Host Ira Glass describes what thousands of people do all over America on our holiday weekends: we go to historic sites with our kids and stare at bricks and statues, trying to feel some connection with the past. It's not easy.
Cedric Jennings grew up in Southeast Washington, in one of the poorest communities in the country. Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind followed him for over two-and-a-half years, as Cedric tried to make it through high school and work his way into an Ivy League university. Once he gets there, he discovers that all the qualities that got him out of the ghetto make him an outcast in the Ivy League.
LuAnne Johnson is a teacher who sold her story to Hollywood and saw it made into the film and TV series Dangerous Minds, in which a character named LuAnne Johnson does things the real LuAnne believes are unethical and silly.
Ira takes a Medieval scholar from the University of Chicago, Michael Camille, to Medieval Times — a chain of fake castles where visitors eat Medieval food and drink Medieval Pepsi and watch a supposed recreation of a Medieval jousting tournament. The scholar finds that there are many historical inaccuracies, but that Medieval Times does capture something essential and interesting about the spirit of the Middle Ages.
Who are the people we remember as significant figures from our childhood? What is their hold on our imaginations as we age? Ira visits McCosh Elementary on Chicago's South Side, where a man everyone calls "Mr. Lewis" is the surrogate dad for hundreds of kids — a nearly mythic figure.