In This Episode
- Wes Moore made history this year when he was sworn in as Maryland’s first Black governor. He joins us to discuss his vision for his home state — and his improbable journey to its highest office.
- And in headlines: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were reportedly subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating the insurrection, Norfolk Southern plans to spend $7.5 billion to buy back its own shares, and National Public Radio announced it will cut 10% of its workforce.
- What A Day – Honoring The Legacy Of The Clotilda Descendants – https://crooked.com/podcast/honoring-the-legacy-of-the-clotilda-descendants/
- What A Day – The HBCU Vaulting Into Gymanastics History – https://crooked.com/podcast/the-hbcu-vaulting-into-gymnastics-history/
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, February 23rd. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we’re mourning Joe Manchin’s 2024 Presidential run that never was.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. The fact that he thought it was ever on the table honestly, is inspiring to me.
Juanita Tolliver: Girl. Never underestimate the confidence of a white man who lives on a houseboat.
Priyanka Aribindi: Is it the houseboat? What gives him like, the extra I’ll never know what it is, but I would like to have some of whatever he’s having. [music break] On today’s show, Jared and Ivanka have been ordered to testify before a federal grand jury about the January 6th insurrection. Plus, we can finally, finally stop calling it oat beverage.
Juanita Tolliver: Finally, because that was kind of weird.
Priyanka Aribindi: Very strange.
Juanita Tolliver: But first, we are thrilled to continue our Black History Month interview series with some phenomenal folks who are making Black history in real time. In follow up to our recent conversations with the descendants of the Clotilda and the head coach of the brand new Fisk University gymnastics team. I’m excited to introduce our next guest, Wes Moore, governor of Maryland, in fact, the first Black governor of Maryland. Now, let me tell you all a little bit about Wes Moore, because he is a man with a vision. Before becoming Governor Moore, Wes Moore was an Army veteran, a New York Times bestselling author, social entrepreneur and the CEO of one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty organizations, the Robin Hood Foundation.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, quite a resume before we are even getting into his current role.
Juanita Tolliver: Girl.
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly, what has this man not done? I don’t know.
Juanita Tolliver: Talk about making a mark. What struck me most about Wes Moore is his sense of awareness. Awareness about how important family is, especially since it was his accomplished wife and former adviser to the lieutenant governor, Dawn Moore, who gave him a crash course on what to expect in politics. Awareness about the importance of empathy and how it influences his leadership style and awareness about how improbable his journey to becoming the 63rd governor of Maryland has been. Not to mention, he has Oprah’s phone number, y’all. That’s wild.
Priyanka Aribindi: You’ve listed so many impressive things, but that may be the most impressible. [laughing]
Juanita Tolliver: It takes the cake for me, you know, like it’s–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: –it’s top tier.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s kind of wild. I also I’m like, how did that come up in conversation? I’m sure we will find out.
Juanita Tolliver: You will find out. Girl, it was juicy, too. So earlier this week, I got to catch up with Governor Moore to discuss the gravity of this moment, his vision for Maryland, leading with humanity, the importance of service and more. I started by asking Governor Moore about his family history and how their experiences compounded the Black history that he is making in real time today. You see, his great grandfather fled the Klan in South Carolina and moved the entire family to Jamaica, vowing to never return to the states. And then ultimately, his grandfather came back. We discussed the weight of his grandfather’s decision to return to the states and how spectacular this moment is, given all that he and his ancestors have overcome. Take a listen to our conversation.
Wes Moore: I was inaugurated on the morning of January 18 and intentionally started that inauguration down at the docks [?] and I wanted to start there because the Annapolis docks is one of the oldest and largest slave ports in this country’s history. We did a wreath laying ceremony there and then from there walked from the docks to the statehouse and then was sworn in, in a state house that, by the way, was built by the hands of enslaved people.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Wes Moore: And was sworn in on two Bibles. One Bible was Frederick Douglass’s Bible. And so I was honored that the family and the estate gave me permission.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Wes Moore: And they allowed it out for just that morning, brought it, carried it in a casing, opened up the case, my hand was the only hand that was allowed to touch it. And as soon as I was done with the swearing in they closed the casing back up and sent it back to the archives.
Juanita Tolliver: The energy that you must have felt in that moment.
Wes Moore: It was unforgettable. And I think then the other piece was my grandfather’s Bible.
Juanita Tolliver: Mm hmm.
Wes Moore: And my grandfather was the first one of my mom’s side of the family born inside the United States, left when he was just a toddler because the Ku Klux Klan–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Wes Moore: –actually ran my family out. And while most of my family always said that they would never come back to this country, my grandfather always said, listen, I was born here and this country would be incomplete without me.
Juanita Tolliver: Ooh.
Wes Moore: And uh and he came back here, eventually went on to an HBCU. He became a minister just like his grandfather. And the thing I love about his Bible and it actually sits in my office right now, to this day, his Bible is basically like a workbook. It has notes in it, it has underlining, it has old sermons. He put love into this Bible.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Wes Moore: And I think about that in context of, you know, this whole journey for us has been a very improbable journey. I am literally the son of an immigrant single mother who raised three children on her own when her husband died because he didn’t get the health care that he received. I’m a graduate of a two year college. I joined the Army when I was 17 years old. I’d never run for public office before in my life, and now I’m the 63rd governor of the state of Maryland. And so everything about this journey, it feels improbable. But I also know that everything about my journey, it’s because I was poured into by many people who helped me to see something that I was not prepared or ready to see for myself. But it was because of their love, because of their vision that I’m able to see higher because I’m standing on their shoulders.
Juanita Tolliver: I appreciate that because I think that comes through when you’re speaking, especially at your state of the state. I got goose bumps when you were giving shout outs to state employees, some of whom had who had been working in the state capital for a decade plus.
Wes Moore: Nice.
Juanita Tolliver: –but had never seen the state of the state like uh Judy Roopnaraine.
Wes Moore: Miss Judy.
Juanita Tolliver: Right, was someone you gave a big shout out to. And it signaled to me that you lead with that humanity, you lead with that empathy, but you also have a deep appreciation for service. And so how are those qualities going to be reflected in your vision and plans for Maryland, especially as you tackle some big issues. Housing affordability and gun violence prevention and more?
Wes Moore: One thing I think people in the state of Maryland are seeing is that, listen, you know, I am who I am. I remember it was early in the campaign. We were running against statewide elected officials. We were running against a former head of the DNC. We were running against [?] secretaries. And then here’s a person who’s running a nonprofit. [laughing] And and I remember there was one event and it was so hot outside, it was like 95 degrees. And all the people, all the candidates were out there and they’re all wearing like, you know, slacks and button up shirts, and all that kind of stuff. And I went out there in shorts. [laugh]
Juanita Tolliver: I was like, they must have been dripping in sweat. Goodness.
Wes Moore: [?] like and then I was like it’s hot. I’m not dressing up like that. Created this like little brouhaha and people laughing. And I’m like, and I remember the speaker of the House, who I adore, a woman named Adrienne Jones, she’s the speaker of the House in the state of Maryland. She called me up. She’s like, you know, you’ve been hearing all these people talking about you and your shorts. And I say, yeah, I was like, but I’m I was like I don’t take it back because it’s hot. And she said something I won’t forget. She said, do not spend a second trying to be like them. Make them try to be like you.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Wes Moore: And she said, if you do that, you actually could win this thing. And so when you think about the policies that we are pushing together, when you think about the fact that, you know, I wanted to highlight and, you know, one of the first executive orders that I signed was an executive order to create a Department of Service and civic innovation, because I believe that service will save us. And so if you look, you know, in this legislative session, I will ensure that Maryland is going be the first state in this country that will offer a service year option to high school completers. We want to provide platforms for more people to understand and benefit from the joy of service, but also make sure that that service is going to be honored and that service is going to be respected.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Wes Moore: And that’s why we push for things like advancing the $15 minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, focusing on work and wages and wealth so that all people have a chance to have a pathway to achieve all three and not just some.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Wes Moore: I believe in this deeply because I’ve seen this in my own family. I believe in this deeply because this is the work that I’ve devoted my entire adult life to. And I believe in it deeply because I believe Maryland has a unique chance to lead on these and so many other issues.
Juanita Tolliver: I feel it, it’s loud and clear. And I do want to get back to the early days of your campaign because according to reports on January 6th, while the rest of us were glued to our TV screens watching that horrific attack on the Capitol, you were actually calling people like, I’m running. And the wise woman, we all know, as Oprah apparently asked you, why in the world in this political climate, would you want to do something like that? So tell me what you told the great Oprah, but also tell me about the political climate that you aspire to create.
Wes Moore: I will never forget that day for so many reasons. I was literally talking to Oprah on a zoom with the television on in the background as we’re talking, literally, people are scaling the walls. We were in the middle of an attempted coup. I think about that where I take the word patriotism very seriously. I come from a family of patriots. I come from a family of people like my grandfather, who even when he came back to this country and became a minister, the same threats that were coming to his father started coming to him and he stayed. And I think he loved this country more than anyone else I’ve ever met. People who’ve devoted their life, all their breath, all their energy to making this country better, people who devoted their time to actually lifting people up and understand that patriotism means fighting for each other and not fighting each other. And I watched people who were bastardizing this idea in this term of patriotism, who were literally trying to decapitate democracy in the word of patriotism. And I remember at that moment, I you know, just said in a place in a space that I love so deeply in my home state, I’m a third generation Marylander. I love everything about this place. And I refuse to allow its future to be determined by people who haven’t earned the term patriot.
Juanita Tolliver: So one more question in the name of stepping up though, your future political aspirations are a hot topic and I don’t want you to deflect and be like, well, I just started as governor, Juanita like, don’t deflect on me, but tell me your ultimate political goal. What do you aspire to when it comes to politics?
Wes Moore: I’m playing with house money right now. I am literally just decades removed from being a kid who had handcuffs on his wrists, from being a kid who was dripping in anger and dripping in frustration and disappointment in everything that surrounded me and a frustration that I had no idea what to do with. And that same kid who literally had handcuffs on his wrists, a couple weeks ago had those same wrists laying on the Bible, taking the oath. I remember when I was uh leading one of the largest poverty fighting organizations, and we were fighting for the child tax credit. I remember fighting for it to try to get a former governor to include it in their state of the state. And when they did not include it, I was frustrated and angry and I had one of my colleagues who then said to me, we worked for six months to try to get him to include a line in the speech. Well, what if you could write the whole speech? Two weeks ago, I gave my first state of the state all about child poverty and what we need to do to make sure that we’re making the child tax credit permanent, that we could actually lift 156,000 children in the state of Maryland alone out of poverty. So I’m loving this because we’re making a real impact on the communities that I love and that I serve.
Juanita Tolliver: That was my conversation with Governor Wes Moore. And even though he deflected on that last question, it’s clear as day that if he aspires to higher office, if he wants to pick up that pen and run with it, he will be in a great position to do just that. Also–
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Juanita Tolliver: –I hope that y’all have enjoyed this series and you can find all of the episodes about the Clotilda descendants and the Fisk University gymnastics team wherever you get your podcasts. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Former President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, have reportedly been subpoenaed by the special counsel investigating the January 6th insurrection. It’s been a minute since we’ve heard these names, but it’s a real flashback for us. [laugh] They both served as White House advisers when Trump was president. How could we forget? And you may also remember from the January 6th hearings that Ivanka was in the Oval Office when Trump phoned then-Vice President Mike Pence urging him to stop the certification process for the 2020 election. Two weeks ago, Pence himself was also ordered by the same DOJ counsel to appear before a federal grand jury. Pence said that he will fight the subpoena. It’s not clear if Trump will try and invoke executive privilege to keep Jared and Ivanka from testifying. Just wow.
Juanita Tolliver: Keeping it in the family. And speaking of Donald Trump, he was out in East Palestine, Ohio, yesterday, where the cleanup continues from this month’s train derailment and toxic chemical release. He brought along cleaning supplies and get this, his own branded bottles of water to score–
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez.
Juanita Tolliver: –political points for his 2024 campaign.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, my God.
Juanita Tolliver: Never mind the fact that while in office, his administration rolled back environmental protections and railway safety requirements. Meanwhile, Norfolk Southern, the operator of the derailed train, said yesterday it will spend $6.5 million dollars to help East Palestine residents. It’s a huge bump from the company’s initial donation of $25,000–
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s so crazy.
Juanita Tolliver: –to support a temporary shelter for thousands of displaced residents like they’re committed to doing the absolute least y’all.
Priyanka Aribindi: The least.
Juanita Tolliver: But if that wasn’t enough, according to multiple reports, Norfolk Southern plans to spend over $7 billion dollars this year to buy back its own stock to benefit its shareholders. That plan was already in place earlier this year before the derailment. The company has yet to comment on whether it plans to change course in the wake of the disaster. And we still don’t know how much it will cost to clean up the mess, though the EPA said the company may have to pay for it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, okay, hate all of this, but just to circle back to the branded water bottles, it’s kind of giving a Donald Trump throwback to Puerto Rico when he was just kind of like lobbing those paper towels.
Juanita Tolliver: Right, because that was after a hurricane.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. Awe inspiringly un-self-aware, like, it’s crazy. It’s wild. But anyways. A massive winter storm system is making its way across the country from the West Coast to New England. With millions of Americans under severe weather alerts. In the Midwest, in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, heavy snow and strong winds have created whiteout conditions. Absolutely hate this. I thought we were done with it, apparently not. Affected communities have responded to school and business closures, with officials warning drivers to stay off the roads. Thousands of flights have also been canceled as travel conditions have worsened. And in usually sunny Los Angeles, officials issued rare blizzard warnings in northern L.A. County for the first time in more than 30 years. This is–
Juanita Tolliver: Yikes.
Priyanka Aribindi: –wild to me.
Juanita Tolliver: Yikes.
Priyanka Aribindi: You really know it’s bad then. Yesterday, the National Weather Service said as much as several feet of snow may fall on Socal’s highest mountain ranges by this weekend. And many Californians can expect a dusting of snow in the lower elevations across the state as well. We’ll keep following the storm as it continues. But for now, bundle up and stay safe if you live in California like me, um stay tuned on ways we can ask for our money back because this is absolutely not what I signed up for.
Juanita Tolliver: The family of Malcolm X is suing the CIA, the FBI and the New York Police Department for $100 million dollars, alleging they played a role in the civil rights leader’s death. The lawsuit claims that these agencies, among others, conspired to assassinate him in 1965 when he was fatally shot during a speech in Manhattan. In the decades since his death, there has been widespread speculation about who carried out the attack. Three men were initially convicted for the killing, but two were acquitted in 2021 when it was revealed that their convictions were based on shaky evidence. Ilyasah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X’s daughters, told reporters Wednesday, quote, “For years, our family has fought for the truth to come to light. We want justice served for our father.” The agencies named in the suit have yet to comment on the matter.
Priyanka Aribindi: In an email to staff Wednesday morning, National Public Radio announced that it will cut 10% of its 1100 person workforce in the next month. Chief executive John Lansing blamed the uncertainty of the global economy, which has led to less ad revenue for the public media organization. Last year, NPR froze all new hiring, suspended its internship program and eliminated all non-essential travel for staff. NPR is the latest media organization to turn to layoffs as fears of an impending recession linger. The Washington Post, CNN, Vox Media and Gannett have all announced layoffs since late last year. All of these organizations do incredible, essential work.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: This is really, really sad disheartening news.
Juanita Tolliver: And finally, the FDA rules that plants, they’re cows too. On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration released new guidance, saying that alternative milks can legally be labeled as milks on supermarket shelves. Almond, oat, coconut, quinoa, cashew, hemp. It’s all milk, baby. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: Quinoa. What? Never heard of that. [laughter]
Juanita Tolliver: The regulators came to the conclusion after noting that the plant based dairy alternatives aren’t pretending to be dairy, nor are U.S. consumers confused by the difference. As alternative milks have grown in popularity, big dairy has pushed for the FDA to enforce a federal standard defining milk as the product of, quote, “milking one or more healthy cows.” I feel like this is where we should insert a scene from uh Meet the Parents, can you milk me?
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez. [laughter]
Juanita Tolliver: While this ruling shows that the FDA is going a different direction, there’s no use crying over spilled oat milk. The dairy industry still commands nearly five times the market share compared to all nondairy alternatives combined. Regardless, welcome to the milk market you weird plant liquids. Our rumble free tummies thank you for your service. Dead ass though I need these alternatives and I want them all in ice cream form. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: We need them. We want them. Never seen quinoa milk on a shelf, which is weird because I live in Los Angeles, so [laughter] you’d expect that like that’s some shit I would have seen. But I’m curious.
Juanita Tolliver: Y’all are the beta testers. Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m curious. Feels like we need to do a taste test on the show.
Juanita Tolliver: I feel like the next time I see you, Priyanka, we need to have a row of glasses in front of us.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah!
Juanita Tolliver: To do this–
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s–
Juanita Tolliver: –on air.
Priyanka Aribindi: This is some hard hitting shit. Like I feel like we got to do it.
Juanita Tolliver: Investigative journalism at its finest.
Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Skip the lactose and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just Wes Moore’s cell phone contact list like me [laugh] What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka. Aribindi.
[spoken together] And how do you milk a quinoa?
Priyanka Aribindi: No idea.
Juanita Tolliver: Oh, my God. They’re so tiny. They’re so tiny. I feel like boiling and steaming is part of the process.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sure it is. [laughter] I, but it’s one of those things where I’m like, you know, if the final product’s good, I’m not going to question it.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m willing to try. I think that’s all I can do right now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Very open. Very open. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.