1 month ago

Radio program launched in Birmingham where strangers who disagree on politics cross the divide with honest conversation; Volunteers needed

A new program has launched in Birmingham to help members of the public bridge their political differences and find common humanity.

One Small Step, a project from widely lauded radio producer Dave Isay, seeks volunteers with strongly held political beliefs who are willing to have a 4o-minute conversation with someone from the other side of the aisle.

“The dream of One Small Step is that we convince the country that is our patriotic duty to see the humanity in people with whom we disagree,” Isay told Yellowhammer News.

“It is hard to hate up close,” he offered with regards to the conversations on his program.

Yellowhammer News interviewed Isay over the phone on Wednesday about the program’s origins and why he feels it is needed in today’s political environment.

Isay has earned many accolades across his career, including six Peabody Awards and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

“We were seeing each other across the divide and treating each other less than human,” he expounded about what troubled him at the ground level of modern American politics.

Dave Isay {eye-say} (StoryCorps/Contributed)

Isay’s first program, StoryCorps, has been recording episodes for more than 15 years. Public radio listeners may have heard it Fridays during Morning Edition, and others may subscribe to its popular podcast feed.

In StoryCorps episodes, two people with a close relationship interview each other in a soundproof booth. One copy of the recording is given to the participants, and one goes to the StoryCorps producers and the Library of Congress.

“The microphone gives you the license to talk about things you’ve never talked about before,” Isay told Yellowhammer about the method for the program.

StoryCorps has now had 650,000 Americans participate since its inception in 2003, a collection of interview Isay calls “the largest collection of human voices ever gathered.”

One Small Step, the new program recording in Birmingham, grew out of StoryCorps and Isay’s deep desire for people to see each other as humans instead of partisan combatants.

“A little bit more than four years ago I became aware and very concerned about the culture of contempt that was growing quickly across the political divide,” Isay said in an explanation of his desire to create a program like One Small Step.

“I believe that democracy can’t survive in a swamp of mutual discontent,” he offered with regards to his civic motivations.

Isay and his team fine-tuned the new program for years after deciding to make a go of it. A few test episodes were made in Birmingham in conjunction with NPR affiliate WBHM, and the producers found themselves drawn back to the Magic City when it came time to do a full-fledged launch of the new program.

“We did some polling in Birmingham that was both surprising and hopeful,” Isay added about the selection of Alabama’s biggest city for One Small Step.

Three other cities are part of One Small Step’s launch. One began a week ago in Wichita, Kansas. Two others will begin shortly after the Birmingham operation is up and running.

“Two-thirds of the people in Birmingham think the city is more divided than it’s ever been in their lifetime,” Isay told Yellowhammer about the polling results.

“Which is pretty dramatic considering it is, you know, Birmingham,” he continued.

“The majority of people in Birmingham felt under attack or threatened by the other side over the past year. Half the people in Birmingham feel like it is hard for them to think of people from the opposite party as mostly good people,” he added about the polling results that indicated the city was ripe for his program.

Isay advised Yellowhammer that Birmingham’s divisions were not much deeper than the rest of the country, but people’s willingness to listen to each other was higher.

The producer offered that “80% of people in Birmingham feel we can become better people by looking to the experience of others. 70% wish they better understood how people who aren’t like them think and feel.”

“So we’re hopeful,” Isay concluded with respect to the polling his team did in Birmingham.

One Small Step is now actively seeking volunteers with firm political beliefs to volunteer to participate in the conversations. Isay confirmed that the program wants people who identify as conservative or liberal and will help facilitate a respectful experience for both citizens involved.

“You’re going to have a Trump voter and a Biden voter, but you’re not going to talk about politics in these conversations. You’re going to talk about your life, who you are, where you came from, who you care about, what your dreams are for your children, and who your parents were,” Isay explained about how the conversations on the program will go.

“What we hope to do over the next year is have everyone in Birmingham know this is happening,” relayed Isay.

Those interested in participating in the program can submit their information here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

4 hours ago

Ivey lights official state Christmas tree – ‘Merry Christmas to each of you’

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Friday took part in the traditional annual lighting of the official State of Alabama Christmas Tree located on the steps of the capitol.

“Let this be a year you do a little bit more, and give a little bit more,” said Governor Ivey to those assembled.

“Merry Christmas to each of you and to all families across Alabama,” she added.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed introduced Ivey at the ceremony and praised her “steady leadership” during a tumultuous year. Ivey later thanked him for his “dedicated leadership” of Alabama’s capital city.

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Around 200 citizens braved temperatures in the mid-40s to take in the lighting ceremony. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, masks were required for attendance at the ceremony.

“I’m incredibly grateful we’re able to safely keep this Christmas tradition alive,” Ivey said of the circumstances.

Alabama’s 2020 tree was donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr. of Lowndes County. The Eastern Red Cedar is 35 feet tall and required a crew from the Alabama Department of Transportation for its installation.

Major General David J. Francis, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, reminded the crowd in attendance that the Christmas standard “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was written from the perspective of a soldier forced to be away from home during World War II.

“This is a great reminder to remember all our service members, including the members of the greatest generation, the deployed members who will not be with their loved ones this holiday season, and the many who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Francis added.

“Christmas is a direct reminder of the hope we find in Jesus Christ,” mentioned the governor, who makes her Christian faith a mainstay of her public persona.

“Through the birth of a baby boy over two thousand years ago, we can find salvation, peace, and purpose in our lives,” Ivey continued.

“For many of us, including myself, that hope and faith has been what has guided us through these difficult challenges of 2020,” she told the public.

“May God continue to bless our state,” the governor concluded.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

7 hours ago

Palmer: Pelosi, Democrats prioritize pot legalization over COVID-19 relief

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raised eyebrows this week by calling the House of Representatives into session and pushing through votes on legislation that would legalize marijuana and ban private ownership of exotic animals — known as the “Tiger King” bill.

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) released a scathing statement on Friday decrying Pelosi’s prioritization of these bills over much-needed COVID-19 relief for the American people.

“Speaker Pelosi and her clueless Democrat colleagues have proven over and over again that their top priorities do not include the hardworking Americans who need help to get through this pandemic,” Palmer said.

“This week, their prioritization of pot legalization while people are struggling is a stunning display of partisan politics and shows just how out of touch Democrats are with the American people,” he continued. “The timing of this bill not only reflects a disregard for the businesses that need further relief funding, but also for the rampant mental health and drug overdose issues exacerbated by the pandemic.”

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Entitled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), the marijuana legalization passed the House on Friday by a vote of 228-164. The only Alabama representative to support the measure was Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-07), a Democrat.

“Federal surveys show that since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., depression and anxiety have been on the rise, with a concerning 75% of young adults now struggling with at least one mental health or drug problem,” Palmer explained. “The Center for Disease Control has also predicted that the U.S. could see 75,500 drug overdose deaths in 2020 if recent trends hold. Pelosi’s pot bill is even more unconscionable with these concerning facts in mind, especially as it ignores common sense safety measures around marijuana use, and also funnels taxpayer dollars to the marijuana industry and convicted drug dealers. In short, the bill would grant easier access to a gateway drug for already vulnerable and struggling people.”

The Central Alabama congressman concluded, “Furthermore, at a time when we should be helping people with employment opportunities, this bill would move us in the wrong direction. Companies with drug-free work environments, many of them also hazardous work environments, should not and will not employ people who might come to work drug-impaired, endangering themselves and others. I hope we don’t waste more opportunities next week for needed relief.”

Palmer, as the chair of the Republican Policy Committee, is the fifth-highest ranking member of the House GOP.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

WWII vet finishes fight with COVID-19, turns 104 the next day

A World War II veteran in Alabama was released from the hospital this week after a battle with the coronavirus. He turned 104 years old on his first day back home.

Major Wooten, the veteran in question, has become something of a minor celebrity in recent years for his joyful approach to life at his advanced age.

Wooten turned heads in recent years during his trip to Normandy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Similar lines cheered his return to the airport and his exit from the hospital earlier this week.

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An ardent Alabama fan, Wooten again made headlines earlier this year when Nick Saban gave him a call after a health scare in the spring.

RELATED: Nick Saban surprises 103-year-old WWII veteran with Facetime call

Wooten is from Cullman and was cared for at Madison Hospital during his fight with COVID-19.

His exit from the hospital has garnered attention across the nation, with the Associated Press publishing a widely circulated story and ABC’s World News Tonight featuring Wooten in a segment.

Watch employees of Madison Hospital sing Happy Birthday to Major Wooten:

 

Major Wooten turns 104!

Mr. Major Lee Wooten won his battle with COVID-19 in time to be home to celebrate his 104th birthday. Mr. Wooten, who is a veteran and warmly known as “Pop Pop,” is described by his granddaughter as “their family’s treasure.” Please join us in wishing Mr. Wooten a very, happy birthday!

Posted by Madison Hospital on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

8 hours ago

Alabama receives over $50M from Dept. of Interior for energy produced in state

The State of Alabama is receiving $50.29 million from the federal government as a disbursement for energy that was produced in a federally owned area of the state.

Alabama’s funds come as part of a $1.81 billion payout to 34 states announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt on Friday.

The revenue sent to states Friday “was collected from oil, gas and mineral production on federal lands within the states’ borders and from offshore oil and gas tracts in federal waters adjacent to their shores,” according to a release from the department.

Virtually all of Alabama’s portion of the money was generated by offshore drilling, per the data available on an Interior Department web portal.

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Alabama’s payment was ninth highest in the nation. New Mexico took the top spot with $706.96 million followed by Wyoming, Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Mississippi.

American Indian Tribes received $1 billion as part of the process; 100% of the revenue from the energy generated on their lands.

“[T]hese disbursements also go right back to the states and Tribes where the energy was produced, providing critical funding for schools, public services, conservation improvements and infrastructure projects that create good-paying American jobs,” said Bernhardt on Friday.

The over $50 million announced as on its way to Alabama on Friday is the state’s total for fiscal year 2020 that ended September 30. It is the largest amount the state has received under the disbursement policy in the last decade.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

10 hours ago

Aderholt tests positive for COVID-19, is asymptomatic

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Friday announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 but is displaying no symptoms.

Aderholt originally went into quarantine on November 15 after learning he had been in close contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Right after completing his 10-day quarantine period, Aderholt’s wife, Caroline, tested positive and he once again went into quarantine.

Under new CDC guidelines that allow for a seven-day quarantine if followed by a negative test result, Aderholt on Thursday received a COVID-19 test to ascertain if he could exit quarantine and resume voting on the House floor.

“I fully expected to receive a negative test, because I have felt, and continue to feel fine, and have no symptoms. Unfortunately, I received word Friday morning that my test came back positive. After speaking with the Attending Physician for Congress, I will continue to isolate,” he advised in a statement.

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Aderholt also said that his wife has recovered from the virus after experiencing mild symptoms.

During his original quarantine, Aderholt had isolated himself away from his wife and the rest of his family.

The dean of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation, Aderholt is a senior member of the Committee on Appropriations, including serving as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn