A national correspondent for The Atlantic, James Fallows speaks about his book Our Towns, “a vivid, surprising portrait of the civic and economic reinvention taking place in America, town by town and generally out of view of the national media”, in the 2018 CALS J.N. Heiskell Distinguished Lecture for journalism.
The event is FREE and open to the public. RSVPs are requested.
For the last five years, James and Deborah Fallows have been traveling across America in a single-engine prop airplane. Visiting dozens of towns, they have met hundreds of civic leaders, workers, immigrants, educators, environmentalists, artists, public servants, librarians, business people, city planners, students, and entrepreneurs to take the pulse and understand the prospects of places that usually draw notice only after a disaster or during a political campaign.
The America they saw is acutely conscious of its problems – from economic dislocation to the opioid scourge – but it is also crafting solutions, with a practical-minded determination at dramatic odds with the bitter paralysis of national politics. At times of dysfunction on a national level, reform possibilities have often arisen from the local level. The Fallowses describe America in the middle of one of these creative waves. Their view of the country is as complex and contradictory as America itself, but it also reflects the energy, the generosity and compassion, the dreams, and the determination of many who are in the midst of making things better. Our Towns is the story of their journey – and an account of a country busy remaking itself.
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter’s chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best-seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.
Fallows is based in Washington and has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot.
Fallows has won the National Magazine Award for his 2002 story “Iraq: The Fifty-First State?” warning about the consequences of invading Iraq; he has been a finalist four other times. He has also won the National Book Award for nonfiction for his book National Defense and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He and Deborah Fallows, author of the book Dreaming in Chinese, have two married sons.