10 People Who Changed My Life

There are hundreds more I could honor. These 10 are all people I knew personally. I chose them somewhat randomly, basically who came top of mind first. I am grateful to all of them even if the interaction was painful when it happened.

  1. My mom, whose commitment to racial justice extended to desegregating the apartment building we lived in. She was also a tester for the Urban League, making sure that when a black family was told an apartment was already rented that it was really rented—by applying to live there.

    Walking my mother, Gloria Yoshida, into her 65th-birthday surprise party, 1998

    Walking my mother, Gloria Yoshida, into her 65th-birthday surprise party, 1998

  2. The speaker I heard when I 12, at my first peace demonstration, who told me the Vietnam war was undeclared—and brought my false reality crashing down around me.
  3. The idiot who made me sit in the children’s section of a movie theater with my full-price adult ticket (also age 12) and gave me my first experience of discrimination-based injustice (for being part of a class of people). I started a boycott of that cinema that has now continued for 48 years, and thus had the first experience of recognizing that I had power to change things.
  4. Mrs. Ehrlich of the Bronx High School of Science English Department in the 1970s, who believed the lie I’d told that I had turned in an assignment. Horrified, she said she’d never lost a student paper before. I felt intense guilt and realized that my action had hurt someone innocent. I’ve done my best not to repeat that and to take responsibility for my actions even when I don’t like the consequences.
  5. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Gross of Westchester Day School in the 1960s, who recognized that I was already a good reader and sat me in the back of the room with a 4th grade geography text while she inflicted Sally-Dick-and-Jane on the rest of the class. I still love reading, still love maps, and that was probably the first time I recognized how fascinating the world is, how people lived so differently in different parts of it.
  6. The college classmate who yelled at me that I was extremely and consistently selfish. It hurt like hell at the time, but on reflection, I realized he was right. And I changed my behavior! (Years later, I went up to him at a reunion and thanked him. He didn’t even remember the incident.)
  7. Dr. Jeffrey Lant, who was the first person to help me discover you-centered, benefit-focused marketing.
  8. Dean Cycon, CEO of Dean’s Beans, who combined the strongest moral compass and the best sense of humor of any business owner I know. (I never got to meet the late Ray Anderson; he might have topped Dean in his commitment).
  9. Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, who started a whole social movement after mandatory retirement forced her out of a quiet job within the Presbyterian Church.
  10. Pete Seeger, who was probably the first to show me that the arts could change people’s minds and create action for social and environmental justice.

Green/social change business profitability expert Shel Horowitz shows businesses how to turn poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance–??while making a good profit. An international speaker and bestselling, award-winning author, his 10th book is Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World.

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