Carl Sagan's answer when Ted Turner asked if he's a socialist is a roadmap for rebuilding America
via David Grinspoon / YouTube

In 1989, CNN founder Ted Turner asked iconic astrophysicist and science communicator Carl Sagan about his political leanings.

Surely, someone with such a deep understanding of the universe and a passion for humanism would have important insights into how we organize ourselves politically.

"Are you a socialist?" Turner asked Sagan. "I'm not sure what a socialist is," he replied.


While it seems unlikely Sagan was unfamiliar the concepts of socialist political theory, he was smart to sidestep the loaded term.

Socialism is such a broad concept that, in the modern era, it could be applied to numerous countries of varied economic development from Cuba to Canada. Conservatives tend to see it as a malignant political idea and point to Venezuela as a failed socialist state.

While many liberals point to Democratic Socialist countries in Europe such as Denmark and Germany where people have a standard of living that is comparable and, in some ways superior, to the United States.

Back in the '80s "socialist" was used by the U.S.S.R. to describe its totalitarian communist regime, so Sagan was smart to distance himself with any association with the bloc.

Ted Turner asks Carl Sagan if he is a socialist. www.youtube.com

So Sagan provided his own definition.

"But I believe the government has a responsibility to care for the people," he said.

"I'm talking about making people self-reliant, people able to take care of themselves," he continued. "There are countries which are perfectly able to do that. The United States is an extremely rich country, it's perfectly able to do that. It chooses not to. It chooses to have homeless people."

He also noted that in 1989 we were 19th in infant mortality. "We are 19th in the world in infant mortality. Eighteen other countries save the lives of babies better than we. How come?" Sagan asked, rhetorically.

Sadly, things have only gotten worse over the past 31 years. The U.S. is currently ranked 47 infant mortality.

"They just spend more money on them," said Sagan. "They care about their babies more than we care about ours. I think it's a disgrace."

Sagan also believed that the U.S.'s priorities are completely mixed up. We have a hard time helping our most vulnerable citizens, but we still have enough money to pay for high-priced weapons systems.

"Just look at what something like 'Star Wars,'" Sagan said, pointing to a costly '80s defense program. "We've already spent $20 million on it. And if these guys are permitted to go ahead, they will spend a trillion."

31 years later, things haven't improved, we're near an all-time high in military spending at a time when the world has never been more peaceful.


"Think of what that money could be used for: to educate, to help, to bring people up to a sense of self-confidence," Sagan added.

"To improve not just the happiness of people in America, but their economic standing, to improve the competitiveness of the US compared to other countries. We are using our money for the wrong stuff."

Photo courtesy of Macy's
True

Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pixabay

Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

Keep Reading Show less