Krista Tippett is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, a National Humanities Medalist, and a New York Times-bestselling author. After studying theology at Yale Divinity School, she launched the weekly public radio show “Speaking of Faith,” which became the podcast “On Being with Krista Tippett.” Before joining the panel for “How Does Confronting Our History Build a Better Future?”—Zócalo’s final public program in the Mellon-supported “How Should Societies Remember Their Sins?” inquiry—she joined us (straight off a plane) in the green room to chat about Star Trek, being in community, and stretching the imagination.
What is one thing you’re reflecting on today?
I had a funny travel day, so I’m kind of reflecting on that and the way we live—how sustainable it is, and how fortunate we are—all of that together.
Sonically speaking, whose voice in podcasting or radio appeals to you the most, and why?
I actually kind of like Ezra Klein’s geeky, nerdy, but totally authentic voice. Maybe that wouldn’t be my favorite every day, but I was listening to him a little bit today. I've met him, and he’s so smart and so serious in the most beautiful way, and I think his voice expresses that.
Where's your favorite place to go to be in community?
I've had many answers across the years. But I spent a month this last summer in Cortes Island, which is far to the north of Vancouver. It’s a very beautiful place, but also a place that really lives from the land, and also has cultivated—just really cultivated over many generations—a healthy, vibrant community. And so, right now, that’s a place I think of.
What's one thing that’s come out of your work on the Civil Conversation Project that has challenged you?
That the word ‘civil’ remains so fraught. I actually think when I use the word it’s muscular, you know, it has a lot of robustness and complexity to it. But I think that it sounds so gentle, and it just sounds too soft for what we’re up against. And so I struggle with the language, but I also think the struggle with the language is getting at what is hard about the thing; and I think that also keeps morphing, what the shape of our challenge is.
It's 1999. You've just started pitching a radio program “Speaking of Faith,” which would eventually become “On Being.” What's going on in your mind right now?
I was just trying to hold it together. I mean, in 1999, I had no confidence that this would survive. You know, I was having to fight so hard for it. But I also kind of made this decision—because it was so hard—I made this decision that I had to know it might not succeed, but that it was worth trying as far as I could take it.
What's one thing you loved about growing up in Shawnee, Oklahoma?
I guess I appreciate now how it was such a known quantity. You know, community, yes, but like, cast of characters, and how I knew so many adults, and so many adults knew me. And that was true of kids, in general, and I think I took that for granted.
You've joked before about being half-Betazoid. Do you identify as a Trekker?
Absolutely. Star Trek is very formative for me. I’m more of a Next Generation and also Voyager person—nobody talks about Voyager—it’s sadly forgotten, right? Captain Janeway? She was so good. I think of my interview preparation method as the Vulcan Mind-Meld method—you know, my mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts.
Do you remember your first introduction to Star Trek?
Probably Captain Kirk growing up. You know growing up in such a known world, that has a downside, and I think science fiction, for me, was really a way to stretch my imagination.
Do you have a “white whale” interview, and if so, who is it?
For a long time, I always had somebody who I was trying and trying to get. But what has gotten so exciting is discovering people who aren’t already known who are just amazing. I’m really intrigued about who I don’t know exists that is going to be such a revelation.