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This author traveled all 50 states to better understand America — then settled in Kansas City

 A man wearing a grey, knit shirt smiles while sitting at a microphone inside a radio studio.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Author Ryan Bernsten traveled to all 50 states to understand the political divisions among Americans.

Ryan Bernsten set out on a 23,000 mile journey to every U.S. state to listen to the stories of everyday Americans and understand their political beliefs. Then, he picked Kansas City to settle down. His new book shares what he learned in the process.

Ryan Bernsten, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer, drove across all 50 states to ask the question so many people are wondering in modern America: Is the U.S. as divided as it seems?

Evoking the style of Alexis de Tocqueville, his new nonfiction book "50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy" sees Bernsten drive from sea to shining sea searching for an answer.

Bernsten aimed to rid himself of "any vestige of self-righteousness or contempt" in the way he interacted with people on his trip, hoping for his preconceived notions to be challenged. He says there's a certain amount of humility that's missing in today's political discourse.

"We're such a diverse country and people's upbringings and the regions that they came of age in have such a profound impact on them," said Bernsten. "I think we have a real epidemic of not listening in this country, and people were so hungry to be heard."

He joined KCUR's Up To Date to talk about his trip to all 50 states, the book that came out of it and why he settled right here in Kansas City when he finished his journey.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As Up To Date’s senior producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.
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