Founder Norman Lear

Founder Norman Lear

Norman Lear: Visionary, Activist, Citizen

Norman Lear is a legendary television and film producer behind visionary shows like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Good Times. His shows weren’t just popular – they fostered countless conversations about important social issues, including racism, LGBTQ rights, and abortion. His shows broke new ground on representation and inclusion, changing the face of television in part by changing the faces that were on television. 

In 1981, Lear was disturbed by the divisive rhetoric and authoritarian agenda being spread by leaders of the emerging religious right political movement. He founded People For the American Way to mobilize Americans in defense of constitutional values, recruiting the late Rep. Barbara Jordan and other civic, religious, civil rights, and business leaders to join him. He remains an active board member, lending his voice to campaigns for voting rights, LGBTQ equality, the freedom to learn, and more. 

Lear was a World War II veteran who dropped out of college to fight fascism and considered himself an unabashedly patriotic American. “I am a patriot,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published on his 99th birthday, “and I will not surrender that word to those who play to our worst impulses rather than our highest ideals.”

President Bill Clinton recognized Lear’s impact on our culture and country when presenting him with the National Medal of Arts in 1999: “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it,” President Clinton said, adding that in founding People For the American Way Lear demonstrated his expansive commitment to promoting freedom and defending liberty. 

Help us continue Norman Lear’s legacy 

Norman is fond of saying, “There’s not a single day that I don’t pick up the newspaper and think, ‘Thank God, we have People For the American Way.’” He is deeply troubled about the threat posed by authoritarianism, writing in a New York Times op ed published on his 100th birthday, “To be honest, I’m a bit worried that I may be in better shape than our democracy is.”

Norman Lear and Svante Myrick sit next to each other on a sofa discussing antisemitism.People For the American Way is proud to continue the work Norman has devoted so much of his life to. We are grateful for his confidence, and your support, which allows us to convene courageous Americans, produce compelling media and organize campaigns to defend our democracy from authoritarian threats and advance America’s promise that everyone will enjoy freedom, safety and a vote that counts. 

Norman believes in the American Way, and we still believe in Norman Lear’s America.