>> exams the current debates over what constitutes united states citizenship and ways to reimagine the process. this is about an hour and ten minutes. [applause] >> gregory, thank you so much for that introduction. it is truly an honor to be with you here tonight. i think i need to say a word about gregory and about zocalo and their new partnership with cal humanities and virginia necessary. -- vanessa. for those of you who are newcomers, this is one of the
most remarkable instances of civic engagement that i have seen in the united states, and you all are part of it, you make it happen. and i think one of the things that we forget when we talk about big concepts like citizenship is that what it boils down to in the most simple way is whether or not you show up. it's kind of all it boils down to, whether or not each one of us decides in ways large and be small to show up. and gregory and his remarkable team in creating this set of forums has held a space for us, but it's upon all of you here who have decided to show up on a very nice evening that helps give me hope for citizenship. i also want to thank our hosts here, this is an unusual and lovely setting to be doing a gathering like this here, the petersen automotive museum. and i didn't grow up a total car nut, but i have always felt like there was something physically embodied in some of the cars you see around us here today of the
american spirit. and it's, i think, rather apt that we should have a conversation tonight about american character, about the meaning and the content of our citizenship. actually knowing that we were coming here, i got to thinking about the ad that you might have seen that aired first during the super bowl, during halftime, actually, clint eastwood's much-noted ad for chrysler, it's halftime in america. and the ad, which was talking about detroit and how chrysler in particular picked itself up off the mat and came back, and look out, world, for the second half was, obviously, the parable for the character this the spirit of the united states. and so i actually think it's quite, quite fitting that we be here tonight. my topic this evening is citizenship in america and the meaning and the content of our citizenship. and be i want to start, actually, not with a high concept, but with a simple story. i host a gathering every year in seattle where i live called the guiding lights weekend, and it's the conference and the art of
great and creative sid shp. -- citizenship. and one of the things we did this year was we held for the first time at our conference a united states naturalization ceremony. so we invited, you know, we had 500 attendees at this conference, but we also invited 30 immigrants from 17 nations around the world who that afternoon became naturalized citizens of the united states. and i don't know how many of you either ever or recently have been to a naturalization ceremony, but if you haven't, go to one, and if it's been a while, go to one because there is nothing like it on earth. it's full of bureaucracy, you've got the department of homeland security, you've got these sort of cheesy videos that they play and everything -- [laughter] have all these things going against it, and yet when you get down to the most basic roll call of nations remitted by those immigrants and you go line by
line and receive their certificate and stand before their family and friends one moment not a citizen, the next moment a citizen, i mean, even telling you about it right now gives me chill bumps. it's a very powerful thing. and we had that day after the ceremony itself a speaker who some of you may have heard of, a remarkable woman in her late 80s now named ger that weissman kline. you may know, she was a holocaust survivor, fled poland, ended up in the camps. and gerta's story is one of the most american stories there is. she was liberated from the camps by a man, a g.i., who is the man she would later end up marry, and she would emigrate to the united states because of this. and she ended up living a life that, as she says, she didn't cure cancer, she didn't win any major prizes, she didn't make a giant fortune. what she did, simply, was to live a life in freedom and to
live a life where she understood that freedom not only to be a writ of permission to do whatever she wanted, but actually a bill of responsibility that she was taking on. and, indeed, quite well into her life she wrote a very famous memoir of her life called "all but my life," but later in her life she created an organization called citizenship counts. and it's a simple organization that hosts naturalization ceremonies all around the country and then gets conversations going with people who maybe haven't thought about this topic in a long time and uses that moment as an occasion to prompt reflection and conversation about what it means to be american, what it means to call ourselves american. i tell you the story about gerta weissman kline not only because she's a remarkable exemplar, but because she's actually in some ways the exception that proves the rule. the rule in american life today as we sit here and gather here tonight is that most of us most
of the time don't think or talk about citizenship. our conversations in this country about citizenship are rare, they're thin, they're tinny, they're polarized politically, and they are devoid of the ethical, spiritual, political content that when you think about what it is that our framers fought for and successive generations actually fought for, does none of them any justice. one of the things that i think is notable about citizenship itself and why i moved to write and be speak about it and why i want to talk about it tonight is this is not a problem confined to one side of the political spectrum, nor is it confined to one sector of american life. the decline of citizenship in the united states is the result of a lot of different forces converging. it's, on the one side, the market becoming ever more dominant in the way that we think about our lives and our identities, and so the market tells us that we are but consumers and that things around
us are but costs to be reduced. but on the other side as well it's the state, the it's the state that over the course of our lifetimes has encroached in smaller, tiny little ways where it becomes not a notable thing when as happened in seattle a year or two ago there was an awful, violent beating of one teenager by another in a bus tunnel. and film captured two private security guards standing there watching the one teenager beat the other, just standing there. and later when they were asked why they didn't intervene, they said, well, that wasn't our job, we're not government employees. we expected the police or someone from government to come in and break this up. and that little anecdote bespeaks another trend here which is the ways in which so many of us in ways that are often imperceptible have subcontracted our civic responsibilities to the state. and so you have this convergence of forces and, you know, it's,
again, it's a matter of both left and right. the left doesn't particularly talk these days about american citizenship. i think a lot of friends of mine on the progressive left if they talk about citizenship at all, they like to think about it in terms of global citizenship, transcending the nation-state. can't we get beyond this sort of stuff, right? and on the right, well, there is a lot of conversation about citizenship right now, but it's often in an exclusionary, mean-spirited, restrictionist kind of tone about who gets to claim it, about who gets to be barred from it rather than what it actually is. and so the sum of all of this is that we have this deeply unsatisfying conversation about citizenship, and, indeed, one of the things that's been in the public debate over the last couple of years is a plea from some on the right that because of the extent of illegal immigration, because of the existence of -- and i put them heavily in air quotes -- anchor babies out there, that what we
ought to do to correct this is to repeal birthright citizenship. that what we ought to do is repeal the 14th amendment of the united states institution which gives to anybody born on american soil citizenship as a matter of right. and so the this idea that's out there which is, to my mind, faulty on a constitutional basis noxious on an ethical one is out there. and, you know, you look at it, and what i decided to do in looking at it was not just get angry that there were people out there trying to repeal the constitution in order to punish the children of undocumented immigrants, but a little bit of a thought experiment. let's think about that. let's imagine what if citizenship was not, in fact, a birthright? what if, in fact, just being here didn't guarantee you anything? and what if, in fact, that rule applied not only to immigrants whether documented or not, but to every single one of us? what if every single one of us
today had to earn our citizenship in some form or fashion, and that similarly showing a birth certificate which itself may be questioned -- [laughter] is not going to be sufficient to prove your citizenship? what if? and as a thought experiment, a kind of interesting thing to contemplate. well, if not birth, then what? if not birth, then perhaps it ought to be service to community and to country. perhaps it ought to be some measure of knowledge of what this country is and what it's about. perhaps it ought to be some measure of contribution to your actual community and society. perhaps it ought not to be a kind of thing that once bestowed is granted forever. but perhaps must lapse periodically and must be renewed periodically. now, earlier today it was kind of funny, some of you may have heard i went on public radio and did a little segment talking about this and, um, i think lost on many of the callers was that
i was doing a thought experiment -- [laughter] and proposing this in kind of the swiftian sense of a mod proposal. and there were people very alarmed that, oh, my gosh, this guy's out there proposing we all have to earn citizenship, and we all have to take a test, and my god -- you know, that sounded nazi to some callers, and that sounded european to other callers. [laughter] and i suppose by that he meant socialist, but i'm not sure. [laughter] but the net of it was that there was this visor isal reaction of, my god, how dare you question my right to citizenship. and, to me, the emotional content of that response is super telling and super important for us to reckon with. because you can put aside the content, the sub substantive cot of citizenship and its constitutional components and so on and so forth, but just the fact that when asked, when asked hypothetically, hey, what would you have to do to earn it, people became defensive, people
became rapidly self-justifying. says to me that, again, we know deep in our hearts that as a country we are a little bit sick in our citizenship, that we are not as healthy as we can be. because a country and a society that was secure in the knowledge that we are doing all we can to foster a deep, strong sense of civic identity would listen to that and chuckle and say, dude, we're already doing that. we're already earning it every day. you don't need a test. you don't need to have this thought experiment. but because we know deep in our hearts that something is amiss in this country, that was the response. the other thing that was telling, though, about the response to that hypothetical is that it reveals something to us, again, gerta weissman kline revealed to us gathered in her presence, which is how much most of us most of the time take for granted every single aspect of the privilege -- not just the privileges and immunities -- but the privilege of living in the united states. and so for me what this brings
me to in the heart of my remarks this evening is i believe strongly, i believe passionately, and i believe this as a second generation american, as the son of immigrants who were, who came to this country from china via taiwan, i believe deeply that right now more than ever we need to have a new movement in this country to americanize americans. now, i say that word right now, and i know some of you sitting in the audience, some of you watching on television, hackles have gone up already because that word, "americanize," has connotations. it sounds like the americanization movement of 100, 120 years ago where this was kind of one size fits all approach to the way to become american is to be like these white guys over here. and since you're not white, i guess you don't get to be fully american in any cultural sense. and that spirit of americanization which was, which was narrow and restrictive and
not nearly as encompassing of the diversity that, in fact, is the united states, that was americanization 100, 120 years ago. but just because a thing was implemented poorly one time does not absolve us of the responsibility to implement it well in our own time. i believe deeply that in our own time we need to have a true 21st century approach to reamericannizing america. and be to me, what this means is not rah, rah, america's great, my country right or wrong, what this means is reinstilling in all of us an appreciation of the values that constitute american identity. the values. one of the things that we all know but, again, we rarely say aloud to one another and refresh and renew our awareness of is that this is a country not based on blood, not based on tribe, not based on religion, not based on soil, this is a country based
completely on an idea. and what is exceptional about this country, what has been exceptional there the very start, is that we are a nation dedicated to a proposition. and, to me, true americanization means recommitting ourselves to that proposition. and what i want to talk about tonight and unpack is what i mean by this, what a new, 21st century americanization movement would look like and would feel like and what the content of that would be. and there's three dimensions to it that i want to highlight. one is creed, one is character and one is culture. i'd like to say just a few words about each of these as a way to frame up our conversations that i hope we'll have afterwards. let me start with creed. for a country that is exceptional because it is dedicated to a proposition, we sure do a poor or job of renewing with each generation of
young people what the actual creed is. what the language of our civic scripture is. make no mistake, we do have a civic religion. i carry around with me sometimes, if i have it here -- yeah, here it is -- a little pocket declaration, gettysburg address and constitution. and it's kind of dog-eared, and sometimes i'm flipping through it to look up the article i, section 8, the commerce clause when people are arguing about the commerce clause, but other times i just look through it to reread sentences, to reread simple sentences or clauses even like this, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. these aren't just words. this is an inheritance. this is a creed that we have inherited. and our responsibility is to make that creed something other than words carved in marble, but
to make it something that we live and act small and large every day. one of the things that i think is troubling for a lot of people when they hear language of citizenship, patriotism, americanization is the sense that they say, well, look, that creed is nice and all, but if you look at american history, america over and over and over again to this very day has failed to live up to that creed. and you know what? i will stipulate that 100%. that's -- it's not even worth trying to deny that. this country has failed over and over again to live up to its creed. but what makes this country, again, remarkable and exceptional is that at every turn we measure our worth by how much we are moving ourselves toward closer alignment to that creed. and at the arc of american history, properly understood, is, in fact, the closing of the gap between creed and deed. and so when, to take another piece of civic scripture, when
martin luther king jr. gave the "i have a dream speech," yes, he quoted from scripture, and he talked about the valleys and the mountains, but he also quoted from the scripture of the united states, and be he talked about the promissory check embedded in the declaration and in the gettysburg address. and he spoke and he sang, he literally sang aloud, words from our anthems. and he did that not only because he was on some rhetorical flight of fancy, but because he understood that the way to make america live up to its promise in something like the civil rights movement was to hold like a mirror before us our stated creed and be to remind ourselves this is what we said we are, this is what we said we'd be, and we're not being it, and we're not it. and we have a choice. that choice is either to say, well, i guess we are but hypocrites or to say we've got to close that gap. dr. king closed that gap.
every successive generation in its own way has closed that gap. and, you know, the nature of that gap closing and the beauty, i think, of american life is that -- not to get too mathematical, but it's asimilar to thetic. the gap can close and close, but it can never go to zero. you can keep cutting it in half, but it never disappears altogether. and the faith you have to have in that creed is the faith that only by showing up can we narrow that distance between what we promised we would be, and how we would treat each other on matters of race, gender, how we would treat each other in matters of sexual orientation, how we would treat each other in who we let call themselves american. and be so that creed has to be something that not only we as adults have to renew and find ways to refresh our knowledge of, but certainly in the way that we educate children. justice sandra day o'connor who is a hero of mine, in her
retirement has launched an initiative called icivics.org, and it's an online platform using video games technology to teach middle school students civics. and the reason why she has chosen to devote so much of her passion and her energy postretirement from the supreme court to icivics is that she reminds us that, hey, wait a minute, the whole point of having free, compulsory public education in the united states was to make citizens. it was not, as we have the language of today, to make great workers, it was not to make or prepare great consumers. it was to prepare citizens for participation in and be ownership of this democracy. and to me, the creed is where that education must begin. the second piece of this and where that education must continue is character. character, again, is one of those words that have gotten so politicized in recent decades. you hear "character" and,
ironically, it's sort of like the word liberty. if i were to say make up the name of an institution, the liberty institute. nine out of ten of you would just guess that, oh, that's a conservative organization. [laughter] right? why? because conservatives are the ones who use the word "liberty" today. that's sort of a statement of cultural fact today. but the fact that we accept it is, to me, repulsive. and not just because i'm a democrat and a progressive and i don't want the other side to own that word, but because as an american it should repulse us that any side of the debate should claim full ownership of liberty. well, the same is true in a way of character, right? you hear the word "character" now, and a lot of times character education, uh-oh, sounds like some moralist from the right wing here telling me what to do, right? that kind of bill bennett kind of language, and i don't want to go there, right? and for people who are feeling that, i have to say get over it. because character does count. and when i'm talking about
americanization and civic identity, i don't mean just character on the individual level like honesty and perseverance and the like. all these things do matter, but civic character is about character in the collective, how we behave in public, how we behave in groups, how we are together in community and whether we cultivate the ethics and the mindset and the habits of heart and mind to live cooperatively. motto live in con -- not to live in conflict and in a pretense of atomization, but to live together. it is a matter of inculcating an ethic of responsibility and mutuality and be reciprocity and be sharing of sacrifice. we aren't born just having those ethics. they must must be instilled by culture, they must be instilled by us as parents and grandparents and mentors. they must be instilled by everybody who's in a position to
instill. finish one of the ways that i've often shorthanded this spirit of character, gregory mentioned that i'm the co-author of a recent book, this little book called "the gardens of democracy," and one chunk of this whole book is about citizenship. my co-author, nick, and i boil it down to a simple precept which is this: society becomes how you behave. how you behave. this is contrary to a lot of received wisdom in american life. the kind of atomistic, individualistic story that we like to tell ourselves in american life as a matter of character is, hey, as long as i'm not actively harming somebody else, actively screwing over somebody else, i should be able to do whatever the heck i want. back off. don't tread on me. society becomes how you behave is a different way of looking at the world. it's looking at the world not as atomized and disconnected, but
looking at the world as ecosystemmic, deeply entwined. and so when i am courteous, society becomes courteous. when i am civil, society becomes civil. when i am compassionate, society becomes compassionate. i'll use an example that i think all of you can relate to. i saw a billboard not long ago. i don't think it was in l.a., but it was a billboard by this completely still highway, nothing was moving. and it said you're not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. [laughter] you laugh ruefully here in los angeles -- [laughter] but it's true, you are traffic, right? so you're not stuck in broken politics, you are broken politics. you're not stuff in a winner-takes-all market economy, you are that economy. we participate in everything. we shape everything. and simply not having an opinion on it or trying to opt out is a
form of participation that is nearly as powerful as actively working for the forces. this is what i mean by teaching character. and i grant that this is not the dominant key. this is a minor key in the american song. the dominant key is rugged individualism, right? but on the other hand, when you look for real at anything great that america has ever done, you realize that rugged individualism never got a barn raised, rugged individualism never led people to a town meeting, rugged individualism never enabled people to pull together through something like the great depression. and rugged individualism isn't going to get us out of this great recession either. so character does matter, and how we cultivate that character as a civic matter is crucial. in the brings me, then, to the third and final dimension of citizenship that i want to speak to tonight x that is culture.
one of the things about american life, you know, and it's always fun to talk to recent immigrants about it, about what they think is american x you'll find that they'll give you an answer that is very mediated, is very pop cultural, right? it's about nascar or about "american idol" or about mcdonald's or about these things, and, you know, i often say that today, in the 21st century, we don't so much have a story of america as we have a twitter feed in this which we have multiple, little fragments of story, and all of them are perishable, and they all disappear. but we don't have anymore the confidence in american identity, the confidence in the exceptionalism of our creed and be our responsibility to build a culture of song and story and poetry and dance and anthem around that creed. and be -- and i say to you, we must find that confidence again.
we must unleash that creativity again, must direct that imagination toward this greater story of what this country is and what it means. i was looking back, another los angeles reference, another one of my heroeses, norman lear. among the many, many thicks he did -- things he did during his heyday, 30 years ago this year -- probably those of you who were alive might not remember this -- but he created this pageant for abc, televised pageant called "i love liberty," and it was this great kind of corny, cheesy, wacky thing that involved, you know, television stars from the '70s, the muppets, you know, all these things that kind of mashed together pop culture and references to the founding fathers and references to the bicentennial and to the revolution, and he just took everything he could grab on to in american life at that time,
both the cheesy and the kind of sublime, and he pulled it together into this pageant that was itself so beautifully american. it was diverse, it was multicultural, it did not shy away from our failings and our faults. and he put this pageant on. i can't believe abc televised this thing, now that you think about our culture today, right? [laughter] but millions of people watched this thing. and i thought about that and thought not only is it remarkable abc televised it, but to me, what's more remarkable is thinking about the pitch meeting, right? [laughter] thinking about how norman lear had to go in and talk to the suits at abc and say we're going to do this big panel gent, it's going to have muppets and have eric estrada do this and all this stuff. and the fact that the suits of that year were, dang, a good idea -- [laughter] let's put that on air, right? says something about the culture. today we would not have that same sense of, yes, every now and again this country needs
something like this that pulls together high and low, broad and narrow, all different ways of singing and making known the many voices that are heard when someone tries to sing "america" and to do it in ways that are beautiful, creative and be innovative. that is a charge that all of us have to take. not everybody here is an artist, but everybody here is capable of humming a tune. everybody here knows the tune "this land is your land," everybody here knows the tune "america the beautiful." half of you hear know how to create mix tapes and match-ups in -- mash-ups. nothing stops us from taking something that was too old or too white and maybe even racist about some of our inheritance and saying, i reclaim this. i reclaim this today. i remix this, i remake this, i reclaim this. that's what we have to do in our
culture. because, guess what? that's the point of being american. i reclaim, i remix, i redeem. there are two deep, deep story patterns in american culture. one is this deep story of failing over and over again to live up to a stated promise. but then by bits and pieces, by fits and starts, redeeming ourselves. for every separate but equal, there is a martin luther king. for every chinese exclusion act, there is a gary locke who is now the united states ambassador to china. that we redeem, that's one of the deep story patterns. but one of the other deep, deep story patterns that is, again, part of our exceptional writ and responsibility is our unmatched capacity to create new hybrids,
to take genes, means, ideas, songs, myths, stories from every corner of the planet and swirl them together not into some bland, denaturing melting pot that makes everybody the same kind of off-white/beige color, but says go forth and multiply, create new permutations, create new combinations. that is a story literally of our bloodlines from our president on down. but it's also the story of evidence american life. everyday american life. and these two deep stories are the stories that we have to tell over and over again. we are but a young country. we don't have millennia of myth to go back to. we don't have primeval stories and place to hearken to. all we have is all we have, and be a lot of it's in this little book right here. but we have, still, the capacity of imagination and creativity to
convert this even modest inheritance into works of great new invention and creation. so this is what i mean when i say we need a new movement to reamericannize americans. and when i say this, i don't mean -- just to be clear -- just immigrants. just our newcomers. let alone just the undocumented. i mean every one of us. every one of us, no matter where you are, where you come from, how long you've been or your family has been in this country. and i know that a lot of what i talk about here gives people for different reasons a measure of discomfort. and i'm hoping when we get a chance for q&a and conversation, you'll get to give voice to some of that discomfort. but i want to speak to this discomfort at least in one small way. the discomfort comes, as i said at the outset, from there both left and right, right? there's a presumption among so many people on the right who are
conservatives today who say, you know what? i think that all liberals hate america. and so to hear this guy, eric liu, who's a democrat, he used to work for bill clinton talking about america, i don't buy it. i don't even want to hear it, right? and meanwhile, from the left you have people saying all this talk about loving america and appreciating what america's great, that sounds like conservatives to me. i don't want to go there, that sounds like, you know, either in earnest the kind of graphics package that fox news uses or, in mockery, the graphics package that stephen colbert uses, right? [laughter] either way that feels like some kind of thing that i don't want any part of. and, again, my message to both right and left is we have to get over this. we have a common destiny in this country, and we have, to be sure, deep, deep differences of ideology, deep, deep differences of strategy, deep, deep differences of world view. but we are all equally inher to haves to this creed -- inherrer
thes to this crete, equally trustees to this country. and i think one of the things that is troubling to so many people when i speak of american exceptionalism -- and that rubs some people the wrong way on the left, and meanwhile on the right people think exceptionalism means, yeah, we get to do whatever we want. i'm brought to mind a quote from a united states senator about a century before barack obama was a united states senator from illinois. carl shirt said during this period of high period, he said, the right way to think is not by country right or wrong, it's my country when right to be kept right, when wrong to be set right. that is what is exceptional here. and the right today forgets that we are exceptional because we are progressive. we are exceptional because we are progressive. because generation after
generation we aren't content to let things be, we try to push ourselves to live up to our creed. but the left too often forgets that we are progressive because we are exceptional. and the only reason we've been able to claim the ground and close the gap the way we have is because we are dedicated uniquely to this proposition. and so as i leave you with that thought, i simply want to hearken back to, as i started, telling you about gerta weissman kline and the naturalization ceremony we held at this conference. one of the things we did on the second day of the conference, inspired by that, was to create a brand new sort of ceremony. not a naturalization ceremony for brand new, for immigrants who were becoming brand new citizens, but something we made up called a sworn-again american ceremony that allowed people of longstanding citizenship to
swear again, to commit again, to say again, to sing again what it is that this country stands for and to pledge again where right, keep it right, and where wrong to set it right. i ask every one of you here tonight, whether you've loved what i had to say or hated it, to remember that our ability to have this conversation is, indeed, itself part of what is exceptional and part of our obligation. and so each one of us wherever you are from, however long you have been here, whatever your background is, whatever your politics is, i ask you simply to do this: go forth and live like a citizen. thank you very much. [applause] >> hi, everyone. at this time we'll open it up to you all for questions. if you have a question for mr.-- actually, just a quick reminder
before we get started, tonight's lecture is recorded on both the video and audio podcasts. if you have a question for mr. liu, please, raise your hand and wait for one of us to get to you, and share your name before asking your question. first question on the left. >> hi, sam rosenfeld. so as an outsider looking in, i wonder do you think there's a substitution of symbolism instead of citizenship? people take comfort in singing the national anthem at a sports event rather than actually embodying what is citizenship, saying, well, i sing the national anthem, i fly my flag, i do this, that and the other rather than taking the actions that embody true citizenship? >> it's a great question and embedded in it, a great point. what i was saying earlier, that i put forward this thought experiment, right? what if there weren't birthright citizenship, actually wrote a little piece in the atlantic proposing this little idea and saying, you know, what if you
had to do a certain amount of service, what if you had to show a certain amount of knowledge? i mean, heck, nothing more than even passing the same written exam that naturalizing citizens have to pass. i bet a good number of native-born americans could not pass that exam, right? some measure of net contribution, volunteerism, service, whatever it may be, right? and, again, when you put forth that idea and people take you seriously, they're like, dude, no, no, no! that's so kind of top-down. and what i say is, okay, i won't make you do that, all right? i won't strip you of your birthright citizenship. but in addition to flying the flag and singing the anthem, i simply want to ask you what have you done today to earn it, right? and i think that's a question that we have to ask ourselves every day as well. this is not about standing on high and judging others. this is, first, judging ourselves and asking ourselves how -- what am i doing? am i doing enough, right? and i think that spirit is
something that i agree completely has to be embodied in deeds, not only in words. >> we have a question on your right. >> hi, courtney. i heard you this afternoon on air talk, and i thought you handled some of those callers very well. [laughter] and i agree with what i think is the vision you're putting out there, but knowing as you just said that the article you'd written was more about kind of a thought experiment and not really a road map, in order to kind of attain the vision you, obviously, need to have some goals and objectives to make, make your way there. so what do you think is kind of the starting point, what are some objectives that we could start at to obtain that greater vision that you have? >> boy, another great, great question. um, and i think there are, um, several core pieces that all of us can get involved in right now. so foundationally, again, for me is education. um, and what our public schools
do or do not do. any of you who have, as i have, a child in public schools knows that civics isn't really taught anymore as such. i mean, you'll get some history, you'll get some of, you know, something about, you know, the declaration and so forth, but civics in the sense of teaching systematically about the values, the institutions and the skills that are necessary to be an effective participant and owner of democracy, over the last few decades that's been sort of diluted or made to disappear. not always for nefarious reasons, but sometimes just because, you know, the curriculum and the focus on reading and math have squeezed it out. sometimes because people felt like, oh, if i go too much towards civics and government and politics, i'm going to tick somebody off. so as a teacher i don't really want to go there, right?
sometimes because social studies displaced civics, and we kind of began to think more in this systemic view about things rather than, again, focusing on the original purpose of public schooling. so one thing that i think we can all do, number one, find ways to support justice o'connor's icivics.org. and there is this national coalition that pulls together educators, neighbors, civic leaders like yourselves, people from all, from cities all over the country to try to renew a spirit of, hey, this is what schooling is supposed to be about, so let's put some pressure on our local school board to make sure there's more civics in the curriculum. let's make sure we have support for our educators to make sure if they're into wanting to teach civics, they know the resources and that they're available and free and accessible. here in southern california there's a thing called the center on civic education that does a lot of similar work in that vein. so education is one thing. but the second thing i would say
is, again, in the spirit of society becomes how you behave is just look with new eyes at the way that you live, right in and so, yes, it's true that the modest proposal that i put forward for, you know, government-mandated citizenship tests is not going to come to pass, but it is definitely the case that each one of us in thinking about, um, what the meaning is of our civic identity can be just a notch more mindful, a notch more mindful. and to find venues whether it's in our houses of worship, in our book groups, in our kids' sports leagues, to strike up a conversation that'll flow out of the conversation we're having here tonight. behavior is contagious. and so, you know, in a sense if you came to a thing like this, you know, i'm already sort of
preaching to the converted, right? but the benefit of preaching to the converted is you create a whole new host of choir masters, right? and you all can go out there and create your own new choirs, create new conversations and, you know, i have a friend who -- a professor of law at yale -- and perhaps because he's a recent descendant of immigrants, he has this passion for america. and he and a colleague of his at yale law school are in the midst of putting together what they're basically calling a civics saver, a little booklet of kind of seminal readings, conversation starters to, you know, get dinner table discussion going with your kids or with your grandparents or with your relatives or friends, exercises, little resources and something that's kind of very, i think it's coming out later this september. i think, indeed, to mark the
225th anniversary of the constitution, they plan to release this. but, you know, if every one of us went ahead and bought that book and had our civics aiders, society would become how we were behaving. >> question on your left? >> my name is todd kerner, and piggybacking on that last question, it seems that as the drive to push school control to local levels that when you start talking about civics, you're really talking about a lot of political land mines out there. and does the need to emphasize civics again mean pulling back from the local control of schools or somehow at least getting them to get on the same page? >> i love it, another really insightful question. my short answer is, yes. my longer answer is, i agree very much with your diagnosis of
the situation, right? and, look, local control of education has a deep, long and probably in the end undislodge able lace in american society. but at the same time there are certain things that are of national importance. there are certain things that are national responsibilities, and i would say, you know, near to the top of that list is teaching each successive generation of students what it means to be in this nation, right? and so one of the things that i've called for is an initiative at the national level to insure that if we're going to have some funding for education that comes from the federal government, that what it funds is a layer at least of civic education that is nationally uniform. right? beneath that layer or atop that layer depending on how you want to think about it, sure, you can lots of stuff that's about the local civic history of washington state.
the local civic history of missouri, you know in and you can learn from nebraska or kansas about the incredible, bloody, bloody history of the kansas/nebraska act and the fugitive slave law and all that time and that period that is particular to your place. we don't talk about that stuff too much in washington state, right? but across every state, across every locality has to be some common song sheet, some common set of questions. and here, too, i don't mean song sheet just in the sense of let's all say rah, rah america. right? one of the things i was saying when i was talking about the story line of american culture, i think the thing that we have to teach to and learn to teach to and get progressives and conservatives, republicans and democrats to learn together to teach to is the tension. american life is a big tension. it is a tension between one promise of freedom and one promise of equality, right? we like to think these are all
wholly consistent, but freedom is continuously intention with equality, letting people do whatever they want does not usually yield equal outcomes or equal opportunities, right? there are tensions all over the place in american life. there's a tension between celebrating the creed on the one hand, and becoming blindly gin goistic on the other hand, right? there's a tension between patriotism and raw nationalism, right? be and learning to teach these tensions is something that we've got to do. and i have faith that we can do it. and the reason why i have faith is i have seen educators do this in ways that bridge left and right. i have seen books and anthologies that bridge this divide, so i would commend to you two different great anthologies that themselves are sort of a civic education. one from the right and one from the left. the one from the right is a recent anthology called "what so proudly we hail." and it's a collection of creative works, mainly fiction,
that was edited by a guy named leon kass. leon kass was an adviser to president george w. bush and very active in the american enterprise institute and just, you know -- university of chicago, a very philosophically conservative guy, right? and you read through "what so proudly we hail" and the selection they have chosen from american literature and fiction and song that illuminate these american creed, character and culture, i'm full of respect for the ways they're not just saying let's whitewash american history, they're not just saying people who are, you know, talking about multicultural history the are just whiners and complainers, no, no, no. they're pointing out the tensions in an adult, grown-up way. and on the other side, too, is the anthology called "a patriot's handbook" that was edited by caroline kennedy. and in direct lineage, the
spirit of her father asking us what we can do for our country. well, one thing we can do for our country is know what our country's for, right? and be that's the thing that she does in that anthology is pulling together a different set of texts and speeches and writings that if you did nothing but read, you would have an order of magnitude, deeper appreciation for this thing i've been saying over and over again, our inheritance. so i think it is totally necessary to have that as a national initiative and then couple it with civic learning that's tailored to the local. thank you. >> question on your right. >> hi, artie, and the lady who was listening to npr this afternoon is my wife. [laughter] and i happen to be a city clerk in the city of glendale, and one of my responsibilities is conducting municipal elections. and the act of voting is often times, i think, has become synonymous with the term "citizenship" and civic duty. i wanted to no know what your
thoughts -- know what your thoughts are on this considering that the two were not synonymous always in this country, and be it wasn't until the 19, i believe, '20s when we had the first election in this country where citizenship was a requirement for everyone to vote. so in moving forward and making your vision a reality for all americans, how do we merge or separate these ideas given the political, um, culture of today? >> again, and i think this is perhaps by way of answering better the question your wife asked a moment ago which is another thing that all of us can be doing here practically is to be revivifying the franchise, okay? so that means voting -- you, those of you who are eligible to vote -- it means registering if you're eligible but haven't registered, it means encouraging others to vote, it means fighting for democracy, right? and to be not so kind of vague, i mean fighting to change the rules of the game so that more
people can participate in the vote. we are sitting here at a time where various states around the country are changing their rules for the franchise that are meant to restrict access to the ballot. and it's happening sort of below the radar and without a lot of people paying attention. and this is a dangerous thing. and there is, of course, unfortunately, a partisan tint to that. it's more republicans doing that than not. put aside the partisanship of it. it's just as an american a bad thing when you start having these sub rosa efforts to limit the franchise. but to the other part of the question, i think voting is a crucial, central part of citizenship in the sense that i've described it, but it is by no means the only part, right? what voting is, is one of the most tangible dimensions of the duty side, the responsibility side of citizenship. in america we are rights crazy, right? we love to think about citizenship as a big, big
cornucopia, basket of rights, right? i get to do this, i get to do that. you don't get to tell me to do this, right? and, of course, that is in our dna. that comes there how this country came to be, right? don't tread on me. but i think in any functioning, healthy society -- whatever its providence -- there has to be coupled with that a measure of responsibility. and this is not some dude coming here in 2012 speaking this language of responsibility being wedded to rights. this was the understanding, indeed, of our founders. this was the understanding of thomas jefferson. there's a great book, so gary wills, the historian -- perhaps best known for his book on gettysburg called "lincoln at gettysburg" in which he unpacks the meaning of the gettysburg address -- there's another lesser-known book called "inventing america," and it's an
intellectual history of the declaration of independence. particularly of the spottish enlightenment, hume and hutchison and all these people who formed the thinking of a young and then adult thomas jefferson. and one of the central precepts of the scottish enlightenment, one of the central ideas of the culture in which thomas jefferson was steeped and soaked was the idea that freedom is not only inseparable from responsibility, but that freedom is responsibility. that every right comes with a countervailing duty. you cannot separate these things. and in the early years of the republic, they didn't even need to say it because it was just understood that to be a civic republican, small r republican, meant that you show up. you show up at town meetings, you show up when it's time to take one of the town offices, you show up in small ways and be large ways, right? it's been in successive generations that we've lost that sense. and so the responsibility side
of citizenship has sort of been reduced to this one island called voting. and even there a lot of people don't go visit. right? but i think there is a greater territory here for us to reclaim, for us to resurface, and it is about how we contribute to community. it is about how we serve one another in evidence life. and this is about how we in this day and be age even have conversations about what it means to be american. my friend jose antonio vargas who some of you may have heard of, a remarkable person who's a pulitzer prize-winning journalist and a contributor to "american life," about almost two years ago he came out. and the way he came out it wasn't about sexuality, he came out as undocumented. he wrote a story in "the new york times"es magazine and said i'm now going to tell the world what only a small number of people in my life have known which is i am an illegal
immigrant. and he did so, obviously, at great personal peril, but he did so because he felt like there are so many people in a situation like his, undocumented americans, who by definition have no voice, who are afraid to make a voice heard and be that he, as somebody who has that voice who as a journalist, as a pulitzer winner had access to platforms of voice had an obligation. he had not just the right to say what he thought, he had an obligation to pass on that right to other people. and so he spoke up. but then he did more than speak up, he created a project called define american. so if you go to defineamerican.org, you see this kind of cornucopia of videos and testimonials of people just saying -- whatever they are, they're long-time citizens, recent immigrants, documented, undocumented, just saying what america means, right? that's our responsibility as well. so to me, voting, yes, if called to serve on a jury, yes, if you are eligible for a draft if we ever should have a draft, yes.
but there's so many other everyday ways in which we show up or we don't. and the last book i'll recommend to you -- this is turning into a book club discussion here. [laughter] you've heard me say the phrase "show up" like ten times here today, and that's because of the third of my kind of heroes who i want to acknowledge today, seattle's own bill gates sr.. father of microsoft bill. obviously, not as well known worldwide as the younger bill, but bill gates sr. is a remarkable man, leader, father. and he wrote a memoir a couple years ago called "showing up for life," partly about his public life or his life as a lawyer or a civic leader, but mainly about the family that bill sr. and he credits mary gates, his then-wife, his first wife who's now deceased, the way that she created a culture within the gates family, right? so, yes, there's voting, yes,
serving on a jury, there's doing these things like picking up litter and being courteous in traffic and all that, but then there's also attending to the cultures we create around us in our households, in our friend groups, in our neighborhoods, in our blocks. we are always, continuously contributing to a culture. the only question is whether we are contributing positively or negatively. things are never in stasis in social life. they are either in a positive feedback loop, a virtuous circle, or a negative feedback loop in a vicious cycle. right? and so i think this responsibility side of citizenship has to encompass something broader than simply our franchise responsibility be. >> another question on your left. >> hi, my name is -- [inaudible] i want to point out, first of all, that i myself am the son of an immigrant, and i'm sure, i'm confident that it's done nothing but embolden my sense of patriotism; my sense of duty to country. with that said, you did mention
that there's, that political gap that exists between the right and the left, um, the right -- we seem to believe that the right could claim some sort of ownership to that sense of liberty, that sense of americana while, i guess, on the left it's believed we have sort of a more of a globalist mindset. coming from the left myself, i do share that, i do are that sense of globalist mindset, but i also have, i think, a very acuteceps of patriotism. and be so i guess my question is, what can we do or what needs to happen to bridge that gap, to come together and bridge that gap? because there seem to be a trust, a trust gap that the left believes that they don't, they don't trust the direction that the right wants to take the country, the right doesn't trust the direction that the left wants to take the country.
>> what's your name again, sir? >> centigi. >> okay. so one measure of how this has emboldened him to express and be embody his passion and affinity for an identity is the fact that we stand here in los angeles, and he unabashedly wears a new york yankees' jerry. [laughter] i love that, man! i'm a yankees' fan myself. [laughter] but seriously, you know, i say that partly kidding but partly seriously because patriotism, identity, um, we are not wholly rational creatures, i'm sad to report to you. [laughter] you know? we are not calculating machines. we are tribal, reciprocal, emotional beings. we are group animals. we are social animals. right? and so being able ask and willing even if you are the most dyed in the wool progressive and have the greatest faith in
technocrats and government to create programs to solve everybody's problem, it is not enough to live only at the level of the tech knock rah si. we have to speak to the viscera as well. the book that i wrote that preceded this book, "gardens of democracy," was a little pamphlet called "the true patriot." and my argument in "the true patriot," speaking exactly to your question, was that over the last several decades the very idea of patriotism has been co-opted by the right in this country, but also surrendered by the left. and to the detriment of everybody. .. 'em
that must mean that you believe we are all in it together. that must mean you believe in sharing the sacrifice and service to others. that cannot possibly mean you believe the market should rain and let things work out the way they sort out. it cannot possibly mean you think every man for himself. right? so unpacking the values content of patriotism turn out to be a very powerful way to start conversations that divide left and right. once we start talking about what it is you mean you begin to realize there are democrats and republicans both who believe you know -- need to look out for
your neighbor. right? even though there are sound bites about that is a slippery slope to socialism there are plenty of republicans out there who knows your most died in a wool western hard bitten conservative in wyoming knows he or she did not build that ranch by him or herself. but that is cooperation and teams that make things work. but having this conversation in a way about universal values rather than republicans and democrats, your flag pin is bigger than my flag pin, a way to open up the conversation that lets people in. i want to give you another concrete recent example. at this conference i have been telling you about, on citizenship, this year one of the other highlights was a keynote conversation that we had between someone from the left and someone from the right. the guy from the left was very
left as you may know, professor at harvard and really passionate crusader on campaign finance reform, reform of the rules of our democracy. comes from a progressive standpoint and during the occupy movement, the first wave last fall, he was out there speaking to the occupiers and doing all this work. he struck up a friendship with a fellow named mark mcclure, co-founder of the tea party patriots. the tea party patriots and the guys who spends time in occupied camps don't see a lot of intersection between those two domains but one thing that larry and mark as humans, as individuals began to realize was there is a big amount of overlap
between what gets occupy manage and what gets the tea party matt and where that is is in the rigging of the game. the corruption by big money, policy and politics. the way in which severe in the quality has given so much voice to a few people. for the left, they hate the power is concentrated on wall street and the banks. the right hates that it is on lobbyists that get elected reelected and perpetually big government. the thing that underlies both of their fears and concerns is the sense that the game is rigged. so they started these conversations about how can we find common cause? how can we build coalitions? how can we create a new conversation about what we are supposed to do to reclaim citizenship and our democracy? guess what? they get a lot of push back from their confreres on each side.
larry wrote about this and got flames on the internet from the left. what you doing with those racists? how can you be aiding and abetting anything tea party related? same thing with mark. were you doing with these guys? we are not occupiers, not these dirty -- and one thing they came to realize is they must be on to something. the same way i realize i was onto something when i was getting callers calling me a socialist or a nazi on the call in show today proposing the spirit of citizenship and what they are on to is not only there is common ground but new ways of talking by about. that is not something that arrives by airmail from some great leader. it is going to be merged bottom up from lots and lots of creative conversations. to me when larry and mark sat on a stage and had this
conversation this weekend it wasn't so much the content of what they risk saying that was so powerful although it was powerful land they were talking about corruption but it was what they were modeling. they were modeling for a room of 500 people who are more progressive than off. that you can have this discussion without demonizing and they disagree often fiercely in the course of their conversation and models how to do that too. all of us have to find ways to do that. all of us have to find ways to strike up conversations with people who know we disagree or don't know whether or not we agree. that is getting harder every day. technology, isolation, economy, everything pushing us toward flocking with birds of a feather. more affirmative effort to strike of those conversations but it is possible. there is the key word my fellow yankees can use was so important and that word is trust.
trust. if there is one bit of secret sauce we have in america even apart from our creed and immigrant heritage and spirit of immigration it is that we have amazing -- we often take for granted but we have amazing stocks of trust in this country. if you look over the arc of history or even in our time right now across nation's high functioning societies are always -- societies with great robust economies are always high trust societies. societies with great social health, demographic outcomes are always high trust societies. trust is the magic secret sauce. that is true in denmark. but denmark or finland, they have it easy. they are small and ethnically homogenous. they have a single cultural heritage to draw from.
we have none of those the vantages. all we have is the disadvantage of our splendid beautiful spilling out of control diversity. to me our job every day is to convert that potential disadvantage into an absolute competitive advantage. we have to find ways to build those stocks of trust. a lot of people talk in america. many of my friends on the left to use the phrase celebrate diversity. there's a bumper sticker you see all the time. the truth among the left. celebrate diversity. i don't believe in that at all. i don't believe we celebrate diversity. we should celebrate only what we do with the diversity. the bird's i demographic fact that in this room tonight is x% people of asian pacific islander descent or people of african descent and x% of hispanic descent. it can be of any race. all this stuff. is of no consequence. that is just the reporting of
demographic fact. a color coded snapshot of us. the only thing that matters is what are we going to do with it? how will we learn to do things together? how will we learn to strike up conversations? i am a huge believer in national service. if i could be king or i will settle for senator, i would want to have a national service program for young people, we don't have a draft. we don't have any experience that fools people together from different places or different sectors to find that common spirit. we have occasional moments in public square. we have wonderful programs that do that. the people who show up for those are selected in. they didn't need persuading. i believe we have to have more and more intentional opportunities to convert our diversity into that competitive advantage and build trust. the only way to build trust is
to build trust which is to practice doing stuff together with people you didn't think you could do stuff with together and to me that is a great issue. [inaudible] >> thank you all very much for your great questions. [applause] >> you are watching booktv on c-span2. forty-eight hours of nonfiction authors and books every weekend. >> kevin gutzman recounts the legislative career of james madison. mr. gutzman contends madison's political life was complicated and marked by his contrarian ideas about the need for the bill of rights and the failings of the u.s. constitution. two document the assisted in drafting. and his thoughts on the negative impact of political parties.
>> good evening. i intend tonight to discuss one of the most overlooked elements of james madison's career or perhaps i should say underemphasized elements of james madison's career. one reason why it doesn't get the emphasis it should get is in other areas of his political life, madison self-conscious least good in the shadow of one of his contemporaries, thomas jefferson. for example, madison is often seen as a lieutenant of jefferson's who claimed credit for drafting the statute for religious freedom adopted by the virginia general assembly in 1786 and in fact jefferson was wise enough or perhaps we should say machiavellian enough to sketched his own grave stone on which he said he wanted it included, statements that he was
the author of the declaration of independence and other statutes for religious freedom. besides father of the university of virginia. this is commonly the way we understand process that led to the establishment of a secular government in the old dominion. but i think -- if you think about it you realize jefferson was claiming credit for something for which madison should get the law is, not he. and the reason is most commonly when we discussed a particular legal enactments we credit the politician which was the fellow who moved it through the legislature or the chief executive who stressed that that was a leading element of this program. so far for example when comes to the voting rights act of 1965 we don't say which obscure attorney on the senate judiciary staff wrote the actual language of the voting rights act. what we say is which politician
was the fellow who pushed to that. so lyndon johnson tends to get the credit for it even though he had nothing to do with the actual drafting of the act. in 1777 is true that jefferson drafted the bill. he tried to get it adopted, he failed. he was nine years absent from the legislature at the point when madison picked it up and pushed it to adoption. this, i think, the fact that jefferson claimed credit for it and madison never complained about that tells us something significant about madison's political personality. his personality generally. but i think that the establishment of this principle of secular government in his home state, virginia, was despite the fact he took the lead in several extremely
important developments in early american politics, most significant of madison's achievements. before i go on let me say a quick thank you to deborah hirsch, the midtown library for having me tonight. happy to be here. it was nice of them to make preparations that were necessary here. i am really thrilled to present this talk to you. madison's insistence on the principle of secular government can't be understood if divorced from his own experience through his childhood and early adulthood. in order to get an idea where madison first became convinced that virginia should be the first polity in the world to adopt the principle of secular government we have to go back to his decision which he took in his late teens where he would go