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W.S. Merwin

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry

W.S. Merwin: It's all about attention and listening. Pay attention and listen. Listen to everything, listen to absolutely everything. Listen to the sounds you don't want to hear, listen to the ones you do want to hear, listen to the people talking around you. I heard this wonderful thing this morning about taking the bus. Every so often, I was saying to Paula, the last time as we went through New York, I used to love riding on the subway, because I don't have to have something to read, I just am sort of fascinated by everybody around me, what they're saying and what they're doing. It's paying attention, but it's listening, listening. And all of a sudden you hear something, and it may be a phrase that you've heard over and over again, but suddenly it's got electricity in it, you know. And those are the notes you take out. What is that little charge in there and where does it want to go? You may not even know what it's about, but it's all about, if you tried to write something new all of the time -- as I have -- all your life, it seems to change. If you're telling the truth in the essential place where you don't know, it really is all you that is coming out and nobody else could write it, and that's what you want. That's what you want to make students see, listen. Chuang Tzu -- who was a great Taoist, as much as almost 3,000 years ago -- said, "When I say that someone is good at hearing, I do not mean that they are good at hearing anything else. I mean that they are good at hearing themselves." That's what the attention is about. And however smart you are, if you get distracted from that you're going to end up in an unhappy place, I think.
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James Michener

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist

Again and again, when I was 14 and 15, I would leave home with 25 or 35 -- 35 cents sticks in my mind. I think I had a quarter and a dime on two of my trips. Never phased me a bit. Go right straight across the continent. In those days, it was easy to do. Everybody had a new car, and they wanted to show it off. If they liked you, they would pick you up and often times feed you and take you to their home. And there were no weirdoes on the road then. There were, but we never saw them. I had a vivid experience in those years. I went everywhere, and I did it on nothing.
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James Michener

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist

My job was to live through Friday afternoon, get through the week, and eat something. And then along came these differential experiences that you don't look for, that you don't plan for, but, boy, you better not miss them. The things that make you bigger than you are. The things that give you a vision. The things that give you a challenge.
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Norman Mineta

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) had passed a resolution in 1978 saying, "We will undertake a legislative program to seek redress for the evacuation/internment of those of Japanese ancestry, and redress of $25,000 per person." Well, at that point, there was Senator (Daniel) Inouye, Senator (Spark) Matsunaga from Hawaii, Congressman Bob Matsui and I from California. So we had this one-sentence resolution from the national Japanese American Citizens League convention, wondering "What are we going to do with this now?" So as we kept meeting among ourselves, and with the JACL, Dan said, "Look, until we educate our colleagues about this, we are not going to get anywhere." Now, there was the Warren Commission that talked about the Kennedy assassination. There was the Commission on the Kent State slaughter. So what we should do is to have a commission, because those were bestsellers, they were on television. In this way we would be able to get to the depths of why the evacuation and internment occurred. So in 1978, we then established a legislation called the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, and that group, with Thurgood Marshall as one of the members, studied the whole issue, and by 1980, they issued a report saying that the evacuation was due to wartime hysteria, historical racial discrimination, and weak political leadership.
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