Current Event February 12, 2021
After the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, many people are calling for national unity, but opinions differ as to how it can be achieved. Some say unity will only come through a process of reconciliation, or examining past wrongs and holding those who are guilty accountable. They argue that seeking justice allows a country to move beyond its painful past. Others say focusing on the past diverts energy from the task of looking ahead, keeps anger and divisions alive, and slows the healing process. Listen to learn parallels between post-Civil War America and today and then debate: Are unity and accountability mutually exclusive?
Current Event January 25, 2021
Joseph Biden was sworn in as America’s 46th president on January 20, 2021. The inauguration ceremony took place at the U.S. Capitol, two weeks after violent extremists stormed the building in an effort to overturn the election. Vice-president Kamala Harris also took the oath of office, making history by becoming the first female vice-president and also the first Black and Asian American. Biden and Harris take office as the country faces extraordinary challenges, including a worldwide pandemic and a deeply divided nation. Listen to hear more about an historic event and how it differed from past inaugurations.
Current Event November 20, 2020
The U.S. Constitution, written over 200 years ago, established the structure of the new government, the basic laws of the land, and the rights of citizens. At the time, the institution of slavery still existed, and only white men had the right to vote. It might be argued that the document needs to be rewritten to better serve and reflect today’s diverse American society. It could also be argued that the Constitution is a living document that can be adapted to changing circumstances through amendments and flexible interpretation. Listen to learn about a play that explores the relevance of the Constitution and then debate: Is the Constitution outdated?
Current Event November 10, 2020
President Trump and many of his supporters refuse to accept the results of a close 2020 election, in which Joe Biden won more than the 270 electoral votes required to become the next president. Trump and his backers continue to claim fraud, though there is no evidence to support those claims. They distrust the media, who called the race for Biden based on official vote counts from each state. They also express concerns about the security of mail-in voting, but there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Listen to hear how some Trump supporters are feeling in the wake of a deeply divisive election.
Current Event November 9, 2020
After a long week of vote counting in a tight race, Joe Biden has been elected 46th president of the United States. Biden has run for president several times, starting in 1987, and has served as U.S. Senator and Vice President under President Barack Obama. Biden has suffered many significant losses, both personal and professional, throughout his life, but he says he has never lost faith in the American people. Listen to hear about his journey to the presidency and how his victory speech to a divided country addressed themes of unity and optimism amid challenging times for the nation.
Current Event September 10, 2020
The 2020 presidential election faces an unprecedented set of challenges. Mail-in voting, adopted by many states to protect voters from exposure to the coronavirus, could overwhelm the U.S. Postal Service and delay election results. And the spread of misinformation may cause fear and confusion among voters, potentially suppressing voter turnout. Listen to hear a journalist explain why he thinks a “perfect storm” of problems could be coming, and what Americans can do to make sure their votes are counted.
Current Event September 3, 2020
President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The law ensured people with disabilities had full access to jobs, schools, transportation, and public places. Listen to two disability rights activists, one who fought for the passage of the law and the other who grew up protected by it, talk about how each was inspired by the other, and how they believe life has changed for disabled Americans since the passage of the law.
Current Event September 1, 2020
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been in financial trouble for years.The postmaster general implemented cost-cutting measures that are reportedly slowing down the mail system, which is cause for concern among many as the national election approaches, with the expected rise in voting by mail during the pandemic. Listen to a historian explain the important role of the postal service in U.S. history, and why she believes it is more critical than ever to maintain smooth functioning of the USPS in support of American democracy.
Current Event August 21, 2020
Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, protests against racial inequities have taken place in cities around the country. Some have turned violent, and recently federal troops were sent into several cities to patrol streets and make arrests. Officials in those cities have not requested this help, however, and many do not welcome it. They claim it is the job of local and state governments, not the federal government, to control unrest. Listen to a mayor explain why she believes the police sent to her city do not belong there and then debate: Should federal troops intervene in protests?
Current Event March 2, 2020
The FBI announced it is moving racist violence to the same threat level as foreign terrorism. The change comes in response to a nationwide rise in racially motivated crimes, including attacks on blacks, Jews, Latinos, and other minority groups. To combat the trend, the FBI director instructed his special investigative teams to keep their eyes on domestic terrorism, and they have already arrested seven members of a violent neo-Nazi group. Listen to learn more about the FBI’s crackdown on domestic threats and why some people question whether the move will make a difference.
Current Event October 11, 2019
Congress is debating whether and how to compensate the descendants of African-American slaves. Some argue that reparations, which means money paid to those who have been wronged, would fairly compensate African-Americans for the crimes committed against their ancestors. Others believe that the past is past, and that today’s citizens should not be required to pay for actions that did not involve them. Listen to hear a congressional representative explain how the legacy of slavery continues to impact black communities today and how the government might invest in addressing ongoing issues, and then debate: Should Congress consider reparations for slavery?
Current Event September 30, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her support for a presidential impeachment inquiry by the U.S. Congress in response to a report suggesting that President Trump may have pressured the Ukranian president to investigate his political rival, presidential candidate Joe Biden. The “whistleblower complaint” alleges that financial aid may have been withheld from the Ukraine pending cooperation of its leadership with the U.S. president’s request. The U.S. Constitution empowers the Congress to charge the president with “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a process known as impeachment, as a check on executive power. Listen to hear what led to this important development and what is expected to happen next.
Current Event August 6, 2019
In Hong Kong, protesters have been clashing with police as ongoing conflict on the streets of Hong Kong continues. Activists fear Hong Kong’s democracy is in danger because of the influence the government of mainland China has on their leaders and their lives. Listen to learn why protesters are concerned about the future of Hong Kong and its citizens, and find out what they are willing to do to protect it.
Current Event July 29, 2019
A policy adopted by the Customs and Border Protection agency known as “metering” has significantly reduced the number of immigrants being processed daily at the U.S.-Mexico border. While the agency says that they cannot keep up with the large numbers of asylum seekers, migrants and immigration reform advocates say that this slower processing speed causes serious problems. Listen to hear about how metering has affected those seeking asylum in the U.S. through its southern border.
Current Event April 29, 2019
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London after officials in the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he had been living since 2012, said they would no longer provide protection for him as a political refugee. In 2010, WikiLeaks hacked into U.S. government computers and published classified information, posing a national security threat, according to many officials. Assange argued that he was operating as a journalist, exposing U.S. government actions that should not be kept secret from the public. Listen to this story to hear about the impact on national security and diplomacy of the unauthorized release of classified documents by WikiLeaks.
Current Event April 19, 2019
The United States Supreme Court recently faced a case that tested the idea of “separation of church and state” that is a core tenet of American democracy. The case considered whether a giant memorial cross on public land might be unconstitutional. The justices heard a variety of arguments for and against the use of religious imagery in a public memorial. Listen to hear some of those arguments and debate: Can public memorials include religious imagery?
Current Event March 18, 2019
The recently proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border would not be the first of its kind. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans passed a bill to construct a secure fence across part of the border. To build the fence, the government took land from private property owners, which is allowed through a power known as eminent domain. In such cases, the government is not required to ask owners for permission to claim their land. Listen to hear about the laws that allow this kind of land seizure, how they impact landowners, and how issues related to eminent domain might resurface with the current border wall proposal.
Current Event February 25, 2019
President Trump declared a national emergency so he could reallocate funds to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, which Congress did not agree to fund. In response, there are many lawsuits being filed, arguing that the president is exercising his executive power in a way that is unconstitutional in order to bypass the budgetary authority of Congress. The emergency declaration follows a long government shutdown, which occurred because Congress would not agree to fund the border wall that the president wanted. Listen to hear more about what might unfold as a result of this emergency declaration.