Dick Eiden (NPP)
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
I have been a political activist on and off — mostly on — since I was an undergraduate at Mt. San Antonio College in 1965 when I became involved in the anti-war and civil rights movements. My activism increased during my years at UC Santa Barbara, where I graduated in 1967 with a BA in Political Science. From there I studied law at UCLA, and received my JD in 1970.
My career as a lawyer began with specializing in draft-related issues, and I was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Legal Collective, which served “the movement”, alternative business people, students, Latinos, the local United Farm Workers, and other organizations.
During the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, I worked for the American Indian Movement in South Dakota, and later in Oklahoma. In 1974, I helped start a law office at CASA (Center of Autonomous Social Action), an organization for Spanish-speaking immigrants in Los Angeles. In 1975 I represented some leftist Iranian students who were organizing against the Shah of Iran, and in 1976 and 1978 I went to Iran, where I did short speaking tours on their behalf.
Throughout the 1970s I was active in the National Lawyers Guild, fighting to protect the First Amendment and other human rights. In the 1980s I represented activists in criminal and deportation cases, mostly in the Los Angeles area. I also represented plaintiffs in civil rights cases. When my family and I moved from Los Angeles to Vista in 1989, I continued to participate with a team of lawyers in some large misconduct lawsuits against the L.A. Police and Sheriff Departments.
I gave up practicing law in 1995 so I could stay home with our two young children. My wife was a prominent criminal defense lawyer (public defender) and law teacher, newly retired, and past president of the California Public Defender’s Assn. The two children, ages 20 and 23, are now in college. Our older son lives in Los Angeles with his wife and our young grandson, Collin.
From 1993 to 1994 I served on the steering committee of a group that successfully organized and recalled two members of the Vista Unified School District who were carrying out a religious-right agenda, challenging our science and sex education. The issue was featured nationally as an example of how the religious right was stealthily infiltrating school boards across the country, and what they were doing once in power.
During the school board battle, I had the good fortune to meet many people in North County, including those at Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Vista. I became active in that Fellowship, and served recently as President of the board.
In 1997 I founded North County Forum to “promote progressive causes, education and culture in North San Diego County,” an umbrella organization to bring liberals and progressives together. I felt that there were many of us around, but few knew that each other existed.
North County Forum has sponsored many educational presentations with a variety of great speakers and films, including a few “alternative Independence Days” on July 4 in the early 2000s, which were all-day events with speakers, panels, culture, information and other booths. It also has co-sponsored many events like “AI’s Human Rights Walks” on the Oceanside Pier, and the North County LGBTQ Coalition’s annual “Pride on the Beach.” We have sponsored demonstrations against war, Proposition 8, the death penalty, oppression of/discrimination against immigrants, and many other injustices.
North County Forum’s major event has become our annual Letters to the Editor Awards Night, held in the latter part of January. Jan 28, 2012 was our 15th annual awards night. More than 200 people have attended this event in each of the past three years. Our Letters to the Editors Committee writes, and six voice actors perform, a very entertaining script made up almost entirely of letters in the North County Times in the previous year. The event also serves to bring liberals and progressives together to “celebrate our voice in the cacophony of democracy.” In 2001, I founded Sunset Poets and have facilitated and emceed it since that time. We have monthly readings with a featured poet or poets and an open mic, and other occasional events. I send a calendar of poetry events to about 400 people each week. I am a perpetual student, and have had a few poems published and featured around the county this year.
In 2003 I sensed that my friends needed to talk. They strongly opposed then-president Bush, his war in Iraq and his policies, and could not believe that he might be taken seriously for re-election in 2004. “Anxious” does not adequately describe how we felt. So I started a no-host breakfast group in October, 2003 and (long story short) it has been meeting every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. since then. It is a loose drop-in group of liberals and progressives, usually six to eight people, sometimes 12 to 14. We mostly shoot the breeze about recent events, news, interviews, books, films, etc. Sometimes we have special guests or other focused discussions.
My parents were from Minnesota, but after my father joined the Navy in early 1941, he was stationed in California, where I was born. The family stayed. I grew up and went to public schools in Pomona, California, graduating from Pomona High School in 1963. After college and law school, I practiced law and married Kathy Cannon in 1979. We moved to Vista from Los Angeles (Silverlake) in 1989. Besides our grandson, Collin, Kathy and I have two sons, a daughter, a daughter-in-law (Collin’s mom), and two medium-large dogs.
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