COMMENTARY: Save the World, Daddy 746.3

Just before leaving for Nigeria I called my daughter Samara, a college freshman at NYU, to say good bye. After a short but pleasant conversation she closed with: “Save the world, daddy. I love you.”

I suspect her remark was affectionate teasing, implying that her nearly 69 year old father is a sort of Don Quixote, jousting with wind mills and naively believing in the idea of a noble quest. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t think I’m really going to change the world, but it meant a lot to me that she encouraged me to try.

Sweetened by calling me “daddy” and telling me she loves me, her invocation to save the world was a perfect send off to a journey many friends think is a fool’s errand fraught with complexity and risks and likely to be inconsequential.

I don’t know whether there will ever be an effective CHARACTER COUNTS! initiative in Nigeria, but I know this is not a waste of time,

Gaining a deeper understanding of the traditions and values embodied in this complex, huge nation (the 7th largest in the world) and the daunting challenges of social change has convinced me of the power inherent in idealism and the effectiveness of realistic optimism. We need people who believe they can change the world. This belief is a necessary catalyst to moderate reforms as well as radical revolutions.

Whether it’s combatting avoidable diseases; the monumental immorality of human trafficking; gender, ethnic or religious based persecutions, or pervasive corruption abroad or the problems of social justice, greed and eroding ethics at home, the good news is there are literally thousands of good people dedicating their lives to changing the world – and they are making a difference.

History proves that the army of cynics that directly or indirectly preserve the status quo cannot forever resist the efforts of dedicated, optimistic world changers who do whatever they can, whenever they can with whatever they have undeterred by ridicule or the possibility of failure.


Personal note: The Nigerians I’ve met are an odd mix of cynicism and optimism. Many have an almost fatalistic attitude, especially about the fact that most people in government are more concerned with enriching themselves than improving the lives of their fellow citizens. At the same time, there is an irrepressible  hope that things can and will become better. Almost everyone who learns of the purpose of my visit – the immigration officer who checked my passport, the bellman who helped me with the luggage and more than a dozen highly accomplished men and women from all walks of life – volunteers their view that “we really need this, here” and they do so in a tone that encourages the effort rather than condemns it.



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Comments 10

  1. Your mission is like a Daniel come to do justice in Nigeria. I have been interested in your organization Josephson’s Institute since reading about their work in the Time Magazine over the summer. I went on to write about it on my Facebook page stating we all needed to raise our game in terms of ethics & morality in our private & public dealings!
    Thank you for taking your mission to Nigeria. One of the things you would have noticed is that Nigerians are a very religious lot but one wonders if the religiosity is just skin deep and deals only with superficialities.
    May God bless your effort mightily. A salvaged Nigerian populace would be a big bonus to Africa and the rest of humanity!

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  2. I find your expectations realistic and your vision admirable! I think it is important to celebrate the little victories on the way to the final goal! To parlay off that point: “congratulations on being a catalyst of conversation on what can turn out to be a large swing in a country’s future!”
    I only wish that we could get more of a swing in this direction domestically. I wish I could muster up the strength to start something in my city!

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      Jonathan, thank you for your comment and your affirmation of my efforts. I genuinely appreciate your support. I don’t know what city you live in or what you do. Perhaps you are already an active change agent. I so know, however. if I am able to make any inroads in “saving the world” it will be by inspiring individuals like you to do something more than you are now doing, something specific to enlist the support of others or directly begin to make something better.Please find your own path to making a difference and use it often.-MJ

  3. Dear Michael-
    I have followed your wisdom for years and I want to thank you for your heart that loves mankind beyond the safe gates of silence. My love carries you my friend–May angels surround you and keep you safe. Warmth and hugs to you!-RO

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  4. It is good to share life-changing ideas with those interested in making things better. The open, respectful dialogue is inspiring and can make a great difference, especially with those who don’t realize they may be doing damaging things and those who don’t know how much good they can do with simple choices. This simple choice to make the journey to explore possibilities for a better moral foundation in a world of complex relationships may do more than the direct results can represent. Thanks for following your beliefs despite discouragement from those who would hold you back.

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