Ralph Nader


Ralph Nader Essay, Research Paper

Dear President Clinton,

I understand that you are considering people for the most Outstanding American Award. I am not one for awards or publicity, especially from the government, but I felt that I truly deserve this award. I am the one man who has fought for the most important aspect of America, its citizens. America’s most important asset is it’s people, and I, more than the corporate-influenced politicians like yourself, have been the people’s defender and advocate for nearly half a century. I am the man who has carried out the legacy of the great muckrakers of the beginning of this century.

I was born to Lebanese parents in Connecticut. My father was a hard working man who taught me to never trust those in power. “Not only to a child do things seem upside down, if you judge by what is right,” he said. And the welfare of the people of this country is what is right, not protecting the profits of corporations. During my years at Princeton and Harvard Law School, I discovered that corporations were, by their nature, ruthless, and that people were very apathetic to do any activist measures to help themselves. When I published my book, Unsafe At Any Speed, in 1965, people were astonished at the danger of cars, because they had never bothered to care before. And despite the fact that General Motors hired people to follow me and ask friends of mine embarrassing questions about me, and that they tapped my phones and accused me of being anti-Semitic, I took on General Motors, and I won. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is just one example of how my activism made a real change in the system.

My crusade against corporations has been on the behalf of the citizens of this country who do not know any better. They do not care that the country is run by men who are more worried about their wallets than the safety and welfare of people. That is why I do not eat processed foods, own machinery and why I shun money. These are all results of corporate production. I have founded numerous groups and organizations to protect the citizens of this country from the dangers of environmental pollution, atomic energy plants, and the health hazards of food, medicine, and occupations.

The reason I should win this award is not only because I am protecting the people against the pirates of free enterprise, but because I am trying to change American politics for the betterment of the people. In 1972, I founded Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. This citizen’s lobby is the vehicle through which I have been able to enact change in everything from the poultry industry to making tougher antitrust laws. The purpose of Congress Watch is to hold Congress responsible to its employers, the citizens of this country, for its actions. Congress Watch’s first action, an expose on the records and actions of every member of congress, shocked Capitol Hill and made them realize that they could no longer go about their irresponsible actions to the ignorance of the people. I also took upon myself to make sure that Congress could not just pass laws that would not actually take affect. My Freedom of Information Clearinghouse is the tool that allows citizens to fully take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act.

I have accomplished many specific things, but overall my goal is to make the government of this country a true government of the people. That is why I have always to tried to make every person in this country aware of the responsibilities of being a citizen. People do not seem to understand that passive interest in the events of the country do nothing to enact real change. Activists like me are the ones who change things. Ted Jacobs once said about me, “Few people with Ralph’s view of America would ever try to reform it single handedly, but he was always willing to try.” But while I wanted to carry out my work in obscurity, I wanted at the same time to change the American and make him a real citizen. A citizen is someone who cares about his country and is willing to try to change any injustices he may perceive as such. This concept of citizenship was embodied by the “Nader’s Raiders.” These were young people who wanted to change things and make a difference. They went out and showed people how to change things for the better.

In 1996, I ran for president with the Green Party. Although I was not a member of the Green Party, they wanted a candidate with some notoriety and I wanted a candidacy. Right now, I am working on abolishing the two party political system in favor of a government of the people. I may never get to be president, or see all of the reforms I want actualized. But I know that I dedicated my life to changing things for the better, to making a difference in people’s lives, and that is why I deserve this award. Because America is about the power of its citizens, and no other person has demonstrated how that power can be yielded for the public good. I could finish the rest of my life in obscurity, the way I intended to live it when I started my crusade, but this award would show the rest of America why it is important to be a citizen. I remember a reporter once asking me why anybody would want to be an active citizen. I told him, “It’s good for the soul. It’s fun. What could be more fun than pushing the auto and highway safety law into creation, watching more than 100,000 lives be saved and over a million injuries prevented. What could be more fun than that?”

Public Citizen,

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader

Lawyer, activist, author and 1996 presidential candidate. Son of Lebanese parents, Nathra and Rose Nader, who showed that any citizen can make changes for the betterment of his country and its people.

Date and Place Of Birth

February 27, 1934, in Winsted, Connecticut

Work Experience

Nader has never held a full time employment position and works behind the scenes on too many projects too be able to accurately asses his actual work experience. What follows is a list of major organizations and actions associated with Nader.

November 1996: Green Party

Presidential Candidate

1982 Essential Information

Founder of this Citizen’s actions group that has been a vehicle for much of Nader’s recent action.

1976 National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting

Assumes leadership

1972 Bantam Books

Contributor to Who Runs Congress?

1971 Public Citizens Congress Watch

Founder of the organization responsible for all of Nader’s reformist action. Has advocated and supported thousands of pieces of legislation and has helped defeat just as many. The offshoots and major accomplishments of this group include:

Public Citizens Health Research Group

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Freedom of Information Clearinghouse

Public Citizen Critical Mass Energy Project

Public Citizen Tax Reform Research Group

Professional Drivers Safety Council

Center for Auto Safety

Nader Citibank Report

Aviation Consumer Action Project

Public Interest Research Groups (education reform)

Congress Project (profiles of every member of Congress)

1968 Center for Study of Responsive Law


1966 National Highway Safety Administration

Supporter and part time contributor

1966 Lawsuit against General Motors

Sues for 26 million dollars for invasion of privacy

1965 Grossman Publishers

Author of Unsafe At Any Speed

1964-65 Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Consultant for the Secretary of Labor

1959 Establishes Law Practice in Hartford Connecticut

1959 The Nation

Author of many articles including ones about auto safety

1958 United States Army

Cook at Fort Dix, New Jersey.


Gilbert School in Winsted, 1951.

Princeton University; magna cum laude, 1955

Harvard Law School, 1958.

`Awards, Honors, and Membership

Member, American Bar Association

Member, Public Citizens Congress Watch

Public Defender of the Year- New Republic- 1969

Commencement Speaker, Harvard University, 1981


James M. Roche, President of General Motors Corporation.

No one can attest better to what a hard working activist can accomplish. I forced Roche to change how his industry looked at safety and consumers.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

I served as a consultant under Moynihan when he was the Assistant Secretary of Labor. Under him, I wrote my critiques of the government’s safety regulations. He understood my passion for doing the right thing and allowed me to continue my work.

Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe

Dr. Wolfe and I worked to establish the Public Citizens Health Research Group. Together, we saved thousands of lives. Dr. Wolfe was shocked at my zeal for protecting the health of citizens. He regarded me as the only non-medical person to fully appreciate the health hazards apparent in this country.

The citizens of Annmoore, West Virginia

I showed the poor, downtrodden people of Annmoore that they did not have to put up with the pollution that the chemical factory in their town was causing. They embodied everything I felt citizens should be, and they worked for a change. The greatest compliment ever given to me was by one of those citizens. He said, “I’d like to thank Ralph for being.”

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