Debra Smith


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Let's all make a point of signing the Charter for Compassion. Have YOU signed yet? No? Come on Down!!

It all starts with a personal commitment to Compassionate living.

A beloved friend that I met here on TED, a young man from Malaysia and a deeply compassionate Muslim sent me an email to encourage me, a woman of a different nationality, age group, ethnicity and who possesses different religious sentiments, to sign and become part of the solution to some of the world's problems. Will you join us and put your name, your commitment, your hopes and your weight toward our common good?

If this is something you would like to do, you can do so here:

for a better and fuller explanation of the goals and wording please go here:

If you chose to do so, please let us all know that you think it is worthwhile in a posting below. Let us know why you chose to do so and what it means to you.

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      Nov 17 2011: Thank you so much Mohammad Bin Iftikhar for signing the charter and sharing your perspective.
      I have to share how much I enjoy some of our Muslim TED conversationalists. You and your dedication to compassionate living give me hope for the world.
      • Nov 19 2011: Definitely signed Debra, I will share this with all of my contacts.
        Thank you for this very beautiful idea.
        You are playing a very important role in this section of TED

        God bless you
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          Nov 19 2011: Welcome Muhammad Abdulaziz, thank you for signing and especially for letting your contacts know. That is a generous act!
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    Nov 10 2011: Done, Debra! Thank you for posting this! I've been reading the Charter for Compassion website this week. Synchronistic!
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      Nov 18 2011: Just wanted to take a moment to thank you, Linda for the consistently compassionate way that you deal with people here on TED. Compassion in action!
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    Nov 10 2011: Hi Debra! (It's been awhile)

    As a compassionate, non-spiritual atheist I was actually discouraged to sign the Charter because of the empathies it lays on religious, ethical and spiritual traditions...
    I'm even quite sure that i stopped reading the charter after the fist sentence "The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions"

    So, the first time I saw the Talk and checked the site I didn't sign it...

    With only 80000 people signing it since 2007 there seems to be something very wrong with the way the charter is constructed, or at least the way it's perceived... I actually think that it needs to be re-written in order to be successful...

    So, I signed it anyway (my name is at the very end of page 400).

    Um, to answer you last question, I signed it only to make the people here (and you) happy. The charter itself means very little to me but compassion on the other hand, it rocks!
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      Nov 10 2011: Thank you for your response and for signing. I value both very highly and I appreciate the impulse to make others happy. You did!

      Your answer is important because it clarifies your reasoning. I would respond that I think it is vital for all of us to understand the purpose of the charter. To my way of thinking it is to persuade people of all religions that we do not think that violence or unkindness in the name of religion is acceptable. Whether atheist or theist we can all agree on that. When people like you sign the charter, I think that sentiment is most clearly heard.

      As long as there are religions and various world views we have to find ways of interacting without rejecting the people themselves even when we personally reject the way they construct their world view. Working with the 'other' by clearly expressing what we see as viable and what we see as unacceptable we at least establish dialogue.

      Radicals and fundamentals of all faiths tend to have a very, very small sphere of influence. They repeatedly hear messages from those with whom they have bonded that behaviours written in holy books are 'God's way'. The Charter tries to say that at least 80,000 people of all persuasions say that no matter what is written in any obscure or misinterpreted text- that increasing misery in the name of religion is WRONG!

      As to there only being 80,000 signatures- great causes often lack good marketing and I thought I would do my bit to change that!
    • Nov 10 2011: Jimmy
      I understand your perspective, but would ask you to reconsider and sign anyway. (Sorry Jimmy I misread what you said and I am glad you signed it.) One of the things we have lost in our society, a pattern that worked even in the U.S. Congress before the polarization, was that people or groups who shared common goals could and did come together to further that goal, without forcing the other, or others to conform to their particular perspective. The abolition of the slave trade in England and and abolitionism here in the U.S. are good examples. Some came from a purely humanitarian perspective, some from a religious or spiritual one, some from a philosophical perspective, but all worked to abolish that wrong. You said you are a compassionate atheist. I cannot share your atheism, but I can share your caring compassion.
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      Nov 11 2011: If it's an act of love what does it matter if someone believes in this or in that.
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    Nov 10 2011: Hi Debra, An excellent idea and what fabulous feast of talks you have spread on this page!!
    As usual I watch them several times to absorb as much as possible. Meanwhile...." there is no verb...its : act compassionately adverb.....there is no short is like swimming by swimming."
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      Nov 10 2011: ...." there is no verb...its : act compassionately adverb.....there is no short is like swimming by swimming."

      It is simply amazing to me that you and Libbey have said so much in one sentence each. Thanks, Juliette!
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    Nov 22 2011: I am starting to feel the love already.Good job Debra! ;)
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      Nov 30 2011: Muhammad Aizat! Thanks for joining the chain of compassion that you yourself started with an email to me. With much love from your biggest Canadian fan!
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    Nov 21 2011: Thank you Debra for posting this, I am so excited to be apart of this. I commit with this in mind
    " A dream you dream alone is only a dream, a dream you dream together is reality"
    -John Lennon-
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      Nov 21 2011: Joel! Welcome!
      Your John Lennon quote is perfect!
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    Nov 20 2011: Thank you Debra for your example and your efforts to make the world better for all of us.
    I would like to share Lincoln's inspiring statement, "If I make a friend of my enemy, have I not destroyed him?"
    World peace begins with us when we refuse to perceive others as enemies and resist the lazy tendency to generalize whole categories of humanity into xenophobic abstractions. The core of the Bodhisattva's view could be expressed in this way "we can not harm or even wish to harm another without injuring ourselves, we cannot help another sentient being without helping all of us, because in the highest reality we are all one expanded organism in time and space.
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      Nov 20 2011: What a great entry Chad! I am in love with Abraham Lincoln and his deep human wisdom (with apologies to Mrs. Lincoln who was apparently the jealous type.) even though I am not American so thank you for that quote.

      "we can not harm or even wish to harm another without injuring ourselves, we cannot help another sentient being without helping all of us": when will we understand this?
  • Nov 18 2011: Thank you for putting this on my radar, Debra. Hearing the Dalai Lama speak on the subject of compassion on two different occasions really made me aware of how important kindness is and how easily it can be practiced in our daily lives. I'm usually not a 'joiner' but this felt right to sign.
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      Nov 18 2011: Hi Lana, I think that if you ever joined anything this is a great place to be! Welcome new friend!
  • Nov 14 2011: I have done it
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      Nov 18 2011: Thank you Shalini! It is a delight to have you with us!
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    Nov 12 2011: OK Debra, I'm signed up! Well done on promoting the Charter. I'm a great fan of Karen Armstrong, I've read most of her books. Her account of her early years as a novate nun are very moving, The Spiral Staircase.
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      Nov 12 2011: The book sounds really interesting, Jerry. Thanks for signing and sharing.
  • Nov 12 2011: Okay, I read and listened again.
    I realized I'm choosing polarization. I don't like me.
    Crow is better eaten while it is still warm, so I'm chowing down now.

    I will sign it because it doesn't really matter which came first,
    the chicken (human rights) or the egg (compassion).
    It only matters that one of them comes soon, comes now, somehow begins.

    I too, have to let go of my deep-seated convictions, in order to fall,
    as though I am flying free. And, in the word convictions, is the word convict,
    and I absolutely abhor being a prisoner to my own beliefs.

    Thanks for letting me espouse my own bs.
    BS stands for "besides, yada, yada, yada.
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      Nov 15 2011: Can't tell you, RC, how much I enjoyed the transparent inner struggle to find the right course of action. Thanks for coming down on the side of signing!
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    Nov 11 2011: Debra,

    Thanks for the response and mentioning the Charter of Compassion,

    As it turns out, I have apparently signed the Charter once before, the sad thing is I do not remember doing so (I must of happened when I checked out the Groundswell movement website). It is a good thing I did check it out being that I now know what I signed up for.

    Anyhow despite the brilliant message that it talked about I was a bit skeptical about it because it kept mentioning religion and for some reason advocating for more religion in the world to me is scary. Then I realized that was not the case and advocating for more compassion in the world is much bigger than what I believed or feared.

    As you read from my other post, I have no problem with people believing in what they believe in until these beliefs have troubling consequences. And this applies to everything from politics, economics, values, etc.

    As Jimmy stated 80,000 people signing it is not a lot when you consider that the world population is about 7 billion (perhaps less when you consider infants or those who are unable to comprehend this) but 80,000 is still a small number.

    If everyone, or at least most people can embrace compassion, put it in action and spread it to everyone else, things will be a lot different. the world would be different.

    If there is one value that can bring the world together I think compassion is one of them.

    the only problem is I guess is convincing people that it really does not matter if God exist and that such a being would transcend this world anyways. If you ask me, changing the world is something god (if he existed) left humans to do on their own and instead of waiting for something to happen or accept that things that goes on in the world is part of gods plan, we should be active and do something about it.

    That is why I signed the Charter, hoping that it contributes to such a good movement. It will also challenge and make me more accountable for my actions as well.
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      Nov 12 2011: What a generous and well considered comment. Thank you Orlando.
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        Nov 12 2011: And thank you for the nudge Debra... I will take a peek !
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          Nov 21 2011: Denis, did you peek and sign? Let us know what you decided!
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        Nov 21 2011: Thank you Debra, for your persistence with me. I can only hope that such a document can/will have actual impacts ! What a beautiful message...and I will certainly do my part to bring attention to it !

        So thanks again !
        Denis ( on pg. 404 ! )
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          Nov 21 2011: Thanks Denis! This makes me feel happy!
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        Nov 21 2011: Your welcome Debra !

        I don't think I have ever seen anything like it ! Not having much time for institutionalized religion, it is certainly a refreshing approach ! When I saw Peter Gabriel's name on there, I thought "Why not?!" ... he must believe it can have some real impact.

        So I do appreciate the nudges !

        And BTW ... its very kind of you to take such an active role in this... who knows what influence the Charter will have on our lives, and on our global awareness!

  • Nov 10 2011: Thanks for posting this, I have sign the chapter and I don't think it pushes religion at all, you don't have to belong to any religion to understand that we all need compassion in this world, to share, to give and to get. It mentions religion as much as ethical and spiritual traditions, one can have the 2 later without being a religious person. Its aaaaaallll good ;)
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      Nov 18 2011: Big hug to you Patricia! It is all good!
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    Nov 10 2011: Hi Debra...I signed on to the Charter a couple of years ago and I have been talking about it since. I see that as the way to a peaceful world but of course one must believe in compassion first. I love anything that Karen Armstrong writes and her latest book, "The Case for God" is not what you might think it is. Well worth reading. Glad you brought this to Tedster's attention. Everybody try works.
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      Nov 10 2011: Big hug to you Helen! I will look for that book. Thanks!
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    Nov 10 2011: Thank you for starting such a good conversation. I affirmed.
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      Nov 10 2011: Compassion is a component of the way you communicate on TED, Rafi and I notice and appreciate it.
  • Nov 10 2011: please listen to Joan's TED Talk will be inspired!
    ompassion and the true meaning of empathy: Joan Halifax on
    Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy. (Recorded at TEDWomen, December 2010, in Washington, DC. Duration: 13:19.)
  • Nov 9 2011: Why choose to BE compassionate? To ACT with compassion?
    A simple thought comes to my mind above all others.

    I have often regretted when I've acted in anger or impatience.
    I have NEVER regretted a single act of compassion. I have only wished for more.

    The Charter for Compassion is a treasure. I signed it. Hope everyone will.
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      Nov 10 2011: "I have NEVER regretted a single act of compassion. I have only wished for more."

      Libbey! that is simply eloquent! Thanks!
  • Nov 9 2011: Debra
    Thanks for the post and a chance to hear about and respond to the Charter for Compassion. I did affirm the charter and was happy to do so.

    Real compassion is a universal value we can all hold on to tightly. It can motivate us to truly seek out compassionate individual acts, stimulate compassionate action by our governments, and seek out compassionate responses in difficult times.

    I have seen on a personal basis how people in moments of crisis can respond to the hurts of others with care, compassion and really meeting both physical and emotional needs of others.

    Anything like the Charter of Compassion that can center us on that kind of response to our world is excellent.
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      Nov 10 2011: Thank you Michael for signing and for posting your response. Can you tell us more about the events in which you have participated where compassion ruled the day? I think many people would be interested.
      • Nov 10 2011: Debra
        In dealing with people in both disaster relief an din hunger related projects I have seen whole communities work with compassion for one another.

        In the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City I saw people of a local apartment building digging with their bare hands to rescue people or at least find bodies of loved ones. I saw neighborhood groups, including gangs, organize themselves to provide food for whole blocks of people. Working in other relief events, I have seen communities ban together to distribute food, help clean out wells and make sure everyone was cared for. Compassion can rule if we give it a chance.
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    Nov 18 2011: Thanks Debra - signed the charter and continue in hope!
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      Nov 18 2011: Noel. Thanks for signing and thanks for your courage. I will dream with you.
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    Nov 15 2011: QUOTE

    "I am a true advocate of human rights. In fact, I am proud to tell you that it was a Canadian who wrote most of the United Nations Declaration of human rights and Canada implemented it into our Constitution very early on. We have powerful human rights legislation here which we teach to all of our school children."

    This paragraph is powerful. This is what we must bring to all our children. Another resilience example of esteem strengthening through social justice is Tibetan government in exile. HHDL has gone to huge lengths to impart and instil a social justice culture - in conflict survival populations it helps recovery, reconciliation and reclaiming self respect. In any culture it aids prevention and protection of abuse.

    If our children can receive human rights education in a simple form as a values teaching in early schooling - those who do not receive adequate esteem reinforcement at home or who are abused in some form are able to have some core to maintain identity and find confidence to reach for help and support from appropriate channels. This in turn breaks or helps to break the heartbreaking guilt cycle of human condition that with childhood abuse - can perpetuate and repeat with devastating effects throughout life.

    Thank you Debra.
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      Nov 15 2011: Hey there Vivienne! Thanks for joining us! Did you feel inclined to sign the Charter?
  • Nov 12 2011: Okay. I read it and listened to it.

    I used to have a cartoon in which a chicken and an egg were both sitting in a waiting room to see someone. A male secretary sat at a desk in front of them. Leaning forward, he asked of them, "OK, which one was here first?"

    After listening to and reading the declaration I go back to what I first wrote. It mentions - "to refrain from.....deny basic rights to anybody" - but those are already being denied and have been for some time.
    Which comes first, compassion or human rights? Which should (if one should) come first?

    I do object to the use and referral of religion in this charter. Religion, has on its whole (to me), failed humanity considerably and miserably since its inception. There is a strong possibility and probability that religion may very well be founded upon lies to boot. So it's not "some people" misusing it. It's been a lot of people! So, me thinks it should be booted out of the equation along with morality, as the codes handed down, seem to be wrong, inaccurate, slanted and misleading, to list several. I am skeptical of what "morality" is chosen or used, and who chooses which morality to use to "restore compassion to morality and religion". Religion, to my personal experience, is nothing less than an attempt to destroy the human spirit. I truly believe this after much time spent in its clutches.

    There is much in the morality that we have had for so long that needs to be thrown out, discarded and abolished before signing anything. If and when that is done, will there be something left that we still call morality?

    But religion is very much founded in hope. I believe hope is the most believed in concept in the world and by definition, it is false. So, there you go. When do we first stop our worship of lies? Same with faith. Faith is blind or becomes so without any knowing facts. We must first be willing to uncover and remove all our lies. We still worship too many of them, without knowing it. Such as hope and faith
  • Nov 12 2011: Is your compassion also for those who live in the dark?

    (I haven't read it yet, sorry) Where can I read it?

    Wouldn't it be an act of compassion to make human rights binding everywhere in the world first?
    Doing so would eliminate many problems that we have.

    Human Rights would allow them to come into the light, as they would be recognized first as
    having the right to live, to be who they are and as they are.

    It is a shame that Human Rights are not recognized world-wide and if they were,
    then we wouldn't have so many "justified reasons" to not be compassionate towards

    I still cannot get over how so many believe we are a "higher species" to the rest of the
    animal kingdom but also believe we should have to live like animals because there is
    no such thing as a human right. One person said our only right is death. If that is it,
    then we don't need any "Compassion Charters" signed. At the least, check out your own
    beliefs and see if they contradict one another.

    Compassion must be for everyone, then, regardless of belief, practice, orientations, moralities, etc.

    Is this the intention?

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      Nov 12 2011: A man after my own heart! Hello Random Chance!

      I am a true advocate of human rights. In fact, I am proud to tell you that it was a Canadian who wrote most of the United Nations Declaration of human rights and Canada implemented it into our Constitution very early on. We have powerful human rights legislation here which we teach to all of our school children.

      To answer where you can find it, it is in the introductory question box but it bears repeating so I am pasting it here:
      If this is something you would like to do, you can do so here:

      for a better and fuller explanation of the goals and wording please go here:

      My intention in promoting that TEDsters sign the Charter is to help the world inch toward anything that will truly improve the lot of humanity in terms of nonagression and increasing the right of all people to live in peace and kindness. Clearly stating that no religion has the right to take the precepts or edicts of their faith to 'increase the sum of misery' on the planet is a good start.

      Thanks so much for taking an interest and for your valid questions.
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    Nov 10 2011: Debra Compassion is the present lived in loving.
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      Nov 10 2011: Yes, Jaime and I think you have lived a compassionate life. what has inspired you to do so?
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        Nov 10 2011: Debra.....Being happy and sharing.
  • Nov 10 2011: But is it only about compassion? It seems like its promiting the site's religious views, so its still highly religious, except that it's put in a way that makes every other religious view appear "wrong". Well, the last part was maybe a little bit harsh, but I don't feel like the text was neutral.

    I also don't like the idea that you should only take the good out of religion. It is giving religion way, way, way too much credit for the small pieces of repeated truisms and sensible guides of living hidden in its texts and somehow not always even there to begin with.

    The bible appears to be fairly direct on the dealing with homosexuals, a quick google-search for "bible homosexuality" gave me this fine line of religion; "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:13 KJV)

    I'm always sceptical to the usefullness outside of a temporary ego-boost when it comes to things like this. Similar to "Like this if your against bullying" on facebook and "Thousands of children starves each day, send this to everyone in your contact list if you want to end world hunger"-emails. What would I actually be accomplishing by signing this?
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      Nov 10 2011: Hi Pontus! Thanks for your comment and your perspective.

      I want to respond in a contructive way so I want to ask if you read my response to Jimmy who raises some similar good points. Could I ask you to read that and get back to me to tell me if I addressed your questions and points, please? Again, your points are not to be dismissed, I just want to clarify whether I have gone part way in addressing them.
      • Nov 10 2011: I've read your response. I don't really know how to respond more then that, but you talk about the radicals and fundamentalists (extremists?), how does this charter actually reach out to these people?

        I still feel like the site is just promoting their specific religious view and is about as helpfull as a "end world hunger" spam-mail.
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          Nov 10 2011: Thanks for reading my response to Jimmy. Thanks too for coming back.
          My whole point is that the more people who put their weight against the uncompassionate use of religion the better.

          Part of what I have studied is what influences group opinions and norms. I think that something like this can work to say to large closed groups that many others do not accept this way of thinking as valid. Resorting to violence in the name of religion is something that people do when they believe that not just God but whole groups of people agree with their actions but are just too cowardly to carry it out. I am hoping that something like this shifts the center of gravity just enough to make people rethink.

          I am sure that you are doing whatever you need to do to find compassionate actions in your own life and signing anything with which you do not agree is not a good thing to do but I appreciate the time and effort it took to engage me on this issue.