People for the American Way will mark its 30th anniversary at a Dec. 5 fete at the Beverly Wilshire, and while there will be plenty of references to the org’s origins as a counter to the religious right, founder Norman Lear sees a more urgent connection to the here and now.
“To me what is happening right now with joblessness, the confluence of the neoconservative movement and religious right and big, big money… resulted in what we are looking at today in this country,” he said in a recent interview from his Beverly Hills office, still sharp and energetic at 89. “And when you look at the kids in Occupy Wall Street..young people are actually telling us, ‘Enough,’ and that is going to become clearer as we go along.”
He added, “One of my favorite of all the mythical American expressions is that eternal vigilance is the price you pay, because the seeds are still there.”
In creating People for the American Way, Lear was one of only a handful of industry figures to translate personal activism into a lasting advocacy organization (he will be among the honorees along with board member Alec Baldwin; a similar anniversary event was held in New York on Oct. 6). One of the org’s biggest early victories came in 1987, when it and other groups successfully fought the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, something that presaged the polarizing nomination battles to come. More recent work has included campaigns for marriage equality as well as others against the influence of corporate money in politics.