People For the American Way Foundation

Lifted up by the outpouring of tributes for Norman Lear

News and Analysis
Lifted up by the outpouring of tributes for Norman Lear

While we at People For the American Way are feeling deep sadness at the death of our beloved founder and friend Norman Lear, our spirits are buoyed by the outpouring of affection for Norman and by the widespread recognition that People For the American Way is a living expression of Norman’s heartfelt commitment to democracy and civic activism.

Here are highlights of just a few of the thousands of news stories and personal tributes to Norman that have come to us. We have heard from powerful political and cultural figures and also from individual People For the American Way members who have been inspired by Norman’s vision of an inclusive America.

Speaker Emeriti Nancy Pelosi

“Using his commanding platform and trademark wit, he spoke truth to power with groundbreaking scripts and unforgettable characters that challenged our nation to grapple with taboo topics of power, privilege and prejudice. Norman’s impact was not simply confined to the writer’s room.  Since his youth, he fought against antisemitism – and as the founder of People for the American Way, he defended free speech, the right to vote and the guardrails between church and state.”

Read Speaker Pelosi’s full statement here.

President Bill Clinton

After fighting for America’s freedom and democracy in World War II, he also set up People For the American Way to continue working to make our Union more perfect here at home. Hillary and I will always be grateful for his decades of friendship, his iconic shows and wonderful characters, and his extraordinary efforts to advance social justice and democracy for all.”

Read President Clinton’s full statement here.

The Washington Post

“In 1980, alarmed by the growing political clout of the Moral Majority, he founded People For the American Way, a liberal advocacy group aimed at preserving the separation of church and state. In short order, the group had 200,000 members, a $5 million budget and a hard-working publicity machine that generated op-eds, public-service announcements and media appearances.

Mr. Lear’s group helped defeat Robert H. Bork’s 1987 nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Mr. Lear became a prominent spokesman for Hollywood’s progressive wing. The Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, in a letter to supporters, was moved to label him “the greatest enemy of the American family in our generation.”

Read the Washington Post article here.

More tributes have poured in

We have received more than a thousand touching tributes from people who have responded to our invitation to share memories and condolences. Here are a few examples:

  • “I am 73, and Norman has inspired me to give and to serve for the latter half of my life in the causes he held dear. I am saddened by his passing but a better man because of him.”
  • “I’ll remember Norman for pointing TV cameras at us and showing us the wide variety of ourselves… and founding my favorite liberal and progressive activist group. He never stopped working to build a better future, and we shouldn’t stop either.”
  • “In greatest appreciation for Mr. Lear, a man who defined what it means to be a good, caring citizen. He set the bar high for decency, tolerance, intelligence and understanding and while he will surely be missed, he set an example for all of us to learn from. Condolences to his family and loved ones and Godspeed to him.”
  • “My condolences to Norman Lear’s family and all who knew and knew of him. Know that he had an incredibly positive effect on me as I grew up in a volatile environment. He showed me rainbows and I owe my younger life’s survival to his heart and vision.”
  • “Norman Lear was an American patriot and a great artist.  I was raised watching his legendary television series, all of which captured the humor and honesty of American life.  As an adult, I witnessed him defend the best principles of this country with courage and unflagging humanity.  He was a great hero and inspiration to me always.  His life and work stand as an inspiration, and a call to action, for us all.”

If you haven’t yet seen our statement and tribute video about him, find them on this special tribute web page.

Norman never thought of People For the American Way as “his” organization. He saw it as a collective effort to inspire and organize people of good will to defend democratic principles and stand up to would-be dictators. Norman saw earlier than most the threat that religious and political ideologues could pose to our democratic society. He believed that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. That’s why Norman’s final request was that people honor him by supporting People For the American Way.

In this time of high stakes and great challenges to our democracy, we invite you to make a contribution in Norman’s honor.


Defending democracy, Norman Lear