Talking Union and America’s search for national identity with PBS’ “Story in the Public Square”

Maintaining a shared sense of nationhood has always been a special challenge for the United States, arguably the world’s first civic nation, one defined not by organic ties, but by a shared commitment to a set of ideals. As told in my most recent book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, the task was made even harder by a powerful counter-movement that, from the early 19th century, has argued that we are instead an ethno-state (of the “Anglo-Saxon race” in its initial form) and those who do not belong to the Herrenvolk shouldn’t enjoy the same rights as those who do. The struggle, it should by now be obvious to everyone, continues today.

I had the pleasure of conversing about all this with the co-hosts of public television’s  “Story in the Public Square” — Pell Center director Jim Ludes and the Providence Journal‘s G.Wayne Miller — for this week’s episode of this Telly award-winning show. Produced out of Rhode Island PBS, it is broadcast in 80 percent of the nation’s public television markets, with this week’s episode out now with the peak of broadcasts the remainder of this week (Nov. 30 to Dec. 5). [Update, 12/12/21: the episode is now available for streaming at RI PBS.)

For fellow New Englanders, you can catch the episode on Rhode Island PBS on Sunday, Dec. 5, at 11 am, and Thursday, Dec. 9 in the prime time hour of 7:30 pm; on New Hampshire PBS on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 6:30 am and 1pm (on NHPBS World), Dec. 4 at 12 am (on the main stations) and Dec. 5 at 8:30 am (on NHPBS Explore); and on WGBH World, Vermont Public Television and Maine Public Television (Channel 10) on Dec. 2 at 6:30 am and 1pm.

Iowa Public Television has it on their main stations Dec. 5 at 10:30 am, while Maryland Public Television has it on theirs Dec. 8 at 7:30pm. WETA World in D.C. carries it Dec. 2 at 6:30am and 1pm.  You can also hear it on SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S channel (124) on Sunday at 8:30 am and 6:30pm. Starting next week it will be available for download here.