Westport is home to far more than our share of famous people. We see them all the time — in restaurants, at the supermarket and CVS. They’re the biggest names in movies, music, finance, TV, fiction and business.
But — with the exception of a few folks like James Comey and Scott Gottlieb — we’re not real big on Washington movers and shakers.
On the other hand, you have to know where to look.
In 2007, Joseph Califano moved to town. He’s a legit DC insider. As special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s — aka the chief domestic advisor — he played a key role in shaping initiatives like civil rights bills and Medicare through Congress.
As President Carter’s Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, he was involved in important childhood immunization and anti-smoking campaigns.
Califano worked as an attorney for the Washington Post during Watergate, and represented clients as varied as the Black Panthers and Coca Cola.
After leaving Washington, he founded and chaired the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. He has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Readers Digest, New Republic and Journal of the American Medical Association.
Califano is the real deal.
At age 86, he’s just written his 14th book. Our Damaged Democracy: We the People Must Act is timely and passionate. Looking at our 3 branches of government, Califano reveals the political, cultural, constitutional, technological and institutional changes that have rendered so much it dysfunctional.
He is blunt: We must fix our democracy before it’s too late.
Using anecdotes and examples from every modern president, and the actions of both parties, Califano says we do not need to agree on everything. We must, however, trust each other, in order to bring back systems of government that protect freedom, promote fairness, and work.
Our Damaged Democracy is gaining well-deserved national attention. On Thursday, March 1 (7 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club), we’ve got a chance to hear this remarkable and articulate longtime political insider — our neighbor — as he sounds the alarm.
The talk is sponsored by the Westport Library and League of Women Voters of Westport. It’s free, and open to the public.
And — for anyone who cares about the state of democracy — absolutely worth your time.