The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday arrives at a moment that in many ways is similar to when he left us in 1968. The past two weeks are a searing reminder that the tumult of the Trump years is not likely to fade away anytime soon. Indeed, a new poll shows that 8 out of 10 Americans believe the country is falling apart. I have come to believe that the 2020s will be the new 1960s, marked by vibrant, often contentious debates about the most pressing issues of our time — from race and war to relationships, gender, capitalism, robots and more. These debates won’t be limited to elite circles or Capitol Hill; they will also take place at kitchen tables across the country.
While some might back away from such rigorous discourse, I embrace it. As the son and grandson of teachers, and as the great-grandson of slaves, I see this as an opportunity to revisit fundamental questions and make real progress. But how can we do that well and creatively? Is it possible to think freshly about persistent, complex challenges? In many instances, there is neither a shared set of truths nor a solid-enough grasp of history, even among those with the greatest power.
Still, I think it is possible. Not easy, but possible. I suspect it will take more than lawmakers (even collaborative and bipartisan lawmakers) to identify and create change. It will take more than thoughtful corporations, religious institutions, universities and corporate groups. It will take broad, sustained and engaged interaction among millions of everyday people.
That’s why we’re starting something new at OZY. We are launching a weekly newsletter to shine a light on the best and boldest ideas for how to Reset America — not just for the coming decade, but for reimagining our country for the next 250 years. We will ask readers to put themselves in the shoes of a modern-day Washington, Jefferson or Hamilton and ask, “What if?” We will capture and curate a brilliant set of ideas each week to set a tangible and constructive agenda for ambitious, maybe even radical, change. I hope we will tap terrific ideas from around the globe and that people will look beyond today and dare to imagine a more perfect union. You won’t agree with all of them, but that’s the point: Too often the media feeds each side what they want to hear. It’s a big reason why we are stuck in this mess, and it’s why OZY strives to get you out of your silo each day to see more.
Since this summer’s racial justice protests, OZY has dedicated our editorial mission to elevating compelling ideas from around the globe, including bold ideas for reparations, free prison phone calls and digital monuments for underrepresented heroes. This is a moment of global churn, and there’s much America can learn from the young warriors of change we’ve profiled in recent months, from 24-year-old Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow to 28-year-old Safoora Zargar, a leading voice in the Indian protests countering policies that discriminate against Muslims.
On my new daily interview show, The Carlos Watson Show, I have begun to ask guests about how they might Reset America — from Ava DuVernay and Malcolm Gladwell to Bill Gates and Megyn Kelly. Their responses have been eye-opening, everything from reimagining capitalism to launching a domestic draft civil service. But ultimately, it’s each and every one of us who needs to pick up the baton for change if we are to lead our country forward.
Will you please join me? Send me your best thoughts on how to Reset America. We will get back to each of you, highlighting your best ideas here each week. Start the conversation with your friends and communities by tweeting with the hashtag #ResetAmerica. Let’s do this together. It could be a bold and impactful way to unify our country and propel us forward.