How do we contend with climate change, perhaps the most complex and urgent challenge facing the world today? This issue book explores the options and looks at the pros and cons of a range of action strategies, from slashing carbon emissions to protecting our communities to accelerating the shift to a green economy. The book was developed for the National Issues Forums in collaboration with the North American Association for Environmental Education as part of a national dialogue initiative. Over two years in the making, the book is perhaps the most carefully and exhaustively researched, reviewed and tested piece I've written. It reflects the complexity of the issue and the urgent need for informed dialogue and deliberation. For more information (and access to a variety of supplemental materials) please visit the National Issues Forums website.
This issue book explores the economic challenges facing President Reagan when he assumed office in 1980. Millions of Americans were out of work, U.S. companies were struggling, and interest rates and inflation were spiraling out of control. I worked closely with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in developing this educational issue book. It's part of a series of guides collectively titled "Advise the President" that lead participants in guided discussions based on historic presidential decisions. The book explores the tough choices facing President Reagan, choices that would determine the fate of his presidency and the long-term future of the U.S. economy. More info at the National Archives website.
There is a pervasive anxiety in America about the future of higher education. Spiraling costs combined with seismic changes in the American workplace raise questions about whether a bachelor’s degree is still worth the cost. Today’s students accumulate an average of almost $30,000 in debt by the time they graduate. They will go into a job market that looks especially bleak for young people. Many college graduates are unemployed or working minimum-wage jobs. Still more are working in jobs that don’t require a college credential. Some of the troubles facing new graduates can be attributed to the post-recession economy. But there are larger forces at work that are transforming the nature of employment in America—forces that colleges and universities have been slow to recognize, much less respond to. This issue book looks at the purpose of higher education and what our colleges and universities can and should do to address the future of work. It was developed as part of a national initiative organized by Augsburg College and other organizations. More about the initiative on Huffington Post. See also the National Issues Forums.
This book brings together 18 prominent leaders in business, education, sports, technology, and the arts for a series of dialogues on leadership. What's unusual about the collection is that each of the leaders is deliberately paired with someone from a different profession or field of endeavor. The result is a set of conversations that span boundaries, cultures, and perspectives in creative and sometimes startling ways. Jazz great Wynton Marsalis and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi talk about authentic leadership and the qualities of exceptional groups, for example. Education scientist Sugata Mitra and Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International, explore global development and the future of learning. Tech entrepreneur Paul E. Jacobs and Lang Lang, the celebrated classical pianist, reflect on the rigors of pursuing excellence. The book, for which I served as contributing editor, is published by Egon Zehnder International. More info here.
Americans are more dissatisfied with government than ever. While some of the public’s frustration can be attributed to economic anxiety and uncertainty about the future, it also reflects a litany of problems in government—from partisan rancor and congressional gridlock to the rise of big money and the growing influence of powerful special-interest groups. Any one of these problems taken in isolation would represent a serious challenge to our American democracy. But taken together, they make it almost impossible for government to address the short- and long-term problems facing the nation. How do we get American government working for us again? This issue book, prepared for the National Issues Forums, explores the options.
On Collaboration is an essay collection published by Tate, London, that looks at the dynamics of collaboration. It brings together several general essays on collaboration—including a piece I wrote titled "Building Collaborative Communities"—as well as a half-dozen case studies of collaborative projects carried out in the U.K. under the auspices of Tate. As I say in my essay, collaborative efforts tend to be loosely structured, highly adaptive, and inherently creative. As a form of joint decision-making, collaboration represents one of the most promising ways that people, groups and organizations can work together to bring about change, because unlike mere cooperation, they tend to be based on advancing collectively-defined goals. This collection was edited by Marie Bak Mortensen and Judith Nesbitt and published by Tate, London.
Immigration has been a source of America’s strength in the past. But as we work our way out of a tough economic recession and in the face of a growing tide of illegal immigration, some wonder whether newcomers are compromising our quality of life, taking jobs away from those already here, and threatening our security and sovereignty as a nation. Those who support immigration are often bent on helping or employing newcomers. Those in favor of restricting immigrants worry about the growing costs—both social and economic—of assimilating and aiding new arrivals. For their part, immigrants themselves typically want little more than a better life. Whose interests should be served? Can these often-conflicting interests be balanced? Prepared for the National Issues Forums, Immigration in America (originally published in 2011 and updated in 2013) explores these questions and looks at a range of reform options.
Doing Democracy surveys a burgeoning network of organizations in the U.S. that is inventing new forms community-building and citizenship education. Their names vary—some call themselves public policy institutes, others centers for civic life—yet they share a common approach, one aimed at tackling tough public issues, strengthening communities, and building civic capacity. This report looks the state of the network today, how it has evolved over the years, and what it has achieved. The report includes a preface by David Mathews, president of the Kettering Foundation.
This is a book about how to create social change and imagine a more perfect world. It brings together contributions from people like Jane Goodall, Alice Walker, Julia Butterfly Hill, Ben Okri, and about 200 others, myself included. Author William Murtha describes 100 Words as "a testament to the hopes, resilience, courage, and life-message of the visionaries. This is their story. And best of all, their uplifting and courageous stories clearly demonstrate much of what is going right in the world." While pulling together this wide range of positive vision statements, what soon became apparent to him, he says, was the amount of sacrifice that had to be made, as the visionaries fought to keep hold of their dreams and visions for a better future. Taking the road less traveled for those daring to challenge the status quo was far from easy and often involved a great deal of pain, retribution, and self-sacrifice.
Nobel Lectures: Peace, 2001-2005 is the latest in a series of volumes presenting the texts of the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speeches. In addition to the Nobel lectures for the years 2001-2005, the book offers a detailed introduction to each prize, the official announcement of the award, the presentations speeches by the Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman, biographies of the laureates, and extensive notes and bibliographies. Edited with the distinguished historian Irwin Abrams, the book was published by World Scientific under the auspices of the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm. It includes a foreword by Geir Lundestad, executive director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
Based on a year-long study I led for the Harwood Institute, this report looks at public innovators—who they are, how they do their work, and why they are one of the keys to bringing about the change we need in America's communities. Public innovators are stewards of change at the community level. They are not quite civic leaders, not quite community organizers, and not quite social entrepreneurs, but something of all three. Their work is aimed at engaging people, catalyzing conversations, articulating questions and common concerns, and aligning people, organizations, and resources to achieve real impact. The report describes ten public innovators who are making change happen in ten communities across the country—exemplary leaders who are at the forefront of a remarkable wave of innovation taking place at the grassroots level across America.
The Little, Brown Reader, one of the best-known and most respected thematic readers available today, brings together contemporary and classic readings with extensive critical reading and writing instruction and numerous illustrations. The strength of The Little, Brown Reader has always been its distinctive collection of readings and its unmatched apparatus; the Eleventh Edition, edited by Marcia Stubbs, Sylvan Barnet, and William E. Cain, enhances both features, further improving the text's focus on critical thinking and writing. The anthology includes an interview I conducted with writer Richard Rodriguez exploring how American cultural identity is in the throes of a radical transformation today.
This textbook explores the role of language in learning, the conventions of the classroom, the nature of persuasion, the importance of collaboration, the force of gender, the impact of technology, and the power of the image. When students contend with these issues, they see the ways that scholars view them, and enter the academic conversations that shape their college years—and their future professional and civic lives. The book includes an essay of mine on how the Internet is changing our relationship to the local community, for better and for worse.
A Voice in the Wilderness brings together 16 interviews—including one of my own—with writer and naturalist Terry Tempest Williams. Edited and introduced by Michael Austin, the book explores a wide range of topics, including wilderness and wildlife, place and eroticism, art and literature, democracy and politics, family and heritage, writing and creativity and other themes at the heart of Terry Tempest Williams’s work. “Like her books,” Austin says in the introduction, Williams’ interviews “are suffused with the passions of her life—her family, her relationship to the land, her passion for words, and her unwavering sense of courage and personal integrity—and can be read profitably by those unfamiliar with her other work. For those familiar with her books, however, Williams’s interviews are a special treat. They sparkle with anecdotes, observations, clarifications, and even confessions that are not available in any other source.”
Mapping the Political Landscape: An Introduction to Political Science explores many issues that reflect the large diversity of 21st century society. Taking into account the increasing globalization of issues, the book relates classical concepts of political science to differing political and cultural experiences. Mapping the Political Landscape is divided in to four thematic parts: Politics as Discipline, Ideas, Institutions and Change, with a small section of classic and contemporary readings following each chapter. The volume includes an interview I conducted with author Benjamin Barber.
The foundation world is reluctant to openly admit it, but there is a pervasive sense today that community-building projects, for all their good intentions, routinely fall short of their goals. All too often, they fail to tap into vital civic resources and energy, build effective relationships with the public, develop broad-based networks and coalitions, and sustain the commitment over the long haul. What can grantmakers and nonprofits do to address the problem? This report, based on a year-long series of dialogues convened by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change and the Kettering Foundation, looks some practical—and surprisingly effective—strategies. (An article adapted from the report, "Philanthropy and Public Life: A Question of Civil Investing", appears in the Winter 2006 issue of Connections magazine.)
In this collection of essays, seven contributors from diverse fields make the case that ordinary citizens are capable of reasoned public deliberation on matters of critical national importance. Drawing on experiences from the 2003 National Issues Convention in Philadelphia, the contributors show that public deliberation is a sound and practical approach to working through difficult issues, one that can enrich and inform the dialogue of democracy. My own essay for the book looks at the theory and practice of deliberative dialogue—a much-needed antidote to the sort of argument and debate that too often passes for public discourse today. I make the case that unlike other forms of discussion, deliberative dialogue is aimed not so much at talking together as thinking together.
As far afield as the townships of South Africa, the public libraries of Russia, and the town squares, parks and cafes of Argentina, people are practicing the art of deliberative dialogue to tackle difficult public issues. It's a form of dialogue aimed at working through conflicting values and finding common priorities for action. As the case studies in this report show, deliberative dialogue is proving remarkably effective in a wide variety of settings and across many cultures in engaging people, resolving conflicts, and creating common ground for action. The report is based on in-depth interviews with community leaders from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Eastern Europe and describes some of the specific ways that grassroots organizations in ten emerging democracies are using deliberative dialogue to foster civic engagement and political participation.
This is the latest installment of the Gale series documenting the history and social trends of this country during the 20th century. This volume, edited by Richard Layman, covers 1950-1959 when America emerged as a world power, saw its population shift from the farm to the city, watched government challenge big business for the first time, and did little as African Americans continued to lose political and civil rights—the subject of an interview I conducted with journalist and political writer Harry Ashmore on "The Politics of Race," which is included in the book.
The readings in The Writer’s Presence are selected exclusively for the quality of the writing. Editors Donald McQuade of the University of California, Berkeley, and Robert Atwan, Series Editor of The Best American Essays scoured hundreds of essays in search of teachable readings with strong voices and clear points of view. The result is a blend of classic pieces by favorites like James Baldwin, Annie Dillard, and Amy Tan; and fresh pieces by rising stars like Michael Pollan, Geeta Kothari, James McBride, and Daniel Harris. The voices in The Writer’s Presence represent different communities, time periods, levels of difficulty, and fields of study, and the topics intersect in intriguing and nuanced ways, giving readers the opportunity to think critically and develop their own voices. I contributed a dialogue with writer Richard Rodriguez to the book.
In 2002 and 2003, over two hundred prominent academics — including many college and university presidents — joined with civic leaders, public officials, foundation executives and others at the University of Michigan. The goal was to explore practical strategies to promote civic engagement and social responsibility in American colleges and universities. This report summarizes some of the substantive conclusions of the dialogue and outlines an ambitious and comprehensive "Common Agenda" for change. Published by the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, the report includes chapters on "Educating for the Public Good," "Building Engaged Institutions," and "Forging Strategic Alliances," among others. (April 2004)
In May 2001, a group of prominent civic leaders, scholars, policymakers and public intellectuals gathered in Washington D.C. to explore the promises and challenges of community-building in America. The dialogue explored the breakdown of the American community, the crisis of confidence in institutions, and the widespread anger and disaffection many Americans harbor toward the political system and what these developments mean for the future of democracy. Participants included Daniel Yankelovich, E.J. Dionne, James Fishkin, William Galston, Gail Leftwich, Christopher Gates, Margaret Simms, Suzanne Morse, Peter Levine, and Daniel Kemmis. In this report, published by the Kettering Foundation, I summarize the dialogue and discuss its potential implications for the burgeoning civic renewal movement.
One of the most widely adopted composition readers of all time, The Bedford Reader continues to engage and inspire students with remarkable selections, outstanding instructional material, and a unique "Writers on Writing" feature in which 50 of the book’s writers comment on their process and their work. Thorough coverage of critical reading, effective writing, and working with sources guides students, now more than ever, through their own academic writing. And an exciting visual dimension shows that rhetorical methods apply to both images and text. The book includes an interview I did with writer Terry Tempest Williams.
Saga is an anthology of the most innovative articles published in the area of myth and ritual studies by the most outstanding thinkers in the field. Edited by Jonathan Young, this collection brings together new writings from leading authors such as Carlos Castaneda, Thomas Moore, James Hillman, James Redfield and others, exploring the connections between psychology, myth, religion, ritual and storytelling, including: Linda Leonard on "Spirit Animal Guides," Michael Ventura on "Rats from a Sinking Ship," Carolyn Myss on "The Fairy Tale Ending," and Jean Houston on "Mystic Possibilities." The book opens with a lengthy interview of mine with philosopher Sam Keen entitled "Renewing Our Sense of Wonder."
The idea of modern society as a melting pot is taking on new meaning as more and more people form relationships across traditional racial boundaries. The essayists in this anthology provide first-hand accounts of the challenges and rewards of interracial friendship, romance, and family life. Edited by Bryan Grapes, the book is aimed chiefly at students and young adults. My contribution is an essay called "The Face of Tomorrow" that makes a case for interracial marriage, arguing that it's is a step toward a more integrated culture.
Between 1998 and 2001, I served as rapporteur for the Seminar on Higher Education and Public Life, a groundbreaking series of dialogues held in Washington D.C. aimed at promoting civic engagement and social responsibility in American higher education. The gatherings explored a wide range practical questions about how to promote civic engagement in American colleges and universities. For example, what does civic engagement really involve in the most practical terms? What are the most promising examples? What can be done to support such efforts and make them a more integral part of their institutions? To what extent can they be replicated? And what are their broader implications for American higher education as a whole? The Kettering Foundation published four separate reports of mine from the dialogues:
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