This week’s alumni interview is with author, storyteller, and speaker Alexandra Hudson. She is the founder of Civic Renaissance a publication and intellectual community dedicated to beauty, goodness and truth. Alexandra is also the author of The Soul of Civility: Timeless Principles to Heal Society and Ourselves. The book is out in August and available for pre order now!
Alexandra Hudson Interview
What led you to the world of writing and public speaking? Tell us about your career path and what your interests are.
I’m passionate about ideas and the life of the mind. The intellectual life is solitary—alone time is necessary to read, write, and think deeply—but it is also exceptionally social. We need others to metabolize and refine our own thinking. Community is essential to a fully realized life of the mind. I love to speak and write because of the way these opportunities allow me to cultivate an intellectual community, and to reach people with ideas that I care about—ideas of individual liberty, human dignity, personal autonomy, and the high riches on offer in life with others.
You’ve spoken about civil society and civic renewal to audiences around the world including Canada, Australia, France, and the US. What is it like to be a professional speaker? Do you have any tips for those who want to improve their public speaking skills?
Hah and don’t forget Tbilisi, Georgia, Turkey, and Italy, too! Speaking is a vital way of communicating ideas—take any and every opportunity that comes your way, because you learn from every person you encounter and every group you speak to. Q& A sessions are my absolute favorite because of how I’m able to learn what people really care about, what concerns them, what’s on their minds—and can tailor my ideas to their interests. Rotary and Lions clubs are also great places to start speaking. I was a rotary scholar for graduate school at the London School of Economics, so that was a natural community for me.
How did Young Voices help you become a more well-rounded person and writer?
Young Voices offered the professional media expertise that I needed, yet lacked. Having a whole team of people dedicated to helping refine my ideas, and communicate them more pointedly to the outside world was essential to helping me break into our harried media contest. Young Voices helped me build bylines and gain media hits that contributed to me securing my book deal. YV is an exceptional organization of which I’m thrilled to continue to be part.
As someone who has been published in major media outlets and who has worked in government and academia, what’s your advice for pro-liberty young people seeking a career in policy, journalism, or academia?
Write, write, and write some more. No writing is ever wasted. All of it refines your thinking, and makes you a better writer. Even if it never sees the light of day, it serves a purpose. Let your writing allow you to try out different ideas, and dabble in different subjects. Let this process help you cultivate your areas of interests. See what sticks! Create and write for the love of the process—not for promise or hope of worldly success.
Which published works or media appearances Young Voices placed for you are you most proud of?
Probably my CBS News hit that argued for local governance for schooling during the pandemic—there was an urge at the federal and state levels to have one-size fits all approaches to whether schools should be opened or closed, and I argued that distracts and schools should be able to make these decisions for themselves depending on many factors, such as the severity of cases, parent and teacher comfort levels, and more. Thanks for that one, Stephen Kent!
Jason also once got me a hit on English TV to discuss the Queen’s diamond jubilee—an honor especially considering her recent passing. I loved talking about tradition and how we keep history alive in our family. Thanks for that, Jason!
We’re so excited about your forthcoming book THE SOUL OF CIVILITY: Timeless Principles to Heal Society and Ourselves Politeness Failed America and How Civility Can Save It. Can you tell us a little bit about the premise of the book and why you wrote it?
While working in Washington politics, I observed and experienced an urgent need for tolerance and basic respect for others across difference. I scoured the human historical record and discovered that this is a question that people groups have been navigating for a long time. I revived wisdom from ancient handbooks and conduct manuals and ethics books from across time and place to revive timeless principles for how we can do this thing called society, civilization, and peaceful co-existence today.
We need more civility—a basic respect for the personhood and dignity of others—not more politeness—the rules and techniques of manners etiquette—to do this. I’m also thrilled to launch my series with The Teaching Company called Storytelling and The Human Condition. This series will explore over twelve episodes great stories from across time and place, and discover what it means to be human, and what it means to lead a rich life. It will be available on streaming services near you as of May 2023!
I can’t wait to share the book and course with the YV Community!
Thanks so much to Alexandra for her thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for our next alumni interview.