I’m taking a Pulitzer Prize-challenge
I have a new challenge for myself, and it has nothing to do with dumping a bucket of ice water over my head. Not that I couldn’t use a little wake-me-up heading into my birthday week.
I’m still a little sleepy from a long winter.
This challenge is completely made-up and one I propose all Americans try out to educate themselves, maybe even gain a new perspective on life outside their bubbles. If I’ve learned anything from my four-and-a-half decades on the planet, it’s that life can easily enclose us within our own little worlds. We might not even realize it until something opens our eyes to the fact that while we can see out, we aren’t letting the world, and others, permeate into our daily learning experience.
I know, that’s deep.
I suppose birthdays — including the one I’m celebrating in just six days — are always a better time than any to self-reflect and revisit who we are as human beings. I’ve come to know myself well enough to realize if I don’t pop my proverbial sphere sometimes, I become too self-involved and less aware of others’ lives. Under my mountain of diaper changes and toddler training, I might overlook a birthday or fail to send friends and family a nice note to let them know I’m thinking of them. Also, in our bubbles of social media it’s easy to fall into the trap of algorithms that specifically tailor content, ranging from news stories to shopping sites, to our individual tastes and preferences. I guarantee my news feed is nothing like some of my neighbors in this rural section of Indiana, and quite similar to my like-minded buddies in Colorado.
See what I mean about bubbles?
After the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced this week, I challenged myself to learn more on the topics for which our country’s finest examples of journalism, literature, drama and music are awarded. Take, for example, the Pulitzer Prize itself. The prize came to be after Hungarian-American paper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, known for going after corruption and big business, founded the Columbia School of Journalism through his estate. He also allocated a $250,000 gift through Columbia in his will to recognize journalism and the arts in America in the Pulitzer awards and scholarships, 100 years ago this year. I continually aspire to such high honors of journalistic and artistic excellence.
As do many — dare I say most — journalists.
A Pulitzer would be my ultimate bucket-list achievement, outside of attending the Kentucky Derby in a fancy hat, watching a giraffe named April give birth and seeing the Seven Wonders of the World. When I dream, I dream big. But to put it bluntly with wildly inappropriate slang, winning a Pulitzer ain’t easy. For perspective’s sake, the Washington Post received the Pulitzer for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s historical Watergate reveal. Robert Frost scored four in his lifetime for his poetry, classically my literary favorite. Harper Lee won for “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Toni Morrison for “Beloved” in the fiction category.
Anyone who wins a Pulitzer is in fine company, obviously.
In this year, I’m committed to read, see and hear all the Pulitzer Prize winners’ work. The content will surely open my mind to life outside my new-mommy bubble. That ranges from editorial writing winner Art Cullen, who won for challenging powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa in his small-town, family-owned “Storm Lake Times” newspaper. To Chinese-born Du Yun’s bold operatic musical work, “Angel’s Bone,” which serves an allegory for human trafficking in modern times. It includes “Wall Street Journal” weekly columns by Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, awarded for connecting to readers during one of our country’s most divisive political campaigns in history. The challenge is to learn and listen. Be affected and become more aware of what is happening in America, and the world, through journalism and the arts. I’m prepared to have my bubble burst. Sounds like a perfect way to celebrate another trip around the sun.
April E. Allford wishes everyone a happy Easter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.