Consumer advocate Joan Claybrook, who retired earlier this year as the head of Public Citizen, was honored last month in Washington. The organization held a dinner event in honor of her 27-year leadership. Without a doubt, Joan was one of Washington’s most relentless consumer-interest lobbyists. Her work has influenced rules on automobile safety standards, Congressional ethics, campaign finance and more.
Among the lawmakers who praised Claybrook’s efforts were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, and Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold. Actor and longtime environmental advocate Robert Redford also spoke highly of Joan and her distinguished career. He called her one of his mentors. At the event, Joan told dinner guests that Public Citizen was successful because of its determination. She described its efforts like this:
One of our operating principles is that we fight back when we’re attacked, and we try to have fun doing it. If you don’t have some fun, it’s hard. So we’re scrappy, and agile and bold and creative and determined and principled and relentless.
Joan has seen both sides of policy-making, revolving through government roles and consumer advocacy. After working at the Social Security Administration, she turned toward Capitol Hill as a Congressional fellow. Joan then joined the agency that would later become the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In 1971, Ralph Nader created Public Citizen. A few years later, Joan was the founding director of the organization’s Congress Watch division, a Congressional lobbying group. But Joan didn’t stay out of the government very long. She was selected in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter to head NHTSA. In this position, she oversaw the introduction of the original automobile fuel economy standards. Interestingly, automakers referred to her as the “dragon lady,” which I consider a compliment considering the source. Joan rejoined Public Citizen as president in 1982. I am proud to call this courageous woman my friend and I wish her the very best in all of her future endeavors.
Source: Associated Press
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