Column: ‘Ralph Nader Champion For People’

December 2, 2016

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

The BBC recently aired an interview from its archives, to mark November 30th, the date in 1965 when Ralph Nader published his first book, “Unsafe at Any Speed”.

This maiden work by a 20-something author quickly became a Bestseller and ushered in an era when American citizens found their voices, moved beyond blind consumerism in order to protect their interests in the face of rapacious businessmen.

The book was the result of several years of research by the young Nader, into the fact that American cars seemed to cause so many deaths, when involved in accidents. Nader happened to draw these conclusions when as a somewhat bored, exceptional law student at Harvard he would skip class, and followed his passion for travel by hitchhiking across his country’s highways.

He would ‘too often’ come across devastating accident sites which seemingly led to ‘unnecessary’ serious injury and death. Nader with his inquiring mind collaborated with friends who were studying engineering, thus substantiating his hunches.

This emerging champion of the people was able to identify problems and offer solutions which were life-saving. From inflexible steering columns that literally speared drivers in collisions, he suggested the necessity of a collapsible design.

The list goes on to include the need for 3-point seat belts; door-locks that worked reasonably, tire standards that kept cars on the road and more. Nader’s efforts were made easier since most of these standards were ensured by law for European cars but his success made him a target for many from the Boardrooms of Detroit.

While volunteering for the supportive U.S. Sen. Abe Ribicoff, Nader secured evidence of the then-GM CEO playing ‘dirty tricks’ on him and the senator set up a Commission. This proved that the company engaged in wiretapping and other unsavoury tactics and Nader was awarded almost a half-million dollars which he used to formalize his campaign by establishing the Center for Responsive Law.

According to the BBC, research on the impact of Nader’s transformative work ushered in on November 30th, 1965, has saved hundreds of thousands of lives of those travelling on American roads, in the decades that followed.

Nader’s contribution did not end with automobiles. He is credited with playing a key part in a number of other collaborative efforts. These include a number of pieces of legislation that have improved the lives of many; such as the Consumer Product Safety Act; the Clean Water Act; the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Whistleblowers Protection Act.

During this time when local and international news in filled with allegations of corruption by many who claim to have the public interest at heart, we are reminded by a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. She made the point that World can be improved by the actions of a few or even a single person – as long as those invovled cleave fearlessly to integrity.

Ralph Nader has lived a life that has offered that example to us all.

- Glenn Fubler

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