Apr 12 • 49M

Theodore R Johnson | Podcast

Author, 'When the Stars Begin to Fall: Overcoming Racism and Renewing the Promise of America'

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The Serve to Lead podcast focuses on today’s extraordinary leadership opportunities in business, government, and politics. In a time of intense polarization, this includes advancing our shared American identity and narrative. James Strock is an independent writer, speaker, entrepreneur, lawyer, and reformer. His most recent book is 'Serve to Lead 2.0: 21st Century Leaders Manual.' Strock writes ‘The Next Nationalism’ at Substack.
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Johnson posits that a blueprint for national solidarity can be found in the exceptional citizenship long practiced in Black America.


“Racism is an existential threat to America,” Theodore R. Johnson declares at the start of his profound and exhilarating book, When the Stars Begin to Fall. It is a refutation of the American Promise enshrined in our Constitution that that all men and women are inherently equal. And yet racism continues to corrode our society. If we cannot overcome it, Johnson argues, while the United States will remain a geopolitical entity, the promise that made America unique on Earth will have died.

In this episode of the Serve to Lead Podcast, Johnson discusses his timely, readable, and provocative book, which will be released in paperback in June 2022.

When the Stars Begin to Fall makes a compelling, ambitious case for a pathway to the national solidarity necessary to mitigate racism. Weaving memories of his own and his family's multi-generational experiences with racism, alongside strands of history, into his elegant narrative, Johnson posits that a blueprint for national solidarity can be found in the exceptional citizenship long practiced in Black America. Understanding that racism is a structural crime of the state, he argues that overcoming it requires us to recognize that a color-conscious society--not a color-blind one--is the true fulfillment of the American Promise.

Fueled by Johnson's ultimate faith in the American project, grounded in his family's longstanding optimism and his own military service, When the Stars Begin to Fall is an urgent call to undertake the process of overcoming what has long seemed intractable.

Representative Reviews

The Washington Post:

An earnestly conceived road map for how America can achieve racial justice following centuries of white supremacy . . . A virtue of the book is his use of personal narrative to illustrate analytical points . . . Johnson writes with lyrical clarity, delivering tales that are by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Publishers Weekly:

A passionate and persuasive exhortation to build a ‘multiracial national solidarity to confront the race problem [in America] head-on’ . . . Heartfelt and vividly written, this is a salient call for America to finally live up to its promise.

Raleigh News & Observer:

You can also be a patriot and still embrace the fullness of American history. Johnson believes one of the keys to realizing our country’s founding vision—the radical idea that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights—is understanding how our governing institutions have been warped by a long history of racial division. His new book, When the Stars Begin to Fall, is a call for reforming those institutions, for tackling systemic racism as an urgent threat to the core promise of our country.

Author photo for book.jpg

About the Author

Dr. Theodore R Johnson is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Fellows Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, where he undertakes research on race, politics, and American identity.

Prior to joining the Brennan Center, he was a National Fellow at New America, and a Commander in the United States Navy, serving for twenty years in a variety of positions, including as a White House Fellow in the first Obama administration and as speechwriter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

His work on race relations has appeared in prominent national publications across the political spectrum, including the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and National Review, among others.


Please note that the Serve to Lead Podcast has recently moved to Substack (and continues to repopulate in updated settings). It can be accessed in the usual formats, including:

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Image Credits: theodorerjohnson.com