Social Media and Human Dignity Through the Lens of Politics

Informed by the thoughts of philosophers and politicians since ancient times, the concept of human dignity has evolved. Rather than having a uniform definition that demands any specific response, the perceived meaning of human dignity is now viewed instead as a source of moral guidance for the public on how best to recognize and respect […]

Palestine – Moral Clarity and Moral Confusion

Palestine – Moral Clarity and Moral Confusion A woman in a black headscarf throws her head back in anguish

Like many people, I have been transfixed watching the events currently unfolding in the Middle East. It has been unsettling to witness the varying reactions of people to this appalling tragedy, to see how differently people are reacting when compared to the Ukraine/Russia war, and to see how the world is simply ignoring the tragic […]

Dignity Under Confinement

Dignity Under Confinement black and white image of hands gripping the bars of a cell

In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly, drawing its inspiration from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that document’s robust affirmation of inherent human dignity, adopted Resolution A/RES/70/175, better known as the Nelson Mandela Rules: “The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners”. In the name of the late South African President Nelson […]

Transformational – not transformative – leadership

Transformational – not transformative – leadership

I’m an unrepentant advocate of “transformational” leadership – not “transformative” leadership. Is this a semantics storm in a teacup? After all, “transformative” and “transformational” are similar terms…but there are important differences. “Transformative” generally refers to something that brings about a significant change or transformation. It implies a person, process, or an event that has the […]

A fundamental question of hope

A fundamental question of hope rainbow swoops on a yellow background

Once again, it’s Pride Month around the world. Unlike most such commemorative Pride Months in the recent past, however, the joyful celebrations of identity, expression, rights, and dignity that Pride signifies are now tinged with an ominous and – particularly for transgender persons – alarming recognition. The anti-LGBTQI+ pushback, well-orchestrated and exceptionally well-funded, has now […]

Artificial Intelligence, and Ian’s school

Artificial Intelligence, and Ian’s school a robot hand with a butterfly perched on it

In 2018, I had the remarkable opportunity to visit my son while he was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin, West Africa. Ian taught at a public secondary school in the Ouesse commune in the Collines Department of Benin, with students ranging in age from 10 to 25. The school facilities were very […]

But what problems can applied ethics solve?

But what problems can applied ethics solve? three people gathered around a laptop

In late 2011, just six months into my service as a Senior Advisor to USAID (political appointee under the Obama administration), I managed to convene a gathering of eleven of USAID’s top strategic planners and senior analysts in one room. I posed a single question to them: “Would it not be advantageous to include the […]

Morality in foreign policy: reflections on a remarkable gentleman from Plains, Georgia

Morality in foreign policy: reflections on a remarkable gentleman from Plains, Georgia

It was June of 1979, and I was newly arrived in Kenya for what would become ten years working in and exploring that beautiful country. Being a little insecure in this new environment, I was cautious when a young Kenyan man approached me in Nairobi while I stood in the long queue awaiting entrance to the National Museum of Kenya. Still, his smile was disarmingly warm as […]

Yearning for meaning in international development

Yearning for meaning in international development a sepia colored photo of a man walking down a dirt road at dawn

It takes a certain acquired skill to balance a career as a practitioner in humanitarian response and international development with a “night job” as an adjunct professor of public policy.  I have done this delicate balancing act at both Georgetown University and the University of Maryland for two decades; I have no plans to stop […]

USAID’s Core Values:  Really “Core”?

USAID’s Core Values:  Really “Core”? a compass with a black background. the red north arrow points to the words Core Value

My first and only visit to the African Development Bank, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, was in 1989. I went there expressly to meet with their environmental specialist, an American gentleman whose name I sadly cannot now recall. I was then a very young town & regional planner, based in Nairobi, and I was very interested in […]

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