Birthplace: Winsted, CT
Race or Ethnicity: Middle Eastern
Sexual orientation: Asexual
Party Affiliation: Independent
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Unsafe at Any Speed
Before Nader's 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, car dashboards were usually made of metal. Seat belts were available only at exotic auto parts stores, where they were expensive and customers had to bolt them to the car's floorboards. Even at low speeds, a car wreck could propel passengers into the metal dashboard or snap the driver's neck on the metal steering wheel. At mid-speed wrecks (say, 20 miles an hour), passengers could be thrown into the windshield, which was made of "safety glass" that could chisel a passenger's face and body. Car doors were not attached to the car's body firmly enough to withstand collision forces, and would often pop open or off in an accident, which would instantly make the car's frame (and the passengers inside) much more likely to be crumpled by the crash.
Nader's book focused mostly on the Chevrolet Corvair, but many of the problems detailed were applicable in every auto showroom and highway smash-up. The response to Unsafe at Any Speed led Congress to pass the Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966. And since then, everything that adds the word "safety" to the word "automotive" -- seat belts, air bags, even the idea of manufacturers' recalls, or requiring crash tests -- can be traced to that act of Congress, and to Nader's book.
His parents were Lebanese immigrants who ran a restaurant. It's said that Nader had no toys as a child, because his mother thought toys were "a waste of time". In grade school, Nader had few friends, but one of them, David Halberstam, became a noted author, and won a Pulitzer Prize. At Princeton, Nader was a straight-A student who, in his spare time, organized an anti-DDT activist group. Once, leaving the Princeton campus for summer break in his 1949 Studebaker, Nader slammed on the brakes just in time to avoid the jaywalking Albert Einstein. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in politics, writing a thesis on Lebanese Agriculture. Afterward he attended Harvard Law School and graduated with distinction.
Nader worked as a lawyer for several years while researching Unsafe at Any Speed. After that book made him famous he formed Public Citizen, a non-profit activist group dedicated to consumer protection. Its members became known as "Nader's Raiders". Nader also started the U.S. Public Interest Group (PIRG), an umbrella group of state PIRGs fighting corporations and politicians over issues from prescription drug costs to polluted waterways to the economic lunacy of building tax-funded ballparks for billionaire sports team owners. Nader also founded the Center for Study of Responsive Law, Center for Auto Safety, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility, and the Clean Water Action Project. Without the work of Nader, his followers, and the groups he's organized, there would probably be no Safe Drinking Water Act, no Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), no Environment Protection Agency (EPA), no Consumer Product Safety Administration, and no Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1974.
In 1996, Nader ran for President as a Green, mostly scolding Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican Bob Dole over environmental issues. He was able to get on the ballot in 22 states. In 2000, Nader ran for President again, this time using the Green Party to get on the ballot in 44 states. He received prominent support from liberal stalwarts like Michael Moore, Phil Donahue, Eddie Vedder, and Patti Smith. Nader said he didn't trust Al Gore: "Gore changes his clothes three times a day, and he has absolutely no idea who he is." And he denounced George W. Bush as "a giant corporation disguised as a human being." Nader got about 3% of the vote nationwide, while Gore got 48.4% and Bush got 47.9%. In Florida, where Gore and Bush finished in a dead heat, Nader received 97,000 votes.
His detractors called Nader an egomaniac, arguing that his candidacy handed Bush the Presidency. Others, including Nader, say he is entitled to run for public office like any other citizen, and that Americans deserve more than two choices -- and better choices than the two they get.
As a result of his perpetual candidacy for President, Nader is now despised by many left-wingers who might otherwise be his natural allies, and applauded by right-wingers who donate to his campaign after they've given the Republicans the maximum amount allowed by law. It's a backwards world. In 2004 and 2008, Nader ran for President again without the support of the Green Party, making few ripples and earning few votes. As Barack Obama passed the electoral threshold on election night 2008, Nader, appearing live on Fox News, wondered aloud whether Obama would be "Uncle Sam for the people of his country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations."
Father: Nathra Nader (restaurateur, d. 1991)
Mother: Rose Bouziane Nader (b. 7-Feb-1907, d. 20-Jan-2006, heart failure)
Sister: Claire Nader (PhD, chair, Council for Responsible Genetics)
Sister: Laura Nader (PhD, Professor of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley)
Brother: Shafeek Nader (founder, Northwestern Connecticut Community College; d. 1986)
University: AB Politics, Princeton University (1955)
University: LLB, Harvard Law School (1958)
Academy of Achievement (1990)
American Bar Association
Public Citizen Founder
International Forum on Globalization Associate
Green Party Presidential candidate 1996, 2000, not a party member
Nader for President 2004
Phi Beta Kappa Society
Wedding: Edward Cox and Tricia Nixon (1971)
Pied San Francisco, CA (12-Aug-2003)
Risk Factors: Bell's Palsy, Malaria
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (22-Jan-2011) · Himself
Killer at Large (8-Apr-2008) · Himself
Manufacturing Dissent (11-Feb-2007) · Himself
American Drug War: The Last White Hope (2007)
The One Percent (29-Apr-2006) · Himself
Who Killed the Electric Car? (23-Jan-2006) · Himself
An Unreasonable Man (23-Jan-2006) · Himself
Fun with Dick and Jane (21-Dec-2005) · Himself
Last Party 2000 (2-Nov-2001) · Himself
Is the subject of books:
Ralph Nader: Battling for Democracy, 2000, BY: Kevin Graham
Author of books:
Unsafe At Any Speed (1965)
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