Puttingthe FirstAnieridlncitt first Agency braved ci~-rights tensibn, war protests to promote speakers By Colleen Brosh NEWS BUSINESS WRITER NEWTON - When Robert Walker launched his speakers' agency in the mid-1960s, he faced two challenges most new business owners do not need to overcome: defending the First Amendment and fighting prej- udice. SMALL BUSINESS WOl'k in P,'o ress: Marketing,a new product At the height of the civil rights movement, Walker gave those championing the cause a platform to speak with hi~ new bu~iness . the American Program Bureau. The tiny company he and his wife Francine started from a two-room office in Boston organized some of the decade's most prominent ac- tivists to speak at college campuses- before they were famous. Civil-rights activist Dick Gregory, feminist Betty Friedan and counter- culture icons Abbie Hoffman and Timothy Leary were all part of his speakers' circuit. The speakers he has met and managed during his 30 years of business are a Who's Who of 20th-century history, from Andy Warhol to Mikhail Gorbachev. " Walker, who describes himself as a First Amendment purist, saw an opportunity on college campuses to launch a lecture business and boost his most cherished American ideal, free speech, at the same time. "I have always believed if you have something to say, you should have a platform to say it," Walker said. "There was a lot more censor- ship in the '60s." First, he had to battle college ad- , ministrators to ailow students to pick the speakers they wanted. Then, once those speakers had their say, Walker was often bombarded ' with threats and hate mail. The hati! mail motivated him to keep going, he said. . Despite the obstacles, the busineSs took off quickly, adding more renowned speakers and more venues around the country. The tim- ing of his business matched the growth of the civil rights movement and anti-war demonstrations o~ col- lege campuses. "There were no agencies that were really doing what we were doing. There was no one in the col- lege market selling lectures," Walk- er said. "We were always very issue- STAFF PHOTO BY KEN MCGAGH Robert Walker, chainnan and chief executive officer oflhe American Program Bureau, has arranged speeChes by everyone from Dick Gregory to Mikhail Gorbachev. oriented." ' But Walker left the busineSs for a ideals he startedwitIL HIs rrtissiort, and signed on to speak for the while, selling it to a large company , he says, is to bring world leaders to American Program Bureau. . 1980 th b . . b k ' . . the public so they can see and hear "That's what's unbelievable about m ,en uymg It 'ac agam .' th' elf' c' a' us' es an' "d'I'd'eas", ' firs"'"~-d:' '' ' ' , ' several years later. UIdJ..l this lfuSlrtess: I have been able to de- "I was tired. 1 wanted to do some- This year, he created a speakers velop friendshipS with people like thing else," Walker said. "But 1 ⢠forum at the temple he worshiJlS at Gorbachev," Walker said. missed it. 1 love the business." ' in Swampscott to honor his parents, He nOw hopes to bring a taste of After a slew of other advent..ires: ' Nobel Prize ' laureates ArchbiShou th~e famous people to the public via from bringing rock concerts to Desmond Tutu; Betty Williams and the Interne;:. Foxboro Stadium to pulling together ' Gorbachev all spoke. ' Walker's newest venture i:! re- a museum exhibit of Russianjeweis Walker counts Gomachevamoog launching the compa~y's World and art from the czars, he returned his friends. His office is covered with , Wide Web site with video pieces of , to ,the Am!lrican Program Bureau. photographs of Walker's family and the past. He plans to post old televi- Walker, 64, remains true to the the' GorbachevS, who met afterGor- sion footage his company shot in the bachev left the Russian presidency 1970s of political roundtable discus- sions between college students and politicians like Ed Muskie. John Kerry, and Gerald Ford, before he was president. "I want to share with people these things that have been in my base- ment for the past 30 years. They are history," he said. . Although he still has big plans for the company, Walker is happy with what he has accomplished already. "If I left this earth tomorrow, } would feel very good about what : have done," he said. "} have helped people by bridging gaps." page1.pdf bond-tst.pdf diversity-cover-collage.pdf Dr. Alvin Poussaint TST.pdf article.pdf

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Puttingthe FirstAnieridlncitt first Agency braved ci~-rights tensibn, war protests to promote speakers By Colleen Brosh NEWS BUSINESS WRITER NEWTON - When Robert Walker launched…