John Prendergast is the co-founder of the Enough Project, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent genocide and other crimes against humanity. Before visiting Zócalo to speak about the positive effects of mentor-mentee relationships, he took questions in our Green Room.
Q. What do you wake up to?
A. I get very annoyed by loud sounds, so I found this one sound where it mimics the ocean. But then there’s this boat that comes along and it has a foghorn and it keeps getting louder and louder until you freak out and you gotta get up.
Q. What is your most prized possession?
A. I would say my basketball. Everything else comes and go, but boy, that hoop. If I can play my hoops I’ll be fine. It keeps my sanity in check.
Q. Who is your favorite literary character?
A. To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus, come on! Atticus just rules.
Q. What do you wish you had the nerve to do?
A. A little cliff diving would be kind of fun.
Q. What item would you bid for on eBay?
A. It would have to be something like one of Coltrane’s first instruments. I’d buy and put it in a glass case for like a week and then I’d pull it out and learn how to play it.
Q. What comforts you?
A. I think my daily call to my mom. I talk to her once or twice a day and that’s sort of the Mississippi River for this Huckleberry Finn.
Q. Who is the one person living or dead you’d most like to meet for dinner?
A. The last year of Martin Luther King’s life when he started going really global in his aspirations of social change–that’s the guy I want to have dinner with.
Q. What would you want for you final meal?
A. I try my best to minimize meat consumption. I’m not a vegetarian per se, but oh them lambchops. And because it would be my last meal I wouldn’t have to worry about the dairy and gluten thing so I could have like huge vats of mashed potatoes and butter all over the corn. Then if King showed up or not, it wouldn’t really matter. [Laughs] More for me!
Q. If you could live in any other time, past, present or future, when would it be?
A. Oh no no no… I don’t want to go anywhere else, I love this moment. There’s profound change in the air. This is the time I want to be.
Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A.I could give you some kind of a phrase, but the observation of the lived experience of Nelson Mandela and those specific traits of kindness, graciousness, gentleness. And his empathy for other people. I was sort of a bomb thrower, shoot first, ask questions later, definitely made me revise my style.
Q. If you could take only one more journey, where would you go?
A. The newest state in the world as of last Saturday was South Sudan, literally recognized as the 193rd country in the world by the United Nations. I’d worked for much of my adult life for the realization of that day, for the Southern Sudanese have to be free and independent of the dictatorship. My last voyage would be to South Sudan to say goodbye.
Read more about Prendergast’s lecture.
*Photo by Aaron Salcido.