What does it mean to be American? The question seems more timely than ever and with American Creed, PBS has reached out to a number of citizen-activists to help offer potential answers to that inquiry. Sam Ball’s documentary is framed by a spirited conversation between former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy. But the heart of the doc are the stories and musings from the likes of Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, MoveOn.org co-founder Joan Blades, president Clinton speechwriter Eric Liu, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz. Coming from different backgrounds, they all share memories of what growing up in America felt like to them and what they’ve seen happening in their country these past few decades.
Díaz, as you can see in this exclusive clip, talks about how his childhood in New Jersey shaped not just his work but his outlook on what an American can and should be. The Dominican-born writer quotes one of his friends when they’d described his community in New Jersey as “some strange United Nations experiment.” His best friends were Egyptian and Cuban, and he lived in a vibrant and diverse community that encouraged a sense of collective identity across difference. Paired with archival photos, videos, and watercolors of that very same community, Díaz talks at length at how that sense of thinking together has been eroded and been replaced by an insidious vision of individuality.
“And yet,” he adds, “most of the forces that act against Americans, most of the cruelties that Americans experience, require collective action to correct them, to combat them.”
American Creed premieres Tuesday, February 27, 2018 on PBS. It will be available to stream on PBS.org beginning February 28.