For Your Consideration (04/26/17)



I would recommend David Brooks’  column in this week’s the New York Times lauding social work pioneer Jane Addams and holding her up as a paragon for our modern world.

Jane Addams was a forerunner of social work and social welfare. In response to the abject plight of immigrants in the near north neighborhoods of Chicago, she began what would become an extensive, city-wide network of centers. But it began with a work based out of her own home, which came to be known as The Hull-House.

Brooks describes a trip to Europe that inspired her vision:

In London, she visited a place called Toynbee Hall, a settlement house where rich university men organized social gatherings with the poor in the same way they would organize them with one another. Addams returned to Chicago and set up Hull House, an American version of the settlement idea.

I walk past the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at Halsted and Polk on the UIC campus many times each week, and was piqued to see Brook’s feature of Addams’ work there.

Her ability to constantly merge philosophy with action, and vice versa, was one of her defining qualities. Her aspiration was to kindle the dignity of those with whom she worked.

There were classes in acting, weaving, carpentry, but especially in art history, philosophy, and music. Addams was convinced that everyone longs for beauty and knowledge. Everyone longs to serve some high ideal. She believed in character before intellect, that spiritual support is as important as material support. And yet “the soul of man in the commercial and industrial struggle is under siege.”

I love the notion of fighting against the siege on the souls of men, and appreciate her human dignity-lifting ideals.

Her work would become a global model for how to work among the poor and disenfranchised, and I agree with Brooks that hers remains an important model for our world.


The Tribeca Film Festival released a short film called “See Yourself in Others”. They involved people from many walks of life, and sent them onto the streets of New York with a five-sided mirror helmet (one which allowed passers-by to see their own reflections atop the body of the wearer, but also allowed the wearer to observe their responses).

It is meant as a provocative celebration of empathy. Curbed NY ran a feature on the piece, which was created in conjunction with DDB New York:

In a statement, Icaro Doria, the chief creative officer of DDB New York (which conceptualized the film along with Tribeca), said that “Stories put us in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations and force us to confront other points of view.… More than ever, we need these stories and we need this empathy. Because we need each other.”

Initiatives like this only accomplish so much, but any effort to inject empathy into our nation’s bloodstream is welcome.

This resembles the message of my values post:

Currency exchange is probably a fitting allegory we might adopt. The shapes, sizes and hues of values all have their basis and environ of worth. Values are foreign currencies, but currency nonetheless. Would we learn their purchase by going abroad from our insular worlds in whatever ways we might?


I intend to follow up my recent post on racism and race with 2-3 more, but, in the meantime, I wanted to recommend a few resources that might help expand on my thinking for those of you who are interested.

On Friday, I offered the following:

We need to be having an important national conversation about race, but the incongruence of our vocabularies render this virtually impossible.

As with all conversations, meaning is irreducibly critical. When meaning is not mutually shared or at least understood, dialogue will always degenerate.

Whites and non-whites mean different things by the word racism, and until this gets more broadly sorted out communication on the topic is fraught with discord.

  • THE LITURGIST PODCAST (BLACK & WHITE: RACISM IN AMERICA) – Hosts Michael Gungor and Science Mike welcome rapper and Propaganda and musician William Matthews on their show to have a fairly elucidating conversation about race and racism in America and in the American church. Pretty pointed.
  • WASHINGTON POST (1992) – As I began my initial search for resources on this topic, I was amazed at how few media outlets were addressing the obvious semantic incongruence between whites and blacks regarding the meaning of the word “racism”. The only article I found that was addressing it head on came from a post-Rodney King verdict article in the Washington Post—in 1992! Isn’t that insane! Here it is.
  • RACE: THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION (PBS) – Back in 2003 (14 years ago), PBS release a 3 part series on race and racism called “Race: the Power of an Illusion”. It feels dated, but it is one of the better options out there for understanding the topic of race. I can’t find episodes 2 and 3, but here’s the first installment. It’s about 1 hour long.
  • VOX (THE MYTH OF RACE DEBUNKED) – If you don’t have an hour, here is a brief video released by the site VOX on the topic. It’s 3 minutes, so pardon the overweening promise. Also, pardon the pretty weak narration. It isn’t always a good idea to have the author do the reading (IMO).  It is a good primer, though. Here’s the video:



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