I shot this photo of Ricardo last week. He lives in a motor home in Española, New Mexico — more about him below.
But first, when asked these days, “Paul, what do you do?” I struggle to answer. Because my work doesn’t fit any specialty (coder, real estate agent, lawyer), and I hold no traditional job title since I stepped down from President and CEO of For The Children last year.
But even as a generalist with no descriptive job title, the focus of my work today is lucid and grounded in the core of my life mission statement: To work to end the order of ignorance and injustice in the world.
So for over a year, I’ve only said “yes” to ventures addressing more dire social needs.
Here they are.
First, I immediately launched the Child Rights Foundation. Having worked across the nation addressing the issue of child maltreatment, there can be no doubt that this is the single greatest problem we face today. Five children die daily in the U.S., but we never hear about it because we can’t see them; their deaths are hidden from the public’s eye. There’s nothing sensational about it, either. It’s not like a hurricane, fire, or mass shooting — just a trickle of five per day, every day, year after year. But five children a day is a Sandy Hook School shooting every four days. And in terms of costs to our nation, $2 trillion annually, triple our national defense budget!
Part of my work with CRF is with children from the most marginalized cities in the nation — currently, Española. I teach and mentor teens in high school (when I am in town). And I am working with community and state leaders to provide…something for them because there’s little if anything.
Second, I’ve launched the Critical Thinking Initiative, bringing together professors of philosophy and education from some of the world’s leading universities. We are using thousands of years old tools — logic — to train K-12 teachers on how to teach students not what to think but how to think. This work has been tested for over a decade in Australia, with outstanding outcomes.
This work — combatting ignorance — is crucial to my personal mission. Masters like Socrates and Jesus deemed ignorance as the core of human suffering. Socrates went as far as to claim that evil is ignorance (i.e., Hitler was ultimately ignorant of the value of all human life). Jesus forgave those torturing him “…because they know not what they do.”
Third, in Española, I’m throwing myself into the battle against fentanyl. You’ve heard the basics on this insidious substance. I won’t add anything other than working at the epidemic’s epicenter with the city’s only shelter and rehab center. Tremendous social workers bring saving lives. And then providing them with the tools they need to flourish.
That’s where the photo of Ricardo comes in. And I’m happy to say he is fentanyl free! (If you don’t know about the plight of this nondescript city, just read this LA Time article).
Lastly, I continue to advise clients with my firm, Telos Consulting. Sometimes on a pro bono basis with smaller organizations without resources. Of the hundreds of thousands of nonprofits, the smaller ones are doing some heavy lifting, working in hundreds of communities nationwide. These are the ones that, too often, require the most help in creating sustainable best practices.
I’m always humbled by the countless men and women I meet who don’t feel called into the nonprofit sector. Yet they nonetheless lead in other ways that bring transformational differences.
To all laboring for justice and equity, bravo. We share one planet. We’re in this together.
P.S. I’m always eager to meet like-hearted laborers, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.