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Paul Newman – did he have The Right Ethos?

This time last year I wrote following the death of Anita Roddick – about whether she had The Right Ethos – which she clearly did have.

Sadly, I’m writing today about Paul Newman who died last month – another individual who used their wealth and celebrity to try and make positive change in the world.

I met Paul Newman, in September 2004 (corrected from e-newsletter, which said 2005). It was a genuinely bizarre but wonderful encounter.

It was on Highbury Fields in Islington. I was the Deputy Mayor of the council at the time. And he was promoting his Newman’s Own food range – all the profits of which go to support children’s charities.

To keep the children’s theme, Paul Newman was there performing as a clown at a special event as part of Zippo’s circus. There I told you it was bizarre, he was dressed as a clown and me and my wife, Cath, as deputy mayor and mayoress in our chains of office.

After the performance, we were introduced to him. We expected a quick handshake and to be moved on – but instead we spent a cherished 4 minutes talking to him, mainly about Blair and politics. Just to confirm that those blue eyes were incredible close up.

It was a cherished moment because I knew the power of the man. Obviously I loved his films – particularly Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and The Sting.

I also admired his commitment to philanthropy including the establishment of summer camps for children who suffered from life-threatening illnesses.

But what was great about Paul Newman – why he had The Right Ethos – was his commitment to human rights. Supporting unpopular causes which could have at least limited or even stopped his career.

Newman was also a vocal supporter of gay rights and, in particular, same-sex marriage.

He once said

“I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being… by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant. “

In 1963, Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward, demonstrated in Alabama with James Garner and Marlon Brando, promoting civil rights, and in 1968 they opposed the war in Vietnam.

He championed the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and in 1978 President Jimmy Carter appointed Newman as a US delegate to the UN Conference on Nuclear Disarmament.

It is not surprising then and clear confirmation of Newman having The Right Ethos that he was 19th on the enemy list of Richard Nixon.