Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

Co-Pulitzer Prize winners discuss their book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope on January 16, 2020, at Congregation Emanu El, Houston, Texas.

SHORT: Historically, where did U.S. go wrong while other leading countries invested in healthcare, education, and social supports? 1970s Nixon southern strategy lured away white working-class voters, stopped trajectory of Canada and Europe. (2:14)

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SHORT: Democratic presidential candidates should focus on increasing high school graduation, early childhood education, bandwidth for all, raising minimum wage, jobs programs, faith, how Trump expanded the swamp and manipulated. (3:23)

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SHORT: Rise of both Trump and Sanders, why support from white working-class? Anger that system failed them. Both parties created problems over 50 years. U.S. rescued Wall Street but 10 million people lost their homes. (4:08)

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SHORT: Is fundamental problem loss of blue-collar jobs? Many people broken, half of prime-age men who dropped out of labor force take a pain pill every day. McDonald’s workers in Denmark $20/hour. Investment in human capital for those left behind. (2:53)

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SHORT: A hallmark of U.S. history is massive public investment such as the GI Bill, mass education, Homestead Act, FHA, rural electrification, superhighways. Laid-off Detroit autoworkers not retrained like Canada. U.K. cut child poverty in half (7:24)


Popular New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof and his spouse and co-author, Sheryl WuDunn, presented their new book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, a deeply personal plea – told through the lives of real Americans – to address the crisis in working-class America while focusing on solutions to mend a half century of governmental failure. While the book ranges widely from the Dakotas, to Oklahoma, to New York, it features Kristof’s friends in rural Yamhill, Oregon, where he grew up, a formerly prosperous area devastated by the disappearance of blue-collar jobs. A quarter of the children on Kristof’s old school bus died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents. 

In 1990, Kristof and DuWunn became the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of China’s pro-democracy movement and Tiananment Square protests. Kristof won a second Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for his columns on the conflict and genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

Kristof previously served as a correspondent in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo, as well as editor of the Times Sunday edition. He is a regular commentator on CNN and a pioneer using online media, with about 3 million followers on social media. On a Rhodes Scholarship, he earned a law degree at Oxford University with first-class honors after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College.

WuDunn also served as a foreign correspondent for the Times in Beijing and Tokyo. She is currently a senior managing director at Mid-Market Securities, a boutique investment banking firm in New York. She has served as a commentator on China and global affairs on Bloomberg TV, NPR, The Colbert Report, and Charlie Rose.She has lectured at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. She is a graduate of Cornell University, Harvard Business School, and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Newsweek named her to their list of “150 Women Who Shake the World.”

Thanks to videographer: Ruben Duran
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