Meet Ed

I seek peace and justice through dialogue. I offer my perspectives and learn through conversations, especially when I am challenged by those who disagree with me. I am curious and a reflective practitioner — a leader who studies leadership to become an effective guide for transformative social change.

My life was shaped by diverse and often intense experiences; as a former seminarian who went to war, a combat intelligence agent fluent in Vietnamese who became a peace activist and was arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience. I am a writer and photographer, civil rights, environment and labor advocate.

I’ve worked within systems to manage change; inside government, leading nonprofits, creating environmental, veterans and workforce development programs and for organized labor to implement ideas I proposed. I promote efficient and effective systems for social and economic justice, acting as an organizational chiropractor, one who helps align systems to make them more equitable and effective.

I write to clarify my thoughts, share ideas and facilitate consensus strategies. I’ve published thirty eight articles and five books promoting my values, insights and strategies. My essays and books are available on this website. You can download them for free.

Ed Murphy at St. Peter's Church
Ed Murphy in Vietnam

Childhood friends met in Vietnam,
Bill Warmouth, Ed and Augie Altadonna.

Ed Murphy portrait

I developed this website and blog to share my perspectives and encourage conversations about American society. I discuss social issues, personal and   professional development, education, effective work and ways to promote respectful dialogue that strengthen our democracy. I want to foster our evolution toward economic and social justice. Your opinions matter to me.

We are experiencing significant cultural change and many are uncomfortable by the rapid pace. These shifts demand open conversations to transcend our polarization.  I invite you into conversations about the hopes and challenges Americans face at home, at work and in our communities. Let’s listen and learn from each other whether we agree or disagree.    

My experience with debates over war and peace, related to diversity, gender issues, creating union and environmental cooperation helped me facilitate emotionally charged conversations with respect for conflicting perspectives. I’ve used talks, writing and photography to present my opinions and to stimulate conversations about significant issues.

Why a web-based discussion? The pandemic and remote work gave us new technologies for holding conversations. This website enables me to extend my conversations. Through my blog I frame personal and community concerns and solicit feedback. Your perspectives will help me become a better citizen. I also encourage you to share ideas with family, friends and community, to listen and learn from them. I’ll do my best to be brief and get to the point. When I have more to say I’ll post a link to a separate essay. Thanks for listening.

My background

Ed Murphy arrest

Ed’s arrest at an Irish St Patrick’s Day protest.

I was born on Staten Island August 6, 1945, the same day America bombed Hiroshima. The nuclear age shaped my childhood consciousness as did two other factors. The first was geographic. I grew up on an island, in the Statue of Liberty’s shadow. As an Islander I experienced limits, boundaries and broad horizons. I saw New York as a port; that America is an immigrant society and diversity is an asset. Another influence was my Irish, Catholic, Democratic family and my mother’s death before my seventh birthday. I was the youngest of six children raised by a strong and loving family led by a compassionate single dad. Still, I felt lost and abandoned.

As a young seminarian I walked through death row at Maryland’s State Penitentiary and stood next to their gas chamber and worked with the poor in Baltimore’s inner city. Those experiences helped me transcend my childhood hurt, count my blessings and move beyond self-pity.

I’ve used my experiences in seminary, war and intelligence and as a linguist; BA in American Studies, two years graduate work in the history of social change and revolution, a master’s degree in Public Administration and an Arts Management certificate to support work as a public sector and non-profit executive, consultant to business and government, and leader in organizational development and systems transformation.

My management apprenticeship was as Executive Director of a community services agency in San Diego while Lin, my wife, attended graduate school in psychology. Our relationship, her feminism, personal and professional skills, spirituality and our children have been the most significant influences in my adult life.

We came back east to Saratoga Springs so I could work in state government, first with the NYS Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Four years later Lin and I founded Pathfinders Institute, a nonprofit providing some of the earliest PTSD programs for Vietnam Veterans, rape crisis and domestic violence programs. I went back into government with Mario Cuomo becoming Deputy Director of Veterans Affairs, then Director of Workforce Planning at NYS Civil Service leading development of New York’s first state workforce plan in 1989,. We recommended introduction of a Workforce Impact Statement as a component of public funding. In 1991, I left state government to work on reconciliation with Vietnam, do business consulting and provide humanitarian assistance. My language skills and reputation as antiwar former intelligence agent facilitated relationships with the Vietnamese, the World Bank and international businesses. I participated in the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)’s 1991 Investors Forum in Ho Chi Minh City and subsequent meetings with government leaders in Hanoi. For 10 years, I consulted with businesses, NGOs and educational institutions interested in establishing programs in Southeast Asia.

With two children to raise I needed a predictable paycheck and benefits so chose to work locally. I cut back on international work. In 1999 I went to work with the NYS AFL-CIO, establishing the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), a nonprofit which became a national leader in economic development, workforce intelligence, education and training of unionized workers, funding childcare and more. WDI has both statewide and regional operations, provides economic research, community audits, policy analysis and cultural services. In addition, WDI offers financial and technical assistance to manufacturers across New York State. I was one of the founders of the NYS Apollo Alliance, bringing together organized labor, environmentalists, business, educators and proponents of environmental justice to address energy concerns. One of my final projects with WDI was consulting with a Danish Offshore Wind company helping organized labor participate in wind project development and training. I retired from WDI in 2021.

I’ve served as an op-ed columnist, published 38 articles in newspapers, journals and magazines, have had three photography exhibits sponsored by the NYS Vietnam Memorial, been an adjunct professor, technical advisor on one movie and was honored as a writer by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the 1987-1988 Primetime Emmy Awards for Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam, broadcast by HBO.

My daughter, Zoeann and I co-authored and shot the photographs for Vietnam, Our Father Daughter Journey. In 2015, I edited Working Stories: Essays by Reflective Practitioners. In 2016, I published Becoming A Leader, an anthology of my essays published in business journals, newspapers and magazines. In 2017, I edited Creative Lives, a collection of essays related to the creative economy. In 2019, my family celebrated 100 years in the house our Irish immigrant grandparents established as the Murphy homestead, where I was raised. To commemorate our history I published 92 Newberry Avenue, an anthology of sixty extended family member’s stories. I am currently writing a memoir in the form of a conversation with the deceased Trappist monk Thomas Merton exploring the values that guided me.

I look forward to learning your stories and opinions.

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