Human Rights

Empathy Education Framing

“Empathy is the soul of democracy.”

George Lakoff, cognitive scientist and linguist

Non-Partisan Local Human Rights Values Education Is for Pro-Empathy Voters and Their Representatives

Human Rights Articles 1 and 2 Requires Commitment of Empathy for the Born

ARTICLE 1 – 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. ARTICLE 2 – Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, BIRTH or other status.

Human Rights Articles 29 and 30 Requires Responsibility to the Born and a Commitment to Protect and Empower Our Mutual Human Rights and Freedoms

ARTICLE 29 – (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. ARTICLE 30 – Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth therein.

Our Four Empathy Activities

The Empathy Surplus Network USA is a human rights education goes local community of practice. By practicing Four Empathy Activities, we promote stronger neighbors, circular markets, better futures, effective government, and mutual responsibility. We:

Inwardly Digest

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


in adult weekly forums about how we apply Dr. Lakoff’s insights to advance human rights education.


human rights education through partnerships with ethical businesses, effective government task forces, and other civil society organizations.

a invite

others to join us and promote the politics of a caring society.

Framing human rights 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.

Join our mailing list.

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

Caring Thought Leaders Core Values


the soul of democracy


both personal and social


to govern with empathy and responsibility

Pro-Empathy Freedom Voters

Cultivate Empathy with

Culture Diplomacy S.H.O.E.S.

S - Show up at public and private meetings to cultivate empathy

H - Help elected officials cultivate empathy in civic tasks

O - Organize to cultivate empathy in civic tasks

E - Educate about human rights empathy, the soul of democracy

S - Start each day to publicly cultivate empathy

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.

Pro-Empathy Pledge to the People of the World

(Recited while holding a neighbor's hand. People from other countries may insert the name of their country.)

I pledge my care to the people of the world

and to my neighbors in the United States of America

and to our human rights, which I defend and promote,

one world governed with empathy and responsibility,

with liberty and justice for all.

Empathy Surplus Network USA is a 501c3 local human rights empathy education community of practice that applies the latest brain insights of George Lakoff to moral and political discourse to protect human rights with the rule of law. To reverse our national empathy deficit, we invite you to join our culture diplomacy initiative to make empathy, the soul of democracy and ethical business, the center of public and private debate. 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 -
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.

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