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Humankind Premieres July Fourth Special On NPR Berlin

David Freudberg

David Freudberg is the Executive Producer of Human Media. David Freudberg hide caption

itoggle caption David Freudberg

Our new Humankind July Fourth special, "An Informed Republic" looks at a remarkable chapter of American history when our founders fretted over whether their fledgling democracy would even survive.

As one of the many historians I interviewed mentioned, there had not been a true republic since the fall of ancient Rome, and many expected the bold experiment of the American revolutionaries to fail. So they knew it would take an informed citizenry to replace the monarchy system from which the colonists rebelled.

Of course in pre-electronic media days, the primary mode of mass communication was newspapers — also one of the only ways that elected officials could communicate with voters.

So they carefully built the postal system in part as a means of circulating news to citizens. They deliberately gave deep discounts for postal delivery of newspapers and even provided what today we would call subsidies to papers, in a sense laying the foundation for modern public broadcasting.

I also had the opportunity for this program to make my first visit to the US Supreme Court for a special interview with retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Now at age 80, she's a spry and passionate champion of civic education.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

The level of civic awareness is shockingly low in the country, and she explains the dangers of that — the same dangers understood by America's founders in the eighteenth century.

Walking through the hallowed, marbel halls of the high Court was an amazing experience. One fact that surprised me: the famous Court building was not constructed til 1932. Before then, the Supreme Court held its hearings in the basement of the Capitol building.

Happy Fourth to everyone!

David Freudberg is the Executive Producer at Human Media. He has written and edited more than 700 productions, which include over 100 full-length nationally broadcast documentaries.

You can hear Humankind at 9:00 AM, Sunday mornings on 104.1.

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