The Deciding Decade: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ director Jon Chu on diversity in storytelling and embracing cultural identity

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Pete Buttigieg: Hi, I’m Pete Buttigieg and this is The Deciding Decade.

I think a lot about storytelling as an art form, in politics and beyond politics. We communicate so much through sharing experiences, real lived experiences and fictional experiences. So much meaning in my life and I’m sure in yours has been fed, or informed, or nourished based on stories that I’ve heard and read or watched. And one nuance here is that white audiences and viewers often don’t have to reflect on how frequently and disproportionally often we see ourselves in the content we consume. Our journeys and possibilities are most often reflected back to us by people who look like us.

Not to make this about politics, but like many, I have found myself emotional when I see young girls, Black or South Asian especially, reacting to Senator Kamala Harris, the first Black and Indian-American woman on a presidential ticket, and you can see the possibilities in young people’s eyes when they look at her.

Whether it’s real or fictional, full representation matters hugely in government, in boardrooms, in stories, in books, certainly in film and media, but there are a lot of people like my guest today breaking barriers on this front, making it so entertainment actually reflects the diversity of our country and in our stories.

I’m excited to welcome Jon Chu today, the pathbreaking film director who brought the wonderful Crazy Rich Asians to our screens, which was I believe the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s and the first film since 1993’s Joy Luck Club by a major Hollywood studio with a majority Asian cast in a modern setting. A visionary director, a great storyteller who has a fascinating and important story of his own. Jon Chu is one of the creators who is leading the charge on achieving more equitable and accurate representation in film and media, and someone I believe we’re going to continue to see a lot of very exciting and important things from over the coming decade.

Jon, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

Jon Chu: Thank you, I appreciate it. It’s an honor to be here with you.

Pete Buttigieg: I want to start just by asking you how you feel like your relationship to film as a discipline might have evolved this year that has turned our lives upside down or inside right. Production has changed or halted. On the other hand, people are watching movies probably more but in different ways. Has it changed the way you think about what it means to be involved in film and media?

Jon Chu: Yeah, I mean, first of all, on just a life level it put everything in perspective. We were in the middle of finishing a movie, In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s amazing Broadway show. And when you’re in it as a director you throw everything into it, you’re ignoring everything in the world. The world can be on fire, which it was, and you’re not paying attention. All of a sudden it gets taken away from you and you realize the important things and the priorities come to the top. It definitely put everything in perspective. It also though really showed me throughout all of this time is people are consuming more and needing hope and inspiration, the power of storytelling. Even in communication of what’s going on storytelling is so important about what our country is, who we are, what is being American, and these are the things that you take for granted, even when you’re in the business.

Then the third part is the actual business itself, that the theaters are actually closing down. The reality that this tradition that we’ve had with our families and friends for so long is actively disappearing. So I think all three of those are a lot to take in. But that’s sort of on the top level of what has really come into the forefront of my mind.

Pete Buttigieg: Do you have a feel for what the other side of it looks like? I mean, one of the things I’m thinking about in politics right now is I’m campaigning by Zoom. And I got to think we can’t wait to get back to where we can safely gather in person, it’s the bread and butter of campaigning, is meeting people, being around other people, gathering people, but I’m sure there are some elements of this we’re going to keep. We probably don’t need to move quite as much metal and people around as we’re used to doing. So the future is going to be different. How do you kind of look into that future and are you concretely preparing for just a changed industry because of what’s happening right now?

Jon Chu: Yeah, I mean, first of all, I grew up in the Bay Area, in Palo Alto in the ’80s before it was the Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley. So I know the power of technology. My parents have a restaurant there, it’s been there for 50 years, a Chinese restaurant, still there to this day, and customers who would come in would give my parents computers and software because they knew their youngest kid was into editing videos. So I got digital video in the mid ’90s before any kid my age, 15, 16 should have those things, and so it empowered me. It gave me a voice of something. I wasn’t that great at sports, I wasn’t that great at a lot of things, but for some reason editing and video I could observe things and express myself.

So, to me the power of technology has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve embraced, people say, “Oh, social media makes you more low and all this.” And yes, there are aspects to that, but I also know that it also connects us in very real ways. So when we’re forced to now have these things, have Zooms and edit remotely, we had to edit my movie remotely. We were all very separate, and it just took more time. But I love that it pushes things forward. I just think progress can’t be stopped in that. I think how we use that progress is going to be the big war. I think that’s where people like you who utilize it, people like myself and other people who are using it, whether it’s to show their new dance move or to make some sort of statement, those people are going to be the ones who are programming who we are in that next.

So I’m very excited about it in terms of film. Yeah, I’m about to shoot a pilot for ABC in the end of November, so we’re getting ready for that way of life, which is everybody in pods, like group A, group B, group C, and we have certain rules of how when we were location scouting, we did it virtually. We can’t be within six feet of each other, so we go into locations separately. We get tested, right now every week, but during shooting it’ll be almost every day, I believe. We haven’t got the full protocols yet, and I think a lot of it will stay, for sure. But I think that we are human beings and we always find ways to connect, that’s what we’re driven by.

Pete Buttigieg: So I love this image of you growing up, your parents have a restaurant which becomes a very well-known restaurant, Chef Chu’s.

Jon Chu: Yes.

Pete Buttigieg: I love this image of you as a kid, a teenager, getting to know people through the restaurant. What was that like? Your parents immigrated to this country, it’s in many ways a classic American dream. Did you feel like you were kind of being raised by a whole community of customers or was it more just kind of your parent’s workplace, or how did that all fit together in your upbringing?

Jon Chu: Yeah. I’m the youngest of five, so I got all the benefits of those other years of them being in the community. Yes, it was my immediate family obviously, my brothers and sisters. My mom is from a family of six, they all came over when my mom was 19 years old and she’s the oldest. So they grew up in America not knowing the language for that first part of their life. But they came here because of its greatness, of pursuing your dreams, and you can do anything, even if you don’t speak the language. My dad had that too when he came. They met in the Bay Area, they started that restaurant with nothing.

My dad always said, I remember one time seeing my dad, you know customers who come to a restaurant they treat waiters and hosts however they want to treat them, and I watched them treat my dad poorly one day, and it just broke my heart. This is your dad, this is like the guy, and I came up to him upset, and he’s like, “Don’t ever be upset.” He’s like, “We can’t be upset. We’re ambassadors to our whole community. A lot of people here have never met a Chinese family before, and we need to show them that we are kind and loving and we could give that back to them because the next Chinese family they’re going to see they’re going to react to how they know us, so we need to do that for the next Chinese family.” So that always meant a lot to me in how I carried myself. That has both good sides and also bad sides to that advice, but I think that’s what they had to do.

Pete Buttigieg: There’s something really powerful about this idea of your father viewing himself as a representative of the whole Chinese community. I can’t help but kind of think of how that telescopes out into your future, right? Where you are renowned director Jon Chu, you’re also famous Asian director Jon Chu. How do you think about all of the ways that both within an Asian community, which by the way is also incredibly diverse within itself. And a broader Hollywood community, or even a global film community sees you. Do you think you have that same sense of obligation or responsibility that propelled your father in that way or do you feel like you’re in tension with it?

Jon Chu: I didn’t at first. When you’re the only Asian in the room the last thing you want to talk about is being Asian in the room. So for years, and also it’s just as an Asian American that identity hasn’t really been defined, at least in the ’80s and ’90s. It was sort of like you’re either just come here or you’re not, and you’re what they call “banana.” So those things to me I always felt othered no matter what. Our parents teach us to ignore that stuff, so by ignoring it you just move on with your life.

There was a certain point where I realized that I had gotten here because of all the people who had fought for me. From scholarships, to organizations, to mentors, to even my parents who went out of their way to make sure I had opportunities that they did not. The last thing I really wanted to deal with is my cultural identity crisis, but when you’re older, getting older, then you realize that these things are a part of your storytelling, whether you want it to be or not.

So, I also was doing a lot of movies and none of them fully fulfilled who I was as an artist, so I started to search for that, and it always came back down to my cultural identity crisis, it always came back to this thing of feeling alone. It wasn’t until YouTube really, watching all these Asian American creators make stuff on YouTube, and they talk like me, they walk like me, they dress like me, and they were Asian through and through and proud of it, and like the same food, and we had the same memories, and that was really empowering for me. I got to … You couldn’t unsee that. You couldn’t unsee on Twitter #StarringJohnCho, which was this thing that came up that they put John Cho on posters of movies, and I was in the movie business already. So when I saw his face on it a light literally just clicked in my brain. It was in an instant that I was like, “Oh, yeah, why isn’t that possible?”

Then as I went through all my meetings I’ve been to and I realized oh, it wasn’t possible because they keep saying it’s not possible, and I’m in a position where I can actually make it possible. I’ve made enough money for these studios, I can probably sneak one in for me. So I could pick anything to do and I could say that it’s going to make money. I don’t know if it really is, but I can say it, and I think I can get it through, and that’s when I found Crazy Rich Asians. It was a perfect blend of spectacle, something that could be theatrical, but also this idea of an Asian American going to Asia for the first time. To me that was my story, even if that wasn’t what the book necessarily was all about, to me that’s what the story could be all about.

Going to Taiwan for the first time and feeling like oh, when I go into a store they treat me like a cousin, and I don’t feel that here, and I don’t know why. Even though I love it here, why do I feel that? And then they call you gweilo, which is white devil over there. So then I’m like, “Oh, I’m not a part of this either.” So who are we here? And then knowing that there’s a lot of us out there. This was a great opportunity to represent what an Asian American actually is, and that’s okay to kick the tires of culture, of tradition, and also embrace it and love it.

Pete Buttigieg: So you direct your first major feature film in 2008, Step Up 2: The Streets. And then Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Now You See Me 2, there’s a lot that kind of leads you to Crazy Rich Asians, but Crazy Rich Asians is a whole different level. How did you get from where you started to there in the space of a decade?

Jon Chu: Well, I got very lucky coming out of film school. I made a short musical film that got people’s attention. This was before YouTube, so this was on VHS tapes or DVD-R that we would do at our dorm room, and Steven Spielberg saw it. So when Steven Spielberg sees it, I’m 21, 22 years old, the whole industry is like, “Who is this kid?” So I got attached to some stuff early. It wasn’t until five years later where I actually made my first movie, but all those five years were really important for learning how to develop, and work with writers, and work with a studio. Making those, the next six movies over the course of eight, nine years, I didn’t know who I was as an artist. This is me just learning how to make a movie in general. I’d never made a music video or a commercial. I had literally gone from wedding videos, bar mitzvahs, to student films and now making $20 million, $30 million movies for a big studio.

And then at a certain point I was like, “Well, I’ve done all these movies and they’ve all made a lot of money. I’ve worked with the Rock, and Morgan Freeman, but who actually am I?” Actually my very good friend said to me, “Jon, you have the best life because you’ve made people money, you have money, you’re great, you’re fine, but nobody knows your name and nobody knows what you are. So you’re sort of like living the ish life, and that’s the best. You can go out.” And I was like, “Oh, thank you?” I kept thinking about it, I was like, “I think that’s not good.” I was like, “I don’t want to be ish. That’s so terrible.”

What is making me ish? What am I doing things that are safe? What is it that I bring that no one else can bring? What’s a movie that only I can make? And like I said before, that was a moment where I was already dealing with my sort of cultural identity crisis, and I went looking. I actually found In The Heights and Crazy Rich Asians at the same time. Signed up for In The Heights first, because the immigrant story, the story of a home and a community spoke volumes to me, even though I’d never been to the Washington Heights, Lin’s music and his story was exactly my story, and this idea that it also was very patriotic. When the American dream is being attacked, I am living proof that the American dream is real. When people say, “That’s not what America is.” I’m like, “That’s exactly what made me. I could never have this story anywhere else, and my parents could never have that story.”

So anyway, that’s sort of what led me to those things. I thought they were going to be two projects for myself and weren’t going to make any money, and then I was going to crawl back and do another studio thing, but luckily they hit a nerve of I think what a lot of people were feeling around the world.

Pete Buttigieg: So you didn’t come into this knowing that this was going to be the big commercial success that was going to kind of vindicate your decision.

Jon Chu: No.

Pete Buttigieg: You just believed in it and thought you’d do it even if it wasn’t going to do as well kind of monetarily.

Jon Chu: Yeah. I actually literally told my agents and managers like, “So I just need like a few years to not make us any money just for people to know who I am and what I’m about.” And I had made a student short, the only time I ever made a short about being Asian American was in college, and it was for my senior movie and it was called Gwai Lo. We showed it and everybody loved it, but I felt so vulnerable watching it, I felt very uncomfortable watching it. So to do actually a bigger movie on that same subject, I felt like I was just in a different place in my life and I could and I had … Maybe the thought started back then, but I sort of processed it through all that time.

Pete Buttigieg: So what was the discomfort? Was it not being sure which audience would respond well? Were you thinking of your family? Were you thinking of just a kind of mainstream audience and what they’d make of it? Why do you think it felt difficult to watch?

Jon Chu: I think it was all those things. I think I was taught to not complain. So the idea that I was exploring this idea of how you felt if people said something to you or did something, you felt like it didn’t help anything. Why? What’s the point of this? Talking about how when you brought your dumplings to school people would complain how it’d smell, so I would dump my mom’s dumplings in a bush before getting to school. I found out that everyone has this story. But at the time I didn’t-

Pete Buttigieg: Really. Have you talked to other people with that exact same experience?

Jon Chu: Oh yeah, it’s like a thing. Everybody is like, “Oh yeah, the dumpling dumping story.” Everyone has that, at least Asian Americans. Your mom is going to feed you, they’re going to give you food, and they’re going to give you Asian food before you go because that’s what they know, and then no one at school understands why your locker smells, and they’re going to look at you, and now you are the guy that smells or whose food that smells , so you just get rid of that part. So I think all those things, bringing all of that up, I didn’t want to hurt my family. I didn’t want to also hurt my own focus on who I am, but I think at a certain point you realize you didn’t want to deal with it because you didn’t know anyone else was going through that. I think when I think about that kid back then I wish he knew that there’s a lot of you out there and it’s okay.

Pete Buttigieg: So you have huge success with Crazy Rich Asians, but then with success comes another kind of challenge, right? Which is expectations, especially when you’re a first, when people haven’t seen this kind of Asian representation in a long time. Even though it’s a huge success and so many people in such a moving way see themselves represented, you’re also coming in for criticism. You didn’t tell the whole story of Singapore, or the casting wasn’t all the right kinds of Asians. I’ve noticed in the way you responded to that at the time some incredibly generous and thoughtful takes on your part. I wonder if you could share them here, kind of what it’s like seeing that kind of criticism and that success, and then how you went about responding to it?

Jon Chu: Yeah. I mean, first of all, Asia doesn’t want me to represent them. Asian Americans are a little more okay with it, but even them, they’re so-so on it. I think it’s great. How nice that we can actually debate how we want ourselves to be represented because we actually have opportunities to do that. How great we can debate casting choices and what kind of stories do we want for the future, and what we want now, and what is entertaining and what is commercial. I don’t ever blame, it took me a little bit, but I really don’t blame anyone for coming after me, even when I was making the movie. It’s hard to cast because everyone is judging you on who you’re casting, and how you’re casting. You’re just like, “I’m staying focused on trying to make this thing, hold on.” I blame the lack of representation on that. To me, I’m like yeah, you should be angry, you should be sensitive, and you should speak up for what you think because we’re doing it now. We’re creating what I think our children will see as what we think it should be like, and maybe they’ll disagree and break that as well, but right now there’s no rules.

And it can’t just be me. It needs to have so many more storytellers, which will also ease the tension. You can go attack that person and that person, but in the end of the day we’re still accomplishing the same thing, which is let’s show all the shades of gray that we are. Let’s show that we are not China, we are not the Chinese government, we are not Japan, we’re not any of those things. At least Asian Americans are Asian American, we’re very unique in this. We have feet in several different worlds, and I think that that’s really unique and special. What I used to dump out in the bushes of my school now you have to line up for $15 dumplings down the street here at the Grove.

Pete Buttigieg: I was going to say, that’s one of the things that shocked me about the story. Dumplings are amazing.

Jon Chu: I know, exactly. Things change when people actually see it. I think that’s what has changed me most, is like oh, my job is … Well, number one is to entertain. That’s what we are, storytellers. But two, make things that people can’t unsee. That is the only role of going to a theater and someone paying you money to sit in a dark room and look up this light flashing at them and saying, “Tell me what I need to know.” And you have an opportunity for two hours where they’re not looking at anything else except hearing and listening to you, where you get to share, this is where I come from, this is what I go through. And guess what? I bet you go through the same thing, even though we look different. Isn’t that beautiful? That we are going to get through this together.

Pete Buttigieg: To me that’s the great power of art, is it lets us… something we can relate to helps us imagine something we can’t, right? And there’s this amazing gift in storytelling. It’s interesting as you describe your relationship to In The Heights, which as you say, in one way you relate to very intimately as an immigrant driven experience. On the other hand, it’s about a part of New York that you hadn’t spent time in.

Jon Chu: Yeah.

Pete Buttigieg: It’s a largely Latinx and Black experience. So how did you think about kind of grabbing hold of experiences that are yours and branching out in experiences that are so different? How does that make In The Heights a different project than Crazy Rich Asians?

Jon Chu: Well, I was very lucky to have someone like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara [Alegría Hudes] who wrote the book and wrote the script. Even Lin’s dad, Luis, I mean, they’re the mayors of that area basically. So I got great people to give me a tour, to walk me through everything, to be there every day. I felt like more of a steward in a way. I knew how to make this entertaining and fun. I also understood the how to find your home and redefining your own home. I did not know any of the specific character real life sort of situations, so it was a very open format. We really created a forum so that any of the actors that said, “Hey, you know what? That sauce wouldn’t be on this table.” They should be able to say that, and we’d say, “Okay. What sauce should be on there?” Well, we have this one and this one. Someone would make a homemade one that they’d have in their back pocket. Okay, let’s do that. Let’s take the hour, let’s not shoot, let’s do that right. Oh, you know what? The food wouldn’t be on the table, it’d actually be over there, and they’d be sitting on the floor and on the staircase just because they never fit and all the chairs would mismatch. Okay, we’re going to do that.

I think the form in which these conversations are not just about hey, we got to shoot, we got time, we are losing money, instead of like we’ve got to do this right. What have you never seen and what would actually happen here? That was really, really beautiful, and shooting in Washington Heights helped tremendously because you got that feedback everywhere you went, whether you wanted to or not. When they say Height is in your heart, it truly is. That community is so tight. They treat you like family for good and for bad. So I loved being a part of just translating that, to be honest.

Pete Buttigieg: One of the big plot points in In The Heights of course is this blackout that kind of just stops everything, right?

Jon Chu: Wait, you’re a fan of In The Heights, right?

Pete Buttigieg: Totally. Absolutely.

Jon Chu: You know this. I mean, I think I read that somewhere, yes.

Pete Buttigieg: I guess I’m just wondering how an audience is going to think about a massive intervening event that, in that case, was something that played out in a matter of hours. But we’re living through this massive intervening event, right? That can drive us apart, or bring us together, or both.

Jon Chu: Yeah.

Pete Buttigieg: It’s going to hit a whole new echo.

Jon Chu: Totally.

Pete Buttigieg: Which is what great art can do, not even knowing what future audiences will be dealing with, I guess.

Jon Chu: The whole context of the movie has shifted when we were making it and now. We were supposed to come out this summer. So it is crazy when we watch it now. It’s not like these issues had not been there, they’ve always been there. So the idea that they were forgotten during this blackout. And by the way, when I came into the project I was like, “Hold up, let’s talk about the blackout. Why do we need to have a blackout?” Everyone is like so dramatic about this blackout, but we get blackouts all the time, it’s not that crazy. And like, what? People burning things, and things like fireworks. Really? And he’s like, “Jon.” He walked me through what happens, and he actually said something really interesting. He’s like, “It’s actually not just chaos, it’s actually freedom.” People come out and they go to the place that they want to go to. They go to their friends, they go to their family’s house, and they play dominoes, they play bingo, whatever it is they want, and then kids have fireworks and they’re going off, and people with their motorcycles are going off. So I love watching that, and actually the music and that, the contrast between the two is really beautiful to watch.

Now the sounds of the fireworks, being in LA hearing fireworks for so many nights in this past summer, and also being in West Hollywood where the protests were happening, and where suddenly police cars were on fire and stuff, and getting my family actually out of there was really something I’d never experienced in my life. So suddenly blackout had this whole new context to me. Everyone who watches the movie will now watch “Blackout” and have a reference point for it, and that’s incredible.

Pete Buttigieg: Yeah. I mean, the other thing about an intervening event is it gets our attention or it redirects our attention, right? Part of what a filmmaker does is you get somebody’s attention, right? And then you have it for two hours, which oddly is actually probably one of the longer periods of time that modern humans spend paying attention to one thing anymore. Do you think much about that question of kind of how to hold attention, what to do with it? What responsibilities we have over our own where we pay attention and then what we do with other people’s attention once we’ve got it?

Jon Chu: Yeah. That’s actually really interesting. I always think about attention because that’s our job. We test our movies to see where people are … We film them literally seeing if they’re checking their phones or if they’re laughing at a joke and we adjust our movie accordingly or not. I also know that attention doesn’t need a reaction. I think we always look for attention, like somebody watching, and somebody laughing, and somebody crying, but what I’ve learned is that even if someone is not laughing, they can think something is funny and think something is very enjoyable.

Again, we talk a lot about power when I’ve been doing this movie. It’s like, who has the power in this scene? And what I’ve also learned from Michael Caine, he was doing this scene where he has to be intimidating, and I kept being like, “Maybe give more. Maybe just step up to him.” And he’s like, “Jon,” he’s like, “Real power doesn’t have to go anywhere. They come to you. Real power is quiet.”

Pete Buttigieg: Very good.

Jon Chu: “So I’m just going to sit here and stare at him.” And it was the most, A, scary thing for him to say to me, because he literally just stood there and stared at me. But two, when you see him do it, you understand that more than anything. There’s confidence, and I think confidence is actually one of the biggest attention getters, is because confidence doesn’t demand anything from you. It’ll earn it from you in time if you want it to, but that it’s gone through stuff that you can’t even see on first glance, and you won’t know unless you’re there.

Pete Buttigieg: That’s really timely, especially I’ve been thinking a lot about how in kind of the biggest global sense of power, how America can be more credible. We’ve got a president who clearly his understanding of power, his concept of strength is kind of the loudmouth guy at the end of the bar, right?

Jon Chu: Yeah, yeah.

Pete Buttigieg: Who is usually not the most powerful figure that you’re seeing.

Jon Chu: Yes.

Pete Buttigieg: I think it’s a great metaphor.

Jon Chu: Which is what we learn in grade school. It’s a very confusing thing. I think that he is a storyteller. He is one of the best storytellers because he won’t let it go and he’ll drive it, and he commits to his stories.

I just think that when I think about what is America and what do we want America to be, in a way it’s like what is our story? I thought I knew our story. I was told my story over, and over, and over again, and suddenly I’m being told that that’s not the story. I just think that usually it’s the president… that when they become president is the only one actually capable of saying, “Hey, we’re all in the same page. All these differences are there, we all have them. It’ll go away over time, but this is a process, but we’re all together.” When the president doesn’t actually walk that line … I always thought the president was not that powerful of a figure. I think what I’ve learned is oh, that figure is extremely powerful, but not in the ways that we think. Not in the policy way, policies come and go, but in this idea of what is the story of America right now and what is the story that we’re telling our children right now. That is immensely powerful that I didn’t know before.

Pete Buttigieg: As you think about the story that you want your kids to grow up into. What do you want the story to be that they would be able to tell looking back on the year that we’re about to go into?

Jon Chu: That’s a hard question because I feel like that’s what I’m going through right now when I see my daughter and my son, who is one and three. It’s sort of the greatest pitch I’ve ever had to do was pitch them on what the world is, and I don’t know what the world is. But I think the main thing that I am trying to instill in them is the world doesn’t exist in a story. There’s no beginning, middle and end, it just keeps going. That’s maybe the biggest con of stories and movies is that there is some sort of happy ending at the end. No, it is a constant wave and we’re always fixing things, and it’s messy, and it’s complicated, and you think you have one answer and then you experience some things and you realize maybe there’s another answer. To me I want them to know that it’s always going to be messy, but to be empathetic to where everyone comes from, to be kind, and also to know that they have power themselves to help people around them. To me that’s the only thing we really can do.

[music]

Pete Buttigieg: If I think about the decade ahead, which as you know is the theme of this podcast, I can’t help but imagine what could happen in film in Jon’s case, in politics in mine, in whatever your field is. If we all thought more about how to use each of our passions and talents and our curiosity in the service of something we care about in the world. And along the way I think we will continue to find better ways to elevate and amplify the journeys of those who are overlooked, underestimated and undervalued, as Jon has. Like Jon said, the world doesn’t exist in a story. It’s not that tidy, there’s no simple beginning, middle, and end. Yet, there are turning points in the real world just like in a book or a film, and we know we’re living in one of those moments. It means that everything we choose to do right now shapes the entire rest of the story, our story as individuals and as a country.

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Husband, veteran, writer, Democrat, South Bend’s former Mayor Pete. Boot-Edge-Edge. (he/him)

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