Happy 40th Anniversary to C-SPAN


As C-SPAN proudly celebrates forty years of public service – its premiere in March of 1979 – it is important to highlight one of the greatest examples of C-SPAN performing at its very best. 

Considering the constant disagreement and denigration across party lines that has become too common on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, a very rare occurrence recently happened just days before its fortieth anniversary. Although this occurrence seems minor upon first glance, it really shines a light on a path to progress that could bring positive productiveness to the planet, and the people.

A daily program, Washington Journalfields a wide variety of calls, as does any call-in program that tries to be balanced. But there are three types of callers that seem to formulate the basic framework of feedback and who reflect the make-up of political discourse today. 

They are:

  1. The confirmer: affirming the views of previous callers as a statement of support

  2. The critic: disparaging the views of others with a stab of cynicism

  3. The convert: changing from one standpoint to another based on facts, analysis, and insights

Of these three caller profiles, the most important – the convert – is unfortunately the rarest. The convert call-in recently happened. It is fresh in my mind because it was shortly after my own call-in on the March 11thshow and was partly a reaction to mine. Although it is not unusual for Washington Journal callers to agree with earlier callers in solidarity, it is revealing to point out with great humility that, as an avid viewer of C-SPAN, I can't remember another time when a caller actually convinced another caller to shift their viewpoint from opposition to support. 

Despite the rarity of this constructive interaction, it presents a significant seed of potential healing through the power of political persuasion, based solely on the open discussion of moving ideas rather than the outdated dogma of ideology.

That captivating call was “Emmy from Georgia,” and it is one of the most telling stories of hope that Washington Journal has aired in a long time. The call, which lasted a mere two minutes, was an amazing example of C-SPAN at its best and is a tribute to how that network is a jewel of the nation. It also offers clues to make C-SPAN an even better tool of truth to chart a more positive path for political progress over forty more years of public service. 

While reviewing Emmy's comments, in order to produce an accurate transcript for later use, it was uplifting and exciting to hear her go from against expanding the youth vote, to being "on the fence," and then finally convincing herself, based on her interpretation of my presentation, to supporting letting young people "have a say in our democracy." 

In these divisive times, when most people remain stubbornly set in their views, I believe it is important to highlight Emmy of Georgia as an example for all Americans to encourage each other to open our heads, our hearts, and our hands to new ideas with novel approaches. 

Emmy is an unsung American hero, and I wish I could give her a hug on behalf of the whole nation. I feel that all Americans should sing out to her for being open to change; certainly not because she was complimentary to me and came around to support my viewpoint, but far more because she sets an important example in the form of a model of modern thought. 

Her ability to objectively absorb new information on an issue – and subsequently add her own experience to thoughtfully reassess her position – is a victory of intelligence over ignorance. But then to actually arrive at a newly found understanding, through critical thinking, is a shining example of what all Americans need to do more often. 

To effectively enact the solutions that will fix politics and ultimately salvage society, we must all listen to each other and reflect on the voices who come before us.