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Dear Friends,

Ron Brownstein will join us in July to discuss his book Rock Me on the Water, his review of popular culture in LA in the early 1970s. America was convulsing and Los Angeles seemed to be at the heart of social change. Jane Fonda turned left-wing political activist; a first Black Mayor was elected (Tom Bradley); Black people were demanding more control in film and in music. In 1974, 36-year-old Jerry Brown was elected Governor, Chinatown and Godfather II were released, and the sitcom “All in the Family” captured the attention of Americans every Saturday evening. Millions watched the miserable (and somehow endearing) Archie Bunker rant against change of any kind.

1973 was the year of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision deciding that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to have an abortion. Roe’s been overturned and America is convulsing again, with polarization and sectarianism everywhere you look. Can Americans still live together? We’ve asked the Washington Post’s Charles Lane to speak to the question at a June 7 salon at 5 pm. Listen (Opens in a new window) to Chuck’s new American Purpose podcast, “Times Like These with Charles Lane.”

Russia and Region

Spain’s prime minister said this week that the West had been naive about Russia. This week, while advancing his war in the east, Vladimir Putin returned to firing a large number of missiles at targets in western Ukraine. One hit a shopping center. Another struck two miles from the hotel in central Kyiv where our group stayed two weeks ago.

Thirty-four year old Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Goncharenko is not naive. He’s been arrested, kidnapped, and beaten more than once by the Russians. He’s chairman of the Odesa Regional Council. We met with him in Kyiv. We’ll host Alex in Washington on July 19. We’ll continue our series of small, participant-intensive meetings on Ukraine. We had a senior German defense advisor with us in Washington this week. Next week, by Zoom, we’ll have back Askold Krushelnycky. He’s reporting on the war from Bakhmut and Kharkiv.

Notre Dame’s Vittorio Hossle thinks Russian revanchism and Putin’s passion for grievance make Moscow an exceptionally dangerous adversary, even more so than China at present. Vittorio will join us by Zoom on August 26 to explain why. Before that, you’ll be able to read German academic Peter Kielmansegg on how Germany wrestles with the Russia question. His piece is scheduled for the week of July 18.

You can read Frank Fukuyama’s latest post on Ukraine here (Opens in a new window). Anna Borshchevskaya is working on a piece for us on Ukraine and Turkey. Carl Gershman has an essay in hand — adapted from his speech to João Espada’s annual conference in Portugal that has just wrapped up — on the real key to lasting peace and security in Eastern Europe. Is political change in Russia possible? How do we get there?

Culture and Music

There’s more coming soon in the way of culture, including Finnish novelist Sofi Oksanen, British novelist Francine Stock, and Persian-American author Azar Nafisi. William Deresiewicz will join on August 23, pub date of his new book. The End of Solitude is a collection of Bill’s best essays over the last quarter of a century on education, ethnicity, technology, and the arts.

Let me plug another new book, Sisters in Resistance. Our friend Jacqueline de Chollet’s mother figures prominently. Author Tilar Mazzeo tells the story of how a banker’s wife, a German spy, and Mussolini’s daughter outwitted the Nazis. It’s time for summer reading. I take the liberty of sharing again here (Opens in a new window) a roundup of great German novels from a century ago. It’s good to be reminded, though, that not all of today’s problems are new (or insurmountable).

It’s July 4th weekend and a wonderful time for music. I never tire of Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs.” (Opens in a new window) Here’s (Opens in a new window) “Fanfare for the Common” with the National Symphony. And here’s (Opens in a new window) a lovely performance of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”

I never tire of Aretha Franklin. Nor of Thelonious Monk. Here’s (Opens in a new window) “I Say a Little Prayer.” Here’s (Opens in a new window) Monk’s “I Let a Song Go Out of My heart.”

Ron Brownstein’s book is named after Jackson Brown’s song “Rock Me on the Water.” This was the time of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Carol King, Bill Withers, The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Here’s (Opens in a new window) Jackson Brown. Here’s (Opens in a new window) one of my favorite clips of Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin.”

Stay safe. Happy Fourth of July.

Best, Jeff

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