Episode 134: Tom Periello

credit: Jamelle Bouie

Tom Periello is President Obama’s special envoy for the great Lakes Region of Africa. This includes the countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Now, this is usually the part of the intro in which I briefly tease my guests career. But in Tom’s case he’s had many different careers. He’s served in the United States Congress for one term representing Virginia, he was a human rights lawyer for the war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone and he was a co-founder of the global grassroots advocacy movement Avaaz among other things. And in this conversation Tom describes how and why he’s alternated between pursing positive social change at home and abroad.

We kick off with a very topical conversation about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And just to set the scene a bit: on December 19th, the second and constitutionally mandated final term of the president Joseph Kabila expired. He did not leave office. There have been subsequent protests on the streets of the capitol Kinshasa and elsewhere that left at least 20 people dead. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church, which is a societal pillar,has been trying to mediate a less violent resolution to this conflict. Tom discusses his role in this effort what the United States is doing to ensure the democratic transition of power in the DRC.

Image credit: Jamelle Bouie 

Episode 130: Tali Nates

tali-natesTali Nates has a personal connection to Schindler’s List. On it was the name of her father and uncle, whom Oskar Schindler saved from a Nazi extermination camp.

She is now the director of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Center in South Africa and we have a fascinating conversation about how the lessons of the Holocaust are applied and learned in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Tali was born in Israel and moved to South Africa before the end of Apartheid. She candidly describes the moral compunction she experienced during that era and how teaching Holocaust history to white south africans became a method of resistance.

This episode is part of a series that is being created in partnership with the Salzburg Global Seminar, which is a forum and meeting space that brings together a cross section of global leaders to take on some of the big global challenges of the day. We kick off discussing her participation on one of the Salzburg sessions before turning to her own family history and contemporary work.


Episode 129: Maina Kiai


Maina Kiai has some profound insights into how governments abrogate the rights of people to freely assemble. He is a Kenyan human rights lawyer and activist who currently serves as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

His career was born in opposition to an oppressive government in Kenya and in this episode he discusses the kinds of tactics and strategies he used to advance human rights under an authoritarian government. He also recounts his role in helping to mediate during the disputed 2007 Kenya elections, which turned very violent and resulted in his own life being in danger.

We kick off discussing the potential impact of a Trump presidency on human and civic rights around the world and, based on his experience, here in the United States.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn (and find inspiration) in how activists can promote human rights in the most difficult of situations, have a listen.

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Episode 127: Sarah Chayes

20140914_ceip_chayes_1001-editSarah Chayes was a reporter for NPR working in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. Then, in early 2002 she decided to give up her career in journalism to help rebuild the country. She joined the NGO world, eventually founding an Afghan-based NGO. During this time, while living in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, she became an advisor to the top US generals in Afghanistan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Michael Mullen.

These experiences in Afghanistan informed her prize winning book, Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, which as the name suggests examines the corrosive effect of corruption in post conflict countries and beyond.

We kick off talking about the problem of corruption before discussing Sarah’s fascinating life and career.