Season 1

Grant Oliphant smiling in conversation with podcast guest seated behind a microphone. Grant Oliphant smiling in conversation with podcast guest seated behind a microphone. Grant Oliphant, former president of The Heinz Endowments and host of "We Can Be." Photo by Joshua Franzos

Listen to The Heinz Endowments’ “We Can Be” podcast and experience intimate, candid conversations about the big issues of the day with some of the most accomplished, caring and action-oriented individuals in the social change arena. Hosted by Endowments President Grant Oliphant, “We Can Be” explores the often moving, sometimes funny and always inspiring accounts of how these leaders came to believe that together we can be a more just region, state, country and world.

"We Can Be" is produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media, with theme music by Josh Slifkin. Guest and host photos by Josh Franzos. 

How to listen:
Visit iTunes, Podbean, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, or other major podcast sites to download an episode, or subscribe so new episodes are automatically in your feed each week. Use search term: heinz we can be.

Season 1, Episode 20
Season 1, Episode 20 Rev. Tim Smith, CEO of Center of Life, and Pastor, Keystone Church of Hazelwood
Lifting the arc: Hazelwood’s Tim Smith and the grassroots energy bringing a new future to this riverfront community

“If you want to stir up a community,” says the Rev. Tim Smith, CEO of Center of Life and pastor of Keystone Church of Hazelwood, “you have to be willing to be stirred by that community first.” Prepare to be moved by Rev. Smith’s steady passion, and hear how the residents of his neighborhood are lifting the arc of their American story to new heights.

Season 1, Episode 19
Season 1, Episode 19 Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor, San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on speaking truth to power, green energy & her grandmother’s enduring impact.

San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz is not afraid to use her voice to call out injustice when she sees it. “That is what power is about,” she says. “It is about ensuring that we all have access to the things that can help us transform our lives.”

Season 1, Episode 18
Season 1, Episode 18 Jasiri X, Hip-Hop Activist and Co-founder, 1Hood Media
Truthful Art: Jasiri X on Trayvon Martin, Antwon Rose Jr. and the cross-section of unity that gives him hope.

As co-founder of 1Hood Media, a collective of socially conscious activists who utilize art to raise awareness about social justice matters, Jasiri X is fostering a new generation of artists and media professionals who use their voices to challenge inequity and unify humanity.

Season 1, Episode 17
Season 1, Episode 17 Lois Gibbs, Love Canal Environmental Activist, Center for Health, Environment & Justice
Love Canal’s accidental environmentalist Lois Gibbs describes the movement she sparked and what today’s activists need to know to save our world

Center for Health, Environment and Justice Founder Lois Gibbs gained international attention and incredible momentum in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s as she led the fight for environmental justice for children and families affected by the environmental disaster identified with the neighborhood where it occurred, Love Canal.  She’s still fighting, stronger than ever.

Season 1, Episode 16
Season 1, Episode 16 Mona Hanna-Attisha, Pediatrician and Flint lead water crisis public health advocate
What the Eyes Don’t See: Mona Hanna-Attisha and Flint’s lead water crisis

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha shares her journey as the child of Iraqi scientists and dissidents who fled Saddam Hussein’s regime, and describes the moment the magnitude of Flint’s water crisis fully hit her. She explains why speaking up was “a choice-less choice.”

Season 1, Episode 15
Season 1, Episode 15 Maxwell King, President & CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation
The 45 Words that Define Us: Max King on a First Amendment under fire, why we let rights slip away and how we can save them

“To me, freedom of the press, of speech and assembly, and all of the rest of the rights of the First Amendment are the lynchpin for all of our other freedoms,” says Max King, president of The Pittsburgh Foundation. Hear why he believes we must fight with all our might to preserve the “backbone of our democracy.”

Season 1, Episode 14
Season 1, Episode 14 Mustafa Santiago Ali, Senior Vice President, Hip Hop Caucus
Environmental justice superstar: Mustafa Santiago Ali and the Hip Hop Caucus are shifting minds and votes one community at a time.

Mustafa Santiago Ali earned his stripes serving in the Environmental Protection Agency for more than two decades, becoming a founding member of the Office of Environmental Justice. He now serves as a senior vice president of the Hip Hop Caucus – and he’s just getting started.

Season 1, Episode 13
Season 1, Episode 13 Angela Blanchard, President Emerita at BakerRipley and Taubman Fellow and Social Entrepreneur in Residence at Brown University
Born for Storms: Angela Blanchard was a rock during Houston’s Hurricane Harvey, and now she’s out to change the world for good

Angela Blanchard has been a longtime gale of positivity in Houston, spending more than two decades leading BakerRipley, which provides $250 million annually for services that make life better for residents of the Texas Gulf Coast. When Hurricane Harvey hit, she faced the storm with grace and powerful resolve.

Season 1, Episode 12
Season 1, Episode 12 Henry Timms, Executive Director, 92nd Street Y and Co-author, "New Power"
New Power: Author Henry Timms explains what it is, how to get it and why it’s changing our hyper-connected world.

A changing power dynamic is allowing something altogether new to occur — an extraordinarily different kind of power that is people-centric, participatory-focused and spreading with lightning-fast speed. “If you are able to harness this new power, you are likely to come out on top,” says Henry Timms, co-author of “New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World — and How to Make It Work for You.”

Season 1, Episode 11
Season 1, Episode 11 Steve Shelton, Founder & Executive Director, Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (Photo by Joshua Franzos)
Brick by Brick: Steve Shelton got his second chance and now he makes certain others have a shot at their own redemption - and a living wage.

Steve Shelton founded the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh in 2009, training men and women — many of whom have been incarcerated — in fields that enable them to make a living wage while resetting their lives. Hear how he and TIP have saved taxpayers an estimated $10 million dollars by reducing recidivism, fostered a 94 percent program graduation rate, and placed more than 300 individuals in jobs at or above a living wage. 

Season 1, Episode 10
Season 1, Episode 10 Rabbi Ron Symons, Senior Director of Jewish Life, Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh
Spinning our moral compass: Rabbi Ron Symons on why centuries-old traditions may be the secret to navigating race, wage & immigrant issues.

As head of Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement, an initiative of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Rabbi Ron Symons is clear in his belief that we have more similarities than we have differences, and therein may lie the secret to advancing a more equitable society.

Season 1, Episode 9
Season 1, Episode 9 Illah Nourbakhsh, Professor of Robotics and Director of the CREATE Lab, Carnegie Mellon University
R2-D2, Illah & Ethics: How robotics and AI genius Illah Nourbakhsh was inspired to use his superpowers for good

Illah Nourbakhsh’s amazing journey began with his birth in Iran. Since then, the Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor and director of the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab has traveled the world as a leader in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Season 1, Episode 8
Season 1, Episode 8 Tammy Thompson, Executive Director, Greater Pittsburgh Circles
Circles of love: Tammy Thompson draws on her own remarkable journey in her work to break poverty trauma cycles

Tammy Thompson heads an arm of the national anti-poverty group Circles and is the producer of the documentary film “We Wear the Mask: the Hidden Faces of Women in Poverty.” Hear her moving story, including why going “beyond survival into ‘thrival’ ” should — and must — be our goal.

Season 1, Episode 7
Season 1, Episode 7 Hamza Perez, Founder of YA-NE at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and Co-founder of the Light of the Age Mosque
Humor, Rap, Poetry and the New Muslim Cool of Hamza Perez

As founder of YA-NE (Youth Alliance of Networking and Empowerment) at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and co-founder of the Light of the Age Mosque, Hamza Perez has made defying perceptions his life’s work. Hear his fascinating, funny and inspiring story.

Season 1, Episode 6
Season 1, Episode 6 Janis Burley Wilson, President and CEO, The August Wilson Cultural Center
A Story of Two Wilsons: As a child, Janis Burley Wilson loved reading August Wilson’s plays; now she leads his namesake center for African American culture.

Janis Burley Wilson leads the August Wilson Cultural Center, a triumphant chapter in the dramatic story of the entity named for the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. Hear how this dynamic Wilson is bringing Mr. Wilson to new generations and audiences.

Season 1, Episode 5
Betty Cruz, with long brown hair, leaning against a white concrete block wall. Betty Cruz, Founder and Director, Change Agency
From Miami to the Midwest: Change Agency’s Betty Cruz describes her life’s work as making her city a welcoming place for immigrants.

Change Agency Director – and immigration advocate - Betty Cruz joins The Heinz Endowments’ Grant Oliphant on “We Can Be” for a conversation about what it means to truly be a nation — and a community — of “we.”

Season 1, Episode 4
Smiling profile image of Veronica Coptis Veronica Coptis, Executive Director, Center for Coalfield Justice
Center for Coalfield Justice’s Veronica Coptis fights for environmental justice in one rural American county.

While Center for Coalfield Justice Executive Director Veronica Coptis’ family raised her to be strong and thoughtful, and have a deep respect for her community, she knows environmental protection and conservation can be a tough sell in rural communities.  Nonetheless, she’s doing it in a big way– and making a difference.

Season 1, Episode 3
Smiling profile photo of David Conrad David Conrad, Actor and writer
Actor/writer David Conrad's long journey home, identity of place, and the key role artists play in shaping our future

Actor/writer David Conrad discusses why the most striking sound in an industrial town is silence, where his own creative plans will take him next, and the integral role the arts play in the future of our communities and nation.

Season 1, Episode 2
Season 1, Episode 2 Mila Sanina, Executive Director of PublicSource. Photo by Joshua Franzos
Kazakhstan candy, a Wisconsin dairy farm, PBS and innovative investigative news: the fantastic journey of PublicSource Exec. Director Mila Sanina

As executive director of PublicSource, Mila Sanina believes in the power of ideas, words and stories to change our brain chemistry and the character of our interactions with each other and the world.

Season 1, Episode 1
Nick Grimes, Director of Veterans Breakfast Club Post-9/11 Veterans Storytelling Project
Nick Grimes and an America for All Americans

The Veterans Breakfast Club’s Nick Grimes has guided the organization’s Post-9/11 Storytelling Project to national acclaim for its success in creating listening communities around veterans and their stories. Hear how it’s changing lives, and why post-9/11 veterans may just be the secret to a more perfect union.