By David Brandolph
In his May 6 In the Public Interest blog post, “We honor what we value – entertainers over saviors,” renowned consumer advocate Ralph Nader notes that the public and the media heap tons of attention on sports figures, inducting them into Halls of Fame and making documentaries and feature films about them, while giving “few accolades” and “almost no recognition” to those truly worthy of praise – people who “save lives through civic action.”
Ralph argues that “it is time for foundations or the enlightened super rich to start an annual `Citizen Academy Awards’ to correct this imbalance of recognition and offer the mass media some inspiring content.”
His nominees for a “Civic Hall of Fame” include “activists who built the justice safeguards benefitting us all.” Among these are economist James Love, environmentalist David Zwick, engineer Clarence Ditlow, physician Sidney Wolfe and scientist Michael Jacobson.
The Pension Rights Center is honored that Ralph includes Karen Ferguson, PRC’s Director, and Karen Friedman, its Executive Vice President and Policy Director, as deserving of recognition along with these “long-term fighters for justice.”
Referring to the Karens, Ralph wrote: “They provide members of Congress and labor unions with technical advice on pension policy, inform the press, and help thousands of pensioners who are being ripped off by employers. Only trillions of dollars are at stake.”
For 44 years, PRC has worked to ensure that workers, retirees and their spouses get the retirement benefits they earned, and to give voice to and solve problems for consumers on Capitol Hill, in regulatory agencies and before the courts. The Center also educates the media and the public about the most important trends and issues in retirement policy, explaining technical topics in comprehensible language.
Of course, if there were a Civic Hall of Fame it would have to be dedicated to Ralph Nader and the extraordinary work he has done to advance the health, safety and economic well-being of all of us. Nader spawned the entire consumer movement in this country. He also saw the need for PRC. Back in 1976, he handed a $10,000 check to a young maverick lawyer/consumer advocate named Karen Ferguson, told her to “make pensions an issue,” and the rest is history!
In his blog post, Ralph also applauds those fighting the pandemic. He writes about the selfless dedication of the nurses, doctors, grocery store clerks, postal worker activists, sanitation laborers, and other truly essential workers, saying that these “valiant heroes and their critical contributions to our lives beyond the stage or stadium” deserve “long-overdue recognition.”
There are many others who deserve a place of honor in a Civic Hall of Fame and merit recognition with a Citizen Academy Award. Why not get together with family and other lockdown mates over the dinner table to draft your own list of worthy nominees – and do so with recipes from The Ralph Nader and Family Cookbook: Classic Recipes from Lebanon and Beyond.
In a National Public Radio interview, Ralph said that he wrote the book not just to share his mom’s delicious Lebanese recipes – a good way of following a healthy Mediterranean diet – but also to encourage people to return to the custom of engaging in important dialogue while sharing a good meal over the family table.
So, in this scary world of COVID-19, let’s use our time in quarantine to prepare healthy meals while discussing who we should truly value and engaging in other stimulating conversation. Ralph’s mom’s stuffed eggplant appears particularly enticing!