In June of 2021, I was appointed chairman of the newly created Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth in the U.S. House of Representatives. We set out on a mission to take a clear-eyed look at our country's yawning wealth gap. After dozens of hearings and community listening sessions across the nation, the Committee released a report that lays out a bipartisan blueprint for a more inclusive economy. But we were also determined to tell real American stories.
The result is this documentary film titled Grit and Grace: The Fight for the American Dream – the first-ever of its kind produced by the U.S. Congress – that tells three powerful stories of the struggle for economic security. While the families featured have different backgrounds, perspectives, and political leanings, all share the dream of financial stability and stories of dignity, struggle, hope, and resolve.
One of my inspirations for this film is the legendary photographer Walker Evans, who documented the Great Depression in powerfully evocative photographs. Our statistical, policy-oriented conversation often leaves out the key to humane policy: empathy. I was in the Capitol for the violence of January 6th. One of the key ingredients for that horrible day was the suspension of empathy; the deliberate forgetting that we share a legacy of values and generosity as Americans.
My hope is that showcasing uniquely American stories will bring us together on economic issues, but just as importantly, that it brings us a sense of commonality and empathy.
Jim Himes (New Jersey & St Edmund Hall 1988) represents Connecticut’s 4th District in the United States House of Representatives. You can read an interview with Jim in the latest edition of Rhodes Scholar magazine.