Amidst the horror, I’ve been traveling this past week and attending some hopeful gatherings, both virtually and physically. I remotely joined the Hollywood Climate Summit, which lifted my spirits immensely. I made my first-ever visit to the Aspen Ideas Festival, where I was relieved to find that even the billionaires realize there’s little value to a remote, luxury enclave when the air is so choked with wildfire smoke that it’s hard to breathe. I had a memorable conversation with Eric Liu, the founder of Citizen University, an organization that has offered up a set of July 4th rituals to reconnect us with the shared values required by an active citizenry to maintain a healthy democracy.
But my primary reason for going to Aspen was to support the launch of my new PBS series, America Outdoors, which premieres this week on July 5th. Of course I want you to watch the show on TV or the PBS Video app or even YouTube, but I think you’ll also appreciate my conversation with Jenn White of NPR’s 1A, which we recorded during the trip. Our session was titled “America The Beautiful” which is something that can be hard to see right now, but making this show has helped me see it. Our connection to nature is one of the keys to unlocking a deeper connection to ourselves and each other.
Meanwhile, with all the turbulence in our nation, I’m reminded of Valarie Kaur’s December 2016 Sikh prayer: “What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead but a country still waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor?” Increasingly I think the America we’ve known is dying, and there’s a lot of pain and suffering associated with that demise. But that America was never the best version of us. And while there will be a lot of pain and suffering ahead, we also have an opportunity to give birth to a new America, a true multiracial democracy that allows us all to thrive. We have to try. And I can think of no better moment to commit to the rebirth of our nation than the 4th of July.
Happy Birthday, America. New year, new we!
P.S., I’ve been writing this newsletter while listening to Usher’s NPR Tiny Desk concert in Washington D.C. I had the chance to see him at a small concert recently, and he’s one of the most positive, energetic, and talented entertainers we have. Feel your anger and your rage, and make room for love and joy with Usher as your soundtrack.