Renowned author and co-founder of Strategic Horizons, Inc., an executive coaching and management consulting firm, Karen Baum Gordon made her first appearance at Skeptics on Tuesday, March 21, to talk about the process of writing and the message of her book, The Last Letter: A Father’s Struggle, a Daughter’s Quest and the Long Shadow of the Holocaust.
“I am the daughter of Rudolf Baum, a Holocaust survivor whose stymied efforts to save his parents had multigenerational effects,” says Ms. Gordon. “The Last Letter focuses on the story of my father and the long shadow of the Holocaust that took the lives of my grandparents and irrevocably altered my father’s life and my own and had impact on my sons’ lives.”
Based on archival documents, correspondence and photos, Ms. Gordon’s memoir is about relationships, forgiveness, identity and the perseverance to learn more about a loved one’s history. All of those, Ms. Gordon alludes, are important elements of life that impact high schoolers.
“Now is the time to find out more about your family’s history or simply important people in your life whom you want to know more about,” advised Ms. Gordon. “Ask the questions now; get people to talk now. Don’t wait until it’s too late.”
For Ms. Gordon, the events of her and her family’s lives led to her realization that life is about “ordinary people helping other ordinary people.”
“Although I’m not a historian or scholar, I’ve told my family’s stories and realized that it’s about having curiosity, jumping in some place as a starting point, and being determined. Understanding one’s own history is enriching and essential and the rewards from that understanding are never-ending.”
After graduating from Harvard College for her undergraduate degree and Columbia University for her master’s in business, Ms. Gordon co-founded Strategic Horizons, Inc. Prior to that, she served as a consultant at McKinsey & Co., managed several NYC restaurants, and trained as a chef in France and the United Kingdom. Today, Ms. Gordon lives with her husband and black Labrador in Brooklyn, New York. She is the proud mother of two sons and is an active member of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.
From her talk, Ms. Gordon said she has but one hope for the young students, to realize that “So much of how your life unfolds is about whom you meet and when you meet them.”
Click "play" below to watch Ms. Gordon's Skeptics presentation.
History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.