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The interior of America was exciting for Albert Bierstadt and the imaginative landscape painters of the 19th century. It’s newly exciting, in a different way, now. (‘Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains,’ Albert Bierstadt, 1868, Smithsonian Institute, via Wikimedia)

1) Meet the Press podcast. Yesterday afternoon I spoke with Chuck Todd for his podcast; the segment has gone up today, and you can find it here on Soundcloud or here from the MTP site.

Mainly we were talking about the election, immigration, the cycles of class friction through American history, the strategic and economic implications of TPP, and so on. But near the end, Chuck (whom I know from his days as editor of Hotline, part of the Atlantic combine) asked me where I’d like to live next.

The premise was: over the years my wife Deb and I, plus our kids when they were little, had lived in a sequence of foreign spots, reporting on what seemed interesting. What and where would be interesting next?

I hadn’t been expecting the question and just said, without thinking, “the interior of the United States.”

By “interior” I meant a shorthand for the places other than the handful of big coastal cities that dominate media awareness and the sense of chic: Boston to DC on the East Coast, Seattle to LA in the west, a courtesy extension to Miami and San Diego, and a smattering of others. Basically this media-mind-map creates a picture of the United States as if it were Australia, with the action all happening along the rim.

Of course a sense of excitement about the rest of the country reflects what Deb and I have been reporting in our travels these past few years, but it actually is something I believe more strongly the more I see. 

If you were traveling the country wide-eyed and mainly tuned out from the national political news, you would think this is a big, interesting, diverse civilization, in the process of dealing with and beginning to solve the many ills of the era.

Much as I wasn’t expecting the question, Chuck wasn’t expecting the answer, but we agreed and went on to some of the political and economic ramifications thereof.

2) Next round of Knight Challenge. One of many under-appreciated aspects of “interior America” is the overlapping network of organizations and individuals working on civic-improvement efforts. Last week, in Birmingham, Alabama, Deb and I got to meet people from around the country involved in the “Purpose Built Communities.” Over the months we’ve met their counterparts from NeighborWorks America, from ArtPlace America, from the National League of Cities, the Urban Libraries Council, MakerFaire and the Maker Movement, Main Street America  center, and many others. Many hands, many forces, are pulling in a similar direction. Increasingly they are seeing the resonance in their connected works.

Of the many foundations and charitable entities operating in this realm, one significant program is the the Knight Cities Challenge, from Communities program of the Knight Foundation of Miami. Six months ago I wrote about some of the 37 winners of the 2016 Cities Challenge grants, who shared a total of $5 million in grants for civic-improvement efforts.

Applications and nominations for the 2017 grants are open for one more week. You have until noon Eastern Time next Thursday, November 3, to apply on behalf of your neighborhood, civic organization, or community. Details here. It’s a good program and worth checking out.