John B. Anderson 1922-2017, President of the World Federalist Association 1991-2003

John Anderson in 1997 from WFA Historical Survey

Being asked to write John ’s obituary for the Citizens for Global Solutions website is a great honor.  His death is very personal to me.  His last voicemail message, captured on my phone, is a small treasure that never fails to lift my spirits. That still booming resonance, the shear tonal power of John Anderson’s voice was strong even in his mid-nineties. Driven by a fearless and brilliantly-insightful intellect, uncompromising moral values, and a stark honesty, the thunderous sound of John’s voice was mated with superb oratorial skills. His profound speaking moved audiences far and wide, including his colleagues in the US Congress.  

The many current news articles about John focus mostly on his life up until 1980 when he ran for president, but report relatively little of the 37 years to follow. I met him in 1991after Norman Cousins died and John took over as president of the World Federalist Association. We worked together until 2003, when the WFA merged with the Campaign for UN Reform and the position of president was eliminated. Most of my fellow world federalists knew John in the context of his service to a vision of a world that would be truly “postwar,” a vision he carried to the end of his long life. 

John was a lawyer, a professor of international law.  He saw the just rule of law as a means by which the problem of war would be solved in a global society.  He saw the potential of American leadership to leverage its superpower authority to bring about a democratic federal republic of the world, where every nation would have both protection from invasion and a responsibility to uphold the security of all other nations. 

John worked hard to promote the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, a treaty to create a forum for prosecuting accused war criminals and tyrants. He was passionately committed to making war illegal the world over--grounded in his experience of the Second World War and his service as a field artillery staff sergeant. 

He was haunted by the prospect of nuclear war in a world where nukes are proliferating and where there are no governing institutions to stop it.  

John was a Christian who walked the walk. He believed that every soul on earth deserved just and compassionate treatment regardless of country or circumstance. He hated corruption and injustice wherever it appeared. Throughout his life, the more he saw of injustice and war, the more committed he became to put his politics in service of world peace. He believed that justice for all can be a reality only when there is universal law that applies to all equally, backed by democratic regional and global institutions with the authority and tools to enforce that law.  

John often cited seminal thinkers, writers and collaborators in his relentless promotion of democratic global governance - including Mortimer Adler, Ronald Glossop, Lawrence Abbot, Grenville Clark, Louis Sohn, John Logue, Joseph Barrata and Joseph Schwartzberg. 

Of course Mr. Anderson’s influence was far broader than the context in which the world federalists and UN reformers knew him.  

He supported the Department of Education and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which protected more than 100 million acres in that state. He opposed the development of the B-1 bomber and the MX missile, further construction of nuclear power plants, and discrimination on the basis of handicap or sexual orientation. 

He was outspoken on the problem of global warming and other environmental issues.   

Borrowing from some of the accounts published in the last few days, a number of comments stand out.

He was "a populist-fiscal conservative, pro-choice, advocate for gun licensing, critical of growing military spending--vocally critical of his (Republican) party’s shifting to the purist right, and for 10 years chairman of the House Republican Conference." 

He "worked both sides of the aisle, helping to create 10 national parks and instituting limits on campaign financing.

He "broke with the GOP by voting for a bill that outlawed racial discrimination in housing, supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, criticizing wasteful defense spending and backing restrictions on guns and nuclear weapons. He spoke out against the Vietnam War and was among the first Republicans to call for President Nixon’s resignation during the Watergate scandal."

He "cast the deciding vote in the House Rules Committee for the Open Housing Act of 1968” 

Quoting from John’s speech in support of that act:  "We are not simply knuckling under to pressure or listening to the voices of unreasoning fear and hysteria if we seek to do that which we believe in our hearts is right and just," he said on the House floor. "I legislate today not out of fear, but out of a deep concern for the America I love. We do stand at a crossroad. We can continue the gadarene slide into an endless cycle of riot and disorder, or we can begin the slow and painful ascent toward that yet-distant goal of equality of opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race or color.” 

James Gannon, editor of the Des Moines Register, once described Anderson as "a silver-haired orator with a golden tongue, a 17-jewel mind and a brass backbone" but "whose Achilles heel is a passionate attachment to the issues and a willingness to argue his viewpoint when it would be shrewder to shut up.” 

John is survived by Keke, his wife of 64 years, their four daughters and a son, and eleven grandchildren.


Larry M. David, Chairman, World Federalist Association (now Citizens for Global Solutions Education Fund)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.

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