American Creed sparks conversation about civic engagement


Ted Simons- THE DOCUMENTARY "AMERICAN CREED" LOOKS AT EFFORTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO FIND COMMON AMERICAN VALUES. THE FILM'S PRODUCER, KATE STILLEY STEINER, WILL PREVIEW THE FILM TONIGHT AT THE CHANDLER PUBLIC LIBRARY, HOSTED BY ARIZONA PBS. IT'S A MODERATED DISCUSSION ON CULTURE AND THE THINGS THAT UNITE AND DIVIDE US. EARLIER TODAY WE SPOKE WITH KATE STILLEY STEINER.

Ted Simons- THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." WHAT IS AMERICAN CREED?

KATE STILLEY STEINER-IT'S A DOCUMENTARY FILM. IT'S ABOUT WHAT HOLDS US TOGETHER AS AMERICANS, WHAT HOLDS US TOGETHER AS AMERICANS. IT'S A DIALOGUE BETWEEN TWO STANFORD PROFESSORS, DAVID KENNEDY AN FDR SCHOLAR AND CONDOLEEZZA RICE. WE MEET PEOPLE ACROSS THE NATION ACTIVELY ENGAGED UPHOLDING THE VALUES WE HAVE IN COMMON.

Ted Simons- IT'S INTERESTING, THAT IS A QUESTION IN AND OF ITSELF, IS IT NOT? WHAT ARE THOSE VALUES?

KATE STILLEY STEINER- WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR A LONG TIME. ACROSS AMERICA WE HAVE BEEN ASKING WHAT MAKES YOU AMERICAN. ODDLY ENOUGH EVERYONE WE SPEAK TO COMES UP WITH ONE OR TWO IDEAS. WE HAVE BEEN TALKING TO THEM ACROSS THE IDEOLOGICAL SPECTRUM, PEOPLE ON THE LEFT AND RIGHT AND MIDDLE. IT COMES DOWN TO FREEDOM AND EQUAL ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITY. WE THOUGHT IT WAS INTERESTING TO PRESENT THESE CONVERSATIONS OF AMERICANS TALKING ABOUT WHY THEY BELIEVE THOSE ARE SHARED AMERICAN IDEALS. IF IT IS TRUE, IF PEOPLE THINK THAT, WHAT DO THEY DO IN THEIR EVERYDAY LIFE TO SUPPORT IT.

KATE STILLEY STEINER- YET CONDOLEEZZA RICE HAS BEEN QUOTED THAT WE HAVE LOST ASPIRATION. EVERYONE IS IDENTIFYING WITH SMALLER GROUPS, AND WE ARE LOSING THE BIG PICTURE.

KATE STILLEY STEINER- I THINK THAT'S TRUE. WE ARE LOSING THE BIG PICTURE, BUT THE UNTOLD STORY IS THAT WE HOLD THE VALUES IN COMMON, AND BECAUSE WE HOLD THEM IN COMMON, AND BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE WORKING TO SUPPORT THOSE IDEAS, THAT IF WE JUST CHANGE THE FOCUS, AND WE LOOK AROUND AND LOOK FOR THE STORIES, WE COULD SEE IT'S NOT NEARLY AS BIFURCATED A NATION AS WE MIGHT THING.

Ted Simons- WHEN YOU GET STORIES FROM ARIZONA AND ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, WHAT ARE YOU SEEING?

KATE STILLEY STEINER- I SEE THAT THE ONE TRUE THEME OF AMERICAN CREED IS ABOUT CIVIC ENGAGEMENT. HOW DO YOU GET INVOLVED IN YOUR COMMUNITY? HOW DO YOU LOOK ACROSS DIVIDES, WHATEVER THEY MAY BE OR ARE PERCEIVED TO BE TO SEE PEOPLE SAYING WHAT YOU ARE SAYING BUT YOU DON'T RECOGNIZE THEM?

Ted Simons- HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE THEM? THERE ARE ACTIVISTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. THEY ARE THERE. THEY ARE DOING STUFF. HOW DO YOU KEEP THOSE NOT AS ENGAGED OR OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, IF YOU WILL, TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, AND WHAT THEY ARE SAYING IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE TOO.

KATE STILLEY STEINER- THE FILM FOLLOWS ACTIVISTS ACROSS THE NATION. ONE IS JOE MADDEN, THE MANAGER OF THE CHICAGO CUBS. ANOTHER ONE IS JUNEAU DIAZ, THE PULITZER PRIZE WINNING NOVELIST. THEN THERE'S AN ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLE IN OKLAHOMA. EVERY DAY SHE SUPPORTS HER COMMUNITY BY TALKING TO HER KIDS IN HER SCHOOL MAKING SURE THEY HAVE EQUAL ACCESS TO HIGH QUALITY EDUCATION.

Ted Simons- THESE ARE THE SUCCESS STORIES, FOLKS WITH A SHARED EXAMPLE MOVING FORWARD. DO YOU FIND A LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT, MEDIA, AND INSTITUTIONS IN GENERAL, DO YOU FIND IT OUT THERE, AND IS IT GROWING?

KATE STILLEY STEINER- I THINK THAT YOU DO HEAR IT GROWING. I THINK THE SILOS IN SOCIAL MEDIA CONVERSATIONS RESPECT A REAL PROBLEM, BUT I THINK THE FILM INVITES AMERICANS TO GET OUT OF THE SILOS, GO TO YOUR MAIBD MEETINGS, MEET THE PARENTS OF KIDS IN YOUR SCHOOL, LOOK TO REACH ACROSS THE DIVIDE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AND REALIZE THAT YOU ARE SAYING A LOT OF THE SAME THINGS. FREEDOM AND EQUAL ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITY ARE WHAT HOLD THE COUNTRY TOGETHER. IT'S UP TO ALL OF US TO FIND THOSE IN OUR EVERYDAY LIVES.

Ted Simons- IS IT UP TO PEOPLE LIKE YOU TO REMIND PEOPLE THEY ARE SHARED VALUES? THEY ARE OUT THERE AND WE CAN WORK TOGETHER. WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE STORIES, THE ADMINISTRATION RIGHT NOW, IT ALL SEEMS DIVIDED. EVERYONE IS IN ONE CAMP OR THE OTHER.

KATE STILLEY STEINER- THAT'S THE WAY IT'S BEING PORTRAYED IN THE MEDIA. IT'S UP TO ALL OF US TO GET OUT OF OUR HOMES AND MEET PEOPLE ACROSS THE AISLE.

Ted Simons- SO YOUR SAY THERE IS A NARRATIVE PEOPLE JUST DON'T REALIZE IT.

KATE STILLEY STEINER-THERE IS THE STORY ABOUT THE FOUNDER OF MOVE ON.ORGANIZE AND THE FOUNDER OF THE TEA PARTY PATRIOTS. THE TWO OF THEM TELL THE STORY OF COMING TOGETHER IN A LIVING ROOM CONVERSATION. THE TWO OF THEM REALIZE THAT HAVE A LOT OF SHARED IDEALS IN COMMON. THEY DON'T REALIZE IT BECAUSE THEY ARE USING DIFFERENT LANGUAGE.

Ted Simons- BOTTOM LINE, WHEN VIEWERS WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY, WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM TO TAKE?

KATE STILLEY STEINER- I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND IT'S ABOUT CIVIC ENGAGEMENT. LOTS OF THINGS ARE HAPPENING IN MARICOPA COUNTY. SOCIAL COHESION, RESILIENCY ARE HAPPENING IN THE AREA. THE PIPER CHARITABLE TRUST HAS BEEN INFLUENTIAL IN SUPPORTING THOSE KIND OF ACTIVITIES. THEY AND ARIZONA PBS ARE DOING A LIVE SCREENING OF AMERICAN CREED ON THE 28TH. THE IDEA IS TO BRING PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR HOMES TO TALK TO EACH OTHER, HEAR EACH OTHER.

Ted Simons- KATE STEINER, AMERICAN CREED, GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. AND A REMINDER, TONIGHT AT 6:30, THERE'S A SCREENING OF THE DOCUMENTARY AND A PANEL DISCUSSION AT THE CHANDLER PUBLIC LIBRARY IN DOWNTOWN CHANDLER.

Kate Stilley Steiner, producer of “American Creed,” talks about the documentary and how it is able to highlight the values that holds Americans together.

The film involves a dialogue between Stanford professors David Kennedy and Condoleezza Rice. Through the making of the film, they were able to speak with people from all around the country who are actively engaged and how they uphold the values they believe makes them American.

“Most people we speak with come up with just one or two ideas,” Steiner says. “We’ve been talking to them from all across the ideological spectrum. Everyone comes down to freedom and equal access to opportunity.”

Once the guests in the film explain what they think makes them American, they’re asked how they support that idea in their everyday lives. How do you use your freedom? What has equal access to opportunity done for you and how do you help keep that value alive? In a time where the country can seem more divided than united at times, “American Creed” focuses on the values that bring people together.

“I think we are losing the big picture,” Steiner says. “I think the untold story is that we hold all these values in common and people are working to support these ideas. If we look for these stories, we could actually see that it’s not nearly as bifurcated a nation as we think.”

Steiner says that the one true theme of the documentary is civic engagement. She says she wants the film to be the call to action to get people engaged in their communities. If “American Creed” does its job, then viewers will feel inspired to support the values that they hold dear.

“I think the film really invites Americans to get out of those silos, go to your neighborhood meetings, meet the parents of kids in your school,” Steiner says. “Look to actually reach across the divide as much as you can.”

“American Creed” originally aired on Arizona PBS on February 27, and can be seen online at pbs.org/program/american-creed.

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Kate Stilley Steiner: Producer, “American Creed”

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