Tom Hayden:

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Living Dialogues episode 65: Tom Hayden – The Youth-Elder Dialogue from the Sixties to the First Decade of the 21st Century

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Living Dialogues episode 66: Tom Hayden – Part 2: The Youth-Elder Dialogue from the Sixties to the First Decade of the 21st Century

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After forty years of activism, politics and writing, Tom Hayden still is a leading voice for ending the war in Iraq, erasing sweatshops, saving the environment, and reforming politics through greater citizen participation.

Currently he is writing and advocating for US Congressional hearings on exiting Iraq.

This year he drafted and lobbied successfully for Los Angeles and San Francisco ordinances to end all taxpayer subsidies for sweatshops.

He recently has taught at Pitzer College, Occidental College, and Harvard's Institute of Politics.

He has written eyewitness accounts for The Nation , where he serves on the editorial board, about the global justice movements in Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Chiapas, and India.

He is the author or editor of thirteen books, including most recently:

Reunion (Random House, 1988), reissued as Rebel (2002): "a brilliant book, political autobiography at its most effective"[Christian Science Monitor]. One of the New York Times 200 best books of the year.

The Lost Gospel of the Earth (Sierra Club, 1996, reissue 2006): "His understanding of the basic religious issues involved in human-earth relations is clearly better than that of many theologians that I am acquainted with" [Thomas Berry] "A call for engagement in the transformative"[Joan Halifax]

Irish on the Inside (Verso, 2001): "a work of the poetic imagination, lovely, imagistic prose"[New York Times] "this book is history over amnesia" [Frank McCourt]

Street Wars (New Press, 2004) "an honest and gripping frontline account of America's young urban untouchables" [Danny Glover] "a remarkable job of putting together the vital realities of street violence" [Luis Rodriguez]

The Port Huron Statement (Thunders Mouth, 2005) "Tom Hayden's introductory essay is a brilliant exposition on how those words of 1962 have critical meaning for the world we live in now" [Howard Zinn]

From the Sixties through the Nineties

"Tom Hayden changed America", the national correspondent of The Atlantic, Nicholas Lemann, has written. He created "the blueprint for the Great Society programs", according to presidential assistant Richard Goodwin. He was the "single greatest figure of the 1960s student movement", according to a New York Times book review.

Forty years later he was described as "the conscience of the Senate" by the political columnist of the Sacramento Bee. When he retired in 2000 after eighteen years, including chairing the committees on higher education, labor and environment, he received the longest farewell of any legislator in memory, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hayden was a a student editor at the University of Michigan, and a founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society in 1961, and author of its visionary call, the Port Huron Statement, described by Howard Zinn as "one of those historic documents which represents an era."

He was a Freedom Rider in the Deep South, arrested and beaten in rural Georgia and Mississippi in the early Sixties.

He became a door-knocking community organizer in Newark's inner city in 1964, part of an effort to create a national poor people's campaign for jobs and empowerment.

When the Vietnam War invaded American lives, Hayden became an increasingly active opponent through teach-ins, demonstrations, writing, and making one of the first trips to Hanoi in 1965 to meet the other side and promote peace talks, journalistic contacts, and American POW releases.

After helping lead street demonstrations against the war at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, where he was beaten, gassed and arrested twice, Hayden was indicted in 1969 with seven others on conspiracy and incitement charges. After five years of trials, appeals, and retrials, he was acquitted of all charges.

After the political system opened in the Seventies, Hayden organized the grass-roots Campaign for Economic Democracy in California, which won dozens of local offices and shut down a nuclear power plant through a referendum for the first time.   The organization led the campaign for Proposition 65 (1986) requiring labels on cancer-causing products, and Proposition 99, tripling tobacco taxes to fund billions for public health and anti-tobacco initiatives.

Hayden was elected to the California state assembly in 1982, and the state senate ten years later, serving eighteen years in all. He ran as a protest candidate several other times, resulting in a won-loss record of 7-4.  

He also served twice on the Democratic Party's national platform committee. Altogether he has attended ten Democratic national conventions, six times as a delegate. In 1996 and 2000, he was elected as a delegate by the largest caucus vote in California.

Despite serving under Republican governors for sixteen of eighteen years, and twice subjected to Republican-led expulsion hearings, Hayden managed to pass over one hundred measures. Included were

  • district bills obtaining millions for restoring Santa Monica Bay and   the rebuilding of the Santa Monica and Malibu Piers
  • a ten-year effort to hold off tuition increases for college and university students
  • establishment of a statewide Agent Orange registry
  • negotiations between Bishop Desmond Tutu and the University of California leading to divestment
  • ergonomic guidelines in purchasing
  • equal university access for disabled students
  • recruitment of gay and racial minority AIDs researchers at universities
  • crane safety inspection programs
  • back pay and fire safety protections for garment workers
  • requirement of set-asides for renewable energy in state planning
  • extension of sexual harassment codes to professional relationships
  • blocking several governor's appointments to prison and university boards
  • hearings into fertility clinic scandals leading to resignations
  • prohibitions on date rape drugs
  • saving Los Angeles' oldest cathedral from the wrecking ball
  • limits on gifts and contributions to transit agency board members
  • funding for student tutors in after-school programs
  • funding for tattoo removal
  • standards prohibiting MTBE in drinking water
  • funding to rehabilitate Indian sacred springs in LA
  • requirement for longer holding periods for lost animals in shelters
  • sister state relationship between California and San Salvador
  • reducing start-up fees for new small businesses
  • requiring trigger locks on guns sold
  • training for immigrant parents of public school children
  • independent inspector-general at Los Angeles school district
  • drafted largest state park and environmental restoration bond in nation's history
  • minimum vision standards and testing for senior drivers
  • disclosure of slavery era insurance policies by California firms
  • prevented bills weakening state endangered species act
  • pay raises for jurors
  • children's health standards in state EPA
  • funding for gang intervention projects

For these and other efforts Hayden was named legislator of the year or given similar recognitions by the university and community college student lobbies, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, the Rainforest Action Network, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Association of Salvadorans in LA, the American Lung Association, Paw-PAC (animal welfare), the California public interest research group (Cal-Pirg), the Irish-American Unity Conference, and the Liberty Hill Foundation.    Hayden has lived in the Los Angeles area since 1971. He is married to the Canadian actress-singer Barbara Williams with whom he shares a son, Liam. Tom has two other children, now thriving adults, from an earlier marriage to the actress-activist Jane Fonda.