MSNBC anchor (and Citizen board member) Ali Velshi joined Citizen co-founder and co-executive director Larry Platt and 140 guests at Fitler Club Monday for a conversation about Velshi’s time on the frontlines of Russia’s war on Ukraine — and the means to preserve ever-fragile democracy.
“Project Save Democracy” began with a clip from Velshi’s Warsaw interview with a 15-year-old Ukrainian Nastya Shpot who had left her father behind to seek refuge in Poland. As tears streamed down Shpot’s otherwise composed face, she and Velshi spoke about her background, fears and dreams. It was a rare, raw, and incredibly real five minutes — a lifetime in television reporting.
“I wanted to make sure when I got to Ukraine, my viewers were meeting people through me. My reporting had to be about people: Hungarian people, Ukrainian people, Polish people. War is on a map. It is abstract,” says Ali Velshi.
The power of capturing real stories, having real in-person conversations, and taking meaningful personal action became a theme of the evening. Velshi recounted a recent trip to Alabama to interview reproductive healthcare providers impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson.
“At MSNBC, we’re talking about abortion, about Roe v. Wade, as an abstraction. But you go to Alabama as I just did, and you realize: It’s medieval. The cruelty involved in the laws that are meant to prevent women from accessing reproductive care, it’s about control,” he says.
The point, in Alabama as in Ukraine: It takes meeting people, experiencing what they’re experiencing, to understand and create meaningful change. As Velshi says, “You can’t convince people of something remotely.”
At this moment of intense, seemingly intractable division in America, making connections, finding common ground, is an essential starting point to preserving democracy — something Velshi speaks about eloquently and passionately.
Watch the full video of the event below:
View photos from the event below:
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