About Our Caring Thought Leadership


Striving for effective thought leadership by embracing George Lakoff’s empathy activities.

A caring thought leadership movement requires caring thought followers of George Lakoff. 

“Everyone has duties to the community in which the free and full development of his personality is possible.”

—Article 29, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

About our caring thought leadership

Click on photo for Getty Image above for story on how our global carbon pollution blanket helps to create killer hurricanes.

Why Four Empathy Activities for Collective Thought Leadership Training?

Effective thought leadership requires embracing the latest insights of the brain that frames empathy activities. And just stating “the facts,” although important, is ineffective thought leadership. Moreover, Elisabeth Wehling, cognitive scientist and linguist, and her mentor, George Lakoff, in their newest bestseller, Your Brain’s Politics, writes: “The experiences we make as we live in this world result in physical changes to our brains. (That’s because) all reasoning is physical. We understand the world via our brains, which are part of our bodies. Any reasoning process is always a PHYSICAL process. In the cognitive sciences, this mechanism is called Hebbian learning. Experiential correlations lead to strong neural and cognitive connections. And so our cognitive apparatuses are heavily influenced by the experiences we make (emphasis ESP) in our lives.”

Four empathy activities inform collective, caring thought leadership

The Four Empathy Activities teaches Empathy Surplus Congress members caring thought leadership through collective caring governance experiences. And empathy is the soul of our republic and its democratic institutions. Moreover, caring citizens and their representatives enhance effective government when they collaborate to protect and empower one another equally. Furthermore, cognitive linguists now know that this American ideal in government can be expanded through the ongoing, repetitive, and consistent narrative. And true patriots never compromise their duty to care that protects and empowers all Americans equally.


Our board members strive to be first followers in our communities of George Lakoff’s caring thought leadership work.

Teaching empathy activities is the core of all of cognitive scientist Dr. George Lakoff’s thought leadership training. In fact, he has identified two Nation-as-Family metaphors that currently dominate American thought. First, there is the empathic nation as nurturant parents model of governance. Second, there is the un-empathic, punishing nation as a strict father model of governance. Moreover, the progressive empathic nation worldview strengthens democracy. And the conservative cruel worldview dismantles democracy. Furthermore, Lakoff’s caring thought leadership language of metaphors is also used unconsciously in ethical business,  government task forces, and civil society organizations. Consequently, people are morally complex and, for the most part, unconscious of their core governing values. Therefore, collective caring thought leadership training is for people who want to become MORE empathic in their leadership. Join us.

About our caring thought leadership

L-R: Dr. George Lakoff hosts our founder, Charles Watts, at Dr. Lakoff’s home in Berkeley, California, in 2013.

Meet Our Caring Thought Leadership Board

Charles M. Watts

Charles M. Watts

Founder and CEO

“Chuck” embraced collective thought leadership training through cognitive scientist Dr. George Lakoff’s bestselling book Don’t Think of an Elephant in 2004. And he served on Lakoff’s Rockridge Nation online community board of advisors from 2005 to 2008 when it closed. Moreover, Chuck founded the Empathy Surplus Campaign in 2009 – now Empathy Surplus Project Foundation – to continue collective, caring thought leadership training efforts started by Dr. Lakoff. He earned his business degree from Mississippi State University in 1972, and his MDiv degree from Sewanee in 1977. A social entrepreneur at heart and active in the public square, Chuck established an Episcopal Church in Mississippi, and a clothing bank and Rotary club in Ohio. A financial advisor with Edward Jones for 30 years and a limited partner, he helped launch more than 20 branches. He lives with his wife in Wilmington, Ohio. Email him at chuck.watts@empathysurplus.com.

Anita Lewis

Anita Lewis

Co-founder and secretary

Anita Lewis, RN, BSN, is President and CEO of I AM CLEAN ENERGY, INC. She supports a resource-based, caring, circular economy filled with ethical businesses and poison-free communities. Anita’s energies address CDG, Circular Development Goal #6 – WASH, water, sanitation, and hygiene – especially in Guyana’s wetlands and the Guiana Shield Rainforest and Rupununi savannah, as well as Malawi and the Miami Valley in Southwest Ohio, where she lives. A graduate of Julienne HS and Wright State University, School of Nursing, Anita is an Affiliate Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. A Greene County, Ohio, resident since 1977, she established Roaring Brook Farm, A Demonstration Farm For Clean Energy, in 1986. Anita has served on the Greene Soil & Water Conservation Board as an Associate Supervisor since 2000. Her current favorite read is The Third Industrial Revolution by Jeremy Rifkin. Email her at anita.lewis@empathysurplus.com

Miriam Speaight

Miriam Speaight

Co-founder and treasurer

A businesswoman and farmer in Wilmington, Ohio, for more than 20 years, Miriam is also a recorded pastor in the Quaker tradition, as well as a Reiki master.  Email her at miriam.speaight@empathysurplus.com

Greg Kennedy

Greg Kennedy

Ambassador, 1st Empathy Surplus Congress

A resident of Northeast Ohio Greg has been an HR professional for over 25 years. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Management with a concentration on Human Resources from Indiana Wesleyan University. Greg has a coaching certification from the Neuroleadership Institute and a coaching certification from the Institute of Social + Emotional Intelligence, mostly focused on career coaching.  Currently, he’s working as a Sr HR Business Partner for a Fortune 500 company that specializes in Insurance products. Greg serves as the president-elect of the Empathy Surplus Congress and has aspirations to be involved in local Painesville politics. 

A Letter from the Board

Thought leadership that promotes the duty to care is more important than ever. And we are humbled by the empathy activities of our parents and grandparents after World War II to enshrine the duty to care in the UN Charter. In fact, in the UN Charter Preamble in 1945, they wrote in part,

“We the peoples of the United Nations determined… to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedoms… have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”


Thought leadership that promotes the duty to care is more important than ever. And empathy is the soul of our democratic institutions and the foundation of any effective republic. Moreover, we collaborate more effectively with empathy. Furthermore, the empathy deficit we currently have in society, government, and the global economy were created over the last fifty years by those who reject empathy as a core governing value.


Despite a groundswell of empathic thought leadership emerging, we must have all hands on deck for empathy building. And the human rights to life and freedom in the context of our climate emergency are the strategic reasons the world’s people and governments need more empathy. Consequently, we hope you will consider joining us in ongoing collective thought leadership training to build the empathy surplus needed in our local centers of influence.


Thought leadership that promotes the duty to care is more important than ever. Yes. We did say ongoing collective thought leadership training. In fact, in 2004 our founder read Dr. George Lakoff’s 1st edition of Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, which came with a 25 minute DVD. Moreover, Dr. Lakoff directed his readers to check out his think tank, The Rockridge Institute. And, the next year the Rockridge Institute launched Rockridge Nation, an online collective training community of practice. Furthermore, participants could read and discuss the material to practice how to govern their particular sphere of influence with strength, empathy for, and responsibility to others. Our founder served on that online community’s board of advisors. We are determined to continue that collective training.


Fast forward to 2021 and the Empathy Surplus Project Foundation (ESPF), with Dr. Lakoff’s mentorship and encouragement, is in its 12th year. In the tradition of the Rockridge Nation, ESPF continues to offer a much-needed online community of practice in the community section of its Facebook page. We hope you will consider joining us online and embrace our Four EmpathY Activities and start reading and inwardly digesting and discussing Dr. Lakoff’s insights into the brain on applying empathy and responsibility to the public square. 


Thought leadership that promotes the duty to care is more important than ever. Yes. We do need to be involved in the electoral process. Every election at every level is a choice between a more empathic government versus an authoritarian government trying to dismantle it. Yet, more importantly, we need to unite behind both cognitive science and linguistics. Now is the time, to know and understand our empathic values and reframe the debate around empathy. Dr. Lakoff’s Introduction to his bestselling Don’t Think of an Elephant is entitled “Reframing IS Social Change.” If we are going to change the world, we must change our language, and repeat our language, to describe the empathic world we want.


Thought leadership that promotes the duty to care is more important than ever. Yes. We have the science to make our “Duty to Care” stronger. For too long the science has been used by extreme conservatives to inhibit our duty to care about effective government and progressive markets. And the most important thing we must do is to talk continuously about the empathy surplus to care for our world. We can use cognitive science for good. I hope you will consider how you can help. We have two needs for donations.


The first need is for help for us to physically engage in dialogue with our partners in the Global Compact and in Rotary to promote human rights. Ironically, most people, Rotarians included, are unaware of Rotary’s contribution to the UN’s establishment, and the potential for partnerships. We have no employees – yet – and none of our board receives a salary. Consider a monthly donation at this link. Or consider a monthly ad sponsorship in our pocketbook version of the Illustrated Universal Declaration of Human Rights – email info@empathysurplus.com


Our second need is for distribution partners in our Human Rights Pocketbook Venture, a positive peace initiative, launched in 2018. We want to distribute a personal pocketbook copy of the UDHR described above to every teacher and student in kindergarten, 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th-grader in our member spheres of influence, as well as to 1st-year college students.

The first Human Rights Pocketbook Venture was in Clinton County, Ohio, where we have invited county commissioners to join the UN Global Compact every year since 2015. You can help fund that venture or start one of your own by using the GET IN TOUCH function below. Thank you for your consideration.

Caring citizens are the solution,


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Structural Diagram

Caring Thought Leadership Core Values

  • Empathy
  • Responsibility (personal & mutual)
  • Strength (to act responsibly on one's empathy)

Ten-Word Caring Philosophy

  • Stronger Americans
  • Progressive Markets
  • Better Futures
  • Effective Government
  • Mutual Responsibility

The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is a charitable collective thought leadership training federation headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio. It fulfills its Four Empathic Activities through member communities of practice called Empathy Surplus Congresses and its working groups. Donations are exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(a) and described in section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Please consider using our free framing guide - Lakoff's Words to Use to Frame Our Solution.

George Lakoff's Resources

The basic idea is this: Dr. Lakoff's resources are free and open to all. He will provide framing suggestions regularly over social media, and whoever receives them can decide how to use them, and whether to share them or retweet them.  Dr. Lakoff's process is bottom-up.

Dr. Lakoff also offers this framing service to activist organizations, media folks, and elected officials and their staff.

UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL compact resources

Caring Citizen Declaration

I am a caring citizen.
I govern with empathy.
I here highly resolve that
this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth
of freedom - and
that government
of the people,
for the people,
by the people
shall not perish
from the earth.
I am a person
with human rights.
I care for my own
Safety and Happiness
and that of others.
I am the solution
to expanding life,
liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness.
And for the support
of this declaration,
joining caring citizens
known and unknown,
we mutually pledge
to each other
our Lives, our Fortunes,
and our
sacred Honor.

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