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EP317: How Johnny Carson Saved Twister, Drinking Done New Orleans Style and Humans are Hardwired for Freedom

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 23, 2022 3:00 am

EP317: How Johnny Carson Saved Twister, Drinking Done New Orleans Style and Humans are Hardwired for Freedom

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 23, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, history geek Christopher Klein to tells the story of how Johnny Carson saved Twister. Liz Williams, founder of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, tells the story of whisky, bourbon, absinthe, and pink elephants... done Cajun style. Tina Ramirez shares her passion for religion and how she took it around the world.

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

 

Time Codes: 

00:00 - How Johnny Carson Saved Twister

12:30 - Drinking Done New Orleans Style

25:00 - Humans are Hardwired for Freedom

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Vanguard Marketing Corporation distributor. This is Our American Stories, and we tell stories about just about everything, as you know. And up next, a story by author Christopher Klein. He's the author of four books.

He's also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and American Heritage. Here's Chris tell the story of how Johnny Carson saved Twister. It's 1965, and Wren Geyer is working for his family's Minnesota ad agency designing point-of-purchase displays for products such as Pillsbury Cake Mix and 3M tape. And one day he's brainstorming ideas for a mail-in giveaway to promote back-to-school sales of a shoe polish made by Johnson's Wax. And he's thinking of something that would tie in with shoes, and he gets this idea for a new board game to be played not on a tabletop, but on the floor. He envisions a large mat checkered with squares on which players are the pieces. Geyer found a large cardboard sheet, drew 24 colorful squares in a 4x6 arrangement, and called in coworkers to play a game in which they moved around like chess pieces. The game was a hit, and Geyer knew he had an idea too good to waste on shoe polish. He figured this could be a mass-market game, but the problem was he had no experience in the toy industry.

So he enlisted the help of industry veteran Charles Foley and artist Neil Rabins to help him refine the concept. Rabins came up with the idea of having players place their hands as well as their feet on the game board, while Foley thought of putting six circles of the same color in four rows so that players would become entangled. The inventors even came up with a catchy retail name for the game, Pretzel, because of its ability to twist people into unique shapes. The game was simple to play.

A spinner told a player to put either a hand or a foot on a particular colored dot, and the winner was the one who stayed up the longest without elbows or knees hitting the ground. Pretzel required coordination, flexibility, absolutely no hang-ups about personal space. When Geyer's team pitched Pretzel to game maker Milton Bradley, the company's head of research and development, Mel Taft, was immediately sold. Other Milton Bradley executives, however, thought the board game too provocative.

That the idea of being that close to someone, especially someone of the opposite sex, was socially unacceptable. One company salesman even called it Sex in a Box. Taft pressed ahead, though, and Milton Bradley agreed to produce the board game, but with a new name. Since a toy dog called Pretzel was already on the market, Milton Bradley changed the game's name to Twister and marketed it as the game that ties you up in knots. Having grown up in the Midwest, though, Geyer disliked the new moniker because it reminded him of deadly tornadoes. Milton Bradley found a company that manufactured shower curtains to produce Twister's vinyl mats and place cartoon characters on the packaging to make the game more innocuous.

It appeared at first, however, that the naysayers concerned about the game's sexual overtones were correct. Major retailers who gathered at the annual Toy Fair in New York thought Twister too risqué as well. Sears Roebuck wouldn't even include it in the company's Christmas catalog.

With demand flagging, Milton Bradley considered pulling Twister from the market. Before it could cancel production, though, the toy company's public relations firm scored a coup by getting the game onto the premiere late-night television program in the United States, NBC's Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. With an average of 12 million Americans tuning in every night, the Tonight Show was among television's greatest showcases. On the night of May 3, 1966, host Johnny Carson played a game of Twister with glamorous actress Ava Gabor, star of television's Green Acres. Sidekick Ed McMahon worked the spinner and guffawed from his couch as Carson and Gabor got down on all fours and contorted in strange positions.

The stars were in knots, the audience was in stitches. The impact of the hilarious segment on Twister sales was immediate. The next day, customers deluged toy stars such as F.A.L.

Schwartz. Promotional spots on Art Linkletter's House Party and The Mike Douglas Show also raised the game's profile, and Milton Bradley's newspaper advertisements began to boast of the sensational new party game seen by millions on TV. While kids and adults alike were swept up in a Twister craze, teenagers proved to be the game's sweet spot. During the 1960s, Twister became as much a staple of teenage basement parties as shag carpeting and faux wood paneling. By December, Milton Bradley's factories were turning out 40,000 boxes of Twister a day, and it still wasn't enough to keep up with holiday sales.

The toy company even scrapped a planned advertising campaign tied to New Year's Eve to allow its production line to catch up with demand. By the end of 1967, three million Twister games had been sold, and it became one of the decade's most popular games. When Twister was enshrined in the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2015, actors recreated the moment when Carson and Gabor saved the game from history's dustbin. Since its release, an estimated 65 million people have played Twister, proving that it, unlike shag carpeting and fake wood paneling, was no fad of the swinging sixties. And a special thanks to Greg Hengler for producing the piece, and a special thanks to Christopher Klein for telling the story of the night Johnny Carson saved Twister. And by the way, what a coup for that PR firm. I mean, Twister was dead on arrival. And by the way, it's hard to imagine for people born, let's say, after 1980 to understand the power of the Sears catalog.

And if the Sears catalog said no, it would be the equivalent today of Amazon saying no. It was that powerful. And my goodness, what a fun game. I know it was one of the great games at parties when I was a kid. And what a great way to just laugh and be stupid. And by the way, that it's enshrined in the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York is no surprise.

65 million people have played the game. A great piece of storytelling by Christopher Klein, the story of Twister and how a late night talk show host saved it and made it the game it is today here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

That's OurAmericanStories.com. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jenny with the 90210MG podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by NerdTechODT. We recorded it at I Heart Radio's 10th Poll event, Wango Tango. Did you know that NerdTechODT Remedipant 75mg can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?

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Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we return to our American stories. And up next, a story about drinking, or rather, the story behind drinking in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Here's Monty. Louisiana is a state that exists in a lot. The people of New Orleans are a lot to take in. The state holds the world record for the biggest survey of gumbo. And the great residents of Louisiana also boiled a world record number of crawfish in 2012.

But there is another thing they do a lot of. Here's Liz Williams of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum with more on that. Well, we drink a lot. One of the things that's important is coffee and chicory. We drink a lot of coffee, but we drink it often with chicory in it. That came from the French. The French came over with that idea because chicory grows wild in France. And so people used it as a way to stretch their coffee.

And so even though they brought this practice over here, and even though nowadays chicory actually is more expensive than coffee, we still drink it so it's no longer used as a stretcher. It's just a taste that we've developed. I think of it more like a mocha or something.

It's just a different flavor. What else do we drink? We have alcohol.

The Germans brought their beer-making traditions here, and so we had beer very, very early. We also, because we were growing sugarcane, had a lot of rum. And you won't find that there was this big distillery here or anything like that. What you find is that everybody made their own rum. So it's not like you can say, oh, this distillery has been around for all these years and it's been manufacturing rum forever. No, everybody just made their own rum on their own plantation or whatever. And so earlier people used to think, well, there was no rum.

It's like, no, everybody just made their own. We also drank a lot of bourbon. Because we were a port city, we were really, really busy, lots of visitors here all the time doing business. And so let's say that you lived up the river, say in St. Louis or something like that. You come down the river, but you're waiting for the goods to come down.

And what do you do? You just sit around in the bar in the hotel and talk to the other people who are doing the same thing you are, and everybody's drinking. Because of that, we drank more bourbon than the rest of the country put together. But it was because of our drinking culture that the development of aged bourbon happened. Because before that, everybody just drank bourbon right out of the still. And when it came down here, the barrels were used just because the orders were so big.

And that's how they kind of learned that it changes and gets better in the barrel. In the most recent times, Kentucky has been able to own bourbon by law. And if you make it in Tennessee, it's Tennessee whiskey. It's not bourbon, even if you make it in the same method or whatever. But the story of this really has to do with the Scotch-Irish who were distillers making scotch, and they came here to America. And the grain that was the most available to them was corn. So this became a corn whiskey that they made, and it doesn't have the smoky flavor of scotch.

It's really quite different. And they used to just drink it right out of the still. And they began to barrel it and send it mostly to New Orleans. And that's how they discovered that the aging process gave it the vanilla tones from the oak and the in and out from the barrel, the charcoal on the inside of the barrel, took out a lot of the impurities and made it a lot smoother. So it's become the American whiskey.

And not just because us normal people do it, but so have our leaders. So George Washington, of course he was a gentleman farmer, and he was very English in his attitude that that's what you should do is you should farm, that that was the way to live, but that was lifestyle. You don't really make money as a farmer. And so he had a distillery on his farm. And he and a number of other of our presidents were very involved in distillation, and everybody was a drinker during Prohibition, for example. The White House stocked up on alcohol before Prohibition went into effect so that they had enough that they still hadn't run out by the end of Prohibition. So if you lived in the White House, you always could drink. Among the presidents to consider whiskey their favorite drink? Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Martin Van Buren, and William McKinley, who had a drink named after him called McKinley's Delight, which contains one dash of a very potent spirit that has unique foreign roots and was brought to New Orleans.

Absinthe. So New Orleans remained a French-speaking place until World War I. In the 1880s, well after we were a state for over 50 years, Edgar Degas, the painter, came to New Orleans and he said, oh, I didn't even have to bother to learn to speak English to go visit my brother. His brother lived here because everybody still spoke French. So because of that French connection, because Absinthe was popular in Paris, it was popular here. This is the way Absinthe is generally served. So you have a saucer that you put it on. There would always be a number on the saucer. So sometimes there were also colors on the saucers for people who couldn't read.

They would know that this is two francs or one franc or whatever. So anyway, these saucers are like coasters, and you see it keeps the condensation from dripping off the bottom. So then you have a glass. So Absinthe glasses are almost always made with these kinds of distinctions where the decoration changes. So you don't have to measure, you don't have to have any kind of instrument. You just look at the glass and the glass gives you the cues. Then you have this trowel-like thing, which we call an Absinthe spoon.

It's pierced so that water can go through it, and usually there's a crimp on it which makes it seem stable on the glass's edge. This is a sugar cube. So today our sugar cubes are made of pressed granulated sugar, and they dissolve quickly. But in those days, cubes were just one big crystal that you broke off of this big thing. And so it was solid, and it didn't dissolve that easily because it wasn't already granulated. So you would take this thing and you would put it under the faucet and let it drip, drip, drip, not poured, but drip. It could take, you know, 10 or 15 minutes, one drip at a time, until it came as high as you wanted in terms of water. By that time, because you made sure that the drip went on to the cube, so it would dissolve, and then you would let it go into your glass, and you would then use the spoon to break up any little bit that was left and stir it all up, and then you would drink it.

So this became its own ritual, and because the proof was like 180 proof, I mean, it was really a high proof. People were always drunk, and they... Have you ever heard of people talking about seeing pink elephants? That's because when you have a lot to drink, you hallucinate, and so they say, oh, you're seeing pink elephants. Well, the French didn't say that. The French, because the chlorophyll in the herbs that they would macerate in the alcohol made it turn a little green, they said you were being visited by the green fairy, which is why everything associated with absinthe is always tinted kind of green, because they say the green fairy is going to visit you. Maybe more interesting than pink elephants, although I think pink elephants are very interesting.

I see that he's far more interested in pink elephants. And a special thanks to Monty for his work, and a special thanks to Liz Williams, the story of our favorite beverages here on Our American Stories. 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango.

It's true. I had one that night, and I took my NURTEC ODT, and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by NURTEC ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.

But thankfully, NURTEC ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. This is Our American Stories, and up next, Robbie brings us a story that starts in the United States, travels around the world, and then comes back home. It's the story of Tina Ramirez and her passion for freedom of religion, which started at a very young age.

Here's Tina. Growing up in the rural part of Virginia, my dad was a doctor. He started a little family practice out in the rural part of Virginia, and my mom was a nurse midwife. I lived a pretty simple childhood.

Back then in the 80s, life was I think a lot simpler. We didn't have as much as kids growing up to distract us, so we played in the woods a lot and went to church and spent time with family, and so I was very close to my dad growing up. And then when I was about 11, my parents got divorced, and so I think that the thing that really kind of changed my life more than anything was that when my dad left, he actually joined the Jehovah's Witnesses, which believes a lot in proselytizing, and so his faith changed, and he would often try to convince me that what he believed was right, and growing up in the church myself, I was very confused and frustrated at the same time, and so I started studying theology and understanding, well, what do I believe? What I remember most is that because his new faith is so different, and what it did was that it isolated him in many ways from our family. A lot of us just didn't understand, and so that led me to, you know, you feel the sense of exclusion or of distance with somebody that I was one of the closest kids to him, so I was like, Daddy's a little girl.

So for me, it was just this really difficult experience where you feel like the person that should be close to you feels the farthest away, and those are the formative years for a young girl, and so feeling that distance from your dad is a very difficult thing. I think over the course of our conversations and just as the years pass, what I grew to understand is that he believes very strongly in what he believes, and it made me actually feel even more strongly in my convictions and what I was convicted about being able to live by them, but it also helped me understand that I can love and appreciate him and respect him and his ability to believe something even if I believe it's wrong or even if he believes that I'm wrong, that that's okay. And I think that's really the key that made me somebody that became passionate about religious freedom for all people. The thing that I see more than anything in the world is that people are afraid of others somehow because they have strong beliefs or they're passionate or they try to convince you of their beliefs that somehow they're a threat to you, and they're not a threat.

It's okay, you know? If your beliefs are strong enough, they'll stand up the test. In college, Tina had another one of these experiences that would propel her down the path of human rights and religious freedom advocacy. I studied at the International Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and that was when I was 20. There was my last few credits in college, and it was a law school class, actually, so I wasn't even...

I was kind of young for it, but they let me in. And I just remember being in this class with all these law students and being fascinated by how you could use this body of law to really advance rights for people. And it was in France, so I met people from all over the world.

There were hundreds of people at this course. Every summer, they go for one month and they just study human rights. And then on the side, we would have these afternoon courses to learn about religious freedom. And through these courses, Tina realized she could bring that knowledge to others. I finished high school in three years. I finished college in three years.

So by 20, I was ready to be a school teacher. I was in Orange County, California at the time, so it can be often perceived as a bubble because it was a very wealthy and prosperous area, and I wanted them to have a bigger perspective of the world, that, hey, there are a lot of people that just don't have the blessings and the opportunities that we have, and let's see how we can be more globally minded and think how can we stand up and make the world a better place for more people. It was powerful what happened because the students that came out of that classroom, that was 2000, the year 2000. I remember having one little boy who was an Afghan refugee, and this was before the war, so at the time the Taliban were destroying all the Buddhist history in Afghanistan.

There was this historic Buddhist culture there and obviously putting women in the public where they were literally stoning them to death. So there was this huge outcry internationally about the rights of women and religious communities in Afghanistan, but at the time I had this little boy from Afghanistan in my class, and he would go around and he'd beat kids up, and he was a little kid, but he had a lot of anger in him, and I was doing testing both pre and post on the impact that the students, both their differences in attitudes and behaviors before and after the course that we did to see if it had an impact, and this little boy that used to go around being violent, at the end of the course that I wrote, they all had to do different projects, but he did a project where I asked him, you need to look into what's happening to these women in Afghanistan. So he did, and at the end he wrote a letter to President Bush, and he said, President Bush, I want you to help these women. They're like birds in a cage. They don't have a voice, and they just need help.

Will you help them, please? And he was transformed as a person. He was not violent anymore in class, and what I saw there was that this is powerful. There's something here when you teach kids human dignity that people have value, that words matter, that they have responsibilities to one another. That really transformed him and so many of my students, and I was able to prove that. And so anyway, my research ended up being used by the United Nations and Amnesty International for their decade on human rights education, because it was the first data to prove that it had an impact, but I saw lives transformed, and I was really encouraged by it, and I knew that there's something powerful here.

Tina would eventually start a nonprofit called Hardwired, founded on the idea that no matter where a person is born, they're hardwired for freedom. But before she would do that, she spent some time in Washington, D.C. Before I started Hardwired, I worked for the U.S. Congress, and I helped build a bipartisan caucus to defend religious freedom around the world. So we defended people of all faiths, people of no faith.

It was our priority just to defend the principle of religious freedom and freedom of conscience for everyone. It had kind of been lost in Congress at the time. It had become pretty partisan and one faith-focused issue, and so I spent a long time, four years, rebuilding that. But basically in Congress, you're dealing with the after effects, so you don't have the ability really to address root causes of conflict. And I think that was probably the most frustrating thing for me, is that being somebody that likes to solve problems and get things done in some way, working up in Congress, I realized that the people on the ground in these countries that were suffering needed something more. They needed people that were on the ground that could defend them immediately because often the suffering that they experienced lasted much longer than it needed to because they were always having to depend on outside help. But if they had had people inside that could stand up and defend them, kind of like we've had in America historically, with our founding fathers and the leaders that we have even in our country, you can go across the street and find someone that's going to defend your religious freedom if it's attacked.

But in these countries, that just doesn't happen. And so I realized that the greatest, my greatest frustration up there was why I needed to leave and to do something different, and so I did. And you've been listening to Tina Ramirez, and she is so dead right. Human beings are hardwired for freedom, and she is focused on the most essential of all of the freedoms, and that is the freedom to worship as you choose or not.

And even in my own family, the divergence of our way of observing God or not is so, well, it is just so divergent, and it's beautiful, and that's how we do what we do here in this country. When we come back, this remarkable young lady has a cause, and a beautiful one. Tina Ramirez's story continues here on Our American Stories.

Hey, you guys. This is Tori and Jenni with the 902.1 OMG podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by NerdTech ODT. We recorded it at iHeartRadio's 10th poll event, Wango Tango. Did you know that NerdTech ODT Remedipant 75 mg can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango? It's true! I had one that night, and I took my NerdTech ODT, and I was present and had an amazing time.

Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by NerdTech ODT Remedipant 75 mg. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family, but thankfully, NerdTech ODT Remedipant 75 mg is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults, so lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit uhcmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we're back with our American stories and the story of Tina Ramirez. After experiences early on at home and in the classroom, Tina became passionate about making sure everyone had the freedom of religion that we enjoy here in the United States, which is why she started her company hardwired to promote what she sees as an essential human right. Iraq is probably one of the saddest cases because when the United States went in, the Christian church, the Yazidis, the Mandaeans, all the different minority faith communities there suffered so much. And then, of course, both Sunnis and Shias were killing each other, and they still are, but the minorities were disproportionately affected, especially the Jewish community there, to the point where out of like 50,000 Mandaeans that were in Iraq before the war, there's like less than 4,000 or 3,000 there right now. So with the Iraq War, all of these faith communities were disproportionately targeted and attacked, and there were no amount of hearings and legislation that we could propose to really stop that. And so that's what really led me to leave Congress and to start hardwired, which establishes local leadership in countries where they don't have it to defend religious freedom. And it's more than just religious freedom.

It's really about helping local leadership understand, in situations where people kill each other over religion or they disregard the minority populations and their needs, it's helping them see the value of every person in a society and not being afraid of people of different faiths and beliefs or ethnicities so that they can learn how to work together, overcome those fears, and mitigate a lot of the conflicts so that they can build a country where they can live together in peace. There is a judge who is now in charge of the court that is sentencing all of the members of ISIS responsible for genocide. But at the time, he was a part of our training. He was a judge from Mosul who had had to flee because ISIS had overrun Mosul, and his family actually all were left behind.

But he was one of the oldest, and so he was able to leave. He was in charge of the court, handling, sentencing terrorists, and so they knew that he would be targeted if he didn't flee. So he fled, and he went to Baghdad, and when we met him, he was in Baghdad, and he was handling these courts. And so after the training, he was so moved by what he had learned. He's a Sunni Muslim judge. He spent the whole next day going to visit the Yazidi and the Christian communities and telling them, I want you to know I'm going to defend your rights in the courts.

I'm going to help you. And then a few months later, we trained them several times over the course of the year until they can be self-sufficient. And so one of the next trainings we did over in Iraq, we went back, and we saw him. We asked him how he was doing, and he showed us his cell phone and this image on his cell phone, which was a picture of his 17-year-old brother being beheaded by ISIS. And I told him, I told him, I told him, this is my 17-year-old brother being beheaded by ISIS.

And I was, I mean, just, you know, you see that, and it's not, Americans have had to see it a couple times with journalists and people that shock our conscience. But, you know, when I work with people who are risking their lives to defend others, I understand the gravity of it in a different way, I guess, because I know that their lives are at risk with what I'm teaching them and that I'm sending them back in these dangerous situations. But what he said to me was, he said, Tina, I know that this is a warning, but if I don't go out and defend the rights of all people, if I don't defend this religious freedom for everyone, this is the reality that awaits every person in Iraq. He's now become the head judge in charge of sentencing all of these members of ISIS because he didn't give up.

And I think what it showed me, and just I was so encouraged by it, is that's exactly what we wanted to do at Hardwired. We wanted people like him, we call them defenders of freedom, that would risk their own lives to defend the rights and the freedoms of others. Risk their own lives to defend the rights and the freedoms of other people, even if they disagreed with them. But because they saw they were all on the same team, that religion wouldn't be the obstacle to working together, that they would see that human dignity as something that could draw them together and work together towards that greater good. And to know that we had contributed to that and that our supporters had contributed to that, and so many people can be discouraged by the situation in Iraq. And what encourages me, even in the midst of what's happening there right now, is that we built Hardwired because when the door closes to outside help, there is still hope when we can establish local leaders who can defend freedom for others. It would be wrong for Americans to think that we're the savior of the world or the answer to everyone's problems.

We're not. But we've been given this, we've inherited really this gift of freedom that we can teach others in some ways and help them come out of just years of dictatorship and oppression. So just after Christmas, there was a Jewish rabbi's home was attacked, and then there was a Christian church where somebody shot at the Persianers. But we've seen it with mosques being attacked. We've seen it across the country where people of faith are being attacked.

And somehow this holy place of worship for people is not off limits anymore. And regardless of who they are and what they believe, I find that very troubling because America was really founded on this ideal of freedom for people to believe differently. And that is something that every country in the world looks to us to really champion.

And right now we're struggling with that. And so at Hardwired, we have been looking at taking the education program that we do around the world here in American schools. So one of the things that we do is we train leaders, but we also train teachers. And so right now, Hardwired has been able to work with governments like Morocco and Lebanon and Iraq, Kosovo, several countries around the world to teach freedom of religion, freedom of belief, freedom of conscience in their public schools. And that's transforming communities. So Hardwired is releasing a huge study on documentaries and resources that these teachers that we're working with around the world have created, showing the impact on children and students and communities around the world in really difficult places. And our goal is then to take those stories to schools in the United States where communities are struggling with intolerance and violence and bullying. And we believe that it really is a very important conversation to have in our country right now. But I remember when I was a teacher, there was nothing out there on this. The last 20 years I've been developing curriculum and doing things to figure out how we can promote human rights education and education for freedom of conscience. But we have a huge need right now, and I would love for teachers anywhere that want to be a part of it to join me.

We have an opportunity now to really take what's happening here in our country and respond here. Look, I grew up without, like my college years, I wasn't on the Internet, I wasn't doing social media. During my formative years, I grew up where you had to talk to people face-to-face. And even with my dad, if you look back at him and I had a really significant area of disagreement, but we worked through it face-to-face.

And so I was able to learn how to be civil and have civil conversations with others that I disagree with from a very early age. And unfortunately, that's something that's really missing with, I think, really the use of social media and the lack of personal interaction, because it's very easy to like or dislike somebody to unfriend someone. And I think that that's changed our ability to interact with people.

Social media can be a huge vehicle for social change and for helping people that don't have a voice have a voice. And at the same time, it can be a huge place for incivility and for hate and intolerance. And the schools and education and that one-on-one interaction that teachers and parents have with children is so important and valuable. And it really, there's nothing else that can, you can't really replace that with anything else when you're really trying to teach civility and dialogue and respect for differences. And this doesn't mean you have to agree with them.

It just means do you know how to dialogue with somebody that you might disagree with and respect the dignity of them so that you don't have to lash out with intolerance and violence. We as individuals, as parents, as teachers need to be vigilant to safeguard that next generation and the freedoms that they will secure for the future. And a special thanks to Tina Ramirez, Hardwired for Freedom. Go to hardwiredglobal.org to learn more. And by the way, religious tolerance and freedom, well, it is the most distinctive feature of this great country.

Tina Ramirez's story, Hardwired for Freedom, here on Our American Stories. GEICO asks, how would you love a chance to save some money on insurance? Of course you would. And when it comes to great rates on insurance, GEICO can help. Like with insurance for your car, truck, motorcycle, boat, and RV. Even help with homeowners or renters coverage. Plus add an easy to use mobile app, available 24 hour roadside assistance, and more, and GEICO is an easy choice. Switch today and see all the ways you could save.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-16 04:16:12 / 2023-02-16 04:33:27 / 17

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