February 19, 2002 - Washington Post: John Gardner Dies - 'Mentor to the World'

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By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 11:11 am: Edit Post

John Gardner Dies - 'Mentor to the World'


John Gardner was never directly connected with the Peace Corps. He was never on Peace Corps Staff. But he was part of that cadre of thinkers and doers of the early 1960's who made a difference in the world that we know today.

He exemplified service - as Chariman of the Civic League, as President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, as President Johnson's Director of HEW, and finally as founder of Common Cause, which for 30 years championed campaign finance reform. He also chaired the organizing committee that led to the founding of Independent Sector, a national forum for voluntary-sector organization.

Throughout his life he stood for the ideas of service, involved citizenship, optimism and integrity - the same qualities that we hope the Peace Corps stands for.

Read and comment on the obituary and remembrance of John Gardner that appeared in the Washington Post at:

'Mentor to the World'*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

'Mentor to the World'

By Fred Wertheimer

Tuesday, February 19, 2002; Page A15

John Gardner was a true American hero.

He was a unique and extraordinary leader who pioneered the modern movement for citizen activism and fathered the modern movement for campaign finance reform to protect the integrity of our democracy.

Gardner died on Saturday, just three days after the dramatic campaign finance reform victory in the House of Representatives that has set the stage for fundamental reform of the federal campaign finance laws for the first time in more than 25 years.

On Thursday, I tried to get a message to him in California about the win. I'm not sure he ever received it, but it probably doesn't matter all that much. John Gardner knew he had set all of this in motion more than 30 years ago, when he first began educating the country on the corrupting dangers of big money in American politics.

Gardner was a Renaissance man -- a leader, a philosopher, an educator, a communicator, an author, an organizer, a role model, a mentor, a public servant and a citizen activist. He was an intelligence officer, a foundation president, a Cabinet member, an adviser to presidents and a movement leader.

He also was a creator, providing the ideas and inspiration for such public ventures as public television and the White House Fellows Program and founding such institutions as Common Cause and Independent Sector.

One of Gardner's founding principles for Common Cause was the notion that "everyone's organized but the people," and he set out to change that.

Gardner believed deeply in democracy. He believed in citizens getting involved, in being active in their local communities and nationally, and in shaping their own destinies. He spent decades working toward that end.

Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza, said of John Gardner: "He was an unsung hero, someone the average man on the street wouldn't have heard of but whose influence touched almost every American."

Above all, John Gardner was a powerful moral force in our society. He was a man of remarkable vision, creativity, insight, optimism -- and fearless integrity. He never moved away from his values and principles, no matter what the personal cost might be.

When Common Cause got involved in the anti-Vietnam War effort in 1971 as its first major battle, Gardner, a registered Republican, lost a number of longtime friends over it. He was undaunted.

When Common Cause had to decide in 1972 whether to sue President Nixon's reelection committee for campaign finance violations, something unheard of at that time, he made the decision without a moment's hesitation. He was unfazed when, shortly afterward, Nixon's campaign lawyer wrote to the Internal Revenue Service asking the agency to revoke his new organization's tax status.

John Gardner was mentor to the world. Untold numbers of individuals had their lives shaped by him, through either personal contacts or his books, such as "Self-Renewal and Excellence."

Gardner hired me in 1971 as a lobbyist for Common Cause and, unknown to me, set my life on a 31-year journey to reform the nation's campaign finance laws. Twenty-four of those years were spent at Gardner's Common Cause, including 14 as its president from 1981 to 1995. Fortunately, Gardner taught me early on that fundamental reform is not for the short winded.

The current Enron scandal with its influence money implications and its unethical corporate practices brings into sharp focus what Gardner once wrote in his publication, "National Renewal":

"The identifying of values is a light preliminary exercise before the real and heroic task, which is to make the values live. . . . Moral, ethical or spiritual values come alive only when living men and women recreate the values for their time -- by living the faith, by caring, by doing. It is true of religion; it is true of democracy; it is true of personal ethical codes."

I always used to think of John Gardner as "a radical in pinstripes," a man who was made for the days of the Founding Fathers and surely would have been one of them if he had been there.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "The most important office in our democracy is that of private citizen."

John Gardner was the citizen of his era.

The writer was president of Common Cause from 1981 to 1995 and a John Gardner friend for more than 30 years.

John Gardner, Hew Secratary, Common Cause Founder Dies

By Richard Pearson

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 18, 2002; Page B06

John W. Gardner, 89, a psychologist by training who served as secretary of health, education and welfare in the Johnson administration before going on to create the citizens' lobby Common Cause, died Feb. 16 at his home on the campus of Stanford University. He had prostate cancer.

Dr. Gardner, a consulting professor at Stanford since 1989, served in the Marine Corps during World War II and was a psychology professor before joining Carnegie Corp. in 1946. He served as president of the corporation and of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching from 1955 until 1965.

He then served as HEW secretary until resigning in 1968. After two years as head of the National Urban Coalition, he founded Common Cause in 1970 and served as its chairman until retiring in 1977. Three years later, he co-founded the Independent Sector, an organization that supported volunteerism. From 1994 until 1996, he chaired the National Civic League.

Dr. Gardner, a Republican, was a highly respected behind-the-scenes authority on education issues when President Lyndon B. Johnson tapped him to take over HEW, a department that had more than 100,000 employees and one for which Johnson, he of "the Great Society," had ambitious plans.

At HEW, Dr. Gardner served as midwife of the new Medicare program, was credited with playing a pivotal role in enforcing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and presided over passage of the landmark 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He also oversaw the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

But despite his enthusiasm in leading Great Society fights for programs dealing with education, poverty and health, he resigned from the Cabinet in 1968. It was reported that he could no longer support the Johnson administration, and after leaving the Cabinet, he spoke out against the war in Vietnam.

In 1970, he took on a role for which he will probably be better remembered than his Cabinet career. Less than six months after announcing the founding of Common Cause, the citizens' advocacy group had signed up more than 100,000 members. When he stepped down, it boasted a membership of 253,000.

Under his leadership, the organization focused on influencing the process of government itself and came to be considered by some as the most influential lobby in Washington. Common Cause has been credited with having had a major impact on early laws regulating campaign contributions: It has championed the public financing of presidential elections and fought for legislation involving ethics, conflict of interest and financial disclosures, as well as for restrictions on lobbying.

Common Cause workers also catalogued information that became available under new Freedom of Information acts, determining who contributed what to whom in political races. The seemingly endless compilations of numbers found a fascinated audience among journalists, lobbyists and politicians.

Although Common Cause became a model for other successful lobbying organizations, it was not without its detractors. Many politicians and more than a few others detected just a little too much of a holier-than-thou attitude and pointed out that the "citizens" lobby did not really represent a broad cross-section of the population.

The Washington Post's David Broder pointed out that "Common Cause is anything but common folks." T.R. Reid, writing in The Post in 1977, maintained that Common Cause was "an elite group of upper-income, highly educated, liberal suburbanites" and that there was "substantial overlap in membership with such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters and the environment-minded Sierra Club."

But the charges, which Dr. Gardner largely admitted with grace and humor, did not detract from his accomplishments or those of Common Cause.

Regarding Dr. Gardner and Common Cause, the organization's current president, Scott Harshbarger, has said: "When Americans attend open meetings or read their government's documents, or take part in our battered but resilient public finance system for presidential elections, there is a memorial to John Gardner. When we turn on public television, or when government ensures no senior or poor person goes without health care, we take part in programs John Gardner initiated."

Dr. Gardner, who was born in Los Angeles, was a 1935 psychology graduate of Stanford University. He received a psychology doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 1938, and later that year, he became a psychology professor at Connecticut College for Women.

After joining Carnegie Corp., he worked on issues involving the quality of education of the growing baby boom generation and education issues in a changing world.

These ranged from launching experiments using television in the classroom to helping establish the first Russian research center at Harvard University.

He also spent seven years fighting to establish what became the White House Fellows program to provide advanced training at the very pinnacle of government to budding political scientists, public administrators and other young officials. Previous White House fellows include Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, former housing secretary Henry G. Cisneros and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

In addition to his teaching and administrative work, Dr. Gardner wrote at least seven books, and he edited "To Turn the Tide," a collection of the speeches and papers of President John F. Kennedy.

Over the years, Dr. Gardner served as a consultant to various government agencies and sat on corporate boards.

His awards included the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Dr. Gardner's survivors include his wife of 67 years, the former Aida Marroquin, of Stanford; two children; a brother; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

For more on John Gardner go to:

John Gardner

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