What It Means to Be American »

The Presidential Practice of Tapping the Moneyed Elite Began with WWI—and Was Surprisingly Scandal-Free

By | February 10, 2017

From our earliest days we Americans have embraced leaders from among the ranks of the nation’s moneyed elite. Voters set the tone when they chose George Washington, the wealthiest man on the continent at the time, as the first president.
But that choice was accompanied by a healthy skepticism of the role of money in the halls of government. As the years went by, recurrent scandals …

Connecting California »

Grow up, Sacramento! It’s Time to Step up to Civic Adulthood

By | February 9, 2017

Are you finally growing up, Sacramento?
I pose that question not to our state government but to the real Sacramento, by which I mean the Sacramento Capital Region. It’s a query that should be aimed at all of the Central Valley’s big urban areas. Are you ready for civic adulthood, Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Modesto?
The maturity of these cities is more than a regional question. The …

Nexus »

To Defy a Dictator, Send in the Clowns and Use Humor as a Weapon of Resistance

By | February 8, 2017

When Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square to protest the regime of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, they brought with them a funny weapon against the guns and tear gas of the military: a sense of humor. They carried cartoons, sang parodic songs, and renamed the central garbage heap after one of the president’s agencies. In the short term, their humor was a powerful vehicle for non-violent …

Nexus »

From Gandhi to MLK to the Arab Spring, Nonviolence Protest Is Portable, But Can It Still Persuade?

By | February 7, 2017

Early in the 20th century, M.K. Gandhi began to experiment with a novel form of political action, which he termed satyagraha. Gandhi first used satyagraha to protect the rights of Indian migrants in colonial South Africa in a series of campaigns over the course of a 20-year struggle. After World War I, Gandhi, now living in India and part of the movement for Indian independence, …

What It Means to Be American »

The Passport Went From an Informal Means of Introduction to a Symbol of American Identity

By | February 6, 2017

It was originally a European tradition, not ours. But in 1780, needing a more formal way to send former Continental Congressman Francis Dana from France to Holland, Benjamin Franklin used his own printing press to create a new document. The single-sheet letter, written entirely in French, politely requested that Dana and his servant be allowed to pass freely as they traveled for the next month. …

In the Green Room »

Hiroshi Motomura, UCLA Scholar of Immigration Law, Aspires to Be a Lead Guitarist

By | February 4, 2017

Hiroshi Motomura is a scholar of immigration and citizenship law at the UCLA School of Law. He is also the author of Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration and Citizenship in the United States. Before taking part in a Zócalo/UCLA panel, presented in partnership with the Japanese American National Museum, entitled “What Does the Japanese American Experience Tell Us About the Proposed Muslim …

Poetry »

They appeared. Then disappeared./ You kept running. #poem

By | February 3, 2017

Sometimes the surprise arrives with four boys dressed as crows
Parting winter streets and a light that levitates cement and palm
After the long rains cease and the air begins its pastel gestures.
You do not know their leather eyes or why their arm feathers
Shed menace over the ground. They appeared. Then disappeared.
You kept running. You did not know how long it would take to
Remember, decades later, you …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

The New California Ferrari Gets Almost Too Much Right About the Golden State

By | February 2, 2017

When I finally got the keys to California, I wondered how fast it would go. So, on the 210 freeway, I floored the accelerator, and within seconds, I was driving 100 miles per hour.
I immediately felt exhilaration—and fear. This speed was totally unfamiliar to someone who has spent his life driving beaten-up Toyotas. In California we like to think we can move as fast as …

What It Means to Be American »

For Refugee Children in Baltimore and Their Teacher, Art Is a Sanctuary

By | February 1, 2017

I am an artist and educator pursing an MFA in Community Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Last year, as part of my Master’s studies, I began teaching art to young refugees. The students were participants in the Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project (RYP), a grant-funded organization that provides after-school programming for relocated kids. They were just a few of the …

Nexus »

In Rome, a New Kind of Sanctuary Rooted in the Humane Treatment of Migrants Provides Shelter Despite Significant Hurdles

The Baobab Experience, inspired by the strong African tree whose long roots can stretch far away and, for us, even across continents and cultures, is the name chosen for a new way of welcoming migrants to Italy, based on empathy and respect for each individual rather than on an impersonal welfare mentality.
I work as an archaeologist, but two years ago the refugee crisis in …