Susan Wharton Gates is passionate about the middle. A middle child herself, she grew up amid the deep national divisions over the Vietnam war, which also became the divisions of her family of origin. Not fun to be in the middle.
Things haven't gotten much better, if at all. The political and social fabric of nations, regions, communities and even families is too easily torn by the sharp edges of uncompromising ideology.
Gates has spent her career trying to blunt that edge and find the golden mean.
Five years at the Office of Management and Budget doing presidential budgets for a variety of accounts -- from drug interdiction to refugee assistance to veteran home loans -- taught her that a robust middle is critical to effective governance.
And 19 years at Freddie Mac, including four as Vice President of Public Policy, showed that ideology can claw apart a business strategy with devastating results. In 2008, the financial middle did not hold -- and we almost lost civilization itself. You can read about that debacle in her forthcoming book, Days of Slaughter: Inside the Fall of Freddie Mac and Why It Can Happen Again (Johns Hopkins University Press, March 2017).
In 2009, Gates founded Wharton Policy group to help firms and other folks find the middle through Robert Putnam's "purple problem solving" and other strategies.