kennedy: the american story is all about individual aspiration and achievement. this is the land of absolutely unlimited opportunity. we can become whoever we want to be. we can go wherever we want to go. ur it's part ofational myth. indeed, no society can cohere or time if it doesn't possess some myths that people believe in common. rice: that's what holds us together, this great american creed at it doesn't mattwhere you. it matters where you're going. it starts with us as americans regathering ourselves around values, experiences, stories, if you will, about what it is to be an american.
: announcer: this program was made possible by the corporation for pu as part of "american graduate: let's make it happen," a nationwide public media education initiative. support for this program was provided by emerson collective, genstar capil, carnegie corporation of new york, thetwilliam and flora hefoundation, the once upon a time foundation, todd wagner foundation, the mckenzie foundation of san francisco, co s berggruen charitable foundation, sand hill foundation, and california humanities.
gs [bicycle bell d girl: i feel like my dad is definitely tr one of thegest forces in my life that has been pushing me to educate myself and take school very seriously. he came to america from poland without any money in his pocket and without knowing any english. so, when i think about it, it, like blows my mind. it was such a courageous thing. ve rice: david and i een friends for a number of years on the stanford faculty, and we found ourselves one day talking about america. as i would travel around the world, the one thing that always attracted people to the united states of america that it didn't matter where you came from, it mattered where you were going. you could come from humble circumstances.
you could do great things. and david, pulitzer-prize winning historian, found that it was this core of the essence of america that interested him, too. as you can see at a glance, condi and i are two different people. we're not the same gender or the same race. we don't worship in the same church. we don'tcaote in the same poli party, but-- other than that... but what we have in common is a shared sense om the fragility of ourn purpose and common enterprise as a people. so, that's what we hope we can discuss f with allou here this morning. i hear more and more people say, you know, we're coming art. how do we keep this tremendous narrative, this ideal going forward, and contending with all of the new challenges that it's meeting? you ha c to understand what tmon enterprise is. you have to understand what the common aspiration is.
ve and, um, i think we'. we've lost sight of it. [train rumbling] [train whistle blows] joe: my grandparents on both sides, when they came over from the old country, a they wanted to improve life for their children, but it was tough. [indistinct voices] [man whistles] my grandpa, grandpa klosek died from black lung. he worked in the coal mines. my mom said he would be, you know, spitting up black, as he was on his deathbed. [car horn honking] my grandpa maddon also began in the coal mines, en e established a plumbing business,
and my dad and all my uncles became plumbers. me, growing up, i did not want to be a plumber, and my dad knew that. my dad would come home fr work. he'd be black from working in a stoker or pulling out some ashes or whatever, literally black. his hands would be black. you could just see the whites of his eyes. he'd grab the glove, and we'd go play catch. he knew how hard it was fomy grandpop. he knew how hard it was for him and my uncles. he did not wanmit to be that hard fo [music playing] peanuts! peanuts! man: it has been 107 years since the cubs won the world series. woman: the right manager could make all the difference. he's got the magic, he's popular with the players, ix and he likes to m it up. second man: welte hope always springsal in wrigleyville. joe: it's all about building relationships.
y asou get to that point ev where ybody feels respect and trust, now we can really get somewhere. [cheering] joe buck: here's the 0-1. i this is gong to be a tough play. bryant! the cubs win thworld series! [loud cheering] [music playing] joe: i think you have to be pretty self-confident. if you don't have good self-esteem, all kind of things intimidate you. hazleton has been challenged
there's no question in tabout it.d, the city itself, the structure ncself has lost its confi you're a coal cracker. you're from northeastern pennsylvania. that's just your identity. ' thers been no real economic boom around here since coal. some days, i don't even recognize the place. there's no streetlights, there's potholes everywhere, and all you hear about is all the tension in the city. wow. get out! get out! illegal immigration is destroyzlg cities such as haon. zl reporter: on mayor louis barletta is now defending the illegal immigration relief act passed by the city cncil. the city ordinance would fine landlords who rent to illegals or employers who hire them.
man: somebody say, "oh, you're mexican. you have to leave from here." e but what about thdiscrimination? because you're white and we are brown? man: tbes ordinance has never about discrimination. this ordinance has been about checking with the federal government to see if a person is lawfully present in the united states. barletta: it's standing up for american workers, for united states workers, and for taxpayers. ha joe: everything been magnified, and primarily the negative sid was being magnified there's so much misinformation going on here. you've got to quell the madness at some point. you've got to put your foot on its neck. the hazleton integration project is trying to help bring together the cultures within our city, the hispanic and anglo cultures.
we want to create a situation where the kids come together, al whether it be academicly, maybe a boxing class, take a yoga class, debate club, whatever. umpire: play ball! we want to create these baseball leagues. we want to get kids playing on the same teams, getting to know one another. you want to make kids friends fast? put them on the same team with the same common al, and i promise you, color of skinlanguage barri, what you like to eat, that goes away just like that. make them interact with one another, because, i'll tell you what, the parents are gonna follow, man. they've got to come pick them up. they've got to come watch them play. and then at some point, ot you'veo start talking to one another. and "i like them. i like this guy. i like this lady. i mean, they' good people." [kids cheering] 2, 3! hazleton! joe: the moment we trust each other, at that point, we can build something.
[marchingand playing] these people wanted to be in our hetown, and now it's their hometown, hazleton. you have this ge up that wants to com and raise families and go to church and attend schools and create jobs. and i really thought if we did not accept the group that was moving in, the citywas gonna die. and the thing that really baffles me that i find kind of ironic me is the sroup of people that are against our hispanic brothers and sisters coming in had grandparents that cameryver from the old cou to hazleton at some point, and when they came over, they were made fun of for their language. they didn't speak theanguage. they dressed funny. their music was weird. what about that food? their kids are dirty.
all that same stuff was...was... their grandosrents had to endure same thoughts. rice: we have to constantly remd ourselves that we are a country of immigrants. i hear some things that are said about immigrants-- you know, "they come here "because they want to take advantage of the...the social welfare system." really? the united states doesn't really have an extensive social welfare system. if you wanted to do that, you'd go someplace else probably, not here. people don't come here because they want to be on welfare. no, they want to come here because they really do believe that they can make le better for themselves and for the next generation. american national identity, from the earliest commentators oit, has been all about freedom and aspiration
and clearing the ground for acevement and the fulfillment of dreams. and we're hesitant to blars any factors beyond ves for the failures that we inevitably encounter. there are instances in amecan history where that mindset, that psychology tually is quite palpable, and, in fact, what happened to my father in the 1930s is a prime example. my father grew up in a working-class irish american family, orand he worked duringld war i in an artillery shell factory in buffalo, new york. this was a very well paying job, so he'd saved a lot of money so, when the war was over, in the early 1920s, he headed west to make his fortune... h and eventually fou way to a start-up mining operation
in washington state at a place called trinity. there was a lot of promise that this place was going to be a major copper-mining facility. w but what interven the great depression of the 1930s. the mine went bankthpt, and he lost eveg. f her felt that he had let himself down, he had let his friends and family down o had encouraged to invest in this place. it broke his life in two, i think, that esode. his sisters later would tell me that as a young man, he was one of the sunniest, most energetic, upbeat people. he was just... he was not a sunny, upbeat person when i knew him. now, at the height of the great depression, there were 13 million people unemployed in the united states,
25% of the workforce unemployed. and any reasonable observer might have said, "hey, wait a minute. "there was a systemic breakdown of some kind. the economy broke down." but the almost univessal psychological rnse that men had to going unemployed was to feel guilty and ashamed and personally responsible for their situation. the promise of this society is not always lfilled, and among the things we need to pay attention to is the gap between the promise and the reality and why it is that some of our fellow tizens have not, cannot, do not, maybe will not ever realize what i will unapologetically call the promise of america. good morning. how are you? oh, i hear that. t we lost t hour of sleep.
good morning. woman: bye, baby. bye. for me, what it means to be an american to is that we get njoy freedom, but with freedom comes great responsibility. it's cold. al i've been princip at lindbergh now for 6 years, and ecan't think of anypl else i would rather be. the kids that we getfu to work with are wondl, and i want to make sure that they feel loved and that we're giving them the best education they can give. so i'm living my american drm. that's...that's to be an educator. hey, gregory. how long are we gonna let this grow? gregory: uh... until it stops growing. en oh, forever, have a good day. in the mornings, i think it's important vi that i'sible, that the parents see me,
and even ifert's just a wave morning, that's, you know, just one step in building our community. [school bell rings] [student]speaking indistinctly woman: today we are going to talk about the early native americatribes in oklahoma. we're gonna make a map similar to the one that we made with our regions. gu yo remember when we did that? ok. we're gonna make one similar to that, only it's goin the native american tribes, the early ones. deidre: oklahoma is a land of native americans. i'm creek indian. this is located in creek nation, and, uh, so it's... it's fun get to see the native americans that come through the door. while we are a melting pot, we can've forget where we'ome from, and we all need to learn about each other's history. the connection beeen my family histor
and where i'm at today is i'm a fifth-generation educator. my dad wa math teacher, and my grandmother was a teacher also. even my great-great-grandfather, moty tiger was his name, as helso a teacher. so, education, i guess, has always been in my blood. the me sage was that education thes and to better yourself. but in the instance of my grandmother, her family also happened to have good luck. they were able to at least maintain some land in indian territory.
they weren't forced off of that land like a lot of native americans were. and then their land happened to have oil on it, ofd that financed a lot heir education. so they weren't forced to live in poverty like a lot of native americans were. what i'm doing now is kind of like paying it forward. what does it mean whenever you hear the word "american"? just the word "american." what do you think that means? well, i think it means freedom. ok. whee does it mean to be i think freedom means they cannot boss you around. they can't boss you around. ok.
deidre: when i look at my childhood, i was very, very fortunate. and a lot of my kids, their families have to rely on welfare. a lot of my kids, one or both parents are incarcerated. i've got a lot of kids in foster care. but we want to encourage our students and let them know that they can go on, they can do whatever they want. teacher: what does it mean to you, nadir, whenever you hear the word "american"? nadir: um, that you're free too decide who you want tcome. teacher: you are free to decide who you want to become. you're absolutely right. as long as you're willing to put in the work, you can be it. ok? happy. ht br deidre: we have some students now that have been to a different elementary school
every two months. ex...spens... their families go wherever the jobs are, or they go where rent is the cheapest. a lot of times, when the kids come in, they're not at the reading level they should be. it's our job to get them there. buusthat takes more thant a 9-month period. we just play it like they're gonna be here for the long haul and some of the kids we see come back, and some we ner see again. have a good one, too. i still love you. but i refuse to believe w that these ki't be better off in their future for wh we're doing now. um, i...i don't want to think that...that they can't be. [school bell rings]
rice: i can't deny that the data show that the united states is becoming less mobile. increasingly, if you're in that housing project, you're not gonna get out of that housing projec and that's a tremenus danger to who we are, who we profess to be, b and who we want to because when you are a country that's based on an aspirational notion-- it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you're going-- it had better be true, because it's the only thing that's holding you together. [singing and clapping] woman: ♪ o i see freedom in the air ♪ choir: ♪ see freedom in the air ♪ ♪ up over my head ♪ up over my head
♪ i see freedom in the air ♪ rice: there are always going to be gaps between a country' 's aspiration and tlity. and so we're always fighting to overcome that gap. we're always trying to get closer to what the ideal is. woman: ♪ up over my head choir: ♪ up over my head ♪ o i see justice in the air ♪ ♪ i see justice in the air ♪ man: while teaching children abou world religion, a teacher asked her students to bring a symbol of their faith to class. they did that. the first child said, "i'm muslim, and this is my prayer rug." the second child said, "i'm jewish, and this is my family menorah." the third child said, "i'm a member of the black church, s "and ts a copy of my family's gospel songbook,
and i also brought a copy of the civil rights act of 1964." and so it goes in america. rice: i think evers ne has to come to te some point with your home and how it's shaped you. congregation: thanks be to god. growing up as a little girl in segregated birmingham, alabama, where you couldn't even go to a restaurant, couldn't go to a movie theater. in that birmingham, alabama, we were still being told, "america is yours, and you can succeed here."
i and hink back, under the pressures of jim crow segregation, with all of these negative signals around their kids about how america did not accept them, that's quite a trick that tho parents pulled off. and it almost always came down to if you could be educated, then you had a kind of armor against prejudice, you had a kind of armor against barriers to opportunity. and so, for black american families, education became the holy grail. [rooster crows] john wesley rice senior, my grandfather, was a sharecropper's son in greene county, alabama. hiemother was a freed slav who had taught him how to read, and he decides llhe's gonna go to coe. so he saved up his cotton,
and ent off to stillman in tuscaloosa, paid for his first year of college, got through it, and then they said, "so, how are you gonna pay for your second year?" he said, "well, i'm out of cton." and they said, "well, you're out of luck." he says to te m, "so, how are thosboys going to college?" w they said, "welt you have to understand is, "they have what's called a scholarship, "and if you wanted to bepre, then you could have a scholarship, too." and my grandfather says, "you know, that is exactly what i had in mind." and my family has been presbyterian-- and by the way, college-educated--ever since. that access to education was gonna change everything, and not just for him, but for generations to come. granddaddy rice founded churches in mississippi and louisiana and alama, and then it was his pattern to found n just a church, but a school.
my grandfather would go door to door and say to parents, "you know, your daughter is smart, "and she ought to go to college, and so i'm gonna get her a scholarship." for granddaddy rice, that was the promise of our cntry, that you can be and do anything you want, but you can't leave others behind. faith matters, family matters... community matters. s that family's tradition. [indistinct voices] i think that an experience that made home very salient to me is a conversdion i had with my grther. i remember remarking that home, or collins, mississippi, was just a very static place.
itlike change didn't happen. and then my grandfather just pointed out the fact that he was born in the great depression, he did not finish high school, his kids finished high school, and i am going to, arguably, one of the best colleges in the nation and the world and that his one lifefetime hasn so much change. when i thk of home, i think of lots of amazing things. in i of the smell of my mom's cooking, and i think of my brother. um, but i also think of a lot of struggles that happened in my home and a lot of negative experiences that built me but also broke me down. l think that what you ve just expressed is that it is crucial to remember who you are, where you've come from, the community that put into you, and ays return to that. maybe america and being american is about bringing where we're from to where we're going and making that connection.
junot: as a nation, you don't know yourself because of what you're doing in the heart of your power. you know who you are and what your values really are by how they play out in your farthest, farthest edges. you know, i grew up at the margin of our society. i emigrated in 1974 from the dominican republic. i had never even seen a map of the united states. i had never seen any photographs. but, you know, the best part about being a kid is that you don't know any better.
i assumed everybody, when they were 6 years old, was pulled up out of their home country and placed in another place where you have to learn english. well, when i think about what it should mean to be ameran, i think of my librarian, mrs. crowell, a woman who couldn't speak a word of spanish k and yet took th who couldn't speak a word of english and made sure that i understood my privileges in the librar mrs. crowell believed deep in her heart that one day someone would walk into her library, some littlir first-, second-, or -grader, who would become a writer. o in the world could not love the public library? it was fair as hell. every single person could take out as many books as the other person, at i was poor,tter it didn't matter that i had an accent. the public library as a concept, this is as american as jazz, man.
as a nation, we need institutions, public institutions, that reinforce our civic society. ai and when all isd and done, if we will be remembered for anything as a nation, hopefully we'll be remembed for that. co junot: munity in new jersey was very, very interesting. i just ran into a friend of mine who i grew up with, and he said it best-- weere like some strange united nations experiment. i was dominican. my upstairs neighbor was african american. my best friend was cuban. my other best frie i would stick my head out,. and there would be dozens of kids. it looked like adults had been raptured to anoer world, because it just felt like we ran the place. to make friends with people across borders and across continents,
ee i just a great debt to it, because those early childhood years structured a lot of my thinking and a lot of my art. the stuff that we did when we were kids, i think that those experiences have continued to reap dividends for me aa person, you know, my ability to connect, my ability to build collectives, my abity to open my space up so that there's a lot of people to co in. for example, 12 of us would all band together, pack, you know, some chips, some water, and would say, "hey, let's go on a trek to cheesequake state park." "well, where's cheesequake state park?" "well, we've got to cut through the landfill, "we've got to find our way over the morgan river, alo we've got to actu cross the turnpike on foot, "and then we've got to cut through the forest "untilg e get to the swimminle.
we'll be backhopefully " in i mean, i'm dog this at 9 years old, because, you know, for all of the stuff that wlacked, um, for all of the marginalization, there was a kind of collective culture, this aspiration that we can come together in a profound diversity and we will make things happen. you know, a lot scholart that one of the things that's occurred in the last 40 years is that we've become more alone, that we've become more atomized, more separated from sort of the...the sort of nourishment of collectives, of groups, of organizations. the nation as a whole seems very addicted to this concept of individuality, the concept of, you know,
d "i'agged myself up by my bootstraps." mo and ye of the forces that act against americans, most of the sort of cruelties that americans experience require collective action to correct them to combat them. that claim that no nation is better at unleashing individual potential than the united states... do 't know. i just don't buy it. i guess i don't buy it. this is a country, after all, that incarcerates, you know, a huge part of its population. and i guess if incarcerating our younacpeople for minor inons is part of unleashing their individual potential, then i guess i got my terms wrong. this is a country that spends so little on education
r the poor, it's risible. thd i think that often idea of patriotism in t us country tends to b turning away, not looking, denying. but i think that there's no greater love of a nation lo than tk for the places where we're not doing our best job. this is the reason why the margins are important, because the people who are at the margins can bear witness to the reality of our nation, can bear witness to what our futu needs to be. for someone to tell me our nation is good doesn't mean anything if it's not coming from e people who are most, ubeing, t by that myth of being good.
kennedy: all peoples want to believe well about themselves. societies that get infected with very bad images of theelves i think are pretty sad societies. and the problem area we've entered into now in our own time is that we've lost faith in our society in all kinds of instituons, and especially in the leadership of institutions-- government, the church, boy scouts, professional athletics, the media, i mean, you name your instution, and we think less well of it today than our parents did. this loss of belief is one of the things that has diluted the feeling, just the feeling of citizenship. [music playing] [crossing bell dinging] tegan: i'll be driving somewhere, and if i see
a tattered flag, it drives me crazy. w like, i want te a letter to target and be like, "your flag looks terrible. do something about it." like, i really... and that's kind of ingrained. go in a heated debate with some idiot wearing the flag the wrong way the other day, wearing it as a cape. we got in an argument in a bar because he was stepping all over it, and i ripped it off of him, and i was just like, "what are you doing, man?" he's like, "supporting america." and i'm like, "by stomping all over the flag?" ou said, it's like people bled for this. i can picture their faces in my head. ke, i can give you a list of names. i always like to say that i could go on a road trip around america, and i'd have a place to stay se in every state bec of being in the military. i love that sense of community. no matter what, we know that we have that common bond of svice. i was 21 when i joined the marine corps. [airplane passing]
my grandpa was in the army. my dad had been in the army the whole time i was growing up. my little brother joined the marine corps ho right out of high , and...i got... i got the bug. there's a picture that somebody took of me waiting for our plane to load to go oversees, d have this huge, you know, smile on my face. i'm like, "girl, why did you take a rabbit wityou to iraq?" deep down inside, i was probably pretty nervous, knowing that i was getting out and doing something that... the heart of what is important to my family, rving the nation during a time of war.
well, i feel like people from rural areas ar know what work and dedication is, and we're patriotic, and, you know, it's... it's common knowledge pl that pthat live in rural areas, for the most part, are not millionaires, unless you have a vacati home. i think that's what lu s a lot of people to join the military. ne it's a great t to serve your country and be able to afford putting foch in the mouths of youldren. this one. looktht that. which one is? that's actually the day i got back from basic training in 1983. oh, you look so young. and, um...erin. erin. growing up, you know, we didn't...
we didn'.t have a lot of money we always felt like the underdog, kicking and fighng. we had to work for everything that we had. and the military was our career path. i mean, it's not like we're e macarthurs or anything. you know, bottom line, you volunteer et go out and be a buatcher or...or be a bullet launcher, one of the two. efer launcher. yeah, prefer launcher, um... obviously, the consequences are...are gve, but... or could be grave, but you... well, just do it. [sirens] l tegan: we re around when 9-11 happened. te we were all ud that one day. you know, some people may have been in texas. some people may have been in new york city. some people may have been in wisconsin.
i was a sophomore in high school when that happened. and it... i really feel like it tugged at the patriotic heart strings of people like myself and like my brother and my dad and my grandpa especially, who wa too old to serve, but, gosh darn it, he wanted to, you know. [music playing] [sirens] en he nation is under attack, you serve. [shouting indistinctly] ou it's not gls being support staff for an attack helipter squadron, d but i know a purpose.
you owed it .to those family members you owed it to those people that we lost. you know, some people are like, "we shouldn't have gotten involved in this. "we shouldn't have done this. we shouldn't have went overseas. look at the cost of humanife." it's like, yes, i get that. i've got it. but remember how you felt that day. you don't join the military in to be ne political party or not. you are a marine, and you can't pick political sides. but, you know, i live in madison, wisconsin. people love to protest. i go out on my lunch break, and people are out there with signs and horns d bells and whistles and just a-hootin' and hollerin' and making all this racket, yelling at the governor on the
apitol, and..' i think it'cool that they do that. [drum beating and indistinct voices] i think the american ideal of citizenip is about service to others, either through military service or volunteerism or advocacy, and it's rereshing to see peopl paying attention to the government, because they bring to light something that other people may have not been paying attention to. and i think that's...er that's really intting. [tambourine jingling and band playi] and even if i do't necessarily agith their opinions, i still appreciate them because that freedom is the fabric of my uniform. you put that uniform on to protect their right to do that. that's what it means to serve the country.
you know, it's like, ok, yep, they're exercising their freedom of speech. my job, you know, is done. on weekend in a month, i go back to my reserve unit. it's the same pple i deployed with the same people i went to war with, and here, ii'm like the veteralass, you know, and if you ask military questions, li i' the subject-matter expert on everything military apparently. but when i go back to my unit that one ekend a month, um, i'm just sergeant legoski, the platoon sergeant. we all have the same mission, the same job. we rely on each other very equally. and i think taking that back here is that we could rely on everyone here in this room, and there isn't just us here. s there'so people outside this room that we can rely on, others who have the same ideals. we are a americans. yeah, we all have our different identities, but togethent i think we kind of o raise the nation up. and, you know, we're not doing this alone.
[bird squawking] woman: all right, candidates. ra if you all please e your right hand... and repeat after me. i hereby declare on oath... all: i hereby declare on oath... woman: that i will support and defend... all: that i will support and defen... woman: the constitution and laws... all: the constitution and ls... woman: of the united states of america... all: of the united states of america... woman: against all enemie.. eric: naturalization ceremonies, when immigrants become citizens of the united states, they are among the most moving things you could possibly attend. [applause]
when you get to see a parade of people who have chosen to make this country their own... from all of these other parts of the world, e and you watch them h that moment of claiming... it gives you new eyes to see what it is that we take for granted around us. [applause and laughter] today this nation has welcomed 20 new citizens into the fold of american life. and as a second-generation ameran, all my life i have wondered what would it be like to be like those of you who emigrated to this country, to make that choice and to make that leap? but also, what would it be like for all of us to have an opportunity together
to celebrate the meanoug and the content ocitizenship? my parents are immigrants. they moved all across a war-torn china during the sino-japanese war and the second world war, and from taiwan in the fifties came to the united states. they both pursued higher education he, and so i grew up in poughkeepsie, new york, in he hudson valley. so it was this real american, uh, dream. it's especially heightened when you are second-generation, and you really can viavalize what it wouldbeen like had you been born in the other place. [singing indistinctly] where would i be had my parents not made it to the united states?
we sit here talking just a couple of weeks after the anniversary of the massacre on tiananmen square. i think about what it would have been like have been a high-schooler in beijing and what choice i would have made. [chanting indistinctly] i had the good fortune to be born american. i can express my political opinion ' and'm not gonna get just scooped up by cops in the middle of the night. [pro sters chanting] and that has really fueled my sense of purpose. the entirety of my life after college has been in public work, either working in government or working to promote political engagement. i want for us, as citizens, to be as prepared and powerful and engaged a literate and ready to participate and contribute as we possibly can.
[applause] wh we're talking about here in the civic context is how we treat one another, w live in community, how we see ourselves as woven into a fabric of relationship and obligation. and that notion is what our broken, fissured, fragmented body politic today needs deeply ze ciuniversity is a nonprofit that works to foster a strshger culture of citiz in the united states. we convene leaders om the left and the rig to come together and learn together and solve problems together. woman: we need to make sure that the people ic that we put in off represent us and our issues. and if they don't, how can we... how can we bring that to light? eric: we have people working on immigration reform o have never met people from the veterans world, who have never met people who are thinking about civic education in a classroom.
and so what citizen university does is simply to stitch this ecosystem tether. eric: should we juset up ar? eric, voice-over: but there's another set of things thatitizen university does that are much more about the culture. me? , it's fun. yeah, all of us. we stand there, and we do an oath together. ng it's taki an oath. hello. how are you? i'm eric liu. because we have a great diversity in american life, you have to ask yourself, ol what is it that hds us together? and what holds us together is a creed, and that creed, to me, is not just a bunch of legalistic principles. that creed operates the gutt at least as much as at the level of the head, and it is truly a civic religion. and so one of the things that i feel like it's really asportant for us to domericans to is just renew that creed through rituals, simple rituals.
av, this is a process we h called sworn again america, and the idea is, if you've ever been to a ceremony where immigrants become citizens and they've got to swear an oath, we thought, well, what if we all had a chance to actually pause for a minute and just swear this oh together? and so i'm just gonna ask you to raise your right hand. i pledge to be an active american... all: i pledge to be an active american... eric: to show up for others... all: tshow up for others.. eric: to govern myself... all: to govern myself... eric: to help govern my community. all: to help govern my community. eric: i pledge to serve and to push my country... all: i pledge to serve and push my country... eric: when right to be kept right... all: when right to be kept right... eric: when wrong to be set right. l: when wrong to be set right. eric: wherever my ancestors and i were born... w borever my ancestors and i were born... eric: i claim america. all: i claim america. eric: congratulations, folks. you are now sworn again. thyok you very much. enjo visit. yes. [cheering and applause]
eric: yeah! ha ha! how did that feel for you all to do that? it felt wonderful! ! did it? ha ha ha that really touched me. doesn't it? eric: it's not just the oath. it's more about renewing our sense that we have a civic inheritance here and a set of values that are worth nurturing. that's the spark of americanness that i hope does not get subdued even in this age of cynicism about what's possible in polits. woman: eric will explain it to you. everybody, get in. because when you stop showing up, you stop participating, you cede the field to the few who would like perfectly to command the field, and they usually don't have your interests in mind. [birds calling] wh part o makes the united states exciting is hat, uh, it is a place in which there's always a little bit of an edge.
you are going to encounter people who are unlike yourself ethnically, economical, politically, this extraordinary coming-together of people from everywhere, from every circumstance, from every religion. what infrastructure is it that is needed to support that? what set of responsibilities and obligations support that? what relationship to what the gornment does and what individuals do? it's a pretty complex story. whenever i talk to people about our common aspirational nrative as being what holds us together, um, they why, "yeah, that' i think, too." to be american is to accept the call of aspiration. to be american is to break with the idea that you are a prisoner of your circutances, and i think to be american is also to accept
that it's not jus about you. you really do need to care about the collective enterprise, too. e and i think the m we lose sight of that in an era of racial and ethnic fragmentation ca and polipolarization and income inequalities, the more things that push us away from that n nse of "we're allis together," that we have a responsibility and a duty to build and sustain healthy communities, not just healthy individual lives, the more trouble we have going forward. [indistinct voices] deidre: i believe, as a nation, we are not living up to our ideals. we need to be concerned with every kid in the nation, not just our own. [kids lahing and clapping] joe: the biggest hope for our country-- that we don't forget where we came from,
but also, at the same time, i'm looking forward to being absorbed into the new tditions or the new rituals or the new whatevers that are brought in by the different cltures. tegan: the marines haven't gotten anywhere doing things by themselves. d i think it would realbehoove c to know you tneighbors and to buiat community. junot: america is something we aspire to. america is a dream. we tend to practice a lot of classism, a lot racism, and yet the dream of an america is still alive, a dream where we can be on each other's sides. eric: america has nothing to hold itself tother but a few ideas, a creed. another way to put that is all we have to hold us together is a story,
and i think one thing we have learned, whether from the righ is don't expect some archangel to come down and descend angive us that story. maddy: if i could ask every person in america, ou i think it be to have everyone have a conversation like this, e whople genuinely put their identities and their concerns about the nation on the table, because i don't think any other time i've felt more amerin and so frustrated wier what it means to be an, but also so proud. [music playing]
announcer: this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting as part of "amer man graduate: let'e it happen," a nationwide public media education initiative. support for this program was provided by emerson collective, genstar capital, carnegie corporation of new york, the william and flo hewlett foundation, the once upon a time foundation, un todd wagner tion, the mckenzie foundation of san francisco, nicolas berggruenaritab, sand hill foundation, and california humanities. ♪ you'reatching pbs.
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