A National Service Podcast

Host Ken Harbaugh sits down with policy makers, military leaders, academics, and changemakers for inspiring conversations about national service and what it will take to move our country forward.

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Episode 7: Repairing Broken Trust

| S:1 E:7

Our country is deeply divided and we often do not trust one another these days. Ken talks first with Francis Fukuyama, political scientist and author of the 2018 book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, about identity and tribalism and how we got here.

He then talks with Dave Isay, founder and president of StoryCorps, about how to heal that broken trust through storytelling and listening.

The alumni testimonial features Eleanor Vassili, a former facilitator with StoryCorps’ MobileBooth.

Ken Harbaugh: A service year is a paid opportunity to develop real-world skills through hands-on service. Explore thousands of available service year opportunities at ServiceYear.org/podcast.

Welcome to Rebuilding America, produced in partnership with New Politics. We’re here to talk about national service: what is it, why do we need it, and can it rebuild America? Today: trust and tribalism.

Call it whatever you want - polarization, tribalism, partisanship… Our country is deeply divided. As we explored in the last episode, Americans don’t trust the media, we often don’t trust facts. And as we’ll discuss today, we don’t trust each other.

I’m talking with Francis Fukuyama, political scientist and author, about identity and tribalism and how we got here. I’ll then learn about a nationwide program called StoryCorps that hopes to heal that broken trust through storytelling and listening.

I talk with StoryCorps founder Dave Isay and we’ll hear a testimonial from Eleanor Vassili, an alum of StoryCorps’ facilitator program helping others have and record conversations with their loved ones.

First, Francis Fukuyama. Francis is a prominent political scientist, director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, and author of the 2018 book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment”.

Francis Fukuyama: So I think really the single biggest weakness of the United States as a society right now is its deep deep polarization and I think that the history of this really goes back several decades. It's really not just things that have happened since 2016. I think it really began actually with the Civil Rights Movement when the Democratic Party that had been a coalition of both progressive urban northerners and then a bunch of segregationist southerners embraced the Civil Rights Movement which then progressively led most of the whites in the South to switch over the Republican Party. I think now unfortunately the way that the parties have distinguished themselves is not so much in terms of economic ideology. That was really what was going on under Reagan and the classic “big government, small government” kinds of arguments that we used to have. People are now lining up really over their fixed biological identities. Things like race and ethnicity. So the Republican Party has been increasingly a party of white people and the Democratic Party has been moving in the direction of being a collection of minorities, plus a number of educated cosmopolitan white liberals. That I think is not a healthy change because if you base your party alignments on these fixed categories like race or ethnicity, you can't really deliberate about things or split the difference.

KH: I'm glad you're introducing identity because I want to spend most of our conversation talking about that. But I'm surprised to hear you describe it in starkly biological terms because surely there is a socially constructed element of that.

FF: Yeah, well look. You're absolutely right. So all of what I refer to as biological is actually socially construct ... I mean there is a biological basis for many characteristics. But for example who we consider a black person in the United States has changed over time. It depends on most people in the United States actually are a mixed race of various sorts and how we determine who qualifies as black or white or something in between has been a matter of social construction. And that's a general point that the people that are racist and believe in biological identity are actually wrong. I mean they're pointing to socially constructed ideas that they think are fixed, but are actually very malleable in society. I think the goal that you want to strive towards in a democracy is to make those identities so flexible that they can basically include everybody in the society and not be based on things like skin color or religion.

KH: So your objection isn't with identity groups as a concept, it's the expansiveness of that definition.

FF: Well it's the rooting of that definition again in these fixed categories and I guess the essentialization of them so that you say that somebody's gender or race determines whether they have a right to speak or hold opinions about certain things or qualified for positions. This is the point I think in which this kind of identity consciousness becomes problematic. But certainly there are many forms of necessary identity, including I would argue national identity, where if you don't have a common sense of citizenship among your fellow citizens, you're not even going to have the possibility of a successful democracy.

KH: I think we share the same perspective on how to achieve that and I will ask you about that. But I want to dwell on identity and the politicization of identity in America today, especially as it's expressed now in our populist impulses. Can you talk about what populism has done to weaponize identity and share with us your abbreviated definition of what populism is and why it's a threat?

FF: Well I think that populism has several different definitions. So one is a feeling on the part of ordinary people that the elites are conspiring against them and really do not represent their interests or are working against their interests. It's also a style of politics, so most populist leaders are charismatic and they don't believe in institutions, they believe in personal authority and their personal relationship to the people. Then in the right wing versions of populism that you've seen in the United States and in Europe there's also a difference in the way you talk about the people. So the people are not necessarily everybody in the country. They may refer to the formerly dominant ethnic or racial group and that's the group that you think are the true citizens of your society. I think that populism appeared when it did - largely the timing was triggered by globalization and by the economic inequalities that were created by globalization. You had a whole stratum of people that did very well. Mostly having higher educations, living in big cities, having lots of opportunities to take advantage of this new open cosmopolitan world. And then there are other people that lived in smaller towns and communities or in the countryside that didn't have those same opportunities and for a lot of the American working class, in fact, the last 20, 30 years have been pretty disastrous because as a result of globalization you've had outsourcing of jobs, stagnant or declining wages especially for male workers, and all of that has contributed to this sense of cultural isolation that people who thought that they were at the core of America's national identity all of a sudden see themselves as being marginalized and I think the populist politicians contribute to that by giving them an easy explanation that this is really the fault of foreigners of immigration, of these well to do elites that are working against their interest. And I think that stew is what has created populism, not just in the U.S. but in quite a few other countries as well.

KH: Does identity have to be driven by feelings of victimization and grievance?

FF: No, I mean all of us have multiple identities. We have identities that come to us from our families, from our neighborhood, from our country, from our jobs and professions. And most of those are good and necessary things. The real controversy, I think, surrounds national identity because many people believe that you cannot have national identity without it becoming exclusive or an instance of what I call megalothymia, that you're proud to be an American because you're better than other people. I think that historically there's definitely a link there. It is something to worry about because any group solidarity breeds distrust and dislike of out groups. But I don't think it's necessarily the case and therefore I do think it's important to understand that you can have more positive forms of national identity that are more inclusive and more tolerant and then build the basis for actual social cooperation.

KH: That's what I want your help understanding because is it really the case that any group solidarity breeds mistrust or are there, to the second part of your prescription, are there policies that can engender the faith in a more expansive understanding of identity and even tribalism that brings people together, at the risk of maybe some nationalist appeal. But I'm willing to risk it at this point.

FF: Well, look just to focus on this question of national identity which I think is really critical, there's different ways of doing it. So the Hungarian populist prime minister Victor Orbán stated very openly a few years ago that Hungarian national identity is based on Hungarian ethnicity and that thereby precludes anyone that is not an ethnic Hungarian from citizenship and it also turns into citizens several million Hungarians that live outside of Hungary. I think that's really a formula for a lot of social conflict. On the other hand you can identify national identity the way the Canadians do. They have an actually much higher level of immigration than the United States does. Many more people born outside of Canada living there. But I don't think anybody has accused Canadians of having a vicious, aggressive identity that threatens its neighbors and so forth. It has to do with mounted police and maple leaves and hockey and a lot of other traditions that Canadians can share in. So I do think there is a historical connection between national identity and nationalism, but it is by no means necessary.

KH: So, tradition and history is clearly a part of it. Are there common values that can be elevated and this brings us to the heart of the conversation around service. Is there some ideal that we can elevate through policy that creates an identity around shared experiences?

FF: Well absolutely. So, I think in any democracy the foundation of identity has to be based on political values around the rule of law and democracy. That that's fundamental to your self understanding and I think in America that that's been the case, that the Constitution is worshiped by most Americans as a virtually sacred document, as is the idea that we live under a rule of law. Unfortunately that's been challenged in recent years. But I think that that is the basis of identity. But I do think that you need more than that because if it's just a matter of these formal documents it doesn't give citizens a whole lot that they share in common and I think that the way that real identity emerges, shared identity emerges ,is by having common experiences. I guess this gets into a slightly theoretical issue, but right from the beginning there have been two understandings of liberty in the American tradition. The dominant one is probably the Lockean tradition where liberty is fundamentally understood as freedom from government oversight and tyranny. That's an important understanding because there's plenty of authoritarian governments and authoritarian politicians around the world today. But there's another understanding which is sometimes identified as a republican tradition, not capital R Republican, but republican in the sense of the republics of Venice and Genoa and Florence and the Dutch republic and so forth, in which liberty is built around active citizenship. I mean this is really something that goes all the way back to ancient Athens and to Rome in which citizenship was not just freedom from unjust government interference. It was actually active participation in government. Now in the United States today we interpret this very, very minimally. We think that you have a duty to vote and you need to pay taxes as a citizen, but we don't really demand very much more than that. I think that in the end, especially since paying taxes has become ideologically very controversial, it isn't very much substance on which to ground common experience and common identity and that's why I think an idea of service becomes very important as something that gives more tactile content to what we mean by a shared identity.

KH: Do you think compulsory national service is politically feasible?

FF: Not now. I think that there are libertarians both on the left and the right that are just ideologically opposed to the government forcing people to do that sort of thing. We got away with compulsory military service up until Vietnam. But I think the political pushback against that was so strong that it's very hard to see how you would return to that. I personally wouldn't mind seeing some form of that, but I think it's not really in the cards at the moment.

KH: So if national service cannot be imposed as a universal expectation as a matter of policy, could we create that expectation culturally instead and infer the kind of status on those who serve that elevates their standing?

FF: Well I think we have to. I think that's really the only way forward. So, if you think about people that go into the military in America today they usually come from military families. So usually they've got a relative, a close relative that's also been in the military and in that family there is a tradition of service and service through joining the military. For them it's the right thing to do. That's the way they're brought up. I think one of the big problems in the United States is the children of many families and particularly of elite families have completely lost the sense of the need for service. So they wouldn't even think of going into the military and they would resent anyone telling them that they owed their country something in terms of a year or two of their lives as young people. But that's something that is culturally determined.

KH: Do you think we may be at an inflection point now with the realities of a pandemic, unavoidable and the understanding that low and behold there are some things only government can do.

FF: Absolutely. So I think that this will be an inflection point. So if you get a new administration in 2021 that doesn't have this ideological hostility to government, a lot of things become possible and I think the pandemic has demonstrated that having a permanent expert merit-based bureaucracy is really, really important. The level of incompetence demonstrated by all of the amateurs that have been inserting themselves into this process I think is now painfully evident to a lot of people. This is an opportunity to turn around public attitudes towards government service. I think if you're going to do this properly you have to really remove some of the constraints that make government service unpleasant at the current moment. I actually, this could be the basis of a much longer conversation about the sorts of reforms that you need to make that all interlock with one another. But yes, I do think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change things.

KH: Do you think that might include a realization of this ideal of liberty as being more than an economic ideal, but something that involves as you said active citizenship and what might that look like?

FF: Yeah I think this is actually not just “could it include”, I think it's necessary. You have to have a moral basis for pushing people in this direction and that moral basis begins by changing their understanding of what it means to be a citizen, what it means to be an American. The dignity that is attached to public service. If people don't feel that at the core, then no amount of inducements or pay or other things are really going to convince them that this is something that they want to do, especially if you're a young person starting out trying to figure out what you want to do in life.

KH: One of my favorite sayings of yours is, "Human beings are intensely conformist." Because I actually take great hope in that idea as a vehicle for creating the expectation of service that I think we need to see in this country if we're to rebuild trust, rebuild our institutions, rebuild this idea of active citizenship. What do you think it will take to create that expectation of national service and let me just put one more chip on the table, a year of national service say after high school or after college and the expectation that young people conform to that? Not as a matter of law, but as a matter of social expectation like a rite of passage.

FF: Yeah, well look, it starts with leadership obviously. Somebody, hopefully a president or somebody with comparable authority, has got to back this. But I do think that there's a huge role for civil society in all of this because it's not just something that will be ordered from the top down. That's what leadership is as opposed to power or authority. It's you're leading by example and you're changing the norms and the expectations of people because it's attractive. You've got an attractive idea and that's something I think that needs to be taken up by civil society, organizations all across the country and hopefully it's one that will actually begin to heal some of the partisan divisions because there's an argument on both the right and the left for wanting to restore something like a sense of active citizenship.

KH: Of course the material benefits of that would include a deep pool of talent to help solve some of our biggest crises, an urgent one being contact tracing for example. But it feels to me like you perceive a meta-value which is that redefinition of citizenship, that cohesiveness and how it may begin to address tribalism. How would that look, let's say, in the life of a young person volunteering for a year of national service along with other young people from very different backgrounds?

FF: It depends very much on the specific way that the program is structured. I think that it does have to be voluntary and it has to be based on a kind of competition. So when you say people are conformists, the conformity has to be to a different norm where all of a sudden you see all of your friends volunteering for this kind of service and you realize and the climate of opinion shifts. So it's not what six figure job are you going to get on Wall Street, but what are you actually going to do for your year of service and outbidding your friends to do something that's even cooler and more socially active.

Hopefully that's the way it would work. One of the benefits if it's done right is actually getting people from very different social backgrounds to actually work with one another. This is one of the few places where government intervention really did have a big effect and that is in the U.S. military because the Army is really one of the few places where people from very different backgrounds are forced to work together under stressful circumstances. It's racially diverse, it's geographically diverse and it's diverse in terms of class. So you get- I'm really struck living as I do near Stanford, unless you get your home remodeled or something you never see a working class person. Everybody is a well-educated person with a higher degree and articulate and so forth. But in the military you actually have to deal with people that come from a very different background and you realize, well actually, they've got their own skills and virtues as well. It's also, in terms of our current racial divides, it's one of the few places where it's very typical for a white recruit to be serving under the authority of an African-American NCO or an officer, and in which you see people of a different race in positions of really strong authority where you can't really question them. So ideally if you structure this thing right, you could create civilian environments where this diversity was possible that would open up people to restoring personal ties and links with people that in our current residentially segregated society they don't have an opportunity to do.

KH: That was Francis Fukuyama, on identity, tribalism, and trust. After the break, we’ll hear about StoryCorps - a program you might recognize from their National Public Radio broadcasts.

First, let’s learn about New Politics, the sponsor of this podcast. Listen to founder and Executive Director Emily Cherniack tell us about the work New Politics does to lift up servant leaders into elected office.

Emily Cherniack: New Politics, which is an organization that I founded and now run, we are a nonpartisan organization that aims to revitalize American democracy by recruiting, developing, and electing servant leaders who put community and country first.

We help these outstanding leaders who have served in the military, or national service programs like AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, run for office because we believe leaders who have dedicated their lives to serving our country are the kinds of proven leaders we need in politics.

We think that leadership should transcend "party". So we'll talk to, and consider, supporting anyone who has served and embodies those servant leadership values.

I would say to anyone who feels disillusioned and hopeless about our politics to not lose hope, because there are a wave of leaders coming up through the pipeline who have what it takes to change our politics. These are amazing servant leaders from across the country who are stepping up and answering the call to serve again, and as candidates and campaign staffers and volunteers. Leaders like James Talarico who is a Teach For America alum, and in Texas was the youngest state rep to be elected and he has already done some big wins with bipartisan efforts on education reform.

Or you look at David Crowley who is a Public Allies alum and Milwaukee state rep who, after scoring big wins for his community, is already positioned to even make more meaningful change as the first African American elected to the County Executive in the history of Milwaukee. They embody what it means to put the country first and they are sort of the hope and the inspiration that I feel when I think about the future of our politics for America.

KH: If you’re thinking about getting involved in politics, visit newpolitics.org to learn more about taking the next step in your service career.

Dave Isay is the founder of StoryCorps, an organization that records and circulates oral histories, archiving conversations in the Library of Congress and broadcasting them on National Public Radio. Their mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people, hopefully healing the broken trust and tribalism that Francis Fukuyama spoke about.

That’s always been part of Dave’s goal for the organization, but in 2018, they launched the One Small Step initiative, which more explicitly targets those divisions by bringing people with different political views together for a StoryCorps conversation.

Dave Isay: I think StoryCorps, despite its name, is really much more about listening than it is about storytelling. You think of the Brene Brown quote "It's hard to hate up close." You know, StoryCorps has been around for a bunch of years and it's this very simple idea. We have these booths where you bring anyone who you want to honor by listening to their story, a parent, a grandparent, a friend and you sit across from your grandmother, say, for 40 minutes and interview her about her life. And that interview goes to the Library of Congress, so your great-great-grandkids - that's part one of the mission - can get to know her through her voice and story. And we've had about 600,000 people participate in this process, which is really about reminding people that they matter and they won't be forgotten, that act of listening to a loved one. And we decided in recent years, just to completely break this process that has worked so well. And One Small Step is really about dealing with the culture of contempt in this country across the political divides, which I think is extremely dangerous. The fact that we see people who we disagree with politically as sometimes even as less than human, and we know what that can mean from history, from slavery to Rwanda, to the Nazis who called Jews and people of color Untermenschen, less than human. So we broke the StoryCorps interview process, 600,000 people who loved each other had this conversation, and started testing this new way of doing StoryCorps where we put strangers across the political divide together to have these conversations. People think of a StoryCorps conversation as, "If I had 40 minutes left to live, what would I say to this loved one who means so much to me?" You know that a microphone gives you the license to talk about things that you don't normally get to talk about. So the idea was to put strangers together, not to talk about politics, but just to get to know each other as human beings. Our Hippocratic oath at StoryCorps is we do no harm to people. When you leave a booth, you're better off than when you came in. I know that a lot of your work is about public service. I'm a public service - I did radio documentaries for decades before starting StoryCorps and for better or worse, all that I ever cared about was public service. It wasn't about entertainment. After doing documentaries and loving that for years, I thought, "Is there a higher public service use for audio?" And StoryCorps came to be. So when so much of media is extractive and taking things from people, we make sure that people leave StoryCorps richer than when they walked in the booth. So we've been testing this One Small Step methodology of strangers getting to know each other as human beings for several years, and are just about getting ready to do a big national push and see if we can convince the country that it's our patriotic duty to see the humanity in people with whom we may disagree. Crazy, but you got to take a shot at it, right? Because it's not a good situation we're in right now.

KH: No, it is, we're in a moment of crisis. But I think you are onto something in your description of listening as an act of love. I'm also really drawn to the public service ethos of StoryCorps and the fact that you drew much of your inspiration from one of the original national service programs, the Works Progress Administration. Can you tell me about what they were doing in the 1930s and how that inspired you to take this up in, what, 2003? 17 years ago?

DI: 2003. Yeah, it's been a long time. So when I was a kid, I used to go to the Library of Congress, the American Folklife Center, and listen to the recordings that were made as part of the Federal Writers' Project during the WPA, during the Depression. Of course, Roosevelt created this massive works program and a piece of that was the Federal Writers' Project, where thousands upon thousands of writers and journalists out of work, playwrights, were hired to record an oral history of America. Now, most of it, the vast majority of it, was done on paper. There are folks whose names you'll know who were part of the Federal Writers' Project, Zora Neale Hurston, Studs Terkel. Most of the interviews, 99.9%, were just going to talk to regular people and interview them about their lives on paper. Recording machines were bulky and expensive, but there were several hundred recordings made on acetate disks as part of the Federal Writers' Project. These were artists who went out with these, on the back of a truck sometimes, these massive recording machines recording people in pool halls and on their front porches and everywhere. Regular people. And I started listening to these when I was really young and to me, the soul is contained in the human voice. Many of these were beautifully recorded. And I've always just ... I am just interested in regular people. I've never been interested in celebrity stories, it's just not my thing. So listening to these pristinely recorded interviews just transported me back in time. I felt like these people who were being recorded, some of them ex-slaves talking about what it was like to be in slavery, farmers, every kind of person you can imagine. It's like they're whispering in your ear and the intimacy of that is just so intense and beautiful and magical. That was part of the impetus for starting StoryCorps. One of the first phone calls I made after I had the idea for StoryCorps was to the head of the American Folklife Center where these Federal Writers' Project interviews live and I said, "I have this idea to give everybody the chance in the country be listened to, would you accept this as part of your collection?" And she said those magical three letters, "Yes." One of the things we find now with StoryCorps, we do a lot of surveying of participants and the reason that participants say that it's most important for them to have participated in StoryCorps is the fact that it goes to the Library of Congress. Again, it's us, it's just regular people. There are so many messages that we get from society, that many people get that their lives don't matter. And what StoryCorps says is that all of our stories matter equally and infinitely. They all deserve to be part of American history, and that's part of the underlying ethos that undergirds everything we do at StoryCorps.

KH: Did you ever imagine, when it first began, that we would find ourselves as a nation in a place where storytelling and bridge-building and generating empathy would be critical to preserving the country we love?

DI: Yeah. Democracy can't survive in a swamp of mutual contempt. I don't think anybody could have seen the culture of contempt. And a lot of that is because social media, I think, is doing not such great things to our brains. It spins up contempt in ways that nothing ever has. You know, the great paradox of the time we're living in is that we're in this age of communication and ways to communicate that we never have before. But in fact, in many ways, it's driving us farther and farther apart from each other. So we were in a very, very different situation 16 years ago, and I fear that it's not moving in the right direction.

KH: Well, you haven't even touched on the pandemic. I mean, in a political environment where bridge-building and intimacy is more important than ever to healing, we are denied much of that intimacy because of COVID-19. That presents a challenge I think very few people anticipated. Can you share one of your favorite stories that has come out of the One Small Step initiative and how you see that addressing the problem we both are describing?

DI: Yeah. It's a very good point about the pandemic, that now we're separated through the political divides and we're physically separated from each other. I should say that we, very quickly after the pandemic hit, again in another real veering off of StoryCorps, not from the core mission, but from practically how we deliver the service, we created something called StoryCorps Connect, a special platform that allows people to do virtual interviews with one another and I think has implications for loneliness and isolation and certainly for remote learning. We see a lot of pickup on that and that is going to play a big role also in One Small Step, because it allows people in different geographies to connect with each other and have these StoryCorps interviews. Again, we're testing what it means to do StoryCorps through StoryCorps Connect and make sure that it's healthy and safe for people to do it. The interesting thing about One Small Step is that people who listen to NPR know about the stories that we've recorded that are so dramatic and heartfelt and making people cry, even though most of the stories aren't sad. I think it's the opposite of reality TV. You're hearing people being authentic with one another. In the One Small Step interviews, just the act of two people sitting together, even without saying a word and just looking at each other in the eye and recognizing each other's humanity, that's almost more powerful than the stories themselves. It's having the courage at this moment to listen. It's outside of the zeitgeist, it's not - people can be open to ridicule for having the courage to do that. But I'm pretty convinced that that is the only way that we're going to be able to get beyond the divisions that are ripping at the fabric of our country today.

KH: That was Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps. StoryCorps, while not strictly a national service program, echoes national service in a number of ways. One of those is the public service ethos that Dave spoke about. Another is the way they collect their interviews. StoryCorps has facilitators with one or two year contracts, similar to many national service programs, who go out into communities and record the conversations between participants. Before the pandemic, one way that people could tell their stories was in the StoryCorps Mobile Booth. The booth traveled across the country, managed by facilitators like Eleanor Vassili:

Eleanor Vassili: You would wake up early in the morning and get to the site and set up the booth, set up all the audio equipment, make sure everything was running and then wait for your first participants. You always work with another facilitator and along with just the wonderful camaraderie that you have between that person that you're actually living and working with, you take turns on and off taking recordings. So you record for 40 minutes and then you do a little bit of databasing and entering in the information, preparing it for the archivist. Then the other person, your co-facilitator, takes a recording, and then you kind of just trade on and off throughout the whole day.

We live usually in a space for about five weeks at a time. You're really traveling through the majority of the year, but for really extended periods of time that'll actually allow you to feel your place within that space and that community. You're not just passing through as a tourist. You're not just passing through for a few days. You actually get a sense of - the best way to actually understand a community and have a sense of the people within that community is to hear their stories, is to actually have them come in and share their experiences, share their history, share their memories.

It in a lot of ways really changed my life. I think it made me understand the kind of storyteller that I wanted to be. I think it made me realize that I wanted to be working in radio. I wanted to be working in audio storytelling. And I don’t think if I hadn't had the role of facilitator, and if I hadn't had the opportunity to listen and to record and to archive and to actually listen to people and understand the service that that was, and what that gave people, I don't think I would be in the professional arena that I am right now.

When you're given the opportunity to share something about yourself in that context, when you're asked a question about yourself, it can be a really powerful thing to be given the space to share yourself in that way. It's not like every single person that comes out of the booth has a mind-blowing, mind-changing, life-changing experience from it. But it does offer something really unique that I think a lot of people don't always get in their everyday lives. And that's just holding that space and actually being asked about, you know? Based on how I saw people move through the space and what they looked like when they left the booth, you can tell that it offered something, that it gave something to them. It was an honor to participate in that and to be of service in that space. It really was a service through my eyes. There's just something uniquely special that happens when people are actually asked to share about themselves. Most people aren't asked or interviewed throughout their life. And if you have something that you really want to say or share, it's just a very powerful thing. I hope that it was as meaningful for the people that walked through the booth as it was to me. It truly is a service to give somebody the space to share themselves fully. And it really was an honor for me to participate in. I'm grateful for it all the time.

KH: Next week on Rebuilding America, we go abroad. We’ll talk about a national service program conceived by President Kennedy: the Peace Corps. And we’ll talk about other ways to serve abroad and how those strengthen our country back home.

Subscribe to Rebuilding America to get all ten episodes in your podcast feed as they come out every week. And don’t forget to rate and review - it really helps other listeners find the show.

Are you looking for an impactful way to spend a year? Experience a service year and gain skills and experience while making an impact in local communities. You’ll get paid and most opportunities include an education award to help you pay for school or student loans. Learn more at ServiceYear.org/podcast.

Rebuilding America is a production of Evergreen Podcasts, made in partnership with New Politics. Our producer is Isabel Robertson. Audio engineer is Sean Rule-Hoffman. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.

I’m Ken Harbaugh and this is Rebuilding America, a podcast about national service.

View Less

Sponsors

Recent Episodes

View All

Bonus Live Episode: HOOAH Award Panel w/ Mike Washington and Becky Margiotta

| S:1 E:11
Live-streamed on Veteran’s Day, Ken and the National Conference on Citizenship recorded a panel interview with two servant leaders, Becky Margiotta and Mike Washington, in recognition of the 2020 HOOAH Award.
Listen to Bonus Live Episode: HOOAH Award Panel w/ Mike Washington and Becky Margiotta

Episode 10: The Future of Service

| S:1 E:10
In the final regular episode of Rebuilding America, Ken looks to the future, speaking with Barbara Stewart, CEO of AmeriCorps, and Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles about next steps and the potential of national service going forward.
Listen to Episode 10: The Future of Service

Episode 9: A Breakthrough on Capitol Hill?

| S:1 E:9
Ken talks to two legislators who have made service a major part of their platform - Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois and Congressman Don Bacon from Nebraska - about the potential of national service legislation on Capitol Hill.
Listen to Episode 9: A Breakthrough on Capitol Hill?

Episode 8: Service Abroad is Service to the Nation

| S:1 E:8
Ken talks to Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the 19th Director of the Peace Corps, about service abroad and whether it is also service to the United States.
Listen to Episode 8: Service Abroad is Service to the Nation

Connect on social media or subscribe to our newsletter

Connect