Searching for a bit of inspiration in an uninspiring time I started reading Jon Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson the other night and found this passage (and the cool Kindle feature of sending it to myself.)
I may be a chump…but it speaks to me and I think Meacham is right. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan -these men all seemed to be driven by progress. JFK didn’t say we’re going to build a big wall to keep people out, he said “we’re going to put a man on the moon.” Ronald Reagan didn’t lament a country whose better days are behind it and try to bring it back, he said, “It’s morning in America.”
What all these people have in common is the belief that we can and should be better. What’s better?
Better is health care bills that don’t cost more than your mortgage
Better is fewer people being shot…every day
Better is median household income going up in a meaningful way
Better is nature shows that don’t leave the whole family at the point of tears (and not because they change the programming)
Better is fewer people becoming addicted to narcotics and shooting up on street corners in broad daylight
Better is also simpler things: better commutes, safer streets, cleaner water and more time with our kids
But Better is usually hard and complicated work that is discussed by adults that act like adults
And most importantly Better is often a little better…every day until someday things are a lot Better.
We can all do better than writing angry posts on social media or forwarding a snarky zinger to someone we already know shares our view. The 435 Voices podcast is about progress at every level. What needs to be better and what might be done about it. Please join the conversation.
Imagine you were walking up to this booth at the county fair.
You’ve got one thing in mind…fried goodness. We’ll worry about later…later
And then you saw this on the counter of the booth
Who, in their right mind, is going to snack on a radish when fried dough awaits?
Well, as I said in a Facebook comment this week, this is kind of what it feels like to be writing about and advocating for congressional consensus and cooperation in the Age of Impeachment. It often just feels pretty irrelevant.
But then there are signs of hope. Like this story from the New York Times this week about an effort called America in One Room in which organizers invited 526 people from across the country that match the overall demographics of America to talk policy for a weekend. They didn’t necessarily convince each other but they left with a better sense of why others feel differently than they do. That’s progress – and the article is very worth reading if you have some time this weekend.
There’s also this story from NPR about two members of the House Judiciary Committee (front and center in the impeachment process) who, despite being from opposite sides of the aisle, regularly cooperate to try to advance policy and are being recognized for it.
We are getting close to the launch of 435 Voices. If you haven’t listened to the pilot yet – take 12 minutes and try to listen this weekend and subscribe. We will launch with the West Virginia-1st, South Dakota and the Georgia-13th in two weeks.
I am slowly learning a lesson that most good bloggers seem to have absorbed. It’s a lesson my wife has been pushing me to learn after sorting through every PFA post. “You don’t have to write a novel about everything, Bill,…sometimes someone else has already written it.”
In the pilot version of the 435 Voices podcast I mentioned a simple graphic I had created that summarizes how Project to Find America hopes to help Congress begin to be more effective at making policy. Here it is.
If you haven’t listened to the pilot podcast yet, I hope you will. I believe it makes a persuasive case for the logic behind this graphic.
However, even as I slog through the process of trying to find media guests for the first set of 435 Voices episodes, it is worthwhile to acknowledge that maybe I don’t have this model right. Maybe it actually looks like this.
It is pretty easy to see that we’re not going to get politicians to change their polarized and divisive ways without somehow changing the voters who elect them. In other words, the green circle won’t change until one of the other two do. But maybe voters really can be the catalysts for changing this cycle.
I came across the work of Patricia Roberts Miller last spring as I was working on the Prezi deck I used to relaunch Project to Find America. She is a professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas. Stop right there. Already, you are making a judgment about her based mostly on that one sentence. I’m not now judging you, we all do this, but for reasons that you will see when you click through to herpost, it is important to understand that we do.
In the post Demagoguery; Or, the Pleasures of Outrage Professor Roberts-Miller articulates precisely the problem that Project to Find America hopes to address and offers a relatively simple (though certainly not easy) solution…we need to learn to argue better and then look for better sources of information that will aid those arguments. Not surprisingly, coming from a professor of writing, it is an extraordinarily well-written and thought provoking piece, I hope you’ll take a few minutes at lunch or this evening to read it.