The Prison Reformers

White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett and prison reform advocate Piper Kerman talk about using the power of storytelling to spark social change.

President Obama and Misty Copeland

The president and the prima ballerina on race, body image, and staying humble in the wake of great successes.

Art and Diplomacy

Actress Amy Adams and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power talk about the role that art (or culture) can play in bringing people together.

Famous Friends With a Cause

Actor Connie Britton and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are both devoted feminists, but the other things they have in common might surprise you.

Women Making Movies

Rebecca Hall, the star of ‘Christine’ talks about women in Hollywood with Eleanor Coppola, who just directed her first feature film.

Stories of Small Town America

Country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves and bestselling author JD Vance on the experiences that shaped their worldviews.

Deepwater Horizon: Heroism and Tragedy

An intimate conversation with Deepwater survivor Mike Williams and Mark Wahlberg, the actor who played him.

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The Influencers

The Prison Reformers

White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett and prison reform advocate Piper Kerman talk about using the power of storytelling to spark social change.

Dec. 14, 2016

In her role as White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett has had the ear of the president for the past eight years. Thanks to that connection, the discussions she's had with everyday Americans have had a profound influence on the president's approach to policy, particularly when it comes to criminal justice reform. Stories from current and former prisoners have informed decisions around helping prisoners get an education behind bars and leading them toward work when they're released. So when Jarrett sat down for a conversation with author and prison reform advocate Piper Kerman, the conversation flowed with ease.

Kerman, who is best known as the author of the memoir, Orange is the New Black, which inspired the hit Netflix show of the same name, is no stranger to the power of storytelling. She teaches a nonfiction writing course in Ohio state prisons, encouraging incarcerated men and women to discover the power of their own experiences. Their lives are incredibly important, incredibly fascinating, and their stories reveal so much about the places they grew up and the families that they come from and the problems that they faced, sometimes from a very very young age, Kerman says.

Both recognize there is more work to be done to reduce the prison population and help those impacted by the criminal justice system seek the resources that could lead them down a different path. Yet both agree that if we all did a little more listening, perhaps we could make some change. The best way to get I think everyone to wake up is to tell the story in a way that not just triggers their intellectual curiosity, but that their hearts follow too, says Jarrett. That the human toll becomes as important as anything else.

President Obama and Misty Copeland

The president and the prima ballerina on race, body image, and staying humble in the wake of great successes.

Dec. 05, 2016

The first African American president and the first black principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater have much in common. Both have risen to the pinnacle of institutions that have historically been led by whites. Both were raised by determined single mothers and born into multi-racial families. And both seek to use their positions of power to inspire.

They have also come to appreciate each other from afar, prompting a rare meeting at the White House on Feb. 29, 2016.

The president has acknowledged his failure to bridge the nation's political divide as one of his biggest regrets, and he is aware that racial tensions have not markedly changed since he took office. But as he spoke with Copeland, he recognized that for some black and brown children, his presence in office has made a difference, much like a black woman with the confidence and curves performing grand jetés across the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House.

Art and Diplomacy

Actress Amy Adams and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power talk about the role that art (or culture) can play in bringing people together.

Nov. 23, 2016

In her critically acclaimed new film "Arrival", Amy Adams plays a linguist who must learn to translate across species when aliens descend on earth. But the movie, which looks at first glance like classic sci-fi, instead becomes a meditation on language and diplomacy. So when the Oscar-nominated actress sat down with Samantha Power, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, the two had much to discuss.

While Power actually spends her days working to bridge gaps on an international level, both accomplished women share the belief that art has the power to mitigate xenophobia and make “the other” seem as familiar as a friend. "The way to break through, it seems to me — really, one of the only ways these days — is through the arts,” Power says. The important thing is keeping those channels open. "It is about the experience of communicating," Adams says. "Not only communicating with aliens, but really, it's about communicating with each other.”

Famous Friends With a Cause

Actor Connie Britton and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are both devoted feminists, but the other things they have in common might surprise you.

Nov. 2, 2016

You probably know Connie Britton from her starring television roles on Nashville and Friday Night Lights. And Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior Senator from New York, made national news when she pushed to repeal the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell law. But what you may not know is that this unlikely pair were roommates at Dartmouth College while on a semester abroad in China. They've remained friends ever since, each fighting for women's rights from totally different platforms.

Britton has pushed for richer, more realistic female characters in film and TV so women can see themselves reflected on screen. “The message is that what you are is enough. And actually what you are is essential to your family, to your community, to the world around you,” says Britton. Meanwhile, Gillibrand has become a powerful mentor and fundraiser for other women in the Senate campaigning to get more women in office. "Our life experiences are so different from our male colleagues—the things we live, the things we see, the things we think are most important,” says Gillibrand "If you asked if the top things you care most about are on Washington's agenda, none of those votes are scheduled. They're probably never going to be scheduled because they're not the priorities of the overwhelmingly male leadership that this country has.”

The two reunited at Dartmouth on a gorgeous fall day in the middle of an acrimonious presidential campaign to talk politics and to share stories about two intrepid young women riding bikes around China without any idea that years later they'd both have a profound affect on the lives of a new generation of young women.

Women Making Movies

Rebecca Hall, the star of ‘Christine’ talks about women in Hollywood with Eleanor Coppola, who just directed her first feature film.

Oct. 19, 2016

The British-born actress Rebecca Hall has earned raves for her performance in the new film ‘Christine’, a harrowing reimagining about the final days of Florida news anchor Christine Chubbuck, who shot herself during a live news broadcast in 1974. As a movie, it couldn't be more different from Eleanor Coppola's ‘Paris Can Wait’, a light-hearted tale of self-discovery in middle age starring Diane Lane as a woman who finds unexpected wisdom during a road trip through France. But as it turns out, actress Hall and director Coppola have plenty in common.

Coppola, who is making her feature directorial debut at age 80 with ‘Paris Can Wait’, is the matriarch of a major Hollywood family—she's the wife of director Francis Ford Coppola and mother of Roman and Sofia. “I started looking for a woman director, but I couldn't find a person with the aesthetic I thought I wanted the film to have,” Coppola says. “One morning at the breakfast table, my husband said, ‘Well, you direct it.’” Hall too grew up in an industry family—her father is a stage director and her mother is an opera singer—so she knows well how infrequently parts like the title role in Christine come along. "There aren't many roles out there for ladies that have this quality of being an antihero,” Hall says.

Stories of Small-Town America

Country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves and bestselling author JD Vance on the experiences that shaped their worldviews.

Oct. 5, 2016

Kacey Musgraves is a two-time Grammy winner who's toured with Katy Perry, while JD Vance is the author of the new memoir Hillbilly Elegy, which recounts his life growing up in blue-collar Appalachia. On the surface, they're pretty different. Yet they're both storytellers who paint nuanced portraits of what America is like in small towns, depicting the lives of working-class folks who rarely land in the spotlight. “I find inspiration in bringing light to subjects that are a little bit harder to talk about,” says Musgraves. “I've always loved that about country music.”

It was essential to see a world outside of sleepy Golden, Texas, where Musgraves grew up, and the Rust Belt towns in Kentucky and Ohio where Vance spent his early years: “To be successful, to me, meant to get out,” he remembers. Yet after going to law school at Yale and settling in San Francisco, he finds that there's still something about small-town living that he longs for. “The more time I spend away from home,” he says, “the better home feels.” Both credit their families, who have stayed behind in their hometowns, with keeping them from getting too big for their britches. “I try to remind myself that this is where I came from,” Vance says. “This is who I really am.”

Deepwater Horizon: Heroism and Tragedy

An intimate conversation with Deepwater survivor Mike Williams and Mark Wahlberg, the actor who played him.

Sept. 2 2016

“'Hero' is not a badge that I even want to wear,” says Mike Williams. “What we did that night was react to a very bad situation.” Yet it’s impossible to watch Deepwater Horizon, in theaters Sept. 30, and not feel a sense of awe at what the real-life Williams—played by Mark Wahlberg in director Peter Berg’s gripping new film—endured. On April 20, 2010, Williams was working on board the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, when a well exploded, ultimately killing eleven people. But Williams helped guide countless more survivors to safety, eventually jumping ten stories from atop the burning structure into the water.

The devastating environmental impact of the resulting oil spill is what dominated headlines in the months after the disaster, but Berg's film puts a human face on the tragedy by documenting the grit, determination and ingenuity of the hard-working men and women who were thrust into harrowing conditions. “The remarkable things that they did in order to survive and help others survive was incredible,” says Wahlberg. “Those are the kinds of stories that I'm drawn to.”

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