Mike Rowe’s podcast sheds light on criminal justice, education, and sobriety: Takeaways from 6 insightful episodes

Our country faces many challenges and solving them might seem overwhelming. But America was built by people who made the impossible possible.

Mike Rowe knows this. After all, he spent years learning from people doing the toughest and messiest work as the host of the television shows “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do it”. Now on his podcast, “The Way I Heard It”, Mike talks to people who use their skills and gifts to help others. These “bloody do-gooders,” as Mike calls them, are changing lives by leveraging bottom-up solutions our country needs.

Mike talked with six Stand Together partners on recent episodes who are bringing positive change to communities nationwide in the areas of addiction, education, and criminal justice, among others.

We’ve broken down the top insights from their conversations: 

Todd Rose on rethinking education: What his journey from high-school drop-out to Harvard taught him

Each student is different. They all have unique skills, and dreams. Yet, our education system insists all students fit into the same mold to be successful and feel fulfilled.

Todd Rose, a Stand Together partner, is living proof this is not true. A high school dropout, he worked in whatever job he could find – from selling chain-link fences to applying enemas – then became a Harvard professor, leading social scientist, renowned author, and co-founder of the groundbreaking think tank, Populace.

Todd did not fit the mold, his life was messy, and the education system discarded him. Yet, he succeeded.

In the podcast episode, Mike and Todd discuss how cookie-cutter solutions and pre-determined, top-down plans for education are not the right blueprints for the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Those approaches have failed. What we instead should strive for is allowing people to “pursue the kind of lives they want to live, not the lives people want them to live,” Todd says.

It’s an episode you won’t want to miss. And as Mike mentions, “there are about 50 occasions in this conversation where you’re gonna wanna write something down.”

Listen to this episode of “The Way I Heard It” now.

Chad Houser and Café Momentum are cutting youth recidivism, one meal at a time

If you’re in Dallas and hungry, Chad Houser’s Café Momentum offers Hamachi crudo to start, smoked fried chicken for main course, and, most importantly, a groundbreaking criminal justice project that has changed hundreds of lives.

Café Momentum is entirely staffed by young people who were incarcerated in the juvenile detention system. Besides teaching them how to cook and serve tables, it offers a 12-month curriculum that includes workforce development, 24/7 case management, mental health services, and education.

Before Café Momentum, Chad Houser, a Stand Together Foundation Catalyst partner, was a successful chef with a restaurant that was a staple of the Dallas gastronomical scene. Everything changed when Chad taught a group of young people in juvenile detention how to make ice cream to compete against a group of culinary students.

The drive, commitment, pride, and passion Chad saw in those young people changed his life. Whether he knew it or not, Café Momentum started that day.

Throughout the conversation, both Mike and Chad made it clear that trusting these young people, giving them the tools to succeed in life, exchanging vicious cycles for cycles of mutual benefit, and giving them a sense of dignity, are keys to transforming their lives for the better. Mike noted that by having people work in every station at the restaurant, Café Momentum is not only “paving the way for a career in the restaurant life,” it’s “paving the way for a career in life.”

Chad’s hard work is getting results. An astounding 85% of Café Momentum’s interns do not go back to the juvenile detention system after they finish the program.

Tune in to this insightful episode of “The Way I Heard It” here.

Scott Strode climbed his way to sobriety, now thousands more are following his lead

From a young age, Scott Strode found refuge from childhood trauma in alcohol and drugs, but his path to sobriety began, unexpectedly, when he did something he had never done before: ice climbing.

What does ice climbing have to do with sobriety? Scott, a Stand Together Foundation Catalyst partner, found an interest that took him away from his unhealthy habits and found people who motivated him to stay sober. Building a community, more than exercise, was the key. “The real magic of it is sharing the training with the people I love … and it’s in those relationships that I really began to heal.”

Scott talked about how he wants to scale his story across the country through The Phoenix, an organization he founded, that gives thousands of people a chance to do activities with others (from weightlifting to book clubs) and develop an environment that helps them overcome addiction. Both Mike and Scott discussed how there’s not one magic solution to conquer addiction, and how there are many paths to sobriety.   

Learn why Mike said that Scott’s life story of personal transformation is “as real as it gets” in this impactful episode of “The Way I Heard It”.

Greg Lukianoff is assembling a million-strong online army to save free speech at FIRE

You can’t have liberty without free speech. You can’t have a full, open, functioning democracy if you are afraid of getting punished for saying what you think. America has known this fundamental truth since its birth.

But regretfully, free speech is under siege. Students are canceling professors with unpopular views, people are getting fired for saying what some deem wrong, and others are even editing books to censor offensive language.  

Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of the Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and a partner of Stand Together’s Free Speech & Peace Policy Initiative, is committed to fighting for free speech whenever and wherever it might be under threat.

Greg and Mike had a free-flowing conversation about the state of free speech in America. Greg

warned about the growth of an “anti-free speech movement” determined to decide what people should or should not say. Greg also talked about FIRE’s project to get a “one-million-person strong free speech army” to counter cancel culture.

As Mike says, Greg is “a guy worth listening to,” and if you want to follow Mike’s advice then watch this fiery (pun intended) episode of “The Way I Heard It” right here.

Akash Chougule’s father bet on himself. Both he and America won.

America is a place where people can bet on themselves and prosper. That’s not a talking point, it’s the story of countless Americans, including Akash Chougule’s father, who moved to the U.S. from India when he was 27 with a 90-day bus pass, $25 in his pocket, and a dream.

As Akash told Mike on a recent episode of his podcast, stories like this are “what built this country. It’s people taking a chance and having the ability to determine their own circumstances in life.” Government should let people believe in themselves, he said, not erect unnecessary barriers. 

Today, years after his dad made that big gamble, Akash is fighting for American flourishing as vice president of government affairs at Americans for Prosperity, a nationwide grassroots alliance that works to eliminate barriers to success and propose policies to empower all Americans. He’s pushing for policies that build cycles of mutual benefit and do not impose ill-designed, top-down solutions on the American people.

Mike and Akash agree Americans want to decide their lives for themselves and have well-earned, dignified success. They discussed how certain policies that impose cookie-cutter solutions will harm Americans’ ability to make their own choices. Their conversation hit on the ever-growing cost of the federal government and how it will have catastrophic effects on the lives of millions of Americans.

Speaking of Akash, Mike said it “is impossible not to want to pick his brain” on any issue. So, if you want to know what Akash thinks about how to ensure America thrives, listen to this unforgettable episode of “The Way I Heard It”.

Jed Thurner is scaling love on a massive scale, helping communities as a result

Raised by a committed but modest missionary family, Jed Thurner was taught by his parents to think about more than just himself. While he did not become a missionary, he is living with the same purpose: helping people.

Jed, a nonprofit leader partnering with Stand Together Foundation, believes love is the key to solving many of the issues we face as a country because “hate has never worked. It never has, and it never will. It is a horrible return on investment, and what is the antithesis of hate? It’s love. Love’s the only thing that can bring us together.”

That principle drove him to form Love Has No Limits, an organization that connects hundreds of NGOs and other groups that want to improve their communities. 

During their heartful conversation, Jed and Mike talked about how people can do amazing things, when given the opportunity. Jed also pointed out that doing good deeds is not enough to make a difference, and we need to do good things in the best way possible. Love has No Limits is helping to do just that, connecting good people and giving them the tools and chance to do great things in the best way possible.

Mike says Jed is a guy who is “not intimidated by a degree of difficulty” and his life experience clearly shows that.

Learn more about Jed’s life story and Love Has No Limits in this unmissable episode of “The Way I Heard It”.

While Mike and all six guests have different backgrounds, work in other professions, and have very different personalities, they all share one thing: they all deeply believe in people. 

We are facing complex challenges, but we have the best asset to overcome them: all of us.