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News Posted on December 1, 2008

Ralph Nader Speaks at King Hall

Attorney, author, consumer activist, and four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader delivered a lecture entitled "Corporate Power, Law Firms, and Law Schools" at King Hall on November 24.  The two-hour lecture and question-and-answer session drew an audience that filled the Moot Court Room and spilled over into the adjacent hallway and Mabie Library lobby, where audio and video were made available. 

Nader's lecture touched on a wide range of subjects related to what he termed "the broader responsibilities to the administration of justice" that attorneys hold and the ways in which law schools can prepare students for this role.  He talked about the changes that have occurred since his days at Harvard Law School in the 1950s, including the increased diversity among law students and the arrival of courses in consumer law, civil rights, and poverty law.  Nader suggested that while these changes have been positive, law schools are still not doing enough to illuminate the ways in which corporate power comes into conflict with the public interest. 

Nader challenged the audience to resist the "creeping cynicism" often experienced by second- and third-year law students, and to pursue careers that recognize their potential to affect positive change.  "You're in the top 1 percent of people with a capacity to make a difference in this world," said Nader.  "Don't trivialize your talent for higher pay."

Named by Life magazine as one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century, Ralph Nader has been a fixture in American public life since the 1960s, when his writings challenging the safety of U.S.-made automobiles drew widespread attention. His 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed helped to galvanize public opinion regarding the need for more government regulation of auto safety and spurred the passage of federal laws mandating seat belts and other safety features. His success inspired thousands of young activists to come to Washington, D.C., to join "Nader's Raiders," assisting him in investigations of federal agencies, the safety of the American food supply, nuclear energy, and other projects. 

Nader went on to found numerous public-interest groups, including Public Citizen, which now boasts more than 140,000 members.  He has run for president four times, most significantly as the Green Party candidate in 2000, when he received more than 2.8 million votes and prompted many to suggest that without his third-party candidacy, Democrat Al Gore would have prevailed over Republican George W. Bush.  He is the author of more than two dozen books, including The Good Fight: Declare Your Independence and Close the Democracy Gap; No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America; and Unsafe at Any Speed, named as one of the top 100 works of 20th century American journalism in a list compiled by the New York University Department of Journalism.

Nader's King Hall lecture was made possible through support from the UC Davis School of Law and the UC Davis Law Students Association.  The presentation was recorded and will be made available online through the Law School web site.

Photos of Ralph Nader at King Hall