The idea for American Creed (visit http://www.pbs.org/show/american-creed to watch the full documentary) grew out of conversations between two Stanford University professors: political scientist and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and David M. Kennedy, who became a historian in large part to determine whether the United States has a “national character” — what defines it and how it changes over time.
For years, Drs. Rice and Kennedy have been deeply engaged in their own series of discussions about how to answer a number of urgent questions that are central to our success as a democracy:
- Who are the “we” in “We the People of the United States…”?
- What does being a “citizen” mean? What does productive, imaginative and engaged citizenship look like at this time in our history?
- How do economic booms and busts shape ideals and disconnect from ideals?
- What happens to the idea of a shared American creed when social mobility declines along with trust in American institutions?
- Where are we headed as citizens, and as a nation?
These questions embrace several major issues at the forefront of American political debate: how to provide access to education and economic opportunity; how to unify the diverse cultural populations in America; and, most importantly, how to define America’s national identity. Our film takes stock of the health of what Condoleezza Rice calls “America’s aspirational narrative — the striving to do and be better that has always drawn people to this country;" what David M. Kennedy calls “the pull of America.”
We hope that the stories in American Creed — which speak to our dilemmas, yet offer hope that our shared ideals can prove more powerful than our differences — will engage viewers in a bold conversation about what it will take to uphold American democracy.