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  • So let's start from the beginning.

  • What was it like growing up in spending time and out of sight of the United States and particularly in Iran?

  • Well, I was born in Iran, and everybody always says, Well, why on earth were you born in Iran?

  • And other than the fact that my parents were there, which is the obvious reason this the story is a little complicated, but I guess it boils down to this.

  • My father, who was a physician and I had after finishing his residency, joined the Army, and after a couple years in the Army, he was looking for a job at a major academic teaching institution in the United States.

  • He wanted to do research in his specialty of pathology and genetics, and he could not find a job comparable to his white counterparts.

  • And so he and my mom, who let's say, um, very interested in doing things outside their comfort zone, decided to look for job opportunities outside the United States, and my father landed a job offer at the no Maz Ing Hospital, which was a brand new hospital have even opened up.

  • Yet in Shiraz, Iran, cheering the department of pathology.

  • So a job that was not available to him in his own country.

  • And so he and my mom picked up at one halfway across the world and I was the second baby born in the know Mozzie Hospital.

  • They practiced on some other baby first, where I can't tell you how that web.

  • But it went okay with May.

  • And we lived there until I was five.

  • And from there my father do It started doing research in Iran, and it caught the attention of some folks at the Golden Labs at University College of London.

  • And my parents were beginning to think it was time to start going back home my mom and was homesick for her family.

  • And I think they both missed the United States.

  • And they thought, Well, why not take advantage of this job offer to go to the Carlton Labs for a year.

  • So off he went there, and from there he started doing research that again, and his research got the attention at some international conference of the dean of the University Chicago Medical Center.

  • And so he landed a tenure track position in my mother's hometown in the same neighborhood where my grandmother and her other daughter and our whole extended family lived.

  • And my father used to always say to me growing up that sometimes the shortest distance to where you really want to go means you better be prepared to take the long way around and they sure to take that long way around.

  • Ah, and that's where we live.

  • But for me, coming to the United States was like going to a foreign country, and I was already kind of shaken up, going to London and then here.

  • My parents is so excited about going back home, but it wasn't familiar to me.

  • And thank goodness I have this large extended family that you know so well that made me, in short order, feel like it was home.

  • But I will say this and I say this to people who have at some point in their life, felt like the other, the only that when I was plopped out of this public school in my neighborhood and I had a British accent.

  • It only takes one year to develop a British accent, and I'm speaking Farsi, French in English, and, you know, I got red hair and freckles and light skin, and I was two years ahead of myself in school.

  • Why?

  • I used to get beat up every day, every single day for any one of those reasons.

  • And so what did I do?

  • I stopped speaking Farsi.

  • I lost that British accent the first week.

  • Uh, and I stopped talking.

  • I stopped telling my story about being born anyone, and the first I would say, 20 plus years of my life.

  • No one had heard of Iran.

  • And then after President Carter went through the hospice hostage prices, everyone had heard of Iran, and it kind of went downhill from there to today.

  • And so for a long time, I just shot away from a very important part of who I was.

  • And I learned a lot about the United States living in an underdeveloped country where we didn't have the advantages we have here in terms of either clean food and water, let alone civil liberties on.

  • Also, I just felt that it gave me a perspective on the world that sometimes when you only know the United States, you think it's Yeah, it's the greatest country already on Earth.

  • But it's not the only country on earth.

  • We can learn a great deal outside of our shores.

  • And so those lessons that I learned were really important lessons, and I never talked about them.

  • This is true.

  • And then you finally opened up, started opening up Andi kind of owning my story and part of why my book is called Finding my Voices.

  • I think oftentimes we don't listen to the quiet voice inside of us and don't trust it, and it's actually the most important one.

  • But we also don't use our voice to share our story because when we do that, people discover who we are.

  • And my book, I have the good, the bag, the ugly, all of it, because without it you wouldn't really know who I am.

  • Another point that I thought was really interesting is that your parents took the risk to go outside of the country for opportunities.

  • You had all of the opportunities and took the risk to take a different one.

  • So take us back to that special moment in your office where you're arguably at the peak of your career.

  • You go to you go to these phenomenal schools.

  • You're in this career a legal career.

  • You're being recognized.

  • You're doing well and you say this isn't it?

  • So take us to that point where you first heard that voice that encouraged you to take a risk.

  • So, uh, I begin my book with the story of sitting on the 79th floor of what was then called the Sears Tower in Chicago was the tallest building our city, magnificent views of Lake Michigan.

  • And I would turn my back to the door and I would close the door and I look out the window and I would just cry.

  • And the reason why I was crying when I was in college 10 years earlier, I had come up with a 10 year plan and it went I don't know how many of you came up with plans coming out of school, but I had, and I didn't really know what I wanted to do.

  • But I felt like everybody else had a plan.

  • I needed a plan, too.

  • So my plan went something like this.

  • I was going to go right to law school.

  • I picked law school because, well, I had started out pre med.

  • So today and, um, two things happened the same semester.

  • My boyfriend, who was in medical school, took me to his anatomy class and at the same time I was taking organic chemistry.

  • The words no said about my medical school pack.

  • So then I thought, Well, maybe I should go to business school, But there was this really good party the night before the G mats.

  • I never actually made it to the gym at Exam.

  • I do wish I had gone to business school That would've come in handy, but my best friend with law school and she was two years older than I.

  • And she said, Go to law school will buy you time and you'll discover something passionate about the practice of law.

  • So my plan was go right to law school.

  • Discover that passion probably move back home to Chicago goes by.

  • I'm an only child.

  • I missed my family, fall in love, get married and have a baby by 30 thinking about that biological clock ticks later.

  • Now, for those of you who are thinking about that, don't worry so much about it.

  • They have ways to help and then live happily ever after, because what more could you want in life than that.

  • So I went right to law school.

  • I moved to Chicago and I want to really go Excellent law firm.

  • And I discovered that was really interested in real estate law, which that firm didn't have.

  • And so I went to an even better law firm.

  • I'm married.

  • Leon knows this story figuratively.

  • The boy next door in that our moms group in the same apartment building that my grandfather managed.

  • Our fathers were very good friends are grandmothers were good friends.

  • He was a doctor.

  • My father was a doctor.

  • I'd had a crush on him since I was eight and he was 12.

  • In fact, I used to go to church with my grandmother just cause he was an altar boy on.

  • He literally never looked at me once until I was 25.

  • And then we were to cut one of my cousins weddings and he came out of the chapel and he looked right at me, and I thought, I'm gonna marry you.

  • That's about how much thought I gave it.

  • And so what could go wrong, Boy next door?

  • Plenty.

  • And I'm quite the planner.

  • So now I did have my daughter, Laura, just shy of my 29th birthday.

  • And Laura's almost four weeks ago turned me into the best position of life, which is Grandmother Very excited about that 33 we'll be up here in a couple of weeks.

  • I can hardly wait.

  • Uh, so that's the one thing I did do perfectly.

  • But I I was in this law firm and everyone around me thought, Oh my gosh, it's so fancy and you have your own assistant.

  • You've got, you know, a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and a highfalutin clients.

  • What's wrong with you?

  • And I really thought to myself I should be happy.

  • Everybody tells me I have the perfect life.

  • My friends were envious of me, but I am miserable, and I started listening to the quiet voice inside of me, and some of you will remember Mayor Harold Washington.

  • He was the first African American mayor Chicago, and he had just being reelected to second term in office, and I had, like, knocked on doors for him.

  • He barely knew I was.

  • The only reason you would have known me was because my father in law was a very good friend of his and I admired him from afar.

  • And with his first election, I started focusing on city government in a way I never had before.

  • And I think it's just it wasn't relevant to my life.

  • I didn't feel in the affinity to the prior mayors, and I just I didn't even know how you got basic service is who picked up your garbage child.

  • The snow was removed.

  • How the budget?

  • I knew not.

  • I don't think I haven't Even my ultimate was until he was elected.

  • But in his first term, I started paying attention, and when he was re elected, a very dear friend of mine said, Why don't you consider public service?

  • You are so miserable doing what everybody else thinks you should D'oh, Why don't you do something where you'll be a part of something bigger than yourself?

  • You'll feel a broader purpose in life.

  • And so I walked out of that office in City Hall and, um, I remember my for my office and the big law firm.

  • I remember my first day walking into City Hall for reasons I don't remember.

  • My mother drove me to work, which seems kind of autumn full grown, and I don't know why she gave me a ride to work, but maybe it was.

  • So when she pulled into the front of City Hall, she could say, I can't believe I paid all that tuition for you to go and work.

  • Really.

  • She thought I'd lost my mind.

  • And it wasn't honestly until she would admit about five years ago.

  • I finally said there, Don't you think it was the right move?

  • And she says, Well, maybe things worked out all right, Maybe.

  • But I was way off course and I said to my parents, Look what you did.

  • I'm sure that their families weren't very happy when they went to Iran, I said, I'm just going down the street to City Hall.

  • But I walked in that first day.

  • Valerie and I felt I'm alone.

  • I walked into my my apartment, my office, and my boss met me and reception.

  • He said, Let me take you to your office.

  • But he did air quotes, which is never a good sign when something does a requests, and so what does he mean?

  • So I go to the bowels of the agency and there is my cubicle with a window facing an alley.

  • And I did do a little like gut check because I'm taking a cut in pay and all that.

  • And I thought, You know what?

  • This is gonna work out.

  • That's great.

  • I never looked back.

  • That's fantastic.

  • So a lot of people know that you're supposed to listen to the voice and the sometimes even hear it.

  • But what give you the courage and drugged it to trust it in tow?

  • Act on it?

  • And what would you tell people?

  • How would you advise those who have the voice?

  • But it just deathly afraid of the unknown?

  • Well, one of the things that motivated me to act on it was I was miserable, so there's nothing like being very miserable.

  • In fact, I often think, Well, what if I have been just like a little miserable?

  • My I have stayed in even a marriage or in the in the law firm, So I was good and miserable, and I think it was my friend pushing me.

  • And he said, we all need a nudge sometimes and so, but that means you have to open up and tell your friends how you feel in your family how you feel.

  • You can't just pretend like I got this and everything is perfect.

  • If inside of you you're miserable and that's what they're there for.

  • There to be a sounding board and you have.

  • And I think, ultimately look, what do you have to lose?

  • Like Save it hadn't worked out.

  • I probably could go back to a law firm, right?

  • That's true.

  • It's not like you can't go back, but you just would never know if you don't take these chances.

  • And so I think one of the lessons that I talk about extensively in my book is it?

  • Early in my career, I was painfully shy, very quiet, never spoke up in class.

  • Um, and as I said, didn't really have a plan.

  • So I made up a plan and I craved the comfort of kind of the straight line, and I had to learn to appreciate the magic and the adventure of the zigzag, and I look back over my life now that makes perfectly good sense.

  • But at the time, each of these changes I made didn't necessarily make sense.

  • And so in the end it adds up and I think, why wouldn't you take a chance from time to time, and we do allow our sale ourselves to stay in either misery or almost worse, mediocrity to write points.

  • Don't don't do that, have a purposeful life and it doesn't really matter.

  • I mean, you've got to find everybody's got something different that their voices telling them is their passion, and it doesn't mean every day is perfect when you follow that passion.

  • I've had some really hard days following my passion, but I do feel like it was purposeful and meaningful to me, right?

  • That's beautiful.

  • When President Obama was in office, this was in the wake of Michael Brown.

  • Yeah, he convened a group of experts, which included everyone from you may have seen him on the news police chief Ramsey.

  • He was second in command in Chicago and then ran the police department in Philadelphia and put into practice in Chicago and Philadelphia.

  • Community policing.

  • Ah, we had academic experts, we had faith leaders and we had young activists, including including a young woman named Britney Packet, who was from Ferguson and had worked for Teach for America and began the demonstrations in Ferguson after Michael Brown's death and we really wanted to develop a template for best practices to give to local law enforcement.

  • Because the federal government all we really had were strings that we could attach to money that we gave local law enforcement and also technical expertise and funding for, for example, body cameras.

  • I mean, one of the reasons why we are now seeing so much of what has always existed between black boys and men and police department around our country is because it's being captured on video.

  • Laquan McDonald His death was captured on video, and so are thought it was that one of the many ways to protect good police and make sure that they're being held accountable this body cameras and the federal government was paying helping to pay for body cameras.

  • That's one of the recommendations that was in this report.

  • But I think if I were to some of the most important recommendation, it was community policing.

  • The police have to get out of their cars and into the community because in so many of our communities, because this bond of trust has been breached, residents will not help the police do their jobs, and they are they don't trust the system.

  • And let me tell you now that I know as much as I do about the criminal justice system, the tip of the iceberg is improving the relationship between police and communities of color.

  • There is so much that is inhumane about our current current criminal justice system.

  • We have 5% off the world's population and 25% of the world's people who are incarcerated.

  • 2.2 plus 1,000,000 people in our country 600,000 are released every year.

  • But released into what I mean, are they going to get hired?

  • Do they have the training?

  • They need no opportunities, not to mention the folks who go to jail.

  • We just recently saw another report coming out of Ferguson where, even though we filed a pattern and practice, um well, Internet, your consent decree with the city because we found a pattern and practice of discriminatory behavior where the police were using ticketing in Ferguson as a revenue generator because they and they were targeting primarily poor people who were disproportionately black.

  • Why?

  • Because they knew if they had a broken tail light, they couldn't fix it.

  • And so then what happens when you don't fix it, well, then you get a bench warrant and then you go to court on your bench warrant or you don't show up because you can't leave your job.

  • And so you miss it.

  • And then there's a warrant for your arrest.

  • And then what did they do?

  • They pick you up and they take you to jail.

  • And then there's Bailiff, you couldn't fix the tailpipe.

  • How you gonna pay your bail while you can and say on average in our country's an interesting statistic?

  • And I'm not much on data in terms of trying to convince people, but I think this will get your attention.

  • So in the course of the year, 11 million Americans circle through our jails, which is where you go awaiting trial.

  • Of the 11 million, they stay an average of 23 days.

  • So, first of all, just imagine what happens in your life and 23 days.

  • If you're a single mom or dad, what happens to your Children?

  • What happens to your job?

  • Meanwhile, while those 23 days or taking let's say it was because you haven't paid a fee, the interest and penalty continue to accumulate at the end of the 23 days, only 5% are convicted and sentenced to more time than they've already served.

  • Wow, only 5%.

  • So you have to ask yourself, Do they actually belong in jail?

  • If you're not going to keep them there longer than 23 days?

  • Are they a threat to society?

  • No.

  • You know what?

  • There they are.

  • They're poor, that's what they are.

  • And so ending those practices, I think, are important as well.

  • But overall, in terms of the police and communities, As I said earlier, police, they're simply a part of our community.