Kudos! CBS Touts Brit’s Touching Tribute to America: ‘A Beacon of Courage’


Unabashed patriotism and appreciation of America as a “beacon of courage.” These are not often things you see on network television. But sometimes it takes an immigrant to remind us not to be complacent about all this country offers. In preparation of the Independence Day weekend, CBS This Morning on Tuesday featured British American author Roger Bennett and his “love letter” to his adopted home. 

Bennett, a podcaster and NBC broadcaster has written Reborn in the USA, a new book about growing up in Britain as an America-crazed ‘80s kid. CBS put together a montage of him reading from the book and it’s deeply touching: 

 

 

I was born, read and raised on American self power. I grew up in the murk of 1980s England inhaling everything American I could lay my hands on. Movies, television, music, books, clothes and occasional pair of knockoff Ray-Bans that made the United States my like in the darkness. America existed almost as an alternate planet to me. 

At different times in my youth I’ve tried to boost my fragile self-confidence or at least minimize my deep sense of self-loathing by persuading myself, I am Don Johnson, I am Walter Peyton, I am John Cougar Mellencamp, I am the Beastie Boys’s Ad-Rock. I am Tracy Chapman.  I know some of this will sound trite, a love of a nation based on the largely fictional stories, images and myths that peddled about itself. Having lived in the United States for more than half my life now, I’m keenly aware that the Love Boat, Pretty in Pink and Miami Vice are not the real America. 

Bennett contrasted this with the portrayal of America today: “Over the past year the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement and the toxicity of the election have created the impression we’re a nation divided, chaotic and racked by fear.” But he offered hope. The broadcaster concluded this video montage with a stirring “love letter” to America and the greatest day of life: Becoming a U.S. citizen: 

Months lived in lock down gave plenty of time for the mind to wander. Spent a lot of mine digging deep into memories of an era when the United States felt very different. A beacon of such courage, tenacity and possibility, it gave me the confidence to chase those possibilities with a passion Tracy Chapman once sang about fast cars. 

As such, this book is a love letter to America written by a gent who came of age with the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline painted as a mural on his bedroom wall and ended up moving here. And for whom the act of becoming an American citizen is the single greatest achievement of my life. 

Co-host Tony Dokoupil almost seemed taken aback. He pushed Bennett to highlight our divisions: “There is the idea of America. American soft power. All of that culture and then there’s the reality of it. You wrote that there’s the impression that we are a chaotic and divided country. Is it only an impression?” 

Bennett responded by insisting that America is a country of striving to improve and always get better: 

Well, the reality is life was built up from Liverpool in the 1980s and perception was all I had. I told myself I was an American trapped in an English person’s body and then I acted upon it. Also the reality is the discordance between America the idea as a kid and America the reality as an adult. It’s the epigraph of my book, a Langston Hughes quote.  “Let America be America again, the land that never was and yet must be.” On Independence day when I bite into my first hot dog, it’s the Langston Hughes words I hold in mind and that’s the task ahead of us. 

A partial transcript is below. Click “expand” to read more. 

CBS This Morning
6/29/2021
8:34 AM ET

TONY DOKOUPIL: We are excited about our next guest. He’s the author of a new memoir celebrating America as we head towards the Fourth of July. Broadcaster Roger Bennett was born and raised in England’s historic port city of Liverpool. Now he’s an American citizen and also half of the duo Men in Blazers. Popular NBC sports show and podcast. Bennett’s new book is Reborn in the U.S.A., an Englishman’s love letter to his chosen home.” It is a deeply personal look on how American culture influenced his life. We recently took a trip with Bennett to Liberty Island where he shared the depth of his obsession with our fine country. 

ROGER BENNETT: I was born, read and raised on American self power. I grew up in the murk of 1980s England inhaling everything American I could lay my hands on. Movies, television, music, books, clothes and occasional pair of knockoff Ray-bans that made the United States my like in the darkness. America existed almost as an alternate planet to me. 

BENNETT: America existed almost as an alternative planet to me. 

BENNETT: A place filled with possibility and promise. 

… 

BENNETT: At different times in my youth I’ve tried to boost my fragile self-confidence or at least minimize my deep sense of self-loathing by persuading myself, I am Don Johnson, I am Walter Peyton, I am John Cougar Mellencamp, I am the Beastie Boys’s Ad-Rock. I am Tracy Chapman.  I know some of this will sound trite, a love of a nation based on the largely fictional stories, images and myths that peddled about itself. Having lived in the United States for more than half my life now, I’m keenly aware that the Love Boat, Pretty in Pink and Miami Vice are not the real America. 

BENNETT: Over the past year the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement and the toxicity of the election have created the impression we’re a nation divided, chaotic and racked by fear. Months lived in lock down gave plenty of time for the mind to wander. Spent a lot of mine digging deep into memories of an era when the United States felt very different. A beacon of such courage, tenacity and possibility, it gave me the confidence to chase those possibilities with a passion Tracy Chapman once sang about fast cars. As such, this book is a love letter to America written by a gent who came of age with the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline painted as a mural on his bedroom wall and ended up moving here. And for whom the act of becoming an American citizen is the single greatest achievement of my life. 

GAYLE KING: it was very, very touching to me, your love for this country. And it comes from where? 

BENNETT: I grew up in Liverpool in the 1980s when the north of England, the steel mills shut down, the coal mines shut down. The cotton mills shut down. There was very, very little. Liverpool is a magnificent city. It was like Baltimore but without the crab cake up side. There is very little there. It felt like the city was deteriorating around me. America, these shows that came over, Miami Vice. Tracy Chapman’s music, Run D.M.C. 

KING: Beastie Boys. 

BENNETT: Life could be lived in color,  aspiration and hope. That idea of America externally, when you live there, the liberty of such courage. It makes you believe you can live a live in technicolor when your life is lived in black and white. 

DOKOUPIL: There is the idea of America. American soft power. All of that culture and then there’s the reality of it. You wrote that there’s the impression that we are a chaotic and divided country. Is it only an impression? 

BENNETT: Well, the reality is life was built up from Liverpool in the 1980s and perception was all I had. I told myself I was an American trapped in an English person’s body and then I acted upon it. Also the reality is the discordance between America the idea as a kid and America the reality as an adult. It’s the epigraph of my book, a Langston Hughes quote.  “Let America be America again, the land that never was and yet must be.” On Independence day when I bite into my first hot dog, it’s the Langston Hughes words I hold in mind and that’s the task ahead of us. 



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