People For the American Way announced today that longtime board member Michael B. Keegan will be the organization’s new president, effective immediately. Keegan, who has served as interim president for the past several months and as a board member for over 15 years, was the unanimous recommendation of the committee that conducted a nationwide search on behalf of the board of directors. He will also serve as president of the affiliated People For the American Way Foundation.
People For the American Way founder Norman Lear praised the choice. “I have known and worked with Michael for more than 20 years. I could not be happier that he is leading People For at this moment of great possibility. Our staff and membership have already been energized by his creativity, passion for progressive change, and thoughtful leadership.”
Keegan said he is enthusiastic about the chance to lead People For the American Way at a time when the organization’s mission is so closely aligned with historic opportunities to move the nation forward.
“For almost 30 years People For the American Way has championed an America in which liberty and justice for all really means all, an America in which no one is denied the rights and responsibilities guaranteed under our Constitution,” said Keegan. “Today, for the first time in many years, we have a chance to make those promises real. I am eager to continue working with a board and staff I know, respect, and love. There are few opportunities in life like this one.”
Keegan said he is proud of the work that People For the American Way Foundation is doing to take on far-right threats to constitutional values by building on a long tradition of monitoring, exposing and challenging right-wing organizations and their political strategies. He highlighted the organization’s innovative and growing leadership development programs, which are helping to bring progressive African American clergy voices more effectively into the public arena, and which identify, train, and support young elected officials and progressive campus leaders.
Mary Frances Berry, a former chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and a People For board member, said Keegan combines the energetic voice of an advocate and the steady hand of a longtime movement and organizational leader. “Michael knows that change doesn’t just happen, even when good people are in charge. Change requires strategic thinking and a willingness to push hard at precisely the right time. Michael is a great choice for this crucial moment.”
Keegan noted that People For the American Way is currently at the center of the effort to win confirmation for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and other important Obama administration nominees who have been attacked by right-wing leaders. In addition, Keegan recently penned a widely praised letter to President Obama urging him to bring a more energized moral vision for LGBT equality to the American public and current policy debates.
Rabbi David Saperstein, a recognized leader of Washington’s progressive advocacy community, is a longtime People For the American Way Foundation board member. “People For has played a crucial role in protecting civil rights and constitutional liberties that have been under attack in our politics and culture,” said Saperstein. “And under Michael Keegan’s leadership People For’s role as an influential and effective leader on core constitutional issues will continue to grow.”
Saperstein said Keegan has been a force of stability and leadership during a transitional period, and noted that, in the midst of a very challenging economic climate, both People For the American Way and PFAW Foundation are meeting their programmatic and fundraising goals for the year.
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