We the People: An Evening with the ACLU’s Anthony Romero
Anthony D. Romero '87 is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation's premier defender of civil liberties. He took the helm of the organization seven days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Anticipating the impending assault on civil liberties, Romero launched the Keep America Safe and Free campaign and created the ACLU’s National Security Project, which achieved victories on the Patriot Act, the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and surveillance. During the Obama administration, the ACLU continued its litigation on NSA surveillance and challenged the U.S. drone program.Prior to the 2016 election, the ACLU released a legal analysis warning that Donald Trump’s policy proposals would amount to a constitutional crisis. Under Romero’s direction, the ACLU has led the resistance against these policies, including winning a nationwide stay of Trump’s Muslim Ban just over 24 hours after it was issued. He also oversaw the creation of the ACLU’s first national grassroots mobilization effort, People Power, which has galvanized nationwide activism on immigrants’ rights, voting rights, and other issues.Throughout Romero’s tenure, the ACLU has aggressively challenged the greatest injustices of our time, including: litigation and lobbying efforts to win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples; a nationwide campaign to depopulate the prisons and jails by 50 percent; representation of Edward Snowden; the establishment of a project to assist in the defense of detainees held at Guantánamo; and an innovative legal challenge to patents held by a private company on the human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer.An attorney with a history of public-interest activism, Romero has presided over the most successful growth in the ACLU's history, dramatically increasing its membership, staff, and budget. This unprecedented growth enabled Romero to expand the ACLU’s nationwide litigation, lobbying, political advocacy, and public education efforts.Romero is the ACLU's sixth executive director and the first Latino and openly gay man to serve in that capacity. Born in New York City to parents who hailed from Puerto Rico, he was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He is a graduate of Stanford University Law School and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs.Romero is visiting the School as part of its Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation Leadership through Mentorship Program.