'The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again'

Sweeper and doffer in cotton mill, circa 1908

Records of the Children's Bureau

'The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again'

Robert Putnam, Shaylyn Romney Garrett, John Bridgeland (moderator)

Thursday, October 22, 2020
2:00PM - 3:00PM (EDT)
Event Details

Robert Putnam and co-author Shaylyn Romney Garrett discuss their book The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. It's a brilliant analysis of economic, social, and political trends over the past century demonstrating how we have gone from an individualistic “I” society to a more communitarian “We” society and then back again, and how we can learn from that experience to become a stronger, more unified nation.

We’ve been here before. During the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarized, and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However as the 20th century opened, America became—slowly, unevenly, but steadily—more egalitarian, more cooperative, more generous; a society on the upswing, more focused on our responsibilities to one another and less focused on our narrower self-interest. Sometime during the 1960s, however, these trends reversed, leaving us in today’s disarray.

Moderated by Miller Center senior fellow John Bridgeland.


Thursday, October 22, 2020
2:00PM - 3:00PM (EDT)
Robert Putnam

Robert Putnam

Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, having retired from active teaching in May 2018. Raised in a small town in Ohio, he was educated at Swarthmore, Oxford, and Yale. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2006 Putnam received the Skytte Prize, the world’s highest accolade for a political scientist, in 2013 President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities, for “deepening our understanding of community in America,” and in 2018 the International Political Science Association awarded him the Karl Deutsch Award for cross-disciplinary research. He has received sixteen honorary degrees from eight countries, including in 2018, the University of Oxford.

Shaylyn Romney Garrett headshot

Shaylyn Romney Garrett

Shaylyn Romney Garrett is a writer whose work includes revealing portraits of religious communities across the United States in American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. She is a founding contributor to the Aspen Institute’s initiative, Weave: The Social Fabric Project, and writes about her personal journey back to community on her blog, Project Reconnect. Garrett has also had a successful career as a social entrepreneur. With her husband, James Garrett, she co-founded Think Unlimited, a nonprofit venture working to catalyze social innovation in the Middle East. She lived in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for six years, during which time she partnered with Queen Rania Al-Abdullah to bring an original Arabic language curriculum on creativity and critical thinking to Jordanian public schools. Shaylyn’s work has been featured by the New York Times, FastCompany, LinkedIn, Harvard Business Review, and Arab Investor. In 2011 she was honored with the prestigious Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship, and was a finalist in the global Echoing Green Competition. 

John Bridgeland

John Bridgeland (moderator)

John Bridgeland, a Miller Center senior fellow, is the founder and CEO of Civic, a bipartisan ideas company in Washington, D.C. He is also vice chairman of the Service Year Alliance; co-convener of Grad Nation; vice chairman of Malaria No More; producer of the film Sea of Hope ; and co-founder of the High Seas Initiative, to bring the national parks idea to the ocean. Previously, Bridgeland was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the White House Council for Community Solutions. He also served as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, as assistant to the president, and as the first director of the post-9/11 Freedom Corps under President George W. Bush.