About Us


Climate survival is the strategic reason the world needs more empathy

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. 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.

Caring citizens are solutions ONLY if they are effective thought leaders. ESP is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, charitable, membership, collective education organization. ESP members strengthen caring citizen thought leadership to promote effective government and progressive markets through mutual responsibility.

Caring citizen thought leaders are the solution.

You can find caring citizens everywhere, especially in government task forces, ethical businesses, and caring 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 consider becoming monthly human rights progressives to remind us that together we can make progress for better life standards that expand freedoms.

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. Learn More.

View Our YouTube Channel

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.

A Letter from the Board

When we consider the future, the collaborative vision of our parents after World War II still resonates with us. That generation called the world and future generations to collaborate. 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 democracy and the foundation of any effective republic. You have to have empathy to collaborate well. The empathy deficit we currently have in 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. Ironically, most people, Rotarians included, are unaware of Rotary’s contribution to the UN’s establishment, and the potential for partnerships. We are receiving invitations to dialogue with both groups that require travel and lodging. We have no employees – yet – and none of our board receives a salary. Consider becoming a monthly human rights education donor with an amount of your choosing at this link. Or consider an ad sponsorship in our pocketbook version of the Illustrated Universal Declaration of Human Rights – email info@empathysurplus.com

The second need is for complimentary pocketbook copies of the Illustrated Universal Declaration of Human Rights to share when dialoguing with potential partners. A box of 25 that we can use at our discretion, either physically or through the mail, is $10/mo annually. Become a monthly human rights education donor at this link.

Get In Touch

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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.

Reframing our conversations is social change. The Empathy Surplus Project Foundation is a charitable collective 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. Your donations help strengthen human rights education in our online communities of practice and our partnerships with ethical businesses that participate in the UN Global Compact, civil society organizations like Rotary, and local government task forces. We promote effective government of, by, and for people, progressive markets, and mutual responsibility through Four Empathic Activities, described on our home page. For example, $10 per month allows us to distribute 25 Human Rights Pocketbooks to potential stakeholders every year. Please donate monthly today.

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