“What if everyone in America could be successful?” Alumni Field Trip to “At the Turning Point”

On Sunday 23, 2014, I along with my fellow alumni and our mentor Anna Strout, attended an intellectually riveting day of dialogue, America at the Turning Point: Conversations on “All The Way” presented by The Exchange. The Alumni met around 11:30 at the New World Stages to attend the 8 hour event which included plenty of entertaining and thought provoking panels. David Cote, theater editor and chief drama critic for Time Out New York moderated the first panel “Dramatizing Politics and History” with playwright and actress Eisa Davis-an Alpert and Obie Award winner and a Pulitzer Prize finalist in Drama; Ruben Santiago Hudson –an acclaimed writer, actor and director. John O’Neal- pioneer of African American theater and co-founder of the Free Southern Theater which was the cultural and education arm of the southern Civil Rights Movement; and Robert Schenkkan-the Pulitzer prize winning playwright of “All The Way” which is about Lyndon B. Johnson’s term of presidency and his passage of hugely impactful legislation, like the Civil Rights Act.

We took a break and were able to  one-on-one mingle with the panelists. I got a chance to speak with Ruben, who I have been a big fan of since seeing Lackawanna Blues.  Then we watched an excerpt of “Freedom Summer”, which will debut on PBS this summer about the civil rights movement, featuring prominent leader Bob Moses.  We had the privilege of hearing from Bob Moses on the next panel  “The Legacy Of Freedom Summer”, as well as his daughter Maisha Moses who has dedicated her professional life to working with underserved young people, teachers, schools, and communities to improve the quality of math education; and Cyndee Readdean-the producer and director of the documentary. This panel was very influential and educational, questioning how can we get youth involved in important matters besides Facebook posting. I brought up a lot of questions and was an active participant in the panel.

The very last two panels focused on pressing issues around school safety, education, minimum wage, social justice and the arts with people working in a variety of educational and cultural fields. The audience was very involved questioning what can we do to be part of the movement. “What if everyone in America could be successful?” questioned Robert Shennekkan leaving an abrupt silence in the room. causing us to ponder, “why not?!”

Before we could unfasten our seat belts and head home, the gracious Broadway cast of “All The Way” took us home! Bryan Cranston -2014 Golden Globe and three consecutive Emmy award winner for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Breaking Bad, Doris Kearns Goodwin- a world renowned presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author, and the other cast members discussed why they wanted to do this play, the dichotomies they faced, how they got into character, the research they did to prepare for their roles and funny anecdotes from Lyndon B Johnson’s life. The audience was very excited, and there were many warm-hearted moments and overall eagerness discussing the issues of tomorrow and what we can all do to produce leaders for the next generation. We will be going to the play soon! And will start acting on these issues now!

-Written by Lorenzo Jackson, class of 2009