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.

Mukund Marathe (Lite), Part 1 - 2x Jeopardy! Winner, Tenor, & Teacher

Lite version - for full, un-cut, ad-free access, visit

Mukund Marathe discovered Beethoven at age 8 and the Beatles at age 9, and the resulting pleasant confusion has remained with him all of his musical life, as evidenced by the fact that he has performed almost every kind of music imaginable, from early music to modern jazz.  His favorite musical activities include the Evangelist in the Bach Passions, Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess, Lyle Lovett songs in church, and being what he calls a utility infielder (meaning he sings tenor or alto in various groups). Mukund was a member of the New York City Opera company for 27 years, toured with the Gregg Smith Singers, and has sung with jazz legend Dave Brubeck, on The Letterman Show, on South African television, and literally all around the world. He spends his free time reading science fiction, practicing calligraphy, dancing, making his garden grow, recently becoming a two-time Jeopardy! champion, and explaining to his two sons why people say such Awful Things about Tenors.  He says his wife, Mezzo-soprano Mary Marathe, already knows.

Show notes!
Upbringing - Mukund grew up with his Indian parents, who had an Indian shop in Rockefeller Center and insisted on him having a more American experience in a very multi-cultural Astoria, Queens. Half-jokingly, they said he'd either grow up to become a singer or a comedian, and he shocked them all when he did.

Mukund discusses how his travels have broadened his outlook. On one trip, a sextet in which he sang toured South Africa for a month, landed in South Africa the day they ended Apartheid. He describes the feeling of hope and trepidation and optimism throughout the country. On another, he went to Japan to sing Bach arias and discovered how much the Japanese loved classical music, and he believes they shared with the culture ways in which Bach can be fun.

Mukund sees himself as very lucky for being able to sing for so long already, compared to dancers and professional athletes, but he knows that eventually he'll have to retire or transition. Thankfully, he really enjoys teaching, and he discusses how he fell into teaching.

Jeopardy! He watched it every day as a child and loved that it was a rare show that rewarded you for being smart, and he's always wanted to be on the show. Mukund tells us about the audition process, from the online exam to the written test, mock game, and recorded interview, to being put into their contestant pool.

Mukund had a really enjoyable time because of the staff and coordinators and the wonderful job they did trying to keep everything fun during a stressful time. It went by fast, but he loved hanging out with his fellow contestants and had an amazing time on the show.

This is a two part episode! Stay tuned next week to hear more from Mukund in a really honest conversation about his struggles, humor as a great peacemaker, his advice to the world, and so much more.

Thanks again for joining us on The Peace of Persistence Lite! To hear more about how Mukund and Mary raised two children as musical freelancers, culture shocks, exercise, and how Mukund learns by teaching, visit for double the content and zero ads.

Paul Nelson - 99-year-old Retired Nuclear Engineer

Meet Paul Nelson, a 99-year-old retired nuclear engineer who worked at Dupont, the Hanford engineering branch of the Manhattan Project, and for the Atomic Energy Commission. Hear his discussion with host Abigail Wright, as he talks about his feelings about the atomic bombs in WW2 and his secrets to longevity, relationships, lifelong learning, and living each day. In this extended audio version, you can also hear his thoughts on the future of nuclear energy, the importance of nature in his life, what it was like working on the Manhattan Project and his thoughts on the Hanford cleanup site.

Related links:
Pandora's Promise -

Blake Robinson - Photographer & Retired Investment Manager

Welcome to Episode 2 of The Peace of Persistence, where I interview Blake Robinson, retired investment manager and thriving photographer, mentor, volunteer, and husband. I've known Blake now for years as a photographer and friend, and just sitting in his company for the day brought so much warmth and joy to me. Since then, I've thought a lot about living a life of integrity and being consistent in how I treat others and myself. Of course, it also didn't hurt that we did a great headshot session for opera photos afterwards! I hope this episode provokes you in the best of all possible ways, as it has done for me.

Related links: