On Monday October 28th Clean Water Action will award Gary Steinberg the Annual David Zwick Memorial Award in recognition of Gary’s decades of work for social justice and environmental protection. This very fitting given Gary’s long term relationship with David. Together they built the Clean Water Action from the days it was known as the Fishermen’s Clean Water Action Project.
Gary was tasked with the mission to develop the art and science of the professional fundraising door to door and phone canvass. Gary brought a laser like focus, undaunted effort, and humor to the task. With Gary at the helm Clean Water Action was able to build and maintain a large membership, raise millions of dollars, and mobilize the civic voice across the country. We still do this, using Gary’s methods. And it wasn’t just about Clean Water Action -- Gary and David shared the canvass model with multiple social justice, economic justice, electoral, and environmental organizations.
On a more personal level Gary was and is a very influential mentor and coach. Each week I find myself asking the question – “What would Gary do?” I first met Gary in Morgantown, West Virginia. I was a green field canvasser with West Virginia Citizen Action. Over the years Gary taught me how to be a good listener, ask the right questions, share a vision, treat people as I would want to be treated, and bring humor to tense situations. Moreover Gary taught me to take the high road with people and to take care of myself. In my long career with Clean Water Action I came to several intersections in which the direction of my career was in question. Should I move forward at high speed, proceed with caution, or stop? Gary would take the time to listen, ask the right questions, and offer sage advice and in some cases offer safe passage. Of course Gary did not just coach me - he influenced the careers of hundreds of activists.
It is befitting that Gary will receive the David Zwick award this year. It is well earned and deserved. Our democracy and environment is better off because of Gary’s work. I am sure I represent hundreds of activists in offering a hearty congratulations. Canvass America – Change America!