NLPeople: Chuck Salter, president and CEO
This is part of a series that introduces you to the people behind the scenes at the News Literacy Project.
- Can you tell us a little about your background and what brought you to NLP?
My father was an Army officer drafted during Vietnam, and both my parents were in the medical field. I’m the youngest of three sons. Both the small size of our family and the experience of moving so often when I was younger helped us become incredibly close as a family. My parents instilled in me a sense of service that has defined my professional life. I discovered in college as a tutor, TA and music instructor that I really enjoyed teaching. I was accepted into Teach For America in 1997, and my career path was forever altered. And 20 years later, I found myself moving back to the D.C. area to work with NLP.
- Since joining NLP, what has been the most satisfying or surprising experience?
I’ve really enjoyed learning about a whole new field: journalism. As a news junkie, I was surprised to learn how ignorant I was about the profession, how news is made and the challenges the field faces every day in living up to its highest standards. I keep this in mind to give me perspective and empathy for those we serve — remembering that even the most “informed” among us may not understand what it truly takes to be a free and responsible press.
- You’ve had different jobs throughout the education sector. What makes NLP different from the others?
I’ve been a teacher, principal, superintendent and teachers union president. And I’ve worked as a regional manager and national leader for several educational nonprofits. I’m not sure I could imagine doing anything else. But in my 20 years of work before coming to NLP, my efforts were focused largely on serving marginalized communities, working for that still-elusive goal of educational equity for all. At NLP, our focus is on a singular issue that affects all students, regardless of demographics, geography or social status. So while the focus of the work is much narrower, the scope of its impact is far, far broader than anything I’ve done before.
- Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about?
My work at NLP is a perfect combination of the issues I’m most passionate about: education, democratic participation and even civil rights. I do believe education is the foundation to all other agency and opportunities someone can have to reach their best selves. And a strong, representative democratic system is the best way for fully realized people to control their destiny. With regards to civil rights, as a member of the LGBT+ community, I’d say this is my most personal passion. Beyond simply allowing people to live their lives on equal terms with others, I don’t understand the hatred some people hold for others based on personal characteristics. On one level, I know it’s rooted in fear and misunderstanding, but the origin of such passionate hate some people exhibit toward others not like them — and all the other bad behavior that then excuses — will always be a mystery to me. And a source of personal sadness. But on a less serious note, I’m also pretty crazy about cooking, traveling, photography and, most recently, gardening.
- You’ve lived many places and done a great deal of traveling. Any favorite places or highlights?
Without getting too sentimental, I consider it a great privilege to have lived all over this country. It’s given me an appreciation for and a heightened sense of patriotism toward the United States, even without really having a place to call my “hometown.” I would not dare compare regions or cities here — they all offer something unique and wonderful. Outside of the country, my favorite city, hands down, is London. I got married in May, and the first part of our honeymoon was a return trip to London. I’ve even considered living there a couple of times. But probably the two most wondrous places I’ve traveled to are Italy and South Africa, though I admit I’ve still got a few more continents to visit before I can declare my definitive favorite.
- Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat?
As a member of ASPCA for many years now, I think animals in general are great and deserving of much more respect than a lot of people give them. And I certainly understand the deep joy a pet can bring to someone. But since you asked me to vote, while I do love so many kinds of dogs, I really have to say I’m a cat person through and through. Our cat, Erasmus, is 19 years old (I got him in law school!) and truly part of the family.