Episcopal welcomed John Gable ’83 back to The Holy Hill in early November to present him with this year’s Integrity in Action Award, given annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to bettering our world.
With nearly 30 years in technology entrepreneurship, management, and executive experience, Gable served on the original teams of well-known companies including Microsoft Office and Mozilla at Netscape — now known as Firefox. Prior to his career in technology, he was a professional political campaigner and an executive director working for the Republican National Committee. In 2012, he merged his political and technological expertise in establishing AllSides, a media solutions company that strives to provide balanced news, media bias ratings, and diverse perspectives to enable civil conversation across divides.
As the CEO and co-founder of AllSides, Gable actively works to help people better understand the world — and each other. The organization serves individuals at AllSides.com and provides patented technologies, tools, and services to schools, media companies, nonprofits, businesses, and other public and private organizations.
In introducing Gable, Head of School Charley Stillwell said, “At a time when so many people in the U.S. and our world live in social media bubbles where they only see information that reinforces their own perspectives and biases, and that tend to keep us apart, Mr. Gable has been dedicated to helping all of us wrestle with complexity and to work hard to understand a common set of facts and information that we can use to go about solving complex problems.”
During his keynote address, Gable focused on the importance of intentionally challenging oneself to truly understand those who hold different perspectives from your own. He called attention to the dangers of how data is delivered to consumers using sophisticated algorithms designed to curate material aligned with user behavior and interests so that individuals only end up interacting with stories, news, and people with similar perspectives. He cautioned that “when we only know people just like us, only hear ideas that we agree with, we all become much more extreme in what we believe and much less tolerant of any person or idea that is different than us.” He went on to share that this current state of polarization is a worldwide problem that we cannot solve without a willingness to talk and listen to each other and create personal connections.
He encouraged all to be aware of their biases and left the audience with the notion of trying to always push past their initial reactions to a dissenting viewpoint — beyond emotional dismissal and desire to provide counterpoints to a third thought that focuses on trying to understand the other person’s argument, perspective, and background.
The Phillips Lecture on Integrity in Action was established in 2000 to honor distinguished faculty member Allen Carleton Phillips, Jr. It was created by John Burress ’54, John Walker ’79, Ed Walker ’85, and then-Headmaster Rob Hershey. The lecture series and award was established to recognize a remarkable individual representing integrity, ethical leadership, compassion, and a commitment to service, who would, in receiving this recognition, serve as an inspiration to all of us.