After four years, 31 cities and about 100,000 miles in a small private plane, Deborah and James Fallows are back home with a reassured outlook on America’s future.
Along the way, the couple talked with civic leaders, visited local brewpubs and explored what makes Small Town America - like Eastport, Maine (population 1,255) - and larger cities - like Columbus, Ohio (population 860,090) - go.
In the latest episode of 1947: Meet the Press Podcast with Chuck Todd, the couple discussed their book “Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America”, as well as regional identity, religion and what lies ahead for the nation.
“I thought, ‘This is what I thought [of America], and yet, even better,’” Deborah said as she reflected on their cross-country trip. She pointed out how some community colleges have become “a real heartbeat of the town and a real pointer to the future,” and how she was surprised at the strength of religion in these communities.
According to James, the strong signs of regional identity, reform, experimentation, innovation, and positivity, paired with cities’ ability to create long-term plans, demonstrates how the nation is still going strong.
“The country is better than its national government is right now,” he said. “Looking at people, looking at towns, you couldn’t tell if they were far-right or far-left. They work the same. The civic texture was the same.”
As for the larger cities, the Fallowses says those should be okay, too.
“People really do carve up their big cities into little neighborhoods… I think there’s the same kind of human impulse to behave in this neighborhood/neighborly small-townish way,” said Deborah.
James chimed in: “There is, again, more common potential than one might think.”