Ralph Nader

by Kathy Crockett
My Hero

Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader

Real patriotism is caring enough about your country to roll up your sleeves and do something to make it more humane, moral, and caring.
-Ralph Nader

With his intelligence and curiosity, and degrees from Princeton and Harvard Law School, Ralph Nader could have done anything he wanted, including earning a big paycheck from any corporate law firm in the country. Instead, he packed his suitcase and hitchhiked to Washington, D.C., to make a difference, not for big government or corporations, but for the individual citizen. Although most recently and publicly known for his runs in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, Ralph has been working to pass laws to ensure our safety, security, and health for more than 40 years. As an activist attorney, consumer advocate and author, Nader continues to uphold his belief that citizens have the power to put change into motion.

Nader takes a moment of quiet
Nader takes a moment of quiet

Born in 1934 to Lebanese immigrants, Ralph learned the value and duties of citizenship early on. His father was always ready for a spirited debate on community issues or public policy. His older brother, Shafeek, would go to town meetings in their hometown of Winstead, Connecticut, listening and offering solutions to problems and opportunities for a better community. Winstead benefited from the spirit of the Nader family, and Ralph would continue in the family tradition, bringing concern for the people and proactive leadership to a national level.

Ralph's commitment to safety is ongoing
Ralph's commitment to safety is ongoing

Nader has always put people first, ahead of government and big business, believing that Americans have rights and responsibilities that both need to be protected and actively empowered. As Nader himself pushed in the spotlight and gained power, he turned his celebrity status into a powerful tool for making everyday products and the environment safer and healthier for all. Drawing from the works of the master muckrakers of the early twentieth century, Ralph launched consumer rights as a national issue. He took muckraking a few steps further than his predecessors did, turning exposes into causes for action and reform.

For Nader, building awareness is only part of the job. Making real reform requires responsibility, hard work, passion, and persistence, all of which, luckily, Nader possesses in droves. The list of reforms Nader helped to create is long and far-reaching—from auto safety and health care to government reform and environmental protection. Every time we ride in an automobile we are, in part, owing to Nader for our increased safety. In 1965, Nader authored Unsafe at Any Speed, which brought the issue of auto safety into the spotlight where it could not longer be ignored. The following year, a new auto safety law was passed.

<i>Unsafe at Any Speed</i>
Unsafe at Any Speed

With the now-famous group of protégés dubbed “Nader’s Raiders,” Ralph has inspired many people to take the lead in making the lives of everyday citizens better. Believing that “almost every significant breakthrough has come from the spark, the drive, the initiative of one person,” Nader established organizations such as Public Citizen, US Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Study of Responsive Law to empower individuals and small organizations to make change and protect the rights of the public. His most recent organization, Citizen Works, was established in 2001 to provide ordinary citizens with the tools and opportunities for active involvement in democracy.

Although he never collected enough votes to win either presidential race, Ralph has been running a marathon in public service, far surpassing the time he would have put in as president. Despite losses, challenges, and roadblocks, Ralph continues to use his lobbying powers for a better America. His changes and successes are numerous and far-reaching. From the cars in which we drive to the food we eat, all of us are touched by his dedication and energy.

Page created on 1/31/2006 3:03:37 AM

Last edited 1/31/2006 3:03:37 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Citizen Works - gives people the tools and opportunities to build democracy.
Public Citizen - branches out into consumer rights, government, and enviromental issues
The Nader Page - offers brief bits of information and reader commentary about the issues Nader supports
Academy of Achievement - A unique organization that connects students with achievers of our time. It has in-depth interviews and biographies featuring many of today's greatest leaders, including this one on Ralph Nader

Extra Info

Ralph Nader talks about his hero, his brother, Shafeek Nader, in My Hero

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