November 25, 2018


WOW. I’m listening to Ben Phillips speak at the UN.

The concluding panel of the UN Conference on Overcoming Inequalities, November 2018.

Only 9 minutes long. Listen. Please listen. Reflect. Please please reflect.

We have so much work to do and we’re just not yet doing it well enough.

Filed under: Leadership

June 11, 2018

One of my favorite “business” books

I believe that conversation is a core business practice. And conversation is different than discussion. Very different!

Theodore Zeldin wrote the most beautiful book about conversation: Conversation – How Talk Can Change Our Lives.

Here are some of my favorite Zeldin statements…direct quotations from his lovely book.

  1. Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards; it creates new cards.
  2. Having one’s ideas challenged and transmuted by verbal intercourse makes one aware how much one owes to others, how much a partner can contribute to one’s intellectual, moral and emotional development, thought one remains a separate, unique person.
  3. Conversation, like families, dies when it is inbred. Or when your guests have had more or less the same experience as yourself.
  4. Conversation has to explore new territory to become an adventure.
October 5, 2016

The DNA Journey

Watch this YouTube video.

Surely this is more than “social commentary.” Surely this is leadership and the nonprofit sector and all sectors.

This is LIFE.

Lovely. Insightful. Challenging.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all do this? Would this help heal the world?

Filed under: Just for fun, Leadership

March 10, 2016

Making you afraid

One of my favorite movies is The American President with Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Michael J. Fox, and Martin Sheen. (And Martin Sheen then moved on to The West Wing. My most favorite television show ever. I would get confused about reality and The West Wing. I’d talk with friends as if what was happening in The West Wing was actually happening in the other West Wing.

Anyway, back to The American President. President Andrew Shepherd makes the most marvelously exceptionally swell speech about problems and solutions and fear and blame. I wish someone would recite this speech in the U.S. Congress right now. Maybe President Obama could channel President Shepherd. (President Shepherd even talked about gun control. And 20 years after that movie, this country allows the shooting of kids on college campuses, in downtown streets, in elementary schools, in homes…)

But I digress………

The point of this blog was Andy Shepherd’s statement: “Making you afraid. And telling you who to blame.” There’s a problem. People who talk about the problem (so many elected officials – and presidential candidates) arouse fear. Intentionally. And then tell us who to blame.

Let me say that again: Making you afraid of “it.” And telling you who to blame.

Do you play that game? Do you make others afraid and tell them who to blame? Does your organization? Do your elected officials do that? Does your government do that?

Maybe we need different elected officials. Maybe we need to radically change our governments and the people therein. Maybe we need to take a deep breath and stop the fear-mongering and the hate speech and blame game.

I want Jed Bartlett and Andrew Shepherd as president. Well, actually, I want Hillary Clinton.

By the way:  Wikipedia tells me that The American President is #75 on the American Film Institute‘s list of America’s Greatest Love Stories. Some of the other films on the list are: Casablanca (#1). Gone with the Wind (#2). West Side Story (#3). An Affair to Remember (#5). Pretty Woman (#21). When Harry Met Sally (#25.) An Officer and a Gentleman (#29). Titanic (#37). A Star is Born (#43). The English Patient (#56). Coming Home (#78). The Princess Bridge (#88). Dirty Dancing (#93). To name just a few! And I really enjoyed all of these.

P.S. And for those who don’t know, Aaron Sorkin wrote The American President and The West Wing. And the Newsroom, too. I wish that were still on.

Filed under: Social Commentary

February 10, 2016

A sad sad truth

“Bigotry and national security have, sadly, close and old ties in American history.” So says the first line in the January 4, 2016 editorial in The Nation magazine.

Yet, in my experience, U.S. people and our government don’t recognize and acknowledge our unpleasant history. Things like:

• “National-security concerns mixed with anti-Semitism delayed our acceptance of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi German.”

• “Racism combined with panic after Pear Harbor led to the internment of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans.”

• “Over the past decade, we’ve wrenched at least 2 million people from their families with a record-setting pace of deportation.”

• We’ve allowed people to die in the desert rather than allow them to cross the border. National security? Really? How about racism.

• Donald Trump plans to build tall walls and ban Muslims from entering the U.S., and “11 of the 13 GOP president candidates oppose allowing any Syrian refugees into the country at all.”

Here’s another rather terrifying (dare I say embarrassing) fact: According to research, “more Americans have been killed in domestic terrorist attacks by right-wing zealots than by jihadists since 9/11.”

Yet we won’t launch a much-needed war on guns. No other “civilized” nation has the gun violence we have. I think I might blog about what civilization means to me. Hmmm….

Our behavior reminds me of facism.  We make fun of Marie Antoinette saying to the poor clamoring for bread to feed their starving children, “Let them eat cake.”

Our U.S. Supreme Court allows the Koch brothers and their pals to invest more money than either the Republican or Democratic Parties to shape elections. My voice and yours just don’t count as much.

And on and on and on….. But I must curtail my anger today. I have work to do.

[All quotes — except “civilized” and Marie Antoinette – are from “A War on Guns,” The Nation, January 4, 2016.]

Filed under: Social Commentary

December 30, 2015

Vietnam was my war

Did I ever tell you that?

Vietnam was my war. The war of my generation, my contemporaries, my friends, my brother.

And today was the day – in 1972 – when the U.S. stopped its heavy bombing of North Vietnam. We called it “Nam.”

I remember. And for those of you who don’t know that Nam…that war…Make sure you learn.

Filed under: Social Commentary

November 9, 2015

Discomfort with strangers…people who are different than…

I find it somewhat curious… rather annoying… and totally distasteful. All this anger at immigrants (or the possibility of immigrants). Let’s lock those other people up. Let’s put them in some dark corner of our city. Let’s build a wall – maybe even two or three! – to keep them out.

All the while, today’s world is so connected. Your grocery store. My clothing store. YouTube. The news. Photos. People. So much connection.

Yet so much suspicion and distaste – even hatred –  for those who are different.

Here’s a postcard from my French cousin Fab and her partner husband Jean-Claude. The postcard comes from the Memorial of the Camp des Milles. This postcard proclaims, “Understand in order to agitate.”

Here’s the original version as seen on the postcard. Scroll down for the English translation.

Ton christ est juif

Ta voiture est japonaise

Ton couscous est algerin

Ta démocratie est grecque

Ton cafe est bresilien

Ton chianti est italien

Et tu reproches a ton voisin d’être un étranger…

Your christ is jewish

Your car is japanese

Your couscous is algerian

Your democracy is greek

Your coffee is brazilian

Your chianti is italian

And you reproach your neighbor because s/he is a stranger               

A tribe can be wonderful. Just read Seth Godin’s book of that name. Think about what we want to do with donors – build a tribe that cares. Think about movements like social justice – building a tribe that will act together for good.

Tribes can be so marvelous and special and extraordinary and helpful and useful and great agents of change.

And tribes can be so awful, so disgusting, so vicious, so harmful, so hurtful. I fight those tribes. I want them gone gone gone.

Which tribes do you belong to? Which tribes do you avoid – and even fight?

P.S. An important article about change in U.S. demographics (in a decade or so, whites will be the minority). But who continues to seemingly control the world?

June 29, 2015

Building the people’s movement

As a subscriber to The Nation magazine, I just received this email. I’ve heard The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP. He gave a marvelous and inspiring speech to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. I couldn’t resist sharing his email here.

“How do we build a people’s movement?

“We start with vision. Prophetic moral vision seeks to penetrate despair, so that we can believe in and embrace new futures.

“In North Carolina, we had a movement that had already reformed the voting laws before Obama was on the ballot—an interracial, intergenerational, anti-poverty, pro-labor fusion movement that was challenging even Democrats to be more committed to a moral vision.

“Since the social, political, and economic system of slavery was defeated by progressive Northern white families aligning with hundreds of thousands of African slaves and freed people in the South in 1865, The Nation has fought to repair the deep breaches this system created in the human family of the nation. Today, when Southern legislatures have fallen to Tea Party zealots, the need for a Southern-oriented anti-racism mass movement is greater than ever. The Nation will continue to play an important role in building this movement in the South, and explaining it to the rest of the nation.

“We need a transformative movement—state-based, deeply moral, deeply constitutional, pro-justice. We need to build for the long term, not around one issue or campaign.

       “We need the kind of language that’s not left or right or conservative or liberal, but moral, fusion language that says:

  • It is extreme and immoral to suppress the right to vote.
  • It is extreme and immoral to deny Medicaid to millions of poor people, especially when denied by people who have been elected to office and receive their own insurance through that office.
  • It is extreme and immoral to raise taxes on the working poor and cut earned-income tax credits, especially in order to slash taxes for the wealthy.
  • It is extreme and immoral to shut off people’s water in Detroit.
  • It is extreme and immoral to end unemployment compensation for those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own.
  • It is extreme and immoral to desegregate and underfund our public schools.
  • It is mean, it is immoral, it is extreme to kick hardworking people when they are done.
  • That’s not just bad policy. It’s a violation of the common good and a disregard for human rights. In face, this kind of philosophy is rooted in the policies of immoral deconstruction. If you look at these policies carefully, they are historically inaccurate, they are constitutional inconsistent, they are morally indefensible, and they are economically insane.

“That’s not just bad policy. It’s a violation of the common good and a disregard for human rights. In fact, this kind of philosophy is rooted in the policies of immoral deconstruction. If you look at these policies carefully, they are historically inaccurate, they are constitutionally inconsistent, they are morally indefensible, and they are economically insane.

       “The day is over for quick political platitudes. The day is over for little campaign slogans. We’ve got to build a movement.

“We’ve got to think more deeply. It’s going to take more than a few texts, and a few e-mails. We must engage in action that shifts the center of political gravity in this nation. And we’ve got to do it state by state. And we’ve got to say—no matter who’s in Congress, or who’s in the general assemblies of our state, or who’s in the governor’s mansion, or who’s in the White House—we are demanding higher ground.

       “We’ve got to say you don’t have enough political power to vote us away, you don’t have enough insults to talk us away, and to the Koch brothers, you don’t have enough money to buy us away.”

And The Reverend Dr. Barber ends his letter with, “In solidarity….

Yes, this letter is a solicitation letter to those of us who subscribe to The Nation magazine. And yes, I sent in a donation in response to this powerful letter.

But for this blog, I’m not asking you to give. I’m asking you to read. To absorb. To vote. To fight. In solidarity with others demanding justice.





Filed under: Social Commentary

March 30, 2015

Two interesting statements

“Justice is merely incidental to law and order.”

Thank you J. Edgar Hoover. I find that statement ugly and horrifying… And I’ll fight you and your kind forever.


“The audacity to fight for justice. The perseverance to win.” 

From NCLR, the National Center for Lesbian Rights. I find that beautiful and wonderful and inspiring. I joined that fight a long time ago. And we’re winning.

November 21, 2014

Sometimes I’m so very angry

Sometimes I just want to watch junk TV and read romance novels and avoid all the societal issues that make me so frustrated and angry and deeply deeply sad.

Sometimes I just want to rant and rave and march and scream and …

Why? Because the American Dream doesn’t really exist. And we keep lying to ourselves. Because the U.S. is behind (and often far behind) the rest of the world in any kind of life dream. And we keep denying that fact.

The reality in the U.S.? Racism still thrives. (And having a black President doesn’t change our racist history and contemporary racist behavior.) Sexism still thrives. (We’re something like 82nd in the world in the number of women in our federal legislature.) Reproductive justice (Pretty much a joke). Basic human rights like universal healthcare and universal childcare and damn good accessible education — not really. Certainly nowhere as good as most other western nations.

The U.S. being so wonderful and so exceptional…doesn’t much exist. But we keep pretending.

Have you read Nicholas Kristof’s op ed series “When Whites Just Don’t Get It”? Everyone should read this series. Every single teacher in no matter which subject could make students read this series and talk about it.

Read “Inequality, Unbelievably, Gets Worse” (Steven Rattner, New York Times, November 16, 2014) Now read Joseph Stiglitz’s “How Inequality Is Killing the American Dream…And What We Can Do About It.” Stiglitz isn’t just ranting. He’s an economist!

I think that the U.S. is broken…very very broken. And there are far too many people who don’t recognize the breaks. There are too many people who think this broken-ness is all about individual responsibility: “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, buddy!”

Apparently the conservative industry (and yes, I believe it’s an industry) doesn’t care about achieving anything. The conservative industry wants to break this country even more. I’m tired of a dysfunction government. Shouldn’t that be illegal? Read Charles M. Blow’s “Partisanship Breaks the Government.” 

When will voters realize that “just kicking the current bums out and electing different ones” isn’t actually a meaningful strategy? When will people realize that there is a range of awfulness within the bum continuum. I want the less awful bums when I vote.

When will Americans acknowledge the truth about the failings in this country? When will Americans look to other countries and note some of their greatness — and demand…YES DEMAND…that the U.S. change?

I’m very sad today. Maybe I’ll go read a romance novel.

Oh… I can’t. I have client work to do. Maybe these wonderful philanthropic organizations will make me feel better. They usually do.

Filed under: Social Commentary

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