Best Second Act Making A Difference: Judith Broder
Dr. Judith Broder
Bio: Psychiatrist who created the Soldiers Project, a national counseling network for traumatized veterans
Attitude: "They talked about things we don't talk about in polite company," Broder says of hearing accounts from U.S. soldiers returning from war. "They talked about the fact that if somebody was injured they liked to kill in revenge, and they talked about how frightening it was to be there. But the part that got to me most powerfully was, almost to a man, they talked about how in coming home they felt so isolated because ... the things they had seen and done made them feel like they were not fit for our society."
Broder's serendipitous second act, just as she was preparing to retire and travel, took her all the way to the White House, where she was honored this year by President Obama. "It was absolutely thrilling," says the soft-spoken, 71-year-old psychiatrist, who lives in Studio City, Calif. She was one of 13 recipients of the U.S. Medal of Service, chosen from among 6,000 nominees. "When he presented the medal, he leaned over and hugged me," Broder recalls. "He said, 'Thank you so much for all you are doing for the troops and their families.' It's hard to put into words what it feels like when the president thanks you for something. It was quite an amazing moment." The award follows a $100,000 Purpose Prize that Broder won in 2009 for her work in creating the Soldiers Project. Broder's far-flung network of volunteer therapists treats what she terms "the invisible wounds of war," and the demand is greater than ever now that so many are finished with their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The counseling network began after Broder attended at a small stage play in 2004 in Hollywood, where she watched U.S. Marine Sean Huze (who would later star alongside Matt Damon in the war movie Green Zone) present a series of monologues titled "The Sand Storm: Stories from the Front." The wrenching experiences gave Broder a fitful but transformative night. "I woke up with this whole scheme in mind," Broder says of the Soldiers Project. "Did I think about it? Not really. I just started going."
Honorable Mention: Gary Hirshberg, entrepreneur
The extraordinary success of Stonyfield Farm, the yogurt company he founded, has enabled Hirshberg to indulge in one of his favorite pastimes -- giving money away. Through his "Profits for the Planet" program, Hirshberg sees to it that America's leading organic yogurt maker, which reaps annual sales of $400 million, donates 10 percent of its profits to various causes, including organic farming research, land conservation efforts and children's education. Before co-founding Stonyfield Farm in 1983, Hirshberg labored for nonprofits, and he vowed to carry that spirit of altruism into private enterprise. "We always said that when we got to profitability we would give back a percentage to efforts that improve the health of the planet," he says. One of his brainchildren is the Climate Counts initiative, a program that tells consumers how well various companies, products and brands work toward fighting global warming. Hirshberg, 56, the initiative's board chairman, started the campaign four years ago so that people can make informed decisions about where they shop.
Honorable Mention: Salman Khan, hedge fund manager-turned-online educator
Wealth was all but assured for Khan, a Harvard graduate who was making a six-figure salary as a hedge fund manager. He enjoyed the work, studying various industries, but it wasn't enough for someone obsessed with knowledge -- and eager to share it. "Always, in the back of my mind, I thought 'I want to do something with education,'" Khan says. He left the financial world in 2009 to create the Khan Academy, a nonprofit institute devoted to putting free educational videos on the web. So far, the Mountain View, Calif., organization has posted more than 2,700 short videos -- which the 34-year-old Khan narrates himself -- in a vast range of subjects. With its noble cause, to educate the world, the Khan Academy has attracted $2 million in support from Google and $1.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates hails Khan's work as revolutionary. "It's phenomenal," Gates told an interviewer on NBC. "It's the cutting edge of where education is going."
Honorable Mention: Blake Mycoskie, entrepreneur
Mycoskie rushed through Argentina in 2002 while competing in the CBS reality show The Amazing Race -- and, after 31 days, lost the $1 million prize by a scant four minutes. A few years later, he returned for a more leisurely visit and was struck by the intense pockets of poverty. "I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that poor children around the world often went barefoot," Mycoskie would later write, "but now, for the first time, I saw the real effects of being shoeless: the blisters, the sores, the infections." His resolve to help caused Mycoskie, a 34-year-old former drivers' education teacher, to launch TOMS Shoes, a company that makes philanthropy one of its operating principles. If you buy one pair of shoes from the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company, Mycoskie will give away another pair to someone in need. TOMS -- a name that grew out of the phrase, "Shoes for a better tomorrow" -- was founded in 2006 and proved an immediate success. Mycoskie chronicled his own story this year in the book Start Something That Matters, a blueprint for others seeking to start a business that accomplishes good.
Keep reading: The Best Second Acts Awards 2011
Day 1: Best Second Act in Sports 2011: Swimmer Diana Nyad
Day 2: Best Celebrity Second Act 2011: Jon Bon Jovi's Soul Kitchen
Day 3: Best Creative Second Act 2011: Poet Kay Ryan
Day 4: Best Second Act Comeback 2011: Entrepreneur Brad Gruno
Day 5: Most Inspirational Second Act 2011: Grad Student Allyson Reneau
Day 6: Best Second Act Making A Difference 2011: Judith Broder
Day 7: Best Second Act Reinvention 2011: E-book Author John Locke
Day 8: Best Second Act Game-Changer 2011: Room to Read's John Wood