ADA was founded in 1947 by Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Reuther, Hubert Humphrey, Arthur Schlesinger, and Reinhold Niebuhr shortly after FDR died. Our goal then?  To keep the New Deal dream of a fair and prosperous America for all alive for generations to come.

As ADA turns 75, we remain a key player in protecting progress and building for the future so that the dream can come true. We are working with allied groups in Washington and in states even as we build and mobilize our grassroots network across the country.

Support ADA’s work and celebrate our 75th anniversary year with a contribution today!

Note: Unless otherwise noted, profiles have been written by ADA Executive Committee Chair, Kurt Meyer. Enjoy!

ADA All Stars

Eleanor Roosevelt


ADA is marking… no, make that CELEBRATING!… our 75th birthday. This is the first of many outbound emails “toasting” this remarkable milepost (yes, I realize that’s a mixed metaphor). It’s appropriate that we begin this series by lifting up one of our founders, Eleanor Roosevelt, talking about ADA’s founding. This excerpt about ADA’s origin is from her syndicated newspaper column, My Day, which appeared in January, 1947.

“I spent the whole day yesterday from 9:30 in the morning till after five in the afternoon with a group of people, many of whom I have known before, who were trying to set up a liberal and progressive organization. They chose as their name, “Americans United* for Democratic Action.” If they live up to that name, they will not only lay down certain principles, but they will find ways and means to acquaint the people of the country with their program.

“In addition, they will organize the action which can be taken in any community in the nation if people are in agreement on specific programs. … I am joining with other progressives, many of whom are far younger and more active than I am, and far more influential, in an attempt to carry on the spirit of progress. We do not believe that what has been done in the past is the highest attainment that can be hoped for in a democratic nation.”

“…We hope to face new situations and find new answers in line with the needs and best interests of our country and its people, never forgetting our relationship to the family of nations.”1

Kurt Meyer, ADA Executive Committee Chair

* – The word “United” was obviously jettisoned at some point… I’ll seek out more information and share what I find.

1 Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day, January 6, 1947,” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Digital Edition (2017), accessed 11/30/2021,

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David Dubinsky


For most of my life, David Dubinsky was little more than a name. Surely, I could have pegged him as a labor leader, which he was. But more than that, my memory was a bit blurry.
By Kheel Center - David Dubinsky, Hubert H. Humphrey, and Muriel Buck Humphrey, January 1, 1966, CC BY 2.0,
Too bad, because David Dubinsky is quite a story. Indeed, he’s an ADA All-Star and a founding member, although I’m trying to verify whether he was at the “founding meeting” at the Willard, January, 1947. (I’ll keep you posted.)
More about “D.D.” as he was called: Born in 1892 in what’s now Belarus, the youngest of eight children, his family moved to Lodz, Poland, when he was three. His father owned a bakery, and David began working there while attending school, where he studied Polish, Russian and Yiddish. Eventually, he left school to work full time. He joined the bakers’ union and by age 15 was elected a union leader, due in part to his language fluency.
In 1907, he was arrested for his union activities and jailed for several days. He was arrested again the next year and sentenced to exile in Siberia. He escaped and made his way to New York City where he joined his older brother. Through union connections, he got a job as a cutter – one of the most skilled jobs in the garment industry – and joined the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).
Dubinsky became president of his ILGWU local before he turned 30 and quickly got involved in his national union. He became ILGWU Secretary-Treasurer in 1929 and President in 1932, holding these positions until 1959 and 1966, respectively. (That’s right… one person holding all three posts for three-plus decades.)
There are many examples of Dubinsky as a trail blazer. He was a founder of the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO). He helped launch the American Labor Party to organize progressives to vote for Democratic candidates. He helped create the Liberal Party of New York. And YES, he was a founding member of ADA!
Dubinsky was a colorful character. His view on strikes: “First you get a whip, and then when everyone knows you have it, you put it in the refrigerator.”; When he died in 1982, a glowing obituary in the New York Times noted, “With extraordinary flair and boundless energy… his speech was often blunt and down-to-earth, but he could also stir an audience with his idealism. He never lost his Yiddish accent, his tendency to wave his arms at the slightest provocation, or his loud voice, which started as a shout and went up from there.”
The Times also pointed out, “He was proud of his accomplishments, and would talk about them whether he was bicycle riding around New York wearing (his) distinctive beret, or assaulting huge baskets of onion rolls, highly spiced pickles, marinated herring and pastrami, washed down with Scotch or rum.” Sounds like quite a guy and a truly remarkable ADA All Star! Many more All Stars forthcoming under the celebratory banner, “ADA at 75: The Best Is Yet to Come”
P.S. Two more “factoids” about Dubinsky. First, “Pins and Needles”, a 1937 Broadway musical, was inspired by D.D. and performed initially by members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. The show enjoyed the longest run of any musical up to that time. Second, Dubinsky’s national leadership role was undoubtedly boosted by his “close and constant friendship” with his favorite gin rummy partner, a fellow by the name of George Meany.

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Don and Arvonne Fraser


Today’s ADA All-Stars* are a first… most certainly there will be others: an ADA couple, Don & Arvonne Fraser. Like other national figures rooted in Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the DFL) – a list that includes names like Humphrey, Mondale, McCarthy, Wellstone, and Klobuchar – Don & Arvonne embodied simple, old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves practicality.

Theirs was not necessarily a “get-‘er-done” approach, which may suggest ends justifying the means regardless of costs… but rather a pragmatic, “do-what-you-can” approach, reflective of a strong work ethic, of taking the long view, and of a steadfast commitment to service.

Don Fraser was ADA President from 1974 to 1976. He was generally the more public figure in this marriage, although Arvonne was an unsuccessful candidate for Minnesota Lieutenant Governor in the mid 1980s. The couple both worked on Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey’s 1948 Senate campaign. More than three decades later, Don was elected to the same mayoral office HHH once held, and served for a record-breaking 14 years.

It says a great deal about Fraser that his 2019 obituary in his hometown newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, begins with these words: “Former Minneapolis mayor, congressman, state senator, and the most gracious man you could ever meet…”

Over the years, I crossed paths with the Frasers occasionally and always held them in high regard. In 1976, I worked in the re-election campaign of an Iowa Congressman; Arvonne was the regional Carter-Mondale campaign official who interacted with our office and brought soon-to-be Vice President Mondale into the district to campaign.

Two years later, I moved to Minneapolis and worked for the DFL in an office suite that previously housed Don Fraser’s Senate campaign, which fell short (a modest play on words there… Don was defeated in the primary by businessman Bob Short). It seems almost everyone entering the suite felt obliged to express heartfelt grief that Don Fraser would not be our next Senator. (Humphrey died in early ’78; ten months later, the DFL suffered resounding losses. Ouch!)

Not knowing the Frasers well, I surely knew enough to reach out to someone who did: Amy Isaacs, ADA’s National Director for 20 years. A few of her recollections:

– “I knew them both very, very well. They became friends over the years, starting with Don’s presidency of ADA. Needless to say, if Don was involved so was Arvonne. I adored them both.”

– “Don was forever losing coats, so Arvonne bought him a bright red parka and wrote his name in it. I daresay he was the only Member of Congress to sport such attire. I once asked Arvonne if she had considered mittens on strings to go with the parka. She thought it a good idea.”

– “As head of the Democratic Party’s Party Reform Commission**, Don made certain that I was given the task of staffing the effort. As a result, ADA was center stage in major Party reform efforts.” 

– “When their eight-year-old daughter was killed by a driver as she was returning from school, they went to the driver’s home after the funeral to tell said driver that they knew it wasn’t his fault and that they knew he was suffering as well. That takes truly special people.”

Don & Arvonne Fraser merit a trunk full of accolades, distinctions, honors, and tributes. The world is a better place because of the Frasers, their primary ADA involvement taking place almost a half-century ago. Like other ADA All Stars, they are motivation for us to do what we can to support ADA and advance the same enlightened approach to politics Don & Arvonne personified. If you are so motivated, please join us in (generously!) supporting ADA.

A closing quote from Arvonne. “Activism can be as simple as a conversation. Don’t underestimate what talking to your friends and neighbors does. It’s exactly how elections get won.”

* – A key element of ADA’s 75th anniversary celebration is designating 75 ADA All Stars & All-Star Moments under the theme “ADA at 75: The Best Is Yet to Come”.

** – Don Fraser succeeded Senator George McGovern (who, ironically, succeeded Don as ADA President) as Chair of the Commission on Party Structure & Delegate Selection, also known as the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which restructured the Democratic Party’s process of nominating presidential candidates to give more power to rank-and-file members.

P.S. – To learn more about the Frasers, I recommend the biography “Don Fraser: Minnesota’s Quiet Crusader” by his long-time staffer Iric Nathanson. You can order it from your local bookstore or, if you wish, from Amazon. If you order from Amazon, please register with listing the “ADA Education Fund” as your charity of choice; by doing so, a portion of your purchase supports ADA’s liberal activism. The Frasers would be pleased.

Family photograph from Minneapolis Photo Collection in the James K. Hosmer Special Collections.

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James Loeb


Today’s ADA All Star, our fifth, is James I. Loeb. Mr. Loeb was not an especially high-profile individual in ADA’s history, however, clearly he was in “the room where it happens”, to use current vernacular.

A brief history lesson: ADA, now celebrating our 75th anniversary, is an outgrowth of a predecessor group, the Union for Democratic Action (UDA). In 1941, Loeb, along with theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, actor Melvyn Douglas, Murray Gross, an International Ladies Garment Workers Union official (colleague of David Dubinsky, see All Star #2) and others founded UDA. Loeb served as UDA’s executive director. The organization was unequivocally pro-union and took the additional step of barring political conservatives and communists from becoming members.

UDA was respected politically – for example, its positions were quoted often and widely… its members held significant posts in the Roosevelt administration – but it was weak financially. One of its innovations was disseminating voting records for members of Congress to help voters hold them accountable, a practice continued by ADA to this day.

By the mid-‘40s, however, UDA had only one active chapter and a mere 5,000 national members. Accordingly, Loeb advocated his own version of a “New Deal”… that is, to disband UDA and create a more broad-based, mass-membership organization. Americans for Democratic Action was born in January, 1947. Loeb then served ADA as the organization’s first executive secretary until 1953.

In April, 1961, President Kennedy appointed him U.S. Ambassador to Peru. An article in the New York Post at that time referred to Loeb as a “tall, free-gaited, Lincolnesque man with an easy-going exterior and a churning, socially conscious interior… a lean, youthful former teacher of romance languages who has never permitted his ulcers to weaken his intestinal fortitude.” In 1963, after being recalled from Peru to show U.S. disapproval of a military coup there, Loeb was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Guinea, in West Africa.

From 1953 until 1970, Loeb was part-owner / co-publisher of a newspaper in Saranac Lake, New York. When he died, in 1992, a former editor of his newspaper recalled, “If Loeb was planning to be away from the newspaper, he would in one afternoon sit down and flawlessly type five editorials with no typos to run each day that he would be gone. If there was something that might change, he would provide different paragraphs that could be inserted to keep the editorial current.” (Wow! Impressive.)

Quoted in nationally-circulating obituaries at the time of Loeb’s passing, ADA’s Amy Isaacs, then national director, noted Loeb’s talents were “instrumental in bringing together liberals, educators, theologians, labor leaders and businessmen.” One last observation. When Loeb died, memorial donations were to be made to Americans for Democratic Action, the organization he had served as executive secretary four decades earlier. (Would that we ALL did the same… or, at a minimum, hit the “contribute” button. Thank you!)

P.S. – An element of ADA’s 75th anniversary celebration is designating 75 ADA All Stars & All-Star Moments under the theme “ADA at 75: The Best Is Yet to Come”. As noted above, you can indicate your support for ADA by making an online contribution.

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Jimmy Wechsler


Several years ago, ADA created a new award, the James Wechsler “Integrity in Journalism” Award. Until that time, I was unfamiliar with Mr. Wechsler,who died in 1983. His career was spent largely as an editor and editorial writer for New York Post, a newspaper I haven’t felt the need to track on in recent decades. Wechsler first began his affiliation with the Post in the late 1940s… and it definitely wasn’t that way during his stewardship.
According to Eve Berliner, who worked with Wechsler at the Post and eulogized him several months after his death, “He ran the New York Post when it was still an organ of journalism. He became its editor in chief… and transformed it into a vehicle of journalistic force with soaring readership. Investigation, sparkling political commentary, human portraiture – these were its hallmarks. Its news coverage was political, its heart compassionate. It was a progressive liberal tabloid.”
During Wechsler’s tenure, the Post featured some of the most popular columnists of the time: Eleanor Roosevelt, Max Lerner, Drew Pearson, Marquis Childs, Murray Kempton, Pete Hamill, William Shannon, and Eric Sevareid. (A truly remarkable roster!) Women reporters were assigned major stories and the Post’s education and sports sections were among the best in the nation. In September, 1952, the Post published a story about a fund created by wealthy businessmen to supplement Senator Richard Nixon’s office expenses, which prompted Nixon to respond in his infamous “Checkers” speech.
Berliner, again: “At a crucial time in our history, Jimmy Wechsler did not fear to raise his journalistic voice. He took on Joe McCarthy when no one dared to challenge. His was a voice of courage in a season of hysteria. He was a pugilist and he was a poet. He wrote with fiery eloquence in a rage for justice. His credo was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. He fought for labor and he fought for civil rights, he fought for equality and brotherhood of spirit. He answered the call of conscience. He was above all a battler for the underdog, a champion of difficult sad causes… an incorrigible romantic, almost childlike in his beliefs. He helped countless little people, fought for the little man.”
As for his ADA connection, early in his career, Wechsler authored many of the position papers that ADA disseminated; Wechsler, himself, was a founding member of the organization. And he always maintained a warm, enduring friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt, evident in this excerpt from “Eleanor: The Years Alone” by Joseph Lash, another ADA founder. “On the eve of her trip to Japan (May, 1953), she met with some troubled ADA leaders. McCarthyism was a national peril and ADA was looking for someone unafraid to take him on. She would be the ideal chairman, they said. She could not do it, she told them. She had committed herself to the American Association for the United Nations. Grave as the danger of McCarthyism was, America’s relationship to the United Nations also was in jeopardy because of right-wing attacks. But she was moved by the plea of James A. Wechsler, having great admiration for the way he had stood up to the Wisconsin senator. Until he had done so, ‘nobody else dared to challenge McCarthy before his own Committee,’ she said. ‘People were inclined to be intimidated.’ She agreed to serve as the ADA’s honorary chairman.”
It’s evident that James Wechsler was indeed a model of integrity, a trait captured in ADA’s award, and is a most deserving ADA All Star, the sixth of 75 to be feted throughout ADA’s 75th year. If you would like to (generously) support ADA in our anniversary celebration, you may do so HERE. I highly recommend it!

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Joe Duffey


Joe Duffey, who passed away in February, 2021, was an All Star in many ways and in many fields… not least of which is, he was a true ADA All Star. He served ADA as President in 1970-’71, succeeding John Kenneth Galbraith in the post, after Duffey’s unsuccessful candidacy in Connecticut for the U.S. Senate.
Duffey’s ADA role was cited in several different obituaries, including both the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Times write-up gave Duffey the title, “Apostle of Liberalism and Humanities”. (Duffey served as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1977-‘82.)
Duffey occasionally described himself as “a hillbilly and a Baptist”. He was born in West Virginia, the oldest of five children, and the first in his family to attend school past the fourth grade. His father was coal miner who became a barber after losing a leg in an accident; his mother was a telegraph operator who died when Joe was 13.
Raised in the Baptist church, Duffey was eventually ordained as a Congregational pastor (United Church of Christ). He earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Andover Theological Seminary (now part of Yale Divinity School) in 1957; a master’s from Yale Divinity School in 1963; and a doctorate from what is now Hartford Seminary in 1969. In his distinguished career, Duffey was also conferred 14 honorary degrees from American colleges and universities.
In terms of national recognition, his breakthrough experience was the Senate race in 1970, when Duffey was 38 years old. Prior to his Senate run, however, Duffey organized Freedom Rides to advance civil rights in the South and led protests against the Vietnam War. In 1968, Duffey headed the presidential campaign in Connecticut for Senator Eugene McCarthy.
Attracting a remarkable roster of supporters in 1970, including the actor Paul Newman who served as campaign co-chair, Duffey upset the party organization to win the nomination. He lost in a three-way race in November, but his candidacy ultimately led to a series of appointed government positions, as the Times noted, “thanks to two other ‘hillbilly Baptists’ who happened to become president of the United States”… one from Georgia and one, two decades later, from Arkansas.
“In the fall of 1970, I missed about half of my (Yale) law school classes trying to help get Joe Duffey elected to the Senate,” President Clinton said in a statement after Duffey’s death. “… So many of us were drawn to his deep commitment to peace, economic fairness, and civil rights. Joe left us all proud, wiser in the ways of politics, and richer in lifelong friends, including Joe himself.”
Duffey’s campaign was chaired by Anne Wexler (who became his wife four years later) and launched a cast of players who went on to decades of political involvement, including DC lobbyist/fundraiser Tony Podesta, who managed the campaign; his brother John Podesta, later Clinton’s White House chief of staff; Sam Gejdenson, who represented Connecticut in the U.S. House for 20 years; U.S. Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman; Michael Medved, who became a conservative radio host; and Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council under President Trump. Duffey’s finance committee included luminaries like artist Alexander Calder and writers William Styron and Thornton Wilder. (A most impressive roster!)
Perhaps Joe Duffey’s legacy is best captured in the generation of political figures whose careers began with that 1970 Senate run. Three weeks before his death, Duffey’s campaign staff reconnected for a 50th anniversary via Zoom. President Clinton participated, saying he was “grateful for 50 years of knowing Joe Duffey and sharing his dream of a more perfect union.”

ADA’s claim to Duffey’s talents were brief but meaningful. He called the ADA National Director Don Kusler in early summer 2020, expressing hope of attending that Fall’s Awards Celebration. Unfortunately, the event became a virtual gathering, which he may or may not have watched. His last gift to ADA was his 2021 membership dues, a half-century after he served the organization as President.

I say, admirable fidelity, Joe Duffey! One sign of a true All Star.

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Patsy T. Mink


When conducting research on today’s ADA All Star, in document after document, one constantly encounters the word “first”, as in “Patsy T. Mink was the FIRST person / woman / Hawaiian / Japanese-American / Asian-American / etc. to be (or accomplish) fill in the blank .”
No two ways about it: Today’s All Star, Patsy Takemoto Mink, was a trail blazer, a “path maker” more than a pathfinder, the later term suggesting a path exists if it can only be found. A few of her path-making firsts:

— the first female to serve as president of her high school’s student body;*

— the first in her high school graduating class (i.e., valedictorian);

— the first Hawaiian woman to earn a JD from the University of Chicago Law School;

— the first Asian-American woman to practice law in the Hawaiian territory;

— the first Japanese-American woman to serve in the territorial House;

— the first woman to serve in the territorial Senate;

— the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii;

— the first woman elected to Congress from the state of Hawaii;

— the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives;

— the first Asian-American woman in Congress;

— the first Japanese-American woman in Congress;

— the first Asian-American to run for U.S. President;

— the first witness to testify against Pres. Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee Harrold Carswell;

— the first person to oppose a Supreme Court nominee based on discrimination against women;

— the first Democratic woman to deliver a State of the Union response; AND

— the first woman to head Americans for Democratic Action.

*- voted into office shortly after the Japanese bombed nearby Pearl Harbor, a second-generation Japanese-American student attending a Hawaiian high school… imagine. 

Patsy Mink served as ADA National President from 1978 to 1981, between her two, 12-year stints in the U.S. House of Representatives (1965-1977 and from 1990 – 2002).  She devoted herself to her ADA role with fervor and with a schedule that enabled her to participate fully in myriad organizational activities.  During her tenure, ADA was always on her mind.  One example:  While on a beach in Hawaii, she spotted Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; went up to them and solicited their membership;  they, of course, complied.   Her drive, her passion, her ability, and her availability combined to make her an exceptional ADA leader, an All Star by everyone’s estimation.

It’s a challenge when talking about an accomplished person to identify just one characteristic or one achievement that stands out. Nevertheless, let’s focus on one in each of these two categories, since shining a spotlight on two items – one personal quality, one remarkable feat – can help us see the true nature of Patsy Mink.

To the extent Mink had a personal “superpower”, it was her tenacity… sometimes referred to as resolve, or persistence, or determination. In reading biographical information about the Congresswoman, tenacity comes through almost as often as her tendency to be “the first”. For example, when her medical school applications were denied, she re-directed her talents toward law school, graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, consistently ranked among the world’s best and most prestigious.

After she passed the bar to practice law in Hawaii territory, being a woman with a child in an interracial marriage became an obstacle to securing a law firm position; accordingly, she launched her own practice. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Mink campaigned to represent Hawaii in the U.S. House; her initial campaign was unsuccessful.

Several years later, Mink ran again and WAS elected… first to the Hawaii state house, then the state senate and, after Hawaii gained a second congressional seat, Mink sought the office again, won her race, and became Congresswoman Patsy Mink. Her legislative approach was rooted in the belief that representation extended beyond the borders of a congressional district. “You were not elected to Congress, in my interpretation of things, to represent your district, period,” she stated. “You are national legislators.” As a congresswoman, Mink fought for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare, bilingual education, and championed an act known for many years simply as “Title IX”.

In her first period in Congress, Mink was an early critic of the Vietnam War. In 1972, she and Representative Bella S. Abzug of New York traveled to Paris to meet with North Vietnamese officials to discuss prospects for peace. In 1967, in a speech before the House, Mink argued against harsh punishments for those who burned the American flag, declaring: ”America is not a country which needs to punish its dissenters to preserve its honor. America is not a country which needs to demand conformity of all its people, for its strength lies in all our diversities converging in one common belief, that of the importance of freedom as the essence of our country.”

But it was the Title IX law, for which Mink was both an author and a sponsor, that she was most identified. That law stated that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”    Drawing on her medical school experience, Title IX was not specifically aimed at sports programs; however, there is where its impact noted.

The Women’s Sports Foundation website cuts to the chase. Under the heading “History of Title IX” and a photo of Congresswoman Mink, it states: “June 23, 1972. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is enacted by Congress and is signed into law by President Richard Nixon, prohibiting sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid. Rep. Patsy Mink is recognized as the major author and sponsor of the bill, and Rep. Edith Green and Sen. Birch Bayh also made significant contributions.” ( After her death in 2002, the Title IX law was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

For more than four decades, Mink championed the rights of immigrants, minorities, women, and children, and sought to eradicate the kind of discrimination she encountered in her life.  Respected for her integrity and honesty, she was indeed the primary force behind Title IX, the legislation that brought academic and athletic equity to American educational institutions. And for three remarkable years, she served as ADA’s first female President, becoming one of the organization’s most dedicated and productive leaders; indeed, her devotion and activity continued unabated until her death even as she served another term in Congress. She is among ADA’s most deserving and distinguished All Stars.

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Marvin and Dr. Evelyn Jones Rich


Looking through ADA’s distinguished past, you can’t find a couple more essential to the organization’s first 75 years than Marvin and Evelyn Jones Rich. If you read into this statement a bit of foreshadowing, you’re right. This is another All-Star TEAM. And if this All-Star tribute is longer than normal, it’s because a list of this couple’s contributions to humankind is as long as your arm.

Marvin & Evie Rich were an extraordinary team for every endeavor in which they participated. For many decades, they championed protecting civil liberties and civil rights, playing vital roles in what is often referred to as the Civil Rights Movement. They were important links in the circle that struggled for justice, which ultimately led to major changes in our country. ADA was but one beneficiary of their exceptional talents.

Marvin’s activism began in the mid-1940s at Washington University in St. Louis, his hometown. World War II veterans had sacrificed for their country and, upon returning, sought social justice at levels previously unavailable at Washington University. He joined the Student Committee for the Admission of Negroes (SCAN), spearheading a campaign to admit Black students, which ultimately led to the integration of the University.

Marvin was a founder of ADA’s St. Louis Chapter and was active in Students for Democratic Action (SDA). He also helped establish the St. Louis Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), advocating successfully for the desegregation of public places, like restaurants, swimming pools, libraries, and department stores. In the mid-1950s, Marvin moved to New York City and joined the local CORE chapter.

The late Julian Bond talks about this era in his book, “Time to Teach: A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement”: In the late 1950s, the CORE organization began to decline. By 1957, there were only seven groups affiliated with CORE. Only seven people attended the 1957 CORE convention: four national officers and three delegates. The organization tried to rebuild… and in 1959 Marvin Rich became community relations director.” (Sounds like Marvin took on quite an assignment!)

Among his various duties, Marvin was responsible for program planning, materials research and development, preparing the annual budget, and fund-raising, including fund-raising with and for local CORE chapters. That Marvin was successful is seen by noting that by 1961 CORE had 53 chapters throughout the U.S, including active groups in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky. By 1963, most major urban centers had at least one CORE chapter. And lest you think this was all “office work”, Marvin also made periodic trips to the South, where in 1962 he was jailed for almost a week with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Albany, Georgia. In 1964 he was severely beaten as he observed a voter-registration demonstration in Holmes County, Mississippi.

Marvin’s next professional move was to become Executive Director (later President) of the Scholarship, Education and Defense Fund for Racial Equality (SEDFRE). This organization implemented voter registration drives in the South, trained newly elected Black officials, and provided scholarships to activists expelled from Southern colleges for their civil rights activities.

Later, Marvin was Director of Development at the New School for Social Research, Executive Director of the Queens College Foundation, and Special Assistant to the President as well as Director of the Capital Campaign at Mercy College. In the 1970s, he was a founder of the National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC) and held various leadership positions within the organization.

Of course, during this same period, Marvin devoted countless hours to ADA, a commitment spanning more than five decades, where he served at different times as Treasurer, Chair of the Development Committee, Chair of the ADA Education Fund, and Chair of the Executive Committee. He was also President of New York City ADA and with his wife, Dr. Evelyn Jones Rich, ran the NYC chapter, which assembled much of this background information at the time of Marvin’s death, in December, 2018.

Dr. Rich has devoted her entire adult life to being an advocate and an activist in the fight for civil rights and justice, seeking equal opportunity for all. One description she applied to herself was “troublemaker”, reminiscent of Congressman John Lewis’s often-cited term, “good trouble”.

Based on a story Evie tells, clearly she was pushing boundaries even as a child. She talks about her first job… delivering newspapers. Her brothers were all Philadelphia paperboys and Evie decided she was going to distribute papers and earn money, too. Her gender, however, prompted reluctance from her potential employer, who told her, “There’s no such thing as a paper GIRL. Who’s ever heard of such a thing?” Nevertheless, young Evelyn successfully persuaded him to hire her and tended faithfully to her paper route for several years.

As a college student at Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia – the first Black undergraduate student to live on campus all four years – Evie, like Marvin, joined Students for Democratic Action (SDA) and, by her actions, has embraced liberal / progressive principles ever since. Introduced to CORE by her future husband, she utilized the organization’s non-violent philosophy throughout her career as an educator, advocate, and foundation executive.

In addition to her profession as a teacher and professor, there were also various causes throughout the years: for instance, taking teachers to Africa to develop realistic curricula for U.S. students, lobbying the New York State legislature for adequate educational funding, testifying on issues including redistricting, aging concerns, and health care. Evie also helped found and direct Labor Arts a virtual museum displaying a cultural and artistic representation of the struggle of working people and celebrating the labor movement. And, she was always helping elect progressive candidates to office through ADA. According to ADA colleagues, one of Evie’s remarkable gifts was that of public speaking, including making “the fund-raising pitch” at ADA banquets, always with considerable returns.

Many who knew Marvin & Evie Rich well praised their 62-year marriage. One of Marvin’s civil rights colleagues, noted, “More important than his role in the movement was Marvin the family man. He and Evie were and are models of what love and family should be.” Another observed, “We treasure his commitment to family and friends and those in need.” Perhaps the best tribute came from Amy Isaacs, former ADA National Director, speaking at Marvin’s memorial service.

“My first national ADA meeting… I sat in a room with a gentle giant whom I would come to cherish in the years ahead. Marvin Rich was there: a quiet, steady presence whose importance to me personally and to Americans for Democratic Action specifically, cannot be overstated. It was a joy to watch him and Evie together through all those years. Evie, Marvin didn’t just love you; he adored you and his eyes shone brightly whenever he talked about you or looked at you.  For Marvin, you and your family were the underpinning of everything he did and stood for.” 

“Marvin ensured that what was needed happened. His presence and devotion to the causes he held dear were constant and unswerving. He never sought the limelight, but it is no understatement to say that, without Marvin, the civil rights movement couldn’t have happened the way it did and Americans for Democratic Action would not have lasted (all these) years. He didn’t see his role as simply giving direction; he worked hard to make the often impossible happen… a quiet giant who did not seek the limelight but on whose shoulders all the rest of us stood.”

Marvin & Evelyn Rich are exceptionally deserving ADA All Stars… as Amy noted, continually helping “to make the often impossible happen”. Even today, ADA stands on their shoulders.

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Rich Means and Ray Pempek


Today’s ADA All Stars fall into a somewhat different category. They are yoked together because they worked with each other under the ADA banner for many years, not only advancing the national organization but also guiding the Illinois ADA Chapter. They were both engaged in local Chicago politics. And sadly, they passed away within a year of one another, Rich in December, 2020, and Ray in October, 2021. The loss of these friends will be felt at ADA for many years, a statement that could easily be applied to many ADA All Stars.
When I mentioned them being in a somewhat different category, it’s because, like so many ADA people active now, I KNEW Rich Means and Ray Pempek personally. They were friends and colleagues to many of us currently involved in ADA.
Richard Means was not only a respected ADA board member, he was the informal go-to guy regarding ADA rules and procedures. When ADA was wrestling with presidential endorsement matters, Rich was always front and center, ensuring that every “i” was dotted and every “t” crossed. In presidential cycles in my involvement, this assignment generally required a flurry of emails before an endorsement meeting and culminated in clear advice throughout these meetings, always delivered with his characteristic knowledge, kindness, and integrity.
One newspaper obituary summed up Rich’s many efforts, noting, “Rich was a fighter for justice and a standard bearer for open, honest government. One of the top election lawyers in Illinois, respected by attorneys and activists of all political persuasions, he helped innumerable candidates navigate the web of ballot access laws and clear the hurdles of petition challenges.”
The New York Times called him “a premier election and campaign lawyer and a fixture in Chicago legal circles… committed to guiding local, state and national candidates onto the ballot and keeping them on the straight and narrow election-law path.”
Rich was the election lawyer for then-congressman Harold Washington’s 1983 successful run for Chicago mayor, which he called one of his life’s highlights. He was always committed to providing minority voters a more effective voice in government and worked on a pro bono basis for many diverse community organizations. Although he was a lifelong Democrat, Rich provided expertise to people from all parties – including Republicans, Libertarians and Green Party candidates – for races from judge, alderman, mayor, state representative, senator… on up to president. For example, he consulted with presidential candidates Ross Perot in 1992 and Joe Biden in 2008, about ballot access issues in Illinois.
The Times article included a telling story about Rich’s personality: In 2004, he organized a political action committee seeking to strengthen the Arab-American vote. William J. Haddad, a retired judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, was chairman of the committee, and asked Rich about anticipated costs for handling the committee’s legal work. “‘He inquired of me, ‘Bill, what is your fee?’ to which I replied, ‘None,’” Mr. Haddad recounted. “Rich said, ‘Well, I’ll take half of what you’re getting.’”
That was Rich Means… dedicated and kind, almost always with a twinkle in his eye.
Ray Pempek probably gave more time and attention to ADA in the last 25 years than anyone not serving as on staff. He began his political activism while he was in his late teens, so by the time he died last October, at age 68, he had already dedicated 50 years of his life to progressive causes. During that time, no organization received more of Ray’s considerable talents than ADA.
In early December, ADA held an online Zoom memorial for Ray, attended by people who knew Ray from high school on through to the end of his life. Not surprisingly, many stories were told about our friend Ray and many facets of his personality surfaced. In preparation for this All Star write-up, I revisited our tribute to Ray, and a long list of qualities emerged. Examples include traits like loyal, honest, stubborn, tenacious, convincing, dependable, determined, funny, and profane.
Ray agreed to serve on almost every ADA committee, meaning many of his evenings were spent on phone calls or, more recently, Zoom gatherings. He was certainly willing to serve as a committee chair, for example, for the Nominating Committee, but even if he wasn’t the titular leader, he was often informally the worker bee, the casual recordkeeper, and the knowledgeable historian. For ADA, he was a remarkably faithful and trusted team member and as Don Kusler, National Director noted, at least for the time being, his absence leaves a series of “only Ray could answer” questions.
Like his Chicago colleague, Rich, Ray was unusually sensitive to “looking at the world from the perspective of people of color,” as one speaker noted at his memorial. For many participants, he was a mentor… for political organizing, for “getting stuff done,” and for going the extra mile (often persuading others to do likewise). He had great recall after meetings, known for his ability to bring back important topics that had been discussed months (… heck, years!) after others had long since forgotten about them.
At his memorial, there were many lighthearted comments about Ray’s addiction to cigarettes, which he justified by saying, “Hey, they give me pleasure… and I don’t give up things that I enjoy.” One memorial participant noted that Ray took the same position regarding people, always bring them along, never giving up on them.
One of his many organizing proteges pointed out four lessons that Ray helped instill in him: do things right, finish what you start, patience is NOT required about “stupid”, and make good trouble. Others noted that while Ray was fundamentally honest, he had a way of stretching the truth a bit in the name of a good cause or to fortify a good story.
Ray Pempek was a tireless activist, mentor, and friend. He loved ADA and it was evident the evening we gathered via Zoom, ADA loved him in return.
Perhaps the best way to honor both Ray and Rich is to recommit to the kind of selfless dedication they demonstrated to progressive politics in general and to ADA specifically. These two ADA All Stars showed us how it’s done.
P.S. – These All Stars are part of an ongoing effort to designate and honor 75 individuals and historic moments worthy of our attention during ADA’s first 75 years. If you haven’t already supported this effort financially, here’s your opportunity. Just click HERE.

President Truman Addresses ADA Convention


Today’s ADA All Star is not a person, but rather an “All-Star Moment” in the history of Americans for Democratic Action. Seventy years ago, President Harry S Truman addressed ADA’s National Convention Banquet of ADA, May 17, 1952. The following is an excerpt of President Truman’s remarks, edited for brevity (that’s right, me editing the President, ha).

It is a real pleasure to speak before the national convention of Americans for Democratic Action. The ADA was set up in January 1947. Those were dark days for the liberal forces in America. But you people had the courage to take up the fight and go forward. You dedicated yourselves to fight for progress and against reaction – against reaction of the right and against reaction of the left.

You helped to hang the record of the 80th Congress around the neck of the Republican Party – and I finished the job. You held firm against the fanatical and misguided attacks of the Wallace movement. And since 1948, you have been going down the line for policies and programs in the interest of the people and in fulfillment of the highest values we cherish in this Republic. I congratulate you on all the effective work you have done for the cause of liberal government.

Now then I am going to say something to you that I think maybe will please you a little bit.

President Harry S. Truman at 1952 ADA Convention

President Harry S. Truman at 1952 ADA Convention

Of course, there was a time when it might not have been so pleasant for me to meet with the ADA. I understand that 4 years ago along about this time some of the leaders of ADA were engaged in rather wild fancies about the Presidential nomination*. I am told there was a little poem that gained some currency in ADA circles in those days, and it went like this:

              “Between the Taft and the Dewey, / When defeat is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the ADA’s occupation, / That is known as the Eisenhower.”**

You know, the peculiar part about it was that you were a young political organization and you had not studied the history of conventions. A President of the United States, when he desires and when he wants to be nominated, there isn’t anybody in the world can keep him from being nominated. I doubt if you will be having any pauses for that particular purpose this year.

In spite of the various notions about the nomination in 1948, the outcome of the election that year pleased all of us here, particularly me, and it astonished a great many people. We astonished the pollsters and the sabotage press, and the opposition candidates – Republican, crackpot, and Dixiecrat. The results were good for the country, even though they set back the science of political forecasting for a full generation. I hope it set them back forever.

Because this is an election year, I would like to talk to you a little bit about politics. I know you are a nonpartisan or bipartisan organization. I have heard that you have some Republicans among your membership, and I am sure that at one time it was true. I don’t know whether it is now or not. I want to ask these Republicans who are in the ADA not to include themselves in any remarks I am about to make about the Republican Party. When I talk about the Republican Party here tonight, I mean the dinosaur wing of the Republican Party, which unfortunately seems to be in control of that party.

The first thing I will say about the Republican Party, believe it or not, is an expression of gratitude. I want to thank them for the way they help the Democrats win elections. Under the liberal policies of the Democratic administration, our country has grown strong and prosperous. And this has been true for such a long time now that people tend to forget what things were like under the Republicans. They criticize the mistakes the Democrats make, but they take for granted all the benefits we have brought them.

Every four years it begins to look as if the people had forgotten what a Republican administration would mean to the country. And the Republicans go around convincing themselves that they cannot possibly lose the presidential election. I have heard it happen four times. But it is just at this point, when things look darkest for the Democrats, that you can count on the Republicans to do something that will save the day – that is, it will save the day for us.

You can always count on the Republicans, in an election year, to remind the people of what the Republican Party really stands for. You can always count on them to make it perfectly clear before the campaign is over that the Republican Party is the party of big business, and that they would like to turn the country back to the big corporations and the big bankers in New York to run it as they see fit. Just leave them alone, and the Republicans will manage to scare the daylights out of the farmer and the wage earner and the average American citizen. They always do that.

Now, we can always rely on the Republicans to help us in an election year, but we can’t count on them to do the whole job for us. We have got to go out and do some of it ourselves if we expect to win. The first rule in my book is that we have to stick by the liberal principles of the Democratic Party. We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing. And we don’t need to try it. The record the Democratic Party has made in the last 20 years is the greatest political asset any party ever had in the history of the world. We would be foolish to throw it away. There is nothing our enemies would like better and nothing that would do more to help them win an election.

The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign. We are getting a lot of suggestions to the effect that we ought to water down our platform and abandon parts of our program. These, my friends, are Trojan horse suggestions. I have been in politics for over 30 years, and I know what I am talking about.

There is something more important involved in our program than simply the success of a political party. The rights and the welfare of millions of Americans are involved in the pledges made in the Democratic platform of 1948 and in the program of this administration. And those rights and interests must not be betrayed.

* In April, 1948, ADA announced support for a Democratic ticket of General Dwight Eisenhower and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. ADA supported Truman after his victory in the 1948 election.

** The first stanza of “The Children’s Hour” is a poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published in the September 1860 edition of  The Atlantic Monthly.

Warm regards,

Kurt Meyer, Chair

ADA Executive Committee

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Joe Rauh


Joe Rauh, more formally Joseph Louis Rauh, Jr., was born in Cincinnati in 1911, the same year as his ADA colleague, Hubert Humphrey. Both are lifted up as “founding members” of ADA. It’s likely that BOTH Rauh and Humphrey were at the table in the Willard Hotel in January, 1947; records of ADA’s “founding meeting” are a bit informal, making a complete list of founding attendees hard to nail down.

One of three children born into a family where the business was shirt-making, Joe was exceptionally bright and attended Harvard, where he majored in economics. While in Cambridge, he also played basketball. He often noted that his sympathy for the underdog was rooted in three seasons playing center on Harvard’s hapless basketball team. In some respects, this line is “classic Rauh”.

Checking Harvard’s record from those seasons, 1929-1932: 26 wins, 15 losses. While not destined forJoe Rauh with President Johnson. basketball immortality and occasionally competing against teams like “Lowell Textile”, Rauh’s hapless line affirms his storytelling ability, his somewhat self-effacing nature, and his willingness to work both in and out of the spotlight.

Certainly, no one ever questioned Rauh’s commitment in support of the underdog. As a lawyer, he only took cases he believed in, believing no attorney should do otherwise. Unlike some young lawyers drawn to Washington by the New Deal, he remained a steadfast advocate of the outcast and downtrodden. Much of the legal work he performed was for little or no pay. As he observed in the mid-1980s, “Other people may have made more money, but no one has had more fun!”

After graduating first in his class from Harvard Law School, Rauh served as a law clerk at the Supreme Court, first to Justice Cardozo, then to Justice Frankfurter. In 1942, Rauh joined the Army and served in the Philippines during World War II. After the war, he returned to Washington and became deputy to Wilson Wyatt, the head of the Veterans Emergency Housing Program, the first major economic innovation of the Truman Administration. This relationship was important to both men.

Two years later, Rauh joined Wyatt and other liberals resigning their government posts to protest what they saw as growing conservatism in Truman’s administration. Rauh opened a law practice in Washington, but both Rauh and Wyatt, (who became ADA’s first President) had time on their hands to help launch ADA.

If there was a great, shining moment in the Joe Rauh story, it may well be the 1948 Democratic Convention, in Philadelphia. But let’s have Rauh himself tell us about it (lightly edited from an oral history interview conducted with Rauh in June, 1989).

“At the 1948 Democratic Convention, we upset the machinery. By ‘we’ I mean Hubert Humphrey and a bunch of young people (Note: Rauh and HHH were both 37 years old at the time). We upset the establishment of the Democratic Party. The establishment of the Democratic Party was just as reactionary on civil rights as the Republicans. So, what did we do? We tied civil rights to the masthead of the Democratic Party. Hubert Humphrey made this great speech. It was a lovely; it was a great platform we put in there.* It came out for all the statutes that one would want, FEPC (fair employment), anti-lynching, anti-poll tax. Hubert offered it as the minority plank. It was the first time since prohibition that a minority plank had won. And as we came out of there, we all knew that we had forever changed the Democratic Party. Everything that has happened since then resulted from the fact that we made the Democratic Party take a civil rights plank. … We shifted the whole emphasis of the Democratic Party from a southern dominated party to a civil rights dominated party.”

Passage of this civil right plank was more than just a significant victory for Rauh and Humphrey, it was also a major victory for ADA, formed 18 months earlier. Joe Rauh went on to become one of the country’s leading civil liberties lawyers for many decades… fighting McCarthyism, serving as ADA President from 1955 to 1957, drafting much of the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s, and a leader of the N.A.A.C.P. and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Among his high-profile clients in the 1950s were Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller, both accused of anti-American activities. In the 1960s, Rauh was well known for his Capitol Hill lobbying on behalf of bills sometimes he helped author. Accordingly, he was prominent in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Beginning in 1969, Rauh represented Joseph A. “Jock” Yablonski, challenger to W.A. (Tony) Boyle’s leadership of the United Mine Workers of America. After Yablonski, his wife, and daughter were murdered, Rauh pressed for a federal investigation and went on to help reform candidate Arnold R. Miller unseat Boyle as union president. Boyle was ultimately found guilty of ordering the slayings.

Rauh dearly loved ADA, once telling staff members he woke daily thinking about what he might do that day on behalf of the organization. He would frequently swing by the ADA office to sign letters and write personal notes on fund appeals. He made a modest monthly donation to ADA, beginning in 1947 and continuing until his death (45 years of contributions!), despite differences that emerged between Rauh and the entity he helped launch in the late 1940s and helped guide in the 1950s.

Looking back on his life and his various causes, Rauh was aware of advances he helped nurture. “I’m proud of our laws. What our generation has done is bring equality in law. The next generation has to bring equality in fact.” Joe Rauh died in early fall, 1992 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton in the fall of 1993. One obituary described him as “exuberant, optimistic, idealistic, and irrepressible… an engaging conversationalist and storyteller (who) believed passionately in the causes he supported and fought for them vociferously” noting Rauh was “sometimes (known) as the personal embodiment of American Liberalism.”

Obviously, Joe Rauh is a remarkably worthy ADA All Star. But, as the Rauh quote about equality underscores, the battle is not yet over.

* – Not surprising that Rauh would think highly of the minorityplank. He, along with Humphrey and other ADA colleagues, drafted it.

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ADA Founding Statement: A Demanding Faith


Today’s All Star is not a person but rather an All Star Moment. As you will see, it’s also a statement… a remarkable statement. After the initial ADA “launch” gathering at the Willard Hotel, January 4, 1947, a group was empowered to draft a statement.

I quote a letter written by Eleanor Roosevelt, one of ADA’s most illustrious founders, dated January 16, 1947:

Americans United for Democratic Action* is really a group to stimulate progressive action in the Democratic Party, and I have asked Mr. James Loeb, the secretary to send you as soon as the organizing committee has formulated its principles and plans, full information on the projects which they are going to undertake. A group of twenty-five was named to work on formulating these projects.

My sense is that the statement below, presumably drafted by Loeb, a previous All Star, was one of the outcomes of this group of twenty-five. I credit my ADA colleagues who are publishing “The American Commentator” for their distribution of this noteworthy statement some 16+ months ago. I send it to you today just as it appeared in their October 1, 2020 edition.


from the Americans for Democratic Action Education Fund

October 1, 2020

[Editors’ Note: ADA was founded in 1947 by New Deal liberals, trade unionists, business reformers, and civil rights activists who sought to work largely within the Democratic Party to promote full employment, national planning, and social justice. Among its early leaders were Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Reuther, Reinhold Niebuhr, Hubert Humphrey, and John Kenneth Galbraith.  The document we share below, “Liberalism is a Demanding Faith,” is excerpted from the Statement of General Purposes drafted by the ADA Organizing Committee. It was by no means a timid agenda. Although it omitted more contemporary issues such as gender equality, identity, and climate change, and it uses the gendered language of the era, it remains a powerful statement both for its time and for today.]

Liberalism is a Demanding Faith (1947)

As Americans for Democratic Action, we stand for a liberalism that moves with the times.

Our objective is to show that American progressivism is not dead: that it is the only standard under which the United States can rally the free peoples of the world against totalitarianism, of the right or of the left. We believe that where men are faced with hunger, with homelessness, with all the cruel whims of an impersonal business-cycle, and above all, with fear of atomic war, political freedom may all too easily be compromised and deformed. Demagogues will step in and offer security in exchange for a liberty that has lost its meaning.

Our program is directed toward this one goal: a society in which each individual enjoys the highest degree of personal liberty compatible with the liberty and economic security of his fellows. By liberty we mean the literal assurance of our traditional American rights based on a profound belief in the dignity of the individual: equality before the law and freedom for all persons to speak, to write, to worship, and to vote as they choose, without regard to race, creed, color, or economic status.

By economic security we mean freedom from want and an equitable distribution of the fruits of labor. More concretely we mean the guarantee of full and steady production and full and steady employment; the protection of labor’s right to organize democratically and bargain collectively; the security of the farmer in his farm and his production; the protection of the people’s inheritance in natural resources against waste and depredation; and a system of minimum wages and social insurance broad enough to maintain adequate standards of nutrition, education, medical care, and housing, below which no one would be permitted to fall.

We recognize that if these aims are to be attained there must be drastic regulation, dispersal, and, in some cases, public acquisition, of monopolies, those aggregations of private power which now exercise so large a measure of control over the public welfare and the political life of the nation. At the same time, we believe that democratic control of economic life means not only the basic direction of economic currents through the national government, but also public participation in economic effort at all levels. We are opposed to the over-centralization of controls and to attempts to assert government supervision over the details of economic life.

Between the all-powerful state, however, and the anarchy of rampant “private enterprise” is the wide and fruitful field of independent public authorities, municipal ownership, cooperatives, federally initiated projects locally administered, and all the possible combinations of these democratic devices. This is an area we mean to explore to the full.

Liberalism is a demanding faith. It rests neither on a set of dogmas nor on a blueprint, but is rather a spirit which each generation of liberals must learn to apply to the needs of its own time. The spirit is unchanging – a deep belief in the dignity of man, a faith in human reason and the power of free inquiry, a high sense of individual responsibility for oneself and one’s neighbor, a conviction that the best society is the one that enables the greatest number of its members to develop their potentialities to the utmost. Opposed to this spirit are the wealth and power of the organized forces of reaction and the masked efforts of the advocates of Communism.

Americans for Democratic Action is an organization for those who have not abandoned hope. We desire to mobilize the illimitable energies of our democratic tradition against the blind folly of conservatism, terror of the police state, and the hopeless destruction of atomic war. The triumph of American liberalism in our own day will mean a society in which the resources of the human soul, freed for the ends of peace, will provide individual freedom and abundance on a scale higher than the world has ever thought possible.

It is to this triumph that Americans for Democratic Action devotes itself.

* – The word “United” was obviously jettisoned at some point… I’ll seek out more information and share what I find.

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Leon Shull


I did not know Leon Shull. My loss.

Fortunately, however, many veteran ADA people did, meaning I could reach out for their insights. Leon Shull served as ADA’s national director for twenty years, from 1964 through 1984. For a liberal organization like ADA, I suspect these two decades were probably the most tumultuous years in the organization’s 75-year history.

That Shull managed to carry out his duties while expanding ADA’s membership is a tribute to his diverse talents. It’s only fitting that Leon Shull be recognized as an ADA All Star, the first ADA staff member so profiled. Without question, his talents and his tenure make him an exceptional choice. Ah, but don’t take MY word for it (remember, I didn’t actually know him). Read what his ADA contemporaries – people who DID know him – had to say:

— “Leon personifies the very best in the American tradition.” John Lewis, Congressman, civil-rights leader, ADA National President, 1993-1995.

— “Leon is one of the people who helped me understand what the reality was, and how best to take up the issues I cared about.” Patsy Mink, Congresswoman, ADA National President, 1978-1981.

— “Leon provided us with a great wealth, which will endure for decades to come.” Don Edwards, Congressman, ADA National President, 1965-1967. (Congressman Edwards was referring here to a wealth of connections, experiences, traditions, and an enhanced reputation… NOT dollars, which ADA has chronically lacked throughout its 75-year history.)

Shull hailed from Philadelphia. He attended Temple University on the north side of the city but left school during the Depression to work for social causes. Before the war, he had a furniture-making business but entered the Army during World War II, joining an engineers’ battalion. (He was turned down for officer’s candidate school by an officer who decided that someone who read books and listened to classical music was NOT officer material.)

Shull joined the southeast Pennsylvania ADA chapter in 1950, three years after ADA’s founding. At the time, he was serving as director of the Jewish Labor Committee. When local ADA leaders first asked him to become their executive director, he resisted. Then, according to one of his obituaries, “Someone hit on the idea of getting him fired from the JLC to force him to take over the ADA chapter…it worked.”

Shull was executive director of the southeastern Pennsylvania ADA chapter from 1951 to 1964.

He was a force in the 1950s reform movement in Philadelphia, when Richardson Dilworth and Joseph S. Clark threw out a long-entrenched (and corrupt!) Republican regime. He was campaign manager for Clark when he ran for mayor, and was also involved in Dilworth’s campaigns, first for district attorney, then for mayor once Clark became a US Senator.

As ADA’s national director, he fought the liberal fight on almost all controversial issues that confronted the nation during those two decades. For example, under Shull’s leadership, ADA was involved in battles over civil rights, minimum wage, progressive tax reform, and full-employment legislation. During his tenure, ADA became the first national organization to oppose the war in Vietnam and the first national organization to call for Richard Nixon’s impeachment. When ADA endorsed Eugene McCarthy over organizational founder Hubert Humphrey in 1968, much of organized Labor, a staunch ADA ally, fled the organization. It took another 20 years and considerable energy for ADA to regain that support, due in large measure, to Shull’s tireless efforts.

Perhaps Shull’s greatest legacy lies in his ability to attract and mentor young people. Those he mentored – no longer so young – now serve in state and local governments, and as congressional staffers and activists throughout the country. He brought Amy Isaacs on board, first a graduate student intern, then as an organizer. When she became national director, Shull returned as an ADA volunteer who attracted other volunteers, including Winn Newman and Woody Ginsburg, adding immensely to the work ADA could accomplish with limited resources.

One quick Leon Shull story, captured in one of his obituaries: “During the Vietnam War, his daughter Jane was in Washington with college friends to demonstrate against the war. Her father and a friend went looking for them as tear gas began going off around DuPont Circle, Jane recalled. With fumes pouring into the car window, Leon put his foot on the brake. His friend yelled, ‘Leon, get us out of here!’ But Leon was a law-abiding citizen. ‘I can’t,” he said. ‘It’s a red light.’”

Leon Shull was a tireless advocate for liberalism. Upon his retirement from ADA, he said, “All the progress I can think of in the last 50 years has come from the liberal movement. Every single thing… every new proposal that deals with the quality of life, the growth of our system. We used to say liberalism was a demanding faith. (See All Star #16.) It requires us to take positions that are sometimes uncomfortable in a social sense, sometimes lonely, and it sometimes gets you laughed at. But the tide always changes, doesn’t it? The tide never keeps going the same way.”

He knew the tide would change, even during the Reagan years. While some of his liberal colleagues were melancholy about trends during “the Reagan revolution”, Shull remarked, “Well, we always raise more money during these times.” Consistent with this point, the ADA gained 5,000 members the first year after Reagan was reelected.

Leon Shull died in Philadelphia, August, 2007, at age 93. By all estimates, he is truly an exceptional ADA All Star.

Warm regards,

Kurt Meyer, Chair

ADA Executive Committee

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1947: Fun Facts on our Founding Year


In a fast-paced world, with the tempo of life seeming to grow quicker every day, sometimes it’s worthwhile to pause and take a brief glance back. Today, in this ADA Moment, we’re going to look back 75 years, to 1947, the year ADA was launched.

So, what else happened in 1947 that has lived or lasted as long as Americans for Democratic Action? Obviously, this is just a partial list. Nevertheless, it will provide you with some perspective:

— Elmer’s Glue first came to market in 1947. It’s still “sticking” around.

— J. Crew and Talbots, companies marketing their wares primarily to women, were launched in 1947.

— A company called Stanley Steemer started in 1947, the rug cleaning outfit, not the automobile by the same name, which arrived on the scene much earlier.

— The “Doomsday Clock” was created 1947 to symbolize the likelihood of a human-made global catastrophe, a metaphor for threats to humanity from unchecked technology.

— “Goodnight Moon,” a childhood classic, was first published in 1947. We certainly read it to our children at bedtime… presumably many readers of this All Star moment did, too.

A few words about the author of “Goodnight Moon”, Margaret Wise Brown. She was, as a friend of mine would say, “a real piece of work”! I quote from a recent newspaper article about her:

“Brown was a seductive iconoclast with a Katharine Hepburn mane and a compulsion for ignoring the rules. Anointed by Life in 1946 as the “World’s Most Prolific Picture-Book Writer,” she burned through her money as quickly as she earned it, travelling to Europe on ocean liners and spending entire advances on Chrysler convertibles. Her friends called her “mercurial” and “mystical.” Though many of her picture books were populated with cute animals, she wore wolfskin jackets, had a fetish for fur, and hunted rabbits on weekends. Her romances were volatile: she was engaged to two men but never married, and she had a decade-long affair with a woman. (Gasp!) At the age of forty-two, she died suddenly, in the South of France, after a clot cut off the blood supply to her brain.”

Enough about Brown. Let me note, a number of PEOPLE you’re undoubtedly familiar with who were born in 1947. A few notable entertainers, Elton John and Larry David, turn 75 this year, as do a few of the men and women currently serving in the U.S. Senate, all of whom voted for impeachment of the former guy on the second go-‘round… Joe Manchin, Mitt Romney, Mazie Hirono, and Jeanne Shaheen. Senator Hirono received ADA’s Frances Perkins Award in 2019.

Several former Senators are also blowing out 75 candles this year – Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, and Dan Quayle – as are several remarkable athletes… Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nolan Ryan, and Johnny Bench. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attended ADA’s “Civil Rights Plank” Celebration in Philadelphia in 2016 representing the Clinton campaign. (It must be because they were both born in 1947, don’t you think?)

Two former athletes probably best known for what they did AFTER their athletic careers reach the 75 mark this year, Arnold Schwarzenegger and O.J. Simpson. Authors who can now write about turning 75 include Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and Danielle Steel. Three talented actors who are now three-quarters of the way toward a century are Ted Danson, Richard Dreyfus, and Rob Reiner. Finally, two people known for conducting interviews turn 75 in 2022… David Letterman and Chris Wallace.

April 15, 1947, was a red-letter day in baseball history. The first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers was a 28-year-old rookie named Jackie Robinson, playing in his first major league game. The Boston Braves were the opponent. In his last at-bat, with a runner on first, the Dodgers down 3-2, Robinson laid down a sacrifice bunt. The throw to first hit him in the back, which resulted in runners at 2nd and 3rd , both of whom scored when the next batter doubled. The Dodgers ultimately won, 5-3. (Was the errant throw that hit Robinson intentional? You tell me.)

Americans for Democratic Action is celebrating our 75th year throughout 2022 under the banner of “ADA at 75: The Best is Yet to Come”.

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Lila Garrett

“Always a pistol.”

It may well be that these words apply to many, if not most, ADA All Stars. But I came across these words, or something like them, consistently when doing a background dive on Lila Garrett. There seems to be general agreement: Lila Garrett was a pistol.

Garrett died two years ago this month at age 94. She packed a great deal of living into her years. She was a television screenwriter – an Emmy-award winning writer – as well as a radio host. She co-wrote a Disney television movie. AND, perhaps more than any other reason why she’s an ADA All Star, she engaged in politics.

She may have been a pistol… but this is a somewhat unusual description for an outspoken anti-war activist, described by one as “married to the peace movement and forever committed to progressive values.” She clearly wasn’t at all reluctant to stand up and to speak out for what she thought and believed.

Born in Brooklyn in 1925, Garrett was well-known as a comedy writer. According to one article I found, when she first arrived in Hollywood, she got her start by writing questions for game shows. She then wrote for sitcoms, including My Favorite Martian, All in the Family, Get Smart, and Bewitched.  She never thought of herself as a “woman writer” or a “woman director”. She was simply a writer / director / commentator. Nor was she “still working” at ninety-four; she was just working.

One of her great skills was as a convener, activating people from far and wide to work for causes that were central to her, especially peace and justice. Her activism and political engagement took many different forms; for many years, she ably presided over the South California chapter of the Americans for Democratic Action. Meanwhile, she was a founder of Americans Against War with Iraq, a founding board member of the California Clean Money Campaign, as well as a founding member of Progressive Democrats of America.

Americans Against War With Iraq was the first group to run a national newspaper ad protesting the possible war, which it did in September 2002, spending almost $100,000 on three full-page ads in major papers. (The war didn’t begin until late March, 2003.) Garrett was quoted at the time the ads ran, “We felt we were representing the opinion of the majority of Americans and that that opinion was not being represented in the mainstream media.”

Garrett also served on the boards of the ACLU, the Venice Family Clinic, and the Writers Guild of America. She was a Democratic National Committee delegate for presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Southern California Chair of the 2004 Dennis Kucinich campaign for President.

In her later years, she hosted KPFK’s “Connect the Dots” on Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles, interviewing left-leaning luminaries and often closing her show with “The arms industry has neither allies or enemies, only customers.” For many years, Garrett was a regular contributor to the LA Progressive, an online publication that, according to its own description, served as a platform for “progressive thought, opinion, and perspectives… openly and unapologetically advocacy journalism”.

In poking around in her life story, I encountered the point – but was unable to verify – that the movie “The Way We Were”, starring Barbara Streisand, was written about her. Let’s just say, it might have been; knowing this, even if it’s not factually correct (and obviously it may not be), helps me understand Lila Garrett a bit better.

Lila Garrett was always a pistol. Shortly before her death, a friend of hers was updating her Wikipedia page. “Make sure you insert how I end my radio show,” Garrett insisted. I looked it up… and there it is: “The arms industry has neither allies nor enemies, only customers.”

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Tim Black

You have to say, Timuel Black led a very interesting life.

One might easily conclude that the truth in this statement is due to the fact that he lived a remarkably long life… 102 years. Actually, the truth about Tim Black is that he packed a great deal of learning and teaching and leading and mentoring and explaining and interpreting and writing… and yes, LIVING, into his century-plus-two years on this earth.

Clearly, he left his beloved Chicago better than he found it, a conclusion that might be applied equally to almost every cause, every program, even every individual that became the object of his considerable talents. ADA was but one organization that knew Tim Black… and that Tim Black knew. There were many others. Records are a bit sketchy about when he first joined ADA, probably in the early-to-mid 1960s. And he recorded a message of support and encouragement for the ADA annual awards event, virtual again in 2021, a month before his death last October.

In round numbers, that’s almost six decades of ADA involvement. That record alone places Black in a rather exclusive club. But it’s all the things he accomplished both before he joined ADA and during those six decades that puts him in a category by himself. Let me share just a few of those achievements.

Timuel Black arrived in Chicago from Birmingham, Alabama before his first birthday. His family was part of the first wave of the Great Migration during which millions of African Americans moved north in search of better opportunities. Many articles about Black include a sentence or two about being drafted to fight in World War II, for which Black earned four bronze battle stars as well as the French Croix de Guerre. While he didn’t “storm the beaches” at Normandy, he was part of the renown “Red Ball Express” that furnished supplies to those who did, including General Patton and the men under his command.

During his military service, a visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp changed Black’s life. Here’s his description from a 2014 interview: “When we got up to Buchenwald, to see and feel and hear the cries, I was shocked. I began to feel that this could happen to anyone, and that in the long run, this is what happened to my ancestors in an organized, systematic way. (note: his grandparents had been slaves) I was angry. I made an emotional decision that when I returned from the Army, that most of the rest of my life would be spent trying to make where I live, and the bigger world, a place where all people could have peace and justice.”

The world is a better place due to that sense of commitment. We can trace the arc of Timuel Black’s life through several of the many tributes that poured forth last October.

— “Black had a hand in electing the city’s first Black mayor and the first Black U.S. president. He fought Nazis in World War II…returning to racial discrimination radicalized him and led to a life of civil rights and public service. In 1960, Black helped found the Negro American Labor Council and worked with A. Phillip Randolph on labor issues. The historian and author strategized with Martin Luther King Jr., challenged the Democratic Party machine and fought to desegregate housing and public schools.”

— “In 1963, Black helped organize the “freedom trains” that took thousands of Chicagoans to the March on Washington. ‘When Dr. King came on stage and put into eloquent terms, that ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, all of us were in tears. We believed that dream could be fulfilled, and we left with a feeling of responsibility to the dream and to the man.’ Black said in 2014. Black spent most of his life working to fulfill King’s dream of a more equal society. As an educator and administrator, Black helped end segregation in Chicago Public Schools.”

— “Black rooted his scholarship in community, inspiring manifold generations on how to be an artist and an activist. Sitting in circles with elementary school children, Black implored African-American children to have pride and not be ashamed of descending from enslaved people. He often said he descended from the best and the brightest. His legions of honorary grandchildren will continue to honor him through our own scholarship, thinking and writing.”

— “He ran (unsuccessfully) for Chicago City Council, generating national attention when he coined the term ‘plantation politics’ to describe the city’s political system under Mayor Richard J. Daley. After Dr. King’s death in 1968, Black rededicated himself to King’s activist ideals, remaining a prominent community leader. In 1983, he was part of a grassroots campaign that succeeded in electing Harold Washington as Chicago’s first Black mayor. In 1992, he helped Carol Moseley Braun become the first African American woman to win election to the U.S. Senate. That same year, Barack Obama—then an up-and-coming political organizer who had just moved to Chicago—met Black to get his advice about running for office.”

— “Timuel Black dedicated his life to helping communities across Chicago, especially on the South Side. His unparalleled understanding of the area’s history and people made him an outstanding advocate, a trusted counselor and a consummate community partner. He was deeply committed to educating and inspiring young people. Tim was one of the most passionate community leaders of the effort to bring the Obama Presidential Center to the South Side, and his vision was central to that proposal’s success.”

— “Black was a counsel to then-Sen. Obama when he ran for president in 2008. They’d become friends when Obama was a young community organizer in the early 1980s. In a tribute to Mr. Black on his 100th birthday, Obama wrote: ‘I met Tim just after I moved to Chicago. We sat across from each other at Medici on 57th — the rookie South Side organizer on one side … and the veteran South Side historian on the other. During that first conversation I learned of Tim’s deep well of empathy. I was inspired by that. He wanted to talk about how to make life better for people all across the city, how to bring about greater equality. Perhaps the most important part, after talking about it, he gets out there and does something about it, rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.’ In a statement after Black’s death, Obama wrote, ‘Tim was a testament to the power of place, and how the work we do to improve one community can end up reverberating through other neighborhoods and other cities, eventually changing the world.’”

Let me reiterate, Timuel Black led a very interesting life. It’s an honor to cite him as an exemplary ADA All Star.

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Jim Jontz

Today’s All Star, Jim Jontz – former Congressman, former ADA President – was a remarkably gifted individual. Among his many skills, he could multitask. For example, while an undergrad at Indiana University, he took a heavy course load, was involved in student government, was a founder of the Indiana Public Interest Research Group, engaged in several other extra-curricular activities, and lobbied the Indiana legislature for environmental causes… all while managing to graduate with honors (Phi Beta Kappa). Pretty impressive!

And probably effective preparation for a career in elected office. Shortly after graduating, in 1974, at the age of 22, Jontz won his first Indiana legislative race, in essence by knocking on every door he could find to rap his knuckles on. He was motivated in part by his opposition to a proposed dam project in the central part of the state. And to those who might think campaigning of this nature doesn’t make a difference, Jontz won this race by all of two (2!) votes.

He was reelected five times in what was otherwise a reliably Republican district. In 1984, he was elected to the Indiana Senate and, in 1986, was elected to the U.S. House. To the extent he was driven by an issue, it was the environment: throughout his public service career, Jontz was a dedicated environmentalist.

Jim Jontz was also a dedicated liberal, although he preferred the term progressive. His multitasking skills were essential… tracking on bills, attending committee meetings, casting votes, maintaining high visibility throughout his district, and always campaigning relentlessly. His congressional tenure included service on the House Agriculture Committee, the Education and Labor Committee, and the Veterans Affairs Committee, as well as the House Select Committee on Aging. He championed the preservation of ancient forests, specifically in the Pacific Northwest, and sought ways for organized labor and environmentalists to collaborate. His House colleagues regarded Jontz as one of Congress’s hardest working members.

After reapportionment, Jontz lost his congressional race in 1992. Two years later, he attempted a return to elected office by challenging Senator Richard Lugar. This effort also fell short, prompting a new career path. He moved to Portland, Oregon, and became Executive Director for the Western Ancient Forest Campaign, coordinating grassroots efforts to protect forests, to remove federal subsidies for clearcutting, and to preserve roadless areas in National Forests. He travelled the country, launching, overseeing, and nurturing partnerships with local, state, and regional forest-related groups.

In 1998, Jontz was elected ADA’s president, an office he held through 2000. Then, in the first decade of the new millennium, Jontz took on new ADA assignments – sometimes as a staff member, sometimes as a volunteer – advancing initiatives known variously as “the Trade Project”, (trade) “Regime Change”, and “Fair Trade Now”, efforts in 2006 that morphed into “Working Families Win” to address an expanded array of issues (trade, wages & benefits, healthcare, etc.). Jontz led ADA’s “Working Families Win” program until his untimely death in 2007 due to colon cancer.

I was struck by the outpouring of accolades for Jontz, particularly his steadfast environmental commitment. According to Elaine Emmi (his former wife), “He devoted his life to making the world a better place for everyone … for people, for animals, for trees, for all nature. He was a force of nature, who combined his passions for policy and justice and didn’t back down. His ultimate goal (was) to be a spokesman for those that couldn’t speak – the trees, the animals, the air, the water.”

Four years ago, when Mike Mullett and his wife, Patricia March, established the “Congressman James P. Jontz Scholarship for Environmental Advocacy” at Indiana University, Mullett noted, “There was just something special about him. Jim was a man of action driven by his strongly held beliefs in protecting our environment, achieving social justice, and enabling broad-based citizen participation in government. … We need more men and women like Jim, people from every walk of life, studying hard, graduating, going out into the world, and emulating Jim Jontz in what they do.”

This final tribute for today’s ADA All Star is from former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, an ADA Honorary Vice President: “All of us, and especially our Nation’s political discourse, are much the poorer for the loss of Jim’s energetic voice for progressive politics and the art of making our government institutions respond and work for the people they serve. Jim’s untimely death at age 55 leaves a big hole in the leadership of America’s progressive politics. We should all take inspiration and instruction from this master in the art of deploying grassroots organizing and high-minded politics toward the highest ideals and aspirations for our great Nation.”

Fitting praise for Jim Jontz, a true ADA All Star.

Jim’s legacy lives on today as ADA’s core staff were Jontz trained. His dedication to face-to-face campaigning and coalition building continues in the way that ADA organizers are trained and perform their essentials duties.

Warm regards,

Kurt Meyer, Chair

ADA Executive Committee

P.S. – You can support ADA financially, just like 75 All Stars did – and in some cases, still do. To make it easy, just click below… and don’t forget to be generous! Just click on the button below. And, Thank you!

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Winn Newman

I suspect many of my ADA colleagues, especially those who’ve been around a while, either knew today’s All Star… or knew of him. ADA bestows an annual award, appropriately enough, the Winn Newman Award, in his honor. During ADA’s 75th year, it’s equally appropriate to recognize Winn Newman as one of our most distinguished All Stars.

From his days in law school, when he co-led the successful fight to desegregate the University of Wisconsin dorms, to his work as a union organizer in Texas in the 50’s to his days as a general counsel for unions, a public interest lawyer in private practice, and a leader of ADA, Winn Newman fought against bigotry and oppression and fought for workers and the disadvantaged.

He filed the earliest cases brought by unions against race discrimination in employment and the earliest pay equity class lawsuits, shining a spotlight on sex discrimination at a time when it was widely accepted that “women’s work” would pay less than “men’s work,” and brought the suit  that sparked a drive for new legislation outlawing discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Decisions and settlements in his cases alone increased the annual wages of women and Black and Latino workers by more than one billion dollars a year. You read that right… a billion dollars a year!

To write about Newman, it’s probably easiest to start at the beginning. A native New Yorker, born in Queens, he served as an Army Sergeant in Greenland during World War II, a stint sandwiched between receiving his bachelor’s as well as his law degree from the University of Wisconsin. While in law school, he co-led a successful effort to desegregate the University’s dorms.

Shortly thereafter, both Winn and Elaine Newman, his wife and a current ADA board member, were organizers for the International Ladies Garment Workers in Texas, from 1949 through 1951.

The Newmans moved to Washington in 1951 where Winn was an attorney and an industrial relations analyst for the Wage Stabilization Board, then an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board. Over the course of the next decade, he was with the Brewer Workers union in Cincinnati; the Steelworkers in Pittsburgh; and then General Counsel of Electrical Workers in Washington.  Throughout this period, he was active in civil rights advocacy.

In the mid-1960s, Newman was Assistant Executive Director of the newly formed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he wrote many of the first regulations against racial discrimination in employment and, at a time when even many progressives failed to regard sex discrimination as a serious problem, wrote tough guidelines to require compliance.

For two different periods, Newman served as general counsel of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; then, as a public interest lawyer in private practice, filed employment discrimination suits on behalf of other unions including the Newspaper Guild, the Service Employees International Union, the United Auto Workers, and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees. He also donated his time to serve as General Counsel for the Coalition of Labor Union Women.

He was an organizer of the National Committee on Pay Equity and the Citizens Committee for Civil Rights. He was a governor of the Woman’s National Democratic Club, co-chairman of the American Bar Association’s equal employment subcommittee, General Counsel of the AFL-CIO Public Employee Department and over the years, served as Counsel, PAC Treasurer, and chair of ADA’s national executive committee.

If Winn Newman needed a “claim to fame”, he was a leading expert – perhaps the COUNTRY’S leading expert – on employment discrimination. His groundbreaking work on pay-equity cases helped make salary discrimination based on sex and race a national issue. Newman was lead counsel in a case against General Electric in the early 1970s that challenged the exclusion of pregnancy benefits from employee health plans. Litigating on behalf of employees of the State of Washington and Westinghouse Corporation, he helped establish the principle that national law prohibits race- and sex-based wage discrimination, even when different jobs are involved.

Newman later spearheaded efforts leading to national legislation that resulted in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, amending the Civil Rights Act to clarify that differential treatment based on pregnancy is unlawful. And, in the mid-1980s, the Washington state case led to a settlement of several hundred million dollars in increased compensation for state-employed women.

In his later years, Newman continued his service as counsel for ADA, as well as for the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and the Public Employee Department of the AFL-CIO. In 1994, Winn Newman died far too soon, at age 70, of a stroke. At the time of his passing, Representative Barney Frank, who had served as ADA National President a decade before, inserted a column by Judy Mann that first appeared in the Washington Post into the Congressional Record.

In doing so, Rep. Frank called Winn Newman “one of the most dedicated and thoughtful fighters for social justice whom I have worked with … a lawyer who showed what the legal profession can be at its best. As a labor lawyer, as a leader in Americans for Democratic Action, and as a citizen, Winn Newman fought hard for the things that he rightly believed would make this a better and fairer society… a man who ought to be a role model for all lawyers, indeed for all citizens.”

I conclude Winn Newman’s All Star profile with a lightly-edited version of Mann’s column:

The essential ingredient in Newman’s bold legal concept was fairness. Newman pioneered the argument that comparable jobs should be of comparable worth to the employer, and he did it in litigation, legislative hearings, and in collective bargaining. He helped forge the coalition of trade unions, political groups, and women’s organizations that has been critically important in advancing women’s rights in the work force. “He played an extraordinary and, in many aspects, a unique role in … expanding our concepts as a country about what is fair and just in the treatment of working women,” said Marcia Greenberger, of the National Women’s Law Center.

“He really was a revolutionary,” said Judith Lichtman, head of the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. “When he started thinking about and talking about and doing something about sex discrimination in employment, there weren’t very many people who were. He was willing to use creatively the resources of the trade union movement on behalf of its women members and to provide the leadership, as well as his organizing skills, and his legal ability. He was a master at using litigation for social change.”

Bernice Resnik Sandler, one of the most influential advocates for women in education, was in the standing-room-only crowd at the memorial service. “He was among the first men who understood that women’s issues were important, not just to women but to everybody.” Sandler said. “He was not a religious man,” David Davidson, a labor lawyer and former colleague of Newman’s, said in his eulogy. “But no religious activist ever had a stronger belief in the worth and dignity of every human being.”

Newman was unassuming, funny, warm, and wonderfully patient about explaining fine points of the law to newspaper columnists. Greenberger described him well when she said he had a combination of “good grace and tenacity.” But there was something else that contributed to the great affection and respect in which he was held. He had a quality that is especially prized in times marked by cynicism and demagoguery: It’s called integrity. He had it in spades.

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Mary von Euler

“Sing me a song with social significance / All other songs are taboo. / It must be hot with what is what / Or I won’t love you.” … from “Sing Me a Song with Social Significance” by Harold Rome, from the 1937 musical revue, “Pins and Needles,” performed by rank-and-file members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which, until 1948, was Broadway’s longest-running show.

In this All Star profile, you’ll see reference to several other notable ADAers. But then, most ADAers worth their salt throughout the last three decades would undoubtedly also make favorable reference to today’s distinguished ADA All Star, Mary von Euler. To be sure, two National Directors, Amy Isaacs (former) and Don Kusler (current), both carried on effusively. Let me quote from Amy’s thoughts:

Early in my tenure as national director (about 1990), I got a call from someone I didn’t know offering to volunteer. She was a recently retired attorney looking for a place to focus what I soon learned were a keen mind and boundless energy. 

She put forth as a reference former ADA lobbyist and noted civil rights attorney Bill Taylor… he absolutely raved about her. Out of that was built a cherished and valued volunteer member and friend. Her superb writing and editing skills were invaluable, whether it was to go over position papers, Galbraith Fellow treatises, or making descriptions of the ADA voting record understandable. 

A national board meeting with her in attendance was always much livelier and much more well informed. Even now, having retired as a member of the national board, she continues to keep a watchful eye on ADA activities. We need far more Marys in our ranks.

After a profile of ADA All Star David Dubinsky (All Star #2) was posted, I received an email from Mary. “I enjoyed your piece on Dubinsky. How many ADAers are still alive who saw “Pins and Needles”? The heroine of one skit sang a ditty I have always felt belonged to me: ‘Sing me a song with social significance; all other songs are taboo. It must be hot with what is what or I won’t love you.’”

Mark me down in strong agreement: This song truly BELONGS to Mary von Euler! (You can access the musical rendition by clicking the youtube link below.)

What I didn’t realize until pulling together this profile is that Mary von Euler was among the very first ADAers. Quoting here from a different Mary email… “I have been a member of ADA for many years – in fact organizing Radcliffe SDA in 1947-48.” [SDA refers to Students for Democratic Action, a key ADA component for many decades. And yes, this is foreshadowing since other All Stars similarly entered ADA ranks through SDA… stay tuned!]

Let me say a bit more about Mary’s background and her many involvements and distinctions. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1952 and received her Master’s degree from Columbia Teacher’s College in 1956. She earned her Juris Doctor from Catholic University of America in 1975. Among her career highlights, she was a research & editorial assistant at Henry Street Settlement, New York City, 1949-1950, and a legislative secretary for Senator (ADA founder!) Hubert Humphrey, 1953-1955. She taught history and social studies, Hamden (Connecticut) Public Schools, 1956-1958, and history and government, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, Maryland, 1966-1968. She was a research assistant at the Brookings Institute in Washington, 1969-1972 and a legal intern at the Center National Policy Review, 1974.

With doctorate in hand, von Euler held various legal and research positions with the National Institute Education, the Office for Civil Rights, the Department of Education (from 1980-1992), the National Education Association, and Good Sports, Inc., in Oakton, Virginia. Among her primary volunteer involvements: Board of Directors, Fair Housing, Montgomery County, Maryland, 1978-1986, including serving as president, 1982-1983; member of the American Bar Association (individual rights & responsibilities section); AND… volunteer research and writing, Americans for Democratic Action, 1992-1996, and national board member, 1995 until her recent retirement, including service as national secretary in the first two decades of the 2000s.

A skilled writer, von Euler publications include co-author of “A Citizen’s Guide to School Desegregation Law,” 1978, co-author of “The Catholic Community & the Integration of Public & Catholic Schools,” and sole author of “Race Relations in America,” 1995, an ADA Education Fund publication.

For several decades, Mary von Euler has been involved in, and more recently, has been the driving force behind ADA’s “Liberal Quotient” (also known as the Voting Record) for Members of Congress. This task requires countless hours, attentiveness to detail, and – most important – informed judgment. In recent years, this has been Mary’s product, an in-kind contribution of immeasurable value. If Mary had done nothing else during her long affiliation with ADA, her artful shepherding of the Liberal Quotient alone would merit All Star status. But, as many ADAers know, she has done much more in support of the organization, work always of the highest caliber.

Mary and her late husband, Dr. Leo Hans von Euler, a pathologist and former deputy director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (part of the NIH) were married for 65 years. Near the time of Leo’s passing in December, 2020, Mary stepped back from more direct ADA involvement; nevertheless, I trust we’ll still be beneficiaries of her watchful eye, as Amy pointed out.

In closing, let me expand on Amy’s statement: Our WORLD needs far more Marys in our ranks.Meanwhile, it’s appropriate to close with lyrics Mary von Euler (appropriately!) claims as her own:

I’m tired of moon-songs of star and of June songs, / They simply make me nap

And ditties romantic drive me nearly frantic / I think they’re all full of pap.

History’s making, nations are quaking / Why sing of stars above

For while we are waiting father time’s creating / New things to be singing of.

Sing me a song with social significance / All other tunes are taboo

I want a ditty with heat in it, / Appealing with feeling and meat in it!

Sing me a song with social significance / Or you can sing ’til you’re blue

Let meaning shine from ev’ry line / Or I won’t love you.

Sing me of wars and sing me of breadlines / Tell me of front page news.

Sing me of strikes and last-minute headlines / Dress your observation in syncopation!

Sing me a song with social significance / There’s nothing else that will do.

It must get hot with what is what / Or I won’t love you.

I want a song that’s satirical / And putting the mere into miracle.

It must be packed with social fact / Or I won’t love you.

Sing me of kings and conf’rences martial / Tell me of mills and mines.

Sing me of courts that aren’t impartial / What’s to be done with ’em tell me in rhythm.

Sing me a song with social significance / There’s nothing else that will do.

It must be tense with common sense / Or I won’t love you.

“Sing Me a Song with Social Significance” …

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Allard Lowenstein

“How did he live such a life, so hectic with public concern?… His days, foreshortened, lived out the secular dissonances. ‘Behold, thou hast made my days as it were a span long, and mine age is even as nothing in respect of thee; and verily every man living is altogether vanity.’ (Psalm 39:5) …Let Nature then fill this vacuum. That is the challenge which, bereft, the friends of Allard Lowenstein hurl up to Nature, and to Nature’s God, prayerfully, demandingly, because today, Lord, our loneliness is great.”  –William F. Buckley, speaking at Allard Lowenstein’s memorial service

Today’s ADA All Star had what can only be called a magnetic appeal, one that attracted such disparate figures as Buckley and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, both of whom spoke at his memorial service. Perhaps if his life had not been foreshortened at the hands of a gunman, Allard Lowenstein would be 93 years old today. I can’t help but wonder what he’d be like. Of course, we’ll never know, but we get many hints from the 51 years of his life, hints that will be touched upon in this profile.

Allard Lowenstein was the third son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. His mother died from breast cancer when he was very young. He attended Horace Mann School in New York City and graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he was a leader of the National Student Association, a confederation of university student governments founded the same year as ADA, and of the Dialectic Society, the original collegiate debating society at UNC… the oldest public student organization in the United States. He attended Yale Law School and received a J.D. in 1954.

With this background, Lowenstein became a teacher and administrator at Stanford, at North Carolina State, and at City College of New York. The lure of public service pulled him to Washington, where in the late 1950s he served in a foreign policy role on the staff of ADA founder, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, just as All Star Mary von Euler had been on Humphrey’s staff a few years earlier.

He made a trip to South-West Africa (now Namibia) in 1959 to gather evidence against the government there. He ultimately wrote a book about his findings, entitled, “A Brutal Mandate,” featuring an introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt, whom he had met in 1957 through the American Association for the United Nations. In the early 1960s, Lowenstein traveled to Mississippi as part of the Freedom Summer. In 1966, Lowenstein helped Senator Robert Kennedy assemble his famous “Ripple of Hope” speech, given at the University of Cape Town, generally considered his greatest speech. (Kennedy had not been pleased with an early draft of the speech and advisors told him to seek Lowenstein’s help. Eventually, Lowenstein agreed to assist, and his recommendations were incorporated.)

In 1967, along with former ADA press secretary Curtis Gans, Lowenstein and others joined forces to launch a “Dump Johnson” movement aimed at electing a new President. They eventually recruited Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy to seek the Democratic nomination. Before long, President Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election. In the 1968 election cycle, Lowenstein was elected to the House of Representatives from Long Island. Two years later, he was “gerrymandered out of office”, losing a close election after district lines had been altered dramatically by a Republican-controlled state legislature.

In 1971, he became ADA President, an office he held for two years. During this time, he helped lead a “Dump Nixon” movement, which fell short on election day in November of ’72. Within two years, however, Nixon had resigned. Lowenstein remained an active member of ADA until his untimely death. During his tenure as ADA president, Lowenstein was instrumental in bringing two “generations” of young activists into our organization, many of whom remain active today. They, and others, serve or have served in major policy roles and in elected office at all levels throughout the country. Through them, his legacy lives on.

Lowenstein campaigns for public office were unsuccessful in 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1978.  After Jimmy Carter was elected President, he appointed Lowenstein a Unites States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, a post he resigned in one last effort to seek election to Congress.

A consistent characteristic of Allard Lowenstein’s political activities was his gift of attracting committed young volunteers. During his brief time at Stanford, he befriended an undergraduate student named Dennis Sweeney. Typically, he was trying to help someone in distress. Years later, Sweeney, who was mentally ill, shot and killed Lowenstein, convinced that he had been plotting against him. Sweeney was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Today, there are many awards and honors bearing Lowenstein’s name. Similarly, in preparing this profile, I encountered many remarkable attempts to capture his brief life in words. For example…

— “Lowenstein was a relentless opponent of injustice in the United States and throughout the world. His passionate leadership played a crucial role in the civil rights, anti-apartheid, anti-war, and human rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s.”

— “Thoroughly convinced that the idealistic young generation could revitalize the Democratic Party and bring about progressive reform in the United States, Lowenstein became known for his ability to inspire young people to commit themselves to lives of activism and the pursuit of justice.”

— “‘It is beyond dispute,’ David Broder wrote, ‘that he brought more young people into American politics than any individual of our time.’”

— “Lowenstein was blessed with gifts that hardly anyone had, and with one that no one did: the ability to persuade those implacably opposed to his position to change their minds. This he did by overwhelming force of logic married to respect. But it also didn’t hurt that he could make people laugh as hard as they ever have laughed — whether large audiences or individual college students conscripted to drive him to the next event”.

— Writing two decades prior to his death, in the foreword to Lowenstein‘s book about South-West Africa, Eleanor Roosevelt called him “a person of unusual ability and complete integrity… he will always fight crusades because injustice fills him with a sense of rebellion.”

In a statement from the White House upon his death, President Carter called Lowenstein “a passionate fighter for a more humane, more democratic world … a life devoted to reason and justice.” Meanwhile, his headstone inscription is from a note Robert Kennedy sent him once, quoting Emerson: “If a single man plants himself on his convictions and there abide, the huge world will come around to him.”*

Emerson was right. Today, four-plus decades after his death, much of the world has come around to honor and respect Allard Lowenstein, a true ADA All Star.

Warm regards,

Kurt Meyer, Chair

ADA Executive Committee


* — The complete Emerson quote is, “If a single man plants himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come around to him.”

There are obviously many ways to celebrate the 75th anniversary of ADA’s founding, perhaps none more appropriate or appreciated than by making a special anniversary gift to ADA. You can do so with considerable convenience my clicking the red button below. And remember to be generous.Just click here or on the button below. And, Thank you!

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Humphrey Prequel

Author Frederick Manfred was a native Iowan who spent most of his life in Minnesota. Probably his best-known book is “Lord Grizzly”. By the time Manfred died, in 1994 at age 82, he had published 34 books, including 22 novels. “Lord Grizzly” was the first in a series he entitled the Buckskin Man Tales, which also includes “Conquering Horse,” “Scarlet Plume,” “King of Spades” and “Riders of Judgment.” This series focuses on adventures that took place on the Northern Great Plains during the 19th century.

In assembling profiles of ADA All Stars, I became intrigued with what amounts to All Star “prequels”: what All Stars were doing BEFORE their ADA involvement. Many had full, successful careers prior to their role with ADA; for others, ADA was a springboard to accomplishments in the years following.

In researching a presentation on Manfred for a conference this fall, I stumbled across a “prequel” for one of ADA’s founders, Hubert Humphrey. Manfred writes about Humphrey in two separate chapters in his book “Prime Fathers,” 1988, the jacket containing blurbs by Wallace Stegner, Larry McMurtry, and Robert Bly. Manfred and Humphrey met in 1937 through shared connections at the University of Minnesota. In 1943, when Humphrey ran for Mayor of Minneapolis, a race he lost, Manfred had the inflated title of assistant campaign manager (basically, he drove the candidate around the city).

The first mention of HHH in any national publication came in the October 11, 1943 issue of “The New Republic”… an article written by Frederick Manfred, entitled, “Report from Minnesota,” a story that constitutes a chapter in “Prime Fathers”. Here are some highlights:

“The political pot is boiling these days in Minnesota. This state, which has always been pretty independent in political matters, can furnish some interesting clues to the general situation in the Middle West and may give a hint or two in regard to the 1944 election.”

“The most interesting new political figure in Minnesota is a defeated candidate. Although Hubert H. Humphrey lost in the recent mayoralty campaign in Minneapolis, he made a showing which definitely put him on the map. It was the most surprising because he has an English name, and is dark, in a state which prefers its politicians to be blonds of Scandinavian origin.”

“Humphrey, a former political science professor, who worked his way through college as a druggist, is wiry, slim built on springs. He is a persuasive orator. In the mayoralty campaign he started as an unknown and in six weeks he rolled up a vote ore 55,000 against an incumbent, 60,000. That vote astounded everybody, because Humphrey had some really great obstacles to overcome. … But Humphrey electrified the city in short order. Speaking as fast as a car would get him from meeting to meeting, he averaged eight talks a day, besides all of his personal contacts.”

“Humphrey right now, with the salt of defeat in his system, is an important man in Minnesota. Since (Floyd B.) Olson’s death (in 1936), the liberal cause in Minnesota, except for the Roosevelt majority in ’40, has been languishing. The more callous say it has died. Political writers and dopesters have been saying that since 1938 when shrewd Harold E. Stassen was elected Governor, the back of the liberals, the Farmer-Labor Party was broken – broken by a Republican machine modernized by liberal spicing. The writers have a point. Stassen’s liberal talk (his conservative actions have been unheralded) resulted in the landslides of ’38, ’40, ad ’42.”

“These defeats have not been so much at the hands of a Republican hero, for Stassen is too calculating to make a voter feel warmly about him, as because of the fact that the liberals lack leadership. The state Democratic Party has long been split because its leaders have been solely interested in dividing the patronage that comes from Washington and in grabbing a plum or two from either the Farmer-Labor or Republican Party, depending on which of the two offered more. And the Farmer-Labor Party is torn from within by (…) factions.”

“Roosevelt barely won in ’40. If he runs in ’44, he may lose – unless, all slippery factor remaining equal, the national Democratic heads pay some attention to the state. The Democrats must select a fiery local leader. If Olson were alive today, it would be a cinch. But he is gone. Humphrey is the one possibility.”  

*          *          *          *          *

In an earlier chapter, Manfred talks at length about first meeting Humphrey and the ’43 mayoral campaign. Here are some paragraphs from that profile, written in May, 1978.

I was living near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. It was 1938 and I was a reporter for the Minneapolis Journal. One evening I walked over to see some friends, Zebe and Ralph, in a nearby rooming house. We were talking about the old days back home when the door opened and a slim dark-haired fellow poked his head in and asked, “You guys busy?” Then he spotted me. “Oh, you have company.”

The fellow had a high forehead and quick dark blue eyes. “Come on in, Pinkie (HHH’s nickname),” Zebe said. “What the heck, we’re just gabbing here.”  … We fell into more easy talk about country towns. It didn’t take Hubert long to find out the essentials about me, my home town, where I lived presently, where I worked. I could feel his eyes going over me like an auctioneer’s at a farm sale. Within moments the talk got around to the Newspaper Guild, of which I was an active member, and then he knew I was of a liberal cast of mind. That set off a long bull session on politics.

Hubert extolled the virtues of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. Hubert thought FDR would go down in history as a great man. I said I didn’t think so. I’d voted for FDR but wasn’t a great admirer of his. I didn’t think he was a deep man, certainly not a Washington or a Lincoln. Or for that matter a Woodrow Wilson. “Well,” Hubert countered, “there’s at least this to be said for FDR – he knew how to get the best brains together and tap them for the good of the country. FDR might not be brainy himself but he knew brains when he saw them.”

After Hubert left, Zebe asked, “What’d you think of him?” “He sure can talk,” I said. “Yeh, Pinkie always did have a gift of gab.” It was obvious that Zebe admired Hubert very much. Ralph smiled quietly to himself, head held to one side a little. “Yes, Pinkie gets a little high-flown once in a while. But he knows what he’s talking about. Terribly bright man.” 

(Several paragraphs later…) Hubert was working his way through the University as a pharmacist at the Brown Drug across the campus on Washington Avenue. I’d go in and buy a malted milk and then sit joshing with him for a while. …Beside fretting over what the New Deal was doing to our economy, both of us were also quite worried about what Hitler was doing to Germany and to the balance of power in Europe. We spoke gloomily of the possibility of another World War. In any case, no matter how vigorously we might argue with each other, our discussion always ended with a warm handshake and a warm smile, and with the promise that we’d soon see each other to continue the gabfests.

(By April, 1943…) My wife Maryanna had been taking a pretty dim view of my sudden interest in politics. As she often said, politics was about the last thing she’d ever been interested in. And she was amazed that I, a man who wanted to be a writer, a man who loved solitude, had suddenly become so active in public affairs and traveled around with “a would-be politician.”

Then one evening Maryanna met him. We had been invited to a small supper party at which Hubert was to speak. Everybody but Hubert was there on time. This caused quite a laugh. Hubert’s reputation for always being a little late was growing rapidly. He just couldn’t resist adding a second conclusion and a third conclusion to any speech he gave. Also, he loved people and couldn’t tear himself away when someone wanted to tell him the sorry tale of their lives or give him some sage advice on how to handle the worthy opponent.

Finally, he arrived with Muriel, he chipper and quick-moving and greeting everybody at once, Muriel demure and apologetic. The room was instantly galvanized by his presence. It was like magic to see what had been somewhat desultory talk suddenly become excited talk. When he looked at you he looked at you directly, piercingly, with those dark blue eyes, to your core, and it always made you jump, made you want to do something, promise something, get something done. And before an evening was over he usually got in that look at every one. Dialogue quickened; laughter deepened; wit flashed. Soon the talk turned political and then Vesuvius took over.

On the way home that night my wife said, her face alive and her eyes sparkling from the lively evening, “Well, I’ve just met a man who’s going to be the president of our country some day. You were right. He is an exceptional man.”

(Concluding sentences in the HHH chapter, written five months after his death…) We’re going to miss Hubert in the years to come. We already missed having a great president in him. When he walked into a room it was like an extra current had been turned on. The lights in the room were suddenly brighter, the smiles were wider, and suddenly you were in glory land with Hubert. He was a man of tremendous internal drive. Never did I see him in a down mood. He was a great man to know.

There you have it, a HHH prequel! More about this ADA founder and many others in the coming months.

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Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

The late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, is among the most distinguished historians of the 20th century. He is also an ADA founder. When he died at age 89 in 2007, his New York Times obituary noted, “Mr. Schlesinger saw life as a walk through history. He wrote that he could not stroll down Fifth Avenue without wondering how the street and the people on it would have looked a hundred years ago.”   

We don’t have to wonder too much about the founding of ADA now 75 years ago, because this gifted historian writes about the seminal meeting, January 4, 1947, in his autobiographical book, “A Life in the 20th Century, Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950”:

“The liberal split was crystalizing. In the last week of 1946, the two popular front organization ICCASP (Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions) and NCPAC (National Citizens’ Political Action Committee) merged to create the Progressive Citizens of America. … A week after the birth of the PCA, Jim Loeb’s troops met at the Willard Hotel in Washington. The turnout was impressive – Eleanor Roosevelt, Reinhold Niebuhr, Elmer Davis, Leon Henderson, Wilson Wyatt, a former mayor of Louisville and more recently Truman’s housing expediter, Hubert Humphrey, the eloquent young mayor of Minneapolis, John Kenneth Galbraith, Chester Bowles, FDR Jr., Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

From the press came Barry Bingham, Marquis Childs, Stewart Alsop and Jimmy Wechsler and from the labor movement Water Reuther of the United Auto Workers, David Dubinsky of the Ladies Garment Workers, James B. Carey of the Electrical Workers, Emil Rieve of the Textile Workers. Elmer Davis, chairing the conference, surveyed the room and said, “This crowd looks very much like the United States government-in-exile.” The new organization was christened Americans for Democratic Action. Leon Henderson and Wilson Wyatt were elected co-chairman.” (As matters transpired, Wyatt was ADA’s first President, Henderson, the second.)

Then, five paragraphs later, Schlesinger writes (yes, with a fair degree of irony):

“Leon Henderson gave a party for the new Democratic members of Congress. At one point a young fellow who appeared to Jim Loeb about fifteen years old came in the door. No one seemed to know him, and he had to introduce himself. ‘I’m Congressman Kennedy of Massachusetts.’ Though he maintained friendly relations with ADA, Kennedy did not join then or later. A Hollywood actor did join, however, and on October, 1947, Loeb wrote him, “It was an encouraging experience to have had a chance to talk to you and to know there are people in your position who share so completely a liberal point of view.” The letter began ‘Dear Ronnie.’”    

I am going to quote from extensive obituaries in the New York Times and the Washington Post since they both noted the importance of Schlesinger’s involvement with ADA. First, from the Post:

“In 1947, he helped start Americans for Democratic Action, a political group made up of a range of New Deal liberals, including former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, labor lawyer Joseph Rauh, economist John Kenneth Galbraith and future vice president Hubert H. Humphrey. The organizers wanted to counter the influence of the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace, which they saw as Communist-dominated.

Out of the ADA movement came Schlesinger’s 1949 book “The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom.” It was credited with providing an ideological basis for practical liberalism during the early years of the Cold War and a philosophical alternative to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, the red-baiting Wisconsin Republican. Schlesinger wrote in the book: “Problems will always torment us, because all important problems are insoluble: that is why they are important. The good comes from the continuing struggle to try and solve them, not from the vain hope of their solution.”

Here’s how the Times described the same period in Schlesinger’s life:

“He began to carve out a political identity, one committed to the social goals of the New Deal and staunchly anti-Communist. In 1947, he was a founder of the Americans for Democratic Action, the best-known liberal pressure group. In 1949, Mr. Schlesinger solidified his position as the spokesman for postwar liberalism with his book “The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom.” Inspired by the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, he argued that pragmatic, reform-minded liberalism, limited in scope, was the best that man could hope for politically. ‘Problems will always torment us,’ he wrote, … citing the same quote included above.”

It’s worth noting, in addition to being a founder, Schlesinger also served ADA as co-chair from 1954–’56, coupled with James E. Doyle, from Wisconsin. Without question, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. is an extraordinary ADA All Star.

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John Kenneth Galbraith

Today, I am only going to INTRODUCE an ADA All Star, John Kenneth Galbraith, who served as ADA National Chairman, 1967-69. There are many more JKG stories to tell… and certainly other All-Star moments that will include the distinguished Dr. Galbraith. A key point in this All-Star profile is how often these notable leaders interacted and supported one another. In many cases, ADA leaders were contemporaries who knew and socialized with one another.

This is evident in this story, from Richard Parker’s magnificent biography of Galbraith*, Parker himself having served as ADA President from 2008 – ’10. Here, writing about one of JKG’s four eightieth birthday parties (!!!), Parker notes:

“In his toast (to JKG), Joseph Rauh told the story of his grandson’s reaction to a party that had been held for his own seventieth birthday. Rauh had asked the boy which of the speakers he had liked best. ‘Oh, I liked Mr. Galbraith the best,’ the youngster replied firmly, ‘because all the other people talked about you, and I already know all about you. But Mr. Galbraith talked about himself, and I didn’t know about him, so I thought he was the best.’”   

(NOTE: Joseph Rauh, ADA National Chairman, 1955-’57, was ADA All Star #14.)

In his defense, by all accounts, Galbraith was NOT an especially self-absorbed person. At the same time, it’s fair to note, Galbraith often had a great deal both ON and IN his mind … and he wasn’t especially reluctant to share.

The ADA leaders cited above are but three in the constellation of stars who have given selflessly of their talents in support of Americans for Democratic Action. They, and others like them, have sustained this organization for 75 years. I think here about the hundreds of meetings they’ve attended, the countless hours they’ve devoted, the numerous miles they’ve traveled to advance causes they supported.

John Kenneth Galbraith was present at ADA’s founding meeting, although – perhaps modestly – he wrote, “I confined myself to urging that the organization be called the Liberal Union. I was defeated.” It’s worth noting, however, the organization’s founding statement DOES indeed emphasize the word “liberal”. I quote again from that statement, (All Star moment #16), authored primarily by James Loeb, (All Star #5) which is certainly as true today as it was 75 years ago:

Liberalism is a demanding faith. It rests neither on a set of dogmas nor on a blueprint, but is rather a spirit which each generation of liberals must learn to apply to the needs of its own time. The spirit is unchanging – a deep belief in the dignity of man, a faith in human reason and the power of free inquiry, a high sense of individual responsibility for oneself and one’s neighbor, a conviction that the best society is one that enables the greatest number of its members to develop their potentialities to the utmost.”

I trust you see my point. The lives of these deeply committed people intersected often. They worked together to advance ADA and, of even greater importance, to advance the country. Today, we pay special tribute to ADA leader Galbraith… as well as to ADA leaders Parker, Rauh, and Loeb.

Our organization – and our country – are certainly better due to their efforts.

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Marquis Childs

“My father was a lawyer and his father was a farmer, as his forebears apparently had been since the time of Adam. Why I wanted, from the age of thirteen or fourteen, to be a newspaperman I’ve never quite understood.”  – Marquis Childs

Today’s ADA All Star, Marquis Childs, was born in 1903 in Clinton, Iowa, a city on the Mississippi River on Iowa’s eastern side. He was a journalist and author throughout his long and distinguished career. He also taught briefly at the University of Iowa before returning to his primary profession. When he died in 1990, he was usually described as a foreign correspondent, a columnist, and an author, having written some sixteen books.

His vocational choice may have affirmed by witnessing the power of the printed word at age seventeen. At the Clinton County Fair, a barnstorming pilot was selling rides for $5 each. Childs was in attendance with his father, who was campaigning for county attorney. Young Childs, armed with literature advocating his father’s candidacy, bought a ride in the open cockpit and dropped campaign leaflets on fairgoers, much to crowd’s amusement. (Yes, his father won the election.)

Childs attended the University of Wisconsin, from which he earned two degrees, and the University of Iowa, from which he earned two additional degrees. Childs, who pronounced his first name “MARK-us,” is among the half-dozen journalists / authors generally listed among the two dozen or so “prominent founding members” of ADA. Occasionally, he referred to career as being an “interpretive reporter,” assuming responsibility for trying to explain the news. Throughout his career, Childs alternated between working for United Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Childs was a busy man during the 1950s and ‘60s. For example, in the early 1950s, Childs served as moderator for “Washington Spotlight,” a weekly roundtable discussion of politics syndicated to television stations nationwide. His column, “Washington Calling,” ran six times a week, distributed by the United Feature Syndicate. His longer stories and essays were published in magazines. In addition, Childs often appeared as a panelist on “Meet the Press,” and lectured throughout the country.

In 1969, Childs received the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, the first such award granted. Apparently, President Nixon didn’t appreciate his work since Marquis Childs’ name appeared on the President’s “Enemies List”. Childs championed civil rights and frequently wrote about the plight of the poor. He gained the confidence of national leaders, which resulted in private interviews with Presidents from FDR to JFK. Later in his career, American-Soviet diplomatic relations became a recurring theme; his columns often cited potential horrors of the nuclear arms race.

At the time of the 1948 Democratic convention, when an upstart ADA and many convention delegates hoped to nominate Dwight Eisenhower for president, Childs interviewed Eisenhower. The former general told Childs he was not a “liberal” and had little in common with the Democratic Party. Needless to say, this put quite a damper on the “draft Ike” movement.

Marquis Childs was generally as an informed, rational, and entertaining columnist, who wrote about topics of national interest and the world’s major personalities. He maintained an enviable reputation for his intelligence and integrity. His involvement with ADA and his advice to ADA leaders during the organization’s early years were important and highly beneficial. Marquis Childs, journalist and author, is an ADA All Star.

Millie Jeffrey

Millie McWilliams Jeffrey was barely five feet tall. But those who knew her were often quick to note, don’t let THAT fool you. She was a diminutive dynamo!

Some of this may have been genetic. Millie’s Jeffrey’s grandmother was widowed with sixteen children; she ran the family’s farm after her husband died. One of her grandmother’s daughters, Millie’s mother, became Iowa’s first female registered pharmacist in 1908, while raising seven children on her own.

Millie Jeffrey was born in Alton, Iowa in 1910. The family eventually moved from northwest Iowa to Minneapolis, primarily so Millie and her sisters could attend college. Millie Jeffrey attended the University of Minnesota, her time there overlapping with another student (and future ADA leader) by the name of Humphrey. At the University, Jeffrey became involved in progressive movements. For example, she joined a campus chapter of the YWCA that had taken a public stand in support of racial integration. With a Black classmate, she helped desegregate restaurants near the campus that had been turning away non-white diners. She later become a lifetime member of the NAACP.

In earning a master’s degree in Social Economy and Social Research from Bryn Mawr College, Jeffrey realized that to improve working people’s lives, she needed to help change “the system”. In the 1930s, one avenue to accomplish this change was through the labor movement. Accordingly, she became an organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in Philadelphia, then Educational Director of the Pennsylvania Joint Board of Shirt Workers. In 1936, she married Homer Newman Jeffrey, also a union organizer. During the second World War, the Jeffreys were consultants to the War Labor Board in Washington, D.C., where they became friends with Walter, Victor, and Roy Reuther.

Shortly before the War was over, Victor Reuther offered Millie Jeffrey an opportunity to lead a newly formed UAW Women’s Bureau, which meant a move to Detroit. There, she organized the UAW’s first conference in response to the massive postwar layoffs of women production workers being replaced by returning veterans. For five years, Millie oversaw the union’s radio station before directing the union’s Community Relations Department. Her last position was Director of the Consumer Affairs Department, which she held from 1968 until her retirement in 1976.

There’s no question, Mildred McWilliams Jeffrey was a remarkably effective social justice activist. She spent seven decades working to advance women’s rights and civil rights, as well as education, health care, youth employment, and recreation issues. She brought inspiration and good humor to all she undertook while modeling an unflagging optimism and her undaunted spirit. She mentored countless women and men in the labor, civil rights, women’s rights, and peace movements. Her zeal for organizing may be the quality most people remember her for.

As President Bill Clinton noted in 2000, in awarding Jeffrey the Presidential Medal of Freedom: “Her impact will be felt for generations, her example never forgotten.” This award was bestowed on Jeffrey at the same ceremony that John Kenneth Galbraith received this honor. Like Humphrey and Walter Reuther, Galbraith was an ADA founder.

For five decades, Jeffrey was blazing trails for women… with the United Auto Workers in the 1940s where she was the first woman to head a UAW department, marching with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, and James Meredith in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and becoming an exceptional advisor to women seeking political office in the 70s and 80s. Throughout these years, Mildred Jeffrey was active in the Democratic Party, generally preferring to work behind the scenes… organizing, canvassing, consulting, and fundraising. Jeffrey managed Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign in Michigan. She ran for public office herself only once, in 1974, when she was elected to the Wayne State University Board of Governors, an office she held for 16 years (1974-1990), including three terms as Board Chair.

As a founding member and chair of the National Women’s Political Caucus, she was an early and avid supporter of female candidates for public office. In 1984, she led efforts to nominate a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, to serve as Walter Mondale’s running mate. Years later, she reveled in the fact that she was then represented by three women: Governor Jennifer Granholm, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick. Former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder (D-CO), herself a University of Minnesota graduate, noted: “Millie is the ‘political godmother’ for many of us.”

Jeffrey was active in organizing ADA from the start, in 1947. She was also a leader in numerous other national organizations, including the Coalition for Labor Union Women (CLUW), the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), EMILY’s List, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

For a lifetime of activism, in many different forms while advancing many different organizations, Millie McWilliams Jeffrey is an exemplary ADA All Star.

Jim Bishop

This particular All Star was honored by ADA in September, 2018, receiving ADA’s “Timeless Liberal” Award. I thought the best way to capture the notable achievements of this ADA All Star was to simply edit, annotate, and update remarks I delivered in bestowing the award at that time.

* * *
Since its founding, ADA has always held an annual gathering to honor iconic figures, in some cases, deserving organizations, who have achieved greatly… who have performed exceptionally… who have responded extraordinarily when times required it. What I am about to do is different. It’s an award, to be sure. But it’s MUCH more rare.
Before bestowing ADA’s “Timeless Liberal” Award, I asked Don (Kusler) how many of these awards have been given out during HIS involvement with ADA… some 18 years (now, 22 years). He thought three, indicating this award is unusual and exceptional, which is appropriate. This evening, we’re honoring an unusual, exceptional individual.
The word “timeless” attached to any award suggests a certain longevity that triggers this designation. And that’s true in this case. Our timeless liberal has been at it a while. Twice he’s served ADA as Chair of the National Executive Board… in the late ’80s and early ‘90s and again, beginning four years ago (in 2014) until last summer (2018). In both cases, he served with considerable talent and dignity, skill, and grace.
Tonight, we award ADA’s Timeless Liberal Award to our colleague Jim Bishop. Since the 1960s, when first fighting for fair housing in the greater Boston community, Jim Bishop has been advocating passionately, articulately, and effectively for what’s fair and right… for a liberal, enlightened approach to government and public affairs.
Professionally, Jim Bishop has been affiliated with some of the finest educational institutions in our country: MIT, Amherst, the University of Pennsylvania, and (Thee) Ohio State University. I know Jim’s name is Bishop, but this progression is like going from Bishop, to Archbishop, to Cardinal, then, at OSU, Pope! (Oh, I’m sorry, Jim, I was thinking of Woody Hayes there for a moment.)
In a peculiar twist of fate, 27 years ago this week, (in 1991, which now is 31 years ago) Dr. Bishop provided testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, voicing ADA’s opposition to the nomination of Clarence Thomas to be a Justice on the Supreme Court. I quote the official record.
“I am James Bishop. I am here on behalf of Americans for Democratic Action where I am privileged to serve as Chair of the National Executive Committee. During our history, we have been active participants in numerous battles where the individual rights and liberties of Americans were at stake. We have carefully reviewed past judicial nominations, opposing some, supporting others. Always, the guiding principle in our deliberations has been that our nation’s judicial system is the last bulwark of individual freedom: it must protect the rights of those least able to protect themselves against the swings of political or ideological extremism. We have applied this principle in our considerations of this historic nomination … and in our executive committee’s unanimous decision to oppose Judge Thomas’ elevation to the Supreme Court.”
I’d like to discuss three of Jim’s sterling traits: Jim Bishop is generous. Not only with his dollars but also with his time and his energy and his wisdom. When you seek Jim’s support or advice or engagement, invariably, it’s forthcoming. ADA has been the great beneficiary of this generous spirit. It’s a wonderful quality. Thank you, Jim.
Jim Bishop is wise. He’s at the table and has been at the table, ready to go, for quite some time. He’s listening. He’s tracking… he’s paying attention. His timelessness has given him perspective. When your career is in academia, knowledge is at or near the center of the profession. When you blend accumulated knowledge with experience, and then temper it with perspective, you get enduring wisdom. It’s a wonderful quality. Thank you, Jim.
Finally, Jim Bishop is tenacious. When he locks in on an organization, as he has in the case of ADA, he’s there, whatever it takes. When he locks in on an issue, as he often does, similarly, he’s there. How many times, dear colleagues, have we heard from Jim, when on a late-night conference call (or now, a zoom meeting), and someone asks, “Now, is there anything else we need to discuss before we adjourn?” After a one- or two-second pause, we hear Jim. “Yes, several meetings ago, we talked about (blank) without ever resolving this issue. What’s going to be our position on thus-and-such?” Or, “What are we going to do
about this?” Or, “I assume we’ll take time to fully resolve this matter at our next meeting…”
When Jim locks in, envision a terrier clamped onto the leg of a mail carrier, holding on for dear life. Oh, he’ll loosen his grip, eventually… but not until we agree to resolve, to discuss, or to place on our next agenda. Like generosity and wisdom, tenacity is also a wonderful quality. Thank you, Jim.
Now, while I’ll not dwell on them, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note a few other qualities that have been helpful to me in my attempts to do more for ADA: Jim’s unfailing graciousness, his robust sense of humor, and his great patience, because some of us are slower than we should be to catch on or to catch up. For many of us, Jim is a dear friend, a role model, a mentor, and a hero. He’s also among the classiest people we’ll ever meet. This evening, we honor Jim for a lifetime characterized by remarkable commitment and achievement. We bestow ADA’s “Timeless Liberal” Award to our colleague, James J. Bishop.
* * *
Given that this record of steadfast service has now been extended by almost four years, there is absolutely no doubt: Jim Bishop is a distinguished ADA All Star.
Curtis Gans

It’s time to pay tribute to another one-time ADA staffer, a true All Star, Curtis Gans.

In the late 1960s, Gans was ADA’s press secretary and editor of “ADA World”, the organization’s magazine. With Allard Lowenstein, ADA All Star #24, Gans – then a mere 30 years old – helped launch what became known as the Dump Johnson movement, based primarily on opposition to the Vietnam War.

He left his ADA post to work on Senator Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign, where his title was national political operations director. Gans and Lowenstein used their connections in the student antiwar and liberal communities to rally a “children’s crusade” on behalf of McCarthy. The campaign mobilized thousands of young people, in many cases, college students.

As many campaign reports noted, McCarthy’s first-time male activists were encouraged to shave their beards and trim their locks in a concerted “clean for Gene” effort to reach voters. Running against an incumbent President, Senator McCarthy captured 42 percent of the state’s primary vote to Johnson’s 49 percent. A short while later, President Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election.

Gans was born in Manhattan in 1937. He majored in history and philosophy at the University of North Carolina, where he was editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. His introduction to student activism was by way of the civil rights movement; he protested racial segregation at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Prior to joining ADA, he worked as a reporter for United Press International; Gans was in Dallas covering a presidential trip when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. After the McCarthy campaign, Gans studied turnout and voting patterns for more than three decades. He co-founded and served as director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, which for years was housed at American University in Washington, D. C.

He was regarded as an expert – perhaps the country’s foremost authority – on American voting patterns. Gans was a resource for scholars and journalists and a passionate advocate for greater voter participation, which he termed “the religion of civic duty.” According to Gans, “We’re one of the few democracies in the world that puts the entire burden for registering on the citizen and not on the state.” 

Gans decried the decline in voter turnout, approximately half of the people eligible to cast ballots in presidential elections between 1980 and the early 21st century. He pointed an accusing finger at several factors: local and state created obstacles to registration and voting; negative television advertisements for campaigns; and early projections of election results, which discouraged greater last-minute participation.

Gans was quoted in “The Washington Post” in 1994: “The sad fact of our political life is that the combination of perceived ineffective government and corrosive and vacuous elections is destroying both the citizenry’s will to participate and its faith in the utility of our political institutions and the political process itself.”

Six years later, writing in “The Washington Monthly,” Gans observed, “Every year, the nation seems further and further from the political comity, cohesion and consensus that makes possible the constructive address of citizen needs. The nation that prides itself on being the best example of government of, for and by the people is rapidly becoming a nation whose participation is limited to the interested or zealous few.”

Gans authored syndicated newspaper columns, numerous articles in both popular and academic publications, and a book, “Voter Turnout in the United States, 1788-2009,” (all 900 pages!). He served as a consultant to the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and the National Committee for an Effective Congress. Gans died in 2015 of lung cancer at the age of 77.

Obviously Curtis Gans did not live to see the 2020 presidential turnout: 66.8% of citizens 18 years and older voting in the election, the highest figure in the 21st century. I think he would have been pleased with that number… but probably NOT satisfied.

For his career with ADA and his commitment to voter participation both during and after his ADA involvement, Curtis Gans is an exemplary ADA All Star.

Moment: Marshall Plan

Today’s ADA 75th anniversary remembrance is an All Star Moment… one that provides context for the launch of Americans for Democratic Action. This particular moment took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in early June, 1947, and it lasted almost eleven minutes.

It consisted of a speech delivered at Harvard’s commencement ceremonies, concluding not with lofty rhetoric or soaring oratory, but with a series of simple questions: What are the sufferings? What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?
The speaker was Secretary of State George C. Marshall. And, as Heather Cox Richardson, historian and professor at Boston College, pointed out last month, on the 75th anniversary of Marshall’s speech, “The Gettysburg Address it wasn’t. … Rather than stirring, the speech was bland. Its long sentences were hard to follow. It was vague. And yet, in just under eleven minutes on a sunny afternoon, Marshall laid out a plan that would shape the modern world.”
In his remarks that day, Marshall noted, “Europe’s requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products – principally from America – are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterioration of a very grave character. … It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.”
So far as I know, General Marshall never engaged with ADA, although in the late 1940s, Marshall and ADA were both accused by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his cohorts for not being sufficiently anticommunist. (Complete folderol, based on my personal read of history, but I don’t wish to range too far from my topic today.)
In his Harvard speech, Marshall outlined what eventually became known as the Marshall Plan, an effort to rebuild Europe after World War II. Marshall, a five-star general, recalled being shocked by the devastation he saw in Europe after the war, concluding that “if Europe was to be salvaged, economic aid was essential.” He challenged European nations to collaborate with one another in their recovery, suggesting that the U.S. would provide much of the essential funding.
Maybe the most powerful rationale for establishing the Marshall Plan was concern that European economic hardship could result in communist governments throughout the region. The Plan allowed for economic prosperity to re-emerge. Consequently, communism was effectively prevented from rising to power in Western Europe. Communist strength in the region is estimated to have declined by one-third in the five years between 1946 and 1951.
Some experts believe that the role of the Plan in raising morale in Europe was as significant as its financial assistance. George Kennan, then Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, observed, “The psychological success at the outset was so amazing that we felt that the psychological effect was four-fifths accomplished before the first supplies arrived.”
Congress, controlled by Republicans, passed the Economic Cooperation Act (i.e., the Marshall Plan) in March, 1948, thereby approving essential funding. Between 1948 and 1952, the U.S. contributed as much as $17 billion to European nations to assist in the rebuilding process. The Marshall Plan legitimized the concept of U.S. foreign aid, a key element of U.S. international policy ever since.
Ultimately, the Marshall Plan has been recognized as one of the greatest humanitarian efforts of the 20th century and George Marshall became the only general ever to receive the Nobel Prize for peace. This ADA Moment provides a glimpse of the dynamics that gave rise to ADA at the time of the organization’s inception (1947). In more recent years, combating and/or containing communism has diminished as a force driving U.S. foreign – and in some cases, domestic – policy. Nevertheless, it
was clearly a significant factor in the two immediate post-war decades.
John Lewis

Let me be clear. I did NOT really know John Lewis, who was President of ADA from 1993 – 1995. Yes, I certainly met him and expressed my admiration. I first met Congressman Lewis and heard him speak at the ADA gathering in Philadelphia in 2016 held in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention. The impetus for this ADA event was to mark and celebrate the Party’s previous gathering in the City of Brotherly Love, which took place in 1948.

At that convention, a young (38-year-old) mayor of a Midwestern city “rebooted” (some would say launched) Democrats’ commitment to civil rights. “To those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say we are 172 years late. To those who say this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.” Ah, Hubert, one of our remarkable ADA founders.

I was waiting off stage prior to that event with John Lewis, thrilled there were maybe 300 or 400 people in attendance. (When I tell this story in another decade or two, there will probably be something like 750 or 1,000 people in the crowd!) Like a kid meeting Babe Ruth, I asked him to sign my program, which he did. (My request prompted others to do the same and he graciously complied.)

I was not taking notes on what he said that day, but fortunately for me/us, it was not the first time he told the beautiful story that follows, nor was it his last. John Lewis’s story below is in his book, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, published in 1998 and was lightly edited for space.

*       *       *

On this particular afternoon – it was a Saturday, I’m almost certain – about fifteen of us children were outside my aunt Seneva’s house, playing in her dirt yard. The sky began clouding over, the wind started picking up, lightning flashed far off in the distance, and suddenly I wasn’t thinking about playing anymore; I was terrified…

Aunt Seneva was the only adult around, and as the sky blackened and the wind grew stronger, she herded us all inside. Her house was not the biggest place around, and it seemed even smaller with so many children squeezed inside. The wind was howling now, and the house was starting to shake. We were scared. Even Aunt Seneva was scared.

And then it got worse. Now the house was beginning to sway. The wood plank flooring beneath us began to bend. And then, a corner of the room started lifting up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None of us could. This storm was actually pulling the house toward the sky. With us inside it.

That was when Aunt Seneva told us to clasp hands. Line up and hold hands, she said, and we did. Then she had us walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising. Then we walked back in the other direction, as another end of the house began to lift. And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies.

More than half a century has passed since that day, and it has struck me more than once that our society is not unlike the children in that house, rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another, the walls around us seeming at times as if they might fly apart.

It seemed that way in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement, when America itself felt as if it might burst at the seams – so much tension, so many storms. But people of conscience never left the house. They never ran away. They stayed, they came together, and they did the best they could, clasping hands and moving toward the weakest corner of the house.

That is America to me – not just the movement for civil rights but the endless struggle to respond with decency, dignity, and a sense of brotherhood to all the challenges that face us as a nation, as a whole.

That is the story, in essence, of my life, of the path to which I’ve been committed since I turned from a boy to a man, and to which I remain committed today.  It is a path that extends beyond the issue of race alone, beyond class, beyond every distinction that tends to separate us as human beings rather than bring us together.

That path involves nothing less than the pursuit of the most precious and pure concept I have that has guided me like a beacon ever since, a concept called the Beloved Community.  That concept ushered me into the heart of the most meaningful and monumental movement of this past American century.  We need this concept to steer us all where we deserve to go in the next.

*       *       *

Thank you, Congressman Lewis, for your wisdom, your passion, your integrity, and your life of commitment. Clearly, John Lewis is a remarkably worthy ADA All Star and we are all lifted, not by the wind in this case, but rather by his example.

Barney Frank

Today’s All Star, Barney Frank, served as ADA’s President from 1984 to 1986. Barnett (Barney) Frank was born in 1940, in Bayonne, New Jersey, the community where his parents, Elsie and Samuel Frank, raised their four children. Frank’s sister Ann F. Lewis served as ADA National Director in the 1980s. He graduated from Harvard in 1962; by the mid-‘60s, he was a teaching assistant at Harvard.

During those years, he also spent time registering black voters in Mississippi, travelling the country, organizing for what grew into the student movement of the late sixties, led in part by Allard K. Lowenstein, a previous ADA All Star. Frank was chief assistant to Boston Mayor Kevin White and eventually served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for eight years while attending Harvard Law School.

Ann Lewis, who is two years older, noted that even as a child her brother was opinionated and outspoken. “Our uncle Rosie was a sportswriter, and Barney was a huge Yankees fan. One day around 1950, when Barney was around ten, Rosie brought home a talent scout for the Yankees. I remember Barney asking the guy why the Yankees didn’t have any black ballplayers. I was very struck by that. I looked at the kid, and I thought, that’s a really tough thing to do. Good for you.”

In the late 1970s, Frank decided to pursue higher office. In 1980, he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives for Massachusetts 4th Congressional District a seat he held from 1981 to 2013. Frank served as Chair of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007 to 2011 and played a pivotal role in Congressional efforts to address the 2008 financial crisis, including sponsorship of legislation generally referred to as “Dodd-Frank” (the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act).

As a House Member, Frank was an expert on the complex national financial environment and housing and mortgage regulations. He focused on protecting homeowners, especially those with lower incomes. He attempted to decrease military spending, contending federal dollars were better spent rebuilding infrastructure at home. He also advocated limits on executive compensation. According to Lewis, “For Barney, the question has always been: What works? What can government do to see that people have the decent necessities of life?”

But most people today, perhaps even most people when Barney Frank was in Congress, don’t think of him primarily as a committee chair or as a legislative virtuoso, both valid assessments. Quoting from a profile in the New Yorker in 2009, “In a 2006 poll of Capitol Hill staffers by Washingtonian… Frank was voted the brainiest, funniest, and most eloquent congressman—a notable achievement, since he often speaks in a barely comprehensible mumble.” And a second assessment, in a 2015 New York Times book review of Frank’s memoir, entitled (appropriately enough), “Frank”: “If you’ve seen much of Frank on television or if you’ve crossed paths with him, you know him as acerbic, pugnacious, saucy, and ferociously, intimidatingly smart.”

Frank may be best known as the first Congressman to publicly announce he was gay AND for his sharp, often biting, wit. As a CNN reporter noted when Frank retired from Congress, he earned a reputation as a man of “10,000 golden quotes,” the majority of which reveal his wisdom. Here are a select few of them:

-“Going before an audience of people who expect you to be funny is tough. Going before an audience that expect you to be boring, and then being a little funny, is much easier. I prefer easier.”

-“They appear to have become so attached to their outrage that they are even more outraged that they won’t be able to be outraged anymore.”

“The best humor is offered up by the stupidity of your opponents.”

-“The opposite of pragmatism is not idealism. It’s wishful thinking.”

-“I don’t begrudge Ronald Reagan an occasional nap. We must understand it’s not the dozing off of Ronald Reagan that causes us problems. It’s what he does on those moments when he’s awake.”

-“Ridicule is about the most powerful weapon possible.”

-“The best antidote to prejudice is reality.”

-“The problem with the war in Iraq is not so much the intelligence as the stupidity.”

ADA Board member, former National Director, Amy Isaacs shared some of her thoughts about Frank:

“. For Barney, Americans for Democratic Action has always been the place where all the pieces of the puzzle come together. This has been true whether he was a national board member, a young staffer for Boston Mayor Kevin White, a Harvard Law student, a staff member for then Representative Michael Harrington, a Member of Congress, or now in retirement. 

Early in his service to ADA, after speaking at an ADA national board meeting, the indomitable New York Judge Dorothy Kenyon stood up and said, “Young man, just because you speak faster than anyone else in this room, it doesn’t make you always right.” She may have been correct, but we know Barney possesses one of the sharpest minds and quickest wits of anyone we have ever witnessed. 

He is, indeed, a true and loyal friend. He has always been there for ADA doing the mundane, such as arranging meeting rooms, speaking at a wide variety of events, or hosting Member of Congress breakfasts. There are too many memories to mention in a brief profile, but one does stand out:  

When Ralph Nader decided to mount opposition to liberals in Congress – including another former ADA president Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) – we went to Barney, who immediately saw both the problem and the opportunity for ADA. Members of Congress with 100% ADA ratings who were providing real leadership could have been defeated had we not taken action. Barney reached out to then House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) and together they pulled together Members of Congress who helped ADA form “Damned Big” which went on to provide voter education in key areas. It was a pivotal moment in ADA and couldn’t have happened the way it did without Barney’s support.

No question, Barney Frank is an unqualified ADA All Star. Thank you, Barney Frank, for your steadfast service to ADA and to our country.

Amy Isaacs

Today’s All Star is someone well known to almost everyone who has been involved in ADA. And there is no need to add the words, “during the last decade (or more)…” or “who has served on the ADA Board.” Today’s All Star, Amy Isaacs, has been flying the ADA flag for almost all her adult life.

And speaking informally for the entire organization, we are far better for this fact…  AND we are also eternally grateful.

After serving in various staff roles, Amy was ADA’s National Director for twenty years. Upon her transition from that role, ADA’s then-President, Congressman Jim McDermott, inserted the following tribute in the Congressional Record. It would be very hard for me to improve upon what Congressman McDermott said then, now 13 years ago, although it’s important to add, Amy has continued her service to ADA by joining the Board, including time devoted to various Committee duties.

(Amy is on vacation right now, which gives us a narrow window to grant her All Star status without her somehow finding out and objecting, an outgrowth of her considerable modesty.)   

*          *          *


HON. JIM McDERMOTT of Washington in the House of Representatives, Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mr. McDERMOTT. Madam Speaker, I rise to commend Amy Isaacs, National Director of Americans for Democratic Action, on the occasion of her retirement.

For 20 years Amy has led ADA, the nation’s most experienced organization dedicated to liberal policies, liberal politics, and a liberal future*. ADA was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Reuther, Arthur Schlesinger, and Reinhold Niebuhr shortly after FDR died. Its goal then was to keep the New Deal dream – its vision and its values of an America that works fairly for all – alive for generations to come.

Under Amy’s leadership, ADA has never forgotten its long history and never wavered from those core liberal values. She began her career at ADA as an intern in 1969 and has moved through the ranks serving as Director of Organization, Executive Assistant to the Director and Deputy National Director, before becoming National Director in 1989.

Amy brought to ADA a strong sense that protecting and enhancing the rights of working men and women was a critical ingredient in maintaining a healthy democratic society. Allying ADA with the labor movement’s efforts to improve wages and working conditions for America’s workers became a key part of ADA’s mission under Amy’s direction.

She recognized that the efforts to increase the federal minimum wage needed non-labor allies. And she enthusiastically threw ADA into the forefront of that fight, by directing the formation of the Coalition for a Fair Minimum Wage which brought together progressive groups of all stripes: religious, economic, social, youth, labor, business, and others. Amy’s belief that a strong labor movement united with strong allied organizations not only led to an increase in the minimum wage in 2007 but to countless other victories for working men and women.

Amy’s work did not stop with the fight to end income inequality. Her career is defined by her commitment to erase the evils of discrimination so that everyone can be truly free to pursue their dreams. Not only is she a trailblazer in her own right, but she worked tirelessly as an advocate for all women. From fair pay to reproductive choice, from education to the workplace, Amy never tolerated an injustice against women or any other group striving for equal treatment.

It is a rare thing to find someone willing to devote their life to advancing the causes in which they believe. I commend Amy for her dedication and service and wish her all the best as she starts the next chapter of her life.

Amy once said to me, “I’ve walked with giants” when I asked for her thoughts about the extraordinary people associated with ADA’s history. I say today, she is one of them.

*          *          *

An ADA All Star, to be sure! Thank you, Amy, for your talents, your devotion, and your wisdom. Again, speaking for ADA, we’ve not only walked with an All Star, but also with a liberal giant.

Walter Reuther

Today’s ADA All Star is truly a remarkable American. As you read the following statements that describe this All Star, how quickly do you know who it is?

            –Among the various interests and causes championed by this All Star were women’s rights, universal health care, environmental stewardship, and nuclear nonproliferation.

            –This All Star played a vital role in getting the first Earth Day off the ground in 1970.

            –This All Star was instrumental in the creation of the Peace Corps.

            –This All Star marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Detroit, Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Jackson.

            –After the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy dispatched this All Star to Cuba to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Fidel Castro.

            –In 1964 and ’65, this All Star met weekly at the White House with President Johnson to discuss policies and legislation for the Great Society and the War on Poverty.

–Barry Goldwater said this All Star was “more dangerous to our country than Sputnik or anything Soviet Russia might do.”

            –This All Star survived two assassination attempts… and ultimately died in a plane crash.

            –This All Star built the United Automobile Workers (UAW) into one of the most progressive labor unions in American history.

            –According to this All Star, Labor was not a narrow interest group… but rather an instrument to advance social justice and human rights.

            –In 1947, this All Star was an ADA founder.

Yes, this ADA All Star is none other than Walter Reuther who, in addition to being engaged in the founding of ADA, also served as a co-founder of the AFL-CIO (with George Meany). There are ample biographical books and articles about Reuther, who was born in 1907 and died in 1970. This profile will only touch briefly on select moments that reveal Reuther’s character and priorities.

In 1936, auto workers pulled a surprise strike and sat down in the plant, refusing to leave until management negotiated with their representative… a rather young Walter Reuther. Due to Reuther’s insistence, after a ten-day strike, women won equal pay for equal work: 75 cents an hour.

On March 27, 1946, Reuther won a close election and became the President of the UAW. One of his first acts as President was to fight to integrate the American Bowling League, which had previously excluded black bowlers. It was Reuther’s way of signaling that he viewed the labor movement as “an instrument for social change.”

An often-cited story came about in the 1950s, as Reuther and Henry Ford II, Ford Motor Company CEO, were touring a Ford plant in Cleveland, Ohio. Ford, noting the new, automated machines, said, “Walter, how are you going to get these robots to pay union dues?” to which Reuther responded, “Henry, how are you going to get them to buy your cars?”

Reuther served on the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). At his urging, in 1954 the UAW donated $75,000 toward efforts led by then attorney, later Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education.

On the 25th anniversary of the UAW, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote to Reuther: “More than anyone else in America, you stand out as the shining symbol of democratic trade unionism…. As I have heard you say, the true measure of a man is where he stands in moments of challenge and controversy, when the only consolation he gains is the quiet whisper of an inner voice saying there are things so eternally true and significant that they are worth dying for, if necessary. You have demonstrated that you can stand up in moments of challenge and controversy. One day all of America will be proud of your achievements…”

Reuther never made an annual salary of more than $31,000. He intentionally kept his salary modest to show solidarity with UAW members he represented. Writer David Halberstam observed about Reuther: “His life was not about material things. The constant success of the union was reward enough.”

Reuther received the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1995. President Clinton said at the ceremony, “Walter Reuther was an American visionary so far ahead of his times that although he died a quarter of a century ago, our Nation has yet to catch up to his dreams.”

A bronze statue of Walter Reuther was dedicated in 2006 in Wheeling, West Virginia, where Reuther was born almost a century before. Reuther’s words are inscribed on the pedestal: “There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow man. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”

Lastly, a decade ago, ADA established the “Reuther-Chavez Award “to recognize important activist, scholarly and journalistic contributions on behalf of workers’ rights, especially the right to unionize and bargain collectively.” In the last two decades, the award has been given to such luminaries as Leo Gerard and activists groups such as Fight for $15.

Walter Reuther was a remarkable individual. As ADA marks its first 75 years, he is one of our most distinguished All Stars.

Moment: UDA Banquet

Today’s All Star Moment consists of a newspaper account from the Washington “Evening Star,” an afternoon/evening newspaper that ceased publication in 1981. The article, entitled “Liberals Look Ahead for Gains under Democratic Action,” written by an unnamed reporter, appeared in the Star on January 4, 1947… ADA’s “birthday” (note the reference to “a closed session at the Willard Hotel” that very day).

The story’s primary focus is a fund-raising banquet hosted by ADA’s predecessor organization, the Union for Democratic Action, where “liberals of various political faiths” gathered to plot their future course. Not surprisingly, many of these same people assumed early leadership posts in the nascent ADA, now 75 years ago. Read on…


“Liberals Look Ahead for Gains under Democratic Action”

The Evening Star, Washington, DC 4 January 1947

New Dealers and other liberals of various political faiths rallied today under the banner of the Union for Democratic Action to plan their future, after a dinner last night at the Shoreham Hotel at which leaders called for a stiffened front against triumphant “forces of reaction.” While the question of a third party was unsettled as the delegates were called to a closed session at the Willard Hotel today, Chester Bowles, in a keynote address at the dinner, saw too many obstacles in the way of an effective third party. He said the Democratic Party, “with all its faults, is our most effective instrument for political action.”

Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a world point of view that encompassed more than the solution of America’s domestic problems. “I have no fear of Communists or Fascists,” she said, “if we know what we want, and say it in words simple enough for everybody to understand. If the people know what they want, they will find leaders to carry out their wishes,” Mrs. Roosevelt added, “but it must not be for the United States alone but must take into account the rest of the world.”

Wilson Wyatt*, former Federal housing expediter, said: “I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of Americans are liberals, the verdict at the polls in November to the contrary notwithstanding. They are looking to leadership and to a rallying point. All the scientific plans for housing,” he told the crowd of more than 400 at the dinner, “have not solved the problem of giving the typical American family a typical American home – a decent habitation. In worrying about the two totalitarian extremes of fascism and communism we are overlooking American democracy, which is the most important issue of the day.”

“Will this nation,” asked Leon Henderson, who presided, “find within itself the vision and courage to build a stable and equitable economy, or will it become the powerful center of world reaction and imperialism? Will America be a symbol of hope or fear? This is our challenge.” Mr. Bowles, former head of OPA and director of economic stabilization, made this comment on the radical fringes of liberalism: “We must be prepared to defend the right of American Communists to propagate their views through their own organizations. But we must make it crystal clear that there is no place in the American liberal movement for those who would compromise with the principle of individual liberty. There are enormous forces in American life that are both progressive and non-Communist. It is these democrat groups and individuals that must be brought together into the fullest political partnership based on a common conviction that freedom and planning are not only compatible but in the long run inseparable.”

Mr. Bowles added: “We should not harbor any illusions about a third party. The legal and organizational obstacles in the way of an effective third-party organization are too great. The Democratic Party, with all its faults, is our most effective instrument for political action. If we expect to regain the ground we shall have lost by 1948, we must elect a liberal President and a liberal Congress. To accomplish this, we must work through the Democratic Party machinery. In the next two years, we must return the Democratic party to the ideals and objectives of Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, and Roosevelt. This will not be easy.”

And Mr. Bowles went on to say, “We cannot blink away the fact that the party of Roosevelt is also the party of Bilbo** and Rankin***. But the fact remains that we have no practical alternative. All our efforts, all our ingenuity, must be thrown into the struggle to establish liberal control of the Democratic party in 1948.” He charged extremists of both the Right and Left with saying there are no alternatives to Communism on one hand and narrow capitalism on the other.

“It is the responsibility of American liberals,” said Mr. Bowles, “to prove that the extremists are wrong. It is our task to provide a program of democratic action – dynamic, politically practical – a program designed to provide freedom as well as security for everyday people everywhere. Our success or failure in providing this alternative will determine not only the shape of our own country, but the hope of the world as a whole.”

Mrs. Roosevelt wondered how many times in the past such a meeting as the one last night had faced great difficulties and pondered how to solve them. She was sure it happened after the Revolution and again after the Civil War and at other times. “I am sure,” she said, “that what we are facing can be faced. We need to feel that we are able to meet whatever demands are made on us. The people are disturbed and confused not only by their own problems, but by the situations in other countries. If Americans confine their efforts to their country alone,” she said, “the heart will go out of the rest of the world.”

“We are a little nervous about our own spiritual leadership,” she added, “though we have always been able to meet our own internal problems when they were serious enough and we faced them. When the people think things through, they usually come up with the answers. We have,” Mrs. Roosevelt said, “the job of awakening a sleeping people to the sense of responsibility which they have to accept.”

She warned against the philosophy that troubles are over and people can simply enjoy themselves. They are not over for a majority of the world, she pointed out, and “the world has been telescoped in many ways, so that everybody feels what has happened to everybody else.” Referring to Mr. Wyatt’s discussion of housing, Mrs. Roosevelt said: “There are rural slums, too. And we need also to rebuild the thinking in farm homes.” In her work as a delegate to the United Nations, she explained, she has noticed that “you feel the strength of representatives of nations as they identify themselves with their people.”

Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr warned that this country cannot solve its problems by production alone, as many have preached. “We didn’t solve housing in that way,” he pointed out. James Wechsler****, Washington correspondent, took subscriptions to raise funds to continue the Union for Democratic Action. Mrs. Cornelia Bryce Pinchot and Mrs. J. Wesley Adams were co-chairman of the dinner.

Leon Henderson

Today’s ADA All Star was involved with the organization at its very start. It seems Leon Henderson was not an especially popular man, an outgrowth of his government service in the Franklin Roosevelt administration. During World War II, Henderson was Director of the Office of Price Administration, meaning he was responsible for setting price controls and for overseeing rationing.

It was a vitally important role, to be sure. The individual who carried out these duties, however, was destined to fall out of favor with many Americans. When Henderson resigned his post, in mid-December, 1942, a newspaper account reported, “The stocky, cigar-champing 47-yeor-old administrator, target of frequent congressional criticism, announced his intention to quit last night ‘principally,’ he told President Roosevelt, because of a recurrent physical disability and impaired eyesight.” Quoting the same article, “Mr. Roosevelt termed Henderson’s task ‘exceedingly difficult and thankless’ but one performed ‘with energy and unexampled courage. When you are ready to return to work,’ the president added, ‘I shall certainly want your assistance in some other capacity.’ ”     

When Henderson died, in 1986, his LA Times obituary explained, “His name became anathema to Americans not off fighting the war as they battled the rationing of fuel oil, shoes, gasoline, tires, sugar, coffee, canned and frozen food and meat and dairy products. He resigned in 1943 (staying on until his replacement was in place) but after the war was named to handle economic affairs in the U.S.-controlled portion of Germany. In 1948 he was at the forefront of an anti-Truman movement that unsuccessfully sought to persuade Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to seek the Democratic nomination for President.”

This story failed to mention that any persuasion of Eisenhower that Henderson engaged in was done as “Chairman of the Executive Committee” of Americans for Democratic Action, as of December, 1947, or as “National Chairman” of ADA, by July, 1948 (two different positions, each noted on ADA letterhead).

An article in the New York Times reporting on the birth of ADA, dated January 5, 1947, was headlined, “Henderson, Wyatt Head Liberal Body” with the subhead, “Democratic Action Americans Pick Them to Run Organizing Committee”: “Americans for Democratic Action, a new liberal organization stressing its rejection of Communists, ended its first meeting today by naming Leon Henderson, former Price Administrator, and Wilson W. Wyatt, who recently resigned as Housing Expediter, as temporary co-chairmen of its organizing committee. James Loeb Jr., national director of the Union for Democratic Action, which called the week-end meeting of 130 prominent men and women, was chosen secretary-treasurer. UDA now plans to merge with Americans for Democratic Action. The new leaders in a keynote statement promised a ‘long and hard’ fight to build an American liberal movement ‘with no hidden loyalties.’ ”  [NOTE: Wyatt and Loeb have both been previous All Stars.]

Later in the same story… “Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt participated in the committee’s sessions which reached the decision to form a country-wide labor-liberal-farmer-progressive movement. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr, Chester Bowles, former Price Administrator; Charles G. Bolte, chairman of the American Veterans Committee; Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, chairman of UDA, and Walter White, president of the Association for the Advancement of Colored People, were among those named to the twenty-five-member organizing committee working under Mr. Henderson and Mr. Wyatt. The statement of Mr. Henderson and Mr. Wyatt said: ‘We have agreed with real humility and earnestness to head the organizing committee for ADA. We do so with the conviction that the great majority of Americans are desperately looking for a fighting liberal movement whose devotion to democracy is unequivocal. We do not expect to reverse the political tide overnight. … We know the fight confronting liberals is long and hard. But the fight has just begun.’ ”

Correspondence made available through the Truman Library includes a letter to President Truman (“my dear Mr. President”) on ADA letterhead, dated July 22, 1948. An excerpt from this letter: “Americans for Democratic Action respectfully urges you to issue an executive order providing for the abolition of segregation and discrimination in the armed forces of the United States. … We recognize that segregation and discrimination in the armed forces cannot be wiped out overnight. But we also recognize that they will never be wiped out unless constructive steps are taken at this very hour when the demand and need for action stand out with unmistakable clarity.

… We must assure the young Negroes conscripted into the armed services that they will receive fair treatment from the nation they are undertaking to defend. In the world battle of ideas, the weaknesses in our own way of life can no longer be afforded. We urge you to lead the way so that the armed forces of the world’s greatest democracy may become in truth the world’s most democratic armed forces. Sincerely yours, Leon Henderson, National Chairman [NOTE: On July 26, 1948, President Truman signed executive order #9981 banning segregation in the Armed Forces.]

One last newspaper account, again from the New York Times: “HENDERSON TO QUIT DEMOCRATIC ACTION, December 13, 1948… Leon Henderson tendered his resignation as chairman of the Americans for Democratic Action, to become effective Jan. 15, at a meeting of its national board yesterday at the Hotel Astor. Mr. Henderson explained that he intended to go to Europe soon and that his absence from the country and the pressure of private business made it impossible for him to continue as chairman. The board appointed a committee to name an acting chairman to serve until the ADA holds a convention in Chicago sometime in April, when a new chairman will be elected. … Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a member of the board of directors called for a concerted effort by the ‘democratic left’ to prevent political vacillation by President Harry S Truman who “will continue to blow hot and cold for the liberal movement.”

For his effective leadership of ADA in its earliest days, we salute Leon Henderson, ADA All Star!

Reinhold Niebuhr

It probably fair to say Reinhold Niebuhr is one of the most distinguished individuals ever connected to ADA. He was an ADA founder 75 years ago. He was also founder of ADA’s predecessor organization, the Union for Democratic Action, in 1941, and served as that entity’s first and only chairperson.

Niebuhr was born in Missouri, the son of a Lutheran pastor. He attended Yale Divinity School and became a pastor himself at the Bethel Evangelical Church of Detroit in 1915. Thirteen years later, in 1928, he accepted a post at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he remained for the remainder of his life, teaching philosophy of religion and applied Christianity.

Most summaries of his life (1892–1971) note that Niebuhr exercised considerable influence in American religious and political thought. There’s undoubtedly a shelf of books by or about Niebuhr in most large public libraries, so I’ll not go into great detail here. I wish to note, however, his connection with three other distinguished Americans, including dear friends of ADA.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote several papers on Niebuhr during his doctoral studies at Boston University, concluding that Niebuhr’s thinking was “the necessary corrective of a kind of liberalism that too easily capitulated to modern culture.” As he gained a national presence, Dr. King drew extensively on Niebuhr’s theology for his nonviolent civil rights leadership. Dr. King inscribed a copy of his 1958 account of the Montgomery bus boycott, “Stride Toward Freedom,” to Niebuhr, praising him as a theologian of “great prophetic vision,” with “unswerving devotion to the ideals of freedom and justice.”

More than three decades after Niebuhr’s death, in 2005, his fellow ADA founder, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., himself an ADA All Star, wrote in the New York Times (edited for clarity and length):

Niebuhr summed up his political argument in a single powerful sentence: “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” (Niebuhr, in the fashion of the day, used “man” not to exculpate women but as shorthand for “human being.”)

This was less a liberal delusion than an expression of an all-American DNA.

The Second World War left America the most powerful nation in the world, and the cold war created a new model of international tension. Niebuhr was never more involved in politics. He helped found Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal organization opposed to the two Joes, Stalin and McCarthy. He was tireless (until strokes slowed him up) in cautioning Americans not to succumb to the self-righteous delusions of innocence and infallibility.

Religion, he warned, could be a source of error as well as wisdom and light. Its role should be to inculcate, not a sense of infallibility, but a sense of humility. Indeed, “the worst corruption is a corrupt religion.” The last lines of “The Irony of American History,” written in 1952, resound more than a half-century later (note: now 70 years later). “If we should perish, the ruthlessness of the foe would be only the secondary cause of the disaster. The primary cause would be that the strength of a giant nation was directed by eyes too blind to see all the hazards of the struggle; and the blindness would be induced not by some accident of nature or history but by hatred and vainglory.”

Third, I wish to include wisdom from E.J. Dionne, who received ADA’s first-ever “James Wechsler Integrity in Journalism” Award in 2021. Here’s Dionne, participating in a forum about Niebuhr in 2009 (edited for clarity and length):

“I want to just talk about the political character of Niebuhr’s thought. I do think in the end he is unmistakably, or if you have the other view, irredeemably, a liberal in the end. I wouldn’t use the word “irredeemably,” but it is something worth talking about because it’s very much a question of how his view of original sin fits in with a liberal worldview.

Niebuhr – and this is probably why I like him – is a “both/and” guy. He’s a “yes, but” guy. His favorite words are “paradox” and “irony.” He is a 1940s liberal and that’s why there is the big debate between liberals and neocons because a lot of neocons say they are 1940s liberals. I think Niebuhr, later in life, suggested that he did not take the same path as some of his neoconservative friends, particularly with his very early support for the civil rights movement – although a lot of them supported the civil rights movement – but also with his strong opposition to the Vietnam War.

One great Niebuhrian quote should hang over all seminars. “We must always seek the truth in our opponents’ error and the error in our own truth.” This is classic Niebuhr.

So, this is my concluding prayer. Niebuhr wrote in The Irony of American History: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”

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Reinhold Niebuhr is truly a classic ADA All Star, one who in 1947 helped facilitate a smooth transition from what had been the Union for Democratic Action to a new organization, Americans for Democratic Action. For this reason and for so many others, we honor him today.

Paul Wellstone

Twenty years ago today, late on Friday morning, October 25, 2002, I was running errands, getting ready for the weekend. My family and I lived in a Minneapolis, Minnesota suburb at the time and the weather had been distinctly autumnal all month. (I checked… it was the third coldest October in the Twin Cities during the modern era and the cloudiest October since solar radiation records began in 1963.)

I stopped to pick up dry cleaning at a small nearby strip mall that no longer exists today; hey, twenty years brings about numerous changes. It was the woman behind the counter at the dry cleaners who asked if I had heard the news. “No, what news.” “The news about the plane… the Wellstone plane. It crashed… Paul and his wife, Sheila, were on it.”

Senator Paul Wellstone was 58 years old at the time. While he was not assured of re-election some eleven days later, he had pulled ahead in recent polling, and it looked like Minnesotans would send Wellstone back to the Senate for a third term. Tragically, we never got the chance.

Today’s All Star, Senator Paul Wellstone, served as ADA President from 1991 to 1993, the early years of his first term. He was the third Minnesotan to assume this leadership position, after Hubert Humphrey and Donald Fraser. As has often been noted, he was on a sharp learning curve at the time. In a previous career phase – that of a community organizer – Wellstone had employed Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, which emphasized tactical creation of conflict. This approach didn’t translate well in the U.S. Senate where, by ignoring tradition and decorum (intentionally or unintentionally), Wellstone rubbed some his colleagues the wrong way during his first months in Washington.

Wellstone adjusted quickly, however. By being prepared, by concentrating on non-trendy issues such as mental health and veterans’ needs, and by emphasizing constituent services, he became popular not only in Minnesota but also among his DC peers. A passionate advocate himself, he inspired a passionate following, both in his home state and among liberals nationwide.

Like previous All Stars Allard Lowenstein and Curtis Gans, Wellstone attended the University of North Carolina, where he studied political science, engaged in civil rights organizing, and was on the wrestling team. When UNC denied his admission to a Ph.D. program, he objected and demanded reconsideration. The university gave in. In 1969, Wellstone began teaching at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Several years later, the College asked him to look for work elsewhere. Wellstone again objected, as did his students. Rather than losing his post, he was granted tenure a year ahead of schedule.

In his second Senate term Wellstone voted against the Iraq War resolution, made a well-publicized “poverty tour” of the country, and launched a brief campaign for president in the 2000 election cycle. In withdrawing from the presidential race, he cited health reasons, chronic back pain and mild multiple sclerosis…  and perhaps was also influenced by the long odds he faced. As a senator, Wellstone was a reliable, unabashed liberal. His ADA voting record was 98.3, which Don Kusler, ADA National Director, noted, “is among the highest ever.”

Among Wellstone’s familiar quotes, one I’ve heard repeated by my ADA colleagues is, “We all do better when we all do better,” a reminder to us all to focus on the importance of helping people. On the ten-year anniversary of Wellstone’s death, Al Franken, then Senator from Minnesota, discussed this same concept:

“When today’s progressives remember Paul, they tend to focus on his sheer political courage. It’s true that Paul’s conscience led him to take bold, and sometimes lonely, stands. But that wasn’t the only thing today’s progressives can learn from his example. One of Paul’s quotes is this: ‘Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.’  

The big fights – war and peace, justice and liberty – are important. But there aren’t any small fights. And where Paul made the biggest impact, where his work resulted in the greatest improvement of people’s lives, was on issues that don’t usually lead anyone’s stump speech: mental health, domestic violence, homelessness among veterans.”

“We all do better when we all do better.” “Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.” A Wellstone yard sign posted by our mailbox in October, 2002, stayed up through January of 2003, when I finally moved it into the garage. And every election cycle since, driving through our old neighborhood, you can still find a few of these battered signs on display, although ours finally got thrown out when we moved.

Why these signs? I recently happened upon a reasonable explanation, which extends beyond mere sentiment. “Those green ‘Wellstone!’ signs aren’t political. They’re a bat signal — a beacon. They seem to say, ‘Will someone please come fight for us?’” Today, two decades after his death, this is among the many things Paul Wellstone is remembered for: fighting for us.

This alone makes him a notable and worthy ADA All Star.

Woody Ginsburg

People who have been around ADA for a while were all of one mind: Woody Ginsburg is definitely an ADA All Star. My involvement with ADA did not overlap with Woodrow (Woody) Ginsburg’s, but it’s easy to conclude that these long-tenured people are absolutely right.

According to his obituary, which appeared in the Washington Post, 2011… “Woodrow Ginsburg, 93, an economist and former union employee who helped start the Center for Community Change*, a nonprofit public policy organization that seeks to improve living standards for low-income Americans, died at a hospice in Baltimore. Mr. Ginsburg was a research director for the United Rubber Workers, the United Auto Workers and the AFL-CIO before he helped create the Washington-based Center for Community Change in 1968. He became chief economist of the organization.

After retiring in 1991, he volunteered as chairman of the economic policy committee of Americans for Democratic Action, a prominent liberal advocacy organization. He also taught at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, a Silver Spring institution named after the labor leader and now known as the National Labor College.”

This tells us a bit about Ginsburg’s professional life. As for his personal life, Woody Ginsburg was a native of Newark, New Jersey, and an economics graduate of Rutgers University in 1940. A heart murmur meant he could not be a World War II soldier, but he spent the war years working for the National War Labor Board. For much of his life, he lived in Alexandria, Virginia and volunteered for the Democratic Party in Northern Virginia. He was also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Sierra Club.

I’m afraid this still doesn’t tell us very much about the person. For this kind of information, I turned to remarks delivered by Amy Isaacs, former ADA National Director, currently ADA Board member, at Woody Ginsburg’s memorial service, slightly more than a decade ago (lightly edited for length).

Although I feel privileged to be here today speaking about Woody Ginsburg…  I would prefer speaking to him to speaking about him because this means we have lost a real treasure. Certainly, I knew how old Woody was but, to me, he was never that old because his was such a vibrant presence.

When I returned to Americans for Democratic Action as national director almost 22 years ago, I was pleased by a cadre of retired volunteers who added immensely to our skills and our capability. First there was Leon Shull (also an ADA All Star) and he brought with him Woody. After watching the two of them and benefiting from their wisdom I often said that, if there was anyone else who wanted to give us a lifetime’s worth of experience and expertise for free, I would find him or her a desk.

Woody’s tenure with us was of immense value both personally and professionally. He was many things to us: friend, mentor, staff economist, chair of our economic committee, national board and executive committee member, fund raiser, miracle worker and above all devoted member of ADA. 

As a friend, I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. He was gentle in giving advice and was always ready to provide support no matter how difficult the situation. I often benefited from his advice and, when he didn’t know the answer to the question, he (and others) would scour the internet looking for the correct response. He was quick to offer direction and often pointed out aspects of current events that never would have occurred to me.

As our economist and chair of our economic policy committee, Woody came up with the misery index and the real rate of unemployment – both of which today are part of the common lexicon of reporters. I swell with pride every time the unemployment numbers come out and reporters dig deeper to understand the true picture of those numbers. That is part of Woody’s vast legacy, and we are all in his debt for it.

Woody was not only an economist in the academic sense. He understood how the numbers impacted the ordinary working American and he was devoted to working to make all our lives better. He never lost sight of individuals, their rights as workers, and their needs. He also understood organization economics. He knew that, if ADA were to survive as a strong vibrant organization, we needed the funds to back up our work. On a number of occasions, he brought me together with Pablo Eisenberg to learn fund raising tips from a master and I shall be eternally grateful to both of them. And, he didn’t shirk what he viewed as his own responsibility. He almost always carried a blank check with him and, before he filled it out, he always asked which of ADA’s needs was the greatest at the moment. 

… Most of all, Woody was a miracle worker. I know of no one else who could prep me for an interview and make me sound as if I actually understood economics. Sometimes, thanks to Woody, I actually did. As my professors in college would have told you, that really was a miracle. Thank you, Woody.

Thank you, Woody… and thank you, Amy. Now you know why all these smart people agree that Woody Ginsburg is an exemplary ADA All Star!

Hal Rosenthal and Bob Weinberg

This is a combination All Star Moment AND recognition of two stellar ADA All Stars who have served Americans for Democratic Action with noteworthy faithfulness and fidelity. These gentlemen, both attorneys, are longstanding ADA members; their tenure includes current service on the ADA national board.

But first, context… three-plus months after ADA was formed, the late Queen Elizabeth made her most famous broadcast, marking her 21st birthday. In April, 1947, the King, the Queen and the two princesses undertook a tour of Southern Africa. According to news accounts, the King and his heir presumptive, realizing something should be done to mark Princess Elizabeth’s coming of age, struck upon an idea: she would make a broadcast speech to the Commonwealth.

As a result, the woman who would soon become Queen spoke from still segregated Cape Town, pledging lifetime service in a speech broadcast via radio throughout the Commonwealth.

This is a happy day for me; but it is also one that brings serious thoughts, thoughts of life looming ahead with all its challenges and with all its opportunity. … There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors – a noble motto, “I serve”. … I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple. I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

I don’t know if Hal Rosenthal or Bob Weinberg have memories of this Cape Town speech. They were young men at the time and were probably focused on other matters. But their affiliation with ADA, which started shortly after the organization’s founding, indicates the kind of lifelong commitment that Princess Elizabeth pledged.

Hal Rosenthal, from Philadelphia, site of the 1948 Democratic National Convention, was an alternate delegate to that remarkable gathering. A newspaper account from several years ago captures Rosenthal’s convention experience. Quoting from that story, thanks to the “Philadelphia Sun”:

“I was 17 years old, tried to sneak into the convention, and failed. So, I went to a local bar to watch the small, round, black and white TV set”. Noticing that Rosenthal wasn’t drinking, a woman approached him and asked him what he was doing there. He explained that he was trying to get into the DNC. “She said “I’ll lend you my credentials. So, there I was, having never ventured past the Schuylkill River, now an alternate delegate from Minnesota.” Rosenthal recalled.

He remembers Mayor Humphrey’s powerful civil rights themed speech as if it were yesterday. (Humphrey, an ADA founder, and was elected US Senator later that year.) Through his words, a page was turned in the annals of American history. It inspired Rosenthal to become an activist, not only for civil rights but for justice, an end to war and many other causes from that day forward.

Rosenthal never saw the woman who lent him the credentials again. Although he tried to contact her afterward to return them, he was unable to do so. He still has the credentials to this day – a tacit reminder of a historic event in which the arc of the moral universe, ever so slightly, began its never-ending bend toward American justice.”

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At my first ADA meeting, now a decade-plus ago, I met Bob Weinberg. In the course of our conversation, I asked Bob how long he’d been an ADA member. He promptly took a dog-eared ADA membership card out of his billfold; only my fuzzy memory keeps me from recalling if it was from the late 1940s or the early 1950s.

Weinberg ran for Congress twice, in 1988 and again eight years later, in 1996, both times challenging a rather undistinguished Republican incumbent. A Washington Post article, entitled “Challengers Play the Gingrich Card” talks about the second Weinberg campaign:

It’s often the first name off the tongue of a Democrat running for Congress in the Washington area, and most likely the last name Republican incumbents want to hear in a long, hot summer of campaigning: Newt Gingrich. In speeches and door-to-door stumping, challengers in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs are using the House speaker’s name almost interchangeably with the names of their Republican opponents, in hopes that Gingrich’s low national popularity ratings will rub off on his fellow partisans.

The idea is to punish GOP incumbents for the two partial government shutdowns last winter caused by the budget stalemate between Congress and the White House. Democrats are betting that the tactic will be particularly effective in the Washington area because it is home to about 360,000 federal employees, 70 percent of whom were sent home during either of last winter’s furloughs.

Robert Weinberg, the Democrat challenging eight-term Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) in Virginia’s 10th District, appeared loath to mention the name of his opponent even once during a 15-minute phone interview, although barely a sentence crossed his lips without a reference to Gingrich. “Northern Virginia can no longer afford the Republican incumbents. They can no longer afford Newt Gingrich,” he said.

Of course, Bob was right, although he did not win that race. Suffice to say, ADA has benefited greatly from the engagement of Hal Rosenthal and Bob Weinberg. They have done what the late Queen once vowed: led lives devoted to service. For faithful service to Americans for Democratic Action, Hal and Bob join the ranks of other distinguished ADA All Stars in this, our anniversary year. Heartfelt thanks to you both!

George McGovern

Today’s All Star is former ADA President, former Democratic presidential nominee, George McGovern from South Dakota. Many elements of Senator McGovern’s career are well known, at least by those most likely to read this tribute. Rather than touching on McGovern highlights, I’m sharing my written responses to questions sent me by a blogger friend, now living in New York, reacting to Democrats in my home state (Iowa) losing first-in-the-nation status in the presidential nominating process. (“A Republic if We Can Keep It,” The Saturday Evening Newsletter, Vol. VII, lightly edited.)

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My first question leads from a prior thesis, which is Iowa as a historical precursor state to later trends. Whether historical accident or not, this is what I believe both parties were after and had settled on when Iowa became the first state in the primary calendar in the 1970s.

As much as anything, Iowa’s first status was at least partially accidental. A bit of history here: State party conventions have typically been scheduled for mid-June. District conventions were some six weeks before; county conventions six weeks before that, and caucuses six weeks before the county convention. Suddenly, you’re in the dead of winter… January or February. First-in-the-nation status – as it started out, primarily people meeting in living rooms, grange halls, and dorm lounges – was not designed for or perceived as a political launching pad, nor was it seen as a significant benefit to the host state, Iowa.

George McGovern, eventually succeeded by former Minnesota congressman/Minneapolis mayor Don Fraser, (both now ADA All Stars!) headed a commission designed to “open up” the Democratic Party’s nominating process after the Chicago debacle of ’68. As McGovern joked, “we opened the doors of the party and people walked OUT!” Despite his failings as a presidential candidate, McGovern understood the process… since he helped create it. And candidate McGovern did “surprisingly well” at least versus expectations in the ’72 Iowa caucuses. It probably didn’t hurt that he was from a neighboring state and that he’d recruited many of Gene McCarthy’s foot soldiers and sympathizers from ’68.

Iowa quickly became a beta site for campaign organizing, something boosted by Jimmy Carter’s success in ‘76. Since people are required to attend a public discussion (caucus), and openly declare their favorite candidate (who must receive support from 15% or more of those attending), a robust organization and higher sense of commitment is called for than for a primary. Hard-core activists, including issue-motivated people, are likely to show up with or without prompting. For this issues group, persuading them about the virtues of your candidate is generally the challenge. A second target is people who favor a particular candidate but need persuasion that it’s worth showing up on a cold winter evening.

Organization and commitment have usually been keys to success in Iowa. Bear in mind, caucuses have been conducted on a small, manageable scale, often with outsized implications. (For example, the caucus winner may draw in fewer votes than a competitive congressional race in the state, especially if there are multiple competitive candidates. Prior to the 2020 caucuses, numerous analysts noted that the winner might only receive the support of 40,000 to 50,000 caucus-goers statewide.)

And, given first-in-the-nation status, candidates have the luxury of time… time for a campaign to play out, time to travel the state, time to meet personally with likely caucus attendees. Iowa’s lead-off status means candidate impressions have not yet been established by what happened last week or by media narratives or expectations. Campaigns and candidates are making fresh tracks on new-fallen snow.

Iowa became a precursor in the same way a focus group can tease out qualities, characteristics, and positions that will resonate with voters. The lift provided by a successful campaign is then magnified by media impressions… like “a winner”, “a surprisingly strong finish,” or “exceeding expectations”. To the extent that Iowans are “typical Americans,” (a debatable premise) candidates learn what positions most resonate with actual voters. Crowded candidate fields are sorted out quickly… in many cases, even BEFORE the caucuses are held, when flagging campaigns realize that an early withdrawal may be preferable to total embarrassment on caucus night.

Perhaps the best analogy of Iowa’s traditional role is that of “taking your theatrical production on the road” with fond hopes and at least investors thinking about a potential Broadway smash… but knowing there are smaller, yet still discriminating audiences in Connecticut and Pennsylvania who will happily attend a “sneak preview” and respond… and, by their feedback, help “work the bugs out.”

Some candidacies/campaigns need relatively little tinkering. Personalities and messages that resonate in Iowa are likely to find a receptive audience in other states as well. In this way, Iowa has been a precursor of things to come. Trends that are but a trickle in Iowa can and often do become a strong current within a month or two. Barack Obama is a sterling example. Iowans are a test case, a “live audience,” a statewide focus group that can and has benefited candidates and, at the same time, most would say the national spotlight has also benefited Iowans.

*        *        *

It’s fair to say that without the efforts of two former ADA Presidents, McGovern and Fraser, the Iowa caucuses would have never been what they ultimately became. This was NOT a direct result of ADA, although ADA members were certainly essential to reforms that gave rise to Iowa’s (essential?… vital?… certainly, now former) role in the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process.

For this reason – and for countless others, as well – Senator George McGovern is a remarkably worthy ADA All Star. Thank you for your leadership, Senator. Long may reform inclinations carry the day!

Thomas Amlie

Today’s ADA All Star is someone I dare say you’ve never heard of, an obscure Wisconsin congressman named Thomas Amlie. This designation requires a look back through history. Read on.

ADA’s predecessor organization, the Union for Democratic Action, was founded by Reinhold Niebuhr, James Loeb, and others in the spring of 1941. The organization was expressly pro-union and barred both political conservatives and communists from joining. Niebuhr served as the organization’s only chairperson and Loeb was its executive director. As a start-up, the new organization had certain strengths. Key members held important posts in the Roosevelt administration and as a result, they, as well as UDA, were quoted often in the press. However, UDA lacked financial resources; within a few years, it had only one active chapter and maybe 5,000 members. Despite minimal funds, UDA leaders knew how to make things happen. Among its political tactics: “It pioneered the use of the voting records of members of Congress as a means of swaying public opinion for or against its favored candidates.”

Hold on. I thought this was one of ADA’s claims to fame! It’s on our website: “Using its Congressional Vote Ranking – the first-ever such ranking, and still the gold standard in rating progressive candidates – ADA leverages influence and support in strategic coalitions with other progressive groups and donors.”

Today’s focus on All-Star Amlie attempts to clarify the creation of this ranking tool. It’s evident it was not ADA (much as it pains me to say it) but rather ADA’s predecessor, the Union for Democratic Action. The “pioneered” reference above cites “Niebuhr and His Age,” by Charles C. Brown, 1992. Quoting, “A precursor of Americans for Democratic Action, UDA pioneered in assessing the voting records of members of Congress and rating them in charts published in “The New Republic”.

This prompted googling “UDA / voting record / New Republic”. The most insightful result was “More Than a Score: Interest Group Ratings and Polarized Politics,” by Emily J. Charnock, published online by Cambridge University Press, 2018. I quote from Charnock’s perceptive article (edited for brevity).

“The story of modern index scores begins not with the ADA, but with its organizational predecessor, the “Union for Democratic Action” (UDA), founded in the spring of 1941. And it owes much to the influence of one man – former Wisconsin congressman Thomas R. Amlie. … Amlie was defeated for re-election in 1938 before landing at UDA in early 1942, hired to head up UDA’s newly-opened Washington, D.C. office.”

In 1942, UDA took its message into the congressional midterms, seeking the election or reelection of lawmakers committed to their vision of domestic and international liberalism. Under Amlie’s tutelage, they turned to roll-call analysis as an electoral weapon. Through much of the 1930s, Amlie had toured the country as a spokesman for liberal causes and learned about appearance and reality in politics. Even in crowds sympathetic to his ideas, he would find enthusiasm for local congressmen he considered “reactionary.” Constituents lacked any real sense of their representative’s record, Amlie concluded.

Roll-call data could help to correct their false impressions and aid in the election or reelection of candidates more sympathetic to liberal goals. UDA put Amlie’s insight to use in the service of their wartime aims – to defeat “obstructionists” who had opposed American entry into WWII. To fund the venture, they partnered with The New Republic, the flagship journal of mainstream American liberalism. Together, they published a supplement to the magazine, entitled “A Congress to Win the War.” It would identify the worst “obstructionists” in Congress through roll-call votes and urge their defeat.

“A Congress to Win the War” appeared in May 1942 – five months after the US declaration of war. An accompanying article explained key issues in the election and offered analysis of the voting record. So great were the stakes in wartime that Americans “cannot trust in public office any man whose record indicates that he lacks either the intelligence or the moral courage to wage this fight relentlessly to a successful conclusion.” The article (used) patriotic terms, casting the Administration as the upholder of “freedom” and “democracy” in a “war for liberty,” against the forces of “obstruction” and “reaction” in Congress. 

The UDA’s record… was published by a national magazine – ultimately selling 300,000 copies – expanding the audience beyond political professionals to educated elites. UDA leaders pursued a strategy of elite influence, distributing supplement to “politically conscious” opinion-leaders across the country. “This supplement is not intended for mass distribution,” Amlie confirmed to then-Congressman Lyndon Johnson in the summer of 1942. But it could be utilized in campaigns through a targeted strategy. “Each Dem. Candidate ought to get the names of all people listed in the telephone Directories in his District who can read and understand material as difficult as this,” Amlie advised… send them the supplement, and encourage them to spread word of the obstructionists’ failings.

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Representative Thomas Amlie served only a few years in Congress, but the tool he devised is still at work today. ADA’s “Liberal Quotient,” ADA’s “Heroes & Zeroes,” ADA’s “Voting Record” and the ADA “Scorecard,” all describe current ways to assess what Congress is doing. ADA’s predecessor organization, the Union for Democratic Action, merits full honors here, and specifically Congressman Amlie, for his distinctive contributions. The Congressman, who died in 1973, is clearly worthy of All Star status.

I close with one last note, drawing again on Dr. Charnock’s incisive work, here describing UDA’s early use of congressional voting records. “In some ways, UDA’s record was less reserved and more accessible than that of prior scorecards, such as LNPL’s (Labor’s Non-Partisan League) in 1938.” WHAT? Do you mean to tell me there was something even earlier?!? (More work here is required. Stay tuned…)

Moment: ADA’s Launch

It’s time for another All Star Moment, this one about ADA’s formal launch, now 76 years ago.

[Initially, we envisioned a series highlighting 75 great people / great moments from ADA’s first 75 years, which began in early January, 2022. However, the press of busy schedules, an intervening focus on last fall’s election, and our desire to space out these “capsule tributes” so they might be savored separately and individually, intertwined to extend our anniversary season into 2023. I trust you don’t mind our desire to extend this celebration a bit longer. –KM]

A previous All Star Moment drew extensively on a newspaper account from the Washington “Evening Star,” January 4, 1947, entitled “Liberals Look Ahead for Gains under Democratic Action”. The article referred to “a closed session at the Willard Hotel” taking place that very day, while focusing on a fund-raising banquet hosted by ADA’s predecessor organization, the Union for Democratic Action, where “liberals of various political faiths” gathered to plot their future course.

Today’s story, which appeared on page 5 of the New York Times, Sunday, January 5, 1947, reports on what transpired in that closed-door session. Apparently, a “Special to the Times” reporter was either in the room or was thoroughly debriefed by someone who was. Perhaps both? (This Times article was lengthy; a second installment is called for, listing participants’ names and affiliations. The following story has been lightly edited.)

[Headline] “130 Liberals Form a Group on Right”

[Subheads (3)] –“Opposition to Communism is a Major Tenet of Americans for Democratic Action”

–“Roosevelt Men Included”

–“Program Calls for Expansion of New-Deal Efforts and Aid for United Nations”

(Special to the New York Times)

Dateline, Washington – A group of 130 men and women committed to the propagation of liberal ideals and rejecting collaboration with Communists and their sympathizers established today a new organization called Americans for Democratic Action. The historic significance of their decision was the cleavage which it creates in the American liberal movement. A week ago in New York another group formed the Progressive Citizens of America. The primary issue between the two is the attitude toward individuals who hew to the Communist party line in the United States.

Today’s meeting was an invitation affair sponsored by the Union for Democratic Action, an organization formed nearly five years ago. The UDA nominally remains in existence, but it is expected that it will be dissolved as the new and expanded body overcomes the problems of organizational machinery. An organizing committee of twenty-five was appointed to carry on the program begun by the conference.

First Goals Outlined  The immediate objective, it was agreed, was a reconstruction of the liberal movement, free of totalitarian influence from either the Left or Right. The conferees agreed that no formal manifesto resolving all the problems of the nation and the world could be drafted at a one-day meeting, but reported complete harmony on these basic principles:

  1. The New Deal program must be expanded to insure decent levels of health, nutrition, shelter, and education.
  2. Civil liberties must be protected from concentrated wealth and overcentralized government. They must be extended to all Americans regardless of race, color, creed or sex.
  3. Any sound foreign policy requires a healthy and prosperous domestic economy.
  4. The United States must continue to give full support to the United Nations. The conference endorses the American plan for international control of atomic energy.
  5. Because the interests of the United States are the interests of free men everywhere, America must furnish political and economic support to democratic and freedom-loving peoples the world over.
  6. Within the general framework of present American foreign policy, steps must be taken to raise standards of living and support civil and political freedoms everywhere. These policies are in the great democratic tradition of Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. We reject any association with Fascist or their sympathizers. Both are hostile to the principles of freedom and democracy on which this Republic has grown great.

Henderson is a Backer The choice of a chairman or president was believed to lie between Leon Henderson, former OPA Administrator, and Wilson W. Wyatt, former Housing Expediter. It was Mr. Henderson who formally moved to establish the new organization. The organizing committee of which both are members was to select a chairman and other officers in week-end meetings and to draft a proposed program of action.

Although the organization has third-party possibilities eventually, sentiment for that course now was not significant. Mrs. Roosevelt was reported to have indicated in a speech that the preferable course now was to attempt to work within the Democratic party and to help shape that party’s program. Pending a decision on financing, she called for subscriptions and promptly raised $5,000 in addition to $4,300 which was contributed at a dinner last night. … Mrs. Roosevelt also emphasized that the policy of the organization should not be merely negative but should seek affirmatively to promote the welfare of this country and of democratic nations throughout the world.

*          *          *

While there are many interesting aspects to this article, among the most intriguing is the headline, which positions ADA “on the right,” presumably to the right of Progressive Citizens of America. (More about this positioning in a future All Star profile.) Second point, read through those six basic principles again. I invite you to consider, if ADA were to be launched today, how might these be altered? And, a third observation: among her many other talents, Eleanor Roosevelt was certainly an effective fundraiser; $5,000 in 1947 in purchasing power is equivalent to $66,500 today… a rather effective pitch, I’d say!

Eugenie Anderson

Today’s ADA All Star, Eugenie Moore Anderson, is from Minnesota, the same state that produced All Stars Hubert Humphrey, Don & Arvonne Fraser, and Paul Wellstone. It’s likely that many readers are not familiar with Mrs. Anderson and her accomplishments, all the more reason to shine the ADA light on her contributions to the organization and to the country.

Like many female All Stars, Anderson was a trailblazer. Probably her greatest claim to fame: she was our country’s first woman ambassador, in Anderson’s case, to Denmark, named by President Truman in 1949. (There had been three previous female “chiefs of mission” serving at the lower rank of minister.) As Ambassador, Anderson won the respect of Danish people by learning their language, making radio addresses, and riding a bike, just like ordinary Danes did, even 70+ years ago.

Ambassador Anderson resigned her post in 1953 and moved home to Redwing, Minnesota. In 1958, she ran for her party’s U.S. senate nomination (she was defeated by Congressman Eugene McCarthy). When President Kennedy appointed her minister to Bulgaria, she became the first U.S. woman diplomat to serve behind the Iron Curtain. In 1965, President Johnson appointed her to represent the U.S. on the United Nations Trusteeship Council. She also served on the U.N. Security Council, the first woman to do so.

So, how was Eugenie Anderson involved with the ADA? This requires telling a bit about Anderson’s earlier years. Born in Iowa, one of five children in the household of a Methodist pastor, she studied music at Simpson College (Iowa) and Carleton College (Minnesota), where she met John Pierce Anderson, son of the inventor of puffed cereal. The couple married in 1930.

In the spring of 1937, at the age of 27, Anderson was deeply concerned about war clouds gathering in Europe. Wanting to see the situation for herself, she traveled to Germany, where she encountered a procession of uniformed, goose-stepping five-year-old boys. “I was sickened… and frightened when I saw those little tykes being prepared for war,” she said.

Resolving to become much better informed, in 1938, Anderson joined the League of Women Voters, her first step toward political involvement. There she heard about the emerging United Nations and became an enthusiastic advocate. In 1944, her international beliefs led her into partisan politics. Fearing that her isolationist Republican congressman jeopardized her children’s future, she sought advice from a young Democrat she had heard on the radio: Hubert Humphrey.

Humphrey urged Anderson get involved, to begin at the community level… recruit her friends, build support, and seek election to party office. Shortly thereafter, she was elected Goodhue County Democratic chair. After Minnesota Democrats merged with the Farmer-Labor Party, she was chosen as district chair, managing a congressional campaign for the DFL candidate — who was soundly defeated.

As district chair, however, she built connections with other activists: Humphrey, elected mayor of Minneapolis in 1945; Evron Kirkpatrick, professor at the University of Minnesota, probably better known as husband of Jeane Kirkpatrick; Arthur Naftalin, Minneapolis mayor in the 1960s; and Orville Freeman, Minnesota Governor in the late 1950s and Secretary of Agriculture in the 1960s.

In 1946, the DFL split into two factions, with the Communist-influenced, pro-Soviet wing gaining party control from the liberals. Anderson and Humphrey had advocated an unabashed anti-Communist liberalism. Their rebound strategy was to “outstay, out-organize, and out-idea” their opponents.

Here’s where others can best tell the story. According to a document published by the Minnesota Historical Society (lightly edited), “She and her colleagues needed to regroup outside the party, so in early 1947 they launched a state chapter of Americans for Democratic Action, the new national organization of anti-Communist liberals. … ADA liberals prevailed in 1948; the vanquished party wing abandoned the DFL for Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party. Firmly in control, the ADA wing chose Freeman as DFL state chairman, Anderson as national committeewoman, and Humphrey as candidate for the U.S. Senate.

In July 1948, Humphrey led the Minnesota delegation, including Anderson, to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. He considered cosponsoring a strong ADA civil rights plank but knew President Truman opposed it. Then, Eugenie Anderson suggested adding a brief line praising the President for his ‘courageous stand on the issue of civil rights’ — a stand Truman had not taken at the convention. (He had previously, but in Philadelphia supported only a cursory statement and rejected the ‘crackpot’ ADA plank.)

Anderson’s rhetorical finesse allowed Humphrey to promote civil rights without appearing to oppose the President. Humphrey moved forward and his speech electrified the delegates. The Democratic Party became the champion of racial equality, Humphrey became known nationally, and Eugenie Anderson, the sole woman in the liberals’ smoke-filled room, had made a major contribution.”

*          *          *

In closing, an excerpt from Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” column from December, 1949: “Last Thursday I attended a luncheon given by the Americans for Democratic Action in honor of Mrs. Eugenie Anderson, our first full-fledged woman Ambassador from the United States. Mrs. Anderson made a very graceful speech in which she explained her great interest in Americans for Democratic Action and told of her activities, through that organization, to bring about better government. She felt that her appointment was really a recognition of the value of women’s work politically, and she hoped it would emphasize the obligation of all women to work for good government and to take political posts when they were able to do so. …  The bonds of friendship (between the U.S. & Denmark will) grow if she remains her warm and simple self. Isn’t that good advice for any American foreign service official?”

If Eleanor were still with us, I’m quite certain she’d agree: Eugenie Anderson was a remarkable diplomat and a true ADA All Star!

Moment: ADA’s Launch Part 2

Another All Star Moment from ADA’s launch 76 years ago. This story, the second of two drawn from a New York Times story, January 5, 1947, reports on what transpired the previous day, at the invitation-only ADA founding meeting.

Dateline, Washington – A group of 130 men and women committed to the propagation of liberal ideals and rejecting collaboration with Communists and their sympathizers established today a new organization called Americans for Democratic Action. The historic significance of their decision was the cleavage which it creates in the American liberal movement. A week ago in New York another group formed the Progressive Citizens of America (see below). The primary issue between the two is the attitude toward individuals who hew to the Communist party line in the United States.

Conference participants included many associated with the administration of the late President Roosevelt, including his widow and his son, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. There also were leaders from unions in the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization and from independent labor groups. … Walter P. Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers, CIO, said two difficulties would confront the organization. One was that some persons would be afraid to be called “Red-baiters.” The other was a belief that the organization would accept anyone merely because he was anti-Communist. He said both ideas should be rejected.

While the CIO was a participant through personal representatives of President Philip Murray, the question of the CIO’s position in the divided liberal movement was not clearly resolved. The PCA last week named Mr. Murray one of its vice chairmen, although he was not personally present.

Conferees named to the organizing committee were as follows (listed alphabetically):

–Charles G. Bolte, New York City, chairman, American Veterans Committee

–Elmer Davis, Washington

–George Edwards, Detroit, president, Detroit Common Council

–Ethel S. Epstein, New York City

–*Leon Henderson, Washington

–*Hubert Humphrey, Mayor of Minneapolis

–Mrs. Clyde Johnson, Cincinnati

–*Reinhold Niebuhr, New York City

–Edward Prichard, Jr., Paris, KY

–Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., New York City

–Frank W. McCulloch, Chicago

–Mrs. Gifford Pinchot, Washington

–Bishop William Scarlett, St. Louis

–Walter White, New York City, president, Association for Advancement of Colored People

–*Wilson W. Wyatt, Louisville, KY

–Harvey Brown, president, International Association of Machinists, independent

–*David Dubinsky, president, International Ladies Garment Workers, AFL

–Hugo Ernst, Cincinnati, president, Hotel and Restaurant Workers, AFL

–B.F. McLaurin, international representative, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, AFL

–James Killen, vice president, International Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite & Paper Workers 

–John Green, Camden, NJ, president, Shipbuilding Workers, CIO

–*Walter P. Reuther, president, United Automobile Workers, CIO

–Willard Townsend, president, United Transport Services, CIO

–Samuel Wolchok, president, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers, CIO

–*James Loeb, Jr., Washington, secretary

Note: those with a * have been previously profiled as All-Stars

*          *          *

Note the strong presence of Organized Labor. This article (helpfully!) also listed the 130 men and women who were truly founders of ADA, names that will be noted in a future All Star Moment. Asterisks beside names above designate those who have already been named ADA All Stars.

It’s worth mentioning the “cleavage” among liberals noted in the opening paragraph of the Times story. The Progressive Citizens of America (PCA) was a political organization created one week before ADA, in late December, 1946. It advocated progressive policies, working with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and – at least, allegedly – with the Communist Party USA. Former US Vice President Henry Wallace and former New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia spoke at PCA’s founding convention.

PCA grew quickly from the start. Within six months, it had approximately 25,000 members and chapters in 19 states. Fifteen chapters had paid staff. (By January, 1948, PCA claimed to have grown this number to 100,000 members.) In the summer of 1947, PCA decided to make Wallace its candidate for US president. But in June, 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee held its first hearing about PCA and, in October, 1947, Eleanor Roosevelt attacked PCA in her “My Day” column:

“It is a strange thing that groups of our own citizens, supposedly liberals, and the new (old) Information Bureau of the Communist Parties of Europe, which we ordinarily allude to as the Comintern, are condemning with one voice the Marshall proposals! … (T)he Progressive Citizens of America follow so closely the arguments put out by the Comintern (that they) do themselves harm, for they offer nothing constructive and this increases in many less radical but liberal groups the sense of suspicion and uncertainty regarding the influences under which they operate.”

Ultimately, PCA’s demise came quickly. As one overview of the start-up noted, “The organization was dissolved in 1948.” Precise reasons behind the dissolution are somewhat unclear and not the focus of this All Star Moment. Undoubtedly it was a blend of issues, perhaps bolstered by a sense that the country needed only ONE national liberal / progressive entity, the one now marking its 76th year.