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Dynamic Dialogue Concerning America’s Next Chapter
By Shanā McClendon

Tavis Smiley is a public figure that has captivated the minds of Americans for years as a talk show host, an author, a political commentator and a philanthropist. He is well known for his “State of the Black Union” dialogues which discussed relevant African American issues with key community leaders. The discussions were aired on C-SPAN and recently the duo teamed up with Nationwide Insurance to bring together a diverse panel of leaders to discuss America’s future in “Americas Next Chapter” (ANC). ANC was broadcasted live on C-SPAN from the Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University. It brought together liberals, conservatives, journalist, political commentators and many more for a lively discussion of what America’s next chapter had to offer. The event was, as anticipated, vivacious and insightful.

The night lent itself to some “shining stars” and among them was John S. Chen, chairman of Committee of 100. Mr. Chen gave an interesting perspective as it pertained to taking America “back” to greatness. Though the discussion in nature centered on the things America was doing wrong, Mr. Chen cautioned us not to beat ourselves up too much. Many of the evening’s comments suggested China would out perform the US in the coming years and we should be preparing ourselves to compete with China on a global scale. Mr. Chen noted that being able to have such a discussion with a diverse crowd and free from fear of oppression is not possible in China. He highlighted the attitude difference between Chinese and Americans, which has lead to China’s success, but reminded everyone that China has its problems too. He said the Chinese people are hungrier for success, but implied that there is type of political and social tension in China, which is not present in the US. He also encouraged America to not only look at Asian countries as competitors, but also to consider other countries, such as Sweden and Germany.

The diversity of the panelist should be highlighted, but it is also what brought mild scrutiny from spectators. When speaking with Mr. Smiley after the show a question was raised regarding the absence of an African American female. The suggestion for Mr. Smiley was to cast an African American woman in future panels: to put a “sista” on the stage next time. In full disclosure, The Intersection also wondered about the lack of representation of young people and health professionals. Nevertheless, the product of Mr. Smiley’s panel discussion may have laid many casting critics to rest. There may not have been a “sista” on the stage, but minority women were well represented by Maria Teresa Kumar, executive director/co-founder, Voto Latino. As a “sista” myself I noticed a moment when I did see a sista on the stage. It comes up in the video segment at 1:34:45 when Maria Teresa Kumar gives her critique of Tea Party leaders.

The effervescent Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University professor and author, sparked the discussion of the Tea Party as he commented on racist elements in the movement. Dr. West resonated the idea that there should be an emphasis on the poor and working class in America if we plan to move toward greatness. He referenced, possibly strategically, Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Dorothy I. Height who focused on the less fortunate as well. He expressed the lack of urgency to help the poor and working class by American politicians and by President Obama as “moral constipation”, which comes from “The right and the good being stuck and you can’t get it out.” Dr. West’s compelling arguments and enthralling cadences have been known to excite a crowd and he did not disappoint his constituents. In fact, he may have gained a Twitter following with one of the panelist: Arianna Huffington.

Another crowd favorite was Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post. Though she expressed her admiration for Dr. Cornel West’s “poetic” discourse, she was not at a loss for witty comments throughout the night. Ms. Huffington is self-proclaimed as a manifestation of the American dream and says she sees it slipping away because we are in danger of loosing the middle class. She sited statics, which report the US as 10th in terms of upward mobility and ranking below France. She proposed taking Dr. West’s ideology of helping the poor and expanding it to the middle class. Ms. Huffington was sure to express her optimism in the American compassion, but warned that America could become a third world country if we do not help the middle class.

The evening was full of fascinating discourse and innovative solutions. The ideas ranged from decreasing government transparency to using immigration as an economic booster. Maria Bartiromo, anchor of CNBC’s Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo; David Frum, speechwriter for former President George W. Bush and founder of FrumForum; Dana Milbank, lead political columnist for The Washington Post and David Brody, CBN News chief political correspondent, made the evening’s discussion very dynamic.

I am honored to have represented The Intersection as an ANC blogger for the event. To Mr. Smiley, PBS, C-SPAN, Nationwide Insurance and the host of other ANC contributors, thank you for all the work you did to make this happen and keep up the good work. Discussions like these help to compose a positive future for America’s next chapter.

January 17th, 2011

Recap: America’s Next Chapter At George Washington University

Written by Bmore Fab 

Locals, students, and concerned citizens gathered at George Washington University last week to take part in,Tavis Smiley Presents: America’s Next Chapter. The three hour discussion was broadcast live by C-span and featured a diverse panel of political insiders that included Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, David Brody, CBN News chief political correspondent, Cornel West, Princeton University professor,  Maria Teresa Kumar, co-funder of Voto Latino, Maria Bartiromo, anchor of CNBC’s Closing Bell, Dana Milbank, political columnist for The Washington Post, John S. Chen, chairman of Committee of 100, and David Frum, speechwriter for President George W. Bush and founder of Frum Forum.

Unlike Smiley’s signature event, “State of the Black Union”, this discussion focused on America’s key issues, like jobs, the economy, President Obama, current affairs, and what we can do overall to make America a better place. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing a diverse panel discuss the issues.  A few of my favorite quotes from the panelist are below:

We have people who are starting their little businesses on Have you been there? They are taking their passions and their hobbies and they are turning them into a way to make a living. … So there is an explosion happening around the country, but we are not talking about it, we are not chronicling it. So I think what we need to do is to bear witness not just to what’s happening in Washington, but also to what’s happening around the country. We need to tell stories. We need to bring these people to prominence in a way that can encourage others to get involved. - Arianna Huffington
“A lot of people thought that Dr. King’s dream was fulfilled the moment Obama was elected, they were wrong, that was only one part of the dream.” – Dr. Cornel West

BmoreFab! with Tavis Smiley
The conversation will be rebroadcasted on “Tavis Smiley on PBS” on Tuesday, Jan. 18 through Thursday, Jan. 20. Click here to watch it now.

Debbie Hines

Debbie Hines

Legal/Political Commentator and Lawyer
Posted: January 17, 2011 11:50 AM
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America's Next Chapter Must Include Jobs And Diversity

Everyone has an opinion about what direction the country needs to take. Recently, Tavis Smiley's America's Next Chapter set out for three hours to discuss America's future and the issues facing us, nationally on C-Span with Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, Princeton University professor, Cornel West, David Brody, CBN News chief political correspondent, Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino and other prominent thought leaders. In case you missed it, it will re-broadcast for three consecutive days on PBS on January 18, 19 and 20, 2011.

Mr. Smiley promised a diverse panel in race and gender. He did not deliver on the promise. He failed to include an African American woman. It's impossible to show a diverse panel without an African American woman's viewpoint. There was no Donna Brazile, Melissa Harris Perry, Gwen Ifill, Valerie Jarrett, or Sophia Nelson or any other black woman bringing her voice to the panel. African American women's voices have historically been excluded. Often, black women are left out of the media loop. Mr. Smiley intentionally excluded any politicians or Obama White House representative. Hopefully, the same was not true for an African American woman panelist.

There were eight official bloggers whose purpose was to moderate the online conversation while present during the live discussion. I was one of the eight bloggers. The top concern facing our country, according to the online discussion, is Jobs, Jobs and Jobs. It's that simple. Runner ups were education and our "broken" political system. Interesting enough, only a few tweeted about the absence of any discussion on health care. Many spoke about jobs are the key to everything. Most spoke about jobs being the number one priority for people in this country but expressed concern that our politicians are not focused on jobs. One man tweeted that 19 months ago, he had 17 employee/contractors to now closing his company. Yet, he still feels hope in rising again. Others are not as hopeful. Some believe politicians are "too busy running the next election to worry about jobs for the middle class folks and poor". Arianna Huffington spoke of the need to move people from poverty to the middle class as we cannot lose our middle class. Someone posted online that's assuming we will still have a middle class. As one panelist noted, the middle class is becoming "the new poor". Another small business blogger noted there's not been enough emphasis on creating jobs including helping small and micro business. She tweeted that "business ownership is part of a solution that's being overlooked'.

The most profound jobs comment on the panel came from Arianna Huffington. "We went from a country that makes things to a country that makes things up". Even with an education, there are no jobs. No one is exempt. Many unemployed persons can't even qualify for unemployment, like recent college graduates. Arianna Huffington spoke of her daughter's college friends, who face an uncertain future, due to the lack of jobs. And I know of recent college graduates, law school graduates and post graduates who have degrees and six figure college debts to prove it, but cannot find jobs. Despite the sad reality facing our nation's job market, there is no sense of urgency on the part of our lawmakers to fix it. Our elected officials have not acted with the same sense of emergency as with the bank and automobile bail outs. They only appear concerned now about keeping their own jobs.

As everyday citizens, we must generate a real sense of urgency to our elected officials. We must move them from talk to action. Social media has led the way on other fronts. President Obama used social media to raise millions during his presidential campaign. In 2011 and beyond, we must use it to advocate for America's urgent job needs. An ongoing social media advocacy campaign is necessary to get the emergency job message to our politicians. It's now on us to lead the way to change. America's next chapter must include jobs and, yes, diversity too.

Follow Debbie Hines on Twitter:

Smiley’s America’s Next Chapter Drove Policy Discussions with Missing Voice.

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Posted by Jeneba Ghatt in Opinion3 days ago
For three hours last Thursday at George Washington University’s Lisner auditorium, radio and television personality Tavis Smiley moderated his much anticipated forum, America’s Next Chapter.  It started out as an intellectual exchange among a multi-ethnic, mixed-gender panel of thinkers, experts, and writers from across the political spectrum, and covered much ground, from the economy, the war, healthcare and immigration reform, to civility in rhetoric and other topics.

Throughout the issue-packed discussion that was at times heated, and always very lively, panelists kept returning to the concept of America’s Exceptionalism — the American ideology that says that America is, arguably, the greatest nation on earth.  Panelists discussed the tenets of this exceptionalism, and explored whether it was eroding on the heels of the nation’s economic downturn.  They even questioned whether America’s creditor and greatest competitor, China, was poised to replace us as the next greatest Superpower.
True to form, panelist and author Dr. Cornel West, delivered fiery, righteous talking points, and did it in a quick-fire manner that poetically flowed off his tongue so fluidly that you would almost forget he was calling into question America’s position as the greatest nation on the earth.

No doubt, the debate  featuring West, Arriana Huffington, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, financial writer Maria Bartiromo, Republican journalist David Frum, Christian Broadcast Network’s David Brody, Voto Latino founder Maria Teresa Kumar, and global trade company Sybase president John Chen, provided much food for thought to millions of viewers who may be wondering whether the best days of this country are indeed over.  Though some may have found the program scattered in its unrestrained lack of transition between subjects, I found it all refreshing because of the variety of opinions espoused by the panelists and the angles at which they chose to approach the topics.  All were comfortable in calling it like he or she saw it.

However, if the purpose of the event was to gather the best minds to frame the issues, provide context, map policy and make predictions about the political outlook for America, it was missing a key demographic:  Black women.  Considering that Black women make up 60% of the 34 million African Americans that live in America; head 45% of households in that group; own nearly half a billion businesses which generate $25 billion in sales annually and have buying power that exceeds $400 billion, $500 billion if you consider that women influence 80% of buying decisions, it was a missed opportunity to not have any Black women on the panel.
Black women make up a formidable part of the United States economy.  At the same time, we often struggle with a disproportionate amount of health issues, and receive disparate and inequitable pay and advancement opportunities compared to our White and male counterparts, yet we still manage to hold families together and provide the glue to keep our community intact.  Clearly, Black women have a very obvious stake the future of this country, and how it is shaped and formed.  There are more than an ample amount of women who could have represented this group, replaced anyone who may have had to back out last minute, and could have added a fresh perspective into the dialog.  If those aren’t good enough reasons to include Black women in the discussion, I would at least think it appropriate to pay homage to Black womanhood during this event, especially since the grandmother of all civilization, Lucy, the oldest human remains ever found on earth, belonged to a Black woman.

I tried my best to intellectualize the void, and pondered whether we are a victim of our own bravado.  No doubt the stereotype exists that Black women have bad attitudes, are divas, are too demanding, too demeaning of our own men, and are too vocal and too opinionated.  Maybe we are too much for a three-hour panel to handle.
Admittedly, that line of thinking perhaps is a stretch. However, it was one I had to make because I’d rather an oversimplified explanation over one that would suggest that we have no value for driving policy and whatever outcomes were expected last Thursday.  It wouldn’t require digging too far back in history to discover the myriad ways that black women drove the agenda, blazed trails and birthed organizations that benefited all races and both genders.

Indeed black women have a vested interest in this type of conversation and when I think of black women pioneers who have contributed greatly to American society, such as activists Dorothy Height and Marian Wright Edelman; authors Ida B. Wells and Pulitzer Prize Winner Gwendolyn Brooks; and politicians Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm to name a few, I think they, we, deserved a seat at the table.

Diverse American voices discuss America’s Next Chapter

by Travis G. Mason on January 18, 2011
in Features,Fresh Nation,Fresh Spotlight,Politics & Policy
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In America, its hard to imagine a television program, social media feed, or conversation that hasn’t been affected by this season of overheated political rhetoric. And, in Washington where 94 new members of Congress, including many from the Tea Party, have shifted the balance of power, some say consensus and civility will continue to be political values of the past. But last week in the Nation’s Capital, Tavis Smiley found a way to revive these two crucial values.

Smiley moderated a diverse panel where the conversation on how America shakes itself from this season of economic downturn, global demise, and local political dis-empowerment was fairly civil. The even greater surprise was that these eight panelists from different political parties, racial groups and philosophical persuasions all agreed that our country’s government is broken.

Most critics of Smiley’s panels believe that discussions don’t solve much of anything. But to Smiley and many others, this 3 hour long conversation called “America’s Next Chapter” is a necessary first step in writing our country’s greatest narrative yet.

Smiley told me before last week’s event that, “My goal is to conduct conversations that are instructive, that are informative and that are inspiring. We want to instruct because we know people are tuning in to learn something. We want to empower people because I believe that information is power. We want to inspire people because I believe that courage is contagious.”

Joining him in this conversation were: Princeton University professor, Cornel West; Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, David Frum; Lead Washington Post political columnist, Dana Milbank; CBN News chief political correspondent, David Brody; Voto Latino Co-founder, Maria Teresa Kumar, CNBC journalist Maria Bartiromo; and, Chairman for the Committee of 100, John Chen.

Smiley kicked off the panel asking whether America is still a great nation, and the conversation quickly turned to the state of our the middle class and working poor. “For me the very notion of a great nation is a bit oxymoronic because I come out of a Christian tradition that says the ‘greatest among you will be a servant to the poor’… greatness has to do with how are your poor and working people doing”, said Dr. West. Teresa Kumar echoed his statements by qualifying America’s care of its poor as just, “okay”.

For Bartiromo, the real enemy to American greatness is not how it takes care of its poor but the state of education: “We are failing… In the U.S. our kids go to school 5 days a week about 7 hours a day. In China they’re going to school 6 days a week 10 hours a day… We need to give people the opportunity to get educated, work hard and move up the ladder”.

Another example of America falling behind was last month’s news that students in China outscored their fellow 15 year-olds across the globe in math and science on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Chen says America’s lack of greatness in this area is due to our attitude. “They [China] are more hungry than us [America]… Chen said.

Milbank took Chen’s point a little further saying that, “We have a crisis of confidence”. He continued, “Yes we have some of the worst schools, and some of the worst education systems in the world. We also have some of the best… We know how to do these things. I think we realize we have the potential within us but we’re stuck… [because] there is a sense that our government is broken.”

Regardless of how Smiley posed his questions for the remainder of the conversation, the three words: ‘government is broken’ rang clear as the major theme.

“One of the reasons that we are where we are is because of the massive deregulations that happened since the 1980s… when government wasn’t watching we worked at our worst instinct, [and] we got greedy,” Teresa Kumar said.

Since 2008, trillions of dollars have been dispersed to Wall Street, while the national unemployment rate still nears 10%. Huffington said, “[The ballout] is still at the heart of what went wrong… when Wall Street was in danger there was an unbelievable sense of urgency… we never had that sense of urgency about jobs… we never had that sense of urgency about foreclosures and that’s what’s missing.” According to Huffington, this lack of urgency is to blame for the anti-government sentiment across the nation and more specifically, it fuels the Tea Party movement. She said, “[they are angry] at the fact that the game is rigged… the game is rigged against you if your a member of the middle class or the working poor but not if your a member of the elites”.
Most expected the conversation to be a sharp criticism of President Obama, but the panel equally placed the failure of government in the hands of both political parties. “There is a sense that our government has been sold to the highest bidder” Milbank said. He continued, “they [Members of Congress] run for reelection perpetually and they are doing whatever it takes to get these required contributions… its not a republican thing, its not a democratic thing.”

The 2012 presidential campaign, mainstream media bias, and global competitiveness were among the other topics discussed during last week’s event. Although the overall conversation was slim on concrete policy solutions for fixing our broken government it accomplished what Smiley set out to do: inform, instruct and inspire.

Exploring the past and understanding the present is crucial to shaping the future. We cannot write America’s next chapter until we’ve had a real, challenging and authentic conversation about its past and present. That’s why panels like these are so important. But these efforts must do more to give everyday people voice to not only ask questions but to come up with collective answers.

Many will finish watching this intense three hour conversation with anticipation asking ‘Where do we go from here?’. In the midst of challenging economic, political, social conditions, Martin Luther King Jr. asked that same question back in 1967 to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Things have changed a bit since 1967, but America still has some big challenges that must be solved.

King dreamed of a world where the races could to solve these economic, social and political problems together -a conversation centered on the poor and one where we could disagree without being disagreeable. In the spirit of his dream, America’s Next Chapter provides an awesome example of world and conversation he fought to create.

You can’t solve the country’s greatest challenges in three hours… but it’s a start.