To Save the World and Find a Good Dinner Party Story

By Charlotte Laws


Application to the New York Times to travel to Africa with Columnist Nicolas Kristof. This essay with supposed to be biographical and also explain what the candidate would like to study while in Africa. Charlotte Laws was not chosen to be Kristof's traveling companion, but this was her essay. 

When it comes to travel, Iíve been a lightweight, closing my eyes and easing my big toe into the frigid pool, then yelping like a pup and hightailing it into my toasty American home. But this time I am ready to open my eyes and dive into what I believe will be a life-changing experience for me and hopefully thousands of my readers. I vow to pack many African sounds and images into my suitcase and bring them home with me.  

I am student, but an atypical one. I am 48 years old and have a Ph.D. in Social Ethics as well as two Mastersí degrees (in Professional Writing and Social Ethics). I hold two BA Degrees in Philosophy and Theatre and have completed post-doctoral studies at Oxford University , England . For the past few years, I have been taking undergraduate courses in a new field: Broadcasting and Media Arts. Trust me, I do not have a diploma-collection disorder and realize no one needs six degrees except a thermostat. I am simply looking to make a career change. My recent studies have taught me how to film and edit a documentary movie, a skill which could possibly come in handy on the trip. I also have on-camera experience as the host of a local Los Angeles TV show.  

While in Africa , I would be interested in venturing into the arena of culture and values, a topic I studied extensively in ivory-tower land. What are the values of those we encounter and how do they come to hold these beliefs? Do these ideas stem from religion, regional laws or customs? Do they benefit or hinder survival and success? How do they differ from the values of most Americans?

I am also interested in researching microcredit (or micro-lending), which is highly successful method for assisting the poor in developing countries. As an entrepreneur and business owner in the real estate industry for the past 20 years, I am curious as to how extensively microcredit has been implemented on the African continent, whether it has blossomed to its full potential and how it could be broadened to benefit the masses. 

Defending animals and the environment truly animates my heart, as evidenced by the two nonprofit organizations I founded: The League for Earth and Animal Protection (LEAP) and the Los Angeles Directors of Animal Welfare (DAW). I am the acting president of both and give speeches on animal and environmental issues at venues throughout the country. Two years ago, the FBI hired me to speak at their Quantico , Virginia facility. I would be most interested in delving into animal and environmental issues while in Africa .     

I was an Aids Project Los Angeles (APLA) volunteer for many years (before most people knew what AIDS was) and am interested on finding ways to assist a people whose culture may not always be conducive to AIDS-related assistance.  

I realize I am a little older than what you expect in a ďstudent,Ē but I am a glass half full because I can potentially motivate both young and middle-aged Americans to learn and explore, to pursue their dreams, to persevere, and above all, to devote themselves to those less fortunate. I have authored articles, a book and a couple of chapters for anthologies. My latest piece discusses Jainism, a primarily Indian religion that focuses on ahimsa (nonviolence)--the principle I (and Jains) most revere. I visited a Jain temple in Southern California, interviewed dozens of adherents and found the experience to be moving, spiritual, and at times, humorous.    

Finally, I should mention that my husband was born in Africa and repeatedly tells dinner guests the unnerving, but exciting story about being held at gunpoint and abducted in the Congo . I think itís unfair for him to have all the good party stories, donít you? I hope you will choose me to make the plunge with you into the fascinating world of Africa .


 * Writing samples, a bio and references are available by request.