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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
Our lives begin and end the day we become silent about things that matter.
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~Martin Luther King Jr.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was marked by one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is a gift. And no matter how many times I hear his speech over the radio or on the television, I’m moved and inspired. It never gets old.

But, it’s always nice to have a bit of creative inspiration infuse a classic speech. And this video from SALT retelling the concluding four minutes of Dr. King’s speech does just that. You hear young and old, black and white, male and female recite Dr. King’s moving words in English and Spanish. It’ll inspire you too.

I encourage you to share it with your closest friends and newest colleagues. And, I’ll echo a question put to us by Elizabeth Myer Boulton, the creative director behind the film:

How far have we come on the journey to social justice and what must be done to achieve the dream King so eloquently articulated in 1963?
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My colleague Krista Tippett delivering Stanford University’s Heyns Lecture. The title of her speech: “The Adventure of Civility.”
(via trentgilliss)

My colleague Krista Tippett delivering Stanford University’s Heyns Lecture. The title of her speech: “The Adventure of Civility.”

(via trentgilliss)

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The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.
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Václav Havel, from the Czechoslovakian president’s address to the Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on February 21, 1990.

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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"Vocal Fry" as a Social Link?

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

It was this BIG!Photo by Jeffrey Pott/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0

Wouldn’t you know it. Britney Spears impact on our social culture extends beyond the worlds of music and fashion — and into the language of speech. A recent study in the Journal of Voice shows that more than two-thirds of Standard American-English speakers aged 18-25 are now incorporating what once used to be thought of as a speech impediment into their everyday speech patterns. And young, female adults living in the U.S. are more apt to use this guttural vibration in their normal speech than men.

Don’t know what it sounds like? Listen to the audio sample above. Or, pop in one of Spears more recent hits, and listen to how she sings her lower notes and how it kind of sounds like a series of dry, creaky staccato tones. Yep, that’s it.

But why? The co-author of the Long Island University study and a speech scientist, Nassima Abdelli-Beruh, speculates in ScienceNow, “Young students tend to use it when they get together. Maybe this is a social link between members of a group.”

The I know I’ll be listening to my young nieces and nephews’ speech patterns more acutely over the holiday break!

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In Gabby Giffords’ Voice

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Listen to the first 80 seconds of Melissa Block’s piece on last night’s All Things Considered. And then fast forward to the final 67 seconds of the audio. What a powerful message, a powerful couple minutes of radio. To hear the contrast of the fluid voice of the Congresswoman before her brain was penetrated by a bullet in January of this year, and then witness the powerful will of her language several months later rages with hope.

Now, listen to the full ten-minute piece with Block’s interview with Representative Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, which is bookended with Gabby’s voice. The context makes her readings all the more powerful. Non?

Yes, even those of us who work in public radio are not immune to those “driveway moments” in the darkness of the early evening. What a gift.

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The “People’s Historian”Andy Dayton, associate web producer
Last Wednesday was, of course, President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address. And while coverage of the speech filled up the news cycle, there was another important story not to be forgotten: the passing of Howard Zinn.
Zinn was a renowned historian, activist, and author of A People’s History of the United States, which presented many of the unheard and undocumented stories of U.S. history. Zinn continued to pursue this course throughout the rest of his life, and in a 2008 interview said that he hoped to be remembered for “introducing a different way of thinking about the world.”
Last year a friend invited me to see Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States — one of a series of performances that brought the stories of A People’s History to life through public readings. Rather than bring a troupe of actors with him, Zinn collected an impressive array of local performers, with a variety of different skill levels and delivery styles. Included in the evening were reenactments of Sojourner Truth’s "Ain’t I a Woman?," Maria Stewart’s "Address Delivered at the African Masonic Hall in Boston" and Martin Luther King’s "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence."
But the part I found most stirring was a breathtaking delivery of Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" (you can watch Brian Jones performing the same speech below). On a day that many Americans were celebrating, Douglass delivered a scathing indictment of slavery in America:

"The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”

For me, this memory takes the confluence of Zinn’s passing and Obama’s address from coincidence to something more meaningful. At first, there is an irony in the fact that a man whose life was devoted to telling the stories of the oppressed was, on his death, nearly eclipsed by the first black president of the United States. And, on the eve of Black History Month, Douglass’ words remind us how far we’ve progressed since his time. It also gives a biting reminder of the problems yet to be overcome and the inconsolable history we continue live with as a nation.




(photo: Andy Dayton/Flickr)

The “People’s Historian”
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

Last Wednesday was, of course, President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address. And while coverage of the speech filled up the news cycle, there was another important story not to be forgotten: the passing of Howard Zinn.

Zinn was a renowned historian, activist, and author of A People’s History of the United States, which presented many of the unheard and undocumented stories of U.S. history. Zinn continued to pursue this course throughout the rest of his life, and in a 2008 interview said that he hoped to be remembered for “introducing a different way of thinking about the world.”

Last year a friend invited me to see Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States — one of a series of performances that brought the stories of A People’s History to life through public readings. Rather than bring a troupe of actors with him, Zinn collected an impressive array of local performers, with a variety of different skill levels and delivery styles. Included in the evening were reenactments of Sojourner Truth’s "Ain’t I a Woman?," Maria Stewart’s "Address Delivered at the African Masonic Hall in Boston" and Martin Luther King’s "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence."

But the part I found most stirring was a breathtaking delivery of Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" (you can watch Brian Jones performing the same speech below). On a day that many Americans were celebrating, Douglass delivered a scathing indictment of slavery in America:

"The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”

For me, this memory takes the confluence of Zinn’s passing and Obama’s address from coincidence to something more meaningful. At first, there is an irony in the fact that a man whose life was devoted to telling the stories of the oppressed was, on his death, nearly eclipsed by the first black president of the United States. And, on the eve of Black History Month, Douglass’ words remind us how far we’ve progressed since his time. It also gives a biting reminder of the problems yet to be overcome and the inconsolable history we continue live with as a nation.

(photo: Andy Dayton/Flickr)

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"A New Beginning" with Muslims
Trent Gilliss, online editor

It was awful early for a lot of folk in North America to view President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Egypt. Here’s the full address — a measured 55 minutes that repeatedly emphasized common ground and mutual respect. He hit on a number of key issues, including democracy, Iraq, women’s rights, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, torture, and more. Perhaps not a bold speech, but a solid introduction of his administration’s approach to geopolitical issues.

He quoted a number of verses from the Qur’an, the Bible, the Talmud and the Torah — sometimes in a comparative fashion that emphasized his theme of common interests — and showed respect by saying “peace be upon him” when quoting Qur’anic verses. What surprised me? His incorrect pronunciation of hijab.

What questions come to mind as you listen to his speech?

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Obama’s “Call to Renewal” Speech
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer

This keynote address (transcript here) given by Senator Obama on June 28, 2006 at the Call to Renewal conference has come up a few times in our program — first with Amy Sullivan during the 2008 presidential election season, then later in Krista’s live conversation with David Brooks and E.J. Dionne for "Obama’s Theologian." Now, once more, it’s mentioned in Krista’s interview with Joshua DuBois. Perhaps this one’s worth a lengthy viewing … watch the entire speech here, in 5 parts (parts 2-5 below).

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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Joseph Lowery’s Benediction for Barack Obama’s Inauguration
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

As I was listening to Dr. Lowery’s benediction, I couldn’t help tweeting about how smitten I was with his understated delivery. Rather than placing a surging emphasis on each word, he expressed a quiet dignity with a wry smile and a confident pause. There’s something to be learned by his choice of opening words from the historic anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” his use of humor and, perhaps more importantly, his subtle call-and-response that cleaved people to one another as fellow humans rather than distant observers.

I immediately scoured the scoured the Web looking for a transcript and finally found one by the Federal News Service to complement the video of his speech:

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen!

REV. LOWERY: Say amen —

AUDIENCE: Amen!

REV. LOWERY: — and amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

What did you think? What did you think of Rev. Warren’s words? Let’s discuss.

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