The New York Times
David Brooks is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times and the Executive Director of Weave: The Social Fabric Project at the Aspen Institute. Weave seeks to renew America’s social fabric by building relationships and deep connections across differences in communities. He is the author of several books, including The Road to Character, a #1 New York Times bestseller. His most recent book, The Second Mountain, also a New York Times bestseller, was released in April 2019.
Civil Society Award Recipients:
Better Together, Naples, FL
Better Together strengthens families and communities by promoting work, protecting children, and supporting families in crisis. With the help of compassionate volunteers and church communities, Better Together helps build lasting support systems that empower the whole family and reduce the need for foster care.
KEVIN WHITE & KIM TURNER
Newburgh Performing Arts Academy, Newburgh, NY
Newburgh Performing Arts Academy provides professional dance, music, theater, and visual arts instruction to children in one of the most dangerous cities in New York. The academy helps at-risk youth build self-esteem, improve their academic performance, and develop the discipline necessary to achieve success in all areas of life.
ESL In-Home Program of Nevada, Carson City, NV
English as a Second Language (ESL) In-Home Program of Nevada uses a wide network of community volunteers to teach English and citizenship preparation to those in need. At no cost to the student, the tutoring program helps people improve their lives and become more productive members of American society.
Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh provides training and employment opportunities for ex-offenders looking to rebuild their lives and for at-risk high school graduates. With a growing local need for skilled workers in the trades—masonry, carpentry, and welding—the institute provides a solid pathway to a steady job and livable wage.
Do you know someone deserving of a Civil Society Award? The Manhattan Institute welcomes nominations on a rolling basis. To tell us about an outstanding individual, and their nonprofit organization, who is contributing to a vibrant civil society in your community, please visit our nomination page.
For more information about the event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For nearly 20 years, Manhattan Institute has sought to advance America’s long tradition of civil society by honoring nonprofit leaders who address and prevent some of our most pressing public problems.
With the help of volunteers and philanthropy, civil-society organizations empower the poor and disadvantaged, build caring relationships to support those in crisis, prepare the next generation to realize their full potential, restore and revitalize struggling neighborhoods, and much more.
Formerly known as the Social Entrepreneurship Awards, the 2019 Civil Society Awards and a $25,000 prize were presented to four inspiring nonprofits whose work—outside of government—strengthens our communities and keeps our social fabric from fraying.
To learn more about the Civil Society Awards, please click here.
Howard Husock: Good evening and welcome to the annual Manhattan Institute Civil Society Awards dinner. I'm Howard Husock, senior fellow at the Institute and the director of our Tocqueville Project and civil society programs. Thank you. We began these awards just weeks after the September 11th 2001 attacks and in doing so, we were making a point. America is a country both strong and resilient, yes, because of our democratic government, but also because of the organizations that bind and repair our communities outside the government. My own glib version of how to define this term we're throwing around tonight, civil society, is this: everything that's illegal in China.
So, independent religious institutions, ethnic communities, self-help organizations, the PTA, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Manhattan Institute, any organization which is not government authorized. These are the types of organizations we celebrate here tonight, both because of what they accomplish, but how they accomplish it as well. These groups with the help of volunteers and philanthropic support advance ideas, solve social challenges, and knit together communities based on the drive and insight of the leaders whom we will recognize this evening. They're helping immigrants and refugees learn English and become citizens, helping ex-offenders learn job skills and actually get jobs, helping troubled families get temporary help from faith-inspired volunteer foster parents, and providing disadvantaged children the sort of arts education that's too often reserved just for the children of the affluent.
We celebrate their independence, not because of any disdain for government on our part, but because of our understanding that civil society can do things by its nature that government just can't. It has historically and today been the vehicle to focus on what I like to call the formative rather than the re-formative, steering those whose lives it touches toward constructive life choices and a positive future. It can find a way to cope with vexing problems, which government today seems too paralyzed to address. We've been fortunate to have philanthropic support of our own to support our efforts to find and visit the many great organizations from across the country nominated for these awards, which carry a $25,000 honorarium.
For many years that generous support came from the William E. Simon Foundation, represented here tonight by Jim Piereson, who serves as a member of our award selection committee, and Sarah Faye Snyder. Sarah and Jim, are you here if you would stand? Thanks to you and of course to the Simon Foundation. The Simon's baton has been picked up by the Harry and Lynde Bradley Foundation represented here by Alicia Manning, who also serves on the selection committee. Alicia?
The Bradley's Foundation support for and celebration of civil society is long and deep and includes support for the awards we will present tonight, and for our new Civil Society Fellows Program, in which we work with a select number of previous award winners for a full year to promote their mission through the media, as they serve as banner carriers for civil society. Joining us tonight is our first class of Civil Society Fellows. If they would please stand as I mention their name, I'd like to recognize them as well. The founder of Fugees Family, Luma Mufleh, has schools ... stepped on my applause line there, guys. She has schools in Atlanta, Georgia, Columbus, Ohio, coming soon to Cleveland, maybe New Haven I'm told, that provide education especially and effectively for the children of refugees, Luma Mufleh.
Sharpel Welch of the Community Renewal International of Shreveport, Louisiana who along with her husband, Emmett, has been part of a revival of the historic settlement house movement in Shreveport, moving into a friendship house in a low income neighborhood to help point young people toward healthy values. They tell me they're the only married couple in a 30-block area, but they're good role models for marriage, believe me. Sharpel Welch. And, from Dallas, Texas, the faith-inspired Advocates for Community Transformation has helped residents shut down hundreds of drug dens in south and west Dallas, making the main street safe again for children and working families. The founder of ACT, Reid Porter.
I'd also like to recognize number of our past award winners who are sitting amongst you tonight, whose work has described your program. Please hold your applause so I recognize all of them, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Glenys Carl of the volunteer-based home care group, Coming Home Connection, from 125th Street uptown, of the ex offender support group, Getting out and Staying Out, Mark Goldsmith, also from Harlem. Vy Higginsen and Noel Higginsen, wide row of Gospel for Teens, George McDonald of the Doe Fund, the program that actually helps New York's homeless. Eloise Samuels of the group, which uses public speaking to help launch the careers of minority youth, the New Jersey Orators, and Barbara Van Dahlen of the Veterans Mental Health Counseling Group, Give an Hour. Please recognize all of these award winners.
Shortly we will honor the 2019 Civil Society Award winners, followed by remarks by David Brooks of the New York Times, who has made it a part of his mission to recognize and nurture groups that weave the tight social fabric of healthy communities. For now, please enjoy your dinner.
Howard Husock: Good evening once again. Now that you've enjoyed your entree, it's time for our program's main course, the presentation of this year Civil Society Awards. A word first about how our award program works. We solicit nominations from community foundations, philanthropists, members of nonprofit group boards all around the country, and with the help of a truly outstanding selection committee, including Adam Myerson of the philanthropy round table, Jim Piereson of the Simon Foundation, Les Lenkowsky of the Indiana University Graduates Program on Center philanthropy, Alicia Manning of the Bradley Foundation and my Manhattan Institute colleagues who included this year, our new president Reihan Salam, our executive vice president Vanessa Mendoza, and our president emeritus Larry Mone.
We went over the nominations to an outstanding but small number of finalists. Then, either I or a colleague of mine, Cheryl Keller, a past program officer at the Smith Richardson Foundation visit to make sure these programs really exist, we observe them in action. A word about them as a group, their goals, their purposes and their missions differ of course. The question of what unites them interest me and suggests the thoughts of the religious sage, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the grand Rabbi of the Lubavitch movement, whose black-clad adherence one can see in Brooklyn's Borough Park and Crown Heights. In reflecting on the much used phrase, “Tikkun olam” Hebrew for "repair of the world," Schneerson said this, "If you only see what is ugly in the world, then it is you yourself, who needs repair. If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that God has left for you to complete."
There's no doubt that our winners tonight have all seen something that needs to repair and set about themselves to do so. Now, for our winners. Our first winner has taken it upon herself to help our historic wave of new immigrants and refugees prosper in America and what's more, to literally become Americans. Immigration policy is something that we've become good, too good at arguing about. But in Carson City, Nevada, Florence Philips, a native of the polyglot Bronx, decided to follow in the footsteps of the settlement house pioneers of the early 20th century in helping immigrants assimilate and make their new country their home. Influenced by her upbringing, where she would translate for her parents from Eastern Europe, she later taught English in three countries as a member of the Peace Corps. That was after she retired for the first time.
Realizing immigrants in Carson City needed her teaching skills, she began to help them learn English, which she understood to be the key to their upward social mobility and she had a keen insight. The night cook in a Reno casino or the housekeeper in a hotel, working two shifts was in no position to attend community college classes. Florence Philips instead unleashed a small army of volunteers to meet with families in their own homes, following a tested curriculum to teach the language and help many of them prepare for their citizenship test, which after all, is in English. Today, English as a second language in Nevada has tutored more than 5000 adult immigrants in Nevada, and has since expanded to other states.
More than 200 tutors, from college students to retirees, donate 600 hours a month assisting immigrants and she keeps time sheets, I'm not kidding. There are hundreds more on a waiting list and nearly 400 have become American citizens and it all started in 2008 when Florence Philips was 77 years old. Let's take a look at ESL In-Home of Nevada in action.
Video: People come here for a better life, mainly to their children. That's what my parents did. They become Americans. My name is Florence Phillips, I live in Carson City, Nevada. I am the founder and executive director of the ESL that's English as a second language in home program of Nevada. I teach English to immigrants living in my community, because literacy is the key to success in America, or actually anywhere.
Video: I passed my citizenship in the first try. The teacher helped me a lot.
Video: Our program is completely different from other programs because we teach at the learners' availability, we go to their home.
Video: Florence is a hero. She has the time for everyone.
Video: What I get out of tutoring is a fulfillment. You become very close to them, they become your friend and we laugh a lot. Right now I have over 220 volunteers, they're teaching over 400 learners. I may get the award, but they are the heroes. Very good. This is my mission, this is by passion.
Howard Husock: Please welcome Florence Philips. Florence.
Florence Phillips: Thank you. Good evening.
Audience: Good evening
Florence Phillips: I am honored to be in the company of the three other amazing visionaries. 15 years ago, I founded the ESL In-Home Program, an old volunteer service organization to help low income adult immigrants and refugees achieve the American dream at no cost to the learner. Learning to read, write, speak and understand English is the key to education, economic opportunity and income mobility in this country. It's the number one tool to achieve success. Our tutors bring the school to the student in their home on a one-on-one basis. They eliminate all the barriers to learning and they progress rapidly because we give them individual attention. We have helped more than 5,000 adult immigrants and their families improve their lives.
Learning English has helped them find better jobs, has given them the ability to communicate with their children's educators and are role models for their children, when the children see their parents doing ESL homework. They have been removed from social service programs and they better their communities. Some become US citizens and start their own business, such as Lily, a Chinese woman from Hong Kong. She came in with a very, very thick accent and she wanted to become an American and talk like an American. Well, I told her I could have her talk like a New Yorker. She became a dedicated student and eventually she loosened her accent and wanted to start her own business. She now has a Chinese restaurant and if anyone comes to Carson City, I recommend her restaurant. It's good food.
And Kadish, from Syria. At 65, all he wanted to learn was how to write his name. His tutor gave him a sheet of paper and after a while, the last test he had to write his name 20 times. He pointed to the bottom line, looked at his teacher and said, "This is me," and he cried with joy. These are the rewards my tutors received. I would not be here today without my community of ESL tutors who volunteer their time, energy, their hearts to their students, often becoming part of the family in the process. That being said, because we are not only in Nevada anymore, but this year we changed our name to English Language Learners In-Home Program, offering no cost tutoring around the world via the internet.
Of course, with growth comes costs. It's time for me to give up my one woman role and add staff to keep up with the demand. We have over 900 adult immigrants and refugees on our wait list. They're all waiting to learn English, eager to learn. We have volunteers ready and willing and waiting, however, we do not have the funds to purchase the instructional material to keep this a no-cost program. Although we offer no course tutoring to the student, the instructional materials cost $5 for tutor and student and the citizenship application course is increasing from ... How many know how much it costs today to become a citizen? $725 and it's being increased to over $800.
I would like to start a citizenship fund to help. We have 51 learners who are ready to take the exam but for the many years that they've been saving, they still do not have the full fee. Excuse me. Lastly, I want to thank the Manhattan Institute for this very generous award, which will help us move toward these goals and help those patiently waiting to start their journey to a better life. I thank you for this on behalf of the over 200 volunteers today that are helping over 400 learners. Thank you.
Howard Husock: I hope she doesn't mind my saying so, 89 years old and looking forward. From Pelham Parkway to Carson City and back. In introducing our next award winners, I'm prompted to recall my first job after college, I know you're dying to hear about it. As a general assignment reporter for The Daily newspaper in Middletown, New York, the Times Herald record, the news day of the North, my coverage area included the Hudson River City of Newburgh. Once a thriving small industrial city filled with lovely Victorian homes and brownstones, Newburgh had fallen on hard times, got into the newspaper a lot. Its historic downtown had been cleared by misguided urban renewal. The flight of its factories opened the door to dismal poverty and high crime.
When I told this to Kevin White and Kim Turner, Kevin responded without missing a beat, "You could write those same stories today, just add the stuff about gangs and crews, except for one story that's new, different and positive." The Newburgh Performing Arts Academy founders Kim Turner and executive director Kevin White. First as a standalone pre-professional arts education program. And now in conjunction with the Newburgh Boys and Girls Club, they begged Kevin to take it over, please. Kevin and Kim brought the right combination of backgrounds. She is a graduate of New York City School of Performing Arts, who trained at the Gloria Jackson Dance Studio, the Dance Theater of Harlem, he who grew up in the Bronx public housing project, two from the Bronx tonight, before getting his business degree.
Kevin had once tried to help disadvantaged kids in the substance abuse program, but in the great tradition of civil society pioneers, such as Charles Loring Brace of the Children's Aid Society, he came to believe in the importance of getting ahead of problems by providing a venue for aspiration and achievement. The demand was there, it turned out. Kim hoped 50 students would sign up when they started the program at the local American Legion Hall, when they open the doors there were more than 150. Today the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy is a conservatory of dance theater and music training and more. It's served more than 10,000 students and more to come. A dilapidated downtown building will be renovated to house Pre-K literacy centers, expanded dance studios, recording engineering studios, music study rooms, two art studios, a kiln and a ceramic room, and a gallery and performance space for theater classes.
Newburgh is still a troubled city but Kim and Kevin are demonstrating how change happens brick by brick. Let's take a look at the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy.
Video: Most people think that Newburgh isn't the place to go to if you want to have a good job or a good person coming out of there. Well, there's a lot of students here with big dreams and everybody's pushing themselves to be someone better than they are.
Video: I have been going to the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy for 11 years, students could come here from all over Newburgh and have an opportunity to take classes and ballet and tap and rhythm tap and jazz.
Video: We do our annual recital. We have an audience of over 1,000 people that come out to watch our kids. These young kids get up on stage and put on a performance and when you see these kids up on point, you don't get opportunities like that too often and there's a sense of pride that the kids have and that their parents and families have when they can see the accomplishments that their kids and the things that they can achieve.
Video: By helping me build myself, it helps me be a positive role model to others.
Video: We're making a real difference in this community and particularly in the lives of young people.
Howard Husock: Our first husband and wife award recipients, Kim Turner and Kevin White.
Kevin Turner: Thank you.
Kim Turner: Good evening.
Audience: Good evening.
Kim Turner: On behalf of our staff and board of directors, two of whom are with us today, Ms. Don Fuchek and Guenes Lloyd Stevens, as well as the children, youth and families that we serve, we would like to thank the Manhattan Institute for this Civil Society Award. I would also like to say congratulations to all the wonderful awardees, we're just honored to be sharing this with you as well. Growing up in Queens, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to study arts in my own community and over the years, I've learned firsthand the importance of the arts as a component of healthy youth development. 16 years ago, when I noticed the absence of arts programs for youth in the city of Newburgh, I decided to establish a School for the Arts where poor and low income children could receive high quality instruction in dance music, theater and visual arts.
Today, we serve 1,000 children yearly to our various art programs. In the audience tonight is one of our graduates and I'd just like to tell you a little bit about her. Ms. Kamaria Carrington joined our program when she was eight years old. Her mother brought her to the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy along with her three sisters on the day of registration. Her mother, Alexis Carrington, helped us out at registration because we needed it. We had double the amount of children show up for registration and she just rolled up our sleeves and jumped right in to help us out. She later told us she did have four daughters and she wanted them to join the school but she couldn't afford to pay to have them attend the school. She said to us, "If you take them in, I'll volunteer and I'll help out any way that I can."
By the age of 10, Kamaria requested and became a student teacher, and she shadowed me in the classroom for about eight years. 16 years later, each one of those four girls has gone on to established careers in the arts, she has four daughters, I'm not sure if I mentioned it before. Kamaria, who is here with us tonight ... Come on up, Kamaria, we are so proud to say she's auditioned and got accepted into so many, several institutions. She got accepted into the Debbie Allen School of Dance a few years ago, which is pretty impressive. She is currently a student at the Alvin Ailey Professional School, where she's in her second year of studies there.
Kamaria plans to become a professional dancer and a Broadway theater performer and we're happy to say that she was one of our students. There's so many other stories of children who have gone on to study at really impressive places, dance music theater and art. Kamaria, I forgot to mention this as well, she also comes back to Newburgh every Saturday, to teach at the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy. I should also have mention that her mother, Alexis Carrington, Alexis, stand up for a second, she's still with us today and five years ago she became a Director of Human Resources, Ms. Alexis Carrington. Kamaria and the thousands of other students we have worked with over the past 16 years of just shining examples of the benefits of having access to the arts. Kevin and I are thankful to have had the opportunity to bring the arts to so many children and again, we thank the Manhattan Institute for this award. Thank you very much.
Kevin Turner: I'll be brief, I think she covered everything. I was just being a good husband when my wife came to me 16 years ago and said she wanted to start a School for the Arts. I said, "Okay," and 16 years later I became a part of what she was doing. I don't dance, sing or play an instrument but I can count a little bit and write a little bit so they let me hang out for a long time. I loved the arts as a kid but as Howard mentioned, I grew up in the Bronx, and playing in the orchestra wasn't exactly cool in my projects. I remember on Christmas break and Easter break, you had to bring your instrument home and I played the stand up bass. I would wait for all the kids to get home and I try and sneaking into the project so no one would see me. Have you ever tried to sneak a six foot base into a housing project? It's impossible.
Every holiday today, that they let me have it they made fun of me and joked. I didn't stick with it, but it's nice now to have created a place where kids can come and find kids like them that love the arts and participate and be encouraged and supported in what they do. When we established a Performing Arts Academy, we had no idea that it would grow to the extent that it did, many years we had over 100 kids on our waiting list. Eight years ago when we outgrew our space, we started a capital campaign and people laughed at us then just like they did eight years before when we started. They said, "You can't raise money in Newburgh."
It was difficult, but we eventually raised enough money to start looking for a place to build a new school so we can accommodate the demand for the services. We eventually secured a new facility and we began to raise money to complete the renovation but the process took so long that our donor withdrew his multimillion dollar pledge. During the Christmas holiday, I was a little down but sitting in my office because my job is to figure things out. I'm sitting there and I had no idea how I was going to bounce back from this. I got a phone call from a gentleman over the holidays and he said, "I heard about the project that you guys were working on and I want to help."
We talked for a while and he called me, eventually came to visit, and last year he made a donation that allowed us to purchase and begin the renovation on a brand new state-of-the-art facility for the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy. That person's here tonight, and I know he doesn't like attention, but I just wanted to say to him how much we appreciate this. A year from now we'll open the doors on this brand new 21,000-square-foot facility in a place that hasn't seen anything new in a long time. We'd like to say thank you to Mr. Nick O'Neill and the O'Neill family Foundation for making our dream a reality. Thank you again to the Manhattan Institute for this award, and for the two days I got to spend with some incredible people who just inspired me in a way I haven't been inspired in a long time. Thank you all very much.
Howard Husock: Thank you, Kevin for inspiring us. I'm going to embarrass him further and say Nick O'Neill has been a kind supporter of this awards program for many years too, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Manhattan Institute. Those of you who have been kind enough or bored enough to take a look at my book, Who Killed Civil Society, shamelessly promoted here in this evening, know that it was inspired by my father's childhood in which he was crucially looked after through foster care organized by a private charity. It's hard to imagine today that something similar could still be happening at a time when we read, including in our own city journal and a wonderful article by Naomi Schaefer Riley, about the problems rife in our public foster care systems.
Our next award winner has helped reinvent the idea of private volunteer-based foster care and shown that it can work. As the chief executive officer of Better together, Megan Rose understands that many families unable to care for their children are actually having a temporary problem, a job loss, a health issue, a family crisis, and that temporary foster care by experienced parents is really what they need, not state intervention. They are, as Megan puts it, good parent going through a difficult season. Those parents are grateful for help, whose ultimate aim is the restoration of their families. Hard to believe, even harder than that Megan would start a program with volunteer foster parents, is the fact that the child welfare authorities in Florida have come to agree. Well, they should.
Especially notable is the fact that the average cost for a Better Together family intervention is $1,200 per child per year, while in Florida, the government supervised foster care runs $30,000 per child per year. The average day for a Better Together child, 41 days, for a foster care child, 596 days, if they do get reunited. Megan Rose is saving the state money but far more important, she's saving through her volunteers, children and families. 97% of the children being helped go on to be reunited with their parents and it's no coincidence she's taken on this mission. She had her own difficult childhood that involved similar problems, but she saw firsthand the power that loving strangers could have on changing the trajectory of a family in crisis.
As an adult, Megan will not only earn two psychology degrees, but would work as a welfare and foster caseworker, learning the problems of the system from the inside before taking it upon herself to do something about them. Let's take a closer look at Better Together.
Video: Me and my baby was on the streets. Should I go to a shelter, should I call anybody? If I call somebody, they're going to call DCF and DCF is going to take my baby, so my mind was just everywhere.
Video: We're all on our own, our families can't help.
Video: I know how it feels to be taken away from shelter to shelter, I've been in that situation.
Video: They needed a place to place their son temporarily while they could be given some time to get on their feet.
Video: I can't imagine as a mom myself, being able to trust a stranger to just take your kid for a few months to better yourself. I know she had to sacrifice that.
Video: The outcome of all of it is getting a house and getting my kid back's like a big gift and I couldn't do it without having the whole group pushing me forward.
Video: I finished the program. I was able to get a place, I was able to get my baby in daycare. I never thought I could put my son into daycare. It's like feeling normal, like a normal feeling love just okay, living life.
Video: It's been a really incredible journey. We've been able to partner with hundreds of churches and volunteers and community partners to be able to make a significant impact in the community and do what some people thought was the impossible.
Howard Husock: Please join me in welcoming from Naples, Florida, Megan Rose.
Megan Rose: I grew up with two loving parents, but life was really hard. My dad, he struggled with addiction after he lost his job. My parents, they lacked a local support system. I remember so clearly, one night my dad came home and he was drunk and he was angry. He went to hit my mom and as a six-year-old child, I placed myself between my mom and my dad with a baseball bat and I asked him to stop. He started to sob and that was the moment my mom knew she needed to leave that unhealthy relationship and my dad knew he needed help. My mom, she couldn't do it alone though. Our church came alongside our family and supported my mom. The same church also helped my dad, even while he served time in prison. Because of this my parents remarried years later, my family was reunited and better because of it.
My family was very fortunate and rare. Many families don't have a support system in place, to survive a crisis they turn to government. When families don't have the resources to keep a home or deal with a crisis, they can lose their children to foster care due to neglect and bad circumstances. In fact, 60% of children that enter foster care is due to neglect. What if the church in America had a structure to help families in crises? Our Better Families program is a voluntary program that keeps kids out of foster care by keeping families together. We are doing what many people said was the impossible and we do it with private money and an army of volunteers who are professionally supported.
We give parents a safety net for their children and an opportunity to better themselves by placing their children temporarily with a vetted and background-checked volunteer family while they work to resolve their crisis. These families then continue to offer friendship and support to these families. The volunteer families are absolutely incredible, they give so generously of their time and their resources. We have several of them here in the room today and I would love for them to stand up. Two of them are my board members, that's how much they believe in the mission and the vision of what we're trying to do in our community.
Over the last four years, we have served over 1,600 children and 800 families and 97% of those families are still together, and that's a verified number run through the state at six months, 12 months and 24 months. For comparison, the government's average of reunifying families torn apart by foster care is less than half, with 35% of those families re entering the system for a second time. It's broken. It works for those who are homeless like Arnelle, who was living with her infant son and sleeping outside of 711, or Brandi and Kenny who were both addicted to drugs and needed their daughter hosted for an entire year while they sought treatment. Can you imagine an entire year? They even lost their home to a hurricane, but still cut that commitment to Jade and her family.
For any crisis that could potentially tear a family apart, we're there to offer a solution and support. Doing this work, we noticed that most crises began with a job loss. With no support system, or jobs, small problems often become very large problems. We started a whole other program that equips churches and volunteers to host second chance job fairs for people facing employment barriers. We've served 16,000 people nationwide, mostly low income, and the best part is one out of four people get hired on the spot at these job fairs. Every day, our team sees the possible when people come together voluntarily to make communities and families stronger. We do this all without one single dollar from the government, but government being our biggest referral source. Isn't that incredible?
Maybe when you read the news, you get depressed or worried. Maybe you look at the problems that broken families are facing or in poverty and you feel helpless, don't be. Our approach is scalable, it's proven. There is so much need, we can build a society that we all want to live in, one that recognizes the power and potential of people and families, one that is better together with the church, philanthropists and thousands of volunteers showcasing American compassion and restoring the American dream. Thank you so much for this honor.
Howard Husock: What a group we have this year. Our next award winner likes to say he's been in the trades since he was 12. That's how he talks about what his job is: he's been in the trades. When he was first taken by his father to help on a construction site, he went on to have his own successful masonry business doing high-end work in Pittsburgh. In 2009, Steve Shelton noticed something about the trades, bricklayers, welders carpenters, and it concerned him. A lot of those guys were in their 60's and there were no younger guys coming along to replace them. Having guys 55 or 60 years old on top of scaffolding laying bricks is not sustainable. I strongly agree, by the way.
The numbers, it turns out, bear out Steve's observation. He would learn that one union alone, the Steamfitters Local estimates it needs 80 replacement members every year, thanks to retirement. Pittsburgh, you might think Pittsburgh is part of the rust belt, well, it's Boyd by Central Pennsylvania's natural gas boom and it's seeing a $10 billion surge in construction projects. For those who have the skills, there are jobs that pay well, $38 an hour with benefits is common. Today, Steve has sold his own business. He's the executive director of what he calls the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, which he founded to address that shortage of skilled tradesmen. As surprising of a life changes that's been, just as surprising is his student body.
Historically, Pittsburgh construction unions and skilled trades had been dominated by white ethnic communities. To fit in, as he puts it, you had to be Uncle Tony's son. He has built a program to teach those trades to a very different population. Black and brown ex offenders as well as young adults at risk of following that path to prison. In what had been a long abandoned Westinghouse Electric Factory in the city's low income high crime Homewood section, Steve has created a shop floor where guys like Slim, who serve 20 years in the whole, says Steve, learned how to push mortar and over the course of 340 hours, become skilled masons.
Some go on to trade in other trades, including welding, painting and carpentry. The results are impressive. In 10 years, the Trade Institute has trained 600 people, 90% have been hired for jobs with an average starting wage of $15 an hour, and some do better. Slim, who was once a big time drug dealer, has most recently earned $56 an hour on a job here in New York, after which he told Steve, "If I'd known how much money you can make legally I'd have started a long time ago." In contrast to so many government programs, this is job creating as life change and it works for the people who need it and for the economy of Pittsburgh. Let's take a closer look at the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh.
Video: One of my best friends was murdered when we were 16 years old, my life changed because I was there.
Video: I had an older brother who'd been in and out of jail more than almost longer than I've been on the earth.
Video: Everybody has their challenges in life, I have my challenges in life
Video: The Trade Institute of Pittsburgh is a nonprofit trade training facility. We're able to take an individual from a jail cell to a $15 an hour job or better in 10 weeks. No dope, no guns, no booze, no foul mouth, no disrespect or you're going to go out the door.
Video: TIP makes it so that's it's like, what you did isn't who you are.
Video: I have remorse for what I've done. That's all I want, is a chance to prove myself and here at TIP they're giving me the opportunity.
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Video: Everybody can change, man, if given opportunity. That's what gets you out of poverty. It's not necessarily a handout, it's a hand up, wat we like to say around here. Is the opportunity that somebody gives you and you run with it and you do what you're supposed to do to with it, you do right about that opportunity. That's what TIP is about.
Video: We went left in life but there's always the path back in this program really helps get you back onto that path.
Howard Husock: Please join me in welcoming from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Steve Shelton.
Steve Shelton: Thank you. What an incredible honor to be here tonight, what a fantastic evening. What it is to just be part of one of four incredible people just doing incredible things, you don't even know how honored I am to be standing here tonight. I want to thank Manhattan Institute, Howard, and the entire team who made this evening possible. I also want to thank my wife, Susan, and Dugan, the board chair of the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, and the rest of the trade Institute team that's here and at home in Pittsburgh for all the years of hard work and dedication.
I stand here tonight deeply honored to receive this award, and yet I can't help but think of the 2.2 million people locked up in our United States prison systems. Some deserve to be there and stay there, but there are those who just never had a fair shake at life from the beginning. United States represents a little more than 4% of the world's population, but we have 22% of the world's prisoners. It's just shy of 20 million children that are fatherless and many of those fathers are behind bars, leaving a massive void in our families lives and in our communities. That being said, there's more young people have been routed to college in recent years, whether it's suited them or not. The number of people being taught skilled trades just plummeted, creating a nationwide shortage.
At the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, we saw an opportunity to work with men and women who have just made mistakes, while also providing prominent employers with the talent and skills they desperately need to fill good paying jobs. You know, these days it's popular to talk about inclusion and not leaving anyone out of the equation, but it's a lot harder to act on that. At the Trade Institute, we're constantly engaging those who have been left out or left for certain destruction. Our students lack what many of us take for granted. The Trade Institute's hands-on training, the counseling, the life coaching, the mentoring, and the lifetime open door policy we offer each and every one of our students, keeps them off the streets and out of the prison.
This isn't just a skilled trade program, the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh represents hope for hundreds of people to have another shot at life when they didn't ever think that that would be possible. We take very seriously our core steward the most valuable asset that we have here on Earth and that assets it's people. We believe our families and our communities will only ever be as strong as our ability to love our neighbors. There's nothing I've done in my life that's more gratifying than guiding young men and women into respectable life sustaining empowering jobs that have changed their lives, their children's lives as well, therefore impacting generations to come.
The achievement I would like to recognize here tonight is two young men that are here with me. One of them is Alfredo Rodriguez, the other one is Michael Booker and I'm going to ask them to join me here on this stage. Alfredo Rodriguez is an accomplished welder, he's an accomplished steel fabricator. He's one of the coolest guys I've ever met, and he's from New York. We got Michael Booker, Michael. The instructor, the welding instructor said, he says man, he says, "This kid I think is a better welder than I am." I want to honor these guys tonight because they did the most courageous thing that someone can do. They took accountability for their past actions, worked hard to change their lives and that, that's made all the difference. I want to thank you all so much for being here tonight, God bless you and please help me honor these two guys.
Howard Husock: Thank you, Shelton.
Steve Shelton: Good to see you.
Howard Husock: Let's have another round of applause for all our award winners. As some of you may know, I read a lot of newspapers every day, usually six or seven, including for print versions which still landed on my doorstep, I'm doing my part to support journalism. The only way to get through so many, though, inevitably involves some element of skimming and unfortunately, it's becoming easier and easier to skim because much of what passes for opinion journalism has become so predictable. A quick glance at a headline and a byline is often all one needs to know to get to the point of someone whose work you've already become familiar with. But there are a few, a precious few for whom this isn't true, one of those is our keynote speaker tonight, David Brooks.
I'm always interested in reading David Brooks's column in the New York Times. That's because I'm always interested in knowing what David Brooks is thinking. No, he's not part of my echo chamber, meaning no, he doesn't always confirm my prior views, he doesn't offer comfort food. He's grappling with our culture, including but not exclusively, our political culture and coming around to original insights. It's clear that he's not afraid to challenge himself, including his younger self. Indeed, in recent years, he's moved strikingly away from a consistent focus on politics to what must be called, in our context is evening, an appreciation of the civil society we're celebrating.
In his new book, The Second Mountain, he introduces us to those who find fulfillment in living for goals that transcend personal comfort and ambition, just as our award winners tonight have chosen to do exactly that. That's what made David a clear choice a speaker for us tonight. Not that I know what he's going to say, but just as when I opened the New York Times on Fridays, I'm eager to find out. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming David Brooks.
David Brooks: Thank you, Howard. It's an honor to be part of this, it's inspiring as I knew it would be. It's a pleasure to be back in my hometown of New York City. I will be brief tonight because I know a lot of you are New Yorkers and you didn't come here to hear me speak, you came here to hear yourselves speak so I'll try to get out of the way of that. I am a proud New Yorker, if you started 14 Street and Second Avenue and you walk a South about half a mile, you'll pass where my great-grandfather had this butcher shop, where my grandfather this law firm, where my father grew up, where I grew up and where my son is now in college. Five generations in one little spot, and I'm proud to be a New Yorker.
I had an unusual political upbringing here. My parents were left-wing. My father was teaching in NYU, and I often tell the story, in 1966 they took me to Central Park to be in where hippies would go just to be. One of the things they did was they set the garbage can on fire and threw their wallets into it to demonstrate how little they cared about money and material things. I was five years old, and I saw a $5 bill on fire in the garbage can, so I broke through the crowd, reached in the fire, grabbed the money and ran away. That was my first step over to the right.
I was already standing out and I was a little Jewish kid going to Grace Church school, I was part of the old Jewish boys dominant choir at Grace. We would sing the hymns but to square with our religion, we wouldn't sing the word Jesus, and so the volume would drop down because it's like 40% of us. Then I got a chance to work for William F. Buckley and brought him back to national review and eventually I became a conservative columnist at New York Times, which, as John Tierney can tell you, I like to match up to being the chief rabbi at Mecca, not a lot of company.
When I was when I started there, I was visiting a new republic, then Venerable Magazine, and this young punk came up to me and said, "Mr. Brooks, you wrote something in 1987 that's different with something you wrote in 1989. I'd like to know the contradiction there." I was like, "Who is this young guy?" It turned out to be Reihan Salam, who was then a college intern, who I then hired to be my assistant, knowing all the while that I would soon be working for him, which has indeed come to pass so it's good to see Reihan rise. What I've been doing for last two years is traveling around the country meeting the kind of people we've just honored here tonight, what I call weavers, and it has been an uplifting experience and a sobering experience.
Some of them I was working with the Pittsburgh Trade community. Thanks to my wife, I met ... Howard and I both met people from something called the other side Academy in Salt Lake City. These are people who've served 25 and 30 years in prison, and they come out and they work in a moving company, and live in a halfway house. Their slogan is, "We used to take stuff out your windows, now we take it out your door." They break people down. When you go to the other side Academy, you sit on a bench, your first day in, and then they scream at you. They say, "Do you love your family?" The guys will say, "Yeah, I love my family." "No, you don't, you must hate your family. You left them for 25 years, imagine if you really loved them."
A complete destruction method and then moral formation. Another person I met with a woman named Mary Gordon, who runs an organization called Roots of Empathy. What they do is they take infants and moms and put them into eighth grade classrooms and the kids sit around the infant and have to guess what's going on in the kid's mind as the kid is crawling around, it's a way to teach theory of mind empathy. One of the kids one day was a guy named Darren. Darren had been held back, he'd seen his mom die, he'd been run through the foster care system, he's bigger than everybody else. He asked the mom if he could hold the baby and the mom was all nervous about it but let Darren hold the baby and Darren was fantastic with the baby, cradled him and then handed it back, and afterward started to ask all these questions about parenthood.
The final of them was, "Do you think it could be a good father if you've never been loved?" So, Mary goes in and reaches out to the Darrens of the world. I met a woman named Sarah Atkins in Ohio who had the worst thing happen to her, the most searing experience. She came back antiquing with her mom one Sunday evening and found that her husband had killed their kids and himself. We spent a few days together and she now runs an organization for moms who have suffered from violence. She has a free pharmacy outside of Athens, Ohio. She lives her life as pure gift and she told me, "I do this because I'm angry at him. Whatever he tried to do to me, screw you, you're not going to do it. I'm going to make a difference in the world."
She, like a lot of the people I've met, have what you call a bright sadness. They've seen the worst but there's a sort of joy in what they do. What I see in them is this ability to really relate well, they're geniuses at relationship. We happen to live in an era where we're pretty bad at relationship. We're pretty good at generalizing but others and stereotyping others, evangelicals believe this, liberals believe that, African-Americans believe this. We're pretty good at not seeing each other. In my view in my life as a columnist, many of our society's great problems flow from people not feeling seen and respected, blacks feeling that their daily experience is not understood by whites, rural people not feeling seen by coastal elites, depressed young people not feeling understood by anyone, people across the political divide staring at themselves with angry incomprehension, employees feeling invisible at work, husband and wives and broken marriages realizing that the person who should know them best actually has no clue.
This plague of unseeing is partly ... you could say it's caused by the internet it's caused by something else, it's caused by tribalism. In my view, we're trying to do something really hard in a society. As my colleague, Eric Lou says, we're trying to build the first mass multicultural democracy. It's just really hard to take a lot of very diverse group of people and mold them into one coherent society, we should give ourselves a little grace, so understand this is just a hard process. The thing I come across again, in all the understanding is an epistemological problem. How do we learn to see each other really well and make each other feel understood?
John Ruskin, the 19th century Victorian art critic, said, "The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds can talk for one who can think but thousands can think for one who can see." This seems to be the elemental skill, that at the center of every healthy community, every healthy family, every healthy classroom or nation is the ability to see someone else deeply, to know one other person profoundly, to make them feel heard and understood and a member of some holy community.
I've spent a lot of time and I'm going to spend the next few years thinking about, what is this skill? Our master teacher here in this skill of knowing another deeply is Augustine. Augustine understood that knowing is not an intellectual process, it's an emotional process. He said, "Love is a focus of attention, love is a motivational state to learn more about another person, love is a drive to be in harmony with another person." For him, for Augustine, we're not primarily thinking creatures are primarily loving creatures, and this he grew up got out of the Bible. The Hebrew word for knowing is "Yadah" It has dozens of different usage, but it mixes the heart and the head into one thing, and sometimes to know with sexual intercourse. Sometimes in the Bible it's being loyal to someone, it's understanding another person's character, it's entering into a covenant.
This kind of knowing and knowing another person is not a detached intellectual process, it's an engaged emotional process. When I go around and meet the people we call weavers who are like the people we've met today, they have this, they really have the ability to look into somebody else and know them deeply. I've spent a lot of time being around these people, thinking, "How do they do it?" What exactly is this skill of meeting a stranger, someone who's unfortunate or someone who's more fortunate and really getting inside their heart and their head?" I've noticed a few things that are weavers often have, one, they've planted themselves down. They're not afraid to particularly have their own place, their somewheres are not anywheres.
My hero in this and my Messiah in life is a guy named Bruce Springsteen. He made two albums which turned successful, he made a third album, Born to Run, gigantic success. The normal thing to do after that success for his fourth album would have been to go global and become a global superstar. Instead, he took four years off and he wrote an album called Darkness on the Edge of Town, about freehold, New Jersey and Asbury Park, New Jersey. Instead of going big, he went back to his roots. It turns out if you stick with your roots, if you stick with your place, then people will come to you. I was in Madrid at a Springsteen concert, 65,000 young Spanish kids, and they're wearing T-shirts that say Highway Nine, or the Stone Pony, or Greasy Lake.
It's like Faulkner, if you build a place, if you root yourself, they'll they'll come to you, because they want to know what you represent, where you come from. I was at that concert, there were 65,000 Kids screaming, "I was born in the USA, I was born in the USA." I was like, "No, you weren't." The weavers we have, they've planted themselves down into place. The second thing they have though, is their social explorers. They love being the only of their kind in a room, they get energy from meeting people completely unlike themselves. I had a friend who graduated from UVA was going to go to Teach for America and didn't get in.
So she Googled "teach abroad" and some guy from Korea said, "We need a teacher." She told her parents there was some big organized program, took a plane to Seoul and then to a little fishing village, got there and there was nobody there to greet her. She spoke no Korean, she's sitting there, it's 11:00 at night, there's only one guy left in the airport aside from her. It's a punk, he leaves, the lights go out. At 3:00 in the morning, a van of five Korean guys pulls up and they say, "Are you our teacher?" Now, if my daughter did this I'd kill her, but she got in the van. And she spent the next 19 months teaching English in Korea. She developed this skill which a lot of weavers have: the ability to love being around, a social explorer, around people completely unlike yourself.
The third thing the weavers have done is they're suffering well. We all have moments in the valley and some people get broken in those moments, we get covered over, we get hardened over. Some people open up and get broken open. Paul Tillich, the 1950s theologian, said that what moments of suffering do is they carve through the floor of your basement of your soul and they reveal that cavity below that, and you carve through that floor and they reveal a cavity below. You see into depths of yourself you never knew existed and you realize that only spiritual and relational food can fill those depths. You just become much more open and much more vulnerable.
The other thing weavers have is great emotional sensitivity, they've educated their emotions. We all start with crude emotions, but some people who are emotionally transparent and are emotionally expert, understand their emotions to a fine detail. I once saw an interview with Taylor Swift on 60 Minutes and she was asked, "You play a lot of sad songs." Taylor Swift said, "There are actually 21 different kinds of sadness, there's your boyfriend dumps you sadness," and she played a tune, "then you lost your dog sadness," played a different tune, "your mom was mad at you sadness." What Taylor Swift is, she's an expert at sadness. Who would want to go through life with one kind of sadness when you could have 21 or one kind of joy when you could have 55?
Weavers understand the emotional dexterity and the emotional rhythm that goes through a relationship, the emotional unveiling that has to go through as vulnerabilities reveal to vulnerability. I reveal something to you, you hold it, you reveal something to me, I pause, you respect my paws. I throw myself at you, you respect me and hold me. They've got themselves out of the way so they're not thinking about themselves, they are thinking about that relationship. What we see is these skills of perceiving others, taking the time to understand others and then often knowing exactly what to say.
I have a friend whose daughter's in second grade and she was having a tough time. The middle of the year the teacher said to her, "You're really good at thinking before you speak." She felt completely known at that moment and it sort of turned around her whole year because she said, "The teacher really knows and respects me." My wife went to a place in Indianapolis called The Oaks Academy and one of the kids was acting out. The teacher said to the kid, "Your conscience must be really small today." The kid didn't know what his conscience was, but he knew he did not want a small one. When you see the weavers, you realize how hard it is to really see someone but if a lot of us if we think about our own lives, there are moments when we really either felt known or felt we knew someone.
A couple weeks, it was just a normal day in my house, my wife was standing by our front open door and we had an orchid by the door. She was just looking at the orchid, contemplating, probably mulling something and I was sitting at the dining room table just ... whatever I was doing. I looked up and I saw her there framed by the light coming in from behind the doorway, and she's looking at the orchid and it's just like, the person in your life you think, "I really know her."
It's that quality of deep knowledge that sweeps over you and make time go a little fluid. We all have some of that in our lives and it's a precious capacity, and it's a capacity where the other and self overlap. I once read a book by a guy named Douglas Hofstadter who teaches at Indiana University, he was a happily married man, his wife unfortunately died of a stroke when their kids were five and two.
He kept her picture on his dresser in this room and one day after her death, he looked at the dresser and the photo with special attention and he wrote this about what it felt like, "I looked at her face and looked so deeply that I felt I was behind her eyes and all at once I found myself saying, as tears flowed, 'that's me, that's me.' Those simple words brought back many thoughts that it had before about the fusion of our souls into one higher level entity, about the fact that the core of both ourselves they are identical hopes and dreams for our children and the notion that those hopes were not separate or distinct hopes, were just one hope. One clear thing that defined us both that wielded us into a unit, the kind of unit I dimly imagined before being married and having children. I realized though Kerala died, that core piece of her had not died at all, but had lived on very determinedly in my brain."
We talk about civil society and that sort of a sociological construct and we talk about repairing the social fabric and weaving, but every single act of weaving of civil society starts with this core act and we're not very good at it. My favorite description of community was written by Jane Jacobs in the West Village. She was looking down on her street and she saw, this was back in the late '50s or early '60s, and she saw a guy pulling a nine-year-old girl, and she didn't know if it was a kidnapping or just a father disciplining his girl. She said ... She was looking down from her second floor apartment, she said, "I better go down there and intervene just in case it's a kidnapping."
As she was about to go, she sees that the butcher has come out with the butcher shop, the fruit vendor has come out of the fruit stand, the locksmith has come out. She said, "That guy didn't realize it but he was surrounded." A community is just a system of seeing, it's a system of relationship and a system of people who are seeing each other. When I look at the honorees tonight, I just see people who have built programs, who've raised money, something around dance, something about the trades, but it's also ... It's really at the core, it's about that system of seeing, and that system of relationship. We have our label and the core belief philosophy of our program is that it's not just good people doing good things.
They represent a different set of values and a different culture than is predominant in America today, and they represent a set of ideas, they are movement that doesn't know it's a movement and that culture changes when a small group of people find a better way to live and the rest of us copy them. We don't have to be as heroic as the people on the stage, we just have to do something a little. If we all did something a little and shifted our values a little in their direction, we saw each other a little better, we'd have a much better political system, a much better economic system and our communities would be whole. Thank you.
Howard Husock: Thank you, David for putting this evening in perspective that way. Let's again have one round of applause for our honorees tonight. Thanks to all of you if you feel like opening your wallets for them, go ahead. Thank you all, we'll see you next year. Thank you again.