Saturday, July 26, 2014

Intelligent Influence

I have been amazed by the many positive comments about the TEDx speech I gave several years ago in Princeton called “Intelligent Influence.” This talk focused on one of the most important words in the world that, amazingly, is “hidden in plain sight.” The word “Influence” is used in conversations virtually every day by millions of people around the world who have not taken the time to understand the meaning and potential of this very powerful concept.

I believe that positive strategic influence is the secret to leadership and organizational success in today’s complicated business environment. My research on influence led me to develop a concept called Intelligent Influence® that is tailor-made for the business (and human interaction) realities of the 21st century. This unique leadership and strategy framework, which consists of four components, has the potential to change how people interact (especially in the business world). This approach has been so well received that I founded an international management consulting firm named Strategic Influence, LLC that has successfully helped executives, corporations, government agencies and nonprofits effectively utilize Intelligent Influence to achieve extraordinary success.

This concept is extremely useful when you apply it to your career goals and objectives. The first component, “Influence AwarenessTM”, is understanding how an individual or group is influenced. Think about the person, events or things that influenced you to pursue your current career or develop a passion for a particular hobby or even sports team. We all do what we do, like what we like and accomplish what we accomplish because of influence.

The second component, “Influence ImpactTM”, is understanding how an individual or group currently influences others. Take a minute or two to think about the influence that you have on others at home, at work and in your community? Ask yourself the question “How am I currently influencing my boss, co-workers, subordinates, family and friends?” My research indicated that there are six distinct types of Intelligent Influence. These are: Authority InfluenceTM, Belief InfluenceTM, Inspiration InfluenceTM, Reputation InfluenceTM, Resource InfluenceTM and Thought InfluenceTM. It is essential that you explore the extent to which you have each of these types of influence at home and work.

The third component, “Influence ManagementTM”, is proactively managing how you are influenced based on your analysis of your current influence (or lack thereof). Every person should identify their developmental goals and write down a plan to get the Internal InfluenceTM (training, mentoring, etc.) they need to accomplish their External InfluenceTM (personal and professional) goals. Make sure that you have Influence Integration and spend time being influenced by people who think very differently than you do. This means that HR executives should spend time with engineers, sales persons should spend time with finance executives and CEOs should spend time with front line workers.

The fourth and final component “Influence MaximizationTM,” is maximizing influence by connecting the three Caldwell Spheres of InfluenceTM that in combination are the secret behind the success of all influential individuals and organizations. The first sphere, “Credibility,” represents the influence that motivates people to take a person or organization seriously. The second sphere, “Creativity,” represents the influence that makes people respect an individual or organization because of their innovative approach and ideas. The third and final sphere, “Connection,” represents the influence generated when a person or organization makes an emotional connection with a person in a significant enough way to get them to follow the person or buy a product.

When a leader or organization can demonstrate each of these three types of influence in combination they can accomplish extraordinary things. The Intelligent Influence framework anchored by Influence Maximization occurs in every sector of society with both individuals and organizations. In business the three spheres of influence account for the extraordinary success of companies like Apple, McDonalds, Nike and Coca-Cola. For example, when Coke was the number one soft drink it had Credibility because of its long storied history; Creativity because of its “secret formula”; and, Connection because of the very successful “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing®” commercials which has resonated emotionally with millions of people over the years. Coca-Cola has been the number one brand because of their ability to demonstrate the three spheres of influence consistently over many years.

If you are serious about becoming an exceptional leader (or just having extraordinary relationships) you must identify the influences that shaped who you are (Influence Awareness); honestly assess your current influence strengths and weaknesses (Influence Impact); develop a career (and life) plan that identifies your influence-based developmental needs (Influence Management); and, demonstrate credibility, creativity and connection to maximize the influence that you have on the people who determine the level of success you have in both your life and your career (Influence Maximization). Intelligent Influence is the secret of success in the complex, diverse and fast paced world of today. Are you ready to use this strategy to influence the world around you?

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I have been overwhelmed by the extremely positive response to my book Intelligent Influence: The 4 Steps of Highly Successful Leaders and Organizations. This publication is built around the belief that “we do what we do, think the way we think and accomplish what we accomplish because of influence.” People from around the world tell me that this book has changed the way that they view themselves and the world. My research for this book has also changed my view of the world by teaching me that there are two very distinct types of influence.
The first type is “Social Influence” where a person is influenced to do or think things because of other people or situations. This type of influence, depending on its intensity, is often temporary. The second type of influence is a term I created called “NeuroinfluenceTM” which is defined as “influence that is powerful enough to cause neurological changes in an individual.” These changes to the brain frequently make this type of influence more permanent because the only way to change it is to expose a person to counter-influences capable of causing neurological changes.

I am frequently asked the question: What types of influences are strong enough to change the brain? The traumatic experiences that many individuals face on a regular basis can directly affect the parts of the brain that control emotions and memory. Studies, such as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) research on 17,000 Kaiser Permanente patients, clearly indicate that traumatic childhood experiences are a fundamental reason why individuals do poorly in school and suffer later in life. Additional research has indicated that the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory forming, organizing and storing, and the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions such as anger, fear and pleasure, are extremely sensitive to stress and trauma.

If a person is exposed to prolonged or extreme trauma (which is called “Negative NeuroinfluenceTM” or “NNI”) the amygdala and hippocampus change in a way that negatively affects an individual’s stability, sensitivity to others, memory and ability to learn. However, the good news is that “Positive NeuroinfluenceTM” or “PNI” can reverse the changes to the brain caused by the trauma generated by NNI.

The recognition of the widespread impact of negative and positive neuroinfluence has the potential to drastically change public policy in areas as diverse as healthcare, law enforcement and public education. The right public policy will influence physicians to use MRI’s more frequently to examine the impact of trauma on the brain. These policies would enable law enforcement to identify potential violent criminals before they commit a crime.  

The chronic academic achievement gap between urban and suburban and black and white students exists because current special education programs are inadequate in addressing the neurological problems of many urban and black students. These students, therefore, continue to do poorly in class and often distract other students from learning. Unfortunately, these classroom distractions, and their root causes, are one of the main reasons that there is a 30 point academic achievement gap on standardized tests between black and white students. The right public policy will lead to the creation of PNI programs that can transform students struggling from NNI into outstanding students.

Violence, suffering and abuse has become an unfortunate way of life for far too many students living in cities like Atlanta, Camden, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, New York and Trenton where the school that I lead is located. Many students hear gunshots on a regular basis in their neighborhoods. Sometimes they are threatened at gun point or deal with the brutal murder of a family member or friend. To make matters worse, many of these students are forced to skip dinner or have to move from house to house or car to car for shelter at night. Some of these students experience unthinkable abuse that causes even greater trauma to their young lives.

There are many programs treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (negative neuroinfluence) in war veterans. Society is starting to realize how significant a problem this is for people who have fought for their country. Unfortunately, there are not enough programs effectively treating this ailment in public school students and their parents. Educational leaders ignore the sad reality that many urban students have great difficulty learning because they are suffering from a form of NNI caused by violence, hunger, homelessness and abuse in the communities where they live.

Studies have shown that positive neuroinfluence programs designed to help students improve their self-esteem can help students significantly increase their academic proficiency. Programs like Northwestern University’s Project Harmony music program (where students learn to play instruments) change the brain in a way that makes it easier for students experiencing NNI to learn. According to Hugh Knowles, professor of neurobiology and physiology and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern, “musical training has a positive effect on biological processes important for auditory learning, memory and hearing speech … which appear to translate into better language learning results.”

PNI programs can help war veterans, victims of violence and traumatized students improve their social and emotional response mechanisms so that they can succeed in school, work and life. Unfortunately, violent crime will increase and the academic achievement gap will likely widen unless policy makers support the expansion of PNI programs designed to address the social, emotional and learning needs of children, youth and adults who have experienced significant trauma in their daily lives.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Twilight Tutoring

There has been a lot of discussion on the relative value of lengthening the school day. Not surprisingly, there is a great deal of disagreement about the need to lengthen the school day in successful schools. However, there is almost unanimous agreement that the school day needs to be lengthened in schools where student academic proficiency rates are low.

As the son of a Civil Rights Leader who knew and marched with Dr. King, Head of School of a Charter School in Trenton, a school board member in New Brunswick, president of the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission (MRESC) and chair of the New Brunswick Housing Authority, I have a unique understanding of education and the roots and consequences of poverty in America. However, I returned a few days ago from an amazing 14 day trip to China over Christmas and New Year’s that opened my eyes to the deficiencies in the American education system.

This trip was designed to connect New Jersey and New York school leaders with Chinese educators to share best practices and foster student exchanges. However, to my surprise, it provided extraordinary insight into the ways that the US needs to adjust our approach to education to maintain our competitive advantage over other countries.

Most educational leaders know that Chinese students are among the best in the world when it comes to international assessments of academic achievement. The US is falling further and further behind other countries on these tests. My trip to China taught me some fascinating things. First, the good news is that the American education system is the best in the world when it comes to educating students from 8am to 3pm. Our class sizes, the quality of our classrooms and our teacher training is as good as it gets.

Contrary to the view of many educational leaders, I do not think we need to make major adjustments to our standard educational approach before 3pm. We visited some of the best schools in China where the ratio of teachers to students was more than 50 to 1 and the classrooms (and bathrooms) were so cold every student wore a heavy coat throughout the day. No American parent would tolerate student learning in these conditions. However, academically, these students can run circles around our best students.

I therefore asked myself the question, if our schools are better during the day how can we be so far behind academically? I was initially confused by this contradiction until I realized that China is as focused on the education of students from 3pm to 8pm as they are from 8am to 3pm. Many of the K through 12th grade schools in China have more than 6,000 students. However, students from very poor families and those that live far away are housed for free near the school. Consequently, to create a culture of learning at the school, more than 4,000 of these students live in local dorms. These dorms ensure that students are as focused on academic excellence after school as they are during the school day. This is not the case in the US.

This trip opened my eyes to the reality that the primary reason American students are not doing as well academically as Chinese students is that in suburban, urban and rural schools most students are more focused on entertainment from 3pm to 8pm than they are on learning. They would rather listen to the most popular music, play the latest video game, watch TV or communicate via social media than study the subject areas that confuse them. Most students do their homework. However, academic excellence comes from working on academic weaknesses in addition to completing homework in the evening. American students are not doing this. We have a culture of after-school entertainment while China has a culture of after-school learning.

Proposals for a longer school day are being criticized by teachers unions who want more money for a longer day and parents who think their students have enough homework. I believe that the school day should be lengthened only for struggling students and teachers that are willing to work for standard hourly rates. If government is serious about increasing student achievement it should advocate for (and in some cases support financially) a two hour academic excellence program immediately after the end of the school day for struggling students. I call this a “Twilight Tutoring” program.

The good news is that new technology programs allow for very focused and productive tutoring. The only way that this tutoring will be effective is if the students are assessed weekly by a technology program that is highly correlated with state standardized tests that identifies the specific remediation needs of the students (and provides curriculum to help them address these needs). The tutoring must therefore be aligned to this curriculum and focused specifically on the areas were the student is weak based on the assessment. The program will enable the school and the students’ parents to measure academic growth on a weekly basis.

To manage program costs the government can set hourly rates and open it up to teachers and others who have the knowledge and experience to ensure that the tutoring is aligned to the unique needs of the students. This will keep contentious negotiations out of the process and enable the most committed tutors to participate. This approach will not guarantee that the US catches up academically to China. To do that we need to establish boarding programs directly aligned with poor performing public schools. This will ensure that struggling students are in environments in the evening that are conducive to achieving academic excellence. However, the Twilight Tutoring program that I am proposing will significantly increase the academic achievement of struggling students. This approach is an essential first step in making American pre-college education a global leader once again.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The United Hymnal

The Musical Divide
As the son, grandson and great grandson of activist ministers, I have been influenced to make religion an essential part of my daily life and examine its importance in the lives of human beings around the world. My research on religion taught me that music is a powerful vehicle in faith because it influences people to develop a deeper emotional bond with God. By singing to and about God on a regular basis individuals can experience a very personal and lasting connection to both the worship service and their Lord.

Many people believe that God has given human beings the gift of music to bring them together. However, throughout history, music has fueled religious differences. There is clearly a doctrinal divide among the religions of the world. However, I am convinced that the musical divide (because of the powerful connection between music and human emotion) is one of the major reasons for the intensity of the doctrinal divide and religious warfare. This deep musical divide in religion takes place because there is a lack of sensitivity to the “Musical Influences“ of others.

Whether we want to admit it or not, as human beings, we are a product of our influences in life. The language we speak, the food we eat, the people we find attractive, our political views, our occupation, etc. are determined largely by the unique mix of influences in our lives. This fact is at the heart of the religious music divide.

Musical Arrogance
Throughout human history there has been a passionate debate about music. People argue intensely that their favorite music is the best music of all time. I have enjoyed telling people that my research on Intelligent Influence (for my book of the same name found on has enabled me to identify the “best” music in human history. When I say that to someone they usually look at me skeptically and ask me “What do you think is the best music?” I respond by saying “The best music ever created is the music that people hear between the ages of 10 and 20.” Most people take a second to think about my statement and respond with “You are so right! I never thought of it that way.”

This critical and challenging time in every human being’s life is a period when they use music to help them through the emotional, developmental and intellectual challenges they face when growing up. Most people on earth are influenced to fall in love (typically for the rest of their life) with the popular music on the radio, television, record/CD players and the internet that helped them mature through puberty to adulthood. 

The religious music chasm is rooted in the way that people have been influenced to worship (or not worship) God (especially during the ages 10 to 20). The extent of this influence is directly related to the amount of time and intensity of the music a person is exposed to. Most people do not listen to religious music as much as they do secular music. However, the intensity of the music at their favorite religious institution subconsciously increases the power and influence of that type of music on their psyche.

Many individuals, who grew up in the traditional church, mosque, temple, synagogue, etc., are influenced to believe that the traditional music of their place of worship represents the only “true” religious music. Others, who attend more modern religious institutions on a regular basis, are influenced to feel that their modern version of religious music is the only way to connect with God. This “Musical Arrogance” is at the heart of the music-driven conflict between religious institutions.

The United Hymnal
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “Hymn” as simply “a song of praise to God.” A “Hymnal” is therefore a collection of songs of praise to God. Over the years I have developed a passion for writing and studying hymn music. In my research, I was surprised to discover that there was no Christian hymnal that celebrated traditional hymns; gospel and praise music equally. I therefore was not surprised to find that there is no hymnal that contains the songs of praise to God of the four most influential religions of the world-Christianity; Hinduism; Islam and Judaism.

I have been deeply troubled by the human suffering caused by religious zealots in each of these faiths. I feel compelled to attempt to do what little I can to bring people together through music. The Intelligent Influence framework has inspired me to create something that I call the United Hymnal (both electronically and in traditional book form) to enable people to understand the power of worshipping God through different religions and music.

This one of a kind hymnal will celebrate the music of different Christian denominations and reduce musical arrogance throughout the globe. My hope is that the United Hymnal will influence people to respect other religions, eliminate the religious music divide and prove to the world that people who truly believe in God have many things in common. If this hymnal is well-received, then another hymnal will be developed to celebrate the music of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and any other religion that believes in one divine God.

I recognize that as this project receives greater visibility it is likely to be criticized by those who use religious differences to gain political power within their religion. However, those who truly believe in God will understand the need for a hymnal designed to bring a divided religious world together through music. I clearly cannot do this alone. I am hoping to connect with people who believe in God and the power of bringing people together through music.

If you are interested in helping me create the United Hymnal please email me your contact information at My team will let you know where we are in the process of developing the hymnal and how you can help. Our goal is to provide the most powerful Christian hymns sung in the "Traditional", "Praise" and "Gospel" music styles in an e-book, on an app accessible on all platforms and on the website by 2016.

I look forward to working with you to bring the world together through religious music. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Neighborhood Economics

Neighborhood Economics
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “Economics” as “a social science concerned chiefly with the description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.” Webster’s defines “Macroeconomics” as “the study of the entire economy in terms of the total amount of goods and services produced, total income earned, level of employment of productive resources, and general behavior of prices.” It defines “Microeconomics” as “the study of the economic behavior of individual consumers, firms, and industries and the distribution of total production and income among them.

Federal, state and local government policies have failed because they are based on national macro and micro economic models that define a community where 100 people make $1 million a year and 1,000 destitute people make $0 a year as a thriving neighborhood (because the average annual salary of the 1,100 residents is $90,909.) This faulty economic analysis has allowed government to largely ignore the employment needs of people struggling in economically challenged neighborhoods. This results in social problems plaguing communities where unemployment is rampant. 

Macroeconomics explores aggregate national economic indicators largely without regard to the unique trends of local economies. Microeconomics explores aggregate corporate and individual economic indicators largely without regard to the unique trends of local economies. I believe that there is an unexplored subset of macro and microeconomics that I call “Neighborhood EconomicsTM” that has not received the focus and attention it deserves.

Tip O’Neil, the late Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was famous for saying that “all politics is local.” It is clear that “solutions to global problems are local” as well.  History has proven that a “strong” global economy does not mean healthy communities around the world.  The only way to effectively solve the most challenging problems in the world is to develop solutions that are custom designed for the unique needs of local communities and neighborhoods.  One size does not fit all in politics or economics.

Neighborhood Capitalism
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “Capitalism” as “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

Webster’s defines “Living Wage” as “a wage sufficient to provide the necessities and comforts essential to an acceptable standard of living.” Many experts believe that individuals have an “acceptable standard of living” when their housing expenses are 25% or less of their income. A living wage can therefore be defined as 4 times the average housing costs in the community where an individual lives.

Communities with high living wage employment are more likely to have low unemployment, higher literacy rates, better health care, lower crime and less poverty. Consequently, the single most important measure of success of local, state and national government public policies should be the extent of living wage employment in a community.

I call the establishment of policies based on living wage statistics in a community Neighborhood CapitalismTM because it is based on free-market economic policies targeting local communities. Most economic theories fail when they are converted to public policy because they are focused on applying aggregate national economic indicators to explain the health of local communities. I am convinced that Neighborhood Capitalism is more reliable than the federal government’s current aggregate economic policies because it is focused on using local economic indicators as the foundation for assessing the health of the national and global economy.

The one indicator that most accurately measures the success of government policies based on Neighborhood Capitalism is the Living Wage IndexTM (LWI) which I created last year. The equation for LWI is: L / W where “L” represents the number of people in “Living Wage Jobs” in the target community and “W” represents the total number of people of “Working Age” in the target community.

Living Wage Index
If every government in the world were evaluated based on this relatively simple equation applied to key large communities they would be influenced to move more rapidly toward peace and prosperity. Public policies would be focused on increasing the LWI by providing incentives for large and small businesses and nonprofits/NGOs to hire unemployed workers at living wages. These new government programs would reduce crime, improve health care, enhance public education and reduce the likelihood of terrorism and war. The LWI is frequently called the “Small Business Index” because this measure puts pressure on politicians to support policies that grow small and independent businesses who are the largest employers of local residents around the world.

The beauty of this approach is that it does not matter how neighborhoods are determined geographically as long as the same geographic boundaries are used when identifying LWI trends. An added benefit of this approach is that the data generated by the LWI could be aggregated in a way that would enable economists to recommend macroeconomic policies benefitting a broader group of people. In a relatively short period of time this very simple measure of free-market prosperity (if enforced) would influence government leaders to significantly increase the quality of life for every person on the planet.

If pressure were placed on government leaders to provide quarterly reporting (as required by publicly traded companies) on the Living Wage Index in predetermined geographic areas (i.e. municipalities or counties) it would be significantly easier to measure the success or failure of public policy. This trend analysis would enable policy makers and average citizens to understand the relationship between increases in the LWI and increase in average incomes, reduction in crime, elimination of poverty, improvement in healthcare and an increase in high school graduation rates. The case could also be made that an increase in the LWI would lead to less pollution because people earning living wages are more interested in the environmental health of the community in which they live.

Most importantly, LWI trends would enable the voting public to quantify the success or failure of their political leaders and make more informed political choices on election day. The LWI will not solve every problem facing the world today. However, it should increase employment and reduce poverty and crime in local communities.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Human Social Evolution

If you are like most people, you have been influenced to think that, as human beings, we are living in a fully evolved civilization that has been around since the early days of the universe. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Contrary to popular opinion, human beings are in the early stages of their social evolution. Many well respected scientists have said that if the history of the universe were condensed into one full year then humans would have been on the earth for less than two hours.

Infancy of Human Evolution
Using the one year time frame, the Big Bang would have occurred on January 1st; Earth would have been formed around September 25th; and, the first humans would have arrived between 10:00pm and 11:00pm on the last day of the year - December 31st.  As amazing as it may seem, we are therefore in the infancy of human evolution.

Most people don’t believe this because humans can send a person to the moon, fly around the world in a few hours, use smart phones to communicate and process complex equations utilizing powerful computers. However, one of the little known secrets of human evolution is that throughout history most people remain satisfied with their world because they believe that they have evolved to the highest extent possible. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and even the Nazi Germans all thought that they had evolved to the highest level possible for humanity. However, history has proven that they were very wrong.

The case can be made that biologically we are extraordinarily advanced. However, the wide-spread prejudice, poverty and violence in our global society indicate that we are in the very early stages of human social evolution. The world is comprised of people of different experiences, genders, races, cultures, physical features, religions, sexual orientation, financial means, etc. It is logical to assume that the most advanced human society would celebrate and support this diversity in a way that would lead to wide-spread prosperity and peace.

Unfortunately, human society has not come close to evolving to that stage in social evolution. Intolerance-the lack of respect for people who are different, and the lowest level of human social evolution, is the rule not the exception. Tragically, the manifestations of intolerance (prejudice, discrimination and hatred) are commonplace in every country in the world.

The good news is that there are many people who demonstrate the second stage of social evolution-Tolerance. They recognize that diversity exists. They may not like or agree with people who are different. However, they choose to tolerate them. This reduces the violence caused by intolerance. However, it does not lead to a harmonious society.

There are a smaller number of people who demonstrate the third stage of social evolution-Concern. They do more than tolerate others. They are concerned about the well-being of people who are different from themselves. Unfortunately, this concern is frequently pity for the plight of the people who are different.

The fourth stage of social evolution is Empathy. In this stage people have an intellectual identification with the perspective of people who are different. The individuals who demonstrate this social ability are often extraordinarily successful in society because they have the ability to connect with many more individuals than people without this skill. Empathy is not the highest state of human social development because it inherently is rooted in a subtle arrogance of the people demonstrating the trait.

The final and most complex state of human social evolution is a state that I call “Interness.” In this state people may maintain many of their personal perspectives, however, they develop a deep emotional connection with the perspectives of people who are very different.  They approach human interaction from a state of perfect equality where neither party is superior in any way. This is the highest state of social human evolution because it creates the perfect balance between human beings who are inherently different. A society demonstrating this state of social interaction will celebrate and support diversity in a way that leads to wide-spread prosperity and peace.

Diversity Matters
People evolve socially when they interact with diverse groups of people on a regular basis. Fortunately, globalization and the internet have exposed more people than ever before to diverse groups of people. This has rapidly moved the youngest generations of people away from the stages of intolerance and tolerance. As a result a higher and higher percentage of people are moving toward the evolutionary stages of concern and even empathy.

However, Interness is an extremely difficult state to attain because it requires that people internalize the cultures of diverse groups of people around the world. This stage of social evolution can only be reached when most people on earth spend considerable time on a daily basis with many people who are very different. The good news is that the world is on a path to this stage of human social evolution. The bad news is that we are evolving very slowly.

What stage of human social evolution are you in? What are you doing to move to the next stage?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Influence of the Emancipation Proclamation

Tonight I will lead the second Emancipation Discussion at the Princeton Public Library from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. If you are in the area please join me for what should be a great evening of fascinating discussion. Thanks to the gracious invitation of Janie Hermann of the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, New Jersey, my father, a person who knew and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and I, several weeks ago, facilitated the first discussion on the many different influences that shaped President Lincoln’s views of emancipation and the Civil War. Our discussion, with a standing room only crowd, turned out to be the kind of conversation on race and class that rarely takes place in America. My father wrote the following after the discussion:

  A "Review" of the discussion on the Emancipation Proclamation led by a father and son team; Dale G. Caldwell and Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell at the Princeton Public Library in New Jersey on January 15, 2013

By Gilbert H. Caldwell

My South Carolina born and bred grandmother had many "sayings" that reflected the influence of South Carolina's Black Culture on her. I think of her saying, "Self praise has no recommendation" as I write this. She meant, we who praise ourselves are on thin ice and what we say about ourselves has little to recommend. Yet, I dare to review a discussion of which I was a lead participant with my son Dale.  "What fools (we) mortals be".

Our discussion last evening at the Princeton Public Library, made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities attracted over 40 persons and the discussion that ensued had a fervor and quality that I have seldom experienced in my many years. I believe that the kind of discussion held last evening is essential to meeting our national need to break through the "gridlocks" of all kinds, of these times. The National Endowment has in the past expressed through funding and programs, a concern for deepening our capacity to engage in civil conversation. Last evening was a living embodiment of that.

Harvard's Henry Louis Gates has said; "The African slave who sailed to the New World did not sail alone. People brought their culture, no matter how adverse the circumstances. And therefore part of America is African."

This year (2013) is not only the 150th anniversary year of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, In August we will acknowledge the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington. I was not living in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but I was 29 when I attended the March on Washington.

In Christian Scripture Jesus is described as "the stone that the builders rejected who became the cornerstone". I suggest that new, fresh and different discussions about race, history, culture, government and the USA could become one way to reverse the polarization, anger and distrust of these times. We have avoided candid conversations about race because it too often becomes divisive.
We remember President Bill Clinton's effort to have the nation engage in discussions about race that proved to be less than positive. The finger of blame should not be pointed at anyone, rather it could be that there is a readiness in 2013 to begin those discussions again.

Two devastating events in 2012 have created a sense of unarticulated "togetherness" that we may have missed. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy on the coasts of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have made those who suffered, remember the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and recognize possibly for the first time for some, the solidarity that is theirs, despite race, between residents on the Gulf Coast and residents on the Atlantic Ocean in the above mentioned states.

And the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut cannot help but remind us of the deaths of 4 black girls in a church in Birmingham, because of a bombing, 50 years ago, this September. It is when we realize that the tragedy's we have known in the places where we live are similar and related to the tragedy's of people in other places, that human solidarity cannot help but emerge.

I suggest, not with tongue-in-cheek, but with seriousness, that the chemistry between a father who was a "foot soldier" in the Civil Rights Movement and an Ivy League - educated son who share with others, the differences, yet similarities of their respective experiences, can excite and involve others in conversations they may not have had before. Dale and I saw and felt that last night.

I have dedicated the remaining years of my life to keeping the history and the reality of the Civil Rights Movement alive. In so many ways, with its belief in the potential and possibilities of the nation, its nonviolence, its respect for the humanity of those with whom we disagreed, it/we represented the best of America. I have wondered how best to pass the baton of the CR Movement to new generations. Last night I experienced as a father/son team, leading a discussion, the best way to do what I have wanted to do.

I look forward to the next time and the next time.

Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell of Asbury Park, New Jersey. I would like to further the discussion. If you care to, please feel free to contact me at