On John Lennon's birthday, it made my heart soar that about 50 people of many walks of life and ages from around the globe (filling two computer screens) took the time to come together face to face via Zoom video to explore in a rigorous, insightful, thoroughly Socratic way, "How can we give peace a chance?"
They hailed from places like Amsterdam, Sarajevo, Riyadh and Al-Hassa, Saudi Arabia, Istanbul, Ft. Worth (an entire classroom), Sebastopol, CA, Thessaloniki, Greece, Atlanta, San Francisco, Montana, Maine, Minnesota, San Antonio, Williamsburg, VA, Baltimore, Washington, Mexico, and Montclair, NJ (where I began Socrates Cafe in 1996, and inveterate questioners still gather weekly every Tuesday night, 23 years later).
As we broke philosophical bread together in both ethereal and concrete ways, there were so many unique and insightful offerings on what, when and how and why we can and must give peace a chance -- ending with the uplifting insight from a participant from Saudi Arabia that Socrates Cafe itself is a principal way to realize over time a kind of peace that gives everyone a chance to discover, develop and contribute her talents to human flourishing.
Here is the link to the announcement of this special gathering on our nonprofit website:
This is dedicated to my mom, MargaretAnn Phillips, a brilliant listener and questioner, and my Dad, Alexandros Phillips, who tragically passed away on or around September 17, 2011.
Paul Martin, founder and CIO of Martin Capital Advisors (MartinCapital.com) -- for which I am an Investment Advisor Representative of the Socratic kind -- doesn't just create worlds; he creates universes.
The accomplished managing partner (MCA regularly outperforms its competitors) is also a standout artist whose works are being shown from New York City to Mexico City (in November).
My operating premise in this latest The Openist exchange with Paul -- my most frequent guest on our podcast (what can I say, he fascinates me) -- is that his ability to envision new worlds, if not universes, also drives in some way his singular investment artistry. Listen in.
(My apologies, especially to Paul, around the 8 minute and 15 second mark, for misunderstanding what he said -- he was saying 'secret,' and I misunderstood it to be 'seeking -- but I was at a bustling cafe during the recording.)
Maria Cortes, all of 17 years old, is dedicated to creating bridges of opportunity for all those disadvantaged youth who may not even be aware that such bridges exist.
As the founder of EDYouth, based in the Houston area, Maria is singlehandedly seeing to it that middle school students in her region -- and eventually throughout the U.S. and beyond -- have the kinds of opportunities that can help ensure that they can be all they can be as individuals and as citizens.
I had the privilege of meeting Maria and a number of her peers at the latest Civic Collaboratory convened (this time at Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.) by civic mover and shaker and acclaimed author Eric Liu, founder of Citizen University (CitizenUniversity.us).
I was so wowed by Maria's life mission, as well as her eloquence, passion and maturity, that I invited her to be a guest on our podcast.
So glad Maria accepted my invitation -- and you will be too, when you listen in and hear her incredibly compelling story of all she has overcome in order to devote herself to youth empowerment.
If anyone was ever 'meant' for a certain professional position, it's Danielle Olson, freshly minted Executive Director of Portland, Oregon-based Hatch Innovation (website at HatchTheFuture.org).
Hatch is all about helping people create enterprises that genuinely help improve communities, and there is just no one better suited for leading such an organization with such a lofty and vital mission than Danielle Olson.
Danielle -- who is also a board member of our DemocracyCafe.org (we wouldn't have the wonderful web presence we do if not for her) is a big advocate of a kind of inclusive entrepreneurship that hinges on collective action by diverse stakeholders, especially in the realm of social enterprise where community problems are being addressed.
"Certainly it's a challenge to have multiple people from different walks of life and perspectives come together and innovate as a community," she tells me in this exchange, but she believes it will lead to more innovative and lasting solutions, since it "gives more people agency and ownership."
Amen. Listen in.
(Sorry for the off-putting staticky background noise when Danielle and I aren't speaking.)
Gary Lauder's abiding ethos is that "everyone needs to look out for the interests of everyone."
"I want others to be treated the way I'd want to be treated," he tells me.
I had the pleasure to know Gary, a venture capitalist and venture philanthropist, among many other things, thanks to introduction by mutual friend Larry Lessig -- and a subsequent invitation extended to me in 2013 to preside over a Teen Socrates Seminar on our Constitution and Declaration of Independence supported by Gary and his wife Laura at the Aspen Institute.
Gary and I cover varied ground in this give and take -- from patent law, to a gap year program for students that Gary and Laura Lauder generously support, to the highly impactful entrepreneurial endeavor ShotSpotter, which uses sound waves to detect and map gunshots, and has become an especially vital tool in those communities most impacted by gun violence.
In characterizing his philosophy of how one should live, Gary makes timely reference to this timeless insight from Pastor Martin Niemöller: "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me."
Here's a link to an article on ShotSpotter's genesis and stellar achievements:
I hope you'll also give a listen to some of Gary's insightful talks that can be accessed on YouTube.
Here are links to a couple of them:
2010 TED talk: Gary Gives Us A Sign https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlty0OPcU6k
Designing the future as if your TIME mattered https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLK4UlIyBVI
[Worlds of thanks to our awesome volunteer engineer and writer extraordinaire Odin Halvorson for his deft editing. Be sure to check out Odin's website, and all he's accomplishing (and at such a young age) at: http://www.odinhalvorson.com/
Also thanks to Karl Thomas of Lauder Partners for further editing.
Our intrepid Democracy Cafe advisory board member Peter Schoonmaker, PhD, has spent the better part of the last year in Dubai. Peter, who earned his PhD in biology at Harvard University, is a prominent environmental scientist and founding chair of the MFA program in Collaborative Design and the MA in Design Systems.
One of so many things I admire about Peter, and try in my way to emulate, is his great capacity to listen and observe. So it is that when he trekked to the Middle East, his main goal was not to instruct, though heaven knows he has so much to contribute the world over to environmental problems in need of solutions, but to learn -- and in a way that'll enable him, when he returns to the U.S., to bring with him novel ideas and approaches to solving our most intractable and vexing environmental woes.
Muy agradecido con Gina Jaramillo, periodista inigualable de Radio Ibero (90.9 FM en Mexico DF) por entrevistarme sobre mis exploraciones filosoficas con ninos de todas partes del mundo y mi nuevo libro 'La filosofia de ser ninos', publicado por Penguin Random House (sello Grijalbo)
What better day than May Day to have on our podcast, The Openist, the inimitable Larry Lessig, professor of law and leadership at Harvard University, and our nonprofit Democracy Cafe's beloved advisory board member,.
Larry remains deeply moved, indeed more so than ever, by the spirit and conviction of his protege, open data activist Aaron Swartz, whose life was tragically truncated in 2013, to do all he can in his own mortal moment to revive our democracy while there's still time.
In his latest book, 'America, Compromised,' Lessig offers a nuanced yet sweeping diagnosis of what ails us as a nation when it comes to pervasive institutional corruption enabled by largely good but tipsy purveyors of a corrosive democracy-destroying system. But take heart: he also offers a number of doable prescriptions for combating and upending this endemic problem.
Larry is a combination of rabble rouser in the spirit of our original Founding Fathers and Mothers, of Don Quijote tilting at windmills but determined to fight the good fight come what may, and a Socratic gadfly who calls it as he sees it and is willing to take the heat for his clear-eyed assessment of what ails us and how we can all fight back, if we the people truly care to see to it that our democracy is vibrant for generations (and for the generations) to come.
For about eight years now, Dublin, Ireland has had a thriving Socrates Cafe, thanks to co-founders Paul Hartigan and Roy Angle. Both of these inordinately thoughtful people are dedicated to creating the kind of place and space where genuinely transformative encounters can happen on a regular basis.
Listen in as they share with me the joys and wonders of their Socrates Cafe, where participants can sate their "hunger for deeper understanding of yourself and the world."
Here's the link to their Meetup Socrates Cafe page, which has nearly 2,500 members. https://www.meetup.com/socratescafedublin/