Dave Zirin

Sports Journalist : b. 1973
Racism is not about hurtful words, bruised feelings, political correctness, or refusing to call short people 'vertically challenged.' Racism is about the power to treat entire groups of people as something less than human -- for the benefit of that power. That’s why a Native American sports mascot is far from harmless.
  • Recognized by Sport in Society and the Northeastern University School of Journalism for "Excellence in Sports Journalism."
  • Named by the Utne Reader as one of 50 Visionaries Who Changing Our World.
  • Is a frequent guest on MSNBC, ESPN, and Democracy Now!
  • Is the Sports Editor for The Nation magazine. 


In his most recent book, Game Over, Dave Zirin writes that Americans are being robbed by the owners of sports teams: "Now when many of us see the local stadium, we see a $1 billon real estate leviathan...that...has created a new species of fan: those who are paying for the stadiums but, unless they are working behind a counter, are unable to enter their gates." As Zirin explores the intersection of sports and politics, he maintains a sharp focus on the money trail, particularly these billionaire owners who further enrich themselves by relying on middle class Americans' taxes to fund their massive stadiums.

Zirin was born and raised in New York City. Like many boys and girls in America, he grew up participating in organized sports and following his local teams: the Knicks, Mets, and Rangers. One of his favorite players growing up was New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, a man who revolutionized the position with his athletic and aggressive play.

Some years later in 1996, the story of an NBA player named Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf caught Zirin´s attention. Rauf refused to come out of the locker room for the playing of the national anthem, objecting to the use of sports for nationalistic ends. When asked about it, Rauf said the flag may represent freedom and democracy to some, but to others it represents tyranny and oppression. Rauf's career did not last much longer.

Zirin listened to the talking heads on ESPN say that Rauf must be one of those activist athletes, like Billie Jean King, Muhammad Ali, or Arthur Ashe. He wondered what an "athlete activist" was, so he dug into books and started learning. This moment changed his career. He was deeply influenced by Howard Zinn's People's History of United States, and would go on to write A People's History of Sports.

Most people claim that sports and politics don't mix or that they have never thought about how they do. As a pioneering sports journalist, Zirin began to challenge readers to think about the connection between sports and social and economic justice. In fact, Zirin came to believe that you can't talk about the American Civil Rights Movement without mentioning Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali, or about gay rights without talking about Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

Zirin writes about how the business relationships between the players and the owners of the sports franchises is affected by the fact that many professional athletes come from ghettos in the United States or poor countries in Latin America. According to Zirin, during the 2011 NBA lockout, as former commissioner of the NBA David Stern, "sat across the table from a constellation of the league's stars, he became, per his usual style, openly contemptuous of the players...inability to understand' the financial challenges faced by ownership." Zirin writes of the "plantation overseer" dynamic found in college and professional athletics in the United States and sees the racism in sports as an extension of the larger society´s culture: "If we accept that racism is still alive and well outside the arena, then sports would have to exist in a hermetically sealed, airtight environment in order to remain uninfected. Impossible."

In Game Over, Zirin goes beyond a critique of current practices to historicize the culture of sports in America, linking it to deep political and societal trends. He writes, for example, that, " [Teddy] Roosevelt saw tough athletic training as a way to build a basis for a new American century…Ideas like Muscular Christianity were about preparing the United States for empire. During this period, the US set out to invade the Philippines, Latin America, and the Caribbean; the value of sports was deeply tied to imperialist notions of conquest and missionary zeal." He then reconnects these historical insights to the present: "[Sports] has always been about selling a supremely militaristic, dominant image of the United States back to ourselves. After all, who tossed the coin at the 2009 Super Bowl? It wasn't John Elway or Joe Montana. It was General David Petraeus."

As Zirin focuses on sports both professional and amateur sports, he reminds us that the critique of the college athletics business is not new. He writes, "A century ago, the great intellectual (and sports fan) W. E. B. Du Bois wrote about the corrosive effect college athletics was beginning to have on the health and culture of academic institutions. If schools are reduced to football factories where classes just happen to be taught, everyone loses, particularly the unpaid athletes who generate millions and are told they are being paid with academics."

Zirin wishes that more athletes would learn to use their celebrity to address social justice issues when they talk to the media, believing that the impact could be significant. He says, as it stands now, "...whether we want to admit it or not, athletes are role models -- of obedience to authority, to hierarchy; of promotion of groupthink over individual opinion; or a kind of social discipline that pervades society.¨ Commenting on the potential power of the popular quarterback for the Washington Redskins, Robert Griffin III, Zirin writes, "If RG3 held a press conference tomorrow and said, "'Look, I love this team, I love this town, but I feel like the Redskins is a racist name and I'd like to rename the team the Washington Subway Sandwiches,' people might do it! That's how much people love the guy!"

Zirin remains a fan of the athletes and the games, but has come to dislike the corporate, packaged, sterile, business of sports. To him, pointing out how sports are used to promote militarism, calling out racist practices where they exists, and exposing the misuse of money does not detract from his appreciation of individual and team athletic achievement.

To date, he has written eight books -- the newest, Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy will be out in June of 2014 -- and contributes to The Nation, SLAM Magazine, and The Progressive.


Kevin Zeese

Public Interest Lawyer, Organizer : b. 1955
To achieve economic, environmental and social justice requires a mass movement that follows a two prong strategy of resistance and creation. It is not sufficient to protest the destructive rule of money; we must also create alternative systems that put people and the planet before profits and show we can replace the existing failed system.


Born in 1955, Kevin Zeese grew up in New York City and came of age during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. "There was a vibrant social justice movement, pushing on lots of issues—the Vietnam War, civil rights, women's rights, the environment—and all at the same time," he says. As it turned out, Zeese got involved in all of these movements and many more.  

In high school, he protested the Vietnam War and by college was marching with civil rights advocates to desegregate schools: "We took a bus to Boston [from Buffalo] to protest segregation," he recounts, and wound up being "attacked by policemen on horses...That was a pretty interesting experience." The 1971 Attica prison riot influenced his thinking about the need for broad-based reforms and effective strategies to realize them. "I was the kind of person who believed in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," says Zeese, about his decision to pursue a career in public interest law.

In law school at George Washington University, he and a team of fellow students challenged false advertising about  the safety and effectiveness of over-the-counter contraceptives for women. "We created a group SEXCE (Students for the Examination of Contraceptive Effectiveness) and got legislation introduced in Congress, got the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to correct their advertising, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to start a rulemaking process to correct their labeling. It was pretty amazing to see all of that come out of one law school course on Legal Activism." Through this project, Zeese says he "learned guerilla law and legal judo"—how to leverage the law with minimum cost and maximum impact.  

Over the years, he has worked to reform drug policy —he worked for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws from 1980 to 1986and health care, for voter rights and environmental protection, and against war and torture. Zeese addresses such a wide variety of issues because "all of our issues are connected; and you can't push forward on all issues all the time, but you can always find some area where you can push forward and make progress."

Zeese explains the importance of understanding these connections: "Many of us come from working on single issues and have run into the same roadblock—a government that is not responsive to the people. The reality is the 'rule of money' rather than rule by the people ensures a government that puts profits before the necessities of the people and protection of the planet. By recognizing how our issues are connected we can build solidarity across issues, a critical step in building a mass movement that cannot be ignored. Then we need to engage more of the population. Research from the last 100 years of movements around the world shows that when 3.5% of the public becomes involved in a political movement, it has never lost. "

Despite his legal training, Zeese's activism is based less on the practice of law than on organizing and mobilizing people. A principal organizer of Occupy Washington DC in 2011, Zeese is often asked whether the movement was a failure, since its encampments have been disbanded.

"The Occupy Movement," he says, "is about more than occupying public space. It's about transforming a system dominated by wealthy interests and giving power to people. The encampments served their purpose by putting the wealth divide and unfair economy in the political dialogue, after that the job is to build a mass movement to develop a national consensus about solving those issues."

One hopeful truth about Occupy, he says, is that it has a "multitude of leaders. I say we're a leader-full movement, not a leaderless movement." In that spirit, Zeese sees one of his most important jobs as empowering people because "what we're working on will not be resolved in my lifetime. Part of my job is to help others become their own powerful force that will continue the work after we're gone…Economic democracy and system-wide political change are multi-decade challenges."

Zeese acknowledges that there are always setbacks to social and economic justice work, but  says that "you have to turn them into positives. I used to tell my two sons growing up that it's easy to fall into a negative spiral; you have to be very conscious to get into a positive spiral whether you experience success or failure in life, you need to build on it in a positive way." Zeese uses this philosophy in his advocacy saying, "We are always challenged by aggressive responses by the government —whether it is a police crackdown on occupy encampments, prosecution of someone using marijuana medicinally, or new laws passed to aid corporations.  We need to turn these negatives into positives that build the movement by mobilizing people to take action."

Zeese does much of this work with his life partner and fellow activist Dr. Margaret Flowers, with whom he hosts a radio show, Clearing the FOG, on We Act Radio. FOG stands for the "Forces Of Greed" and the show takes an in-depth look at the day's issues. Together they direct two organizations, Popular Resistance, that promotes a mass movement for social and political change, and It's Our Economy, which advocates "a more just, modern and restorative economy."

Over the years he has found time to work for fair elections and to clean up the abuses of money in politics, on ending the 2003 Iraq war, and to formally petitioned the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel to disbar the lawyers who wrote the legal justifications for "advanced interrogation techniques"—tactics used by the Bush Administration that are now widely considered torture.

Zeese collaborates with Come Home America, which focuses on bringing people together from the right and left who oppose military interventions and with World Beyond War, which seeks to build a long-term global movement to end war. He is also a member of the Chelsea Manning Support Network, working to free the military whistleblower from prison.

Before making a run for the U.S. Senate in 2006 as a Green Party candidate —he was endorsed by the Libertarian Party of Maryland, Zeese was Ralph Nader's press secretary during his 2004 presidential campaign and worked for Peter Camejo's California gubernatorial run in 2003.

Zeese has written for several independent media outlets, including Truthout, AlterNet, Truthdig and Counterpunch, as well as the The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

In his writing, as well as his advocacy, Zeese connects the dots, tirelessly building bridges toward a movement that he believes will succeed by linking social, economic, and environmental justice issues together.


Dr. Quentin Young

Physician, Activist for Health Care Justice and Equality : 1923 - 2016
Over the years I have aligned myself with unpopular causes. I have worked to replace the worship of market with concern for the common good, social justice and tolerance. Over time the American people usually do the right thing, and I am confident they will see that national health insurance is no longer the best solution, it is the only solution.


Over a career that has spanned six decades, Dr. Quentin D. Young has made his mark as a national leader for social justice in the United States. His visionary thinking about health care underscores the connection between truly universal, comprehensive health care, civil rights and social justice. He is widely regarded as the nation's preeminent advocate for single-payer national health insurance – sometimes called "an improved Medicare for all."

Dr. Young points out that the US spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, about $8,160 per capita in 2009. Despite the money spent, people in the US are not healthier than citizens of many other countries. More than 50 million Americans have no health coverage while millions more are inadequately covered.

Young cites peer-reviewed research showing that the bureaucracy and paperwork associated with the private health insurance industry consume about 31 percent of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer could save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. Patients would go to the doctor or hospital of their choice.

In the health care reform movement, he is credited with coining the slogan, "Everybody in, Nobody out." He has spoken on this and related themes before hundreds of physician and lay audiences across the nation.

From 1943-1945, Dr. Young served in the US Army and later in the US Public Health Service. He graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1948 and completed his residency in internal medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.

From 1952 until March 2008, he practiced internal medicine in Chicago's Hyde Park community, and from 1972-1981, he served as chairman of the Department of Medicine at Cook County Hospital. For many years he also served as senior attending physician at Michael Reese Hospital on the city's South Side.

Throughout his career, he has displayed deep concern about health care disparities and inequities based on race, income and gender, and he has acted on those concerns.

In 1951, Dr. Young was a founder of the Committee to End Discrimination in Chicago Medical Institutions, which focused on uprooting racist practices in the city's hospitals and clinics.

He was a founder and served as national chairman of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), which was formed in June 1964 to offer support and, where possible, provide medical care for civil rights workers, community activists and summer volunteers working in Mississippi during Freedom Summer.

MCHR also provided support and emergency medical care to anti-war protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In October 1968, he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his knowledge of the DNC protests; he courageously challenged the committee's constitutionality and denounced its violation of democratic rights.

During Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s visits to Chicago, Dr. Young served as the civil rights leader's personal physician.

In 1983, Mayor Harold Washington appointed Dr. Young president of the Chicago Board of Health. In 1997, Young was inducted as a Master of the American College of Physicians.  In 1998, he served as president of the American Public Health Association. He has been a member of the American Medical Association since 1952.

Dr. Young also served on the American College of Physicians' Health and Public Policy committee and chaired its subcommittee on Human Rights and Medical Practice. For many years he was featured regularly as the medical commentator on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio. He holds the position of clinical professor of preventive medicine and community health at the University of Illinois Medical Center.

In 1980, Dr. Young founded the Chicago-based and Illinois-focused Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG), which conducts research, education, policy development and advocacy for policies that impact health systems to improve the health status of all people.  Dr. Young is currently the chairman of HMPRG. Since 1992 he has served as national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a national research and education organization with more than 18,000 members representing every state and specialty. PNHP was founded in 1987 and has physician spokespeople across the country who advocate for a single-payer national health program.

In January 2010, Dr. Young was appointed by Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn as the nation's first state Public Health Advocate.

Lily Yeh

Artist, Social Pioneer : b. 1941
When I see brokenness, poverty and crime in inner cities, I also see the enormous potential and readiness for transformation and rebirth. We are creating an art form that comes from the heart and reflects the pain and sorrow of people's lives. It also expresses joy, beauty, and love. This process lays the foundation of building a genuine community in which people are reconnected with their families, sustained by meaningful work, nurtured by the care from each other and will together raise and educate their children. Then we witness social change in action.


In 1986, Lily Yeh was asked by the dancer and educator Arthur Hall to create a park in an abandoned lot next to his building in North Philadelphia. With a small grant, a few shovels, and little else, Lily invited children and adults in this ravaged inner city neighborhood to join her in clearing the rubble-filled lot. They then transformed the lot into an art park with brilliant mosaics and sculpted trees, creating an oasis of safety and peace.

The park blossomed into The Village of Arts and Humanities, a community-based art organization that Lily co-founded in 1989. Lily, neighborhood residents, and staff have transformed more than 120 abandoned lots into gardens and parks. They also have renovated abandoned homes, and created educational programs, art workshops, after-school programs, a youth theater, and joyful community celebrations. Today, the Village of Arts and Humanities serves thousands of low-income people every year.

Lily's vision has rippled out far beyond North Philadelphia's borders. She inspires and collaborates with prison inmates to create beauty and art, and does the same with thousands of adults and children who live in some of the world's most broken communities. She has collaborated with residents of the Korogocho slum near Nairobi to transform a barren churchyard with murals and sculptures and traveled to Ghana, Ecuador, The Ivory Coast and the Republic of Georgia to work on similar projects.  A recent endeavor is the Rwanda Healing Project, in which she worked with hundreds of children and families to transform their bleak village into a place of beauty and joy. The work is based in a village of survivors of the horrendous Rwandan genocide of 1994. Now, Lily also is helping the Twa pigmy people in Rwanda raise their standard of living with a successful pottery business.

Born in China, Lily emigrated to the United States in the early 1960s to attend the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Arts. A successful painter and professor at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, Lily traveled to Beijing in 1989 to show her work at the Central Institute of Fine Art. While there, she witnessed the tragic events of Tiananmen Square. Through the 1980s, Lily gradually realized that being an artist "is not just about making art…It is about delivering the vision one is given…and about doing the right thing without sparing oneself." She continues pursuing her vision through her new organization, Barefoot Artists, Inc., which teaches residents and artists how to replicate the Village model in devastated communities around the world.

Another new project of Lily's is the Dandelion School for the children of migrant workers in China. In the spring of 2011 New Village Press published Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms, Lily's account of the joyous work she and the students did to transform their school. Full of color pictures of the paintings and mosaics of the students, this book is the most complete account of Lily's work and process.


I am a very late bloomer. I responded to my calling rather late in life, in my forties. But I have been looking for it for a long time.

I am grateful that my life up to that time has been sweet and good. I have been blessed with a loving family, supportive friends, a fine job and opportunities to create. But I felt that I was missing something, which I could not even name. Without it, somehow my life did not feel authentic.
In 1986 I was given an opportunity to work in inner city North Philadelphia, turning an abandoned lot into an art park with the help of local residents, who were mostly children. The experience was challenging and profound. It brought me to a place where I have never visited before. It felt truthful and genuine. I knew then that I was stepping into my own path and that my activities have meaning. Guided by the light within, I felt a great urgency to move forward.
It seems that in connecting to what is true within myself, I help other people to connect. Making genuine connection lies at the beginning of building a real community.

Ann Wright

Army Colonel, Foreign Diplomat : b. 1946
I have served my country for almost thirty years in some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world. I want to continue to serve America. However, I do not believe in the policies of this Administration and cannot--morally and professionally--defend or implement them. It is with heavy heart that I must end my service to America and therefore resign.


Patriotism can manifest in many forms, and has for Mary Ann Wright. She has been a career military woman, a State Department diplomat, and for the past few years an influential spokesperson in the anti-war movement.

Ann Wright grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas, and attended the University of Arkansas, where she earned a Master's and a Law Degree. She also has a Master's Degree in National Security Affairs from the US Naval War College. In her junior year at the University of Arkansas, she attended a three-week Army training program after meeting with a visiting Army recruiter. That experience helped inform her decision to join the service.

For 13 years Wright was an active duty soldier. She spent another 16 years in the Army reserves, retiring as a Colonel. Part of her Army work was special operations in civil affairs. In the event of invasions into other countries, Wright helped to develop "plans about how you interact with the civilian population, how you protect the facilities – sewage, water, electrical grids, libraries…It's our obligation under the law of land warfare." After Wright was released from active duty, she joined the State Department. For the next 16 years, she served as a foreign diplomat in countries such as Nicaragua, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and Sierra Leone. She was on the team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001, after the fall of the Taliban to US forces.

In all those years, Ann Wright was proud to represent America. However, on March 13, 2003, the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, Col. Ann Wright sent a letter of resignation to then Secretary of State Colin Powell. She felt that without the authorization of the UN Security Council, the US invasion and occupation of an oil-rich, Arab Moslem country would be a disaster. Only two other State Department officials resigned at that time in protest of the imminent invasion. In an interview, Ann explained that, in the Foreign Service, "Your job is to implement the policies of an administration…if you strongly disagree with any administration's policies, and wish to speak out, your only option is to resign. I understood that and that's one of the reasons I resigned – to give myself the freedom to talk out."

Talk out she has. Since resigning, patriotism for Ann Wright meant becoming an anti-war activist. She worked with Cindy Sheehan organizing Camp Casey, and appeared in the documentary "Uncovered: The Truth About the Iraq War". She travels and lectures on foreign policy issues. She has been arrested five times in the past year for protesting Bush's policies, and has referred to herself cheerfully as a "felon for peace". This retired Army Colonel has also recently been temporarily banned not only from two military bases for placing postcards there announcing a showing of the documentary "Sir, No Sir", but from the US Capitol area (her case is still pending), and the National Press Club (this a lifetime ban), for voicing opinions and questions concerning Bush Administration policies and the Iraq war.

Tilly Woodward

Artist, Professor : b. 1957
What moves me? Is it mission? It's permission. I start by giving myself permission. But what I really want, ultimately, is to give other people permission to value themselves. ...[W]hen you confirm goodness you are taking an important step. When we confirm people's goodness over and over, we allow them to be that way.


Tilly Woodward is an artist whose creations, inspired by global social problems, offer both dialogue and healing, and show that tragedies and triumphs of all kinds can happen to anyone, and affect everyone. Tilly Woodward is also the founder and director of the Pella Community Art Center, and is the Curator of Academic and Community Outreach at Grinnell College.

Woodward grew up in Illinois and Missouri. She earned her MFA in sculpture at the University of Kansas in 1982.  In school, her work was very personal.  That changed when she saw photographs of children, killed in a battle, laid out in rows for burial. She writes, "It was a pivotal moment for me in which I started to become aware of a world larger than myself." This discovery led to "Children as Victims," a series of large pastel drawings taken from the disturbing photographs. 

In 1985, she installed ten painted billboards along route I-70 from St. Louis to Kansas City. The billboards, which became known as the I-70 Project, depicted events of a variety of historical events from the Holocaust to boxing matches. By placing the images in the Midwest, far away in time and distance from where the events took place, Woodward asked people to consider them as ethical dilemmas that concern us all.
After moving to Pella, Iowa in 1990, Woodward's art opened up in scope and intention.  She felt that, "It no longer seemed enough to merely point out a problem without offering some step toward a positive solution."  In "Portraits of Dubuque," a response to racism, she drew portraits of diverse individuals, nominated for having performed a good deed or act of kindness.  Woodward hoped the project would "help people recognize each other as individuals and better recognize human kindness regardless of race, gender, age, faith, or economic background." 

Her "AIDS Portrait Project," combining portraits with words, gave a voice to Iowans living with AIDS. In her community, Woodward had heard it said, "AIDS couldn't happen here because we live in a small, Christian town. I also heard it said that AIDS was a judgment from God, and I wanted my children and others to learn that AIDS can happen anywhere, and that all people deserve compassion and dignity in sickness and death."
In 2004, she created the Ribbon Monument. At its initial installation, victims of rape and sexual abuse were invited to write their stories on ribbons that were posted on thin metal poles.  As with Buddhist prayer flags and Tibetan Thankas, when a ribbon moves in the wind or is lifted by a passerby, its story is sent out into the world. With this project, Woodward hopes to end the silent suffering of these victims, so often doubted, even blamed for what happened to them.  As Woodward writes, "This way the stories are told, they are visible, and they are moved as prayers for healing by the wind."

The Pella (Iowa) Art Community Center, created by Woodward in 1990, serves art students of all ages, from small children to seniors. In 2006 alone, the Center hosted over 17,000 participants, a remarkable feat considering the town of Pella has 10,000 residents. At the Center, students are invited to work with each other, with volunteers, and with local and visiting artists. Whatever the participants want to create, the opportunity, supplies, and support are found at the Center. This is a community project built around a shared desire for creative expression. In 2007, Tilly Woodward took the job of Curator of Academic and Community Outreach for the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College, where she works to integrate art into the curriculum and life of the college and community. She frequently collaborates with faculty, staff, students and townspeople to create art projects as teaching tools that respond to specific issues. For a symposium on the Arctic, she created a 10 x 12 x 1 foot wall of ice that served as a screen for projected images until it melted away. The Ice Wall stood just outside the lecture hall and was visible through a large bank of windows behind the speakers. 

Michael Winston

Business Executive : b. 1951
I never thought of myself as a whistleblower. But what changed my life at Countrywide Financial Corporation? A two letter word...the word 'No'. I said, 'NO! No more fraud; no more predatory lending; no more insider trading: No, you can't do this, it's against the law. You are breaking the economy. No more!'


According to a Rolling Stone article published in 2015 by Matt Taibbi, "one of America's ugliest secrets is that our own whistleblowers often don't do so well after the headlines fade and cameras recede. The ones who don't end up in jail… often...go through years of harassment and financial hardship."

One of those whistleblowers still fighting to receive justice against unlawful retaliation and financial penalization is Michael Winston. Called by Salon Magazine "The Man Who Knows Too Much…", he lost nearly everything after trying to tell the truth about Countrywide Financial Corporation (CFC).

Winston earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, his Master's Degree from the University of Notre Dame and completed higher learning programs for executive business at both Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He then held executive positions in fortune 500 companies for over thirty years, including Motorola, Merrill Lynch, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed. In 2005, he was named Managing Director and Enterprise Chief Leadership Officer for Countrywide Financial Corporation. Countrywide hired him to help them build what they called "Goldman Sachs on the Pacific." There he created strategic leadership models, quickly earning two major promotions and a performance award as he was commended by top executives for his "hard work, tenacity, insight and impact".  Winston's recognition extended beyond the company: He was included in the Executive Excellence Journals' list of the "100 Most Influential Business Thought-Leaders in the World".   

Shortly after being promoted, however, Winston began to unearth unlawful business practices at Countrywide including fraud, market manipulation, and insider trading. For months Winston encouraged reform from the inside. But bringing problematic issues to the attention of executive management, along with suspicions of unsafe working conditions, only brought Winston trouble. His concerns were ignored, and he was demoted. According to Winston's lawyer Winston was punished by being "relocated seven times in as many months, each time to a different city. He was uninvited to meetings he would have led, was ostracized and saw his responsibilities gradually shrink to a fraction of what they had been."  

However, Winston's resolve to implement reform only intensified. For the next two years, the more Countrywide retaliated against him, the harder he pushed back.

The situation reached a crisis point when Winston refused to lie about Countrywide's corporate governance practices to Moody's Investors Service, a prominent credit rating agency. Countrywide was always aware that its lending practices were managed for short-term gain and profit (e.g.., issuing "toxic" sub-prime loans that were for those without sufficient credit to afford the loan repayment. "Liar loans" flooded the sub-prime market with high percentages of those loans failing.)

Winston was discharged from the company in 2008; at which point he sued Countrywide and its acquiring company, Bank of America, for retaliation in violation of public policy, fraud, unlawful business practices, and wrongful termination.

Winston was thrust into the public eye in 2011 when his trial against Countrywide and Bank of America commenced. The trial lasted nearly a month as a jury reviewed compelling evidence of unlawful actions against Winston after his efforts to reform the corruption inside Countrywide. Then, after three days' deliberation, they rendered a verdict in Winston's favor, granting him a $3.8 million award. The presiding judge, Honorable Bert Glennon, Jr. supported the jury's decision saying, "…there was a great deal of evidence that was provided to the jury in making their decision, and they went about it very carefully and took their time."

After the trial, Winston was offered a private $12 million settlement to sweeten a gag order in the case of Countrywide's malpractice. He was to speak to no one of the case from that point forward, but his request for an accompanying apology and promise of corporate reform landed him in another trial— this time in appellate court. This is where his life took a turn for the worse.

During the new trial, Winston's pedigree was attacked with allegations -- rife with perjured statements --  that he was a less than an exemplary employee. The Chief Justice accepted as true misleading testimony by Countrywide's human resources head. While the original, overwhelming verdict had been reached after a near month-long trial against BAC/CFC, this new decision against Winston was made after a 12-minute review of the case without Winston present and without even a court reporter or notary.

What is the purpose of a jury if its verdict after a one-month trial is unlawfully ignored by appellate judges? By law, the court is not allowed to substitute its opinion for that of the jury, but it did anyway.  

Winston's lawyers described the new verdict as a "travesty of justice."

The Washington Examiner quoted California Attorney Cliff Palefsky as saying, " This never happens… it isn't legal… The appeals court is not supposed to go back and cherry-pick through the evidence the way this court did. And if there is any doubt about a case, they are legally bound to uphold the jury's verdict."

Despite these illegalities, Winston was forced to pay a staggering $97,000 in interest to Bank of America on the 3.8 million dollar jury award that he had never received.

And Winston's hardships did not stop there. While Bank of America collected this money, Winston began dealing with a diagnosis of laryngeal cancer- making this entire ordeal much harder. However, his fighting spirit remains intact because there is too much at stake. He, along with the Bank Whistleblowers United- an organization he co-founded- has serious ambitions "to educate the populace, reign in the banks, and prevent an even more severe replay of [the financial crisis of] 2008."

Additionally, there have been New York Times series, documentaries, and television programs on Winston's story.

Countrywide, now regarded as the company at the heart of the sub-prime meltdown, eventually would be the subject of an SEC investigation which saw Angelo Mozilo, former CEO and Chairman of Countrywide, settle for the highest single-person fine ever levied by the Securities and Exchange Commission: $67.5 million. The Department of Justice launched a two-year investigation of Mozilo for insider trading and securities fraud and Bank of America, which acquired CFC, was fined hundreds of billions of dollars for Countrywide's malfeasance.

Diane Wilson

Shrimper, Environmentalist : b. 1948
We’re losing ground. This planet is losing ground. So things need to happen and they need to happen quick. Our message should be—loud and clear—there comes a time when the home needs protecting and the line needs drawing and anybody that dares cross it acts at their own peril.


When she called a meeting in 1989 to discuss how a plastics manufacturing plant might affect the environment in her coastal Texas county, fourth-generation shrimper Diane Wilson had no idea how her life would change. She just wanted to have an honest discussion about things people who lived in Calhoun County would care about: the impact of a Formosa Plastics expansion on the health of the people who lived there and on the livelihood of those who fished the bay.

Wilson couldn't know that her dog would be shot in her yard, she would become a pariah in her own community, and someone would attempt to sink her boat—with her on it. She couldn't know that she, with just a high-school diploma and a dislike of chemistry, would become conversant in chemical compounds and their health risks, file her own legal briefs, and learn more about the corruption of public officials than anyone wants to believe. She couldn't imagine that she was setting out on a new life path that would fortify her sense of purpose and draw international networks of support. Wilson wrote in her 2005 book, An Unreasonable Woman, "Risking one's life can be strangely liberating."

The expansion of the plastics plant got the green light despite Wilson's campaign. After a lot more work and four hunger strikes, she persuaded Formosa Plastics to sign a zero-discharge agreement—and then neighboring Alcoa to sign one too. After visiting India, she came home and went after another neighbor, Dow Chemical, which had bought Union Carbide after its massively lethal, Bhopal chemical spill in 1984. Wilson pressed the company to make fair reparations to the affected families in Bhopal, India.

When Wilson told her story at the 2001 Bioneers Conference of environmental activists and scientists, she challenged listeners to become "unreasonable" in their defense of the Earth. A new group, Unreasonable Women for the Earth, immediately formed, and Wilson says members in eight countries supported her hunger strike against Dow. With Medea Benjamin, Wilson co-founded another network of women activists, Code Pink for Peace, in 2002.

In December 2005, Wilson began serving a four-month jail sentence for civil criminal trespass when she chained herself to a Dow Chemical tower in August 2002. The jail term opened a new chapter in her activism, as she advocated for better conditions for other women imprisoned in the Victoria County jail. 

Terry Tempest Williams

Naturalist, Writer, Environmental Activist : b. 1955
The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.


The Ecology Hall of Fame, adding Terry Tempest Williams to its honorees, noted that she "combines all the major strains of environmental passion." Her life´s work is driven by love of the desert, and other naturally beautiful places; a passion for multigenerational land stewardship, which ties her to the region where she was born and still lives; and opposition to resource destruction, especially when it affects human health.

Williams is a Utah native, descended from five or six generations of Mormon pioneers. "I write through my biases of gender, geography, and culture," she says. "I am a woman whose ideas have been shaped by the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau."

 Williams is perhaps best known for her book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (Pantheon, 1991), in which she chronicles the epic rise of Great Salt Lake and the flooding of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in 1983, alongside her mother's diagnosis with ovarian cancer, believed to be caused by radioactive fallout from the nuclear tests in the Nevada desert in the 1950s and 60s. Refuge is now regarded as a classic in American nature writing, a testament to loss and the earth's healing grace.

 Williams' other books include Red: Patience and Passion in the Desert, 2001; An Unspoken Hunger (Pantheon, 1994); Desert Quartet: An Erotic Landscape (Pantheon, 1995); Coyote's Canyon (Gibbs M. Smith, 1989); and Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1984). She is also the author of two children's books: The Secret Language of Snow (Sierra Club/Pantheon, 1984); and Between Cattails (Little Brown, 1985).

In 2004, Terry Tempest Williams published The Open Space of Democracy, in which she tried to define how we might break down the partisanship and polarization in our society so that we can come together to solve the political and environmental problems which threaten our democracy and our land. In it she says, "I do not think we can look for leadership beyond ourselves. I do not think we can wait for someone or something to save us from our global predicaments and obligations. I need to look in the mirror and ask this of myself: If I am committed to seeing the direction of our country change, how must I change myself?"

Cecil Williams

Minister, Community Activist, Writer : b. 1929
Death isn't the greatest thing to be feared for it homogenizes everyone, makes us all equally dead. Most folks are afraid of living because abundant life requires risking everything to love, liberate, and accept yourself and others now. People are afraid of life for it creates diversity and requires commitment to action. To live is to struggle.


For over 40 years, Reverend Cecil Williams, Founder and Minister of Liberation of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, has explored the edge of spirituality, compassion and diversity. As minister, author, social activist, lecturer, community leader and spokesperson for the poor and marginalized, Reverend Williams is respected and recognized as a national leader on the forefront of change. His ministry underscores his roots in liberation theology.

Often considered controversial, Rev. Williams was one of the first clergymen to take a revolutionary stand for same sex couples by presiding over their weddings four decades before today's struggle to legalize gay marriage. Williams has organized programs that have been effective in helping people dealing with HIV/AIDS and drugs. His vision for the 21st century church can be seen in Glide's unique and powerful blend of spirituality, principled compassion, and cutting edge programs for those most needy.

With a membership of over 11,000, Glide is one of the fastest growing United Methodist churches in North America. Located in the heart of one of San Francisco's toughest neighborhoods, people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, cultures, social classes, ages, faiths, and sexual orientations join together at for Sunday Celebration to experience the energy of spiritual liberation enhanced by the jazz, blues and gospel performed by the renowned Glide Ensemble choir and the Change Band.

In 1986, Reverend Williams became the Chairman for the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Observance Committee at the request of Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Reverend Williams is the recipient of the 2008 National Caring Award presented by the Caring Institute in Washington, DC. Williams´ book No Hiding Place: Empowerment and Recovery for our Troubled Communities was published in 1992.

He said this about his mission: "The true church only exists on the edge, because that is where people become honest about their lives. Long ago I vowed never to go to sleep on the future of the church by offering surefire programs and simple reassurances. No, I was going to give everything I had to the church out there where the people live. To do so, we as the church would go to the edge ourselves."

Williams is married to Janice Mirikitani, Founding President of the Glide Foundation. They work together to direct Glide's innovative social programs. 

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