The Seventeen Traditions, by Ralph Nader

When I was 14 years old, I heard Ralph Nader say that box cereal was less nutritious than the box it came in, and you'd get more nutrition out of tearing up the box and pouring sugar and milk over it, and eating that for breakfast. That's the kind of genius that Ralph Nader produces constantly, and why his ideas changed the world for Americans more than perhaps any political thinker of the late 20th century. He remains more relevant than virtually every other political thinker currently on the scene.


Postby admin » Wed Oct 30, 2013 3:00 am


For a volume of recollections and reflections about our family traditions, acknowledgments rest deeply on my parents, sisters, and brother, to whom this book is dedicated. More immediately, my gratitude extends to my sister Claire Nader for her on-point contributions, and my sister Laura Nader's anthropological insights. My nephew Tarek Milleron made precise suggestions in his review of the manuscript.

Special thanks to my colleague John Richard and to my editor, Calvert Morgan, whose skill as an editor is rendered finite only by his limitations of time.

Jacket Cover

My boyhood in a small town in Connecticut was shaped by my family, my friends, our neighbors, my chores and hobbies, the town's culture and environment, its schools, libraries, factories, and businesses, their workers, and by storms that came from nowhere to disrupt everything.... Yet childhood in any family is a mysterious experience.... What shapes the mind, the personality, the character?

So begins this unexpected and extraordinary book by Ralph Nader. Known for his lifetime of selfless activism, Nader now looks back to the earliest days of his own life, to his serene and enriching childhood in bucolic Winsted, Connecticut. From listening to learning, from patriotism to argument, from work to simple enjoyment, Nader revisits seventeen key traditions he absorbed from his parents, his siblings, and the people in his community, and draws from them inspiring lessons for today's society. Warmly human, rich with sensory memories and lasting wisdom, it offers a kind of modern-day parable of how we grow from children into responsible adults -- a reminder of a time when nature and community were central to the way we all learned and lived.


RALPH NADER was recently named by the Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history, one of only four living people to be so honored. The son of immigrants from Lebanon, he has launched two major presidential campaigns and founded or organized more than one hundred civic organizations. His groups have made an impact on tax reform, atomic power regulation, the tobacco industry, clean air and water, food safety, access to health care, civil rights, congressional ethics, and much more.

For more information on Ralph Nader or the documentary An Unreasonable Man, visit

Jacket design by Matthew Cacciola
Jacket illustration by David Wolf
Author photograph courtesy of American Program Bureau


Back Cover

I am often asked what forces shaped me. Rather than trying to give a full answer, I often reply simply, "I had a lucky choice of parents." Among other things, my parents were responsible for passing down the traditions they had learned from the generations before them -- traditions they refined and adapted to the unfamiliar country and culture to which they had emigrated early in the twentieth century. Such family traditions challenge the notion that the fads, technologies, and addictions of modern life have somehow replaced the time-tested wisdom fashioned in the crucibles of earlier generations.

The garb may change after all but the wearer does not.
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