Earlier today the Newseum hosted a by-invitation-only panel that brought together an eclectic array of powerhouses. On the stage was opening speaker Dulé Hill (who referred to his former role on West Wing), moderator Tom Brokaw (who led a smooth discussion and even pitched a few jokes along the way), and panelists from columnist Kathleen Parker, Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Newark Mayor Cory Booker to Representative Anh “Joseph” Cao and rocker/budding philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi, to name a few. Ah, the beauty of living in DC.
The event, billed as “Characters Unite: National Town Hall,” was inspired by the USA network’s initiative—an attempt to battle prejudice and promote tolerance—as well as Brokaw’s upcoming documentary American Character Along Highway 50. The show premieres January 18 and, based on the preview they screened today, I for one plan to tune in. (Brokaw traveled to small towns like Hillsboro, Ohio, and Grand Junction, Colorado, to interview residents about their daily challenges living in America; the result looks fascinating!)
Today’s dialogue was rooted in a recent USA poll revealing that 53% of the population believe our nation is still too divided along racial lines. The panel covered most current economic, political and cultural concerns you’d expect, from those on the national level—immigration laws, gay rights and Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan—to those more locally relevant like Rhee’s overhaul of DC’s education system. Though slightly differing views were vocalized, the overall tone was one of collaboration.
Georgetown Professor Dr. Michael Eric Dyson provided some of the most entertaining yet eloquent answers—illustrating one point by reciting verses by Jay-Z and Alfred Lord Tennyson in the same breath. And when discussing the president who “made sexy brilliance popular again,” Dyson praised the “audacious hope” Obama has brought to our country. He insisted that now that we have the hope, we must execute these visions: “Someone needs to go to the Wizard to get a heart.”