Disappearing Work & Universal Basic Income

Traveling to a New America BookWork is changing rapidly in the United States.

The unemployment rate presently is somewhere around 4%; but that’s deceiving.  Many are working at minimum or low wage jobs, or working two or three part-time jobs to survive.  Many are driving part-time for Uber or Lyft, or living two or three families in an apartment in big cities where the rents have gone through the roof in recent years.

Automation is increasing, and in another ten years perhaps, supermarkets will be fully automated throughout the store; Uber and Lyft will no longer need drivers; somewhere around a million middle-class truck drivers will have their jobs eliminated by self-driving trucks; and the list goes on.  New automation will even eliminate many of the robots and people that are now doing the automating.

The old way of life, the old solid middle-class jobs have gone away, and they are not coming back.  Anyone who promises that is a thief and a liar.

We are witnessing the hollowing out of the job market as jobs are destroyed, wages remain stagnant or decline, and profits from business and the stock market gravitate more and more to the mega-corporations and to the one percent.

So where are we, and where do we go?  What are we to do?

Even now, the shift has begun, and the change is showing up in small ways, in out-of-the-way places, in ecological farmers going back to small plots of land; in a husband and wife starting a restaurant in a small town and growing and hiring on a small scale to become an integral part of the community; in small and large cooperatives owned by employees that eschew the profit-at-any-cost motive of doing business. Small things, but they are beginnings, and they are pointing a way to the future.

But new, big ideas are beginning to sprout also.  One of these is universal basic income.

Basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all individuals, without a means-test or work requirement.  The idea has been gathering interest worldwide, including actual test implementations in cities like Hamilton, Canada; Stockton, California; Barcelona, Spain; Macao, China, and many others.

Andrew YangOne young man is even running for president of the United States in 2020 on a platform of Universal Basic Income.  His name is Andrew Yang, someone who has already been highly successful in creating several technology and education companies.

He was drawn to the concept of a universal basic income after realizing that automation is destined very soon to displace millions of workers, direly transforming our economy for the average person, and that there is too much “human and financial capital flowing to just a handful of places”, as he states, “doing things that are speeding the machine up rather than fixing what is going wrong.”

As part of his platform, which includes a Medicare-for-all type of national health insurance, he proposes that each American be paid $1000 a month, or $12,000 a year in addition to and independent of other benefits such as Medicare and Social Security.  His way of financing such a proposal would be through a VAT, or Value Added Tax, although others argue that a basic income could be financed through other means, such as a tax on stock market transactions, a wealth tax on individuals, the elimination of tax loopholes for corporations, etc.

This idea is not just some pie-in-the-sky concoction. It could definitely become deliverable.

What is most required, though, is a deep and revolutionary shift in our priorities as a nation, as a people. We have a country and government that is wedded to the idea of infinite upward expansion of profit and money – a country now harnessed to technology, the stock market, business exploitation, and unbridled capitalistic instincts, while being myopic when it comes to the real needs and welfare of ordinary people.

We need a deep transformation in our government – one that prioritizes people.

How is this to be achieved?  By people changing.  By becoming aware of their own power of united action and becoming deeply involved in the political process, and in supporting and implementing new solutions such as that proposed by Andrew Yang and others.

But behind all of this also is the need for an even deeper transformation – one, you might say, on a spiritual level.

Who are we?  How do we view ourselves, our own worth and potential and our true relation to other people and the world around us, and to the very heart of the universe itself?

We are greater than we have ever imagined.  We are the gods we have bowed down to since the beginning of time, never realizing our own image in the mirror.

The deepest transformation coming now is the realization of the sanctity of all life, the interconnectedness of all life, and the limitless potential existing within each  man, woman, and child on the face of the planet – the potential to expand the reach of our hearts to match the compassionate heart of the universe itself.

The Buddha is coming to America.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  His latest book is “Traveling to a New America“.

Follow his journey, “Traveling to a New America”, on Facebook.

To arrange talks and conversations, contact the author.

This is Truly the Time of the People

This is truly the time of the people.

With unbridled capitalism triumphant, and greed and power the only guidelines now of our national politics and the Republican Party, we are looking at the point at which sooner or later, and much more likely sooner, the mainstays of our morals and economy will come tumbling down and crashing about our ears.

This is a time of immense opportunity.  It is good to be alive at his unprecedented turning point in all of known history.

For so long, almost since the inception of this country, we have not known who we were.  The dream of America became lost in the cacophony of railroads and gold mines and steel mills and oil wells and stock market shares – lost in another dream that has finally led us to where we find ourselves now – bankrupt economically, politically, environmentally, and, most important, spiritually.

Churches abound, so many of them bastions of whiteness and separateness, generating slogans and paeans of praise and love to dead forms and ideas that have led us inevitably to quagmires of death and destruction and hatred not only in the Mideast, but in our isolate hometowns and cities laden with invisible fences erected against the onslaught of fear, poverty, discrimination, racism, moving inevitably now to an entire country – America! – attempting to seal itself off, to wall itself off, from a hostile world.

This is the time of reformation, revitalization, revolution – the revolution of one single individual soul, man or woman, transforming himself or herself at the very core, causing ripples outward to the broader community, to towns, to farms, to cities, to States, towards the dream that is still waiting fulfillment – America!

It is up to each of us now.

You are the center.  Bring forth light upon this darkened world.

Be the catalyst for a new universe.

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Traveling to a New America BookJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books, that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.

Follow his journey, “Traveling to a New America”, on Facebook.

To arrange talks and conversations, contact the author directly.

Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs and husband James BoggsJust a little over a hundred years ago, in 1915, Grace Lee Boggs was born in Providence, Rhode Island.  She died only recently, in 2015, at age 100.  During those years, she and her husband James Boggs had an extraordinary career that impacted many lives, with prominent roles in the Civil Rights and Labor Movements.

Grace was Chinese-American, a philosopher and social activist.  James was African-American, an auto worker and political activist.

Their hometown, and ground zero for their work, was Detroit.

In the 1960s, Grace became very active in the black movement.  She said: “I believe that the Negro revolt represents the beginning of a new, revolutionary epoch.”

In 1967, Detroit was the epicenter of a bloody race riot, that almost destroyed the city – an event that forced her to think deeply about what kind of change was possible.

Later in life, Grace wrote:

“Instead of trying to resurrect or reform a system whose endless pursuit of economic growth has created a nation of material abundance and spiritual poverty—and instead of hoping for a new FDR to save capitalism with New Deal–like programs—we need to build a new kind of economy from the ground up. That is what I have learned from fifty-five years of living and struggling in Detroit, the city that was once the national and international symbol of the miracle of industrialization and is now the national and international symbol of the devastation of deindustrialization.”

Her philosophy of activism evolved over the years to an awareness of deeper roots of change.

“People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.”

“To make a revolution, people must not only struggle against existing institutions.  They must make a philosophical/spiritual leap and become more ‘human’ human beings.  In order to change/transform the world, they must change/transform themselves.”

She adds:

“I think people are really looking for some way whereby we can grow our souls rather than our economy. I think that at some level, people recognize that growing our economy is destroying us. It’s destroying us as human beings, it’s destroying our planet. I think there’s a great human desire for solutions, for profound solutions – and that nothing simple will do it. It really requires some very great searching of our souls.”

What does that “searching of our souls” entail?

It involves a radical re-assessment of who we are.

It involves religion – religion simply meaning the way we look at ourselves, our relation to the people and world around us, to the planet, to the universe itself.

Who are we?  We are greater than heretofore imagined.  We hold untold powers; but our religions tell us we are nothing, corrupted from the very beginning, dependent upon outside powers, supplicants for answers to our prayers, for relief from our sufferings.

There has never been an answer, because we are the answer.

Each of us is co-existent with the universe itself.

We are the Buddha, struggling from within to bring forth boundless and immense compassion, to fashion a world of Tranquil Light.  Here and now, amidst the devastation, amidst the burned-out ashes of civilizations dying with anger and lost hope, the Buddha emerges, bringing forth a new world.

Nowhere else.  Here and now.

Who?  You and I.

Here, in America.

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Traveling to a New America BookJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of eleven non-fiction books that are paving the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  His newest book is “Traveling to a New America”.

Follow his journey also, “Traveling to a New America” on Facebook.

To discuss arranging talks and conversations with your group or community, contact the author.

Wounded Knee, South Dakota – Crucible of the American Dream

Wounded Knee, South DakotaWounded Knee, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, territory of the Oglala Lakota Sioux.

It was here in 1890 that two cultures, two dreams collided, and one dream was seemingly laid to rest in cold December snow.

On December 29, 1890, the United States 7th Cavalry slaughtered somewhere between 150 and 300 men, women and children who were being relocated to the Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge.

It was an event and confrontation that had repeated itself over and over ever since the white settlers came to America.  Land was needed for expansion, for farms and industry, for a new civilization, and a new way of looking at things.  Where commerce and money dictated, treaties were repeatedly broken, and the boundaries of Indian reservations moved westward.

It was the collision of two different universes.

John Muir, the great American naturalist, writer and conservationist, who spent years in Yosemite and the Sierras, once wrote of the Indian’s and the white man’s different impacts upon the environment:

“How many centuries Indians have roamed these woods nobody knows, probably a great many, extending far beyond the time that Columbus touched our shores, and it seems strange that heavier marks have not been made.  Indians walk softly and hurt the landscape hardly more than the birds and squirrels, and their brush and bark huts last hardly longer than those of wood rats, while their more enduring monuments, excepting those wrought on the forests by the fires they made to improve their hunting grounds, vanish in a few centuries.

“How different are most of those of the white man, especially on the lower gold region – roads blasted in the solid rock, wild streams dammed and tamed and turned out of their channels and led along the sides of canyons and valleys to work in mines like slaves.  Crossing from ridge to ridge, high in the air, on long straddling trestles as if flowing on stilts, or down and up across valleys and hills imprisoned in iron pipes to strike and wash away hills and the skin of the mountain’s face, riddling, stripping every gold gully and flat.  These are the white man’s marks made in a few feverish years, to say nothing of mills, fields, villages, scattered hundreds of miles along the flank of the range.  Long will it be ere these marks are effaced, though Nature does what she can, replanting, gardening, sweeping away old dams and flumes, leveling gravel and boulder piles, patiently trying to heal every raw scar.”

The dreams that seemed to die that day at Wounded Knee are actually still alive and continue to surface –  in 1973, in the Wounded Knee Incident, when followers of the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the town to protest the United States government’s failure to fulfill treaties with Native American people – and again in 2016 and 2017, when large protests broke out against the building of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Justice, the environment, and a worldview are at the real heart of these protests.

Rebecca Adamson, world-renowned American Cherokee social entrepreneur and advocate for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, characterized this clash of worldviews as “one that sees all life as interconnected and interrelated, and another that sees the world comprised of fearful individuals competing for scarce resources.”

She also states:

“The indigenous understanding has its basis of spirituality in a recognition of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living things, a holistic and balanced view of the world. All things are bound together. All things connect. What happens to the Earth happens to the children of the earth. Humankind has not woven the web of life; we are but one thread. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

This is in complete agreement with a Buddhist view of life.

Buddhism further explains that since one’s life and one’s environment are deeply interconnected, a transformation in the inner realm or life state of one person can lead to a dramatic transformation in the environment.  It is ultimately a philosophy of deep, personal empowerment.

These modes of thought and living are on the ascendancy.

Here in America, we are witnessing a government that has fully embraced the impulses of unbridled capitalism and greed, trashing the environment, destroying relationships with nations and people all around, seeking to retreat into a narrower, hopelessly bygone world.

It will never last.  The intent of the universe itself is being violated, the urge to expand oneself, to grow beyond oneself into a greater inclusive being, recognizing brothers and sisters everywhere, unleashing a fountain of compassion and respect for all of life, for the limitless potential of each of our individual lives, and revealing – amid the turmoil, the division, and the gathering chaos – eternity here and now.

The Buddha is coming to America.

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Traveling to a New America is a journey to the heart of a new America – voices and stories of people past and present; talks and discussions in towns and cities all across the country; a national conversation about who we really are, and what the future of America is really about here in these fifty States.

Contact him to arrange talks, or collaborative events.

Author website: http://www.jameshilgendorf.org

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Hazel Henderson – Environmentalist, Futurist

Hazel Henderson Hazel Henderson’s wide-ranging career as a world-renowned environmental activist, evolutionary economist, and futurist had its beginnings in her experiences as a child in Bristol, England.

In 1954, when she was 21, her parents had just returned to their home in the English countryside from a trip to London, and described to her a black “fog” so dense that they could hardly see across their hotel room. This was the historic “Great Smog” of December 1954, induced by the discharges of coal-fired furnaces, and which was to be responsible for 4000 premature deaths in one week in the city.

In the early 1960s, Henderson immigrated to New York City, and this memory was once again stirred as she experienced the terrible air quality caused by the city’s millions of garbage incinerators.   Deeply concerned for the future health of her own young child and other children, in 1964 she co-founded Citizens for Clean Air.

When the Mayor of New York failed to take her organization seriously, she contacted Senator Robert F. Kennedy and arranged a helicopter ride around New York City to show him all the sources of air pollution and why her group proposed re-figuring the entire United States gross national product index by taking into account and subtracting the costs of pollution.  Kennedy was convinced, and went on later to include these ideas in one of his speeches.

Then she approached the media.

“I first wrote to the TV network bosses”, she says, “asking them to carry the city’s air pollution index on their weather shows. Then I found, after much effort, an advertising agency, Carl Ally Inc., which agreed to create a volunteer public service campaign for Citizens for Clean Air. This campaign ran free in all media in New York City with the volunteer help of several concerned media moguls. After all this media attention, public awareness of New York’s air pollution led to the first local environmental ordinances. I was propelled onto NBC’s Today Show as well as ABC and CBS morning shows.”

In 1967, the New York Medical Society gave Henderson its Citizen of the Year Award.

This was only the beginning.

“As I dug deeper into economics textbooks,” Henderson said, “I realized that we were living at the end of the 300-year Industrial Revolution based on fossil fuels and outdated methods of production.”

She began to challenge classical economic views on all fronts.

Her book, “Creating Alternative Futures: The End of Economics”, became an “underground best-seller,” selling 40,000 copies. In “The Politics of the Solar Age” she advanced the thesis that the country could not make the shift to renewables without overhauling its economic model, confronting the fossil fuel industry lobbies and pulling their subsidies.

During her long career, she held many posts.  She advised the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment and the National Science Foundation from 1974 to 1980. With futurist Robert Theobald, she founded the National Citizens for a Guaranteed Income.  She served on the advisory boards for the U.S. National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Engineering and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, as well as the Calvert Group of responsible mutual funds.  She has held the Horace Albright Chair in Conservation at the University of California, Berkeley.   She started Ethical Markets Media, to disseminate information on green investing, socially responsible investing, green business, green energy, and sustainable development. She co-authored the book “Planetary Citizenship” with Daisaku Ikeda, President of the Buddhist lay organization, Soka Gakkai International.  Wired magazine nominated her as one of the 50 people most likely to change the world.

Her accomplishments are almost too many to mention.

She was just one person, who set out to change things.

To those who would like to transform their environment and the world, she has a simple piece of advice:

“Don’t wait for anyone to deputize you or authorize you or empower you.  You have to just start out with yourself, and put one foot in front of the other.”

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Traveling to a New America BookJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books, the latest being “Traveling to a New America.”

Follow his journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

New Harmony & Robert Owen

New Harmony, IndianaChances are, you never heard of a small town – village almost – in southern Indiana, named New Harmony.

The population nowadays is less than a thousand, but this small lovely town on the banks of the Wabash River was once the site of a great experiment in living and working that was to have a deep and lasting influence not only upon the rest of the United States, but upon the world.

Robert Owen Robert Owen, a Welsh industrialist and social reformer, came here in 1825 and purchased the entire town with the idea of creating a new utopian community.

As a successful manager of a textile mill in New Lanark, Scotland, Owen had become well-known internationally for instituting many new reforms that benefited his workers, including drastically reduced work hours, safe housing, nursery schools, and free education from infancy to adulthood.

He had a dream of a new secular and socialist society, without religion, with communities of about 1200 people organized so that the work of the community and its fruits would be enjoyed communally.  He called his vision of this socialist utopia the “New Moral World”.

In 1825, Owen purchased the existing town of Harmony, Indiana, with 180 buildings and several thousand acres of land along the Wabash River, and renamed it New Harmony, the site of which he hoped would become a model for his utopian community.  He convinced another Scotsman, William Maclure, a wealthy scientist and philanthropist to join him and become his financial partner.

Owen spread his vision among American thinkers, reformers, intellectuals, and public statesmen, even delivering addresses to the United States House of Representatives; and by the end of its first year, New Harmony had attracted more than a thousand residents, including scientists, educators, and artists from around the world, who hoped to establish New Harmony as a center for educational reform, scientific research, and artistic expression.

The communal experiment, though, proved to be an economic failure, and in 1827, two years after it began, the socialist society was dissolved, although many of the town’s residents stayed on in New Harmony.  Owen himself returned to Scotland, having lost much of his fortune on the Indiana project; but he continued to campaign for social change.

Although New Harmony was an economic failure, many of the ideas implemented in the community during those two years had future widespread influence, including the first free public school system, the first free library, and the first women’s club.  The community denounced slavery and supported equal rights for women.  Many of those inspired by his work at New Harmony, including his own children, went on to establish long-lasting social reforms in the area of women’s and workers’ rights; the establishment of free public libraries and museums; childcare; public co-educational schools; and development of the cooperative and trade union movements.

Owen was a pioneer of the modern Socialist movement.  His experiments in Scotland and at New Harmony grew out of a deep desire to create a more just and equitable society.  All around him, he had seen the effects upon the lives of ordinary men, women, and children of industrialism and unbridled capitalism and greed.

In America, for our part, we have established socialism in the form of our police departments, our fire departments, Social Security, Medicare, and other social institutions and programs, that are part and parcel of our daily lives, that are immensely popular, and which have alleviated suffering for untold millions of our citizens.

At the same time, we have strains of our body politic that would destroy every type of government institution or program we have, and place it in the hands of private gain.

Socialism has shown both its positive and negative sides.  Socialism in Russia became a nightmarish scenario of State control, with a moral monster – Stalin – at its head.  The Nordic and other European countries, on the other hand, have implemented a combination of capitalism and socialism in varying degrees to produce some of the highest standards of well-being in the world, which we, here in America, lag sadly behind.

What makes the difference in all of this?  People.  A concern for others.  The heart.

In public affairs, Robert Owen was a pioneer of the heart.

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Traveling to a New America BookJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books, the latest being “Traveling to a New America”.

Follow the journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.



Dolores Huerta – Si Se Puede!

Dolores Huerta

In 1993, Dolores Huerta became the first Latina inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

She is internationally known as a labor leader and civil rights activist, and the co-founder, along with Cesar Chavez, of the United Farm Workers.

As a child, Huerta remembers “going down to the beet fields in the Dakotas and in Nebraska and Wyoming as migrant workers when I was very, very small, like 5 years old, I believe.  And I remember going out there, traveling to these states and living in these little tarpaper shacks that they had in Wyoming.”

She remembers, also, her father telling stories about union organizing.

Later, when her parents divorced, she was raised by her mother in the central California farm worker community of Stockton, California.

She attended college, and earned a provisional teaching credential, but after teaching elementary school a short while, left her job and began her lifelong crusade for economic justice.

She stated:

“I couldn’t tolerate seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes.  I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.”

Farm workers, at that time, had no rights, and were working and living in poverty, with minimal wages, sleeping on floors, with no clean water or access to bathrooms.  They worked from sunrise to sundown without any breaks.  Many of these workers had to travel to different places, following the crops in season, so their children did not have an education, and were often working in the fields along with their parents.

As leaders of the National Farm Workers, Chavez and Huerta were a great team, with Chavez the dynamic leader and speaker, and Huerta the skilled organizer and tough negotiator.

In 1965, they organized a strike of all farm workers against the Coachella Valley grape growers, and after five hard years, this resulted in an historic agreement with 26 grape growers that improved working conditions for farm workers, including unemployment and healthcare benefits.

Of this time of organizing workers, Huerta says:

“We had violence directed at us by the growers themselves, trying to run us down by cars, pointing rifles at us, spraying the people when they were on the picket line with sulfur.”

In the 1970s, Huerta coordinated a national lettuce boycott, and helped gain passage of the 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which recognized the rights of farm workers to bargain collectively.  She continued to advocate for a comprehensive immigration policy and better health conditions for farm workers.

Huerta became famous for coining the phrase “si se puede”, or “yes, we can”, which inspired union members to continue during tough times.

During her life, she worked not only on behalf of farm workers, but also as a civil rights activist championing the rights and power of women in the political arena.

She received numerous prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and nine Honorary Doctorates from Universities throughout the United States.

Some thoughts she has for all of us:

“Let’s teach kids, at the kindergarten level, what the contributions of people of color were to building the United States of America.”

“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”

“We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things.  That is what we are put on the earth for.”

“We as women should shine light on our accomplishments and not feel egotistical when we do.  It’s a way to let the world know that we as women can accomplish great things!”

“We can’t let people drive wedges between us, because there’s only one human race.”

“The great social justice changes in our country have happened when people came together, organized, and took direct action.  It is this right that sustains and nurtures our democracy today.”

“We just have to convince other people that they have power. This is what they can do by participating to make change, not only in their community, but many times changing in their own lives. Once they participate, they get their sense of power.”

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Traveling to a New America BookJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books, the latest being “Traveling to a New America“.

Follow his journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Ralph Waldo Emerson – Mentor of Greatness

Ralph Waldo EmersonRalph Waldo Emerson – essayist, lecturer, and poet – was one of the leading figures of the American Renaissance of the early 1800s, which included such greats as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Margaret Fuller, and others.

During his lifetime, Emerson gave over 1500 public lectures across the United States, which were meant primarily to inspire his listeners to a greater vision of themselves.

He once wrote: “In all my lectures, I have taught one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man.”

He was a Transcendentalist, and I believe what he meant by this statement was that, extraordinary as it may seem, the individual and the great universe itself around us are one and the same.

We are all endowed with limitless potential.

In one of his most famous speeches, which he delivered to the senior class at Divinity College, Cambridge, on July 15, 1838, he attacked the teachings of the Church of his day in such a bold, confrontational way that it would be three decades before he would once again be invited back to talk.

He stated:

“As it appears to us, and as it has appeared for ages, it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration of the personal, the positive, the ritual. It has dwelt, it dwells, with noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus. The soul knows no persons. It invites every man to expand to the full circle of the universe.”

He had this advice for everyone:

“Hitch your wagon to a star.”

“The highest revelation is that God is in every man.”

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

“Nothing external to you has any power over you.”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

He also said:

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson was that person, that someone. His influence spread, and still radiates out into the broader world.

What he exhorted others to be, he himself was in person:

“Wherever the invitation of men or your own occasions lead you, speak the very truth, as your life and conscience teach it, and cheer the waiting, fainting hearts of men with new hope and new revelation.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson stood at the root of the unfolding dream of America.

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Traveling to a New America BookJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books, his latest being “Traveling to a New America“.

Follow his journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.


Langston Hughes – Poet of a Great Dream of America

Langston HughesPoet, novelist, fiction writer, and playwright, Langston Hughes was widely known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, an intellectual, social, and artistic explosion that took place in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s.

His family background and upbringing was complicated.  Both of his paternal great-grandmothers were African-American slaves; and both of his paternal great-grandfathers were white slave owners in Kentucky.

His father left his family early, and most of his childhood was spent in Lawrence, Kansas, where he was raised by his grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston, who instilled in her grandson a lasting sense of racial pride.

Over his varied career, Hughes kept true to his feeling for the struggles of common people, and for his dream of a better world.  This was voiced in one of his wonderful poems, “Let America Be America Again”.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.”

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold!  Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men!  Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

____________________

James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet and the author of eleven non-fiction books, the latest being “Traveling to a New America.

Follow his journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.





Ralph Waldo Emerson – Leading Figure of the Early American Renaissance

Ralph Waldo Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, lecturer, and poet, was one of the leading figures of the American Renaissance of the early 1800s.

He was always trying to inspire his readers and listeners to a greater vision of themselves.

He had this advice for you:

“Hitch your wagon to a star.”

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

“All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.”

“Nothing external to you has any power over you.”

“The faith that stands on authority is not faith.”

“In all my lectures, I have taught one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man.”

“The highest revelation is that God is in every man.”

“Wherever the invitation of men or your own occasions lead you, speak the very truth, as your life and conscience teach it, and cheer the waiting, fainting hearts of men with new hope and new revelation.”

__________________

Traveling to a New America BookJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of eleven non-fiction books, the newest of which is “Traveling to a New America.

Follow his journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.