Democratic candidates debate: Resiliency

ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asks the candidates about overcoming obstacles and how they would do so if president.
20:01 | 09/13/19

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Transcript for Democratic candidates debate: Resiliency
Announcer: Back live in houston,the democratic debate. We're back now for a final question to the candidates. The question on the quality of resilience. No president can succeed without resilience. Every president confronts crisis, defeat and mistakes. So, I want to ask each of you, what is the most significant professional setback you've had to face, how did you recover from it and what did you learn from it? Vice president Biden. I -- I never counted any professional setback I have as a serious setback. There's things that are important, things that are unimportant. We're going to clear the protesters now, just one minute. Senator Biden, we'll start the clock again. I -- I'm sorry. We're sorry. Go ahead. There's setbacks and there's setbacks. And I think the most critical setback that can occur to anyone is to lose -- well, my dad had an expression. He said, Joey, it's not a question of succeeding, whether you get knocked down, it's how quickly you get up, and he said, you never explain and never complain. And he would go on to say that the only obligation that really matters, the most important thing, is family. And so, I was raised to believe that that was the center of everything. Family. And be judged based on how you treatment your family and how you went from there. And I -- it took, you know, faith sees best in the dark. Right after I got elected, my wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident and my two sons were badly injured. And I just had been elected, not sworn in. And I lost my faith for awhile. I came back. And then later, when my son beau came home from Iraq with a terminal disease and a year later, year and a half later, losing him was like losing part of my soul. But the fact is, I learned that the way you deal with it is you deal with finding purpose. Purpose in what you do. And that's why I hope -- I hope he's proud of me today, because he wanted to make sure that I didn't run for president but I stayed engaged. When you get hit badly, raising a family like my dad, you have to make that longest walk up the stairs to say dad lost his job, you know, we've all went through that, in some form or another. It just takes -- for me, the way I've dealt with it is finding purpose. And my purpose is to do what I've always tried to do and stay engaged in public policy and -- but there's a lot of people that have gone through a lot worse than I have get up every single morning, put their feet one foot in front of the other, the real heroes out there. Thank you, Mr. Vice president. Senator Warren? I mentioned earlier, I've known what I wanted to be since second grade. I wanted to be a public school teacher. And I invested early, I used to line my dollies up and teach school. I had a reputation of being tough but fair. By the time I graduated from high school, my family didn't have money for college application, much less to send me off to four years at a university. And my story, like a lot of stories, has a lot of twists and turns, got a scholarship and then at 19, got married, dropped out of school, took a minimum wage job, thought my dream was over. I got a chance down the road at the university of Houston. And I made it as a special needs teacher. I still remember that first year as a special needs teacher. I could tell you what those babies looked like. I had 4 to 6-year-olds. But at the end of that first year, I was visibly pregnant, and back in the day, that meant that the principal said to me, wished me luck and hired someone else for the job. So, there I am, I'm at home, I got a baby, I can't have a job. What am I going to do? Here's resilience. I said, I'll go to law school. And the consequence was -- I practiced law for about 45 minutes and then went back to my first love, which is teaching. But it let me get into fights, it gave me new tools and the reason I'm standing here today is because I got back up, I fought back. I know what's broken, I want to be in the fight to fix it in America. That's why I'm here. Thank you senator. Senator Sanders? Resilience, to me, means growing up in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York, the son of an immigrant who came to this country without a nickel in his pocket. Professional resilience means to me, George, running for U.S. Senate? Vermont, getting 1% of the vote. Running for governor and getting 2% of the vote. Finally becoming mayor of Burlington, Vermont, with ten-vote margin. What resilience means to me is that throughout my political career, I have taken on virtually every powerful special interest in this country. Whether it is Wall Street, whether it is the insurance industry, whether it is the pharmaceutical industry whose corruption and greed is killing people today, whether it is a military industrial complex or a prison industrial complex. And I feel confident that given a life-long record of taking on powerful special interests, of standing up with the working families of this country, that I will be able to take on the greed and corruption of the corporate elite and create a government and an economy that work for all of us, not just the 1%. Thank you, senator Sanders. Senator Harris? You know, every office I've run for, whether it be district attorney or attorney general, I was told each time, it can't be done. They said, nobody like you has done it before, nobody's ready for you. When I ran for D.A., I won and became the first black woman elected D.A. In a state of 40 million people, in San Francisco. When I ran for attorney general of California, I was elected, because I didn't listen. And I was the only black elected -- woman black elected attorney general in the state, in the country. And each time, people would say, it's not your time, it's not your turn, it's going to be too difficult, they're not ready for you, and I didn't listen. And part of it probably comes from the fact that I was raised by a mother who said many things that were life lessons for me, including, don't you let anybody ever tell you who you are, you tell them who you are. And when I look around the town halls that we do in this race for president of the united States and I look at the -- the meetings that we do, the community meetings, and I see the little girls and boys, sometimes even brought by their fathers, and they bring them to me and I talk to them during these events and they smile and they're full of joy and their fathers tell them, see end don't you ever listen and let anybody ever tell you what you can or cannot be, you have to believe in what can be unburdened by what has been. Senator Harris, thank you. Mayor buttigieg? You know, as a military officer serving under don't ask, don't tell, and as an elected official in the state of Indiana when Mike pence was governor, at a certain point, when it came to professional setbacks, I wonder just acknowledging who I was was going to be the ultimate career-ending professional setback. I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so, I just came out. I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially because inconveniently, it was an election year in my socially conservative community. What happened was that when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and re-elected me with 80% of the vote. And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated, and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what's worth more to you than winning. And I think that's what we need in the presidency right now. We have to know what we are about. And this election is not about any of us up here. It is not about this president, even though it's hard to talk of anything else some days. It's about the people who trust us with their lives. A kid wondering if we're actually going to make their schools safe when they've learned active shooter drills before they've learned to read. A generation wondering if we will actually get the job done on climate change. And if we hold to that, then it doesn't matter what happens to each of us professionally. Together, we will win a better era for our country. Mayor buttigieg, thank you. I was an unhappy liar for five whole months and I left to start a business. And I'm going to share with you one of the secrets. If you want to start something, tell everyone you know you're going to do it, then you don't have a choice. You put your heart and soul into that. Even though I did that, my company flopped. I lost investors, hundreds of thousands of dollars, still owed 100,000 in school debt. My parents still told people I was a lawyer. It was a little easier. So, I remember lying on my floor looking up wondering how did it come to this? Eventually, I picked myself back up. I kept working in small growth companies for another ten years and eventually had some success. After I had somesuccess, I still remembered how hard it was, how it feels like your friends no longer want to spend time with you. And so I spent seven years starting and running a nonprofit that helped train young entrepreneurs around the country, including SHAWN Wynn, who is in the audience tonight, who left his guilded Wall Street job to become a food entrepreneur in San Antonio. SHAWN, I hope I made the process a little easier for you than it was for me. But the goal of my campaign is to make this an economy that allows us to live our human values and aspirations. Thank you, thank you Mr. Yang. Senator booker? So, my biggest professional setback is embarrassing because a lot of folks know about it. I, with a bunch of leaders in Newark, New Jersey, in 2002 took on the political machine and boy did they fight back. I had tires on my car slashed. My phones were tapped. It became a spectacle and we lost that election. And here's a bit of advice to everybody. If you're going to have a spectacular failure, have a documentary team there to capture it, because it made for an oscar-nominated documentary. Another setback, it lost in the oscars to a movie called "March of the penguins," for crying out loud. The people in my community told me, don't give up on the people and the people won't give up on create bigger and bolder coalitions and you're going to win. And we came back four years later and won the largest lopsided victory in our city's history, but more than that, the lesson was there. We didn't give up. We were taking on America's toughest problems from crime to poverty and we transformed our city, creating tens of thousands of new jobs. The biggest economic expansion and turned around our school system. There's more work to do, but I haven't given up on the people. I still live in that community. This is a big lesson. My staff and my friends and my community told me, if you want to go fast, you may have won the mayor's race, but that's not what life is about. If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. The lesson I learned of resilience is to trust people. Because the power of the people is always greater than the people in power. And the test of America right now is not a referendum on Donald Trump, it's a referendum on us and who we are and who we're going to be together. We need to use this moment in history, to unite in common cause and common purpose and then there's nothing we can't do together as a nation. Senator booker, thank you. Congressman O'rourke. Thank you, George. Everything that I've learned about resilience I've learned from my hometown of El Paso, Texas. In the face of this act of terror that was directed at our community, in large part by the president of the United States, that killed 22 people and injured many more, we were not defeated by that, nor were we defined by that. The very thing that drew that killer to us is the very thing that helps us set the example for the rest of this country. We don't see our differences as disqualifying or dangerous, we see them as foundational to our success, to our strength and to our security and to our safety. Yesterday, I was visiting with one of those victims, the head coach of the fusion, this is a girls soccer team of 10 and 11-year-old girls. His name is Luis, he was shot in the leg multiple times. He was shot in the side multiple he's still healing from his wounds in the hospital, but from his hospital bed he's still trying to coach the fusion girls soccer team. His cocoach is still fighting for his life right now at del sol hospital. Those two men, Jessica and Marcella, their wives, they exemplify resilience to me. And when we end this scourge of gun violence in this country, when we finally confront the racism that exists in America, when we're defined tholt by our fears, but instead by our aspirations and our ambitions, it will be, in large part, I think, thanks to the example that El Paso has set. Congressman, thank you. Senator klobuchar? My challenges and resilience have brought me up here. I grew up with a dad who struggled with alcoholism his whole life and after his third dwi, he had a choice between jail and treatment. He chose treatment, with his faith, with his friends, with our family. And in his words, he was pursued by grace. And that made me interested in public service, because I feel like everyone should have that same right, to be pursued by grace. I then got married, my husband's out there somewhere, hopefully smiling, and our daughter, and our daughter was born, I had this expectation, we're going to have that perfect, perfect birth and she was really sick. And she couldn't swallow. And she was in and out of hospitals for a year and a half. But when she was born, they had a rule in place that you got kicked out of the hospital in 24 hours. She was in intensive care and I was kicked out. And I thought, this could never happen to any other mom again. So, I went to the legislature, our state legislator, not an elected official, a mom, and I advocated for one of the first laws in the country guaranteeing new moms and their babies a 48-hour hospital stay. And when they tried to delay the implementation of that law, I brought six pregnant friends to the conference committee so they outnumbered the lobbyists 2 to 1. When should it take place? They raised their hands and said no. That's what motivated me to go into public service. When I got to that grid lock of Washington, D.C. And got to work and pass over 100 bills and I know a lot of my friends here from the left but remember, I am from the middle of the country. And I believe, if we're going to get things done, that we have to have someone leading the ticket with grit, someone who is going to not just change the policies, but change the tone in the country and someone who believes in America and believes it from their heart because of where they came from. That everyone should have that same opportunity. Senator, thank you. Secretary Castro. And thank you, George, to Jorge, linsey and to David and to all of y'all tuning in in many ways, I shouldn't be here on this stage. Castro is my mother's name and was my grandmother's name before her. I grew up in a single-parent household on the west side of San Antonio, going to the public schools. Eventually, my brother Joaquin and I became the first in our family to become professionals. And when I got home, I took a job at the biggest law firm in town. I was making $100,000 a year in the year 2000. A few months later, I got elected to the San Antonio city council. And the city council at the time was only paying $1,040 a year. Everybody had another job. And my job was at the law firm. Well, a few months after I got elected, the law firm got a client and the client wanted those of us on the city council to vote for a land deal. The land deal was that they wanted to build a golf course over a water supply. Because we lied on an underground aquafor. I wanted to vote against it. And my constituents wanted me to vote against it. But under the ethics rules for lawyers in Texas, believe it or not, lawyers have ethics rules, you can't just go against the interest of a client. So, I was stuck. On the one hand, I wanted to do the right thing. On the other hand, my livelihood, my student loans, my new house payment, my car payment, depended on my shuts up, being conflicted out. So, one day, I walked into my law firm and I quit my job. And then, I went and I voted against that land deal on the city council. And, you know, it was the first test that I had and I think back to that, because oftentimes we think of politics and you think of politics as dirty or corrupting. I wondered, before I went in, whether it was change who I was. And I was proud that when that first test came that I stood up for the people that I was there to represent and not for big special interests. There's nobody that gets tested more in a position of public trust than the president of the United States. This president has failed that but I want you to know that if you elect me president, I won't. I won't serve anybody except you and your family. Together, we can create an American that's better than ever. Secretary Castro, thank you. Thank you to all of our candidates. It was a great debate. Thank you. Thanks to Texas southern university for hosting us tonight. It was a great crowd. Thank you. Thanks to you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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