My new interview series, REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2014 includes experts in technology, the arts, well-being and social good. It is an exciting group of creative thought leaders and enlightened personalities. Some are extraordinary examples of social responsibility; others are creating game changing paradigm shifts in their market segments.
I am extremely pleased to include Thomas A. Nazario, an attorney and advocate for the world’s poor and forgotten, particularly women and children.
Profile: Thomas A. Nazario is a professor of Law at the University of San Francisco and the president and founder of The Forgotten International, a non-profit organization that provides poverty alleviation throughout the globe. Nazario’s expertise in children’s rights has led him all over the world documenting children’s rights violations.
Thomas Nazario is the author of Living on A Dollar A Day, The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor, the first genuinely comprehensive portrait of unimaginable poverty and suffering that also bears witness to the human spirit. His book will surely change your life from the minute you turn the first page. I can say that your compassion and resolve will change completely.
He writes about often overlooked communities around the world and helps us discover how we are far more alike than different. Living on a Dollar a Day is about our shared human condition, and Nazario reminds us that we must all continually pull together and care about one another, regardless of whether we seemingly inhabit different worlds.”
Mary Olson: How have your views changed as you look back on your experience?
Thomas A. Nazario: When I was young, I thought it was easy for people to grow and change, but as I have grown older and looked back on the people I have met and the experiences I have had, I have come to realize that people don’t change that much, at least in their character and in the way they approach life. I once told a friend this, and after she objected vehemently, I conceded that maybe people change up to 40%., but not much more than that, unless an epiphany comes their way, and that doesn’t happen too often because most of us lead quite sheltered lives.
I have often thought that it would be great to change people over the course of their life. To make good people out of bad, generous people out of the stingy, and peaceful loving people out of the hateful and violent, but somehow, either at birth or shortly thereafter, possibly through experiences that people have when they are young, too many of us get stuck in our ways. Of course that is fine if you are born to be a sweet and loving person. I have run into children who seem to have been born angels, and as I watched them grow, they usually remain so, and I think the same can be said about children who are quite difficult and mean spirited.
That isn’t to say that nothing can be done to help us all be better people. In fact, I spend quite a bit of my time trying to encourage people to be the best they can be, I am just suggesting that it is by no means an easy task, and I have yet to find the key that will open the hearts of so many of us to the love and compassion this world desperately needs.
MO: How do you see the way the world is emerging?
TN: Although I spend a lot of my time thinking about the problems confronting the world today and those we will face in the near future, I am actually optimistic. I am optimistic despite the fact that I am constantly hearing about wars in the Middle East, starvation and disease in Africa, poverty and exploitation in Asia, and of course, global warming affecting all of us. On top of this, I am very worried about the fact that the young people, who are likely going to be inheriting many of these woes, seem to be spending too much time on their Facebook or playing video games or texting friends or shopping. Nevertheless, the 20th Century was filled with great wars, millions upon millions of deaths, and poverty that was even worse than the poverty that exists today. So when comparing these two centuries, so far it looks like we are doing better, and as long as we continue to teach our children well, make medical and scientific advances, limit population growth, and try to put aside our differences to focus on the challenges before us, this world stands a chance. For now I will put my money on that.
MO: What are your thoughts as you look forward?
TN: Let me answer this question in a personal way. I have just turned 65, and although some people think about retiring at this age, I am simply not ready for that yet. The truth is that there is too much work to do, and at least with regards to the work I do, it has all been quite rewarding. I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life playing golf or traveling to scenic places around the world, and not continuing to do more to make the world a better place. I believe such work enriches people’s lives and brings meaning to a life well lived. My foundation, The Forgotten International, encompasses much of the work I do these days. The foundation works to alleviate poverty in several countries around the world, and in that regard also helps to relieve suffering, particularly that experienced by women and children (www.theforgottenintl.org). For me there could be no greater effort. So I will continue to do this work until I cannot do it any longer. Please feel free to visit us on the web and contact me. Also please consider exploring a book we just published about the world’s poor. It’s called Living on a Dollar a Day. It is intended to introduce many of us to people who have long been forgotten and are in need of help. So if you are considering some mission for yourself in life, please give some thought to at least spending a portion of your time helping those around the world who have so little and suffer so much. You will find that you will receive far more than you give in return.