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Listening to America with Clay Jenkinson

Listening to America aims to “light out for the territories,” traveling less visited byways and taking time to see this immense, extraordinary country with fresh eyes while listening to the many voices of America’s past, present, and future. Led by noted historian and humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson, Listening to America travels the country’s less visited byways, from national parks and forests to historic sites to countless under-recognized rural and urban places. Through this exploration, Clay and team find and tell the overlooked historical and contemporary stories that shape America’s people and places.
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Listening to America with Clay Jenkinson
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Now displaying: April, 2024
Apr 29, 2024

Guest host David Horton of Radford University discusses America’s trees and forests with Third President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson said, “No sprig of grass grows uninteresting to me.” He told his friend Margaret Bayard Smith that any unnecessary cutting down of a tree should be regarded as silvicide, the murder of a majestic living thing. Jefferson wanted future cities to be planned in a checkerboard pattern with every other square permanent parkland. One of his last requests, just months before his death, was that the University of Virginia plant an arboretum. Jefferson’s protégé Meriwether Lewis was so startled by the treelessness of the Great Plains that he wondered if they could ever be settled. Later in the program, Clay and David talk about the origins of the Soil Conservation Service and FDR’s idea of a single endless shelter belt down the hundredth meridian from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Apr 22, 2024

Clay Jenkinson’s conversation with regular guest Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky about the doctrine of nullification. That’s when a state refuses to accept the legitimacy of a federal law. Nullification is nowhere enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, but through the course of American history a number of nullification crises have arisen. When the Adams administration passed the Alien and Sedition laws of 1798 Jefferson wrote a set of secret resolutions for the state of Kentucky resisting those laws, which Jefferson said were worthy of the ninth or tenth century. John C. Calhoun attempted nullification for South Carolina and other southern states in the 1830s, mostly over tariffs, and now again a number of states, led by Texas, are threatening to nullify federal laws they hate--or even to secede if necessary. Dr. Chervinsky has a hilarious response to the idea of Texas or Louisiana secessions.

Apr 15, 2024

Clay Jenkinson joins his friend Dennis McKenna in Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico to observe the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Chaco Canyon dates to at least the ninth century CE, more than a thousand years ago, and somehow their skywatchers know how to observe equinoxes, solstices, and eclipses. What better place to see the solar eclipse of 2024? Administered by the US National Park System, but interpreted for us by a Native Navajo and Zia expert Kailo Winters, it was a magical experience in a sacred place. We came away impressed by the capacity of the European Enlightenment to figure all of this out, but far more in awe of the Puebloan scholars who figured such phenomena out centuries before European science was out of its swaddling clothes. We also check in with our favorite Enlightenment correspondent David Nicandri.

Apr 8, 2024

In this special edition program, Listening to America records in front of a live audience at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, Oklahoma. Clay Jenkinson and Professor of Political Science Dr. Aaron Mason focus their conversation on Thomas Jefferson and his influence on the American West. Dr. Mason is also co-executive director of the NWOSU Institute for Citizenship Studies.

Apr 2, 2024

Listen in on Clay Jenkinson’s conversation with media consultants Luke Peterson and Riki Conrey of Washington, DC. Luke distributed a survey based on our questions about America at 250 and 2,700 people responded. Some survey results are discussed, but also the question of how exactly does Clay or anyone else go out to listen to America? How do you check your own biases? Where do you go exactly and to whom do you talk to listen to America? How do you present what you have learned and in what larger historical context? One thing is certain: all people everywhere are storytellers. The question is how to hear those stories in a way that is useful to the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

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