Stephen Tosh answers 5 questions from the We Are Human campaign

This month, we chose Stephen Tosh as our featured PACH member. Stephen Tosh is the Executive Director of the Boys’ Club of New York (BCNY) and member of the PACH Advisory Board. Learn more about Stephen and read his responses to PACH’s We Are Human questions below.

How does your work foster a common humanity?

My career has been focused on helping young people who are seen as outsiders, have genuine opportunities and be accepted as fully human. Some of this work has involved working with young people to help them find the confidence to demand to be seen and heard. I have also used my position as a nonprofit executive to challenge those in power, including philanthropists, to acknowledge and recognize their privilege to decide who is included in our common humanity.

What is one of your favorite childhood memories and why?

One of my favorite childhood memories is being with my father who was a coach and teacher in Chicago. In the summer he worked for the parks department and I accompanied him as he went around in an old Chevy station wagon full of sports equipment, engaging kids and organizing programs. By the end of each evening the car was usually packed with kids he was driving home, taking to the emergency room to get treatment for an injury, or providing some space for a teenager to cool down and avoid a fight. I was so proud to be with him and see how treated young people with respect and “tough love.” He expected the best from everyone he dealt with and never gave up on a kid. I realize now that so much of who I am as a father and professional was learned from him in those parks and in that old station wagon.

What is one of the best things that has ever happened to you and why?

Without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to me was agreeing to go to a meeting on May 8, 1982 at the War Resisters League to help plan a sit-in at the United Nations to protest nuclear proliferation. The woman chairing the meeting was mesmerizing and the most amazing person I had ever met. The friendship we developed working together on that demonstration led to a marriage and 35-year love affair that is still going strong, and has brought me more happiness than I could have ever imagined.

Whom do you trust the most and why?

I trust my wife because she always tells me the truth and never lets me accept being less than I am capable of being.

What do you fear the most in life and why?

I fear not having the courage to live my values through my words and actions. I strive for a values-based life, and that requires staying strong and mindful even in situations where it would be easier to compromise, or stay quiet and avoid conflict.

What do you most desire in life and why?

Other than vanilla ice cream, my greatest desire is to work with like-minded people in pursuit of a world that is more equitable and respects our common humanity. As Howard Zinn has said, if we come together and take action, even in small ways, we don’t have to focus on a utopian future, “The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”