Supporter Spotlight: Daniel Solomon
(Pictured at right after his role as one of 41 people, including DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who were arrested following their protest calling for DC federal representation.)
Daniel Solomon has been a longtime supporter of CEH and is a tenacious supporter of countless causes, including many in his home city of Washington D.C. The concept of CEH was actually created around Daniel Solomon’s living room table, so we interviewed Daniel to get the scoop on how it came to be and his adventures in civil disobendience.
Q: How did you and CEH’s Executive Director, Michael Green meet?
A: We met in the Conservation and Resource Studies program at UC Berkeley. We were both student organizers active in protesting expansion of US nuclear weapons programs, we had this small affinity group that did all sorts of activism, including getting arrested during non-violent civil disobedience. We protested the link between UC Berkeley and Lawrence National laboratories (one of the only locations in the US where nuclear missiles weapons are made), and in 1983 protested Reagan’s proposed Strategic Defense Initiative.
Q: We heard the concept of CEH was crafted around your living room table—could you tell us the story behind that?
A: My place was on Q street, downtown DC, at the time. Mike told me about this idea to go start an organization in California centered on using Proposition 65 to get chemicals out of the consumer market. It was a group of us sitting around the dining room table—Michael and his mentor from the U.S. EPA, and a handful of other non-profit leaders and activists.
I thought it was a great idea, but we were concerned about Michael’s skills as a manager—he just seemed too nice a guy to be an effective manager. But what’s impressed me about Michael is how he’s grown over the years to become this new kind of “zen” manager—he’s a great leader yet he’s not threatened by others on staff being more knowledgeable than him about certain issues or offering their ideas for the organization.
Q: You’ve seen CEH grow from a one-man org to the major national group it is today. What’s it been like seeing the changes?
I’m really proud of Mike and CEH and what it’s accomplished. I think it’s one of the very best investments I’ve made as a philanthropist.
Q: How did you become interested in Environmental Health?
Well, my background at UC Berkeley in conservation and resources really got me interested in environmental issues and looking at them from a holistic perspective. EH and EJ are issues that need to be addressed from many perspectives. What I appreciate about CEH is that the organization uses a multi-pronged strategy to combat environmental issues—litigation, activism, and community organizing. But the organization is also willing to negotiate and partner with business where it makes sense.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about (or accomplishment of) CEH?
One where chemicals are tested and proven safe before they are released into the environment. A future that implements the precautionary principle to protect all of us.
Q: You’ve also been very active in local DC politics through your organization, DC Vote. What are you focusing on now?
A: Well, I am a resident of Washington DC, and DC residents fulfill all the same responsibilities of an American citizen—we pay full federal taxes, we’ve fought and died in every American war, served on juries, yet we are denied the right to vote for the people who write the laws under which we must live.
That’s why a group of us founded DC Vote in 1998. We focus on grassroots lobbying and advocacy for DC citizen voting rights. We’re fighting for our democratic birthright.
I don’t want to die without ever having voted for a US Senator. And now, as a parent, I think, I don’t want my kids to die without ever having voted for a US Senator.