The story of America is the biggest, boldest idea in human history writ large and offered for almost 250 years to its citizens, and as a beacon to the world. It's also a story of some of its most central ideals - equality, liberty, free speech - still straining to be realized. And our country's story is also the story of the founding sin of slavery, a legacy that still lives - squarely in the events of our time. Through this season of Dinner at the Square, we'll both celebrate the greatness of the ideals our country was founded on and ask ourselves how we can better live into them. After this last year of deep, heart-wrenching division across race, religion and political perspective - division that seems too often to create civic dialogue that finds the worst in us instead of calling our better angels - we think this is a conversation for our time, a checking back to consider how well we are hewing to the ideals of America, and perhaps a renewed promise to get there.
We began the year with A Conversation with President Thomas Jefferson. In a live audience taping of The Thomas Jefferson Hour, we looked through the eyes of the author of the Declaration of Independence and marked our progress toward a more perfect union. We considered what both Mr. Jefferson and those of us charged with perfecting America today might think is yet to achieve.
"All Men are Created Equal," but not everyone feels they are. Have we gone too far with insuring equality or not far enough? On January 12th in "Created Equal + Breathing Free," we'll examine the straining of the central - and sometimes competing - principles of equality and freedom. Does your freedom threaten my equality? And does my equality limit your freedom? We'll dive into the last year of struggle on racial issues, gay rights and the role of the law, the fourteenth amendment and the court's role in safeguarding both freedom and equality.
Following the broad conversation on equality and freedom and honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we'll bring the conversation home to Tallahassee on January 19th with "Created Equal in Tallahassee," a community conversation about how we are doing in our hometown on issues of racial equality. As we cope with a designation of the most economically segregated city in America and on the heels of devastating violent deaths of our young men in communities of color, we'll talk about how to live into the long-promised vision of our founders that "all men are created equal" - right here in our hometown. You can register for this event now, we'll have more of the details closer to the event.
Finally, on April 19th we'll examine the founding ideal of free speech in "Free Speech in the Age of Political Correctness and Bad Manners," a foundational freedom that isn't always as protected as we might think. Too often bad manners and ill-tempers replace conversations of substance, as free speech seems to have gone to seed. At the same time, our society's reaction to legitimately held and asserted opinion that differs from our own has at time become toxic and damaging to free speech in its own right.
America's legacy is now only ours to uphold. We think we should talk about how we're doing at the job left to us by our ancestors - the framers who imagined our democracy, the black Americans who fought for and gained their freedom, all of us.