Debra Lee: Learning from the Past


For the curious,


I have to admit, it took me a while to write those first three words. As you probably know, I’m an Old School kind of guy. So I’d feel most comfortable addressing you by your name . . . or your nickname.

But if I typed in the name of each of you who’ve signed up for my e-mail list, and then sent out all those e-mails individually, I wouldn’t have time to do my podcast . . . or anything else. Maybe there’s some algorithm that knows how to do that. But cut me a little slack — I just learned how to Tweet.

For the curious is about the best compliment I can give you because of the value I place on curiosity. The tens of thousands of you who joined my e-mail list and subscribe to my Big Questions podcast all share that trait.

So let me lift a glass in gratitude to you, the curious, for accompanying me on this journey that started only a few months ago.

I want to let you know about a podcast that I just released. But before I do, let me tell you about a conversation I recently sat in on that makes this podcast so relevant to me.

A few guests joined the regulars at Larry King’s breakfast table when the subject of the women’s movement came up.

As you know, millions of women (with males alongside) have taken to the streets over

the last six months to express their anger over sexual harassment and frustration with treatment of women in the workplace.

So you can imagine my eyebrows lifting at the table when an eloquent woman said she didn’t understand the purpose of all the marches.

She made two points.

One, she questioned what these marches actually accomplished.

Two, she said that these demonstrations weren’t like those that took place during the days of the Civil Rights movement when people protested for the right to vote and for the right of people of all colors to eat at the same lunch counters. She just didn’t see a clear endgame to the recent women’s marches.

“What does it matter if millions of women are out in the streets on Sunday,” she said, “if they’re not doing anything substantive to make changes on Monday.”

I didn’t say much during the back and forth that followed. I was just taking it in. But things really clicked for me during my conversation with Debra Lee, the Chairman and CEO of BET.

As an African-American female who lived through the riots of the 60s, rose to the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, and who now sits on the boards of major corporations, Debra has a unique point of view on both struggles.

When she told the story of the soda machine, things really started to make sense to me.

And if you know anyone who’s curious about this subject, please pass this podcast along to them. Because . . . well, because it’s for the curious. Cheers,


Kevin HekmatComment