After the flip is a carefully selected excerpt of a transcript from the April 25th Q&A with VP Al Gore which immediately followed a sneak peek of the movie "An Inconvenient Truth". In the interest of full disclosure and impartiality: I have none. I just love the guy. After the Q&A I was able to meet him, share that, and learn that on occasion, he enjoyed visiting Truth & Progress where the transcript is finally posted in full.
:::Hit recommend, and join me on the flip for a carefully selected excerpt.
For some technical reason I still don't comprehend, posting the MP3 of the Q&A nearly shut down T&P so about a week ago I set out to transcribe this 45 minute chat. If you've never done this before, let me just tell you that it's a rather intimate experience. I am a better person for it though, and can easily recite any of what you'll see below. But the more I listened to Al's voice, over and over, the more I could hear his passion, his conviction, and I felt how deeply he cares for our country and planet. I can assure you that "this" is not about Al. How unfortunate for the American tradgedy we all suffered when his presidency failed to materialize. Although this transcript is not official in any way, I'm eager to share this sage wisdom and perspective, tendered by a man who life experience has left uniquely qualified and, in fact, over-qualified to govern.
Keep in mind this is not a speech. These are unscripted responses to random questions. Read the whole thing if you can, see the movie with friends (June 2nd), and internalize his vision so you can be the change you wish to see.
I do believe that our conversation of democracy in America is broken. I think that our democracy has been hollowed out, desiccated, and I think that the nature of the public forum in which public dialogue occurs has been radically transformed.
In the 1780's when the most literate generation in history began a revolution here in Boston and in Concord and then when they met in Philadelphia and when they formed this young nation, they spoke in paragraphs. They were very mindful of the necessity of communicating with an informed citizenry; complex ideas. The Federalist Papers appeared as newspaper essays contemporaneous with those debates. There were 24 other essay series printed in newspapers all over the colonies at the same time. That public forum was a two-way conversation.
Thomas Paine never went to school but he wrote the Harry Potter of the 18th century, an essay called "On Common Sense". And it became so popular because it entered a meritocracy of ideas, accessible to individuals both to take out and to contribute. Now that doesn't work the same way anymore. It's been forty years since the majority of Americans got their information from the printed word. That's when the television took over as the dominant source. And now it's so dominant that even in the internet age, the average American watches four hours and thirty nine minutes of television every day. That's a lot. That's up four minutes from last year. We're second only to the Japanese who watch it five hours a day. And behind us are the Argentineans. And what those three countries have in common is a public policy process that's catatonic and marked by sequential catastrophic mistakes because people are not a constant full participant in the dialogue. The people are informed about Barry Bonds steroids and about NASCAR and about all the sports and about the gossip, and etc. (whisper: Hey we're missing American Idol) But the dialogue of Democracy that was at the heart of the American Revolution and the American Idea is very different today.
So when a complex idea must that be dealt with by absorbing a lot of facts and projecting their implications into the future and then taking difficult steps now in order to protect against those future consequences. When that kind of dialogue is urged upon us today it runs into a head wind of all the trivialities and distractions that now fractionate the public's consciousness. We are bowling alone in Robert Putnam's phrase partly because of the same phenomena. Kindergarten teachers are finding more speech pathology among entering kindergarteners because, they say, the children are not talking to their parents as much because they're watching television. Families are not eating dinner [together] for the same reason.
In other words, here we are with two crises. A Climate crisis and a Democracy crisis. And we have to fix both of them. We can. The internet is beginning to bring changes in the way we communicate and just in time. We have to also rely upon what we have always relied upon, our freedoms, our individual ability to be actively involved in bringing about change.
And we shouldn't, by the way, just focus on presidential elections, because while my party was doing that, the Republicans took over the country at the grassroots level. I believe that this issue is one that must be addressed in its own right for such urgent reasons. But in the process of addressing it I do believe that we will find the ability to see other challenges that now masquerade as political controversies and see them really as moral issues
Let me just close with this.
There's an old cliché about the way the Chinese write the word crisis. They use two symbols in tandem. The first by itself means danger. The second means opportunity. Our word just conveys usually the danger part of it but there is tremendous opportunity in rising to meet this crisis. The danger is real and unprecedented and breaking through America's category five denial involves communicating clearly what the danger really is. But is equally important, maybe more important, once that wall of denial is broken so that light flows through it, to convey what that opportunity is. And the opportunity is not just to build much better technologies and have new jobs and higher incomes and new economic opportunities. All of those things are real. But there is another opportunity that larger than all of those. And it is this.
Few generations have the opportunity to have a shared moral purpose. A focus that is worthy enough to empower us to put aside more of the bitterness and bickering that we are vulnerable to getting bound up in and lost in. The generation of my parents was called "The Greatest Generation" because they had such a moral challenge from fascism in the Pacific and the Atlantic. They rose to meet that challenge successfully. And here's what happened. When they did they gained a moral vision and the ability to put in place the Marshall Plan and to convince the taxpayers to pay for it. Seriously. And to launch the United Nations and to lay the foundation for what became fifty years of peace and prosperity. We coasted for a long time. That vision articulated by Omar Graveley for one who said, "It's time we steered by the light of the stars and not by the lights of each passing ship." That vision came from the opportunity they had after rising to meet that challenge to see clearly what was happening.
Now here we are, and we have HIVAIDS and twenty million orphans on the continent of Africa alone and we have famines, incipient famines, and grinding poverty, and tens of millions of deaths from easily preventable diseases. And a series of economic and environmental crises and extinction crises and all of these now masquerade as political conundrums. You say, "Oh it's just so tough. It's so hard to deal with."
As we rise to meet this challenge successfully we will gain the moral vision to see other challenges for what they really are. Moral issues, ethical issues, spiritual issues with accessible solutions if we have the will to do it. And as I said, the only thing we need is political will and that is a renewable resource.
Thank you for coming.
No, VP Al Gore, Thank YOU.