Talk show host Tavis Smiley speaks during the 'Tavis Smiley' panel at the PBS portion of the 2011 Winter TCA press tour held at the Langham Hotel on January 9, 2011 in Pasadena, California.

*Tavis Smiley is headed to Washington D.C. this week to host a three hour panel about the future of the country.

“We are doing something that doesn’t happen in Washington. I’m going — Mr. Smiley goes to Washington, and we are going to have a conversation,” he told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.

Titled “America’s Next Chapter,” the gathering will feature eight co-moderators from different racial and political backgrounds.

“The persons on that panel are black, Hispanic, Asian, white, female, and even male on that stage,” he said. “And I’m going to moderate this conversation, and we are going to talk about this country and the future of the country and this Rasmussen Report that just came out a few days ago that suggests that almost half of Americans think our best days as a nation are behind us.”

“We are just days away from the halfway point of Mr. Obama’s first term,” Smiley continued. “His State of the Union speech is just about to happen in a matter of weeks. In a couple of months we’ll have all kinds of folk declaring their candidacies for the White House. The timing could not be more propitious for us to have a conversation about this country and the way forward given the angst, the blues that this country seems to be having and experiencing right about now. But that kind of conversation that’s multicultural, multiracial, multi-ethnic, and Republican and Democrat, multi-ideological, never happens in Washington.”

“America’s Next Chapter” will air live, 6 to 9 p.m. EST Thursday night [Jan. 13] on C-SPAN.

“Respectfully, no politicians on the panel,” warns Smiley. “I want people to be free and open about what they have to say in this conversation and, not be worried about the Tea Party coming after you.”

Smiley’s PBS talk show will rerun the broadcast in three parts on Jan. 18, 19 and 20.

“So now, the public television world, not just on C-SPAN, but the public television world, gets exposed to that kind of discourse with everybody sitting at the table for a conversation about the future of this country,” said Smiley. “Those are the kinds of things with WNET and with PBS that we are trying to do to expand the discourse in this country. And I think that people of color, I hope at least, will appreciate seeing themselves involved in a conversation that’s elevated.”