Remembering Stewart

My first encounter with Stewart Mott’s generosity was in 1975. I had come to Washington as an intern with the Indochina Resource Center, a key group in the opposition to the Vietnam War. Stewart, who died June 12, was funding it. In my first week on the job, I spent an afternoon stuffing envelopes for another critical group, the Coalition to Stop Funding the War; Stewart gave the coalition its first grant. As I moved around Washington, I watched Stewart’s visionary funding speed up the end of an immoral war. Since then, I have revisited the room in which I was stuffing envelopes hundreds of times; the conference room of the building Stewart purchased decades ago and opened to the progressive community: 122 Maryland Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Supreme Court. Hundreds of progressive gatherings enliven that space each year.

Five years ago, as I joined the board of another bold creation of Stewart’s (The Fund for Constitutional Government), my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Marc Raskin told me about the critical role Stewart had played in coaxing some members of Congress into the impeachment of Richard Nixon. I walked into my first board meeting, and there was Stewart in a bright-orange shirt and pants, eagerly exhorting the board to embrace the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The Fund’s ever strategic director, Conrad Martin, was attempting to steer the discussion back to the agenda, but Stewart would have nothing to do with it. The President and Vice President had violated the Constitution, and the Constitution called for their impeachment.

John Cavanagh is the director of the Institute for Policy Studies, a member of the New Economy Working Group, and co-author of Development Redefined: How the Market Met its Match (Paradigm, 2008).