Gail Shore, a Republic Airlines sales and communications manager, left in 1989 after the carrier was acquired by Northwest Airlines.
For 27 years, Shore's "Shore to Shore" communications agency has provided her a good living from a variety of business clients and also financed her passion for annual far-flung travel off the beaten path. It immersed her in cultures on several continents.
"I just got back from Iran," said Shore, who always travels with a local guide. "Governments can be difficult, we know, anywhere. But the Iranian people could not have been friendlier. And they have new hope," thanks to the recent nuclear-reduction treaty.
Shore, a student of cultures, also is the unpaid CEO of a small nonprofit that introduces American school kids to other cultures through award-winning videos that feature her excellent photography and insightful narratives.
It started years ago with an annual travel slide show for several dozen friends.
In 2005, Shore and supportive clients and friends launched Cultural Jambalaya, the volunteer-based nonprofit that has created seven "Windows & Mirrors" educational videos and student study guides. The most recent, about the world's largest faiths, was just released at www.culturaljam.org.
Shore, 68, is an energetic, positive woman who funds her own travel. She's a peace "ambassador" of the Carter Center of Atlanta, established years ago by a friend, former President Jimmy Carter, a former Navy nuclear submarine officer, and his wife, Rosalynn, to "wage peace," advocate for human rights and alleviate suffering through measurable actions in tough neighborhoods around the globe.
Shore's auctioned photography has earned thousands of dollars for the Carter Center over the years. And Carter has praised Cultural Jam.
"Our work is people-to-people, not politics," said Shore. "It resonates with individuals and businesses [who support Cultural Jam] because we inspire others, especially young people, to think more broadly and expand their worldview. And there has never been a more critical time in our lives … "
Shore laments today's coarse, demeaning political talk about immigration and simplistic takes on foreign relations amid border walls and jingoism.
"We don't cure cancer or provide shelter," she said of Cultural Jam. "We just try to get people to listen and think. We will never address divisive issues, including among ourselves, if we can't approach issues with open minds."
Christine Fruechte, CEO of 240-employee Colle+McVoy, the marketing agency, was an intern for Shore in the late 1980s and became a friend.
"I was one who watched the slide shows and encouraged Gail to share more broadly," Fruechte said. "I haven't traveled as widely, but I share Gail's passion for cultural understanding and diversity. She is backed by professionals who bring their talent to the table. All the dollars go into content that opens up windows across the world to thousands of middle school kids and others."
Cultural Jam's longtime backers include Kevin May, president of Hi Flyin' Productions, the pro-bono provider of creative, production and electronic distribution of the Windows & Mirrors videos; Colleen Needles Steward, another founding board member who, through her Tremendous! Entertainment, is executive producer of the videos and donates studio time; and lawyer Rayla Allison, a University of Minnesota faculty member who has provided legal help and insights herself and from other experts on cultures.
Shore likes to point out that, no matter how foreign other cultures seem in dress, language, food and religion, there are commonalities among people that surface through sharing and listening.
May, the video production-business owner, was part of the group more than a decade ago that encouraged Shore to raise money and broaden her focus to videos featuring her photography and narrative. One of May's favorite pictures is of a teenage boy, who may seem threatening in a dusty field in Africa, armed with a rock and stick. But he's just a poor kid playing a game like baseball.
"Gail's gone from slide shows for 60, basically, to a worldwide audience through DVDs and YouTube," May said. "This is how she wants to leave the world a better place. Schools have the greatest impact, because young students [can understand], before they get set in their beliefs."
In March, District 287, which provides education services to Twin Cities suburban school districts, selected Cultural Jam for its Minnesota collaborative curriculum program that will get the Windows & Mirrors videos and study guides to 200 districts.
Shore said her latest effort on global religions revealed that all the great faiths, including Christianity, Islam and Judaism — albeit different in some practices and beliefs — embrace the principles of caring for the disadvantaged and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Too often through history, guys with guns and selfish motives have twisted religions to fit their narrative, she said.
Shore reminds us that, despite language and cultural barriers, we have more in common than we think with other cultures.
Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.