By Clifton Parker
What is our national character as Americans? Has it been lost?
That question begs a larger dialogue that begins later this month when PBS airs a new documentary—”American Creed”—inspired by political scientist Condoleezza Rice and historian David Kennedy. The two serve as hosts for the documentary, which originated with classroom discussions with Stanford students.
On Feb. 15, Rice and Kennedy joined more than 200 students, faculty and staff for a preview of the film in Hauck Auditorium. In the Bay Area, “American Creed” can be viewed at 9 p.m. on Feb 27 on KQED.
The idea behind “American Creed” is to determine whether the United States has a “national character”—and, if so, what defines it and how it changes over time. For example, what does being a citizen mean, how do economic booms and busts shape the national character and what happens to our creed when social mobility declines along with trust in American institutions?
As the film opens, Rice says, “It starts with us as Americans.” Soon, she and Kennedy are shown leading a Stanford class with students talking about hopes, realities and how they and their families seek dreams amid obstacles.
Kennedy said he and Rice shared a “sense of the fragility” of the American creed as a “prize.” Rice said America is a country where “political opposites can bridge divides” and bond together to a common sense of what Americans are trying to achieve. But she added, “I think we’ve lost sight of it.”
To regain that belief, the film emphasizes what Rice calls, “America’s aspirational narrative—the striving to do and be better that has always drawn people to this country.”
During their talk, Rice and Kennedy offered that once people realize how much they have in common, the American creed is shared and realized. Rice spoke of understanding our “collective enterprise” while acknowledging people are different. Kennedy talked about understanding that “we’re all in this together.”
Learn more about “American Creed.”