CPB Launches ‘Civic Spark’ at PBS Annual Meeting

May 16, 2024

Kwame Alexander

Poet, educator and best-selling author Kwame Alexander wowed the crowd with an original crowd-sourced poem at the PBS Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. Photos by Darrell Miho.   

At the PBS Annual Meeting this week in Las Vegas, poet and best-selling author Kwame Alexander spoke about the vital role public media plays in strengthening Americans’ ties to one another and bolstering our civil society.

As part of the launch of CPB’s “Civic Spark” initiative to capture and amplify stories of individual Americans making a difference in their communities, Alexander read an original crowd-sourced poem he wrote after talking with people all over the country on the power of public media’s storytelling.

Called “You’ve Made This Day,” it opens with these words:

From the heart
of the American experience
to the frontlines of the world
You've made this day 
an adventure
filled with wonder

Every day
You get up
You tie your shoes
And go out there
And find the stories
That make us us.

Then you bring it back
And stitch it together
And show us us.

The sound of the masses
Like wind sweeping
at the noble pine
Bend and twist
changing its form
Strong roots grasping
at the truth
a place for all of our stories,
a testament to what is possible.

We all need to make sure that we fully understand our country

Pat Harrison
Patricia Harrison

In her opening remarks of the program, titled “Public Media: America’s Civic Spark,” CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison described the effort as a digital first content and engagement initiative for public TV and radio stations that will ask Americans the defining moment or experience that made them realize they could make a difference through volunteering, community engagement, or public service.

“Remember when Fred Rogers asked daily on public media, ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’” Harrison said. “It was an invitation not for just children, of course, but for all of us to respond, to consider everyone a potential neighbor who you would help and who would help you.”

As America prepares to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its founding in 2026, it will be up to new generations to shape the next 250 years, Harrison said. As founding member of More Perfect, a bipartisan partnership dedicated to renewing our democracy through civic engagement, CPB will soon seek a public media station to lead the “Civic Spark” initiative.

“The fact is, uninformed advocates for hate and disruption have defined who we are as a people for too long,” Harrison said. “It is time to hear from other voices. From our neighbors. From those millions of Americans, of all ages and backgrounds, in cities and rural areas, working quietly every day in ways that make our country better. Through CPB’s local, digital-first initiative, ‘Civic Spark,’ they will have a chance to be heard.”

Harrison then showed a video of Ken Burns, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and others talking about their civic sparks. 

Ken and Skip and Rosie sharing their civic spark, by paulsilva

Debra Sanchez, CPB’s senior vice president for Education for Educational Media and Learning Experiences, wrapped up the program sharing her own civic spark and explaining that this initiative isn’t just about creating content, it is about sharing stories that inspire.

“These stories, guided by the lead station, will equip local stations to produce short, powerful videos that highlight everyday Americans making a real impact,” she said. “They'll be a reminder of the strength in our diversity and the power of each person’s story. They'll show us new perspectives, bridge divides, and encourage more people to engage in our democracy.”

Deb Sanchez
Debra Sanchez

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