Make “Porching” Great Again

Novak 2019 Fellowship
It is my profound honor to have been awarded 2019 Novak Fellowship for my original journalism on American civic renewal.  Run by The Fund for American Studies and named after eminent journalist Robert Novak, the awards ceremony occurred at the Metropolitan Club in New York Sept 12th. Throughout the year that I am a Novak Fellow, the program offers financial support and writing mentorship. Find the link to the official announcement here.

The project for which I won the Novak Fellowship is my current book project, tentatively entitled Make “Porching” Great Again: How Front Porch Citizenship Can Save Democracy and the Soul of a Nation. This book relays my research over the last year and a half, investigating ways that Americans across the country are healing their social fabric, creating new institutions, and fixing problems that effect our nation everywhere, right where they are. My research shows that, as Tocqueville praised in 1835, America is still a nation of fixers. Inspired by the seminal essay “From Front Porch to Patio” in The Palimpsest by Richard H. Thomas, my book unpacks the concept of “porching” as a cultural metaphor for the ways that people engage in local solutions to fix local problems—and how people are “Front Porch Citizens” no matter where they live. Stay tuned for more updates about my forthcoming book!

To Heal Polarization, It’s Time To Revive Popular Art
It was a surprising privilege to be asked by POLITICO Magazine to contribute to their series “How to Fix Our Politics.” In the “How to Fix Polarization” sub category, my proposal of reviving thoughtful and inspiring patriotic art was alongside many other fascinating ideas, from Jonathan Haidt, Francis Fukuyama, Mitt Romney, and many other great leaders of our day. Would love your thoughts on my essay, and on what you think is the most innovative solution in the series! Find it here.

Things I’m reading: 

When the Culture War Comes for the Kids. This fascinating essay in The Atlantic recounts one father’s experience navigating the complex and convoluted system of New York’s private and public schools. He describes his disillusionment with the radical and doctrinal approach schools and administrators took toward very personal and controversial policy issues. Touching on important questions of our day such as education, meritocracy, and the definition of “equality,” I think you’ll find this essay thoughtful and worth your time.

The Reporter Fired In The “Busch Light Guy” Scandal Said He Feels “Abandoned” By The Des Moines Register.  When a reporter published unflattering tweets made by a local celebrity in Iowa—who had become famous for appearing on television holding a sign asking for beer money, and then ultimately raising a million dollars for charity—crowds retaliated against the reporter by people uncovering tweets that the reporter had made. This story gets to the heart of questions about “cancel culture” and the extent to which we should hold others accountable for words said, deeds done, and tweets sent years or decades in the past. In our post-Christian era, it seems we have kept notions of judgement, but forgone the concept of grace. Why? 

Trickle Down Norms. This National Affairs essay argues that, a la Charles Murray’s thesis in Coming Apart, the lifestyle habits of elites trickle down to effect the rest of the nation for better and for worse. Though the essay’s author is optimistic that elites have good habits today, he is rather pessimistic about issues of growing inequality and lessening economic opportunity for people outside of the middle class. I think the author is unduly pessimistic because he misses some key data points—such as the fact that parental involvement has increased over the last three decades across racial and socioeconomic lines. I’m also of the opinion that the author hasn’t sufficiently studied and observed some of the community building at the local level across the country—all across socio-economic lines—the gap in our national conversation I hope my book will fill. All in all, an interesting read! 

The Goodwood Revival: My husband and I stepped back in time earlier this month when we attended the Goodwood Revival, a vintage car race in southern England. All the cars raced were from the 1940s through the 1960’s, and—in proper, peak-English manner—all of the attendees were dressed to the nines in era-appropriate attire.