Vision and Mission
A common complaint among long-established Mainers, at least in the brief time that I’ve been part of the Portland community, is that “Maine isn’t the small state it used to be” and “everyone used to know one another, and now they don’t.“
When I first got here these were the kinds of things I would hear regularly when meeting new people. Frankly, it bummed me out. One of the reasons I moved back to New England was for that “small town feel”, and here I was being told it wasn’t around to be had. I also heard the term “from away” a lot; a pejorative used to refer to people are aren’t “from here”. As hyper-xenophobic as that concept might seem, I get it. I get the comfort of everyone you know being people you’ve known your whole life. I get the strange camaraderie that arises between two strangers who can reminisce about the businesses that lined Commercial Street 40-years ago and how things, in a literal way, aren’t the same as they used to be.
My experience in traditional cultures, specifically in the sharing of their stories with the world and the need to do so while conveying the importance of those stories to those cultures clearly and genuinely, has taught me that, for humans, a connection to the past is incredibly important. When those connections feel like they’re being lost, people don’t deal with it well. The struggle to deal with it is especially difficult among those with more conscientious mind-sets; people who value tradition and “the old way” – so to speak. These people aren’t wrong for how they feel, but they are at odds with those who don’t feel particularly strong ties to these things and are more excited by (and concerned with) the future, and what possibilities it holds.
If you’re associating, as you’re reading this, the difference I’m laying out, with the core differences between this country’s biggest political parties, that’s no coincidence. As members of a human society, the issues we fight most about are ones which make us decide between the comfortable familiarity of the past and the exciting and unknown spoils of the future which may await us if we dare risk the journey. Unfortunately, this very human difference gets out of hand too frequently and we demonize one another, and we become demons ourselves by doing so. The truth is that we’re all much more similar than we are different, but we’ve lost familiarity with each other, and we’re now strangers instead of neighbors.
I think that what the world needs, what America needs, and what Maine needs, isn’t another platform upon which to stand and argue – we have so many of these already. What I think we need are more environments where we can sit down and rediscover each other and re-learn how to regard each other not as political adversaries who disagree on a truly unimpressive number of very specific issues, but as neighbors and individuals with similar needs, desires, flaws, pain points, passions, and visions for how best to live our lives. There can be no doubt that healthy debate is critical, but healthy is very seldom, if ever, achieved through chronic behavior.
Portland Speaks aims to interview members of the community with stories to tell about their lives. Some might be inspiring, some might be sad, some might be terrifying, but they’ll all be true and they’ll all find resonance with you as a human being because they won’t be about issues, they’ll be about experiences, they’ll be about the difficulty, sadness, struggle, humor, and joy of life.
I’m producing and hosting this show because I think it’s what we need: a chance to get to know one another better so that we can relearn how to see ourselves in others and so we can make Maine small again – not by keeping people out but by letting them in and redefining our notion of small as a feeling found not in small numbers but in familiarity with one’s neighbors.
Tanner was born in Concord, New Hampshire in 1983 and grew up in Sugar Hill the first ten years of his life. His father, Glenn, owned ORCA (the Oil Recovery Corporation of America) on Commercial Street right here in Portland. When his father’s company went bankrupt, Tanner’s family moved to south Florida, where they remained for 25-years. In Winter 2017, Tanner, his girlfriend Brittany, and their dog Jupiter, relocated to Portland. When asked why he’d ever leave a tropical paradise for the tough winters of Maine:
“The weather never suited me – my blood never thinned out, I guess. Ninety degrees on Christmas and ninety-percent humidity? No thanks. Give me ten-foot of snow and a shovel any day of the year over that. Plus, New England has always been my home – I wanted to go home, it was just time.”
A seasoned podcaster, Tanner’s first program was in 2011, a nightly just-for-fun news recap program with Brittany as co-host. In 2013 he launched the well-received No God Cast (co-hosted with Ben Donahue of the Secular Coalition for America), a long-format interview podcast featuring discussions between established theologists, theists, and atheists. 2015 saw the birth of a passion project which quickly transformed into the popular traditional storytelling program, the Legends Myths and Whiskey podcast – co-hosted by Eric DeMott of Florida Atlantic University and which ran from 2015 to early 2018.
In the Fall of 2018 Tanner opened Maine’s first Podcast Studio, The Portland Pod – a modest beginning to what he hopes will become a larger and broader-serving facility in the years to come. Shortly thereafter, Portland Speaks was developed as the studios flagship production.
We're based in Maine, but you can listen from anywhere.
The mission of this program applies broadly, even though it is targeted at our local community here in Maine. Perhaps you are a Mainer living abroad or vacationing in Brazil, or perhaps you are not a Mainer but you like a good story, either way, it doesn’t matter, you can find us just the same.
SUPPORT THE SHOW
Portland Speaks is a production of the Portland Pod but it is independently supported by listeners and by its host. Without your support, we won’t be able to advance the program. If you’re able to contribute to the future of Portland Speaks, we hope that you will!