Despite the disturbing trend toward increased social polarization and weakened civic communication in society, we can still find champions for meaningful, respectful, inclusive conversation in American media–and certainly in values-informed communities around the country.
We need to celebrate these champions, to learn from the healthy and problem-solving interactions they foster. It’s also helpful to honor exemplars of fascinating discussion and debate from the past, whether those exemplars were completely rooted in the real-life issues of their day or gifted as creative entertainers who also saw how relevant–and enjoyable–a vigorous conversation between people can be.
So here’s a shout-out to one of my heroes of genuine curiosity and kind-hearted communication from the past: Steve Allen. This wise, witty genius loved robust dialogues so much that he developed a groundbreaking program for PBS called “Meeting of Minds.”
This show assembled groups of people from different periods of time so that we all could expand our intellects and imaginations by hearing them share their experiences and perspectives with each other. The actors engaged by Allen brought notable historical characters to life so we could listen and learn from their knowledge and, in a dignified setting, discern the best of what these real people had to offer from their own minds and hearts, from the strengths and weaknesses of their humanity, from the triumphant and tragic experiences of their unique points in the world’s timeline.
Enjoy this pilot episode, courtesy of YouTube, and take a look at other episodes. This is a taste of conversation from the past that can whet our appetites for richer, more rewarding communication in our present day, when it’s sorely needed.
I’ve begun tweeting about current voices addressing social polarization–comments I garner from today’s news and entertainment media. I want to help stimulate the appetites of myself and others–an effort I embrace in various ways, including my OnWord.net blog and my When Headlines Hurt book; my tweets are marked with “#WhenHeadlinesHurt.” In honor of my hero Steve Allen and his contributions to a healthy , caring curiosity about others in the past, present and future, I’m adding another hashtag to these missives: #TweetingofMinds.