Hear from California alums: Does knowledge come with a moral obligation?

We asked some of our California alums to let us know whether knowledge comes with a moral obligation:

“Unquestionably, knowledge is inherently moral and calls us to certain orientations and actions. But what’s more is that knowledge is constituted by the movements of ideas between communities. We don’t “hold” knowledge, it is in motion through us and around us. I would say those who regularly read op-eds make up a certain kind of knowledge community, and writing persuasively for that community is both an art and a science. I’m so glad to have The Op-Ed Project’s help in figuring all that out!”

unnamedInterfaith expert Rahuldeep Singh Gill PhD guides leaders in business and higher education to more inclusive environments for work, collaboration and cross-cultural understanding. His engaging lectures and workshops deepen appreciation of faith and cultural diversity and inspire compassion. He develops leaders with broad perspectives who can collaborate in teams and achieve goals that drive innovation.

“Knowledge comes with the moral obligation to communicate wisely. Every bit of knowledge has the potential to galvanize communities, to influence policymakers, and to create enormous positive change, but its impact can be lost, or worse, arouse suspicion, hatred or fear if not communicated properly. As a lobbyist for a workers’ rights organization, how I communicate my knowledge to lawmakers can make the difference in whether meaningful legislation is passed.”  


Mariko Yoshihara is the lobbyist and political director for the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA), the largest and strongest statewide organization of attorneys who advocate on behalf of workers.  She also directs the CELA VOICE, a project dedicated to promoting the voice of workers and the attorneys who represent them.

“If taken to heart, the potential value and moral obligation of our knowledge can replace questions like “Is my punctuation perfect?” with more meaningful declarations, like “It’s time to get serious about creating an affordable, accessible child care system for working parents”. Most important, this moral obligation can encourage us to replace the often pompous pronouncements that populate our nation’s opinion pages, and move our knowledge, our stories and our voices center stage.”


Kate Karpilow directs the California Center for Research on Women and Families (CCRWF) and is founder of the Women’s Policy Summit. She brings 30 years of hands-on experience managing policy initiatives on child care, poverty, working families, women’s health, child welfare, and the representation of women in politics and government.

Exploring the Source of Credibility and Innovation with Los Angeles Leaders

photo 1This weekend, opinionists convened at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to explore the source of credibility and truly innovative thinking at our first Los Angeles 2-Day Weekend Intensive.

The weekend began by looking inward, at the potential power of our knowledge and experience in terms of its value to others. Experts in the room built a case for the ideas and causes they believe in, including the magic of the Dead Sea Scrolls, positive body image among classical music vocal performers, effective nonprofit management, and community organizing in Rwanda.

photo 3Sunday’s program brought together cherished OpEd Project alums from disparate backgrounds, fields, and geographies. Experts in the room included family physicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, and community activists. Together, we played games around timing and timeliness and explored strategies for making people believe your good ideas are worth investing in.

Following these high-impact trainings, we headed over to a nearby restaurant to sit by a fireplace and enjoy drinks, appetizers, and good conversation.

We look forward to seeing the powerful ideas of these experts out in the world soon!

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The Ladder of Abstraction

Guest post by OpEd Project Facilitator Amy Gutman.

For your writing motivation, here is an incredibly useful tool for all of us seeking to amplify our voices. It’s called The Ladder of Abstraction.

imageThe basic idea is this:

When you embark on an oped (or other argument), start with the SPECIFIC illustrative anecdote, fact, quote or scene—that’s the bottom of the ladder—to hook your reader. Think: Concrete/singular/sensory.

The second rung on the ladder is SUMMARY:  This includes objective data and other facts that establish significance and context.  Most people have no idea how much time they spend on this rung, notes Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, who teaches writing at Harvard’s Kennedy School and is, incidentally, an OpEd Project alum. (My introduction to the Ladder came during her recent workshop on Writing About Social Justice Passions.) Pieces with too much summary tend to feel dry and (often) boring.

The third and final rung is ABSTRACT/INTERPRETIVE: This is where you bring in your own insights, analogies, metaphors—you might think of it as the value added of YOU, as you reflect on the topic.

Strong writing generally starts at the bottom of the ladder and from there moves up and down—not staying on any one rung for all too long. To learn more, here’s a helpful piece from Poynter.org on the concept.



YNOW Kicks Off Year Two

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 presetThe OpEd Project launched year two of the McCormick Foundation-funded YOUTH NARRATING OUR WORLD program at the Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago on Saturday, October 25. Students from five Chicago Public High Schools (Marie Sklodowska Curie Metro High SchoolRobert Lindblom Math & Science Academy Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy Nicholas Senn High School , and Kenwood Academy High School) convened to discuss credibility and expertise, the power of knowledge and their duty to share what they know with their communities and the world. Students hope to advance their opinions on topics ranging from the images of girls and women in the media, to healthy eating options for the middle class, to relationships between authorities and the communities they protect.

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Of the 30 student semi-finalisists who joined OpEd Project leaders Michele Weldon, Deborah Douglas and Teresa Puente for the first convening, 20 will be selected as finalists to continue with the full scope of the YNOW Program. These 20 students will receive three months of one-on-one mentoring from expert journalist facilitators, will work on multiple op-eds and other pieces of thought leadership, and will attend two additional convenings on December 13 and January 24.


First Impressions from YNOW Semi-Finalist, Shannon Thomas (Gwendolyn Brooks)

My time with the YNOW program is something that will never leave my memory. I didn’t know what to expect, but was instantly engaged by the concepts and goals of the program. The seminar gave me such useful tools and information for helping me not only be the best writer I can be, but also understand the power that my voice holds. Despite my age and experience, it’s not too early to make an impact on my community, not to mention the WORLD! The leaders were great to work with, and were actually so excited to hear my ideas and opinions. I also met a diverse group of young individuals, all passionate and creative. I’ve never witnessed such a wide variety of ideas come together — it was amazing. I felt so privileged to be a part of it. We all came from different backgrounds and experiences, which made our conversations that much richer and meaningful. Some of them were downright hilarious.  All in all, this was a great experience for me, and can not wait to go back. I plan to use the skills I developed at the seminar further my writing career and,  hopefully, impress some colleges!

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Hi My Name Is…Owning Your Expertise

Guest post by Center For Global Policy Solutions Greenhouse Participant, Dennis Worden. 

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I’ve heard on several occasions that Native Americans don’t brag about about our skills or achievements. Sometimes this is said in the form of a “we should get over that shortcoming” tone, but often in the way that infers we are proud of this shortcoming because it means we are humble. I think it is generally true that we do not voluntarily offer up our expertise. Self-promotion is not part of our cultures. By doing so, we are highlighting our individuality in cultures that value community.

When we do highlight accomplishments, it’s often in the form of the dreaded humble brag…and it’s the worst.

The problem is that we often operate in environments that are outside of our communities on a regular basis. Even in a Native environment, young Native professionals may not feel that they can step up and demonstrate their knowledge in a setting with others that are older or more experienced.

We have real value to provide the world and we need to tell people about our areas of expertise so they know who to turn to on a specific topic. This isn’t bragging — this is offering your resources, including your knowledge and expertise, to others. The key is to get comfortable with telling people who you are and what you do in a matter of fact way, without exaggerating or overstating.

If you don’t establish your voice, the world doesn’t get to learn from you. With all of the work to do in Indian country we need more people to step up and be experts for our communities. It is also an opportunity to define who you are and what is important to you.  If you don’t do this you are doing yourself and the world a disservice.

Read the full post at NextGen Native.