Posted by on April 09, 2013 in Blog

By Jade Zoghbi

Spring 2013 Intern

Next Tuesday, the Arab American Institute Foundation will honor the extraordinary career and contributions of Ralph Nader during the annual Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards. Nader will receive the Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service in recognition of his groundbreaking work on behalf of the American public.

Time called Ralph one of the 100 most influential Americans of the Century,” says AAI President Jim Zogby. “It’s absolutely true. He may not have invented ‘consumer rights,’ but he’s the reason most Americans know those rights exist.

Nader was born in Winsted, Connecticut in 1934. His parents, Lebanese immigrants Nathra and Rose, reinforced in their children the importance of both heritage and family, but also instilled a respect and passion for civic engagement. They engaged their children in discussions on politics and the current events – with Nader’s proficiency in the topics serving as a portent to his future endeavors.

In 1955, Nader graduated magna cum laude from the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs at Princeton University, later earning his LLB, with distinction, from Harvard Law School. He moved to Washington, DC in 1963 to work as political aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Just two years later, Nader became a household name when he exposed egregious safety failures in the U.S. automotive industry in his article “The Safe Car You Can’t Buy.” The article was followed Unsafe at Any Speed, the first of his many books, which criticized the automobile industry’s safety practices. Nader’s research and findings ultimately spurred unanimous passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

His work inspired a generation of activists. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, “Nader’s Raiders” examined the public and private sectors. In addition to exposing waste and fraud, the research led to a slew of publications designed to educate, inform, and protect consumers. Over a period of 40 years, Nader also established nothing less than the nation’s consumer advocacy framework, founding non-profit organizations including Center for the Study of Responsive Law, Public Citizen, Center for Auto Safety, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility, and the Clean Water Action Project -- each of which promotes and protects the interests of the U.S. citizens and consumers. 

“There isn’t an American alive whose life hasn’t been changed by Ralph. Our air is cleaner, our water is purer, our cars are safer, our government is more accountable,” says Zogby. “Whether you’re talking about his career in government or his much longer career out of it, what Ralph has done for this country, for its citizens, is the definition of ‘public service.’”

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