The power to think creatively and critically is in every single one of us. It is not something that only a few people possess. We have the potential to think, to act, and to do so in a way that helps our communities be vibrant. Helping us see this democratic power is one of the roles of the humanities.
Last week, Wyoming Humanities explored the world of political cartoons as an integral component in the framework of journalism and democracy. The event featured a discussion between two highly regarded cartoonists in the field, Ryan Stolp and Greg Kearney.
As part of the event, the public was encouraged to submit captions for two “captionless” cartoons, one each from Stolp and Kearney. The numerous submissions were independently scored by the board and staff of Wyoming Humanities, as well as the cartoonists themselves. The winners, who received cash prizes, were announced at the event.
Winners from Kearney’s piece are:
Alfredo Ramirez – Miami, Florida (“How did I get stuck with these two?”)
Barrie Lynn Bryant – Kirby, Wyoming (“When all else fails, let's drag the cat into this thing!”)
Robert Earl – Torrington, Wyoming (Guy #1: “We’ve got to get away from politics and discuss something rational.” Guy #2: “Agreed! How about Coke vs. Pepsi, cats vs. dogs, or pineapple on pizza?” Cat: “Coke, cats, and no pineapple!"
Winners from STOLP’s piece are:
Dale Stout – Colorado Springs, Colorado (“Sometimes we all forget that ‘One nation under God’ part.”)
Patty Batenhorst – Jackson, WY (“How's hate working out for you?)
Teresa McKinley – Worland, Wyoming (“I like your flag.”)
"Using filmed conversations between citizens from opposite sides of the political spectrum, the film brings the polarized together to listen and exchange views. At a time when people cannot separate their personal identity from their political beliefs or party identification, face to face conversations may in fact, be the beginning of change.
Weaving personal portraits through the conversations helps shed light on how people arrive at their perspectives. Disagreements are shared and democracy is served.
The storytellers are Wyoming citizens who show us how they live and find purpose during complex and uneasy times. Cynthia Lummis, a former Tea-Party U.S. Representative from Wyoming sits down with Professor Jacqueline Bridgeman, an African-American Wyoming law professor and Democrat to discuss political correctness and the electoral college.
Natalia Macker, a young Teton County Commissioner and Democrat who migrated to Jackson, Wyoming from Santa Monica, California with her husband and son, talks to Tyler Lindholm, a third generation rancher, former State Senator and Republican from remote Sundance, Wyoming, about the role of the federal government and privilege in society."
Statement from Director Bobbie Birleffi
One year into The Trump Presidency, I, like many, were gravely concerned about the way America was changing. Polarization seemed to be tearing the country apart. In 2017, I began talking to Wyomingites, thinking that my home state would be an open canvas upon which to begin a portrait of the nation. What kind of a country did we want to be? 2017 seems like a decade ago in terms of the intensity of change brought to bear on the country in just three years. During this period, civility faded from public life, anger intensified as we have become siloed into our news bubbles, and most alarming, truth and trust in our democracy is disappearing. And yet, the organizing principal of our project from 2017 still holds fast: that conversations between people can affect change. Although the pandemic now poses another hurdle, we still have the technology to sit down, look at each other and talk. Perhaps we need to be reminded that it’s ok to disagree.
High Noon In America presents an example of democracy that is as useful today as when we filmed it in 2017.
The Federation of State Humanities Councils (FSHC) with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $34,793 to Wyoming Humanities (WYH) to help Wyomingites better understand the history and current issues impacting democracy in the U.S., with emphasis on how journalism shapes our nation’s democratic state. This is the second WYH project funded under the FSHC’s Democracy and the Informed Citizen initiative.
This initiative will ask Wyomingites to explore democracy as it was originally shaped by our founders and journalism’s role in promoting and protecting democracy. We will explore partisanship and whether a lack of civility is impacting Americans’ ability to think critically about social and political issues and how it might be impacting our perception of the news. This initiative will feature a new publication by WYH, Democracy Under Construction, a reader that will explore issues that have influenced democracy in our nation and state. Other parts of the project will help Wyomingites better understand how journalism affects democracy and provide guidance on how to consume news critically in this era.
"This new volume was partially funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the "Democracy and the Informed Citizen" initiative to which every state council could apply for funds to support projects that examine the connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism and an informed citizenry. As part of our project in Wyoming, we explored the issue of civility in journalism and social media and how it is eroding the public trust in the institutions of democracy."Read Democracy Under Construction
"Democracy Under Construction" will soon be available for distribution. Stay tuned! For questions regarding the book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The year 2020 will likely be defined by the challenges and firsts that we have overcome in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As venues around Wyoming were forced to cancel perennial Fourth of July celebrations, Wyoming Humanities joined together with Wyoming Public Media and the Wyoming Community Foundation to present “Live From Wyoming: 4th of July.” This live-streamed and radio broadcast allowed Wyomingites to celebrate apart but together. As a component of this, Wyoming Humanities brought together over 30 individuals from around the state to collaboratively read the Declaration of Independence via Zoom – a sign of the unique challenges faced in current events, but also as a sign of hope.
This document serves as the foundation of democracy, and, although imperfect, it is a symbol of our nation and the goals we have yet to realize. The words and ideals sought out by our founding fathers have not faded; they ring just as true more than 200 years later. But contained within the text are signs of our imperfection: flaws which need to be addressed: and a history that allows us to reflect on where we have been and how much further we might yet go until its precepts are reached.
While this video is a celebration of our state and the birth of our nation, it is also an introduction to some of our upcoming work and programming: “Democracy and the Informed Citizen.” Together with the imminent release of Democracy Under Construction (below), we will explore the concepts and roles of an informed citizenry and media in a democracy. In 1776, John Dunlap worked through the night to print 200 hundred copies of the Declaration of Independence before the first public reading took place. Today, in 2020, the news media can disseminate information in seconds to millions. The information, however, is still of critical importance to us in a democratic nation. We hope you enjoy the video, reflect on its contents, and will keep an eye out through the rest of 2020 and into 2021 as we investigate the role of journalism and information in these United States.
One of Wyoming Humanities’ missions is to strengthen Wyoming’s democracy through the humanities as part of a multi-pronged initiative, “Why It Matters.” Throughout 2021, Wyoming Humanities will partner with Dr. Adler to provide a semi-weekly column exploring the fascinating nuances and discussion points of the United States Constitution.
David Gray Adler is President of The Alturas Institute, a non-profit organization created to promote the Constitution, gender equality, and civic education. A recipient of teaching, writing and civic awards, Adler has lectured nationally and internationally, and published widely, on the Constitution, presidential power and the Bill of Rights. He is the author of six books, including, most recently, The War Power in an Age of Terrorism, as well as more than 100 scholarly articles in the leading journals of his field. He is currently writing a book on the landmark Supreme Court decision in Reed v. Reed, which transformed the law for American women. For more information, visit alturasinstitute.com.