Manuel Pastor

Director of PERE
Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity

Dr. Manuel Pastor is Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Founding director of the Center for Justice, Tolerance, and Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Pastor currently directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at USC and co-directs USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. He holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has received fellowships from the Danforth, Guggenheim, and Kellogg foundations and grants from the Irvine Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the California Environmental Protection Agency, the W.T. Grant Foundation, The California Endowment, the California Air Resources Board, and many others.

Pastor’s research has generally focused on issues of the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities – and the social movements seeking to change those realities. His most recent book, Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions, co-authored with Chris Benner (Routledge 2012), argues that growth and equity can and should be linked, offering a new path for a U.S. economy seeking to recover from economic crisis and distributional distress. Previous volumes include: Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future (W.W. Norton 2010; co-authored with Angela Glover Blackwell and Stewart Kwoh), which documents the gap between progress in racial attitudes and racial realities and offers a new set of strategies for both talking about race and achieving racial equity; This Could Be the Start of Something Big: How Social Movements for Regional Equity are Transforming Metropolitan America (Cornell University Press 2009; co-authored with Chris Benner and Martha Matsuoka) which highlights a promising set of organizing efforts across the U.S.; Staircases or Treadmills: Labor Market Intermediaries and Economic Opportunity in a Changing Economy (Russell Sage 2007, co-authored with Chris Benner and Laura Leete) which offers a critique of current employment strategies and argues for a new “high road” approach to connecting demand and supply in labor markets; and Regions That Work: How Cities and Suburbs Can Grow Together (University of Minnesota Press 2000; co-authored with Peter Dreier, Eugene Grigsby, and Marta Lopez-Garza), a book that has become a standard reference for those seeking to link neighborhoods and regions.

Dr. Pastor speaks frequently on issues of demographic change, economic inequality, and community empowerment and has contributed opinion pieces to such outlets as the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Huffington Post, and many others. He served as a member of the Commission on Regions appointed by California’s Speaker of the State Assembly. In 2012, he was awarded the Wally Marks Changemaker of the Year award from the Liberty Hill Foundation in recognition of his many research partnerships with social justice organizations. In January 2002 was awarded a Civic Entrepreneur of the Year award from the California Center for Regional Leadership.

 

In His Own Words: Professor Pastor ‘speaks out’ on his experiences with spasmodic dysphonia

 

Many people may be surprised to learn that even seasoned public speakers like Prof. Pastor struggle daily with a voice condition.

In this piece, PERE/CSII Director, Manuel Pastor explains what spasmodic dysphonia is, how it impacts his life, and the strategies to help manage it so he can continue "speaking out" for inclusion and justice.

Download this article (PDF) >>

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Spasmodic Dysphonia and Me  

By Manuel Pastor

I have spasmodic dysphonia.  Basically, it’s a neurological reaction where the muscles sort of twitch and tighten around your vocal chords – you can laugh, sing and shout (that all sounds joyful) but your regular speaking voice “breaks” a lot and sounds strained/hoarse. The “strangled voice” can get worse and worse and some folks just kinda stop speaking.  The onset can be triggered by a sinus infection or stress but it’s neurological – so it's really just lingering in you waiting for the trigger.

I could describe it more but you can also just read about it at these links; it kind of describes my symptoms perfectly.

The Wikipedia entry is surprisingly complete but the second has some additional insights.

And for those who are really medical, try this Medscape.com article.

There is no cure and the most prescribed treatment is regular injections of Botox in your throat: that essentially paralyzes the muscles so they stop responding to the neurological signals. In short, your brain is twitching but your neck doesn’t know it.  If it works (and it does in my case), your voice initially becomes “breathy,” then it finds a new equilibrium, then sort of deteriorates till the next shot.

The shots are, well, not exactly fun (it’s a series of four accompanied by a camera running through your nose – kinda the opposite of fun).  So most folks like to do the shots infrequently, like every three to six months.  It’s not like I like to do them but I do shots once a month: that allows for a lower dose per shot and thus shorter breathy periods or end periods  with a “breaking” voice. Still, I never quite know what my voice will sound like – although after years of doing this, I have a sense of the range. And phone conversations can be a particular challenge, partly because you can’t supplement your voice with visual cues.

Sounds like a bummer but on the other hand, as my daughter commented when I was first diagnosed, with a constant stream of Botox shots, I now have a young, beautiful and very fashionable throat.

There is also a surgical procedure that some folks swear by called Selective Laryngeal Adductor Denervation-Rennervation (SLAD-R). It essentially involves cutting the current nerve to your vocal chords and connecting up a different nerve – and hoping the new part of your brain learns what to do (I’m sure I described that badly but that’s why I’m an economist and not a doctor).More on the operation here at Dysphonia.org. 

I haven’t done the operation because the Botox seems to be working (after some trial and error), the operation isn’t always successful and there are always risks with surgery.  Maybe I’ll do it someday . . .

When I first developed the condition in 2010, I thought it was weird to be losing my voice after spending so much time working to develop it.  But there are several famous people, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who have this condition, live with it, and also speak quite a bit.  So it hasn’t stopped me from giving speeches around the country and it’s given me a chance to let people know about this – and it makes you choose your words more carefully (why waste the voice?). 

What it does mean, however, is that my voice, even when clear does not project well – basically, I couldn’t yell if there was an emergency (which surprised me the first time I realized that) so you might want to have other friends around for dangerous situations. 

As a result, I always ask for a microphone, even in situations where the room may be small (unless it’s a very small gathering) and it’s important that this is in place. It’s also important not to schedule me for talk after talk (folks like to have you chatting the whole time) but to build in rest periods.

Also, sometimes when I’m on a prep call for a speech, I can tell the folks on the other side can be thinking: “Gee, he sounds pretty flat.  Hope he gets animated when he arrives.” Not to worry – as noted, phone conversations are harder and I figure why use the good voice for the prep when I can save it for the event.

Hope this all helps folks understand my speaking constraints.  And let’s work together to get out a message of inclusion and justice:  my voice that may not be as strong as it used to be in tone but, I hope, it is even clearer and stronger about why making change and achieving equity is imperative for the country’s future.


 

Video examples of me speaking:

While some might folks have a “bad hair” day, I can have a particularly “bad voice” day-- as was the case in this video:  

 

 

 

Of course, I also (and generally) have “good voice” days.  And with the aid of a microphone-- be it a podium, lavalier, headset, or handheld mic-- we get even better results as you can hear in the videos below:

 

 

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