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NCSS Annual Conference—Nader to Speak

Ralph Nader is Sunday’s Speaker

Ralph Nader—consumer advocate, citizen activist, lawyer, and author—will address the 96th NCSS Annual Conference on Sunday morning, December 4, 2016, in Washington, DC. Over the course of five decades, Nader founded more than four dozen citizen and consumer organizations, including the Center for Study of Responsive Law, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Center of Auto Safety, Clean Water Action Project, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility, and Public Citizen.  His first book, the seminal Unsafe at Any Speed, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016. The Seventeen Traditions, his memoir of growing up in a small town in Connecticut as the son of Lebanese immigrants, was published in 2007.

After many books and adventures, such as a run for the U.S presidency as a third party candidate in 2000, it’s difficult to summarize Nader’s interesting and uniquely American career in a short space. This excerpt from Nader’s “online autobiography” might inspire social studies educators to read that whole webpage (https://nader.org/biography/ralph-nader-entry-encyclopedia-consumer-movement/), as well as other writings by and about Ralph Nader and his life’s work as a citizen activist:

“Unlike muckrakers of the early 1900s who took satisfaction in unmasking scandal and then moving on, Nader wanted to experiment with new strategies of citizen action and to establish organizations that could empower ordinary consumers. In the marketplace, Nader's self-avowed agenda was "nothing less than the qualitative reform of the Industrial Revolution." In the civic sphere, Nader's ambition was to reinvigorate the possibilities of citizenship in a modern society dominated by institutional giants—multinational corporations, government bureaucracies, labor unions, bar associations, universities.

“Nader argued that Thomas Jefferson did not envision how monied special interests, official secrecy, procedural complexities, and the sheer size of the nation would, by the mid-twentieth century, erode the sinews of government accountability. Nor, said Nader, could James Madison, author of the famous Federalist No. 10 essay, have predicted how competing special interest factions might not yield the public good. In this sense, Nader's creation of a loose agglomeration of citizen groups to represent the people as a whole—"the public interest"—was a bold, innovative development in American politics. By demonstrating that an individual armed with facts, fortitude, and creative zeal could actually achieve important reforms, Nader sought to demonstrate the relevance of citizenship in modern mass society.

“Nader's chief vehicle for advancing his reform agenda has been the citizen advocacy group—modestly funded organizations of a few researchers and sometimes an attorney who investigate a given field, publish reports, organize citizens and other allies, lobby Congress, petition regulatory agencies, and litigate in court… . While most of [these organizations] are now formally independent of Nader, they frequently collaborate as the occasion arises.”

photo credits: nadar.org

Sunday Vital Issues Session

“Demosclerosis”: The Challenge of Moving America Forward in a Hyper-Partisan Age

To what degree are we still a “United” States of America? A Vital Issues session will be the capstone of the 96th NCSS Annual Conference to be held December 2-4, 2016, in Washington, DC. The session, to be held Sunday, December 4, 2016, from 10:15 to 11:15am, is certain to be an honest, lively, and inspiring conversation.

Two of the nation’s leading columnists and commentators look back at the 2016 presidential election and look forward to the transition to a new administration and recently elected Congress amid the bitter partisanship that has made consensus and compromise in Washington so elusive. With the assistance of a moderator, they will share insights into how the country reached this point and what it will take to move beyond it.

Ruth Marcus is a columnist for The Washington Post. She has been with The Post since 1984, joining the national staff in 1986 and covering campaign finance, the Justice Department, the Supreme Court, and the White House. From 1999 through 2002, she served as deputy national editor. Ms. Marcus joined the editorial board in 2003 and began writing a regular column in 2006. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007. She has appeared on The PBS NewsHour, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Michael Gerson is a nationally syndicated columnist whose columns appear twice weekly in The Washington Post. He is the author of Heroic Conservatism and co-author of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era. He appears regularly on The PBS NewsHour​, Face the Nation, and other programs. He serves as senior adviser at One, a bipartisan organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases (www.one.org/international/about). Until 2006, Mr. Gerson was a top aide to President George W. Bush as assistant to the president for policy and strategic planning. Prior to the appointment, he served in the White House as deputy assistant to the president and director of presidential speechwriting, and assistant to the president for speechwriting and policy adviser.

Moderator Ray Suarez was most recently the host of Al Jazeera America's daily news program, Inside Story, which covered a wide array of national and international news stories. A veteran journalist, Suarez spent 14 years at The PBS NewsHour as a correspondent and anchor, covering some of the biggest stories during that time, including the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, seven political conventions, and four presidential elections. Prior to that he was the Washington-based host of NPR's Talk of the Nation for 6 1/2 years, when the program's carriage doubled to more than 150 radio stations. He is the author of the companion volume to the PBS documentary series Latino Americans and The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America.

Read about all of the Vital Issues sessions at the Annual Conference at www.socialstudies.org/conference/vitalissues.