Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

The Humanitarian Of The Year

Jackson, Mississippi, USA

November 11, 2003

Photography by Keth Luke - Click to expand
Werner Erhard
Werner Erhard was acknowledged by Youth At Risk as The Humanitarian Of The Year for 2003 on Thursday November 6, 2003 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

In the late 1970s, Werner created Breakthrough Racing, a research project and an inquiry inside the question: "Who am I as team?".

In order to define a research project in an area in which he knew nothing so that he stood to learn everything, Werner attended Bob Bondurant's race car driving school at Sears Point race track near Napa Valley in northern California. Then, driving Argo Super Vee Formula Continental race cars, Werner entered the United States Gold Cup motor racing circuit.

Having never raced motor cars before, Werner won that circuit that year.

The project allowed Werner to break himself up and to recreate himself as team such that the abstracts could be powerfully shared with and gotten by others. When the project was completed, Breakthrough Racing became The Breakthrough Foundation managed by Dan Miller who had managed the Breakthrough Racing team for Werner. The Breakthrough Foundation provided the fertile ground from which Youth At Risk eventually sprang.

Youth At Risk coaches and sponsors young people in developing a future that is viable, nurturing, and representing a break with destructive patterns of the past.

Please visit Youth At Risk's website at

What Happened

In response to the overwhelming demand for information regarding Werner Erhard being acknowledged with The Youth At Risk Humanitarian Of The Year Award for 2003, and for information about the award ceremony itself, here are four items.

In the first item, Kathleen Morris describes the origins of The Breakthrough Foundation and Youth At Risk in more depth, and also describes how Youth At Risk came to recognize Werner Erhard as The Humanitarian Of The Year for 2003.

In the second item, Loren Linder gives an even deeper view into exactly what the mission and accomplishments of Youth At Risk are.

In the third item, Kathleen Morris speaking for Claudette C'Faison shares an occurrence at the event which really epitomizes what Youth At Risk is all about.

In the fourth item, Anna Taglieri generously recreates the award ceremony itself.

The Origins Of The Breakthrough Foundation And Youth At Risk

This is Kathleen Morris:


In the 1970s, Werner Erhard created a project known as Breakthrough Racing with the purpose of discovering how to develop team. To do that, he himself had to become team. Dan Miller headed the Breakthrough Racing team for Werner, and after Breakthrough Racing completed, Dan asked Werner if he could use the technology developed by Breakthrough Racing to form a non-profit organization known as The Breakthrough Foundation whose purpose would be to work abroad in villages in underdeveloped nations.

Dan had worked in India with the United States State Department where he saw that what the United States was doing was not empowering the people living there. We were giving aid but we were not giving empowerment. We knew what they needed but we were not inquiring of them what was missing for them.

At the same time, Werner Erhard and Associates conducted a series of community meetings across the United States, the purpose of which was to discover what was missing in communities. In communities across the United States, it was determined that there was an increase in violence among and violent behavior by young people. Drop out rates were on the rise.

The program known as (and for) Youth at Risk was developed in concert with the communities. Youth At Risk made an agreement with The Breakthrough Foundation to produce Youth At Risk courses in cities across the United States, a slam dunk given that The Breakthrough Foundation was already committed to empowering young people.

In 1989, Claudette C'Faison (who had been on the staff of The Breakthrough Foundation) and a group of volunteers who had been participating with Youth At Risk founded Youth At Risk in New York City.

The Breakthrough Foundation, having gotten its job done, went out of existence in 1993, and Youth At Risk continues to deliver its programs in cities across the country.

Every year since 1991, Youth At Risk has acknowledged an individual who has made a difference to the organization, the young people, and the community. Since Werner Erhard was the source of the organization in the early 1980s, we thought it was time he be acknowledged. Claudette C'Faison proposed this to the Youth At Risk board of directors, and they determined that this year, Werner would be invited to be the recipient of The Youth At Risk Humanitarian Of The Year Award.


The Mission And Accomplishments Of Youth At Risk

This is Loren Linder:


Youth At Risk has grown since its inception as a regional project of Werner Erhard's Breakthrough Foundation. Since 1989, Youth at Risk has been a leader in youth empowerment and community based mentorship. Our mission is to decrease the at-risk behavior of youth and to enhance the effectiveness of the people who live and work with them.

This year's Youth At Risk's annual event and celebration stood inside the theme "Rebuilding, Restoring, Reinventing Relationship". Each year, our annual event serves as a way to introduce individuals and corporations to the work of Youth At Risk, and we create a way for them to experience the transformation our youth experience.

Youth At Risk provides mentors for youth from underserved communities between the ages of 12-21 whose circumstances and environment put them at risk for failure academically, socially, emotionally and physically. Specifically, we target teenage parents, fatherless males, youth with disabilities, domestic violence victims, HIV positive parents, potential high school dropouts, gang members, and abusive teenagers.

To date, Youth At Risk has served 225 families and over 2,500 young people. We have provided training to over 700 youth professionals and over 1000 mentors who have been carefully matched with a young person. Youth At Risk creates access to transformation for members of local, national, and global communities. It is because of Werner's founding of the Breakthrough Foundation and the Youth at Risk programs that we honor him as The Humanitarian Of The Year for 2003 for unlocking the futures of our youth.


The Epitome Of Youth At Risk

This is Kathleen Morris for Claudette C'Faison:


Claudette said she was satisfied with the evening. Two of Werner's daughter's, Deborah Rosenberg Erhard Pimental (who traveled to New York from Hawai'i to be there) and Anita Lynn Erhard (who traveled to New York from California to be there) attended the event to accept the award on their father's behalf. Deborah and Lynn were both moved by the acknowledgement of their father by Claudette.

Ricky Childs, the youth acknowledged at the event, completed the Youth At Risk program in 1997 and now volunteers from time to time. He is now 19 and had not seen his father since he was 6 years old. The project he took on with his committed partner/mentor was to locate his father. Remember, he was 13 years old when he came to Youth At Risk.

He did locate his father, and his father was in the room with him attending the event. The room rose to their feet to acknowledge him/them.

Ending hunger of the spirit is what we do at Youth At Risk.


Werner Erhard, Youth At Risk Humanitarian Of The Year For 2003

This is Anna Taglieri:


Last night I attended the annual acknowledgment dinner of the New York chapter of Youth At Risk. This year, Youth At Risk presented Werner Erhard with The Humanitarian Of The Year Award for 2003. Two of Werner's daughters attended the event to accept the award on his behalf. I want you to have a sense of what it was like.

It was a very uplifting evening! Many youths, mentors, and contributors were acknowledged. All of the acknowledgments were moving, touching and inspiring.

When it was time for the acknowledgment of Werner, a picture of him at a blackboard flashed up on the screen, and a resounding standing ovation occurred. Claudette C'Faison began the narrative of the impact Werner had on her life and her job before she founded the New York chapter of Youth At Risk. She described Werner's creation of The Breakthrough Foundation, their work together in The Breakthrough Foundation, Werner's creation of the 10 Day Youth At Risk course, and all the places on Earth where Youth At Risk programs are in existence today.

The picture of Werner stayed on the screen throughout. Claudette said that the video wasn't working, that the pictures were supposed to change. Yet it worked to have him there like that.

Claudette's loving and gratitude-filled acknowledgment of Werner was perfect. Afterward, Werner's daughters Deborah Rosenberg and Anita Lynn came to the podium and accepted the award for their father. Again there was a resounding standing ovation.

Deborah thanked us and acknowledged us. Anita Lynn read a message from their father in which he acknowledged all of us for our contribution and all the young people for what they had accomplished.

Deborah came back up to the microphone during the portion where Youth At Risk was requesting contributions. She held out her left hand and said: "Two thousand five hundred dollars.". Then she held out her right hand and said: "A life.". She repeated the words and moved her hands a bit as though they were pans on a balance. Then she declared that she was sponsoring a youth for the coming year, all of which was very moving and enrolling. Wild applause followed her declaration.

In addition to the mentors, graduates, participants, assistants, staff, and sponsors of Youth At Risk, many graduates, of the est  Training, and The Landmark Forum were there as well. est  trainer and Landmark Forum Leader Nancy Zapolski was there, Landmark Forum Leader Sandy Bernasik was there, Armand DiCarlo, Center Manager of the New York City Landmark Center was there, Joan McNeil was there, Tirzah and Maurice Cohen were there, and many, many, many more people were there, all to acknowledge and honor a man who has given so much and contributed so enormously to their lives and to Life itself.

The venue was beautiful, and the fund raising auction directed by an auctioneer from PBS's  ie Public Broadcasting Service's Traveling Road Show was fun. The buffet was exquisitely presented, and the food was delicious.

I trust you now have a sense of what it was like to be present for a most wonderful evening of acknowledgment. I am so happy I was there!


Completion Is Not An End - It Is The Real Possibility Of A New Start

In March 1971, Werner's stated intention was to create a space in which people could participate in the transformation of people.

I Love You.

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© Laurence Platt - 2003 through 2023 Permission