Monday, December 31, 2007

"Philanthropist in Chief" - my new book

I haven't been writing this blog lately because I've been distracted by life. For one, I've spent a lot of time managing our business in Boston, which usually runs its self, but for Christmas this year the language school decided to throw several monkey wrenches at us simultaneously. Running a company from 900 miles away isn't as fun as you'd think.

For another, Naples Social Action keeps taking more and more of my time - which I love, so that is in no way a complaint. And there's the Naples Institute, which is time-consuming as we put it together - but also enjoyable.

...And, I started a new book a week ago (Xmas day). It is about my adventures in philanthropy since September of last year, though some of the tale predates that.

I'll share a bit with you. Here's the first installment:

Philanthropist in Chief

When my Mom and Dad were newlyweds living in Richmond, Virginia in the early 1950s, they taught Sunday school at the Unitarian church, the only integrated church in the city.

All of their students were white but one, Julian. The entire South was still segregated at that time, which meant that any trip the Coinés took their class on would involve searching for black restrooms for Julian, black water fountains, and as for meals… they would all have to be picnics, as blacks, even little boys, were not allowed in white restaurants.

So Marion and Steve did the only option they saw: all of their field trips in those years were to Washington, DC, about two hours away. Our nation’s capital was not segregated.

They never made a big deal of this when we were kids, but my sisters and I sometimes asked our parents how they withstood life in the South in the Forties, Fifties, and early Sixties. This was the time that Senator Trent Lot’s idol, Strom Thurmond, ran for President on a segregationist platform, remember.

They did not own a car for several years just out of college. Because Mom and Dad had to take the bus to work every day; they tacitly participated in the segregation of public transportation that would eventually inspire the weary Rosa Parks to refuse to vacate her seat for a white passenger.

Michelle, Ahndi, and I knew our parents were people of strong conviction, and we had trouble matching our image of them to Southern life pre-Civil Rights. That is when they would bring up Julian and their Sunday school class. It wasn’t much, they admitted, but it was their little way of trying to make the world a better place. I disagree that it wasn’t much. It was more than almost anyone else in their city did at that time. I’m proud of them.

Perhaps you’ll keep this story in mind as you read the rest of this book. I hear from an awful lot of friends, mostly the older ones, those of the Depression and World War II generation, that our culture is in crisis; that our world is sliding fast down the slope to self-destruction.

I’m not going to fight that sentiment too much. Their thought has a lot of merit. But please, think of Richmond in the Fifties and Richmond today. We’ve made progress from the “good old days.”

The world is a better place today than it has ever been in the history of mankind. We’ve got a long, long way to go before it’s perfect, I concede. But we’re on a roll. People care – a lot of people care an awful lot. Our collective human conscience is more vibrant and Good than it has ever been.

In many ways, we in the present are building on the Good works of the past. In others, there is something new afoot, a democratization of philanthropy that is unique to our time.

Let’s keep it going. Let’s add some fuel to this warming fire.


My wife, Jane, our daughters Ayla and Maryn, and I want to make the world a better place, too. Thus this book. If I can inspire my readers to pitch in just a bit, in any way that makes sense to them, then my hours at the keyboard will be well-spent.

This isn’t a reading book. I hope you make it a doing book. Read it and do – something, anything, that promotes Good in the world.