EP 554 Crisis A Crucible for Leadership



As our nation careens from crisis to crisis and trust in institutions fades, Americans are looking for fresh, visionary leadership. As we have seen the courage and exemplary leadership of President Volodomyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine we know that his development as a leader has been revealed through the unimaginable experience of war. In his new book ‘Hearts Touched With Fire: How Great Leaders Are Made’, David Gergen, a key White House adviser to four presidents, of both parties, describes the elusive qualities that define a true leader, through historical example and scholarly research. As director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School, he draws on his vast experience in public life to bring definition to this indispensable trait. Consider his approach a philosophical, how to guide to bringing purpose and direction to human pursuits.


EP 553 Is America on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown?



Regrettably, it’s a fair question. Sufficed to say, the pandemic, political angst, war and personal setbacks associated with all of the above have battered our collective sense of calm and well-being. Americans have seen loss of friends and family to COVID, been isolated for long stretches and brought closer to financial peril. While all measures point to greater mental anguish as a result, the silver lining, If there is one, is that the stigma of mental illness and distress is now lifting and Americans seem more willing to share their fears and anxieties than in the past. This is a big step forward toward healing, according to our guest, Chuck Ingoglia, the president and CEO of the National Council for Mental Well being(the national council.org) The numbers surrounding stress and depression are staggering. A whole new industry of digital care giving has grown up in response during the pandemic. The parity between mental and physical disease is getting closer in the public’s mind. Still more needs to be done to provide for adequate resources to deal with the problem, particularly among our youth and in minority communities.


EP 552 No More SAT’s to Get Into Harvard? Hmm…Maybe I’ll Try Again



Dan Golden, the author of the classic book “The Price of Admission’, which documents how the wealthy and well connected have an inside track on getting into elite universities, joins us again to discuss trends in college admissions.  The optional SAT, a by-product of the pandemic, may well become the norm as Harvard has extended the period in which they are striking that requirement.  Others are beginning to follow suit.  With fewer young people applying to college, because of low birth rates in the recent past, competition among colleges is fierce and we discuss the possibility that some just may not make it unless they offer a unique value proposition.  And we touch on the trend that caught my eye recently.  That being the disparity between women and men attending and completing college.  It startled me and has implications for society at large going forward.


EP 551 News Business Changing in Good Ways and Bad



Jon Marshall, Medill School of Journalism professor at Northwestern University and author of ‘Clash: Presidents and the Press in Times of Crisis’ for a second episode of our podcast focusing on the state of the new media industry as it morphs in response to the digital times.  The two most disturbing trends are news deserts, the growing number of locations across the country, that have no local newspapers and the proliferation of uncurated sites on the internet, in particular, which contain content that is anything but objective.  The difficulty in the case of the latter is determining the reliability of that content.  It requires a great deal of media literacy, which is lacking in any curriculum in our schools.  We discuss waning effectiveness of the newspaper business model, the new approaches, like non-profit media organizations sprouting up, and some new ways of making local media more profitable so that it can serve citizens and, literally, play a role in preserving our democracy.


EP 550 Presidents and Their Relationship With the Press



Clearly, Donald Trump’s relationship with the press was a contentious one as he continually called into the question their legitimacy and the accuracy of their reporting. Often he shorthanded the relationship with the simple handle of ‘fake news’. While many factors went in to making this back and forth particularly destructive in relation to previous norms, the fact that it came at a time when social media allowed the President to circumvent the traditional media made the interaction fraught for exacerbating political polarization. However, we must go back throughout our history to see that many previous presidents also had their skirmishes with the press to the point where things like the Sedition Act and the Espionage Act were invoked against member of the press. The political ideology of a President is less a factor in these divides than the ability of the President to have a good working relationship with the press and an understanding of its role in covering the White House. A good recent example of that was the relationship Ronald Reagan maintained with the press corps. As the power of the Presidency grows it is important to understand the role of the press and John Marshall, a professor at Northwestern University, breaks it down for us in his book ‘Clash: Presidents and the Press in Times of Crisis’ and on today’s podcast.


EP 549 China’s Influence on American Movie making



In many ways, America won the 20th century by making movies that created a demand for all things American–our lifestyle, our values, our possessions and democracy itself.  The impact of film was not lost on China which wants to dominate the 21st century.  In fact they went to school on our film industry back in 2008 and have been building their own in order to inculcate Chinese values with the intent of bringing pride to their own people and exporting their politics and values to others around the globe.  While we have not seen much of their output in the US yet, they have become major customers of our product–to a point.  It must conform to standards and sensitivities in their increasingly controlled society.  And American film companies have grown increasingly reliant on their huge market of moviegoers to increase profits or determine whether a film is worth the budget it may require in the first place.  China’s power to affect Hollywood decisions is increasingly worrisome given the fact that our values as political entities are at odds.  Examples of their heavy hand have altered some of our films already in ways you may never have considered. We discuss this fascinating topic with Erich Schwartzel, author of ‘Red Carpet: Hollywood, China and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy’.


EP 548 The War on Cancer Restarts: Is It Winnable?



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The longest war in the modern era, longer than the Cold War(though that is resuming), has been the war on cancer. Cancer is an elusive enemy since it comes in so many forms that to think of it as one disease misrepresents what scientists are facing. And while President Richard Nixon declared this war on December 23rd, 1971 it is disturbing that in 2022 we are using many of the same tools to fight it. We bombard tumors with radiation, slice apart the distorted cells with varying impacts and deluge cancers with highly toxic chemotherapies. To be sure there are new tools that are being used like immunotherapies that harness our own immune system to fight cancer and targeted therapies that zero in on molecules in a cance, but no one advance has proven yet to be a silver bullet in this war. Joining us today is Dr. Charles Fuchs who oversaw the development of the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale University and was previously professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He, along with Dr. Abbe Gluck, a professor of Internal Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, edited a new book entitled ‘A New Deal for Cancer’, describing the kind of effort required to reboot the moonshot effort against cancer, as put forward by President Biden, so that the estimable enemy of mankind can be conquered over the next 50 years.


EP 547 Status Report on Immigration Debate



 

Why is a nation of immigrants so divided over the issue?  Is it really about the worry that there are not enough jobs for Americans?  In fact, with the number of Americans retiring, plus those lost to the COVID pandemic and the 10,000,000 unfilled jobs in America, we need workers.  Is it really about safety and security?  It’s clear that while some news outlets portray immigrants, particularly from Central America, as  ‘invaders’, the vast majority are here to work or reunite with families and become contributing members of their community.  And while we have had legislation for immigration reform agreed to by members of both parties, years go by and nothing gets done.  Perhaps, there is just too much political capital that politicians get from weaponizing the issue, instead of addressing it.  Today on our podcast Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, and author of ‘Crossing Borders: The Reconciliation of a Nation of Immigrants’ shares his reasoned approach to the issue.  He is a sought after commentator by all media outlets because he attempts to approach the topic in a clear headed way.  You will want to hear his thoughts.


EP 546 U.S. Navy’s Role as Stabilizing Force in the World May Be in Jeopardy



 

 

The waters around the world have been calm for the last seventy five years because America’s Navy has played a crucial role in keeping them open and navigable for countries to trade and build prosperity for a greater percentage of the population worldwide than ever before.  Before the applause dies down about that positive role, we need to be sanguine about the fact that there loom factors that threaten both global trade and peace on the blue waters.  That’s the thesis of our guest, Gregg Easterbrook, author of his new book, ‘The Blue Age’.  Most concerning is the growing naval arms race that is underway.  In 1990, China launched about 3 percent of the world’s new ships.  It is now building 40 percent of the world’s shipping.  At the same time there is a question as to whether America can maintain its ‘forward placement of American power’ around the globe.  Easterbrook explains concepts like intermodal transport which only become important to us when we recognize its critical role in maintaining a functioning supply chain.  He makes critically valuable contributions to our understanding of how what’s happening on the open waters has such direct bearing on our lives here on land.


EP 545 Spying: 21st Century Style



 

 

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We see so much material about espionage on television or in novels, we begin to think that we understand the game.  It’s called spytainment. As entertaining as it all is, this spy craft trade is hard and dangerous work and it has become even more difficult as the digital revolution makes information more abundant, but also manipulable.  There’s now artificial intelligence, quantum computing, social media and the Internet reshaping politics and societies.  America’s intelligence agencies are many and not fully coordinated.  Oversight from Congress is not sophisticated and generally interests the public only when there are abuses or failures, as in the run up to the 2003 Iraq War.  As cyber threats mount, we will depend on good intelligence to block their impact on critical infrastructure.  And these agencies that like to do their work in a clandestine fashion now must share more of the intelligence gathering duties with citizens who have technology at their fingertips that might actually provide great value.  As in all fields, things are changing dramatically in this realm and it makes this moment in history perilous.  Amy Zegart, a Stanford professor and author of ‘Spies, Lies and Algorithms’, joins us to explain what will be required of spy craft to ensure our safety going forward.