Sara Nelson – Executive Director


Sara Nelson is the Cornell University & U.C. Berkeley-educated former National Labor Secretary of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in Washington, D.C. and the 15-year National Executive Director of The Christic Institute, an inter-faith law and public policy center in Washington, D.C. She is currently the Executive Director of its sequel, the Romero Institute in Santa Cruz, California, which is working on the Lakota People’s Law Project and the Constitutional Protection Zones, among other projects.

Responding to the concerns of NOW women, Sara assembled the Karen Silkwood Fund and launched the national campaign to find out who killed Karen Silkwood, a young union leader working at a nuclear plutonium factory in Oklahoma. Silkwood was run off the road while delivering evidence of radioactive hazards to a New York Times reporter. The campaign resulted in two Congressional hearings, in Karen becoming the first nuclear martyr in the US, Europe and Australia, and in Meryl Streep portraying her in the film Silkwood. The ensuing investigation and jury trial in 1979 prevented any new nuclear plants from being built for over 30 years. Founded by twelve of the Silkwood team, the Christic Institute was known for its cutting edge litigation, investigation, public education and grass roots organizing projects such as the Greensboro Case against the KKK and Nazi Party for the killing of demonstrators, the first Sanctuary Defense case of Salvadorans fleeing for their lives, the Three Mile Island injunction to stop the dumping of the meltdown’s radioactive waste into the Susquahanna River, and the Iran Contra case against 28 people working with Oliver North on Constitutional violations, illegal war making, illegal gun running, drug smuggling, and assassination programs.

The Christic Institute had 50 staff, five offices and 100s of Action Teams throughout the country. Sara was asked, in 1999, to serve as the Executive Director of former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev’s & former United States Secretary of State James Baker III’s State of the World Forum in San Francisco. The State of the World Forum annually gathered 1000 of the world’s former Presidents; Vice Presidents; Secretaries of State; Secretaries of Defense and other Cabinet Members to meet with the world’s leading business executives; scientists and Nobel Laureates; civic leaders; activists and leaders of national public interest organizations; emerging young leaders: leaders of our world’s largest religious communities, and agency heads of the United Nations in an effort to collectively discuss global problems and solutions.

With four decades of experience as the Executive Director of some of our nation’s most effective public interest research, public education, grassroots organizing, and law and policy organizations, Sara Nelson is currently the Executive Director of the Romero Institute in Santa Cruz, CA. The Romero Institute, a law and policy center, was founded in 1980 and is exposing and implementing solutions to structural injustice, human rights and Constitutional violations, and serious threats to the environment.