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I think the very first thing you do is you turn inward and you sit with yourself and really think about what hurts your heart when you look out at the world.
What what is it that makes you feel that's not right? There has to be a better way. And if you start there, then you've identified your purpose.
Hey, everyone, welcome back to you on purpose, the number one health podcast in the world, thanks to each and every single one of you who come back every week to listen, learn and grow. Now, one of the things that I love about the podcast is I get to connect with people that I've followed for a while and I've seen that I've appreciated admired their work from afar. And then somehow we find a way to each other and get to connect and get to find out about their incredible lives, their journeys and what they've been through.
And today's guests are Debra Messing and Madonna Diagne for the show. Now, Debra Messing is the best known for her Emmy Award winning role as Grace Adler on NBC's Emmy winning and Golden Globe nominated comedy series Will and Grace. She's also starred in The Mysteries of Laura and Smash, both on NBC. Her film credits include the award winning Searching Along Came Polly and the Wedding Date. Nothing will return to Broadway this fall, starring in Noah Haloes new play Birthday Candles.
Now, Madonna Diniz, the creator and co-founder of I Am Voter, a non-partisan movement that aims to create a cultural shift around voting and civic engagement. Its mission is to inspire and excite this generation by making voter identity mainstream. Madonna began her career as a corporate attorney at top international law firm Paul Hastings transitioned into work as a talent agent and then helped launch the Rachel Zoe collection and lead the company's initiatives in business development, digital media, strategic investments, licensing, publishing, endorsements and television production now.
I'm so happy to have them both on the podcast today, so please give them a very big warm on purpose. Welcome to the host of the podcast. The dissent is produced by Debra Messing, Madonna Deputy Eric First and the media. Welcome, Deborah and Madonna.
Deborah Madonna, thank you so much for having us here.
I hope you can feel my excitement and energy through the screen. I wish I could give you both a big hug and applause. Welcome back. Thank you so much for making the time to do this. Well, we we feel you through the screen. Good.
I'm glad. I'm glad. And like I was saying to you just before we started you, you're only the second double act we've ever done. And I always find the dynamic of having dynamic individuals really exciting. So please feel free to talk over each other, to collaborate, throw your energy everywhere you like this, there's no rules. So please feel free to tell me to stop talking as well.
But I want to start off I want to start off because I think people are so much right now seeking connection and friendship and so many of us have been struggling with loneliness or feeling disconnected or even being surrounded by lots of people, but not feeling like they're around our people right now. And want to find out about how you both connected and how you've continued to stay connected, Deborah. You said you're in New York and went down to L.A. How have you stayed connected during this time?
So how did you meet and have you stayed connected?
Well, Mandana and I met for a second about 15 years ago. And then several years ago, we were both on Nantucket Island for Fourth of July. We had a mutual friend and I walked into the house and I saw her and I was like, I know you. Madonna, however, let twenty four hours go by without ever even acknowledge the fact that we knew each other.
I just didn't want to be the person that goes up to the famous person. And it's like, hi, do you remember we met 15 years ago? Like, I don't remember the person I met 15 years ago, so I didn't say anything. And then she came up to me. She was like, how did you not say that? We bar? And then we spent the entire vacation together. I was like, I think I was probably one of the only families that had little kids.
And Debra was just like was so loving and nurturing with our kids and playing with them.
And we watched a lot of TV together during the vacation. And then we both, I think, realized how political we are and how passionate we are about activism. And so I think that's really what started as kind of like the foundation of our friendship. And I was really beginning to start the work on I am a voter and Debra was just incredibly helpful in helping build and it with me and this group of amazing women that work on the campaign every day.
So I think that's kind of how it all started.
And then we fell in love. And because I was filming Will and Grace out in Los Angeles, basically we were we were spending every weekend together I based. I basically was adopted by her family while I was out there and, you know, the last three years have been really difficult spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, because of how divisive everything is. And we just started very organically. Sending each other articles and links to people who inspired us with the intention of sort of lifting each other up, because when when it gets overwhelming, sometimes you just feel like all the vitality just drains your body and you feel like, I don't know, can I keep going?
And so these links and these people reveal, oh, my God, did you see this person? Oh, wait, wait, I have something. And then I have this, like, pile of names of extraordinary people.
And then there was one second to Debra, but until 6:00 in the morning every night. Deborah doesn't sleep at all. So I don't wake up at 6:00 in the morning because that's when my daughters wake me up and I will have a library of like one hundred of the best cat and dog videos ever on this planet from elephant in Africa that she has been monitoring for the last two years, who just had a baby or took a bath. And then it'll be these incredible activists from around the world that are doing amazing things.
And just by the way, the spectrum of the content that she sends my way is pretty spectacular.
But we realize how important it was to have these role models and to see the incredible things that other people are doing, because I think all of us have very different expectations of what it means to be an activist or what it means to be someone that gives back. And and I think ultimately, one day we thought, like, we should dispel some of the misperceptions around what it is to be an activist, because it's something like going to Doyle, who is a friend of ours, who was on our first episode, said activism is something you do in conversation on the phone with your mom at the bus stop in a PTA meeting.
Like you can be an activist in so many ways, you don't have to start an organization. And and that, I think really like sat with us for a long time and we're such a nerd.
So, like for us, these people are like the biggest celebrities in the world.
And it kind of started as a joke, like, hey, if we launched a podcast, we could meet these people, we could make them talk to us and we would get them to them, sit in a room and answer all of our questions.
And so that was like the first thing we don't have to air. They'll never know. Like, let's just say we have a podcast and we could just email all these people from around the world and just be like, can you talk to us? And then we really started to put a list together. And our friend, your media and I emailed her and I was like, hey, if we wanted to do this, would you do it? And she's like, of course.
And then all of a sudden we had a podcast and we put together like our dream list of who we wanted to speak with. And I think it was really important for us with this goal of kind of really showing what activism is, was showing people that are challenging and confronting the status quo in so many different subjects to whether it was like gun safety, environmental issues, LGBTQ rights, animal rescue, that there's so many ways for people to show up.
And people said, yes, which was incredible. And these conversations just like completely blew our minds.
There's so many videos I have of Deborah with her jaw just open, like on the floor for ten minutes at a time when I would be like, hello.
And the thing that that I can honestly say is we are such big nerds that we have no filter. So if these people say something extraordinary, we are screaming or we're crying or, you know, it's just we are responding as if anybody in your audience was in the room and responding.
Basically, we have zero chill and we realize, you know, it was it was going to be launching during the pandemic. And we just really it was important that we put something out there that was putting light into the world, that was giving people, you know, some permission, some courage, inspiration, empowerment to just take the first step, not to not to get beyond one step. And and so far, the feedback has been has been really amazing.
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That's incredible. Thank you.
So I can totally see why you work just electric to watch the resume go. I like this is amazing. I wish I was in Nantucket that weekend and got to spend time with both of you. Better tell me about how I find that. And I love the way you both speak about activism. I feel like it's very refreshing. And at the same time, I do feel that it's it's very real and genuine and authentic to who you are and.
I guess my first question is you said that you both just sparked and found that you both had this activism in common, but I find, like for a lot of people, they actually struggle to share their opinions and beliefs and their values with each other, especially even in small circles where you could be living with someone or friends with someone and not have a clue what their personal opinion or belief or activism is on the subject. I don't know if you hear that, but I hear a lot of that.
You have a community of like I just had no idea that this person felt this way or I had no idea that my mother and my father and my cousin or whatever it is, had had this challenge or limiting belief or battle. How did how have you both encouraged open, honest conversations, even when you disagree with each other or have different views? Or how have you encouraged other people to just start having those, like you said, Glenn? And by the way, I loved Lemon, and she's been on the podcast, too.
And it's. Yeah, in in the definition she gave up, like at the bus stop on a phone call. How do you encourage people to stop feeling like they can have those conversations with confidence? We'll ask you this, because you your journey to America, I think, shaped a lot of how you.
Yeah, I was actually going to say two things. I think on one hand and so many times when you're an activist, like you just feel like you're standing naked in the middle of the street, because every year I know that my beliefs irritate some of my friends and some of my family members. And I'm such a people pleaser. So for me to walk into a room knowing that I've offended somebody or someone doesn't agree with me and to be able to be OK with that, I think was a very long journey for me to become OK with.
So I understand the hesitation because you don't want to irritate people like we're kind of we're bred to be peacekeeper's culturally. I was always raised that way, too. I came from like a very traditional family. And if you're a woman and you're supposed to be the peacekeeper of the family. And so it took me a long time to be OK with it. But at the same time, I think also knowing that I'm entering a room as myself was incredibly liberating to not pretend to be something that I was I think my whole life I had struggled with.
I have to be perfect. And so I created these presentations. I would there was the representative of Madonna that you would meet and she was perfect. And she was so smart and she was like the coolest person ever, but it was so fake. And keeping it up was driving me insane. And so I I understand the fear of speaking up because you know that you will disappoint some people. But it is so liberating to actually be who you are.
And it's so weird. It's so empowering. Like, I feel more powerful than I've ever felt. I have I have acquired incredible people in my life. You are now going to be my friend.
But and you all of a sudden feel like you're surrounded by all these other amazing people.
And that is kind of how you that security is is so refreshing. I came to this country to Deborah's point. We came as religious refugees. So I was about six years old and that was very formative. I think I was always raised with this hustle of just like fake it till you make a pretend to be America and pretend to fit in, like, just hustle, hustle, hustle. No one's here to save you if you fall. And so I think that made me work harder than most people and made me really, really ambitious to live the American dream.
And we did like my brother's a surgeon. I was a lawyer. It was amazing. We did all the things. But I think in a weird way, I was never raised with the question of, like, what actually makes you happy? No one ever asked me that. Everything that made me happy was like, that's a hobby. Oh, you like those things? You can do that on Sundays at 4:00 p.m. But it was very much like I have a job, you know, be safe, blah, blah, blah.
And and I never really learned to challenge my own beliefs or the things that I didn't agree with culturally, with my family, with the things that I was taught. And I think it took a really long time to actually honor my own voice. But it also took the courage of people like and friends like Deborah and other active Sophia Bush, who I know you're friends with, is a very close friend of mine. I would just be like, say, a girl.
You got it. Just go. And that that kind of encouragement. And that's why community is so important.
It's so, so, so important. Shannon Watts, who has been a friend of both of ours, really my mentor through all of my activism, is someone I check in with all the time. And I'm like, is this OK? And that is, I think in this space of really gaining your voice and honoring your voice, having friends that push you and just tell you to keep going, that tell you it's OK. And because you make mistakes, like as an activist and you notice, you say things that will hurt people's feelings.
You say things and sometimes they're incorrect. And having your friends show up for you and be like, you know what, that wasn't cool. And this is the way to do it is so important. And to have people that say what learn from it and keep going because we still need you. And I think surrounding yourself with people who will be honest with you, but also hold you up so you can keep going is so important.
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Thank you so much for sharing that about your background. It's well, it's it's truly inspirational and it's amazing to hear how much you had achieved to then question it all. And I always think it requires a lot of courage and strength to do that. And so I just want to take a moment to recognize that you're watching right now, that it's the hardest thing to do is achieve something and then the hardest thing to do is achieve it and then question everything you've achieved and then create a new path for yourself.
So, yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that. I want to dissect so much of it. But I feel like you were just about to say something. Debrosse, I don't want to cut you off. What were you saying? I was just saying the importance of mentors, the importance of of finding the leaders that speak your language or who. Who inspire you and to follow their lead and to learn so I think it is a it is a learned skill to speak your truth.
I'm I'm already 50, and it it took probably the first thirty five forty years of my life to finally be OK with people not agreeing with me and not liking that I am voicing my truth. And like what Madonna was saying, some so many of us, we are people pleasers and it is it's suffocating. And it it really does strip you of. A capacity for joy, I think at least that was the case for me, especially as a professional actress.
I to get a job, you are constantly dancing as fast as you can and put it. It's like you are performing, trying to be nice, trying to be amiable, trying to be that person, that one person that that person wants to work with. And it. Living in that headspace really made me realize.
That it was unhealthy for me and was I was choosing to sacrifice my my self-esteem, essentially because by silencing yourself, you are saying that your voice has no value. And as soon as I know for me it was professional, it was being pushed too far and finally saying, no, that's not OK. I must be respected, I respect you and being OK with whatever fallout happened afterwards and that that has happened many times in my adult life.
And I think I realize now, you know, the people that will not cannot tolerate a different point of view. Are not people, they're not my people. You know, I was raised with inclusiveness, solidity, being at the center of everything.
And so for me, it's like, yes, you can have one opinion, I can have the other. We could have a very passionate debate about our different points of view. But we can still, at the end of end of that conversation, say, I hear you. It just doesn't sit right with it just doesn't it's not my truth. But I still love you and I still respect you and God bless you and totally right. Yeah. I love hearing that because I think and I'm so glad we're having this conversation.
And by the way, I'm ignoring all of my notes and completely just in these conversation. But that's because it's it's going in in such a flowing in such a beautiful natural and organic way.
But what you said that Deborah and Madonna were using also is like I feel that so often. Activism can become very attack and defense. Yes, when actually and what I'm hearing and by the way, you can totally correct me and I'm here to learn from both of you, so please completely tell me that I'm not hearing it right. But what I'm hearing is that often when you see as an attack, a defense for I'm hearing from both of you.
I was talking about a friend today, this morning who was talking about this and literally said these words to me. He said, you know, so much of activism is attacking defense. But actually what we need is understanding and compassion and nonjudgmental aspect that you're both mentioning of being able to be open to the fact that other people will have different beliefs and be able to hold that space in that conversation. Because I feel like the other extreme of council culture is is actually more.
I would love to hear your thoughts on Gamsakhurdia because of my own mind. That and Madonna. You said this. You said, you know, we all make mistakes as activists. And so when we run into things like council control, we run into things like attacking or defensive activism. Often what we end up doing is we end up closing the doors on people to actually change and have an opportunity to adopt a new mindset. Yeah, my belief is kind of like I'm OK with someone not having the same viewpoint as me, but I believe I need to be patient for that to be an evolution of ideation.
Not that they learn mind, but that we find some way not to agree, but that there is a space for growth. Does that make sense?
Totally. We talk about this quite a bit, too. I think there's two things actually that you just brought up. One is I think some people come to a conversation and they don't want to be wrong, so they don't want to hear what you have to say because what you're saying goes against what they believed. And for them to admit that means they have to admit that they may have had the wrong opinion and they just double down. And that is is just something that I think just requires time for people to feel comfortable letting go of and being OK, being wrong.
And that person, I find, is very hard to convince in the moment. And they'll take time and usually empathy and compassion. And, you know, it's it's really like we're all just people like we all have stories.
I think that's all all these stories, all these activisms, just people like it's kindness. It's what I teach my five year old. Right. It's activism is just kindness and in a more formal way. Right. If you all just focus on caring about other people and showing up for them, then then the world feels very different. I think with council culture, we talk about this quite a bit. Obviously, there's spectrums and it depends on on what it is.
But for the most part, I think a lot of us say things, you know, and it's hard. I don't know everything. Deborah doesn't know everything. Most activists don't know everything. We're going to make mistakes. We're taking risks every single day to to stand up for people's rights. We may call it the wrong thing. We may spell it incorrectly. Don't cancel people for stuff like that. It's not OK. It's really hard to do that work.
And sometimes I I'll confront someone will confront me about something. And I'm like, OK, will you try doing what they're doing and come back at me and tell me how easy it is? I mean, it's you know, someone was getting mad at Shannon the other day.
I'm like, she's going against the NRA. Like, it's not that easy. And I think there is there there just has to be some patience with people because we are going to lose a lot. But the good guys, if we don't give them an opportunity to to learn from the mistakes and grow, I don't I think most of these people have very good intentions, and I do believe that matters.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I also think that that the source of of this this competitiveness of in terms of opposite ideas, I think it's all fed by fear. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, I couldn't agree with you more. That's why we choose to attack or defend, right. It's almost like animalistic in that sense of territorial nature that we can sometimes make in our own lives. But let's say, like, I know that my community and audience can learn so much from both of you, and they already are.
And I know so many of them want to be activists or want to be activated to do something. Can you give them some guidance and advice on where you start that journey? Because I feel like you'd like we've talked about so many people get scared and fear is one of two things. It makes you shout the loudest or it makes you become the quietest. Yes.
Because that fear makes you high and you just jump up and shout out and do all this. And so it's like fear doesn't drive us in a positive. It can spark positivity, but it can't sustain positivity. And that's what I find when fear is an emotion that can get you active. But if you have to give people a step by step process of how you feel that they can get activated, how would you suggest that? And that's to both of you to.
Well, I think I think the very first thing you do is you turn inward and you sit with yourself and really think about what? What hurts your heart when you look out at the world, what what is it that makes you feel that's not right? There has to be a better way. And if you start there, then you know you're dead. Then you've identified your purpose. Your cause is your purpose.
And then if if you feel shy about taking a step, you know, it's it's it's help the helpers really is is finding the people who are doing the work that you that you admire and just saying, I want to be near you. How can I help you? Because you'll learn so much just just being a part of it, even from the outside. And eventually that will build your confidence and it will give you a voice and you will be able to take the next step.
I love that.
A great, great piece of it has been done. Before we dive into this one, I just wanted to reflect on a couple of days like I love the idea of going in first. I know for me it's it's been really interesting to go inward first and be like, OK, well, where am I demonstrating what I'm being an activist for, where I'm actually acting wrongly in another area of my life. So like discrimination as a subject, if someone is not being discriminating in a particular area of their life, maybe I am in another area of my life and I'm unconscious.
It's an unconscious bias that exists there. And I think going inward is such a powerful way because it sparks compassion automatically because you're like, oh, well, I have it too. I have the chance to. But I also love what you're saying about really having the joining of another community or another team that's doing it, because sometimes I think we feel so alone that we have to start something. And Madonna, you referred to this earlier, like you have to do all on your own.
You have to feel like it's a it's a lonely path to go and build your own. You think you have to go to build your own charity or build your own foundation and supporting someone else's can be a great start. Yeah, I love them and don't have any other thoughts that you wanted to add to that.
I think to your point about failure, I hear this a lot about people are afraid of failing. And I always expect that you can't fail in activism because everything is more than nothing. Failing is is not honoring what it is that keeps you up at night. And so, I mean, to Deborah's point, there are so many people doing amazing work. I got a job yesterday from someone that was like I'm a I'm a graphic designer. Do you need help?
I cannot tell you how badly we needed help yesterday on graphic design. It was like God said, we were so happy and maybe do that two hours a week and just start and you'll learn about the organization and now you're volunteering for them. And then you can do more and you can do more and you can meet more people. And there's so many ways to just show up. There's so many communities that you can join just by texting a phone number.
And then all of a sudden you're getting messages of ways that you can volunteer in, ways to show up. And community is again, I keep saying it, but it is so important. When we started I'm a voter, my it was like I was identified a need. And all that happened was I emailed twenty five of the smartest people I've ever worked with and was like, can we all meet on Sunday. And then and then it all happened.
Nothing to do with me. All I did was get everyone together and and I think that that time together regularly you realize like all of a sudden these are your people, they're your friends. They're like we help each other in business. We show up for each other. We always rally. And I think just anything I've ever regretted in my life was something I didn't do because I was afraid of it. Those are my only regrets in life, like, I just wish that I had gone harder for the things that I was scared of.
And to your point about about racism, you know, we're in we're in a flashpoint right now. You know, this is a turning point in our history and it's there are a lot of people who are waking up. I think what has shown me. Is that where all students all the time? It doesn't matter how old we are and I may feel like my heart is is full of love and compassion, and I have committed decades of my life to helping people.
But obviously, I'm I'm a white, privileged woman. And so I have an implicit bias. And I have never been educated. I have never taken the responsibility on myself to educate myself. And now because of this moment, I have all of these new books and a new vocabulary to talk about, something that I thought for the bulk of my life wasn't really an issue for me. And then all of a sudden it was like the the the the curtain came up and it was like, oh, no, no, no.
OK, now it's my accountability. It's my responsibility to be accountable. And I think that that also plays into into that feeling of wanting to get involved is is just being a part of the global community. I remember Madonna called me right when the crisis on the border was starting and she just got on a bus and went down to the Mexican border just to witness it, to see it with her eyes, to see the children to.
I literally just could not believe it. I was just no part of my brain could reconcile that this was happening in my lifetime.
And if that wasn't her issue, but she just saw something that was it had she had to participate in some way and. It changed her forever, witnessing an. Um. I do think the thing that I struggle with when you talk about. People who have opposite views coming and finding a space where they both can coexist. I personally am struggling right now with. For an example of the Mexican border, the idea that there are children in cages, like as a mother, that just destroys me, that that keeps me up at night.
And so I can't imagine anyone who would support putting children in cages and and stealing them from their parents. But there are people who are just as passionate about that being the right thing. And so with that example, I don't know that there is a space for us. I think that we could say I disagree with you, I disagree with you. You know, to come together and to sort of. To take some of each other's points of view and fold it into hours, I think that there are certain things where that that just is not possible, or at least it's not possible for me right now in my life.
No, no. I get that that's a really important point to raise. And there's always going to be some things when you look at them. Through that lens, it's impossible, like none of us can sit here and figure out what's going through someone's mind, and I think.
Donna, when you dream of being the can you tell us a bit more detail about what your experience was and what it was that really pushed you in that moment, as Deborah was referring to?
Yeah, that day changed my life. I had my daughter, my second daughter, and she was a month and that a couple of months old. Then I was home on maternity leave. So I was just kind of in this natural pause, which I never had been before. As someone who came to this, coming to America is very scary, like when we landed in New York. New York is one of the scariest places in the world to go to.
It's a huge city. We didn't speak any English. We had no idea where we were going. We had no money. And all I did was just hold my mom's hand. And that was like I was going to be OK. Like we had no idea what we were going to do. We didn't know what tomorrow was going to bring. But like I had my mom, I was six years old and it was going to be fine. The idea that someone.
So vulnerable that they would travel through four months through forests and water, knowing they could die to come to America for the same reasons we all did, which was to have a chance at a better life, to have safety, to have security, to have health care. And then somebody would take your kid away from you and for the kid, take your mom away from you when you just went through the scariest experience of your life and you are in a completely unknown place and you probably don't speak the language and you don't know anyone here and you have no money left.
I can not understand is a human rights issue. It is not a political issue. There is no way I can have a conversation with someone that can say that that is justified. It was entirely punitive. And you do not punish children like that. That kid will never be the same. That I still remember how horrifying the experience was of living in a war and having to sleep downstairs during bombings. I mean, the idea that we put these people in these and gave them like aluminum foil blankets and they had no idea where their parents were as a mother, when you're in the grocery store and your daughter, like my daughter, turns the aisle and I don't know where she is for one second, that one second is one hundred years like that is such triggering pain.
And for these, we lost some of these children, like we have never found them. We put them they wrote their names on a Post-it note and gave it to someone. And it was like, Martha. Like what? We don't know where some of these kids are. We've never reunited them with their families. Some of these kids have been orphaned. It is it was just and I was looking at them like, but this is America.
America is the greatest place in the world. America saved my family, America. I was always raised like America is the greatest thing in the world. And I love America. And I believe that the true patriot challenges America rightly uphold it to its potential. And so it's OK to say that we're doing things wrong, but it's also important to fight for what is better. And I just got on a plane and I went to Texas. I was like, that was where the first camp was, where these kids were being held.
And I was like, I need to see this. I cannot I don't believe it. I couldn't believe that that was happening. And then I quit my job and started doing all the things. But it was it was it just was one of those moments where you realize what is happening is bigger than me. And whatever aspirations I have to do, whatever it was I thought at that time was more important. Well, I mean, yeah, and thank you again for sharing that it's just just hearing it like it was.
It's so real, just hearing it and it's there's no part of it that can feel normal or OK or comfortable to even hear it. And it's what's what's so hard I feel and I'm trying to just. Really share with you what I'm hearing from from so many people, and that's kind of I'm just trying to be in that learning, see from both of you, I think for so many people that just like I'm so overwhelmed by everything going wrong in the world right at the beginning, and it's like I'm just so overwhelmed by everything that's going wrong, like this is going wrong and the political stuff directly is going wrong.
And then I've got challenges. My own family of the economy is struggling and that kind of like paralyzes a lot of people.
And you just feel debilitated by all of this because you like so much pressure and so much overwhelm. And then you watch the news and you turn on the news and you don't have the information you're getting is correct. And then you're trying to do research and you struggle. Can you tell us some people or places that you've started to and you spoke about mentors and people in your lives who have been the people and places or the books that have you feel have really given you both an insight into reality?
Or how can people get as close to reality as possible so that they don't feel misinformed or overwhelmed, which sometimes can be very real and sometimes can be excuses? Right. We both know that they can be both for us. Sometimes they're just crutches and we're just like, you know, I don't really have time or can't be bothered. And then sometimes it's real. It's just like, oh, I just I'm an empathetic and feeling the pain and it's a lot.
And so what what have you found for you and the people that you're working with to help you push out from that? Despite just for me, it's just seeing the pain the Grammys and hearing and seeing the pain just makes you want to rush there. But what have been some of the light guides in that journey? Who are those people? What are those places? One of those books, one of those communities or organizations where you see that happening?
Well, I mean, we've we've mentioned Shannon Watts, you know, we've learned so much about. The pain of gun violence and the impact it's had on our children from her Glenanne Doyle. Representative Adam Schiff, who gave that that beautiful closing speech at the end of the impeachment about.
The America that we all deserve, that we have yet to attain.
These are people who when they speak. It comforts me and I I trust them and I feel I feel like I'm learning every time I follow them, I also I'm on Twitter. I was I had to be on Twitter because of my job. I hadn't for years. And what I've done is I just have started to follow professors and professionals in our government, people who are professionals in the health department right now with covid just trying to understand and go to to the source, to experts so that so that I feel that I have a touchstone because we don't know.
Yeah, I, I, I think a couple of things. One is that for the people that use it as a crutch or is it gives an excuse, I'm like, I get it. I don't like paying my mortgage. There's some things like you're just an adult and you have to do and you should know what's happening in the world. Like the baseline. It's important to be informed. I do think, like acknowledging your mental health and how you're responding to things is really important.
So there are days where I see Deborah and I'm like, it's too much like you turn off your phone, turn off your computer, like, shut it down and go hang out with your son and watch a movie. And so I do think that when you are too overwhelmed, you do need to honor that and kind of take a pause. I think, you know, it's hard because the news can feel very divisive. It is so like click Baity and the ratings driven now that it just feels like you're watching like a never ending football game of people just screaming at each other.
And so, I mean, I personally followed Debra that we followed Jessica Yellin.
She is she does news, not noise. And so her whole performance is amazing. And I text her all day and I'm like, is this supposed to bother me? And she'll be like, no, that's not important. It's OK. So people like her and Preet Bharara, who's also someone we covered the way that creep thinks about justice in America. So I just admire it so much. And so I really respect the way that he talks about the political issues that happen and how they affect everybody and kind of how it doesn't really feel partisan when he speaks about it.
It really feels like he comes at it from like a patriot who loves America, who understands the foundation of law and like and how we need to uphold the integrity of of America. And I would say I don't know. I mean, there's a million more, but I would say those for me are sorry.
Stacey Abrams, Stacey Abrams, someone who I look to and and follow and I try to follow by example and learn from her. I think that I think that there are shining lights everywhere if you look for them. But Madonna is absolutely right. I mean, I am an empath, so I get I get completely overwhelmed and I can just get stuck and feel like I have to do more. I have to do more. Oh my God.
Did you see this and this and this and this. And this. And I do need to turn to the people who I love and love me and know me to say, OK, you're you're not in a good space right now. You need you need to just stop and go play the piano because that heals your heart, you know, and and watch stupid television for a while. I do think Lord knows we are very good at that and I'm really good at sleeping.
I guess. I think that's a great school.
Sleeping is a great work. Yeah, it's been.
And I'm grateful for the way we've taken this conversation because I do think that what you're both doing and what you both stand for is community and uniting for change, which I believe a heavy topics to talk about.
And I can see that the emotion on your faces and just stories you're telling and these are heavy topics, but the problem is that if we don't take them on, they're not getting any lighter. Right. And I think that's something that we can all agree on, that if something's heavy and you don't pick it up, it stays heavy and gets heavier.
But to your point, I think the thing that we try to talk a lot about in the podcast also is this like ask questions, think people don't want to sound dumb. And so they're afraid to ask the things that they don't know. And the activists and the communities that that are speaking actually are thrilled that someone's asking them, like we had someone on who's talking about what it felt like their whole journey, being a trans athlete. And we were like, sorry, can you explain to us, like pronouns?
How does that work? Like, how do you do ask someone whether pronoun is like, do you share yours? Like how Deborah presented a Real-Life example, what was the right way? And he was like, thank you so much for asking. I'm so thrilled to share this. And that has been our experience every single time. And so sometimes fear becomes this barrier to you actually really even evolving your empathy in an issue. And so I think one of the other things I should have mentioned earlier is to just like ask questions.
Who in your podcast has surprised you the most with a perspective or an insight that kind of like shocked you? It has stayed with you or or a moment or an experience where you just like. Oh, like that. That. Really made sense to me. That really broke through the noise for me, for each of you, a loved one for each of you.
Well, I, I think Amanda I mean, she is not yet 30 and she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was a student at Harvard and was raped in her senior year. And the justice system was not there for her. And she realized that a law in Massachusetts didn't exist that should exist.
And and she said, well, so I just decided to write it myself. Like you just said, you're like and I looked at her and I'm like, wait, wait a second, wait a second. You're 20.
You're a survivor of a terrifying attack. You don't have any structure or any support system, and your impulse is I will do it myself. And she said, well, obviously I don't know the language. So I went to Harvard Law School and I found a professor and I said, look, this is what I want to do. Will you help me write this law? And he said, sure. And it was passed one hundred one hundred percent of it was passed.
And now there are how many laws in 30?
I don't know, something. It's it's amazing that she's writing a survivor's bill of rights that is now being incorporated all over the country. But it started it was that moment of her just saying, all right, well, I'll just write it myself.
That really just. I think I think I had that reaction because. Deep down, I don't think of myself as a leader, I think of myself as a student who is willing to work really, really hard. And so for me, someone is a leader. Someone is a leader. When they say, I will write the law and I just have until that moment, it never even occurred to me that I could do that. And here is this 20 something year old who did it.
I doubt it. Yeah, I didn't know that story. I'm so glad that your your podcast, your conversations are unearthing things like that for ever to realize because you're spot on Debrosse and you know, someone has done it. You didn't even think about it. Like you didn't think about who makes the laws unless you've obviously been law school. But if not, then you just you know, you have no idea. That's a that's amazing. That's that's upsetting because what episode was that out of interest?
Just to check it out, if that was our second one right after Glenanne. OK, amazing. Everyone. Then you heard that. That's one that I'm going to go listen to the podcast. So I really, really hope that you guys go and listen to that one that she is honestly.
That is amazing.
Oh, by the way, we forgot to add, she she calls herself the civil rights astronaut. So she found her way into an internship at NASA.
And and everything that she does is informed by her beliefs in NASA and so by space travel. And I was like, what are you saying? I mean, the whole time Deborah and I were like, what is she talking about?
This is the craziest I've I've ever heard anyone say. But it was totally crazy.
She still intends to go to space.
Yeah, that's where she's going, I believe.
I believe that was just a little tributary on her on her river of life. She's like, that's not really my thing. You know, I've created two different I mean, it was not mundane. I what about you? Yeah. I didn't want to hear you.
I to say I don't know, I to answer your actual question of when I was most surprised was. Not what I thought I would say, but I think it was Zachs gal because I went into that episode so it might have a crash and we were like, OK, in our 20, since we really did this to meet these people, we were each going to pick one person that we were just like obsessed with the dying to meet, who's also doing amazing work.
And so hers was was this incredible man named Zach Scout. And he's the rescue savior. And he's created this thing called Marlee's Madson, rescued thousands of animals. And he always rescues like the dogs that nobody really wants to rescue. Or and he so I to do that episode is like, OK, this is Deborah is like I didn't really put so much thought into it and I just kind of like sat down to listen.
And his story, I mean, he he was suffering from addiction and had liver failure and was basically on hospice and was told that he was going to die and went home to die and was at a point where nobody I mean, everyone in the world had given up on him. When he talks about this moment where he knew that his life was ending and he had contemplated suicide so much and nobody even knew he existed anymore. And he was walking into the bathroom and he turned around.
And I could just so you could visualize it as he was speaking. But he was like I turned around and I looked over my dogs. We're looking up at me like I was the sexiest thing in the entire world because they still saw me and I was still in there. And I was like, you know what? I'm not going to take my life. I'm going to go take them on a walk. And the next day, when I no longer walk in a longer walk and we think of him as a rescue guy, but his dogs rescued him and he speaks about how and he does a lot now with rescuing animals and working with people in prisons and helping them become dog trainers.
And but his whole concept was about we as a society have people, animals that we consider the throwaways. They're just beyond repair. We give up on them. They're in prison. We're like we just kind of write them off their animals. They're missing a leg. We kind of write them off. And I've done that in my life. When he said that, I realized, like, I have a family member, a very distant relative, but I just been like, you know, I just don't think it's going to there's much to do with her.
And I felt so horrible in that moment because I do realize that so many of us give up on other people. And this idea that every life, every human, every animal, everyone is worth fighting for and and. And advocacy, it was just I had not expected the conversation to go there at all, Deborah was hysterically crying and and of course he was crying and I and I was just I was blown away by that conversation.
That's amazing. I love that one, too. That's that's yeah, it's it's so interesting to hear about people that then we also don't ever hear about enough of, you know what I mean? Like you mentioning that it's almost like these are not people that set out to be heroes or the people that set out to attack me, right?
That's exactly right. I mean, we we reference that reference to the people that we interview as accidental activists. The intention was never there. They just that something happened and they had to do something and they did it. And that's what made you change their lives. But, yeah, these these are not like sexy, flashy people. These are just people like you and me.
Yeah, that's that's what I guess I'm hearing both of those stories just almost like fills me with hope. It's almost like, you know, like when we started this conversation, I completely ignored all my notes.
But the conversation, which is it was is a great conversation. The bad. Yes. Yeah.
Like when we started this conversation and you start seeing it having a very deep, heavy discussion. We're hearing about stories and backgrounds and challenges and issues. And then all of a sudden you share these two amazing stories. And I feel uplifted, like I feel full from the belief that, like there are people out there that I can either support or become because I can write. And that's all it is. It's like I care. Like either I'm passionate about something or either I've experienced the pain of something.
And that's going to push me into action. And I there is hope.
What gives both of you hope? Because hearing those stories gave me a lot of hope. And so the question that came to me with both of you, who are you looking on today? You're on the news you're speaking about is you having conversations, your research and your supporting activist. What gives you hope and what made you feel like good is happening and coming? And that there is there is movement. Well, I can I can say that the people that I've met doing the dissenters absolutely have given me the most hope, because what what they've shown me is that there are heroes everywhere.
We just don't know them. And these heroes are working to make the world better today, right now. And that's what that's what makes me maintain hope is is. It is really, really believing that there are all of these people around the world who are who are doing doing the work that I'm not doing, but it is incrementally even in the midst of a global pandemic. Everyone is scared. There are still people making inroads and things are going to get better.
Yeah. I am an eternal optimist, so I think that. Part of going back to kind of my those formative years of my life and transitioning and coming to America, I think I've always felt this profound sense of luck. Like the only thing that that was different for me and all the other people that couldn't leave was just pure luck. And so I think my whole life I've felt this need to help the luck of other people, help balance, whatever it was that that tipped me over to this side of it.
And and I think when you think about like people and society and community, like everyone can share a little bit of their luck.
And I think a lot of what we're trying to do is elevate these voices and kind of prove that everyone has a story, every single one of us has a story and their job and whoever your problems are the biggest problems to write. And so it's like being able to look at someone in the eye and have compassion and empathy and find a way to see like, is there can I help you with that? Is there anything I can do?
It's like when you're a kid and everyone teaches you to, like, help your neighbor with their groceries across the street. Right.
It's like it's that same thing. You're just it's just a little bit more of a grown up, right. It's like, what else can you do to show up for other people? And I think when you hear these stories, there are so many ways to create these tremendous changes in the world and there's so many amazing people to continue to learn from that. I don't know. It's all hope to me. Right? I just think that there's still so much work to be done.
And so I'm just focused on, like, what else can we do? What else can we build? Like, how else are we going to do this? How are we going to grow this thing? And I don't know. I think it's just like I'm I'm a lawyer, too. So there's a part of me that's very pragmatic. That's like, what are we going to build? What are we going to grow? What are we going to do?
Let's fix that. What is the fix? Let's focus on the solutions. And I'm still, I think, unlearning a lot of my childhood things that that I think were hard, but that I didn't I never realized how much they prevented me from using my voice. So I think it's continuing to empower other people to just be who they are.
Yeah, as corny as that sounds, but no, no, not at all. What what what kind of stuck with me when you were saying that is part of what gives you hope is being a part of the solution and seeing people step up and change. Like it's almost like you've got to be around the change to believe it's happening. Yeah. And for a lot of us, we're not allowed around the change. Where around the problem. We're hearing the problem.
We're reading about the problem. And therefore, the problem just goes really big. Whereas when you you know, if you've ever gone out to help a refugee, if you've ever gone out to feed a kid who doesn't have food or if you've got to if you've done that and you've seen the change in that person's smile and their eyes in their life and you've seen that, then you start to believe that there is change and change is possible, because I think sometimes we get so lost in statistics and numbers and we start thinking, oh, well, one person, what does that matter to people?
What does that matter? But all of it matters because, you know, for that person, it's their whole life.
So but you can also change that statistic. Right? And that's kind of where more my brain keeps going with people. I'm like, maybe the problem is there because we're not showing up. You know, we can fix we can improve the climate crisis if we show up and we can change so many of the things that bother us if we voted.
I mean, there's you can't I'm like, it's not OK for you to sit and be upset if you're not going to do the work to fix it. And so it's really just encouraging people to to lean into it and just like show up, show up for your country, show up for your issues, show up for your community. And I actually think people have exponentially more power than they know.
Yeah, I think there's something there's there's truth to the maxim that, you know, if you feel if you're feeling depressed.
Help somebody. Right, I mean, I do not know of one person who has helped another person and felt worse after.
Yeah, no, it's it's it it always makes you feel better. Yeah, it's fact. And that's why I want to encourage everyone who's listening and watching right now to definitely go and listen to the podcast and also follow Wendon and everyone social media to find out new ways of getting involved. Because if you're sitting there right now and you would listen to our conversation and I've been I've been guiding this conversation and facilitating it for anyone who, from what I hear, which I believe is the mass voice, and that's what I try and do and what I've tried to do today, them and Don and Deborah with both of you is the massive voice that I hear is I'm overwhelmed, I'm lost and confused.
I don't know where to start. I want to do something. And I think both of you have given so many great insights, so many messages of hope and so many personal and collective stories that will galvanize and push people and activate people today to get involved. So that was that was my simple intention there, of which questions I was trying to answer, because I think sometimes a lot of the debate that I hear becomes so intellectual for people and intellectual debates don't make you feel something.
We all only do something when we feel something we don't because we think it makes sense. Like you don't you don't stop drinking or stop smoking because, you know, it's it's bad for you how you do it, because you lost someone because of that or you lost something because of that. Everything has to be based on. I feel like emotion feeling is so much more powerful, actually. And I definitely feel that both of you have shed so many powerful messages today that have really connected with people's emotions.
So so thank you for sharing from the heart, because that's the only way to speak to others as well. And I want to end with two segments that we do at the end of the podcast. One is called Fill In the Blanks and the other one is called the final five to fill in the blanks.
You really excited for both of you to fill in the blanks is a great read. It is. And you get to define your time, so. Here are your fill in the blanks. You can decide who goes first and second, I know I'm not going to pick the heart of a dissent is. The heart of a dissenter is compassion. I'm going to say empathy, OK? The greatest person in the room is. Jay shouting, What are we talking about?
That's not true. You know, I mean, I want to know what you value is like the greatest individual. I'm trying to understand your values without asking you what is your value about it. But I think the greatest person in the in the room is the person who is capable of not only listening, but hearing him.
It's war that is very true. I loyalty like people that show up for me. I like that is one trait I admire more than anything in the world.
I the great is OK.
Being a hero doesn't mean being a hero, just doesn't mean, you know, everything and so many things.
It doesn't mean that you have to be famous, rich, a lot of followers, anything. It literally just means that you have compassion and you show up great.
OK, I'm really glad you're ok. Not voting is the same as. Well. Not voting is the same as giving up. Not caring. OK, and lost one of the fill in the blanks, I wish everyone knew that. I wish everyone knew. That they were capable. Of enacting change. No, and Dunner. I wish everyone knew that. It is OK to be who you are and that you don't need to be what other people want you to be.
OK, great, great answers. So reflective, I love it. This is the final five nights. These have to be answered in one word or one sentence maximum, but needed for someone to fill in the blanks. This can be a breeze for both of you. The first one is what's something you want to give your children that you didn't have growing up?
Travel. College money.
OK, second question, what have you been chasing in your life in the past that you no longer pursue? I want to swear, but I won't. You can if you want to. I allow everyone to be who they are and I would just say no fucks, OK?
I got you, I'm sorry, that's what you're pursuing, but you didn't or it's the inverse. What have you been chasing in your life that you no longer pursue? People's people's. People's approval. Yeah, I got. The same, 100 percent, the same like the whole people pleasing thing. This one I really like think about it. So what's something that you're so sure about that others would disagree with? You are. Oh. That America is good and it's worth fighting for.
That's a powerful answer. That every person. Is inherently good in the. So powerful. Thank you. OK, question number four. What's the biggest lesson that you've personally learned in the last 12 months?
Uh. Surrender. There's not always the right answer and I don't have to be right. That's the right answer. That's a good answer or some quiet fifth and final question for both of you. And because I know you both have some noise in your background. So if you could create a law that everyone else in the world has to follow, what would it be that you have that you have to vote on?
Might stop taking my answer.
So you guys correct? Debra's going to quit every time Belad orig that I'm literally wearing my voter necklace for you when you have to give a different answer, a different answer.
It's like Family Feud or whatever it's called. Oh, man, this isn't what you're asking, but we have Shabbat dinners every Friday in my family and it was the greatest part of my life in childhood. And I feel like people should be forced to sit with their families, assuming that it's OK at home once a week and just duke it out and learn to work through family stuff before that. That's a great answer. That's fine. I love it.
Thank you so much, Debra. But none of that is so awesome where you'll find a venue, fill in the blanks with the deepest answers we've ever had. This is probably one of the most aggravating and empowering episodes that I believe we've had on on purpose. To be honest, I think that both of you are just full of light and hope and energy that I think we all need right now. And I love how you both do with so much grace and power at the same time.
So thank you so much, honestly. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart and my audience for taking out the time for having hopefully a very different conversation than one that you may have had before and and one that I'm hoping really, really touches a lot of hearts out there and gets people activated in everyone to listen and love. Today, you can go check out the deceptive podcast. It's available right now across every platform. Please, please, please go and listen and give these amazing stories.
I know I'm going to go listen to episode two on his iPad. I mean, that that story really moved me and had a big impact on me. So please, please, please go and check it out and devlopment. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, my God.
This was so fun. Thank you. Now we're friends. Yes, we are.
I know. I love that. I we yes, we are. We are absolutely friends. And I want to spend more time with you both and hear more about everything that you're doing. Amazing.
You are you are a constant inspiration. It's been an honor.
Thank you, God. No, thank you both so much. Honestly, this was this was wonderful.
And, you know, I and I'm saying this to you offline, and I don't mind if it's shared either of online, but my goal was just I'm constantly trying to appeal to people's hearts because I feel like people know what's right, but they just don't know how to do anything about it.