About Us


Caring citizen thought leaders are the solution.

Since 2014, Empathy Surplus Project has been committed to the UN Global Compact corporate responsibility initiative and its ten principles in the areas of human rights, living work and leisure, climate survival, and anti-corruption of government.

We especially focus on partnering with individual Rotarians. We promote the re-establishment of the 2009 Collaboration between Rotary International and the Global Compact outlined in this joint letter to Rotary District Governors.

Our Mission Strengthens A Human Rights Expectation

“To educate a man is to unfit him to be a slave.”

—Frederick Douglass (1818-1895),
escaped slave, abolitionist, author

“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

Caring citizens are the solution.

Today’s challenge is how to reverse the empathy deficit in the brains of so many people, as well as dismantling the systems that inhibit an empathy surplus. The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is a community of practice. Every day we promote a government of, by, and for people, progressive markets, and mutual responsibility through Four Empathic Activities. We:

  1. INWARDLY DIGEST and use the work of Dr. George Lakoff every day to frame caring conversations that promote human rights.
  2. INVEST in weekly conversations in our online educational communities of practice about Dr. Lakoff’s work and to identify caring policy direction frames.
  3. IMPLEMENT those caring policy direction frames by governing debate on social media and through partnerships with ethical business, civil society, and government task forces.
  4. INVITE others to join us to promote effective government of, by, and for people, progressive markets, and mutual responsibility.

Why Four Empathic Activities?

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.”

The Four Empathic Activities focus ESP members on human well-being, which is the subject of progressive morality and politics. Empathy is the soul of democracy, citizens caring for one another, leading to freedom and equality for all. Cognitive linguists now know that empathy in government can be strengthened through the consistent use of empathic language. The Four Empathic Activities keeps our members focused on creating empathic experiences.

In contrast, there is a conservative moral hierarchy, which renders equality unattainable. Death valley conservatism consistently uses un-empathic language to inhibit and dismantle an effective government of, by, and for people, progressive markets, and mutual responsibility. A lack of empathy is the soul of authoritarians, citizens fighting one another, leading to slavery and inequality for most.

Cognitive scientist Dr. George Lakoff identified two Nation-as-Family metaphors that currently dominate American thought – the nation as nurturant parents or the nation as a strict father. The language of metaphors are also used unconsciously in ethical business, public government task forces, and caring society organizations. Consequently, people are morally complex and, for the most part, unconscious of their core governing values. Caring citizens are solutions ONLY if they are effective thought leaders, who can effectively articulate the value of governing with empathy.

ESP is a 501(c)3, non-partisan, not-for-profit, charitable, membership, collective education organization. ESP members strengthen caring citizens thought leadership excellence. We promote effective government, progressive markets, mutual responsibility, stronger people, and better futures. Join us.

Caring citizen thought leaders are the solution.

You can find caring citizens everywhere, especially in government task forces, ethical businesses, and civil society organizations. The Preamble of the UN Charter states that

“We the people 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.”

We hope caring citizens will help us fulfill the vision of our parents and grandparents and join our human rights education efforts.

We are especially reaching out to Rotarians and Lions, because 50 Rotarians and 3 Lions helped to write the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California, after World War II in June of 1945.

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Our Declaration to Build a Caring Society

I am a caring citizen.

I occupy compassion.

I here highly resolve that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for 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 one another our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Meet Our Board

Charles M. Watts

Charles M. Watts

Founder and president

Born in Illinois and raised in Mississippi, “Chuck” lives in Wilmington, Ohio, with his wife and they have traveled extensively abroad. A business graduate from Mississippi State University in 1972, he earned his MDiv degree from Sewanee in 1977. A social entrepreneur and community organizer/educator at heart and active in the public square, Chuck served The Episcopal Church as a bi-stipendiary pastor from 1977-1990 in Tennesse, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio. Focused on community service, 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. Chuck embraced cognitive science and linguistics through Dr. George Lakoff’s bestselling book Don’t Think of an Elephant in 2004. He served on Lakoff’s Rockridge Nation online community board of advisors from 2005 to 2008 when it closed. Chuck founded the Empathy Surplus Campaign in 2009 – now Empathy Surplus Project Foundation – to continue thought leadership educational efforts started by Dr. Lakoff. 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 focuses on a new metric of wealth as clean energy available to all the earth’s people. Anita supports a resource-based, caring, circular economy filled with ethical businesses and poison-free communities. She has worked in Saudi Arabia, and most recently in Guyana’s wetlands and the Guiana Shield Rainforest and Rupununi savannah. 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, which describes how lateral power transforms energy, the economy, and the world. 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

Kathleen Caffrey

Kathleen Caffrey

Ambassador, 1st Empathy Surplus Congress

Kathleen is a Project Manager in Dayton, Ohio, working to bring fairness and empathy to the current system to help those who have been hurt due to COVID-19. She specializes in non-profits, arts and humanities, education, and progressive causes. The Communication Director of Our Revolution Ohio, Kathleen specializes in networks, power mapping, building liaisons, and community outreach. She earned her anthropology degree in 2016 from Wright State University. Kathleen’s presence on the board represents an active thought leadership education partnership between the Empathy Surplus Project Foundation and Our Revolution Ohio. Email her at kathleen.caffrey@empathysurplus.com.

A Letter from the Board

 When we consider the future, the collaborative vision of our parents and grandparents after World War II still resonates with us. That generation called the world and future generations to collaborate for peace. 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.”


Empathy is the soul of our democratic institutions and the foundation of any effective republic. You have to have empathy to collaborate well. The empathy deficit we currently have in society, government, and the global economy was created over the last fifty years by those who reject empathy as a core governing value.

Despite a groundswell of empathic voices emerging, we must double down on empathy building. It’s all hands on deck. 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. That’s why we hope you will consider joining us in adult collective education of caring citizen thought leaders to build the empathy surplus needed in our local spheres of influence.


Yes. We did say ongoing collective education. 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. It came with a 25 minute DVD. Dr. Lakoff directed his readers to check out his then think tank, The Rockridge Institute. The next year the Rockridge Institute launched Rockridge Nation, an on-line collective education community of practice. Participants could, without cost to themselves, 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 on-line community’s board of advisors. We seek to continue that offering.

Fast forward to 2020 and the Empathy Surplus Project Foundation (ESPF), with Dr. Lakoff’s mentorship and encouragement, is in its eleventh 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 on-line and embrace our Four Empathic 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. 


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.


Yes. We have the science. For too long it has been used by extreme conservatives to inhibit empathy in government and our economy. We know what to do to advance effective government and progressive markets through mutual responsibility. And the most important thing we must do is to talk continuously about the empathy surplus that we want in 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 2nd, 5th, and 9th 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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George Lakoff's Resources

The basic idea is this: It is free and open to all. We 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.  The process is bottom up.

We also offer this framing service to activist organizations, media folks, and elected officials and their staffs.

Your Donations Strengthen Caring Thought Leadership Education

The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is a charitable collective thought leadership education organization headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio that encourages its stakeholders to inwardly digest and use the work of Dr. George Lakoff every day to frame caring conversations that promote human rights. Donations are exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(a) and described in section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.


Unrestricted Giving Link

Clinton County, Ohio, Human Rights Pocketbook Venture Link

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