What does it mean to be American today? What holds us together in turbulent times?
In the new 60-minute documentary AMERICAN CREED, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy come together from different backgrounds and points of view to attempt to answer those questions, and investigate the idea of a unifying American creed.
How, ask Rice and Kennedy, have American ideals of freedom, fairness, equality, and opportunity been shaped? How are they interpreted today? Rice and Kennedy’s spirited inquiry frames the stories of nine unlikely citizen-activists striving to realize their own visions of America’s promise.
“I hear more and more people say, ‘we’re coming apart, we’re not civil to one another, our institutions are falling apart’,” says Rice. “In times like this,” adds Kennedy, “we need stories that remind us of the ideals that hold us together.” In AMERICAN CREED, these stories are told from the perspectives of activists who creatively bridge cultural, economic and/or political divides:
In his hometown of Hazleton, PA, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon brings new immigrants and long-time residents together after a controversial local election.
In Oklahoma, Lindbergh Elementary School Principal Deidre Prevett, a dual citizen of Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the US, fights for the struggling children and transient families of many different ethnicities who pass through her hometown of East Tulsa.
Acclaimed novelist Junot Diaz, from urban New Jersey, and Marine Sgt. Tegan Griffith, from rural Wisconsin, work in very different spheres to achieve “the dream of an America where we can be on each other’s side.”
Based in Seattle, Eric Liu brings community organizers together across ideological divides.
By “being open and listening,” Joan Blades and Mark Meckler, founders of MoveOn.org and the Tea Party Patriots, respectively, unexpectedly find common ground.
In the Arkansas Delta, where mechanization threatens agricultural jobs, entrepreneurs Leila Janah and Terrence Davenport start an innovative technology company based on what they see as America’s promise of equal opportunity for all.
Adding depth and context as each story builds on the next, Rice and Kennedy lead a moving discussion of the question at the heart of this film – what does it mean to be American today? – with a group of first-generation college students at Stanford University, where Rice teaches political science and Kennedy teaches history. These students find themselves on an uncertain pathway to full participation in American life; their commentary is insightful and affecting, in surprising ways.
AMERICAN CREED will launch as a primetime special and will stream on WTTW.com, PBS.org and the PBS app, kicking off a multi-year, multi-partner national public engagement campaign, the crux of which is conversation: heartfelt talk and respectful listening among people of different backgrounds, life experiences, education levels, professions, political ideologies, and religious faiths. It is through these community conversations, made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a robust array of partners, that the film will realize its highest purpose: to engage Americans in reflection and dialogue about their own part in the American story, and in acting to shape that story for the better.
The feature-length film AMERICAN CREED will stream at PBS.org/AmericanCreed for the duration of the campaign. A wider selection of short films, stories, and reflections on America’s ideals and identity created by local PBS stations can be found at americancreed.org, with more to be added in the weeks, months, and years following broadcast and launch. Audiences can also find information on local in-person community conversation events around the country. Also included will be a variety of educator resources so that students around the country can experience AMERICAN CREED in the classroom thanks to a partnership between AMERICAN CREED producer Citizen Film; co-producer WTTW Chicago; the National Writing Project; Facing History and Ourselves; PBS LearningMedia; and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate Program.
Audiences are encouraged to share their own stories, ideas, and reflections on the themes of the film on all social media platforms, using the hashtag #AmericanCreedPBS.
AMERICAN CREED is directed, produced, and written by Sam Ball. Senior executive producer and writer is Randy Bean, with Dan Soles as executive producer and Sr. VP of Content for WTTW. The Citizen Film producer is Kate Stilley Steiner. The film is edited and written by Mike Shen. The cinematographers are Sophie Constantinou, Richard Gunderman, Dana Kupper, Garland McLaurin, Jr., and Howard Shack. Visual Effects: Raffi Simonian. Music: Peter Golub. Georgia Godfrey is consulting producer.
AMERICAN CREED was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a nationwide public media education initiative.
Citizen Film is a nonprofit production company that employs collaborative documentary storytelling and story sharing to engage communities in dialogue about important problems and inspire active participation in solutions. AMERICAN CREED’s public engagement plan brings Citizen Film’s nationally acclaimed methodology (supported by funders ranging from ArtPlace America to the National Endowment for the Arts) to scale. Citizen Film’s collaborations with independent filmmakers, grassroots organizations, and civic institutions have been featured at America’s most prestigious venues (the Sundance Film Festival, MoMA-NY, LACMA, the Hirshhorn, the Whitney and more) and presented on television (PBS, HBO, IFC, TLC, Arte, etc.).
WTTW Chicago is the flagship public television affiliate for the AMERICAN CREED broadcast and public engagement campaign. This Chicago station has mounted dozens of successful, nationally presented productions, including 10 THAT CHANGED AMERICA, SOUNDSTAGE, and NATURE CAT, and won five Peabody Awards and numerous Emmys. Its public engagement team will spearhead PBS station relations and conduct robust local outreach in the Chicago area. WTTW is the second largest public television station in the country. Its digital offerings reach an audience of more than million people each month.