Noam Chomsky, now 88 years old, made his career studying linguistics at MIT. Harry Belafonte, 89, became the “King of Calypso,” popularizing Caribbean music in the 1950s. Yes, the two men come from different worlds, but they share something important in common–a long commitment to social justice and activism. Belafonte used his fame to champion the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr., and also helped organize the March on Washington in 1963. Chomsky protested against the Vietnam War, putting his career on the line, and has since become one of America’s leading voices of political dissent.
On Monday, these two figures appeared onstage for the first time together. Speaking at Riverside Church in NYC, before a crowd of 2,000 people, Chomsky and Belafonte took stock of where America stands after the election of Donald Trump. Naturally, neither man looks forward to what Trump has to bring. But they’re not as glum about the future as many other voters on the left. Chomsky especially reminds us that America has made great strides since 1960. The United States is a far more civilized country overall. And it’s much easier–not to mention less dangerous–to effect change today than a half century ago. It’s just a matter of getting out there and putting in the hard work. Meanwhile, Belafonte urges us to have a “rebellious heart” and leaves with this spirited reminder, “there’s still some ass kicking to be done!”