Richard D. Heffner, American historian, broadcaster, and University Professor of Communications and Public Policy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, still produces and hosts Richard Heffner’s Open Mind, first broadcast in May 1956. Well ahead of its time, this weekly public television series has over the years welcomed hundreds of interesting and significant persons from all fields of intellectual endeavor to speak freely and to share their thoughts and ideas with an important audience of American “Influentials.”
Designed specifically to elicit its guests’ most meaningful insights into the challenges Americans face in a variety of contemporary areas of national concern, the program each week has provided a quiet and thoughtful excursion into the world of ideas.
Often provocative, and always as probing and insightful as its guests wish to be when they are given the time and opportunity to expound here upon the results of their life work, Richard Heffner’s Open Mind is never strident, nor personally intrusive. Its continuing objective, rather uncommon these days, is to provide light, not heat. Since it first went on the air, its many distinguished guests (ranging from Margaret Mead and Martin Luther King in 1957 to New York Times columnists Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd and David Brooks — as well as US Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and many other luminaries — a half-century later) have contributed much to the public understanding of and, ultimately, to the implementation of public policy.
Mr. Heffner continues his often quoted program’s substantive and thought-provoking conversations concerning the ideas, events, issues and personalities that command Americans’ attention and understanding. Without either liberal or conservative bias — and always itself with an open mind — the series deals with important topics such as physician assisted suicide, media violence, the decriminalization of drugs, feminism, the practice of modern medicine, the liberties and responsibilities of the press, political correctness, censorship, race relations and the proper role of government in American life.
Here are the candid, often surprising and controversial, and always revelatory voices of the men and women who have directed national politics, clarified the law, molded the media, shaped race relations, set the agenda for women’s rights and chronicled or created the American scene. Here, too, is Mr. Heffner’s own cogent perspective on the events and people defining contemporary America. Richard Heffner’s Open Mind has recorded the intellectual passage of our nation through more than a half century of its hopes, achievements and disappointments, and of revolutions in thought, of constitutional challenges, of prosperity, recession, war and an ongoing battle for freedom and justice for all.
Open Mind conversations appear on-site (thirteen.org/openmind) immediately after their on-air broadcast. Available here as well are various other programs Mr. Heffner has produced and often hosted over the years and has now also donated to public broadcasting for non-commercial, educational and informational use.
Through the unguarded immediacy of video recordings and text transcripts, this online archive offers the benefit of historical hindsight and insight into America’s near-term past.
Recent programs have featured guests such as Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel discussing a new anti-Semitism; historian/journalist Robert Caro analyzing biography as literature; Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis parsing a reality based health care system; famed television producer Norman Lear discussing how his iconic 70’s and 80’s television comedies — All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and others — impacted upon American thought and behavior; Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian exploring our nation’s need to invest in higher education; senior statesman Mario Cuomo discussing “the words that make our history”; and British Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse on nurturing the scientific enterprise.
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