Civic Work, Civic Lessons offers unique insights on public service, or “civic work.” 

Its authors are 57 years apart, but united in their passion for public service. They explain how public service has changed over time. Traditional types of public policy and political work dominated Tom Ehrlich’s generation. In contrast today, social entrepreneurship has exploded throughout the world led by young people like Ernestine Fu. 

An introductory chapter is followed by seven key lessons for success in civic work. Each lesson includes a section by each author. The sections by Ehrlich draw mainly on his experiences, while those by Fu draw on her civic work and that of many young volunteers who were interviewed. The concluding chapter focuses on leveraging technologies for civic work. 

Civic Work, Civic Lessons makes a strong case that our democracy needs people to become active, engaged, and responsible civic leaders in their communities—local, state, national, and international. 

All profits received by the authors from the sale of the book will be donated to philanthropic organizations.

The Stanford community has a long history of public service. This book written by members of two different generations of the Stanford family, Tom Ehrlich, a faculty member, and Ernestine Fu, a student - is very much in our university’s spirit. It explores the importance and relevance of service in its many forms and the benefits that come when generations reach out to each other. It offeres valuable insights for tomorrow’s leaders.

John Hennessy

Stanford University

Underneath the usual popular dissatisfaction with government and policians, there is also an untapped sense of civic duty. From their unique vantage points - more than 57 years separates them in age - Thomas Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu point out key lessons they think are imperative for young people, and indeed, anyone who wants to make a difference. And they put the lessons in very engaging personal stories that you’ll enjoy reading.

David Mathews

Kettering Foundation

Thomas Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu transform their experiences, life lessons, and passion for civic engagement into a powerful blueprint for those looking to create meaningful and effective change. This book is a must read for both new and seasoned leaders alike.

Alan Khazei

Co-Founder, City Year

Vanessa Kirsch

Founder & Managing Director, New Profit Inc.

We must all become social change makers working for the good of all. Tom Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu provide wise counsel to achieve that goal.

Bill Drayton

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Wherever I go, I find that people want to make a positive contribution to their communities and their country - but do not know how. Now, two gifted authors, generations apart in age and experience, give people a valuable primer on how they can enrich their lives and the lives of others through public service.

Lee H. Hamilton

Former United States Representative; Director, Center on Congress at Indiana University

We can either inspire hope and optimism for the next generation by engaging them in the process to rebuild the public and private sector, or we can leave them behind. Tom Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu’s honest discussion of so many difficult issues - sharing examples of failure and success - takes immense courage and vision to inspire greater good. I am inspired!

Kim Meredith

Executive Director,
Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University

Through this inter-generational approach, Civic Work, Civic Lessons bring together two unique perspectives about remarkable experiences in public service. Tom Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu lead by example, demonstrating the value of civic engagement in the private and public sectors and challenging us to expand our personal civic efforts.

Maureen F. Curley

Campus Compact

Tom Ehrlich has been such a thoughful mentor and champion through my Teach For America journey and I’m so glad he’s partnered with an inspiring young leader - Ernestine Fu - to share the stories and lessons of a lifetime of public service.

Wendy Kopp

Founder & Chair,
Teach For America

Thomas Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu. from the standpoint of very different generations, share remarkable findings of how each of us can prepare to serve and then to realize enormous personal satisfation in the new achievements and well-being of those touched by very thoughtful service.

Richard G. Lugar

Former United States Senator

I am struck by the unique gift this book offers readers, two distinctly different yet equally valuable perspectives on public service. What a blessing for Ernestine Fu to be able to have Tom Ehrlich as a mentor, and how incredibly invigorating it must have been for Tom Ehrlich to work with Ernestine Fu, who seems destined to do great things.

John Merrow

Education Correspondent, PBS NewsHour; President, Learning Matters, Inc.


  • Thomas Ehrlich

  • Ernestine Fu

Thomas Ehrlich is a professor at Stanford University, where he started working with Ernestine Fu. 

He has held a number of public-service positions since the administration of President John F. Kennedy. He was the first head of the Legal Services Corporation and was the director of the agency responsible for foreign-aid policy, reporting directly to President Carter. 

He has also served as president of Indiana University, provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and dean of Stanford Law School. 

He is author, co-author, or editor of fourteen other books, including Educating Citizens: Preparing America’s Undergraduates for Lives of Moral and Civic Responsibility (2003), and Educating for Democracy: Preparing Undergraduates for Responsible Political Engagement (2007). He holds five honorary degrees and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Ernestine Fu worked on the book as an undergraduate student at Stanford University, where she met Thomas Ehrlich. 

She is a social entrepreneur and investor: she started an international nonprofit as a teenager to bring music to local community centers, distributed corporate philanthropy dollars to youth-led service projects, and started free code camps to teach programming of mobile games and apps. 

Her philanthropy efforts today are focused on education, tech donor giving, and diversity. She is an advocate of immigration reform, public-private partnerships in cybersecurity, patent reform, and transportation funding. 

Ernestine is also an angel investor and venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. She holds a bachelors and masters in engineering with honors from Stanford University.