What It Takes
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Revealing, intimate conversations with visionaries and leaders in the arts, science, technology, public service, sports and business. These engaging personal stories are drawn from interviews with the American Academy of Achievement, and offer insights you’ll want to apply to your own life.

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    Suzanne Farrell: Ballerina of the Century

    Ballet changed course on the day that George Balanchine met Suzanne Farrell. It was 1960. He was 56. She was 15, and had just arrived in New York from small-town Ohio, with dreams of becoming a professional dancer. Within a couple of years, she would become the greatest ballerina of her generation, and muse to the greatest choreographer in history. Their collaboration at the New York City Ballet crossed boundaries of art and love, and sent ballet pirouetting in new directions. But it was not without turmoil. Suzanne Farrell talks here about their enigmatic relationship, about how she withstood being fired (twice) from her artistic home, and about the beauty of living and dancing in the moment.

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    A. Scott Berg: Chronicler of The American Century

    This Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer began writing his first book when he was still in college (it earned the National Book Award), and he has devoted each of the last five decades to telling the life story of one 20th Century American giant: Charles Lindbergh, Woodrow Wilson, Katharine Hepburn, Samuel Goldwyn and Maxwell Perkins. Scott Berg tells some of the most fascinating stories from his subjects' lives here, and he describes the joys of his own life - as a researcher, a writer, and a detective of history.

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    Jimmy Carter: From Plains to the Presidency

    It’s a remarkable American story: a poor peanut farmer from the Deep South becomes a nuclear naval officer, then governor of Georgia, and finally President of the United States. And what Jimmy Carter has done for peace and human rights in the 40 years since leaving office is just as remarkable. The 39th president talks here about his early life in rural Plains, Georgia, where his deeply-held beliefs about equality and fairness took root, and he describes his unlikely rise through the political landscape at a moment when the U.S. was undergoing tumultuous change. He also speaks candidly about some of the most difficult moments in the White House, the transition to his “post-presidency,” and his assessment of what makes a great president.

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    Peter Gabriel: Genesis of a Rock Star

    Sledgehammer, In Your Eyes, and Red Rain are some of the hits that made Peter Gabriel a rock superstar in the 1970's and 80's. Before he became a solo artist, he was already a star -- as lead singer of the band Genesis. But somewhere along the way, Peter Gabriel also became a political activist, particularly after his song Biko became an anthem of the anti-Apartheid movement. Since then, he has devoted much of his time to creating two organizations dedicated to human rights, justice and peace… as well as a festival and record label that have given exposure to hundreds of artists from around the world. Gabriel talks in depth here about his multi-faceted career, and he shares his revelations about the nature of talent.

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    Brendan Sullivan: Standing Up to Power

    If you're a senator, a military leader, or a business executive accused of wrongdoing, Brendan Sullivan is the lawyer you probably want to call. Sullivan is considered one of the greatest trial lawyers in the country, and has represented some of the most high profile defendants of the past fifty years, including Oliver North, Ted Stevens, and the Duke lacrosse players. But he began his career defending a group of soldiers during the Vietnam War, who dared to peacefully protest conditions in the stockade. Sullivan talks here about his cases and the abuses of government power he has unearthed. And he explains why he has such a pessimistic view about the state of our judicial system.

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    Susan Butcher: Call of the Wild

    This is the story of a true original... a woman who dominated the extreme sport of dog sled racing for years, was a four-time winner of the Iditarod (the grueling, thousand-mile race across Alaska). Susan Butcher, a legend of the Alaskan frontier, died at the age of 51 from Leukemia, but at the peak of her career as a racer, she gave this revealing interview. In it, she explains why she chose to live in a cabin without running water or electricity, 40 miles from the nearest neighbor, in weather conditions that most could not survive. She also describes the resistance she faced from male mushers during her early years as an Iditarod competitor. And she talks about the profound, almost mystical relationship she had with her beloved dogs.

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    Frances Arnold: A Nobel Vision

    Thirty years ago, Dr. Arnold had an idea: to breed molecules in the laboratory the way we breed animals - to bring out the traits we want in them. The molecules she was particularly interested in were enzymes, which are essential to life, and which she knew could be used to make environmentally friendly materials, including bio-fuels, cleaning products, and pharmaceuticals. Her idea worked right away. It’s now called “directed evolution,” and it has had huge implications for industry. In 2018, it earned her a Nobel Prize in Chemistry (only the fifth ever awarded to a woman). She talks here about the science, but also about the bumps in her life that helped her become an original thinker.

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    Michael Caine: An Accent on Life

    He has been nominated for an Academy Award in every one of the past five decades, and won twice, for "Hannah And Her Sisters" and "The Cider House Rules". Fifteen year olds think of him as Alfred, Batman’s butler In the Dark Knight Trilogy. 85 year olds think of him as Alfie, the shameless womanizer in the iconic 1960’s film by the same name. In between Michael Caine has been in 150 movies, and he’s still going strong. He is as amusing and charming off-screen as on, and tells story after story here about his beginnings as a scrappy, poor Cockney kid who, against all odds, became one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors.

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    John Updike: Dreams from My Mother

    John Updike used his unique literary talents to peel back the layers of middle-class American life, exposing its less-than-placid exterior. He was one of the most prolific and esteemed American writers of his generation, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his "Rabbit" novels but was as well known for his stories and essays and works of literary criticism. He talks here about his very beginnings in a small Pennsylvania town, and about his mother, who inspired him with her own efforts to get published. Updike also discusses his storied association with The New Yorker, which began the month he completed college and lasted until his death in 2009. And he describes the nitty-gritty of his daily writing routine.

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    Chuck Yeager: The Right Stuff

    The man who broke the sound barrier in the experimental Bell X-1, and ushered in the era of manned spacecraft, never saw a plane when he was growing up in the hills of West Virginia. But he became an ace fighter pilot in World War II, and later - an absolutely fearless test pilot, who managed to survive the most harrowing mishaps, with an unflappable calm and sense of duty.

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    Johnny Mathis: Timeless Voice of Romance

    He is one of the romantic singers of all time... with a voice people often compare to satin, to silk or to velvet. It's hard to describe, but you sure know it when you hear it. Johnny Mathis talks here about signing with Columbia Records at the age of 19 and about his life in music over the past 60+ years. He pays tribute to the African-American artists who paved the way for him. And he tells the story behind some of his greatest hit songs, including "Chances Are," and "It's Not For Me To Say."

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    Stephen Sondheim: Maestro of Broadway

    He grew up next door to Oscar Hammerstein and became his greatest protege. In 1957, Sondheim wrote the lyrics for "West Side Story," and for the next 60 years dominated the world of musical theater. His shows include "Gypsy", "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Company," "A Little Night Music," "Sweeney Todd," "Sunday in the Park with George," "Into the Woods," and "Assassins." He pulls back the curtain in this interview, giving fascinating insights into some of the greatest Broadway collaborations of all time, and into the process of writing a song for the stage.

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    Rita Dove and W.S. Merwin: A Gift for Language

    Two of America's greatest poets - both former Poet Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners - get to the heart of why poems speak to us when other forms of language fail. They also share stories about the people who inspired them to make a life in literature. And they read some great poems, of course!

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    Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner: King of the Mountain

    Man's relationship to mountain was forever changed by these two adventurers. Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. A generation later, Reinhold Messner became the first person to reach it solo, and without oxygen. They each tell remarkable stories here of what drove them to the top of the world, and how it felt to be there.

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    Lord Martin Rees: The Future of Humanity

    We have Lord Martin Rees to thank for much of what we understand about black holes, quasars, and other distant objects in the night sky. He is England’s Astronomer Royal, and has spent the past fifty years looking deep into the past, to understand the origins of the universe. But for the past two decades he’s also been asking the most difficult questions about the future of humankind, a future made uncertain because of tremendous advancements in science and technology.

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    Leymah Gbowee: A Call from God

    This story is a testament to the power of one person to change the world. When civil war broke out in Liberia, Leymah Gbowee was 17 years old. Over the next fourteen years it would become one of the most vicious, deadly wars in history (one tenth of the population was killed). One night Gbowee had a dream: to organize women to pray for peace. That dream led to a mass women’s movement and to some creative non-violent tactics (including a sex strike!) that helped bring an end to the war. Leymah Gbowee tells her inspiring life story here, from a poor West African village to the Nobel Peace Prize.

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    Lynsey Addario: Portraits of Love and War

    This Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist has covered wars and humanitarian crises in 70 countries, including Iraq, Libya & Afghanistan. She has been kidnapped twice and she’s been badly injured on the job, but she is determined to open our eyes to the state of the world and the human condition, no matter the risk. Lynsey Addario is a lively storyteller who brings emotion and humor to every tale, whether she’s describing growing up the child of hairdressers, the harrowing details of her kidnapping in Libya, or the heartbreaking work of documenting women who die in childbirth.

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    Norman Schwarzkopf: Duty, Honor, Country

    The last time the United States had a grand military parade was in 1991, following the swift, crushing victory over Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. General Schwarzkopf was the commander of that war, and he was widely credited as the person responsible for restoring America's military might and its reputation, 20 years after the war in Vietnam. The interview featured here was conducted shortly after the Gulf victory, and it gives a glimpse into a critical American moment. Schwarzkopf also reveals many of the lessons he learned about leadership during his 39 years in the military.

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    Peyton Manning and Herschel Walker: Preparing to Win

    Inspiring tales and life lessons from two of the most legendary players in football history. One grew up the son of an NFL quarterback, and one the son of a farmer, but for both, the key to living out their greatest dream was simple: work, work, and more work.

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    Bernie Taupin: Lyrical Inspiration

    When Elton John and Bernie Taupin met as teenagers, they were each talented and full of potential, but together, they were unstoppable. For over 50 years, with Taupin as lyricist and John as composer, they have created many of the most enduring songs in pop and rock n' roll. Taupin describes his decision to leave farm life to pursue his love of poetry and music, and he tells the story of how he and Elton John met soon after, in 1967. He also lays out the unusual and speedy process they have always used to write their songs. And if you've ever wanted the back story to "Your Song" or "Daniel," now's your chance.

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    Khaled Hosseini, Scott Turow and Charles Krauthammer: Second Lives

    If you’ve ever dreamed of reinventing yourself, take inspiration from these three writers. Each one followed a traditional career path, before turning the page to pick up pen & paper. Khaled Hosseini, once a doctor, became author of international bestseller “The Kite Runner”. Scott Turow, attorney at law, became the master of legal thrillers such as “Presumed Innocent.” And psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer became a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper and magazine columnist. Each speaks, in this episode, about finding one’s true passion, and pursuing it with zeal.

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    Beverly and Dereck Joubert: Spirit of the Wild

    The look in a lion's eye, fixated on its prey... the sound of a hyena taking down a zebra foal... the tender ministrations of an elephant. For over 40 years, the Jouberts (National Geographic Explorers) have lived in some of the most remote places in Africa, capturing on film what other humans have never seen. They are in love with each other, and with their mission: to save big cats and other wild creatures. They tell amazing stories here of their encounters with animals, their solitary existence in the bush, and the buffalo attack that almost killed them both, but strengthened their resolve.

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    Anthony Fauci: From Aristotle to AIDS

    This is the story of a remarkable doctor who, in 1981, became one of the first scientists to recognize that we were on the verge of a new and terrible epidemic - HIV/AIDS - and then devoted his career to understanding and finding treatments for it. Dr. Fauci has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS research ever since. Along the way, he also became the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, overseeing research into every frightening outbreak imaginable: Ebola, Plague, SARS, Zika, Anthrax, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Influenza, etc… He talks here about growing up as the grandson of Italian immigrants, and about how an education in the classics prepared him for medical school. He recalls how he became a target of the AIDS activist movement, but turned out to be one their greatest champions. And he describes his relationship with presidents and lawmakers and the news media, throughout decades of medical crises.

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    Jessye Norman: Living My Life in Song

    This global icon of the concert stage was planning to become a doctor, but her voice was too powerful a force. Jessye Norman tells the story of falling in love with opera on the radio, and hearing Marian Anderson’s voice for the first time on a neighbor’s record player. And she describes growing up in the segregated South, with parents and teachers who encouraged her passions and her talents. Norman went on to become one of the most celebrated sopranos of all time in the world of opera and classical music — truly earning the title of Diva. But she talks here about choosing to sing spirituals, popular American music and jazz as well, and living a life in music on her own terms.

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    John Banville: Literary Confessions

    A darkly funny conversation about writing, weather & Ireland. Banville, a Booker Prize-winning novelist and master wordsmith, explains why nothing in the world is more powerful than the sentence. He has sometimes spent weeks getting one just right. He's also a contrarian, and talks about why he loathes vacations, loves rain, and does his best to avoid other authors.

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    Julie Andrews: An Angel on My Shoulder

    Who doesn’t love Julie Andrews? She has delighted generations of audiences, whether singing on the London Vaudeville circuit, in the Broadway productions of My Fair Lady & Camelot, or in the Hollywood classics Mary Poppins &The Sound of Music. Younger generations also know her from The Princess Diaries, Shrek & Despicable Me. And for every decade of her remarkable 70-year career, she’s got charming, insightful stories, starting with her London debut at the age of 12 (yes we have sound of it!). She also talks about some harrowing setbacks, like the surgery that destroyed her soaring voice, and the life lessons that helped her find new ways to share her extraordinary talents with the world.

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    Andrew Weil: The Healing Power of Nature

    Dr. Weil has been on a decades-long campaign to convince the medical establishment that the mind-body connection is real, and that many alternative forms of healing should be combined with conventional medicine... especially in treating diabetes, depression, and many other epidemic "lifestyle" diseases. He describes here how he developed his ideas, on a path that included Harvard Medical School and a career as an ethnobotanist, studying psychotropic drugs and traditional healing in the Amazon. He also talks about establishing the Center for Integrative Medicine, the first of its kind (there are now similar programs at the most prestigious government and academic medical institutions in the country). And he revels in seeing his approach to healing finally gain traction, after years of being dismissed as a radical by the mainstream medical world.

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    Kazuo Ishiguro: Lyrical Tales of Emotion

    This Nobel Prize-winning writer — the author of “Remains of the Day” and “Never Let Me Go” — started out as a singer songwriter. He talks here about falling in love with language at 13, while listening to Bob Dylan, and describes how the spare language of songwriting affected his approach to writing novels. Ishiguro also discusses other influences, including years spent working in a homeless shelter. And he beautifully expresses the intimate human connection between writer and reader. This year, when the Nobel prize in literature has been derailed by scandal, we invite you to revel in the thoughtful, musical, imaginative world of the 2017 winner!

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    Demis Hassabis: A.I. Mastermind

    Artificial Intelligence is already changing the course of society, and it’s only in its infancy. Hear one of the most innovative and successful thinkers in the field describe the coming revolutions A.I. is bringing about in medicine and in environmental science. Demis Hassabis, a neuroscientist and former game developer, describes how his company, Deep Mind, is developing technologies that can extend the power of the human brain, in order to solve some of the biggest problems facing mankind. Along the way, he hopes to unlock some of the mysteries of the universe. This episode also includes excerpts of earlier pioneers in the field of Artificial Intelligence: Marvin Minsky and Ray Kurzweil.

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    Wallace Stegner and N. Scott Momaday: Chroniclers of the American West

    These two great American writers reflect on their place in the landscape, the history and the culture of the West. One is Kiowa Indian, one is White. One was raised in Arizona and New Mexico, one in Montana and Utah. During the 1960's one was a student, the other his professor. But both writers created works reflecting a deep reverence for the West and its peoples, and both were awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

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    Steve Schwarzman: King of Wall Street

    Take a peek into the mind of Stephen Schwarzman, the financier who established a little financial startup called Blackstone with $400,000 in seed capital, and transformed it into one of the largest investment firms in the world, with $434 billion under management. Schwarzman explains his rise from the son of a dry-goods store owner in Philadelphia to become one of the savviest and most strategic financiers in the history of Wall Street.

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    Bartlett Sher: A Reason to Sing

    Going to see live theater, Bartlett Sher believes, is a unique experience... one that’s not just entertaining, but also has the power to change your view of the world. Sher is one of the most creative, thought-provoking Broadway directors working today (he directed the 2017 Tony award-winning best play, "Oslo"). Sher talks here about how a childhood trauma steered him toward the stage, and about finding new relevance in classic, beloved musicals like “South Pacific” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” His most recent production is "My Fair Lady."

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    Jeremy Irons: Thespian and Provocateur

    The star of theater, film and television talks about how acting has allowed him the life of a vagabond and the ability to challenge the status quo. He tells the story of his childhood on a rural English island, and his first great success in the theater — as John the Baptist in the 1961 British production of the musical “Godspell". The television hit "Brideshead Revisited” and the movie "The French Lieutenant’s Woman" followed, helping to secure his reputation as one of the great actors of his generation.

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    Dorothy Hamill and Scott Hamilton: The Price of Gold

    Two of the greatest figure skaters to ever grace Olympic ice explain why winning a gold medal was not the absolute triumph you might think. For both Hamill (’76) and Hamilton (’84), skating offered relief from painful childhood circumstances; when their Olympic dreams were reached, the future seemed suddenly uncertain. Listen to these stories, both heartbreaking and victorious, and you will never watch the Olympics the same way again.

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    Sue Grafton: The Alphabet Ends at Y

    Sue Grafton wrote a mystery for every letter of the alphabet but one. When she died in December of 2017, she left her fans with the ultimate cliffhanger: there would be no book for the letter Z. In this fascinating and funny interview, she talked about facing her fears every day when she sat down to write. And she explained how a difficult childhood and a miserable divorce paved the way for one of the most successful mystery series of all time. Her books were published in 26 languages, and spent a total of eight years on the New York Times bestseller list.

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    Maya Lin: The Art of Remembrance

    When Maya Lin’s design was chosen for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1981, it sparked a political firestorm in Washington. The design was almost quashed, but Maya Lin - only 21 at the time - fought for her vision and prevailed. Lin talks about how she has continued to pursue her unique artistic vision ever since, whether designing monuments, buildings or sculptures, and she shines a light on her creative process.

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    Edward Teller: Destroyer of Worlds

    The "Father of the Hydrogen Bomb", the force behind Reagan's Star Wars initiative, and the model for "Dr. Strangelove" was a Hungarian math prodigy who fled Hitler's Germany. In America, he became one of the scientific minds behind the creation of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, in a race against the Nazi war machine. Teller's story is told here in his own voice, and by many of the other leading scientists from the dawn of the nuclear age.

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    Anthony M. Kennedy: Principles of Freedom

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the deciding vote in critical Supreme Court cases - from abortion to campaign finance to same-sex marriage - talks about his path to the judiciary. He also eloquently describes his devotion to the ideals of freedom and human dignity, and to civil discourse, in an era when it is more badly needed than ever.

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    Jimmy Page: Guitar Hero

    Jimmy Page’s plan all along was to transform rock n’ roll. And he did. The band he founded, Led Zeppelin, remains one of the most influential and popular rock bands in history. Page is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. His epic onstage solos, on hits like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir,” are legendary. And he was just as innovative as a producer. On this episode Page talks about how he fell in love with American blues music, how he learned to play the guitar, and how his days as a session musician prepared him to upend the conventions of studio recording. He also walks us through some of the Led Zeppelin songs he loves best.

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    Itzhak Perlman: The Gift of Music

    For the past 60 years - ever since he made his American debut at 13 - Itzhak Perlman has made classical music fans swoon. He is not only one of the greatest violinists of all time, but also a charming and passionate champion of the music. On this episode, Perlman talks about falling in love with the violin at the age of 3, contracting polio (and losing use of his legs) at 4, and emigrating from Israel to the United States at 13, after an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. He recalls some of his favorite performances, as well one where he forgot to play an entire movement and had to vamp! And, he talks about why music sometimes moves us to tears.

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    Ernest J. Gaines: Letters of My Ancestors

    Ernest Gaines grew up in the 1930's and 40's on the same Louisiana plantation where his ancestors were once slaves. After he became a successful and celebrated novelist, he returned, bought the land, and lives there even now. The voices he heard as a child, telling stories on the porch or around the fire, are the voices that populate his novels: "A Lesson Before Dying," "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," "A Gathering of Old Men," and others. In this episode, Gaines describes the path that led him from picking cotton, to falling in love with literature, to writing award-winning novels. At the same time, he shares his profound feelings about the limitations of that success.

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    Esperanza Spalding and Wayne Shorter: Jazz Invention

    Esperanza Spalding - bass player, composer, lyricist and singer - is one of the most exciting artists in contemporary jazz. Wayne Shorter is a legendary saxophonist and composer whose career began in the bebop era of the 1950's, and has continued until today. He began playing with Art Blakey, became part of Miles Davis' groundbreaking quintet, and then formed one of the most influential fusion jazz bands, "Weather Report." Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding are from different jazz eras and from different sides of the country, but they have become friends and artistic soulmates, who share many of the same views about making music and the creative process.

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    Leon Panetta: Decisive Action

    The last time the budget of the United States was balanced - and even had a surplus - Leon Panetta was in charge of it, as Director of the Office of Management & Budget. From the Nixon years through the Obama Administration, Panetta had a large, firm, warm-hearted hand in the government of the United States... leading Congressional committees, OMB, the staff of the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon. You could call him the ultimate public servant. On this episode he shares stories from every period of his government career, and he explains how they were all informed by his experiences growing up the child of Italian immigrants.

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    James Earl Jones: The Voice of Triumph

    When James Earl Jones speaks, his voice reverberates so deeply that you can almost feel it in your own chest. Think Darth Vader. For 60 years now, Jones has been captivating audiences with that voice and with his commanding presence -- on stage and on screen. In this episode, he talks about how he overcame a stutter that silenced him for years. He explains how the radicalism of the 1960's changed the world of acting, and opened the door to his success. And he describes how growing up on a humble farm taught him to treasure contentment over happiness.

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    General Colin Powell: My American Journey

    Colin Powell has worn many hats, among them: Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and National Security Advisor. He was the first African-American to hold each of those positions. When he joined the Army in the 1950's, though, his only ambition was to be a good soldier. It was beyond the realm of possibility for the son of working class Jamaican immigrants to aspire much higher. In this episode, you'll hear Powell's stories about his journey from the South Bronx, to the jungles of Vietnam, to the Jim Crow South, to the highest reaches of government, and about the decades of American history he helped shape.

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    Barbra Streisand and Pat Conroy: The Way We Were

    Barbra Streisand is one of the greatest entertainers of all time. In the early 1990's, she forged an unlikely friendship with novelist Pat Conroy, when they collaborated on the movie version of his book, The Prince of Tides. In this episode, you'll hear wonderful, engaging talks by both of these great artists - about what it took for them to overcome the adversity in their early lives, to achieve greatness.

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    Jeff Bezos: Regret Minimization

    When Jeff Bezos had the idea to start an online bookstore, he was working in a secure job on Wall Street. The internet was still young, and the average person had never made a purchase online. Bezos knew the chances of his company failing were high, but he also knew that if he didn't take the risk, he'd always regret it. More than 20 years later, regrets are off the table. Amazon.com brings in 135 billion dollars in revenue, and Bezos is one of the wealthiest men in the world. Hear him tell stories about the early days, before Amazon transformed the way we shop, read, watch & listen.

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    Louise Glück: Revenge Against Circumstance

    Louise Glück uses simple, unsentimental language in her poems to evoke overwhelming emotions. That rare combination is what has distinguished her as one of America's greatest living poets, for over half a century. In this episode, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, former Poet Laureate of the United States digs into the torment and uncertainty that has hounded her throughout her writing life. She talks about how teaching poetry, which she feared would diminish her art, instead allowed it to flourish. And she describes her obsessive desire to hear music in her ears, and language in her head.

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    Naomi Judd: Dream Chaser

    Naomi Judd's life has had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster. For eight glorious years, she and her daughter Wynonna were the biggest country music sensation of the 1980's, with fourteen number one hits, sold-out stadium tours, and too many rhinestones to count. But Naomi's life before and since has been far from glamorous. In this episode, she talks about her tumultuous early life in small-town Kentucky and her struggles as a young single mom on welfare. She recounts how singing transformed her relationship with Wynonna, and then took them to the heights of the music industry. And she shares how the devastating disease that brought it all crashing down led her to a place of tremendous insight and gratitude.

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    Rosa Parks and Judge Frank Johnson: Standing Up for Freedom

    In the fall of 1955, Rosa Parks refused to stand for a white passenger on the bus, Martin Luther King Jr. was chosen to lead the boycott that followed, and a lawyer named Frank Johnson was appointed to be the first and only federal judge for the middle district of Alabama (also the youngest federal judge in the nation). These three people didn't know each other, and yet, their paths converged in Montgomery, at the crossroads of history. In this episode, you'll hear rare audio of Ms. Parks describing the day of her arrest, and you'll learn the lesser known story of Judge Johnson, a principled and stubborn Southerner from northern Alabama, who issued many of the court decisions decimating segregation throughout the south.

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    Robert Langer: Edison of Medicine

    Some of Robert Langer's inventions sound like the stuff of science fiction: "smart" pills that can release medicine by remote control... organs and bone, coaxed into growing on polymer scaffolds. But these inventions are already in clinical trials, or in development at Langer's Lab at MIT, the largest bioengineering lab in the country. In this episode, Robert Langer talks about the very unconventional route he took from chemical engineer to medical pioneer, and he explains his first discovery, in the 1970's, which led to one of the primary treatments for Cancer.

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    Sally Ride and Eileen Collins: Wonder Women

    Sally Ride was the first American woman to rocket into space. Eileen Collins was the first woman to command the Space Shuttle. These two astronauts changed history and broke a very high glass ceiling for little girls. But they traveled different paths to get to NASA and achieve their dreams. Sally Ride graduated from an elite private school in Los Angeles and earned a doctorate in Physics at Stanford, while Eileen Collins was raised in public housing in upstate New York and joined the U.S. Air Force, where she became a test pilot. In this episode, both women talk about the obstacles they overcame to reach the highest of heights.

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    Frank McCourt: Teacher Man

    No one could tell a story better than Frank McCourt. His first book, Angela's Ashes, remains one of the most compelling accounts of poverty, alcoholism, and the longing for a better life. It won a Pulitzer Prize, and transformed McCourt from a modest immigrant and a lifelong high school teacher, into a literary celebrity. In this episode, you'll hear McCourt hold forth with tremendous humor and that lyrical voice - about the miseries of his childhood in Ireland, as well as his passion for teaching and writing.

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    Leslie Wexner: Victoria's Other Secret

    This is the story of Les Wexner's path, from a tiny, old-fashioned neighborhood store in Columbus, Ohio, owned by his immigrant father... to one of the biggest retail empires in the world. His company, L Brands, now includes that lingerie giant, Victoria's Secret, as well as Bath & Body Works, and Henri Bendel. But Wexner helped innovate the very idea of a specialty clothing chain store, with his first business: The Limited. Wexner has been CEO longer than any other head of a Fortune 500 Company, and at almost 80, he's still not slowing down.

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    Nora Ephron: Unstoppable Wit

    Nora Ephron knew just how to make people laugh and cry and kvell. But mostly laugh. She wrote some of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, including "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle". She was a successful director and producer too, in an industry not very hospitable to women. In this episode, Ephron shares the most important lesson she learned from her mother: that all pain is fodder for a good story. She explains why becoming a journalist was the best thing she ever did. And she tells stories from her later career in Hollywood, including the one about how the famous faked-orgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally" came about.

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    Bill Russell: Giant of a Man

    The most astonishing winning streak in the history of sports, belonged to the Boston Celtics. They won eleven championships between 1957 and 1969, eight of those in a row. And the player at the center of those wins - was Bill Russell. He changed the game of basketball, with his incredible speed, and his ability to block shots as no player had done before. When he took over as coach of the Celtics (while still playing on the team), he became the first African-American coach of any major sport in the U.S. In this episode, Russell talks about his life in basketball, and he describes how he was shaped by the racism he confronted, on and off the court.

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    Sonia Sotomayor: Power of Words

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells the extraordinary story of her voyage from the most dangerous neighborhood in the United States, to the highest court in the land -- a voyage fueled by the power of words. In a wide-ranging conversation with NPR's Nina Totenberg, recorded at the Supreme Court in 2016, Sotomayor shares her earliest memories of life in the tenements of the South Bronx: her diagnosis with diabetes, her trips to the market with her beloved grandmother, her father's death, and her love affair with books. She also talks about how she learned to learn, and to rely on the wisdom of friends and colleagues -- skills that carried her through Princeton, Yale, her prestigious legal career, and one beautiful throw from the pitcher's mound.

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    Sally Field: Embracing Fear

    Sally Field is one of the best actresses in America... on film, on television and on stage. She's won Emmy Awards and Academy Awards, and has had starring roles on Broadway. But early in her career, she was boxed in by her own success on tv, playing flighty girls like Gidget and The Flying Nun, and she couldn't find a way out. But Sally Field would not accept that destiny. She trained with the best acting teacher, Lee Strasberg, and transformed herself. It took a while for Hollywood to catch up with her, but eventually got the kind of roles and recognition she deserved -- for films like "Norma Rae," "Places in the Heart," "Steel Magnolias," "Forrest Gump" and many others. In this episode you'll get to know just how funny and charming and profound Sally Field is, as she talks candidly about her process of reinvention, and her discovery that fear is an essential path to change.

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    Reid Hoffman: Silicon Valley Grandmaster

    LinkedIn changed the way people navigate the world of work. It's hard to even remember the days (though not that long ago) when jobseekers opened the back of a newspaper to scan the help wanted ads. Well, LinkedIn was the brainchild of Reid Hoffman, one of the Silicon Valley visionaries who recognized, back in the 1990's, the internet's potential for a new kind of social and professional networking. In this episode he talks about how his background in philosophy led him to tech entrepreneurship. And he provides some fascinating stories about the early days of the online revolution.

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    August Wilson and Lloyd Richards: The Voice of Genius

    Meet two giants of the American theater: playwright August Wilson and director Lloyd Richards. Together they brought many award-winning plays to Broadway, including "Fences," "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," and "The Piano Lesson." August Wilson, who wrote ten plays (together known as the Century Cycle), started out as a poet. When he turned to writing plays, intent on telling the stories of African-Americans on stage, it was Lloyd Richards who recognized his talent and helped him shape it. Richards was already an icon in the theater world. He had begun his career a generation before, aspiring to be an actor at a time when there were almost no roles for African-Americans. His big break came when Sidney Poitier asked him to direct a new play called "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry. In this episode you'll hear Lloyd Richards tell the story behind that ground-breaking production. You'll also hear both August Wilson and Lloyd Richards describe how they came to meet and have one of the most successful artistic collaborations in history.

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    Chuck Jones: The Fine Art of Laughter

    Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Pepé Le Pew were all brought to life in the hands of Chuck Jones. If there's a Loony Tunes or a Merrie Melodies cartoon that you carry in your heart, Jones was probably behind it. (What's Opera Doc, anyone?) He was artist, animator and director of 300 cartoons, in a career that spanned from the 1930's to the 1990's. Among the many awards he received was an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. In this episode he talks about the influence of Mark Twain, the origin of Daffy's voice, and the childhood pet cat that showed him the absurd humor of animals.

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    Jane Goodall: A Dedicated Pursuit

    As a girl in England, Jane Goodall dreamed of traveling to Africa to study animals in the wild. In 1960, that dream brought her to Tanzania, to observe the wild chimpanzees at Gombe Stream Park. As she describes in this episode, other scientists did not believe that a young woman could survive alone in the bush, but Jane Goodall did more than survive. Her work revolutionized the field of primatology. She was the first to document chimpanzees making and using tools, an activity that had been thought exclusively humans. Over the years she also witnessed cooperative hunting and altruism, but also brutality and even warfare among chimps. Her work, the longest continuous field study of any living creature, has given us deep insights into the evolution of our own species. Since the 1980's, she has devoted herself single-mindedly to educating the public worldwide about the connections between animal welfare, the environment, and human progress.

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    Maya Angelou, Part 2: In the Spirit of Martin

    Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist and a friend of Martin Luther King Jr., years before she became known throughout the world for her memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." In this, the second our two Maya Angelou podcasts, she offers her personal reflections of Dr. King as a poet and as a man with with great humility (and humor). She talks about the state of the African-American community decades later, and the importance of using language to uplift (describing an encounter she had with Tupac Shakur to make her point). And in her powerful, unique voice, she reminds us of the eternal relevance of Dr. King's wisdom.

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    Maya Angelou: Righteousness and Love

    Maya Angelou took the harshest experiences in her life and turned them into words of triumph, justice and hope. Her memoirs and her poems told of her survival, and uplifted people around the world. Her first book, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," is a classic of American literature. Her voice and the rhythm of her speech were absolutely unique. In this episode you'll hear that iconic voice, in interviews, speeches and conversations, and be reminded why she was one of the most inspiring figures of the past century.

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    Albie Sachs: Freedom Fighter

    Albie Sachs awoke one day in 1988 in a Mozambican hospital, with no remembrance of the car bomb that had maimed his body. But it hadn't broken his will to remain in the struggle to end Apartheid in South Africa. This episode is drawn from Sachs's 3-hour conversation with the Academy of Achievement. He tells stories, with love and with humor, about joining the movement as a young white teenager in the 1950's, about his detentions in solitary confinement, about helping to write his nation's new constitution, and about becoming one of the first justices on The Constitutional Court of South Africa.

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    Thomas Keller: Recipe for Success

    When Thomas Keller was a dishwasher, he learned all the basic lessons he'd need to become one of America's greatest chefs and restaurateurs. Keller owns The French Laundry and Per Se, two of the only restaurants in America to carry three Michelin stars. Along the way he learned other important lessons, of course, and each one left him a great story to tell. As we enter this food-frenzy of a holiday season, take a listen to Thomas Keller's bumpy and glorious ride to the pinnacle of his profession.

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    Doris Kearns Goodwin: Presidential Ambitions

    When Doris Kearns Goodwin was six year old, she used to carefully document the Brooklyn Dodgers' games. And that, she says, eventually led her to the career she now has, as one of America's favorite historians and political commentators. Goodwin's books are so engaging, because they focus on the very human side of her subjects: Lincoln, Kennedy, Johnson, Taft and Roosevelt (Franklin, Eleanor AND Teddy). In this episode, she talks about her unusual approach. She also tells amazing stories about the extraordinary relationship she had with LBJ, which began when she was a White House fellow in her early 20's and led to her first book. And, she describes a night unlike any other, sleeping in the bedroom where Winston Churchill slept as a guest in FDR's White House.

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    Frank O. Gehry: Building the Inspiring Space

    If you can name one living architect, it's probably Frank Gehry. Gehry has designed some of the world's most recognizable and beloved buildings... buildings that are surprising and playful, like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. In this episode, Gehry talks about what compelled him to put the art back in architecture. He explains his obsession with fish and motion and curvilinear forms. And he remembers the professor who told him he'd never make it in architecture.

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    John Irving: A Literary Life

    One of America's greatest living novelists begins every book by writing the the last sentence first. In this episode, John Irving, author of The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and The Cider House Rules, explains why. And he might just convince you that his uncommon approach is the only one that makes sense! Irving also opens up about his early life, and reveals how his mysteriously absent father, his learning disability, and his passion for wrestling all contributed to his success as a writer. Whether you've read every John Irving novel or none, this is a fascinating story about the writing process, and about an author some critics have called the Charles Dickens of our time.

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    Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Justice For All

    In this episode, you'll hear Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tell the very personal story of her lifelong pursuit of justice and equality for women. Her tale includes trips to the library with her mother, a sixty year romance with Marty Ginsburg, her struggles to become a lawyer in a field inhospitable to women, her surprising friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, and even her days as an aspiring baton twirler! The interview was conducted by NPR's Nina Totenberg, and explores some of the most important cases Ginsburg handled - as a lawyer and as a Justice - that helped transform the legal landscape for women (and men) in America.

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    Wynton Marsalis: Philosopher King of Jazz

    Wynton Marsalis has been THE preeminent name in jazz for the past 30 years. The Louisiana-born trumpeter has made it his life's work to bring jazz back from the brink of neglect, to its rightful place - as one of the pillars of American culture, history & art. He's just as accomplished as a classical musician, a composer and an educator. In this episode you'll hear Marsalis as a young man, still in his 20's, full of the fire and the talent that has carried him throughout his career.

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    Steven Rosenberg: Finding a Cure for Cancer

    One of the greatest revolutions in the treatment of cancer is underway. It's called immunotherapy, and the revolutionary behind it is Dr. Steven Rosenberg. Dr. Rosenberg has been the Chief of Surgery at the National Institute of Cancer for over four decades. During all that time he has doggedly pursued this radical idea -- that a patient's immune system could be sparked or retrained to attack cancer cells. It's an idea that was dismissed by most of the medical establishment, until patients with terminal melanoma began to survive, cancer-free, under Dr. Rosenberg's care. Now immunotherapy is one of hottest areas of medical research around the world. In this episode you'll hear the story of Dr. Rosenberg's almost super-human determination, and you'll hear from one of his patients.

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    Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush: The Freedom to Lead

    In the midst of this political season… here’s a chance to hear two former U.S. Presidents hold forth on their lives in public service. Bill Clinton spoke to hundreds of graduate students from 50 nations at the 44th annual International Achievement Summit in Chicago. George H.W. Bush did the same, 9 years earlier at the Academy of Achievement's program in 1995 at Colonial Williamsburg. In this episode we present those inspiring and entertaining talks, unedited and unfettered.

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    Sir Roger Bannister: The Mile of the Century

    When Englishman Roger Bannister was studying medicine at Oxford in the 1940's, he began to have great success as a member of the track team. He knew enough about physiology to question a long-held belief: that humans were simply not built to run a mile in less than four minutes. He was determined to shatter that myth, and he did. In this episode, Bannister describes how he developed his own unique approach to training, one that allowed him to very gradually improve speed, while leaving time for his studies in neuroscience. After eight years, he was ready. At a meet held in May of 1954, he stunned the world, running a mile in 3:59.4. It is considered one of the greatest athletic achievements of all time, alongside Sir Edmund Hillary's ascent of Mt. Everest.

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    Elie Wiesel: A Light in the Darkness

    After World War II, when few survivors of the Holocaust were willing or able to describe what they’d been through, Elie Wiesel decided silence was not an option. Even if words could never adequately express the horrors, the world had to know what had happened. He wrote “Night," and became the best-known witness to the Nazi atrocities, as well as winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In this episode Elie Wiesel (who died on July 2, 2016) explores how it was possible for him to find hope after Auschwitz and Buchenwald, by defending the victims of hate and injustice around the world. He also talks about his childhood devotion to God, and the "wounded faith” he was able to find as a survivor.

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    Carole King and Hal David: More Than Beautiful

    While listening to this episode, we dare you to NOT sing out loud. Carole King and Hal David were each one half of a legendary songwriting duo, and each responsible for many of the greatest songs of the 1960’s and 70’s (too many to start mentioning here, but we packed as many as we could into the podcast). If you like a medley, you’re in the right place. Carole King worked with (and was married to) Gerry Goffin. Hal David worked with Burt Bacharach. They all worked in New York City’s Brill Building early in their careers, surrounded by record label execs, music publishers, radio promoters, and pianos. Lots and lots of pianos. The impact they had on music in the second half of the 20th century is undisputed.

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    Olivia de Havilland: The Last Belle of Cinema

    There is only one surviving superstar from the Golden Age of Hollywood: Olivia de Havilland. The actress who portrayed Melanie Hamilton in "Gone With The Wind" (and admit it: you liked Melanie better than Scarlett, right?) turns 100 years old on July 1, 2016. This episode features an extensive conversation with Ms. de Havilland about the early days of the American film industry. She explains how the studio system confined her to the role of the ingenue, and how she eventually broke out of it to play some of the more complex and fascinating women on the silver screen -- including two that won her Academy Awards for Best Actress (in "To Each His Own" and "The Heiress").

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    Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski: Images of the Imagination

    Steven Spielberg hired Janusz Kaminski as the cinematographer for "Schindler's List” twenty-five years ago, and they have worked together, hand-in-glove, ever since. Their collaboration has produced "Saving Private Ryan," "Bridge of Spies," "Lincoln," and many others. In this episode, both filmmakers tell how they fell in love with the movies, and learned to make them. Spielberg talks about his first camera and trusting his instincts, and Kaminski talks about how growing up in 1970's Poland gave him an unusual eye on the world.

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    Quincy Jones: The Music Man

    Quincy Jones’s fingerprints are all over America’s popular music. If you like Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, or hundreds of other artists, you have heard his work, whether as an instrumentalist, a composer, a conductor, an arranger or a producer. He’s also scored dozens of movies and television shows, and been a philanthropist and activist. It is hard to overstate the impact he has had over the past 70 years. But this prodigiously productive and talented man came from difficult circumstances. In this episode you’ll hear Quincy Jones tell how he survived and made his own way, to have outsized impact on jazz, rock, soul, r&b and pop. Oh yeah, and you’ll hear some GREAT music!

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    Ray Dalio: Maestro of the Markets

    How do you become a multi-billionaire, and the most successful hedge fund manager ever? Ray Dalio attributes his success to transcendental meditation and what he calls "radical honesty.” In this episode, he lays out the principles that have guided his life and his investment firm, Bridgewater Associates. He also talks about caddying for Richard Nixon as a child, his first investment at age 12, and how he managed to go from being a terrible high school student to a graduate of the Harvard Business School to founder of a fund that manages $150 billion in global investments.

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    Barry Scheck: The Innocence Project

    The Innocence Project has freed 1000’s of people serving time in prison for crimes they did not commit. Thousands. People who were misidentified by eyewitnesses, or were manipulated into false confessions, or were the victims of unreliable forensic science. Barry Scheck is the co-founder of The Innocence Project, and in this episode he talks about the developments in science that led him and his colleagues to believe that DNA testing could reduce wrongful convictions and transform the criminal justice system. He also discusses some of the very high profile clients he’s represented during his career, including OJ Simpson, Hedda Nussbaum and Abner Louima. And he reveals how his unusual childhood, with a tap dancing father and a speed skating mother, led him on his life’s path as a seeker of justice.

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    Carol Burnett: Laughter and Reflection

    Whether you grew up watching The Carol Burnett Show, or your parents did, this comedian, actress, singer and writer is someone you want to get to know better. Burnett broke new ground when she launched her own television variety show in 1967 (hosting was still a man's game in those days). And she kept Americans laughing for the next 11 years. She had a huge influence on the comedians that followed in her footsteps, including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Kristin Wiig. In this episode she talks about her very humble beginnings and dysfunctional family, her mysterious benefactor, her breakthrough role on Broadway, and the path that finally landed her in the medium she loved best - television. She also describes the moment she knew that making people laugh was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

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    Coach John Wooden: Character for Life

    During March Madness, can you think of anything more satisfying to do between games than listen to an interview with legendary coach John Wooden?! Wooden led UCLA to more NCAA championships than any other team in history, and he did it with a quiet, old-fashioned approach that challenged notions of what it takes to win. Wooden talks about his fatherly love for the players, his famous pyramid of success, and the difference between reputation and character. He also explains why basketball is the greatest spectator sport there is.

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    Steve Jobs and Tony Fadell: Inventing the Future

    In this episode, an intimate history of two pocket-sized devices that changed the world, and the two men who created them: Steve Jobs and Tony Fadell. Jobs famously co-founded Apple. In the late 90’s, when the company was failing, he hired a young engineer and designer named Fadell, who created a little device that became known as the iPod. It not only turned Apple’s fortunes around, it transformed the music industry and the experience of listening. Fadell’s next assignment was the iPhone, which changed the nature of communication itself. After leaving Apple, Fadell went on to found Nest Labs, a company that has begun to alter the technology of the home. You’ll hear Tony Fadell’s fascinating personal story, told with all the passion and enthusiasm he brings to his game-changing inventions. And you’ll hear Steve Jobs, speaking as a young man (in 1982) about what it takes to innovate.

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    Sidney Poitier: Trailblazing Screen Legend

    Sidney Poitier changed America’s view of black men. And he changed Hollywood (though the change is far from over, given the issues of diversity at this year’s Oscars.). The star of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “The Defiant Ones,” and “In The Heat of the Night” was the first African-American to win an Academy Award - for “Lillies of the Field” in 1964. He was a leading man and box office sensation throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, portraying a huge array of characters with a dignity, courage and humanity that was radical for its time. In this episode, featuring an interview with Poitier at 82, you’ll hear him discuss how his childhood on a tiny island in the Bahamas made all the difference in his view of himself, and in the choices he made throughout his career as an actor.

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    Lauryn Hill: Family, Faith & Hip-Hop

    Lauryn Hill has had an outsized impact on the world of hip-hop, soul and R&B. She entered the music world in the mid-1990’s as one third of the band The Fugees, and soon after released a solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. It was a phenomenon, and swept the Grammys. But then Ms. Hill pretty much vanished from music and public life, in an internal battle between fame, family and faith. On this episode you’ll hear the incomparable and enigmatic Lauryn Hill, speaking in 2000, just as she had begun her retreat. She’s open, honest, raw and very funny about the transformation she was undergoing.

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    Andrew Young: My Life, My Destiny

    Andrew Young has worn many hats: pastor, congressman, ambassador & mayor, but his first role in public service was as Martin Luther King Jr’s strategist and negotiator. He was at King’s side for many of the biggest battles of the civil rights movement, and he helped draft and secure the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In this episode, Young shares his unique, personal stories about that turbulent period in our country’s history - from the center of the storm. He pays tribute to the women who were the often unacknowledged backbone of the civil rights struggle. And he recounts his fascinating life story, from his youngest days growing up in New Orleans, where his father taught him to fight racism with brains and heart, to his spiritual revelation at the top of a mountain.

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    Coretta Scott King: The Courage to Dream

    As Mrs. King says, she wasn’t just married to Martin Luther King Jr., she was married to the cause. Their partnership in life, in faith, and in the struggle for justice and human rights, changed the world. In this episode, Mrs. King describes her early aspirations in music, her courtship with Martin, her courage in the face of violence, and her discovery that a purposeful life is a happy life.

    After you listen to the episode, check out “The Road to Civil Rights,” an eBook from the Academy of Achievement, free at iTunes University. http://apple.co/1Q3IeW0

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    Lee Berger: In the Footsteps of Eve

    Lee Berger has made two extraordinary scientific breakthroughs that are transforming our understanding of human evolution. Berger is a trailblazing paleoanthropologist. His most recent discovery involved a dramatic expedition through a 7-inch tunnel, deep inside the chamber of a South African cave. On the floor were thousands of bones, belonging to an unknown species of human relative that Berger has named “Homo naledi.” Berger explains why he believes that Homo naledi was intentionally disposing of its dead (a practice thought to be exclusively human), and he discusses his lifelong passion for adventure.

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    Archbishop Desmond Tutu: The Power of Faith

    Desmond Tutu was the moral force that helped bring down Apartheid in South Africa. As a young priest, he was not very political, despite the fact that he’d grown up under the most brutal form of segregation. But his theology evolved, he says, and he realized it was a divine calling to fight for justice. In this episode you’ll hear Archbishop Tutu describe his personal, spiritual and political journey -- including the Nobel Peace Prize and chairmanship of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. You’ll also hear his passionate explanation of why humans are essentially good, no matter how often it may seem to the contrary.

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    George Lucas: The Force Will Be With You

    George Lucas’s only dream as a teenager was to race cars, but he went on to create the most popular films in motion picture history. Along the way, while writing and directing Star Wars, Indiana Jones and American Graffiti, he learned life-changing lessons about humility, generosity, and the inestimable value of friendship…. as well as the secret to happiness. A not-too-subtle hint here: it has nothing to do with fame and fortune.

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    William McRaven: A Life of Service

    "There are some things in life you control. I don't know that you control the sweeping hands of destiny." Admiral William "Bill" McRaven's destiny was to plan and oversee the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. True, he may not have controlled the historical moment, but his intensive training and vast experience as a Navy Seal and a commander enabled him to carry out the precision operation and change history. In this episode you'll hear about what it means to be in Special Ops, but you'll also learn why the former Admiral - now Chancellor of the University of Texas - believes that sometimes it's the little things you do in life that may change the world the most.

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    James Michener: Master Storyteller

    James Michener was born to tell stories. He was one of the most popular and best-selling American novelists of all time… able to merge equal parts fiction, history, geography and culture into a perfect, page-turning blend. But when you hear Michener’s voice in this episode, you’ll realize his enormous talent for storytelling was not limited to the page. He is sure to win you over in this 1991 interview, recorded when he was 85 years old and was looking back on his own dramatic life story. He talks about the unlikely approach he took to overcoming considerable obstacles, and about his very first venture into writing fiction, when he was stationed on an island in the Pacific during World War II. The book that emerged from that experience was "Tales of the South Pacific," which won him a Pulitzer, and later became the Broadway hit and movie: “South Pacific.” Michener also describes what he calls some of the “differential experiences” in his life, like the very moment he decided he would live his life as if he were a great man. And he extols all of us listening to look out for unexpected opportunities and grab them.

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    Mike (Coach K) Krzyzewski: Inspiring Greatness

    Coach K, as Mike Krzyzewski is best known, has more wins than any other men's basketball coach in the NCAA. He’s placed his team - the Duke University Blue Devils - in five consecutive Final Fours, won five national championships, and is the first coach in the history of NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball to win 1,000 games. He also has three Gold Medals under his belt, as coach of the USA Men’s National Team. In his 30 years with the Blue Devils, Coach K has proven he has a winning recipe for leadership and inspiration, and that starts, as he says in this episode, with relationships. It’s a talent he’s honed since he was a kid, growing up in a working class part of Chicago, where there were no little leagues. Whenever groups of kids gathered on the basketball courts in his neighborhood, he says: “Somebody had to organize it, and it was always me."

    Music "Going Higher" from Bensound.com

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    B.B. King: King of the Blues

    BB King began life as a humble Mississippi cotton farmer, and ended up one of the most influential guitarists and singers of the past century. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, The Rolling Stones and many others are among his disciples. During his lifetime he was celebrated by presidents, kings & queens - and declared a national treasure. The interview you’ll hear in this episode was recorded at the 2004 Academy of Achievement Summit in Chicago, and includes stories about King’s prowess on a cotton field as well his awakening to the racial injustice all around him. He recalls seeing the bodies of people who’d been lynched… and years later, the feeling he had the first time he arrived to play before an adoring crowd of white fans.

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    Benazir Bhutto: Paying the Ultimate Price

    Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, just after she returned from exile in the hopes of becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time. She had held the position for the first time in the 1980’s, and then again in the 90’s. When she was still in exile, unsure whether she would ever return to Pakistan to run again, Bhutto sat down with the Academy of Achievement for a long and candid interview. In this episode of What It Takes, you’ll hear the highlights of that conversation. She describes how her childhood fed her belief in democracy and women’s rights, as well as her abhorrence of violence and poverty. She talks openly about the failings of her leadership when she was Prime Minister and the lessons they taught her. It is haunting to hear Benazir’s profound words here and know that Pakistan might have been on a different course were she still alive.
    “I feel that society is like a canvas, and that if you get into office you're given an opportunity to paint it. And it's up to you whether you make a good picture or whether you make a bad picture.”

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    Jonas Salk: Vanquisher of Polio

    Before Jonas Salk created the Polio vaccine, thousands of children died every year or were left paralyzed by the virus (adults too). In 1952 alone, there were 58,000 cases in the United States. When news of the discovery was made public on April 12, 1955, Jonas Salk was hailed as a miracle worker. He further endeared himself to the public by refusing to patent the vaccine. He had no desire to profit personally from the discovery, but merely wished to see the vaccine disseminated as widely as possible. The interview with Dr. Salk featured in this episode was recorded in 1991. In it, Salk talks about being the child of uneducated immigrants, and carving his own path to medical school and eventually virology -- a specialty that didn't exist when he began as a researcher. He discusses the anti-semitic quotas he had to overcome, as well as the doubt and scorn of many of his peers. But he also describes the transformation and relief his polio vaccine brought to the world.

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    Oprah Winfrey, Part 2: A Vision for Success

    Oprah Winfrey’s career in broadcasting started when she won Nashville’s Miss Fire Prevention Contest. She was 17.

    Part Two of our Oprah conversation focuses on Oprah’s life in media. It was too hard to fit everything fascinating the Queen of Talk had to say into one episode! Here, she describes the reasons she was terrible at news reporting and terrific at talk show hosting. She also talks about how she stopped imitating Barbara Walters and developed her own voice, how she willed herself into the acting role of a lifetime, and how the key to success in her life has been trusting her instincts.

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    Oprah Winfrey: The Queen of Talk… and Determination

    “Fourth grade is when I first began to believe in myself… I felt I could control the world.”
    On this episode of “What It Takes,” Oprah Winfrey talks frankly about the inner voice that allowed her to survive a trauma-filled childhood with unwavering focus and unrelenting determination, to become the top-ranking television talk show host of all time. She describes learning oration, at an age when most of us have yet to speak in full sentences. And she tells stories about intensely personal revelations she experienced WHILE she was on the air, interviewing other people. Oprah is currently the wealthiest African-American and the most philanthropic, but in this conversation, recorded in 1991, she defines her success in ways her fans might find surprising.

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    Willie Mays: For the Love of the Game

    Baseball fans may argue to this day about which was the best of Willie Mays’ many spectacular catches, but nearly all agree — he was one of the most versatile, virtuosic players of all time. In this episode, featuring an intimate interview with Mays recorded in 1996, the Hall-of-Famer talks about growing up in segregated Alabama, and winning over racist baseball fans soon after he became the first African-American player on his team. He recalls the day he got the call to move up to the majors, and describes in delightful terms how he never had to actually work at being a great athlete. He also talks about the catch he swears was better than “The Catch.” Hearing his voice, you’re reminded why Willie Mays was one of America’s most beloved baseball players, as well as one of its greatest.

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    Johnny Cash: True To His Own Voice

    Johnny Cash had a voice that could make a mountain quake. His impact on the world of music is legendary. On this episode, you'll hear the deeply introspective Cash near the end of his career (1993). He reflects on how he overcame considerable personal obstacles and turned his failures into the stepping stones to success. He also talks about the first music he remembers, the voice teacher who advised him to stop taking lessons, and the source of his creativity.

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    This is.... What It Takes

    In this brief introductory episode we explain what the podcast is all about (rare & revealing conversations with history-making, game-changing, courageous people)... we give you a sense of the kind of people you're going to hear when you subscribe (Willie Mays, Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Holmes, Jonas Salk, and many others)... and we tease you with excerpts from several of our upcoming episodes.

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