Must See: General John Borling Recites the Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln’s 272-word Gettysburg Address remains as powerful, compelling and true today as when he delivered it in 1863.  It reminds us that our country was founded on the compelling principles of liberty and equality, that good men perished in pursuit of this worthy cause and that as a nation we must continue to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Last year, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation published a book,Gettysburg Replies,” containing 272-word essays responding to the Gettysburg address  from modern-day political, business, academic and business leaders – including all living U.S. Presidents and Stephen Spielberg. They reveal the intense hold this speech still has on our collective American psyche.

Three contributors to “Gettysburg Replies” recently taped a WTTW/PBS television show at the Pritzker Military Library with the CEO of the Lincoln Library, who also edited Gettysburg Replies, Carla Knorowski, Ph.D.  I enjoyed the good fortune of being in the small audience for the taping – particularly because I am a fan of all three contributors – Newt Minnow, former FCC Chairman and longtime Sidley Austin partner; Sam Harris, Holocaust survivor, proud American citizen, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center Founder and New Trier Alumni Hall Of Honor inductee; US Air Force Major General John Borling, a pilot shot down and imprisoned for seven-and-a-half years during the Vietnam War and published poet.

Borling deeply inspired me when I interviewed him for the Make It Better “Men We Love issue in June 2013. But his recitation of the Gettysburg Address at the taping took my admiration to new heights. I doubt there was a dry eye in the audience afterwards.

Minnow declared that “General John Borling’s recitation of the Gettysburg Address is unforgettable. It should be heard in every classroom in America;  students should be told how General Borling survived being a prisoner in Vietnam by reflecting on  President Lincoln’s historic definition of democracy.” And I agree.

Therefore, please stop, drop and watch this short video clip from the taping of the General reciting the Gettysburg Address to enjoy a most inspiring reminder of what it means to be an American:

Sam Harris’ essay “The Best Place On Earth,” which he discusses in the show and you can read in this recent Make It Better post about Lincoln’s legacy, is another reminder for us, too. It was written by him in 1951, only a few years after he had escaped the concentration camps.  He explains, “I had written this essay as an assignment at New Trier High School, when I was a sophomore…[then entered it] in the Lincoln Essay Contest when I was in my late 70s and I still think the United States is the best place on earth.”

Be sure to watch:
Premiering Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. CST on WYCC-20, Chicago and online at

6 Films and a TV Series to Watch From an Inspiring 2016 Sundance Film Festival

“Sundance is the magic fairy dust that gives me hope for humanity and that we can actually make the world a better place.”Rob Burnett, Director of “The Fundamentals of Caring” and former Executive Producer of “Late Night With David Letterman”

"Equity" at Sundance

Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner and Meera Menon of “Equity”

“Open Soul, Pour In Inspiration” would be an appropriate tagline for the experience of attending the Sundance Film Festival, from which I just returned. Sundance also is a social entrepreneur’s dream scenario. What Robert Redford started 30 years ago in order to give back to the field in which he had enjoyed great success and bring additional support to the community he loved has blossomed into a spectacular connection point for anyone creative or looking to nurture what is best about humanity.

The 11-day event has grown to be about far more than just film; but, at its core, Sundance primarily still nurtures the next generation of excellent independent filmmakers.

As Rob Burnett, multiple Emmy winner and former Executive Producer of “Late Night With David Letterman” and Director of the Sundance 2016 Premier film “The Fundamentals Of Caring,” says, “Sundance is the magic fairy dust that gives me hope for humanity and that we can actually make the world a better place.”

Yes, the festival really is this amazing. So, I’m forever grateful to Wendy Serrino for introducing me to the festival. Any friend who is visionary enough to understand this and share it with you is an amazing friend indeed. That’s Wendy.

In the past, I’ve been fortunate to attend Sundance with her when she hosts a great group of girlfriends. This year, though, because I yearned to introduce family members to Sundance, I instead attended with three generations of Noyeses — my husband, Nickfilmmaker son Pat, daughter-in-law Shana, and grandson Charlie, celebrating his early admission to MIT.

Shana and Charlie at Sundance

Charlie and Shana on Main Street in Park City, Utah, wearing jackets by sponsor Canada Goose.

Post-screening Talk Backs by directors, writers, stars, producers or a combination thereof of each film contribute mightily to the festival’s charm and inspiration. Many of these creatives labor for years and overcome enormous odds in order to present their films to overflow capacity audiences. They wear their hearts on their sleeves as they humbly and joyfully offer appreciation to the audience and the opportunity that Sundance provides.

Sometimes the writer, producer, director and star are the same person — as is the case with the uber-inspiring Nate Parker of “The Birth of a Nation.” His film won the Grand Prize and Audience Choice awards, as well as the largest major studio contract. What I love best about Parker is that he turned his back on a more lucrative career in the short term, in order to only do work that provides a positive role model for blacks, creates a legacy of which his five children will be proud and is likely to help make the world a better place.

It’s noteworthy that most or all of the films that my family and I loved already have been purchased by a major studio, HBO or Netflix. Sundance has become an increasingly valuable stepping stone to commercial success. More Nate Parkers should emerge from it in the future.

The Sundance 2016 films and show that the Noyes family recommends below will make you laugh, cry, think and want to live better. We strongly recommend that you catch them when they are in theaters or streaming into your homes.

Jim: The James Foley Story
Winner of the U.S. Documentary Audience Choice Award

Starting Feb 6 on HBO

Jim: The James Foley Story

© Manu Brabo

James Foley was the U.S. photojournalist famously beheaded by ISIS in Syria, as well as one of five children lovingly raised in a traditional New England home. His journey helps define life lived for truth and humanity. It also illustrates that now most foreign war correspondent journalists don’t get paid or protected enough for their work. Worse yet, they are also the targets of the oppressive regimes on which they report — no longer receiving the protection formerly accorded to journalists.

I recommend that you not only watch the film, but also learn more about how you can help at the James Foley Foundation.

The Fundamentals of Caring

"The Fundamentals of Caring"

Credit: AnnetteBrown

Based on Jonathan Evison‘s novel “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” this comedy about a writer trying to overcome the devastation of his young son’s death by working as a caregiver for an acerbic 18-year-old male with muscular dystrophy was my husband’s favorite. Selena Gomez, Paul Rudd and the rest of the superb cast offer brilliant performances too. Roger Ebert likes this one, too.

Fun-fact: We sat next to Evison, who explained that his novel is autobiographical. He served many years as caregiver for a muscular dystrophy patient (who also attended the film at Sundance). His sister had suffered a tragedy similar to the story’s main character. Evison likes to interact with fans on his Facebook page.

The Birth of a Nation
Winner of Grand Prize and Audience Choice awards

"The Birth of a Nation"

Credit: Elliot Davis

Based on the true story of a slave uprising in the antebellum south led by literate slave and much-celebrated preacher Nat Turner, this film is far superior to last year’s Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave.”

Also, a true star is born with Nate Parker (writer, director, producer, star), who grew up in poverty and is determined to grow his career by only making films with positive black role models.



Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Purchased by Sony for wide release this year, “Equity” is produced by Sarah Megan Thomas, directed by Meera Menon, written by Amy Fox — women with strong ties to Wall Street who are also on a mission to empower more women to pursue careers in this male dominated field. The film stars Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Alysia Reiner and Thomas.

Captain Fantastic” 

"Captain Fantastic"

Credit: Cathy Kanavy / Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street promises wide screen release of this visually stunning and emotionally compelling comedy starring Viggo Mortensen. He raises six children in a Pacific Northwest outdoor paradise and trains them to be elite athletes and scholars, as well as musicians and philosopher kings, until events conspire to force them to leave and start wrestling with the expectations and values of traditional society. Guaranteed to make every thoughtful parent think twice about their values and parenting strategies as they laugh, cry and observe with awe. As a mother of six, I can’t help but relate.

Manchester by the Sea

"Manchester by the Sea"

Credit: Claire Folger

Starring Casey Affleck (Ben’s brother), with gorgeous New England cinematography and a heartbreaking storyline about family bonds and community roots, this was my filmmaker son’s favorite. He sees it depicting a full breadth of family and human emotions. It actually disappointed me because the family members facing challenges admitted defeat rather than rising above them.

Purchased by Amazon, it should be available soon.

U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize


Credit: Sean McGing

Yes, this is a documentary about that Weiner — disgraced former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner. Chronicling his failed bid for NYC Mayor, this film would be brilliant if it wasn’t for the deceptive omission that the director was also Weiner’s former Chief of Staff.

Weiner’s wife, Huma, part of Hillary Clinton‘s inner circle, is the true star. And the film leaves you wondering why she stays with this narcissistic, deeply flawed man.

American Epic
4 Part PBS/BBC series

"American Epic"

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The event that premiered excerpts from the upcoming PBS/BBC series about the roots and history of American music and recording could only happen at Sundance. Robert Redford explained that his passion for this project grew out of his love of music and American history. British director Bernard MacMahon dedicated years to the project that was executive produced by T. Bone Burnett, Jack White and Redford. Musicians Taj Mahal and the Avett Brothers performed for a crowd that included luminaries like JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon.

Conclusion: If you ever have the opportunity, please attend the Sundance Film Festival. But in the meantime, you can trust that if a film was selected for the festival, it is likely to be worth your while to watch.

A Tribute To Skin Of Steel Founder Susan Steel

Susan Steel, of Glenview, died in January from melanoma. Most people diagnosed with late-stage melanoma, like Steel, live for a few months. Steel lived for more than a decade. That is big news in and of itself, but what is extraordinary and inspiring is the way Steel lived and what she accomplished as she endured brain surgery after brain surgery and drug trial after drug trial.

susan steel skin of steel

Susan Steel in 2014.

Steel very intentionally lived “with vengeance”—as an alternative to just “fighting cancer.” She did so by focusing her attention on helping others—her children, friends, future melanoma patients, the world. Her impact grew with each passing month because of this. The nonprofit she founded with others to raise awareness of, education about and research opportunities for melanoma—Skin Of Steel (SOS) —will live on with vengeance, too.

“Susan founded SOS to provoke revolutionary change in the treatment and prevention of melanoma, and by God that is what we are on the cusp of!” Board Chair Steve Sullivan declares. “She strategically partnered with people all over the globe to change the landscape of melanoma, and attitudes toward melanoma, and there will be no ‘end’ to her story. She may well have the most productive afterlife of anyone the world has ever known… Our team is resolute to open the world’s first ever ‘openly collaborative melanoma tissue bank.’” These audacious, laudable plans helped SOS win a 2014 Make It Better Philanthropy Award.

skin of steel make it better philanthropy award winner

Susan Steel (center) receives a Make It Better Philanthropy Award on behalf of Skin of Steel.

In 2005, Steel was a married international real estate fund executive and former competitive skier with two children, 11 and 13, when she was diagnosed with late-stage melanoma and given that dire prognosis. She launched into seek and destroy mode, finding every possible experimental program that could help her fight against the deadly disease at places like the National Cancer Institute in Baltimore.

By 2008, the first time I wrote about her, Steel had already endured seven brain surgeries and clinical trials. She described a Tibetan Medical Monk asking her a question that transformed her thinking from just “fighting” her cancer battle to “living with a vengeance.” This energized her life and got her focused on helping others. Steel giggled and called her determined actions “leveraging cancer.”

Steel traveled with every family member to help them pursue some dream. She launched a crew program as a way to give back to her cadre of gal pals who swooped in to help her and her family during her treatments. She wanted them to focus on learning a new skill and taking better care of themselves. She surprised herself by joining them, too. According to coach Hope Poor, Steel stated: “Rowing was one of my most defiant acts.” It was also a great success. The program blossomed into today’s formidable New Trier Women’s Masters which competes across the country.

Steel started SOS in Glenview, primarily to educate local youth and others about melanoma prevention. She spoke publicly, including to rotaries and PTAs, ran fundraisers, insured that NorthShore University HealthSystem had a robust pool of blood platelet donors. As years passed and she lived on, Steel sought out fellow melanoma warriors nationally, helped rewrite medical protocol, learned that researchers clamor for more tissue to do their work, and so Steel set her sights even higher.

According to Sullivan, Steel’s life work became “helping science unlock genetic biomarkers that may very well hold hidden clues for cures.” With laser focus, Steel built a coalition and a plan to fund four collaborative tissue banks across the United States, including one in Chicago.

In 2014, Pittsburg’s Woiner Foundation hosted a forum announcing that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will be one of the Skin Of Steel tissue banks. This is the legacy that SOS continues to champion with a vengeance. Success insures that Steel’s legacy will transform life for melanoma patients and their families around the world in perpetuity.

By choosing to live with vengeance and help others, rather than just focusing on the fight she was destined to lose, Steel was able to live a decade longer than anticipated, help her children pursue dreams and grow into lovely adults, found a blossoming athletic program for women, inspire others to live courageously and with vengeance, and eventually likely transform melanoma research and outcomes around the world.

Thank you, Susan Steel. God rest.

Why I’m a Fan of The Chan Zuckerberg Gift and The Spirit Behind It

Mark Zuckerberg Priscilla Chan daughter max

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan with their daughter, Max. (Photo from Facebook)

“Our daughter and everyone in her generation should be able to live much better lives… The only way to reach our full human potential is if we are able to unlock the gifts of every person around the world… We have a basic moral responsibility to tilt our investments somewhat more to make that happen.” Mark Zuckerberg

If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to watch this two-minute video of Mark Zuckerberg, 31, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, 30, explaining why they launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (“Initiative”) with 99 percent of their Facebook stock (worth about $45 billion before last week’s market pull-back) in honor of the birth of their daughter, Max. Their goal is to “tilt investments faster” toward strategies that will ensure better education, healthcare and communities for all children in their daughter’s generation.

Big goals. Great goals.

In the video, Zuckerberg and Chan look and sound not like billionaires, but rather like quintessential millennials. They’re given the greatest gift of all—a child. In return, they want her and all other children in her generation to inherit a better world. Therefore, they “gift” 99 percent of their wealth in order to lift up 100 percent of the world.

Unfortunately, Zuckerberg is a target just by being his young, visible, uber-successful self. Of course, the world quickly responded with polarizing positions. The Guardian’s Michele Hanson quipped, “Could they not have given their money away without the sloppy letter to their daughter and the rest of us? Wasn’t that a bit show-offy? Isn’t $45bn rather too much for one family to have in the first place? And wasn’t it a bit measly of Facebook to pay only £4,327 UK corporation tax last year?”

Criticism also flowed off the system that allows vast wealth to vest in entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg, thereby giving them far greater power over philanthropic decisions and policy-making too. As Inside Philanthropy’s David Cameron writes, “While there are plenty of good people emerging at the highest levels of philanthropy like Zuckerberg and Chan, there are also less appealing actors. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that… it was the Koch brothers who had pledged to use their entire fortune (of $85 billion) to shape the direction of U.S. society. The picture would look a bit different, right?”

I put “gift” in parentheses because what the Chan Zuckerberg’s actually did was place their stock in an LLC, with a pledge to reinvest any profits and an implication that they eventually will gift all of it to charity. According to The New York Times, the couple chose an LLC instead of a nonprofit structure because they want the flexibility to try ideas through for-profit businesses and the freedom to lobby on behalf of the most effective policies, as well as directly fund nonprofit best practices.

Confusingly, Forbes heralded their “gift” as an example of stock ownership transfer through a charitable donation that the rest of us can and should emulate. So, experts are confused about whether this “gift” is or isn’t a charitable donation, just as pundits are divided in their assessments of the wisdom of Chan Zuckerberg’s generosity.

I’m neither a charitable gifts expert, nor a pundit. But, as Founder and Publisher of Make It Better Media, I am a bit of an expert on demographics and the behavior of a well-educated, affluent audience.

As a demographic group, millennials expect mission, meaning and social good to be embedded in their work and everyday lives. They want maximum impact with their time and dollars. The Chan Zuckerbergs are a shining example of this.

But it’s not just millennials who are inclined to do good with their everyday lives. We’ve built a successful media company on proof that most people want to and will support good values if you make it easy for them to do so.

Zuckerberg was smart and lucky enough to launch a transformation in the way our world connects and communicates. I love that he and Chan can apply those insights and their billions to finding and supporting the most effective and efficient ways to educate every child, and provide them with good healthcare and safe, diverse communities. Hopefully, their LLC will allow them to skirt many of the traditional bureaucratic roadblocks to success.

As a society, we shouldn’t be bickering about methodology, rather we should appreciate all authentic efforts to move the needle forward for humanity and facilitate collaboration among all interested parties who bring expertise or resources to the table.

I like that Zuckerberg and Chan give themselves permission to try, fail and learn as they go. “It’s hard to [change complex systems] in the short term,” Zuckerberg states. “Like doing anything well in the world, it takes practice. In the projects that we will do in education, science, health, community building, we will learn lessons over time and hopefully get better and better.” That’s the winning attitude of a successful entrepreneur. And that is the attitude that will transform our world for the better faster, too.

Everyone wants their dollars, time and lives to create impact. The Chan Zuckerberg’s are in an enviable position with respect to impact. But please, let’s not let envy or frustration with current political, social or economic dynamics get in the way of celebrating their decision and its potential impact for all children in the future. Instead, let’s please celebrate the birth of Zuckerberg and Chan’s daughter and Initiative, and rejoice that they embody the millennial spirit.

As Chan says, “We need to ensure that the future is better than today.” This is our basic human yearning. Let’s please hold these idealistic new parents up as examples for all to follow.




The Most Amazing Way To A Better Life, Business, Year — Your Help Wanted

“Don’t think what’s the cheapest way to do it or what’s the fastest way to do it …. Think ‘what’s the most amazing way to do it.’” — Richard Branson, Virgin Brand Founder

The best nine Instagrams posted by Susan B. Noyes

May #2016BestNine be even more amazing than 2015.

Happy New Year! May 2016 be your best, most amazing year ever.

My 2016 will be just that — my best, most amazing year — if I get to enjoy amazing adventures with my husband, family and friends AND Make It Better’s über-talented staff, freelancers, partners and audience enjoy amazing, creative collaborations that help each other and the world.

People often say, “Look at all you’ve built with Make It Better. It’s amazing!” My response, “It’s not what ‘I’ built, it’s what ‘we’ have built together.” And we’ve only scratched the surface.

So many good people in our Make It Better community already are connecting with and amplifying each other’s good. My pledge is to use this blog in 2016 to inspire as many others to participate in our most trusted community resource — — and live amazing lives too.

Please help me do this too. Please share what inspires and amazes you. Please recommend to others. And please remind me to sometimes let go of work and just enjoy life with my amazingly supportive husband, too.

Thank you.

Happy New Year from Susan and Nick Noyes

Happy New Year! Hope 2016 is your best year yet. How can we Make It Better for you?

Don’t Miss! Jim Hackett Talks Faith and Leadership

Want to be inspired by a successful life built on great values?

If your answer is yes, please join me on Friday, December 4 at Kenilworth Union Church at 7 a.m. to hear Jim Hackett speak on “Faith And Leadership.”

maureen and jim hackett

Maureen and Jim Hackett. Image courtesy of Inside IUPUI.

Hackett grew up in Winnetka and graduated from New Trier High School in 1972. He married his high school sweetheart, Maureen. Her influence kept their life together focused on serving others, even as they raised four children and Hackett charged through Harvard Business School and a spectacular career with a series of energy companies.

Most recently, Hackett served as Executive Chairman of the Board and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, one of the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies. He also is the former Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, a board member and/or adjunct faculty member of multiple colleges, a board member of two Fortune 500 companies and a partner in the private equity firm Riverstone Holdings LLC. 

That’s impressive success indeed.

But what most intrigues me about Hackett are four other facts:

  1. He stepped back from the pinnacle of corporate success in order to pursue a Master of Divinity at Harvard University.
  2. He cites two high school English teachers as life changing.
  3. He calls Maureen the more inspiring member of their marriage.
  4. With Maureen, he endowed the Women’s Philanthropy Center at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

This is a powerful man living by powerfully good values.

The Hacketts live in Houston.  But they returned to the North Shore in 2013 when he was inducted into the New Trier Alumni Hall Of Honor.

Hackett proved to be an engaging speaker that night. So I’m delighted that he’s returning to discuss faith & leadership, confident that his message will inspire you and honored to be able to introduce him.

Please join me and be inspired too.  It’s a great way to start your day.


Why I’m Grateful for Make It Better’s Powerful Audience

Make It Better August September Best Of 2015 IssueDear Make It Better Readers,

You—our audience—curated our August/September magazine issue and our online “Best of 2015” content. You chose well, too. Thank you.

You cast over 105,000 online votes to choose the Best Of 2015 winners. To be precise, you cast exactly 105,617 online votes. Those are extraordinary numbers!

It’s my great pleasure to present the Best Of 2015 winners to you in the August/September issue, online at and at our Best Of 2015 Celebration at the Chicago Botanic Garden on September 1. (By the way, please be our guests for this music-filled night under the stars in Chicago’s most beautiful outdoor venue by registering at

In the August/September issue though, you didn’t just curate the Best Of 2015 list. You also influenced much of the other content too, because we “reverse publish” from online into print what our audience finds most engaging. This includes content about food, family, fun, fashion, money, love, home, fitness and ways to make a difference.

I’m also particularly proud to share two other newsworthy facts with you:

Fact #1
Make It Better Cofounder Mindy Fauntleroy and I recently received Top Women In Media Folio Awards.make it better folio award top women in media

We were given these awards as Most Inspiring Entrepreneurial Women in New York City on June 8. We were the only regional publishers to win. Other winners included the New York Times, Hearst, Financial Times and the Harvard Business Review. In the publishing world, this was a bit like winning an Oscar. Pretty cool, right? You can see the video at

This award was only made possible because of the outstanding quality of our audience. Remember, we reverse publish what you tell us is important to you. Fortunately, because you are smart and have great values, you intuitively create or support win/win scenarios. So following your lead takes us in inspiring and successful directions. Again, thank you very much.

Fact #2
94% of our audience reads our magazines cover to cover.
The Circulation Verification Council (CVC) audit data we recently received proves that our audience keeps our magazines three months or longer, refers others to our content, and intentionally supports our advertisers.

CVC LOGOThis is powerful data. And, again, that is because of you. You are powerful for us too.

Therefore, please keep engaging with Make It Better Media. If you don’t yet do so, please follow us online by subscribing to our biweekly “Better Letter” email newsletter, watching MIB TV videos, joining our vibrant social networks listed below and coming to the events we sponsor.

But, even more importantly, please keep telling us what is important to you. Because you are important to us.

Thank you, very much.

With Warm Regards,


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