Why are you a strategist for good?
“I believe a more just world is possible — a world where people are treated with dignity, can provide for their families, and feel valued for who they are. There are tons of passionate people who share my vision for the world, but passion alone doesn’t create social change. Applying my communications expertise is a way for me to channel my passion, support others in various movements, and accelerate efforts to create that better world.”
What good have you done that you’re proudest of?
“I’ve worked for years to help schools be more affirming places for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Talking about sexual orientation or gender identity is tough, especially when talking about students. Emotions run really high and misconceptions spread. So I asked, how can these tensions be overcome? Through a multiyear project, I tested messages and organizing strategies, and created an extensive toolkit for people trying to make change in schools. The toolkit has made quite the splash — I got a call from a school district in Florida that is using it to change how they speak about their work. Many principals and teachers really care about making students feel safe, but aren’t sure how to communicate about the work. For the first time, they have concrete tools to do so.”
Who is your intellectual crush?
“Anat Shenker-Osorio. She looks at language and metaphors. Her work is eye-opening because it makes us focus on the language we use every day to describe complex social institutions — like the economy. For example, if we talk about a ‘sick economy’ or ‘trickle-down economics,’ we are inherently constructing the economy as its own force, when in fact people make decisions that create economic effects. If we talk about ‘how the economy is being driven’ or how ‘the economy is off-course,’ we’re making it clear that people can correct the imbalances we see. I love her work because it’s so smart, and she’s fun and lighthearted as a person. I love intellectuals who are changing the world but don’t take themselves too seriously.”
What are people surprised to learn about you?
“I’m from Texas and I still love Texas. I will go to bat for Texas. In meetings with lots of progressive social change agents, it’s inevitable that someone cracks a joke about Texas, and I’m always quick to defend it. Sure, Texas politics has its share of loonies, but I have a lot of heart for Texas. There’s a lot of beauty there and Texans have taught me a lot about standing up for what you believe in.”
What’s your superpower?
“I think of myself as a healer. In a personal sense, I try to be the listening ear that can make people feel better. I volunteered with kids going through chemo because I know I could bring a smile to their face. In a career sense, I provide solutions in pursuit of a better world. There’s a Jewish saying, tikkun olam, which means ‘healing the world.’ You have an ethical duty to to make the world better, and I try to uphold that whether it’s one-on-one with a friend or with the organizations I work with. Being a healer is not as sexy as shooting electricity from my fingertips, but it’s my way of giving back.”
AUDIO: What inspires wonder in you?
Human Rights Campaign
San Antonio Nonprofit Council
Southern Poverty Law Center