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Sundial: Leonard Pitts Jr. asked 'Why is America like this?' He tells us what he's learned

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of <em>Before I Forget</em> and <em>Forward From This Moment</em>, among other books.<em></em>
Carl Juste
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of Before I Forget and Forward From This Moment, among other books.

Leonard Pitts Jr. built a reputation by essentially asking one question over the last 30 years as a syndicated columnist: “Why is America like this?”

Twice a week at the Miami Herald, he forced us to pay attention with thoughtful writing on some of the most delicate and complex subjects.

He challenged us to talk fearlessly about race — even when it meant he was enduring death threats. He showed us the courage it takes to talk about class and poverty. He once asked in a column, “Mr. President: Just who the hell do you think you are?

This week’s column will be his last. But on the Dec. 13 episode of Sundial on WLRN, Pitts tells host Carlos Frías that the voice that won him a Pulitzer Prize for commentary isn’t going silent.

He’s graduating from what he calls the second-best job in the world — columnist — to the best job: full-time author.

We talk about the three historic killings that shaped his youth, and his world view. We ask this former music critic how music was his entry into commentary. And how he nearly ended up writing comics for Marvel.

"I always tell people in other parts of the world that Miami is the future and that if Miami can get it together — and it's still a major 'if' — then there's hope," Pitts told us.

On Sundial's previous episode, we told the story of Miami's famous ventanitas and the man who invented them, the late Versailles founder Felipe Valls Sr.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon &amp; Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.