richer, he all of a sudden emerges as this anti-war guy and abide by the right wing and [inaudible] our children, ever since they came out of the wound. Again, was one of the celebrities that kind of orbited around the movement. I do not see him having a profound historical significance on the movement as much as just being one of the agents of it. I mean, this guy is not a Dr. Martin Luther King. He is not a Robert McNamara. He is not one of the people who is actually weaving the tapestry of history.

SM (00:53:25):
I said, hi. I interviewed him out of his house in Denmar. In fact [inaudible], I was thinking of implying for the National Service Corps this next year, but I am not sure yet because I love working in higher ed, but some of the other names would certainly be Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and John Kennedy. Your just quick thoughts on those three?

FG (00:53:46):
Robert Kennedy, yes. John Kennedy no. John Kennedy almost predates this era. John Kennedy is in the preamble, I think, to this movement that you are talking about, but not actually in the Constitution. Robert Kennedy. Yes, because Robert Kennedy was very much a part of it, was somebody that I think a lot of people identified with, certainly Dr. King, because this guy created the entire ethic of non-violent resistance, social change, and his like has not been seen since. I mean, all you have to do is look at the follow ones, the Jesse Jacksons, the Al Sharptons.

SM (00:54:26):
Not even the same league.

FG (00:54:27):
They are not giants. They are midgets and consequently difference between being a leader and a celebrity.

SM (00:54:40):
Dean McCarthy and George McGovern.

FG (00:54:47):
I think McCarthy...

SM (00:54:50):
Hello.

FG (00:54:58):
McCarthy I think is significant in that he was one of the first guys to really put this issue on the line. He was defined by this movement and he rose and fell with it and perhaps more successful in what he did then McGovern was. We were along [inaudible] I am not sure that is in the historical context, as valuable to the era as what McCarthy did.

SM (00:55:30):
We just had Senator McGovern on our campus two days ago.

FG (00:55:33):
Oh, really?

SM (00:55:33):
Talking about his daughter Terry. He has not talked about politics anymore. He was really out talking about the alcoholism issue.

FG (00:55:39):
Oh, so it is more meaningful.

SM (00:55:40):
Yeah. It talks about being a father and not being at home, so he is always reflecting all those years. Just a couple other people here. And then Robert McNamara again, your thoughts on him?

FG (00:55:56):
Well, McNamara McNamara has emerged I think only recently as one of the great influences of the era, because he has finally owned up to the... But to me, the great Darth Vader of all of this is Lyndon Johnson. Johnson escalated the war. Johnson believed in this guns and butter theory. Johnson took a kind of, I think, backroom cracker barrel politics about promise of anything, but cut your deals and put it on the national stage, and I think just rest of intentions devastated society.

SM (00:56:35):
When you look at the three presence, even though you talk about John Kennedy as being kind of the preamble, but still we were involved in Vietnam. There is a talk that the DM killings were... He gave the okay for those that, of course-

FG (00:56:52):
Killings [inaudible]. When were they?

SM (00:56:55):
They were just before he was assassinated in the fall of 1963 and all the things I have read about Lodge who was our ambassador then, and given the okay to go ahead and kill them. Then we have, of course Lyndon Johnson. Then of course we saw what happened with Richard Nixon. It is like our innocence kind of... We were supposed to be the good guy-

FG (00:57:15):
We just never had had the kind of public eye on it until the (19)60s. But I mean, [inaudible] Iran was obviously somebody we were ping around with in the early... Actively aiding abetting some of these pot dictators around the war. Kind of grew out of our Cold War mentality of forming alliances with people that would temporarily give us a tactical advantage and not... Plus, there was this uniform and loathing and anathema towards communists and the attitude was any alternative to communism is worth the US support, even if it is a vicious form of fascism. The first guy to blow that off was Castro who had the bad, kind of the manners to be right in our own backyard and is still there.

SM (00:58:15):
Probably die in office.

FG (00:58:16):
Oh, I am sure he will-

SM (00:58:17):
There will be a democracy there and eventually I have a belief that Cuba probably become a state by the middle of the next century, stranger things have happened. Richard Nixon. The next to last person, Richard Nixon.

FG (00:58:30):
Nixon, I do not equate Nixon with that era. I, Nixon came in and ended the war through a series of strategies that we can argue about forever, but Nixon was great contribution in opening of China and taking what had been any communist stance and refocusing it in the post war era. He actually is social liberal, although always be recognized for the war game, so he actually probably did more than the rest of these folks combined to discredit confidence in government and scuttle the euphoria of the baby Boomers when they ended the war. As a politician and global strategic thinker, he was without parallel and nobody was... He just [inaudible] of American politicians. Purposely gifted. Brilliant.

SM (00:59:38):
Last question and two minutes here, and that is going back to the very first question that I asked about looking at the Boomer generation, their impact on America, both then and now, what do you feel the lasting legacy will be of the Boomer generation? The 60 plus million that are now all entering middle-aged, Bill Clinton being the first one, although we know that many of the people who are 51, 52, 53, 54 still identify with that era. In your thoughts, when history books are written, what will be the lasting legacy of the Boomers?

FG (01:00:12):
Well, to go back to a term that you used earlier with the generation, this was a generation that actually managed to galvanize the best parts of leadership and citizenship are hungry for that. Now it seems to be a lost arm. It happened in small subgroups. It can happen in certain regions, but it does not seem to happen nationally.

SM (01:00:43):
Thank you very much. I-

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

1996-11-18

Interviewer

Stephen McKiernan

Interviewee

Fred Grandy, 1948-

Biographical Text

Fred Grandy is an actor and politician. Grandy is well known for his role as "Gopher" on the sitcom The Love Boat. He was elected congressman for Iowa’s Sixth District from 1987 to1995. In 1997, he became president and CEO of Goodwill Industries. He served as a speechwriter for various shows and hosted radio talk shows. Grandy received his Bachelor's degree in English from Harvard University and Master's degree from the Washington Shakespeare Theatre and George Washington University.

Duration

60:47

Language

English

Digital Publisher

Binghamton University Libraries

Digital Format

audio/mp4

Material Type

Sound

Interview Format

Audio

Subject LCSH

Actors; Love boat (Television program); Legislators—United States; Grandy, Fred, 1948--Interviews

Rights Statement

Many items in our digital collections are copyrighted. If you want to reuse any material in our collection you must seek permission, or decide if your purpose can qualify as fair use under the U.S. Copyright Law Section 107. If you think copyright or privacy has been violated, the University Libraries will investigate the issue. Please see our take down policy. If using any materials in this online digital collection for educational or research purposes, please cite accordingly.

Keywords

Feminism; Baby boom generation; Television; Activism; Vietnam Memorial; Civil War; Civil Rights Movement; Veterans Day; Robert McNamara; Generation Gap; Vietnam War.

Files

fred-gandy.jpg

Item Information

About this Collection

Collection Description

Stephen McKiernan's collection of interviews includes more than two hundred interviews with prominent figures of the 1960s, which were collected between the mid-1990s and 2010s. The collection provides narratives of people who were actively involved in or witnessed events in the 1960s, an era which spurred profound cultural and… More

Link to Collection Overview

Link to Browse Collection Items

Citation

“Interview with Fred Grandy,” Digital Collections, accessed July 25, 2024, https://omeka.binghamton.edu/omeka/items/show/957.