Jeffrey Francis Tufenkian
The following is a detailed background of how Jeffrey became interested in social change work. Click on the highlighted text to skip to information on his consulting firm, Strategic Advocacy & Media.
I grew up as most middle class Americans do not questioning too deeply about our government or corporate practices. After all, as far as I saw things seemed fine; my family and people around me had food, decent housing and cars and although not wealthy, were far from suffering.
My naivete began to fall away while travelling in 1982. Viewing the US from an overseas perspective was very eye opening-that lead me to begin questioning what directions our country was taking and why. I came back to realize that the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the nuclear disarmament movement were in full swing in the US and I began attending talks on nuclear weapons issues. I was amazed to see the billions of dollars we were wasting on weapons of incomprehensible destruction while we demonized the Soviets as our "enemies."
This track lead me to be active with a local nuclear disarmament group and as I studied more about the death and torture our government was bringing upon the people of El Salvador and Nicaragua, I became active in the struggle for human rights and self-determination for that region.
My newly awakened thirst for knowledge led me to seek out progressive college courses and attend many talks by people like Helen Caldicott of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Ralph Nader, Gus Bailey of the Lincoln Brigade, Phillip Agee (ex-CIA agent), former participants in the Manhattan Project (who helped develop the first atomic bomb) and many other leaders for positive social change.
Through courses and personal studies I learned of Gandhian nonviolence and became committed to nonviolent social change as a central focus of my life and career. No longer content to have animals die for me to eat (or contribute needlessly to pollution or ill health), I chose to become vegetarian.
I participated in rallies, co-wrote and published a weekly update on Central American news and supported other peace and freedom issues including bringing majority rule to South Africa. In fact, I participated in a civil disobedience protest of South African Apartheid for which I and 95 other protesters spent a night in jail all claiming the name of the martyr, Steven Biko rather than give our own names and be released immediately.
When I realized that I would not be satisfied doing otherwise, I determined that I would forge a career in social change. This commitment was crystallized as a participant on a human rights delegation to El Salvador in 1985. While there, we interviewed political prisoners who had been tortured under the direction of US "advisors," talked with innocent peasant women who were raped and tortured by paramilitary groups and spent time with students and professors who were being actively hunted by death squads for their nonviolent support of peace-all this in a country in which the US was supplying half of the government's operating budget.
I sought out organizations for which I could do professional activism. In 1985 I landed my first paid activist job as a campus organizer for the Ralph Nader- inspired group, OSPIRG (Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group). At $9,500 a year for 80+ hour weeks, I was not getting rich, but I was happy to be supporting myself doing professional social change work.
At this point in my life I remain firmly committed to bringing about positive social change with my work. I see working with a variety of organizations as an important role which is why I began the consulting group, [Strategic Advocacy and Media](kindred/sam/).
Non-religious spirituality has become an important part of my life and underpinning of my work. The respect for living beings, integrity and wellness are basic tenets of my spirituality. I have become vegan to further reduce violence to animals and contribute positively to my own health and the planet's. I seek to empower other individuals and organizations to be more effective at bringing positive change to our global community.