George Walden (LITE) - Retired FDA & Pfizer Staff Member

In this LITE episode, host Abigail Wright talks with retired FDA & Pfizer staff member George Walden about the importance of friends, family, and activities, his views on the world today, and appreciating the differences in humanity. For more, visit to hear about his experiences with the FDA & Pfizer, the value in a single life, George's key to happiness and much more.

George Walden was born in Washington DC and was raised in Upper Marlboro, MD. He and his two brothers and two sisters still get together for family gatherings a couple of times during the year.

George completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Morgan State University in Baltimore in 1972. Following he graduation, he was hired by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Newark, NJ and worked for the FDA for 25 1/2 years as a Consumer Safety Officer. He was fortunate to take an early retirement with the FDA in 1997 and begin a career with Warner Lambert (later known as Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Inc.) as a Corporate Quality Auditor.  George worked for Warner Lambert/Pfizer, Inc. for 17 years and traveled to nearly 40 countries around the world. He retired from Pfizer in April 2015.

Now he spends his time practicing Aikido, Yoga, playing golf, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Show summary:
I don't think we've ever talked about this, but I got my master's degree at the University of MD in College Park, so I'm very familiar with DC and Prince George's county. What was it like for you, growing up in that area?
He remembers a fun upbringing with what he needed as the second of five children. Both his parents worked until George was born, when his mother agreed to stay home and take care it and them. Communal family dinners played an important role in keeping his family together. Although the community was quiet, without much to do, the children all found ways to keep themselves busy with sports, sledding, go karts, and other activities with friends.

It seems like growing up, in your jobs, and in the sports that you do, community is very important to you. How has that enhanced your life?
It's helped him see people differently, and as valuable. George tells us about experiences where he'd speak with people on the phone as part of his job helping other companies comply before meeting them in person. He might have a conversation where the person would complain about minorities or women or the government, and then meet the man in person. As the man met him and got to know him, he treated him incredibly kindly. "There's a lot of hatred and fear and animosity in the world, but people are people... Once we learn a little bit about each other and get to know each other, we find out, we're all the same." He believes his community upbringing contributed to his perspective on that.

What's your perspective on what's happening today in our culture? Between the current political climate, the extreme polarization of different viewpoints, and the recent resurgence of overt racism... is any of this new?
We discuss how it's not really new, but that now with the statements made by current leadership, people feel that they can express their extreme viewpoints.

How have you reacted to it, and what do you think we can do better as individuals to help improve society in general?
Let people have their space. George goes back to his story about the people he met in the FDA. If you give people space to get to know each other beyond biases and appearances, there's really no reason for people to hate each other.

What does happiness mean to you, in your life?
Happiness, for George means being able to do the things he wants to do, especially Aikido, golf, and being social and around people. His father's life consisted of work, the family, and the house. On forced vacations, he'd work on the house or visit family, or fish. When he retired, after a year or two, he had to go back to work. George believes you have to have something to keep you going.

Have you always been a pretty content person, or have you had to work at it?
George has been pretty content most of his life because he's always done things that keep him interested.

If there were one thing you'd like the world to see differently, what would it be?
More respect and more acceptance of each other. Everyone doesn't have to be the same, and that makes the world interesting.

Thanks for listening! For more, visit to hear about his experiences with the FDA & Pfizer, the value in a single life, George's key to happiness and much more.

Rachel Leventhal-Weiner (LITE) - Writer, Co-Host of Boy vs. Girl, and Data Engagement Specialist

Lite version - for full, un-cut, ad-free access, visit Seriously, this interview is so full - her thoughts on writing and cooking and wellbeing alone are worth the subscription. Anyway...

Rachel Leventhal-Weiner, PhD, is the Data Engagement Specialist at the Connecticut Data Collaborative, a public-private partnership advancing the use of open data to drive program and policy decisions. An educator, advocate and researcher, Rachel runs the CT Data Academy, a public education initiative designed to increase data literacy and expand data capacity in nonprofit organizations, state agencies and community groups. Before joining the Data Collaborative, she worked for nearly a decade in higher education as an administrator, professor, and advisor. Rachel earned her PhD from the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut and her Master’s degree in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. She writes about faculty and family life for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae, blogs at, and co-hosts a weekly podcast on gender and gender stereotypes, Boy vs. Girl. She is the proud (if not overjoyed) mother of two exuberant little girls who keep her on my toes. Rachel loves to cook most things from scratch, wishes she had more time to crochet, and is never going to give up on her dream of running a (half) marathon. She loves a good hike, a great cocktail, and time with her incredible husband (of over a decade), David.

Ok. You're clearly a big fan of data. What kind of data do you deal with, and is it really so hard to convince people that we should use facts to inform policy?
-Rachel works to encourage everyone she works with to consider the people behind the data and uses that in the non-profit industry which is increasingly having to use data in their work. "Data are people, and the more we use data to inform our work, the better impact we have on people's lives."

I love your podcast, Boy vs Girl. You and your co-host Matt have a great rapport, and I love your honest look at gender issues and stereotypes. What message or messages are you hoping to convey on your show?
-Consciousness raising. She says they don't have any specific message, but her goal is to push back against gender stereotypes and figure out how and why we harbor them and why they persist. She credits Matt to a lot of the consciousness raising. She loves receiving feedback from listeners that something they discussed on the show made them think or made them uncomfortable with the status quo. Disruption and a lack of contentment about the inequality between men and women in our society is necessary. She wants to encourage people to question the norms in society, the way we act, why we don't push back against unfair treatment, etc.

It also sounds like you appreciate activity as a source of well-being, between your love of hiking and your desire to run a half-marathon... How do you make time, in your busy routine while raising a family?
-It took her a really long time to make time for it. She really needed a way to de-stress while working in a toxic environment. As a researcher, she researched all of the things she could do, made a list and looked to see which would fit in her schedule. The one that made the most sense was a 5:30am bootcamp class. As a result, she's more disciplined with how she uses her time, she enjoys the company of the dozen people she sees twice a week, and she's finding physical strength in ways she never had. She's a better person because of it, with more energy, and she sleeps better.

Personally, I struggle sometimes with the stress of maintaining and furthering my career while producing this show and trying to make a living in the city... You keep a lot of plates spinning, so I'm wondering if you have any time management tips for me and the rest of our audience?
-Informally, Rachel likes to keep about 2 weeks in advance of her schedule in her head at any given time. It helps her to know what to change or push back, and it keeps her from getting too overwhelmed by not looking too far in advance. Saying no is also another way to manage time. She also recommends being intentional about side hustles and whether they're paid or at least going to produce dividends in some way down the road, and being honest about your physical needs, especially sleep and rest. On a long-term goal setting basis, she plans out, even for a year, how she wants to prioritize her time. Although she's kind to herself when things sometimes don't get done, it really helps to make time for important things, like spending time alone with her husband.

What does success look like to you, at this point in your life?
-For the first time, they have flexibility and autonomy in their schedules and are all able to come home at the same time each night to be with their family. They have their health and peace, and Rachel sees success so differently from the status-based and tenure-track life she once wanted to lead.

If there were one thing you'd like the world to see differently (as if through your eyes), what would it be?
-Racism. To even try to see something from someone else's perspective can inform so many future interactions.
How do we start?
-"Engaging honestly with our history." If we can play violent video games, we can discuss the violent nature of slavery. She recommends reading narrative histories and really facing uncomfortable truths about the underlying causes of so many biases and hatred.

Do you have any other advice for us?
-Be kind to yourself. A lot of our goals require transformation, and it's important to be patient and see all of the good things happening along the way.