¡John Maher, Presente!

This article appeared in our Spring 2017 Newsletter

MAPA’s board member, leader, cheer-leader, strategist, and inspirer, John Maher, passed away November 3 after a tough battle with cancer. He was a life-long activist for peace, justice, the environment and the working class at home and abroad.

Born in 1938 and raised in Houston Texas, at a young age John developed a strong moral compass and commitment to social and economic justice. He brought these concerns with him when he moved to Cambridge in 1956 to attend Harvard University, where he also earned an MA in Political Science. His work on the H. Stuart Hughes campaign for U.S. senate, which focused on nuclear disarmament, then led to an engagement with the student movement.

In the 1960s and 1970s he was active in Students for a Democratic Society, the Boston Draft Resistance Group, worked in a Cambridge factory (where he organized workers), taught in Boston and Somerville public schools, and became active in Oxfam America, be-coming Director of Education and Out-reach in 1982.

In the 1980s, John joined Neighbor to Neighbor, a national network fighting U.S. policy in Central America. In the early 1990s he founded the Massachusetts chapter, eventually becoming its executive director, and turned its focus to domestic issues, including single payer health care. Over time he helped develop the Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts organizing model, still in place today: working people advocating for their own interests, from the grassroots up, integrating issue-based and electoral advocacy. He stepped down as director in 2001, but continued as a volunteer, going door-to-door with a clipboard until his illness and continued as an adviser to the organization until he died.

In 2001 he was awarded a life-time achievement award from the Democratic Socialists of America for his contributions to the struggle for social and economic justice.” He was the author of Learning from the Sixties, setting down the story of his lifetime of social engagement and reflecting on the course of activism over that fifty-year span. He was an inspiration to a new generation of young organizers.

John co-founded the 25% Solution with Mike Prokosch, me and others, which organized to cut the military budget by 25% and use the funds for jobs, housing, education, and the environment. Our campaign merged with Massachusetts Peace Action in 2011 and he served on the board of MAPA from then until his death.

I worked closely with John for fifteen years on issues of peace and justice, and fighting the US Empire, as he liked to put it. He possessed a brilliant political mind and I learned an enormous amount from him. I, and MAPA, miss him very much.