You are here: > Resources > Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader

Self Description

Ralph Nader was born in 1934 in Winsted, CT to Lebanese immigrants Rose and Nathra Nader. Civic duty had a special meaning in Winsted, the small town in northwestern Connecticut where Nathra ran the Highland Arms Restaurant and engaged his customers in spirited debate about public affairs. Studious, bright and intense, Ralph followed the Yankees, played with David Halberstam, the future journalist, and read back issues of the Congressional Record with equal enthusiasm. By age 14 he had read the early muckrakers--Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair and George Seldes--who were to inspire his thinking about the distribution of power in American society and the possibilities of citizenship.

In 1955, he graduated magna cum laude from Princeton, and 1958 from Harvard Law School. It was at Harvard where Nader first explored an unorthodox legal topic: the engineering design of automobiles. His research resulted in an April 1959 article published in The Nation, "The Safe Car You Can't Buy," in which he declared, "It is clear Detroit today is designing automobiles for style, cost, performance and calculated obsolescence, but not--despite the 5,000,000 reported accidents, nearly 40,000 fatalities, 110,000 permanent disabilities and 1,500,000 injuries yearly--for safety."

In 1963, Nader, then an unknown twenty-nine-year old attorney, abandoned a conventional law practice in Hartford, Connecticut, and hitchhiked to Washington, DC, to begin a long odyssey of professional citizenship. "I had one suitcase," he recalled. "I stayed in the YMCA. Walked across a little street and had a hot dog, my last." (A few years later he would expose the repulsive ingredients that go into hot dogs.) He took a job as a consultant to the US Department of Labor, working for Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Nader moonlighted as a freelance writer for The Nation and The Christian Science Monitor. He also acted as an unpaid adviser to a Senate subcommittee which was exploring what role the federal government might play in auto safety.

In 1965, he targeted General Motors and the American auto industry in his best-selling book Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile . When GM attempted to discredit him, he sued them for invasion of privacy. This landmark case forced the president of GM to go before a Senate Committee and admit wrongdoing, and a series of safety laws were passed in 1966 which forced the auto industry to make drastic design changes for safer motor vehicles. With the money Nader won in the settlement, he launched the modern consumer movement.

The publicity he received, and the reputation he created for standing up to predatory corporations, inspired activists from around the nation to go to Washington, DC to work with Nader. They became known as "Nader’s Raiders." Organizations were launched to push for laws to protect people as consumers, workers and taxpayers, and the environment, combating corporate abuse, and increasing citizen access to government.

Ralph Nader and his Raiders have identified and confronted political and corporate bosses on hundreds of issues. They have fought against insurance companies; global trade arrangements that allow other countries to evade our environment, labor, and consumer protection laws; corporate lobbyists and politicians who attempt to block safety standards, or to deny fair access to court for injured parties.

Third-Party Descriptions


RoleNameTypeLast Updated
Founder/Co-Founder of Center for Auto Safety (CAS) Organization Mar 15, 2006
Founder/Co-Founder of Citizens Works Organization Aug 1, 2004
Founded/Co-Founded by Advised by (past or present) Commercial Alert Organization Jun 4, 2006
Founder/Co-Founder of Public Citizen Organization Nov 2, 2007
Founder/Co-Founder of Public Interest Research Groups (U.S. PIRG) Organization Aug 1, 2004
Supervisor of (past or present) Elma Holder Person Mar 23, 2010

Articles and Resources

Date Resource Read it at:
Feb 20, 2008 John F. Kennedy, plagiarist?

QUOTE: If Barack Obama borrowed from Deval Patrick, so what? Creative "borrowing" is part of speechwriting, as Kennedy knew, and as I learned while working for Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.

Jul 05, 2007 Ugly Airline Math: Planes Late, Fliers Even Later

QUOTE: The on-time performance of airlines has reached an all-time low, but even the official numbers do not begin to capture the severity of the problem.

New York Times
Oct 08, 2004 Nader Ballot Petitions Present a Phone Book Full of Problems

QUOTE: In the rush to collect enough signatures to put Ralph Nader on the ballot in the swing state Pennsylvania, one father and son signed the petitions 60 times between them.

New York Times
Jun 26, 2004 Ethics Group Seeks Inquiry on Nader Arrangement Between Campaign and Charity Is Questioned

QUOTE: An ethics watchdog group asked the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service yesterday to investigate an arrangement between Ralph Nader's presidential campaign and a charity that he created.

Washington Post
Aug 11, 2002 I'll Tell You What's Wrong with Petitions (No Signature Required)

QUOTE: Massive signature requirements impose a pointless burden on outsider candidates that becomes an all-consuming drain on their campaigns.

Washington Post
Apr 17, 2002 Debate Group Sends Nader Check, Apology, But Not a Seat: Green Party Candidate Sued Sponsor of Bush-Gore Faceoff

QUOTE: Ralph Nader received a letter of apology and a check from the Commission on Presidential Debates yesterday, but no guarantees that he or other third-party presidential candidates would get to participate in future debates.

Washington Post
Apr 23, 2001 Innovative Campaign Challenges Excessive Pay of Corporate Executives

ABSTRACT: Innovative campaign challenges excessive pay of corporate executives

San Francisco Bay Guardian (SFBG)
Nov 03, 2000 Ralphing On the Media

QUOTE: consumers of the nation's leading media get approximately three weeks worth of discussion about the man who may decide the election...nobody important (not even the Associated Press) has followed Nader full-time up to this point...

Online Journalism Review (OJR)
Sep 01, 1999 How newspapers are selling their credibility to advertisers

QUOTE: ...a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, erosion of the limits that editors used to place on advertiser influence? The overwhelming consensus at editors' and publisher's meetings across the country is that the "wall" between advertising and editorial has been replaced by a line.

Stay Free!
Jan 01, 1111 Five Ways to Avoid Rip-Offs

QUOTE: Back in 1979 the Department of Transportation found that 53% of the costs associated with auto repair were unnecessary. At the time, that translated into a $26.5 billion loss to consumers. Unfortunately, things haven't gotten much better since...

Smart Money