“Empathy is the soul of democracy.”

– George Lakoff, cognitive scientist

Human Rights Article 1 Requires Empathy Commitment

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Human Rights Article 29 Requires Mutual Responsibility Commitment

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Our Four Empathy Activities

We are a human rights go local community of practice. Every day we promote stronger America(ns), progressive markets, better futures, effective government, and mutual responsibility by practicing Four Empathy Activities. We:

Inwardly Digest

and use the latest brain insights of Dr. George Lakoff to frame daily caring conversations that promote human rights.


in weekly congressional hearings about how we apply Dr. Lakoff’s insights to advance caring policy directions.


caring policy directions through partnerships with ethical businesses, effective government task forces, and other civil society organizations.


others to join us and promote a politics of care.

Reframing around empathy IS social change.

Reframing around empathy IS social change, according to Dr. George Lakoff. And award-winning researcher Francesco Gino at Harvard’s Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative, calls reframing around empathy “breaking the rules for positive change.” Moreover, human rights thought leaders continuing education members apply their learning from Dr. Lakoff’s books to their human rights promotions. Furthermore, reframing around empathy is counterintuitive, especially if you’ve been harmed by anti-empathy frames. And reframing isn’t easy. Nevertheless, if we don’t learn to reframe around empathy, we’ll lose our freedoms, human rights, and our republic with all of its democratic institutions. Sign up for our founder’s emails below.

Dr. George Lakoff warned us about our empathy deficit

Dr. George Lakoff and his Rockridge Institute warned America about our empathy deficit in 1998. Not only that, Lakoff warned us about the growing domestic threat of anti-empathy authoritarianism. Moreover, long before the January 2021 insurrection on the US Capitol Building, Lakoff pointed to expanding authoritarian infrastructure. Furthermore, Lakoff warned us that conservatism’s authoritarian focus, funded by unethical corporations, helped dismantle public government.

Rockridge published its “progressive handbook” called Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, in 2006. In it, Dr. Lakoff wrote, “A dark cloud of authoritarianism looms over the nation. And conservatism makes it difficult to address progressive issues without a politics of care. Moreover, authoritarian conservatives have taken over the reins of government and have inhibited caring political debate for many years. Consequently, progressive ideals of empathic government must return to center stage in our national political discourse for real change to happen.

Progressive pro-empathy governance is a civic task for caring human beings and their representatives

Reframing our world around empathy will be neither easy nor quick—it will take years of work. But we can prevail if pro-empathy voters articulate the progressive vision because progressive political leaders cannot do it alone. And even though representatives and candidates are smart and well-intentioned, their short-term pressures are significant. They will need the help of progressive Americans. And when we trumpet our values throughout the nation, our progressive political leaders will have the backing they need to reframe around a politics of care more freely.”

Two years later, in 2008, Rockridge Institute closed its doors because of insufficient progressive financial support. 

The Empathy Surplus Network USA picked up the Rockridge Institute Mantel

The Empathy Surplus idea was launched in 2009 by our founder, Charles Watts, who had served on Dr. Lakoff’s Rockrige Nation online community advisory board. And today, through its Four Empathy Activities, the Empathy Surplus Network USA carries on Dr. Lakoff’s idea of ongoing thought leaders continuing education in a collective way. Sign up for Watts’s emails below.

This pro-empathy governance work is important because democracy continues to be threatened in two ways. First, too many progressives don’t know that negating anti-empathy conservative language, i.e., using conservative language to argue against conservatism, only strengthens conservatism. Meanwhile, conservative think tanks offer ongoing continuing education to unethical businessmen and women and their representatives. Their main focus is to inhibit progressive nurturing parent core values of empathy for and responsibility to all human beings and advance conservative, strict father core values of authority, obedience to that authority, and harsh punishment when the authority is disobeyed.

And second, extreme anti-empathy conservatism corrupted corporations, and their cruel think tanks like ALEC and the Center for Christian Virtue, both with roots in Ohio, continue to threaten insurrection.

Progressive voters must embrace reframing around empathy as the social change it is

Conservatism’s ongoing anti-empathy threat to democracy’s politics of care manifests itself all too often by well-intentioned but misguided progressives in both major US political parties. In fact, too many progressives ignore cognitive science and embrace a conservative idea that suggests “playing politics” should be shunned – remember Reagan’s assertion that “government is the problem.” Moreover, with the help of dozens of conservative think tanks, launched by US Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s memo, conservatism’s followers have applied their core authoritarian values to political discourse very well, and progressivism’s followers have poorly applied their core empathic values to political discourse. Our founder offers Lakoff pro-empathy strategies in his weekly emails. You can sign up below.

America needs caring human beings and representatives who can govern the debate with empathy and effectively

The Empathy Surplus Network USA is dedicated to promoting effective and caring political and moral discourse in ethical business and civil society organizations and government task forces. We are glad you are here because we need progressive human rights advocates like you to help defend our 1st Amendment human right to civil discourse. Because if we lose a politics of care, all we have left is armed conflict to settle our differences. Therefore, we believe caring human beings are the solution. Please check out our human rights thought leadership training.

Caring Citizen Solution Day Keynote Speaker George Lakoff

April 2021 YouTube Video

Please consider joining the Empathy Surplus Network weekly conversations on what you’re reading by exploring our Human Rights Thought Leaders page. You could also explore the Human Rights Pocketbook Venture page to learn about human rights education in your school district. Finally, you can sign up for weekly emails below to stay in touch.

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Subscribers receive several emails per month that sometimes become blog posts.

Your Donations Support Thought Leaders Continuing Ed

Caring Thought Leaders Core Values


the soul of democracy


both personal and social


to govern with empathy and responsibility


Pro-Empathy Philosophy

Stronger America(ns) 

reframes stronger military

Progressive Markets 

reframes free markets

Better Futures

reframes lower taxes

Effective Government

reframes less government

Mutual Responsibility

reframes family values

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.

Annual Reports

2021 Annual Report

Amazon Smile Donations

The Empathy Surplus Network USA is a charitable human rights thought leaders continuing education collective headquartered in Wilmington, Ohio. We fulfill our mission with adult weekly forums and partnerships with teachers and organizations to distribute complimentary copies of the Illustrated Universal Declaration of Human Rights to K-12 and college students. Donations are exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(a) and described in section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL compact resources

Pro-Empathy Freedom Declaration

I am a progressive -
a caring human being
in a strong, diverse community
of nurturing families.
I am a pro-empathy voter and
govern with empathy for and
responsibility to others.
I here highly resolve that
this nation 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
progressive human rights
advocates and
pro-empathy voters,
we mutually pledge
to each other
our Lives, our Fortunes,
and our sacred Honor.
+ + +
Pro-Empathy Freedom
Declaration Toolkit

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