Higher Ground presents Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s podcast, “Renegades: Born in the USA.” During 2020, Obama spoke with friends and family about the unbelievable and unprecedented year America underwent. He pondered how divided the nation is, how we can become more unified, and what’s next. How does the American dream take on different forms in our reality? Such themes and more are explored in this podcast.
Obama and Bruce are great friends. They enjoyed their frequent conversations, so they decided to start a podcast. On the show, they discuss their lives, music, and love for America. They also discuss race, class, money, their families, masculinity, difficult relationships with their fathers, and growing up.
In several episodes, Bruce sings select songs. We’ll even get a backseat to Obama and Bruce’s mini road trip. Obama and Bruce speak about race, racism, and growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. The hosts share their thoughts on protest songs and movements. Other topics explored include Americans’ relationship to money, economic inequality, and cultural shifts they’ve witnessed.
Born in the USA
Obama asks Bruce how he wrote the song, “Born in the USA.” Bruce was perusing a film script in 1982. At the time, he was writing a song about Vietnam. Bruce met a vet named Ron who wrote the book, Born on the 4th of July. They became friends and spoke at length. Bruce was inspired, composed verses, and revisited the film script on his desk to further inform his writing. The lyrics were about pain, glory, fear, shame of identity, and place. Bruce describes the country’s many layers, where the song’s protagonist feels disenchanted by the nation, yet still fully connected to America because it feels like home.
Obama is fascinated that “Born in the USA” has been appropriated as a patriotic song, differing from many ideas encompassed in the lyrics. Bruce says this is likely the case because people identified with the lyrics and intense American imagery presented. It also enabled the listener to hold space for two possible interpretations of America — looking at the country through a critical lens while also being proud. Bruce has also seen people connecting with his music, and this song, overseas. These themes are universal.
Obama connects this idea to what he saw when he first became president. America’s standing in the world had significantly dropped. Hurricane Katrina had devastated America. Everyone suffered from the recession, and the world was in an economic crisis. People were not over-the-moon for the government.
America is recognized as a nation made up of people who have come from everywhere, a variety of backgrounds, races, and economic statuses. Obama said the world is fascinated with how America, starting as experiment, continues to run. Sometimes, we might be skeptical if it works, as highlighted in Bruce’s “Born in the USA.” Obama hopes for a nation where everyone has opportunities and maintains dignity for the self and others.
Obama and Bruce will soon release a book based on their podcast, “Renegades: Born in the USA.”
All episodes are available to stream.