In this lesson, students will watch and respond to two video clips from the film American Creed in which Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and writer and advocate for civic education Eric Liu reflect on their family histories and the responsibility they feel to participate in and strengthen America’s democracy.
Before hearing Maddon’s and Liu’s American Creed stories, students will first reflect on the ideals they think we share in common as a nation, as well as what barriers get in the way of the realization of these ideals. Then, in the spirit of these activists’ efforts to engage people across difference in shared conversations and experiences, students will discuss the film clips using a strategy that promotes active listening and intellectual engagement. In the end, students will consider how they might choose to participate in the face of today’s many challenges by bringing the ideals they feel we share in common as a nation to realization.
In the full-length version of American Creed, politicians, activists, veterans, and first-generation college students at Stanford University draw connections between their family stories and identities, reflect on what it means to be American, and share their ideas about what we aspire to as a nation. Diplomat Condoleezza Rice, historian David Kennedy, Major League Baseball manager Joe Maddon, and civic entrepreneur Eric Liu are just some of the individuals featured in the film who reflect on the notion of the “American dream” and challenge the viewer to engage in conversations across difference—to really listen to what others have to say and to hear their stories—in order to be reminded of the ideals that we share in common as a nation. The film poses a number of thought-provoking questions: “What is our common aspiration in the United States?” “What does it mean to be American?” and “In a fractured nation, what ideals do we hold in common?” While American Creed does not offer any definitive answers to these questions, the men and women featured in this film—through their commitment to service and fostering civil discourse—offer viewers a glimpse of what working together, in the words of David Kennedy, “to build and sustain healthy communities and not just individual lives” might look like.
Living Room Conversations
If you are interested in and have time for a third American Creed video clip, consider showing the video A Living Room Conversation: Mark Meckler and Joan Blades, Tea Party and Move On (10:45). In this clip, Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and Joan Blades, co-founder of Moveon.org, both invite two friends to engage in a Living Room Conversation at Blades’s home in Berkeley, California, with the goal of fostering understanding through civil discourse. After watching the video segment, students might discuss the following questions:
- How do Meckler and Blades connect to or extend your understanding about what ideals are American ideals and what can get in the way of realizing those ideals?
- What examples do Meckler and Blades provide about how can we work together to overcome the divisions in our society?
Return to American Creed Educator Resources