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David H. Lempert
Born February 12, 1959(1959-02-12)
Bronx, New York
Alma mater Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (1992)
J.D., M.B.A. Stanford University (1985)
B.A. Yale University (1980)
E.D. (Hon.) Moscow External University of Humanities
Known for Anthropology, Legal studies, NGO Innovation

David Howard Lempert (February 12, 1959), is an anthropologist, author, social entrepreneur/NGO head, legal scholar/lawyer, and international development consultant[1].

Though his work crosses many fields, he is known primarily as an educational innovator in the field of experiential education, and is seen as a modern Alexis de Tocqueville for his social ethnography on legal and political systems that includes field work as the first U.S. anthropologist in urban Russia (coining the term Pepsi-stroika), and as a modern James Madison for his creative constitutional amendments that offer new ways of thinking about democracy in industrial societies. His work on demographics and politics places him among modern neo-Malthusian social theorists.



Lempert was born in New York City on February 12, 1959, the 150th birthday of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, to parents of Polish-Ukrainian-Moldovan-Jewish and Hungarian-Lithuanian-Jewish descent. He is a cousin of California Assemblyman Ted Lempert, and policy analyst Robert Lempert, and older sibling of sisters Marci Lempert Riley and Cheryl Lempert Cohen.

His first published piece, a quip in "Out of the Mouths of Babes", appeared in a national magazine when he was five. After starting school a year early and attending the Kinneret Day School for first grade, a private school teaching Hebrew and English, his family moved to Hartsdale, New York and he attended the Ardsley Schools. He graduated from Ardsley High School in 1976, with the highest grades remembered in the history of the school. His 90+ page senior thesis, Morals and Mortals, is also believed to be the longest paper ever written at the school, and before graduating high school he had published in the New York Times and won a national science essay award [2].

As an undergraduate at Yale University, Lempert was hired by Senator William Proxmire, Democrat, Wisconsin, as in intern and speechwriter in 1978. Proxmire heralded his work on promoting U.S. signing of the United Nations Genocide Convention by mentioning it on the floor of the U.S. Senate and printing one of his articles in the Congressional Record[3]. An undergraduate project of his at Yale, to meet everyone in his Yale class, was also featured in The New York Times[4]. Lempert's undergraduate thesis won Yale's C.W. Clarke Prize in Comparative Politics and was entered into competition with Doctoral Thesis for other awards. During the summer after graduation, Lempert traveled to Mauritius to meet with the Prime Minister, Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. Though only 21, his visit was publicized in several of Mauritius’ newspapers and he appeared in one in a cartoon with the Prime Minister.At graduation, Lempert was selected by his classmates as the Yale 1980 Class Orator and he gave a speech alongside Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

After graduating Yale, Lempert went to Stanford Law School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business where he simultaneously earned law and business degrees. After passing the California Bar and working as an attorney, Lempert entered the University of California, Berkeley to work on a Ph.D. in anthropology, that he completed in 1992. While there, as a graduate student, he began to develop the Unseen America field classes that led to the founding of his first NGO. In 1989, he led students from Harvard and Brown Universities to Ecuador to test a summer program whereby college students would write a national development plan. At the end of the summer, the students had written a book length development plan, in Spanish, that they presented in person to Ecuadorian President Rodrigo Borja and defended on national television and in newspapers in Ecuador. The plan was later published in English as a textbook in development studies, A Model Development Plan: New Ideas and Perspectives. With the success of these approaches in democratic experiential education and while still a graduate student, Lempert and other students at Stanford and Berkeley founded an NGO called Unseen America Projects, Inc. They later published a book describing their approach and several new curricula they developed, Escape from the Ivory Tower: Student Adventures in Democratic Experiential Education.

For his doctoral research, Lempert won a fellowship to become the first American anthropologist to conduct fieldwork in the urban Soviet Union in 1989.

Since the early 1990s, Lempert has worked full time as a consultant in education, government reform, sustainable development, cultural and minority protections and to develop new methodologies in several of these fields. He has consulted in more than 30 countries for governments, universities, and NGOs and has worked for UNICEF, UNHCR, the ILO, UNDP, the World Bank, the European Union, for several international European donors, for CARE, WWF, IUCN, and for foundations such as the Soros Foundation.

Major works

Lempert has published in several fields.

His undergraduate thesis on “The Survival of Democracy in Mauritius: A Demographic-Economic Explanation of Political Stability”, was one of the first attempts to link economic and demographic factors in predicting political violence and stability, and appeared simultaneously with work by senior scholars such as Jack Goldstone and Ted Robert Gurr.[5]

Lempert's two-volume, 1,800 page study was the first ever ethnography of urban Russia and the Russian legal-political system entitled, Daily Life in a Crumbling Empire: The Absorption of Russia into the World Economy, also expands on his demographic analysis of revolutions and internal purges, as well as offering an anthropological model of modern empires and how they can be contrasted. It is in this work that Lempert also coined the phrase, “Pepsi-stroika” (a pun on the word, “perestroika”) to describe changes in Russia. Lempert's research earned him a visiting fellowship to the Harvard University Russian Research Center in 1990 as the Center's first anthropologist to do work on Russia since its founder, Clyde Kluckhohn and anthropologist Margaret Mead.

Lempert has written a series of books and articles to develop a new participatory democracy model[6]. The trilogy of books he began as a graduate student at Berkeley, including A Return to Democracy and A Return to Community, earned him an invitation to lecture before the Yale Law School faculty. The ideas are also published in several shorter articles on model constitutions for developing and developed countries.

Lempert's books on experiential education and on sustainable development planning that he wrote while a graduate student, offer models that he has tested with others at several universities for new social science curricula that introduce laboratory field methods, combining theory and practice in work with the community. The democratic components of these models go beyond traditional approaches of service learning. His model development plan, written on a project in Ecuador, is one of the first to offer sustainable development approaches from the perspective of minority communities and culture, rather than the investment and neo-colonial paradigm of development as urbanization and productivity growth along a single and globalizing path, offered by major donors and development banks.

He has also written several works of fiction.

Consulting Work and Public Sector Initiatives

Lempert founded an NGO, Unseen America Projects, Inc. while still a student in the 1980s, leading students to develop new democratic-experiential field curricula throughout the social science curriculum. He was encouraged by Kennell Jackson Jr., who hired him as a Resident Advisor in Stanford's Branner Hall, to develop a seminar under the Innovative Academic Courses program in 1986. The course, called The Unseen America, sparked the creation of an NGO by the same name and led students on a development planning project in Ecuador in 1988. In 1996, he was awarded an honorary pedagogy degree from a university in Moscow for this work.

His work on human rights for the UN has generated some of the most advanced measures of human rights impacts, sustainable development, and guidelines for programming, viewing rights as long-term benefits with economic and social outcome measures, rather than of “moral” value[7]. In 1999, he became the second U.S. Fulbright professor ever to visit unified Vietnam.

Lempert has also spearheaded a movement for a Red Book of Endangered Cultures[8], to promote cultural diversity, similar to the Red Book of Endangered Species produced by environmentalists to promote bio-diversity, has written and promoted Ethical Codes for development professionals, and has advocated for new institutions to monitor development aid and donor activities in developing countries[9].

He has called for an NGO to monitor international development organizations to hold them to standards [10]

He is currently chair of the Diaspora Bridge Center project for Eastern Europe as a new educational and public center[11].

Personal life

Lempert sometimes goes by a nickname classmates gave him at Yale, “Superlemp".

Published books

Other book manuscripts

  • A Theory of Democracy and Proposals for Return
  • A Return to Democracy: The Modern Democracy Amendments
  • A Return to Community: The New Federalist Amendments
  • Escape from Professional School: Redesigning Professional Education
  • Copycat Pirates of "Indo-China": The Vietnamese Identity through Time
  • Modern Sparta: Daily Life of the Kinh Vietnamese: The Hanoi Hillbillies
  • Southeast Asian History and Culture on Two Wheels (Seven Volumes),Written with Nguyen Nhu Hue
  • The Making (And Unmaking) of an American Diplomat
  • "Pepsi"-Stroika: Building "Democracy" in Russia
  • Russian Justice for Sale: Legal Chaos in Russia in the 1990s
  • Life and Death in a Russian City
  • "The School for Useless Things": Perestroika in a Russian Law School

Fiction works

  • Reflections In a Prism
  • Golem Ink: The Power Of Trust.
  • Where's My Warranty?: Advice in Growing Up for Two Year Olds --
  • Subverse Universe
  • Untitled (Songs)
  • Island of the Bonobos


  1. ^ Policy Innovations, January 2008
  2. ^ "Presidential Tenure," The New York Times, October 24, 1974.
  3. ^ "Time to Pass Convention Outlawing Genocide," The Congressional Record, September 25, 1978 - reprinted from “Putting and End to Mass Murder,” The Yale Daily News, September 21, 1978 [1]
  4. ^ The New York Times, May 8, 1977 -- project to meet 1,300 Yale classmates. [2]
  5. ^ "A Demographic-Economic Explanation of Political Stability: Mauritius as a Microcosm," Eastern Africa Economic Review, Vol. 3 No. 1, 1987
  6. ^ "Ukraine's New Constitution: Continuity Under the Banner of Change with a Proposal for Authoritarian to Democratic Transitions," Demokratizatsiya, Vol. 2, No. 2, Spring 1994. Available on the Web at: [3] and "Development and Constitutional Democracy: A Set of Principles for 'Perfecting the Market'" The Journal of Developing Societies, Vol. 36, No. 1, Spring 1996.
  7. ^ “Sustainable Development Indicators for NGOs and Other Organization," with Nguyen Nhu Hue, International Journal of Sustainable Societies, 1:1, 2008. Use link:,3,6;journal,1,1;linkingpublicationresults,1:121226,1
  8. ^ Lempert, David. "Why We Need a Cultural Red Book for Endangered Cultures, NOW".  
  9. ^ "Holding the Powers that Be Accountable to Our Ethics Code to Protect Our Integrity and the Peoples We Serve," Human Rights, Vol. 24, No. 2, Spring 1997. Available on Web at: [4] similarly, "Commentary: Accountability in Anthropological Ethics," Practicing Anthropology, Vol. 19, No. 2, Spring 1997 and, "Holding Accountable the Powers That Be: Protecting Our Integrity and the Public We Serve," in Public Administration Review, Spring 1997.
  10. ^ “Why We Need an International Development Donor Monitor,” Short version in Policy Innovations, January 2008. Reprinted in Ethics World News. Available on web at [5]
  11. ^ “Towards Reconnecting with the Eastern European Jewish Legacy to Humanity and Going Beyond Memorializing the Holocaust and Rebuilding Religious Life: A New Project to Preserve a Unique Heritage,” Tikkun, October, 2008. (Proposal for the Diaspora Bridge Center of Poland)[6]


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