Joseph Califano Sounds Democracy’s Alarm

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.

Joseph Califano

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 TimesWashington PostWall Street JournalReaders 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.

6 responses to “Joseph Califano Sounds Democracy’s Alarm

  1. I’m one of his biggest fans!!! Fan girled all over him at Rio Bravo💜

  2. Dan, Believe you mean Scott Gottlieb, not Gottfried.

  3. I believe that many people in this country, and in many other democracies around the world, take the fact of our democracy for granted without realizing that it is a fragile and imperfect institution that is, from a long historical perspective, the exception rather than the rule. Our local elections do not generally produce much of a turnout even when there are hot issues either locally or nationally. Apathy is the biggest enemy of democracy and that lack of involvement will ultimately be the key to its undoing. What was that line from”Big Yellow Taxi”: “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”
    And, just to underscore my point, I first saw this post yesterday, and thought that by the time I returned to take another look, there would be many comments. However mine is only the third comment aside from Dan’s response to Ken Wirfel, and the second one was a mere correction of your spelling of a person unrelated to Joseph Califano’s message . There could be many reasons for the absence of any input about the dangers identified by Mr Califano. However, in my view, the reason in this case, is that ever-present arch-enemy of democracy, apathy.
    When I campaigned for a seat on the P & Z in 2013, the people that impressed me the most were those wonderful hard-working people, the Westport League of Women Voters. But for them, many people would not have gotten involved in the exercise of this most precious privilege. I always felt that voter participation was the most important issue of the day and the same is true of every election no matter how great or small.
    I doubt if anyone will read this but I thought I would say it anyway…

    • Some of us remember that Mr. Califano was a key aide to LBJ; perhaps the most despicable President in the post-war period.
      LBJ lied to the American people and then killed tens of thousands of Americans. Part of LBJ’s domestic policy was the military draft; an effort to gather up cheap fodder for LBJ’s war machine. If Califano had an ounce of integrity, he would have resigned.

      LBJ did more than any other President since FDR to undermine democracy in America.

    • I’ve never understood the arguments here around something as basic as campaign signs.