Dr Alison Thompson’s Full Speech at The Pentagon


Dr Alison Thompson’s full speech from the Military Childs Education Coalition with the Military at The Pentagon

Thank you for inviting me here today I’m excited to share with you some of the secrets I’ve learned in life. –
But first of all I want to revel to you that I’m probably --one of the most selfish people you will ever meet!

When the earthquake devastated Haiti it killed over 270,000 people and left millions homeless. I flew there with 10 doctors, 1000’s of Cliff bars, 8 bottles of whiskey and an outspoken actor named Sean Penn. We ended up running a 70,000 person IDP camp and we traded our whisky to the Brazilian troops for oxygen tanks, accepted life-saving morphine from the Cubans and ate rice and beans everyday.

I’d lost 12 lbs in ten days, got a great suntan, met hundreds of new volunteer and Haitian friends, and best of all……………… I had fallen in love.

When I got back to NYC I was glowing and a lot of people noticed the changes in me and asked if I had been away at a spa--- “umm kinda” I would reply– “Would u like to come with me next time?”

Selfish right?

We don’t help others to get anything out of it but when you’re doing good the universe opens up and your life’s journey explodes into new possibilities.

Before I share with you my secrets to life here are a few small ones I have learned along the way,


  • Wear sunscreen
  • Never challenge Sean Penn to a drinking game
  • Listen to a lot of good music
  • Be more childlike- laugh, imagine, dream—there wasn’t just one man who had a dream- women dream too.
  • Learn to play honestly with others in the sand pit… (adults really aren’t too good at that!)
  • Always check your boots for cockroaches before you put them on—
  • Practice unconditional love but always carry a big knife.
  • Don’t let what is written on your graduating diploma define all you can be for the rest of your life- you CAN do it all!
  • Donna Karen is a designer and Sean Penn is an actor but they also are some of the finest humanitarians I have worked with.
  • Any OCD people out there?? Some of the BEST Volunteers we’ve had are people with OCD disorders and they’re really amazing at cleaning up refugee camps.
  • Be prepared- One night you could be jamming in a drum circle with the locals till 5am and the next day you could be advising the Secretary General of the UN under a tree. I know because it happened to me.


Mark Twain said “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

I found out MY why on Sept 11th 2001 and I believe it is the key to one of the greatest secrets of life.

On that early Sept morning,
I rollerbladed 8 miles downtown to the WTC speeding through red lights to get there as fast as I could. People floated towards me like zombies with cell phones to their ears but nobody was speaking.
I escaped the north towers collapse, and ended up living in the streets, helping collect the bodies and washing out firemen’s eyes. About ten feet away from my post was a great black pit---it was as though Satan had risen up out of the earth and scorched everything in his path and I stood at the gates of hell--- wondering what I was going to do?
On the way down to Ground Zero I had prayed that if it was my time to die then I was ready –--I’m not a morbid person and I had lived a compassed life, but in accepting my death ---I felt no fear at all.

On the 4th day at ground zero FEMA visited our rag tag team of volunteers and asked us to leave -stating it was time for the professionals to take over… after 3 more visits asking us to leave--- something changed- in the second half of the sentence the FEMA agent covered his badge with his hand and said “please stay everyone is needed.”  

That night around 4am I met an 88 year old grandma from Chicago who offered me tea from a wobbly cart --she had driven all the way to NY alone and hustled past the storm trooper at the main gate with a dismissive ‘step aside sonny! ”
She had learned that if you show up, act confidant, belong- that the doors would open ------and she also had the common sense to know that people would be needing tea.

Finding a working toilet in that first week was challenging and on the 2nd night I met a lawyer who worked his guts out cleaning the toilets at ground zero by carrying heavy buckets of water back and forth from the Hudson river and at night he put scented candles on the floor so we could see in the dark –he was my quiet hero-----he had recognized a need- and filled it – he hadn’t let his law degree hold him above what was needed to be done.

When FEMA had covered their badges and told us that “EVERYONE WAS NEEDED” I learned that “there are the general rules of the world (that keep the sheep in the pen) and then there are -----THE REAL RULES OF THE WORLD and after I learned MY way I try to live a life of action and balance within the REAL rules of the world.

It’s easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time but its LEADERSHIP to be in the wrong place at the right time.

Grit – Determination- Perseverance.

In creating CTEC- the Sri Lankan tsunami-Early warning center I wasn’t a tactful oceanographer- or a skilled arborist in Haiti when I recognized the need for planting trees with less than 2 % of the forest left.
I have learned to use all my small skills to add up to make real change- identifying a problem -finding a solution -then surrounding myself with the experts to get it done.
In the months after Sept 11th over one million volunteers enlisted as a new ‘kind of soldier’ servicing on American soil.

You are not being asked to go shave your head and chant on a hillside but to IMAGINE a world where everyone does their part that soon the karma banks are overflowing with blue chip stocks of compassion ------and we are all ‘billionaires on the inside’ –
Imagine a world where souls are more valuable than money? Isn’t that the way it’s meant to be?

Someone asked me not long ago when I was ever going to get a real job!
My short answer is the real world is personal, emotional, prejudiced and instinctive concept.
One may go on to excel in a career – the other sets off to explore. Both are real. One may be, existing - the other living.
The "real world" is what we make it not what the masses expect we "should” do and people are valued because of their cash flow or who has the most twitter followers …….but it is not Reality.

I think most of us recognize the need for a healthy bank account to survive but few would say that it’s the MOST important thing in life. So when ‘real’ is a good cause and when I stop being helpful to others …only then will I get a real job.

The Real rules of the world tell you its ok to be Vulnerable- to open your heart, to LOVE and take risks –to be authentic, to JUST BE YOU (with all your imperfections)!

The UN reports that 1 in every 122 humans on the planet are refugees /internally displaced or seeking asylum.

For the past 11 months I’ve been helping rescue the Syrian refugees who are fleeing the bombings of Isis and other brutal regimes and heading from Turkey to Lesvos Greece in flimsy boats that are capsizing. It’s the largest mass exodus since WW2. With ½ a million people dead, 11 million internally displaced and over 4 million refugees on the run.

After the past genocides we said NEVER again but NEVER again is here right now -----so I have chosen to DO SOMETHING!!
I’ve meet tens of 1000s of the Syrian refugees over the past year who were educated doctors, engineers, scholars, artists and people with regular jobs just like you. When the kids get off the boats the first thing they want to do is take ‘Selfies’ with us.

Grit, Determination, Perseverance

My brain doesn’t have all the solutions but I can help the suffering humans in front of me so I have been focusing on bringing a little solar puff light to the dark refugee camps of Greece
It was invented by my girlfriend Alice to help reduce our use of fossil fuels. (points to her--she’s over there and she’s a hero of mine!)

It’s an origami fold up waterproof light, which last 12 hours before you recharge it in the sun.

Really cool huh?
Who wants one?

It’s easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – where will you be?

Lady Liberty stated “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
and then I added “Tag you’re in!”