This morning, I participated in a press conference call with Tavis Smiley, host of America's Next Chapter, which will take place from 6 pm to 9 pm on January 13 at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. The event, designed to bring together thought leaders to wrestle with the question of “how America can return to its greatness,” is free and open to the public. (Register here.)
America's Next Chapter is the next generation of Smiley's trademark State Of Black America, which he moderated for several years during Black History Month. I was honored to be invited to today's conference, and to ask Tavis two questions. Of course, mine concerned the extent to which he expects to include the topic of small and family business ownership in next week's discussion. Here's what the told me (I'm paraphrasing because the call was not recorded):
How will next week's discussion hold the Administration accountable for new legislation that is unnecessarily burdening micro-business? Not unlike Democratic National Committee Chairman, Gov. Tim Kaine, with whom I met last year, Tavis pointed out that Obama's first two years were invested in helping Wall Street, to the possible detriment of small and micro-businesses who are not benefiting from the big bank bail outs. He said he intends to use next week's discussion as a way to hold the current administration accountable for the policies that resulted in banking institutions now sitting on billions in assets that are not trickling down to the small companies that need financing to grow and rebuild the nation's economy.
How can we as a nation ensure that small, micro-business participate in the national conversation where the economy is concerned? Smiley pointed out that there were no micro-businesses represented at Obama's December 15, 2010 Business Summit. He acknowledged that the concerns of tiny businesses are also not a part of the Sunday morning talk show circuit, and that his vision includes raising these types of issues in next week's discussion.
(Throughout my conversation, I was careful to clarify that, when I asked about “small business,” I was not asking about “small” as defined by the Small Business Adminstration. I was asking about tiny, solo and family owned businesses — micro-businesses if you will. Tavis seemed to appreciate this vital distinction.)
Tavis concluded the call with an interesting observation. Again paraphrasing, he said that if America properly acknowledges and responds to the needs of persons of color, it will by necessity also properly acknowledge and respond to the needs of everyone else. I didn't get a chance to follow up on that statement, but I did find it — and its possible implications — interesting.
America's Next Chapter will be broadcast live on C-Span on January 13. The conversation will be rebroadcast for three nights on Tavis Smiley on PBS beginning January 18 through January 20. The conversation will continue on Smiley & West from Public Radio International. Check your local listings for specifics.
Tickets to America's Next Chapter on January 13 rom 6 pm to 9 pm are free, and I am planning to attend. It appears from the website that you'll be able to watch live via Ustream at this link. Panelists will include publisher Arianna Huffington, Princeton professor and author Dr. Cornel West, CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, and other prominent influencers and thought leaders.
If you'd like to join me live and in person at the event, you can register here. If enough people come, I will see if I can host a meetup after the event so the discussion can continue. If you plan to attend, please let me know in the comments.
To Tweet the event and help spread the word, please use the #americasnextchapter hashtag. You can follow Tavis on Twitter at this link.
Question: What questions do you think Tavis should ask the panelists next week?