Lights, camera, OZY! We’re immensely pleased to welcome Ken Burns to curate today’s Presidential Daily Brief. Burns, the most acclaimed documentary filmmaker of his time, is known for historical films that look hard at American history. His latest with co-director Artemis Joukowsky, Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War, airs on PBS on September 20. Burns’s films have won dozens of major awards, including 14 Emmys and two Oscar nominations. Today he joins the ranks of past curators like Karl Rove, Gwen Ifill and Tony Blair to share his take on today’s must-know news and trends.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s never too late. More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, school integration remains an elusive goal. The gap between America’s ideals and reality seems to have been baked into its DNA since its founding, when a man who owned slaves wrote that “all men are created equal.” But we can’t give up relentless pursuit of those ideals, and U.S. Education Secretary John King is a case in point. With just four months left in office, he’s making a new push for school integration — based on providing support for parents who choose diverse schools.
The conflict goes deeper than it might seem. Over the past few weeks, the standoff by Native Americans protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline has captured the nation’s attention. But for the thousands of tribal members from across the country who have convened in North Dakota, the issue goes far deeper than the pipeline or access to water. As critically important as those issues are, this struggle’s about addressing an entire history of agreements to protect Native lands. The Obama administration has temporarily halted pipeline construction for further consideration of the parties’ concerns.
For once, sea life has the right of way. This month, a groundbreaking agreement between Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica made headway in protecting some of the most biodiverse ocean waters on Earth. The agreement acknowledged that habitats do not conform to political boundaries. The three nations exchanged nautical charts and knowledge — and created massive natural reserves according to the movements of marine life across national waters. Increasingly, we are recognizing that there are natural corridors and highways that don’t conform to our man-made ones — and bending accordingly.
Know This: An improvised explosive device in Manhattan injured 29 people last night — and police found a second device just blocks away. An army base in Kashmir lost 17 soldiers to a deadly attack. And the Paralympics is mourning 48-year-old Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad, who crashed and died during a racing event.
Many people are inclined to dismiss Donald Trump. He’s bombastic, prone to lies and clearly unprepared. But no one should dismiss the concerns of the people of Paris, Kentucky, one of many communities devastated by the fall of the coal economy. Residents have good reason to feel abandoned, both in terms of policy and politicians’ tone. Condescension — often the vernacular of political elites and the media — simply reinforces their grievances. It will be a difficult road, but the next president must take decisive steps to mend America’s class divide.
Sometimes, the swamps have secrets, and this one is a doozy. Archaeologists in the United States are finally learning more about long-neglected “maroon” societies — isolated colonies of runaway slaves — that existed for hundreds of years deep in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and Virginia. Though the vast swamp is thick with mosquitoes and rattlesnakes, many ex-slaves thrived in maroon communities, free from oppressive masters. The discoveries upend a lingering conventional narrative that slaves lacked a drive towards self-determination and depended on white Underground Railroad rescuers to make it to freedom.
Simplicity unleashes the imagination. As a kid I was obsessed with an old camera my dad gave me, shooting everything with it: That camera no doubt led me to Hampshire College to study with legendary photographer Jerome Liebling. Which is to say that gadgets are fine — God knows we use a lot of technology these days on our films — but when it comes to our kids, we underestimate the power of boredom to spark imagination. Provide your child with a way to look at the world, not a distraction from it.
Start spreading the (bad) news. Even green New Yorkers have a hard time fathoming the effects of climate change on their city, but there’s no way around it: Seas are rising, and Manhattan is an island. They’d better start thinking twice. Klaus Jacob, a German geophysicist and doomsayer, says that New York City will become a “gradual Atlantis.” He’s been studying rising seas for about 15 years and reckons Manhattan could see a six-foot water rise within young New Yorkers’ lifetimes. Though we’re used to catastrophic one-offs like Hurricane Sandy, Jacob says we need to start acknowledging long-term dangers.
Big data has met refugee advocacy — with promising results. Hive, a special projects group of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is working on a new project to understand America’s role in the refugee crisis. Their mission? Creating analytical models similar to voting data used by political consultants to garner support and understanding for refugees resettling in the United States. Their findings so far have been surprising – and revealing. Telegraphing that refugees undergo stringent security checks generally decreases public support, while references to successful refugees, like Albert Einstein, resonate well.