Katrina vanden Heuvel on How Geography Influences Politics

Question: Where are you from and how did it shape you?

vanden Heuvel: New York City, born here, raised here with one side trip, when I was little, to Washington DC.  My father worked in the Kennedy Justice Department, and how has New York raised me?  I mean, I’m a citizen of the world, in many ways, because New York, to me, is one of the great cities of the world, and it’s a city which brings together so much energy.  It’s a bit of a problem when New York City is your default city.  The second city I know very well is Moscow.  Not Moscow, Idaho.  Moscow, Russia, and I have to say that Moscow competes with New York in the sense of energy and pace and power and finance and culture, and so those are the two cities which have shaped me.  I’ve spent, I’ve lived in Moscow off and on since 1985.  I was always interested in politics, broadly defined.  I’ve never thought of politics as simply electoral politics.  So I was interested in journalism as a way to, if I might sound grand, I was interested in journalism as a way to change the world, or to make the world better, to make the world more just.  And, to me, advocacy journalism, where you’re very honest and upfront about your values and principles, is what attracted me to my work today.  I think I might have become a lawyer, and I might have gone into electoral politics, but this brings together a lot of what I care about.

Question: Why didn’t you go into politics?

vanden Heuvel: Some of it is my father, a man I admire more than anyone in the world, ran for office several times.  He ran against John Lindsay in 1960.  He ran against Frank Hogan, a famous District Attorney in New York, and he didn’t win, and our politics is a winner take all game, and I think that needs to change.  But I also saw through my father how change comes from outside.  Someone very close to my family founded the ACLU and growing up and listening to what he, through that organization, had done to change the politics and culture, civil liberties of this nation, showed me that you can make as much change outside the system as in.  So, to me, that’s what probably turned me off of electoral politics, thinking there are other ways of making change.

Katrina vanden Heuvel talks about the impact two cities have had on her life.

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