My first memory of Dave Lambert was at a Theater for Ideas discussion back in the 1970s in the old art school auditorium in West Central.
People in the audience were asking questions, and suddenly from way in the back came his booming voice. Over the years I was fortunate to hear that voice many times, and I never tired of it, for mostly it was used to plan a protest or speak at a protest.
Dave was a tireless champion for peace and justice. The last protest I helped him with was a few months back on closing Guantanamo, the American torture chamber in Cuba. It was a typical Dave Lambert protest.
Dave describes it in a letter he wrote lamenting its lack of media coverage that this paper published in June: “There were some great speeches and colorful garments (orange prison suits with black hoods, etc.) signs, chants, even spoken words (recorded) from President Obama. And what better photo op than when two squad cars arrived on the scene, contacted by security guards at One Summit. You missed your chance, boys! I guess it’s true that peacemakers and justice-seekers can’t count on the corporate media to carry our message, which is why we must rely upon the ‘social media’ and other forms of communication, for information and education.”
And he was never without his trusty camera, which Dave used like an artist uses a brush to create dozens of short masterpieces.
Early this year I was a benefactor of that magic when he made video inserts for a Theater for Ideas — my God, I’m still doing them for a show I called “Last Rites for America” with fellow peace activist Tim Tiernon.
A few months earlier, Dave and I were the only protesters standing up for workers on Black Friday. While waiting for others to show up, we interviewed a homeless ex-con, and the video Dave made is a classic with an opening that details the for-profit prison system that results in America having more citizens in prison than any other country.
We traveled to Indianapolis to protest America’s woeful lack of health. These are just four of the over two dozen protests in about as many locations around Fort Wayne that Dave and I did together on topics such as drones, corporate greed and most of all, America’s endless wars.
Dave inspired just about anyone who came into contact with him to be a better person. The last time I interviewed him, last fall at his home away from home, the Courthouse Green, he shed some light on how he inspires others when I asked him “What keeps you going?”
And he told the story of the man who stood outside the White House, holding up a sign protesting war. A curious reporter asked him why he stands out here when so little seems to change. And he answered, “I don’t do this to change my government. I do this so my government doesn’t change me.”
But most important, to me, he was my friend. As outstanding as he was in the public, he was maybe even more so privately. When I had open heart surgery, he posted about it on his blog and asked people to think of me. He would send me cards and emails cheering me on.\
At an event at a downtown church honoring the memory of Rachel Corrie, the American activist who was flattened like a pancake by an Israeli bulldozer when she formed a human shield to try to protect her friend’s home in Gaza, he introduced me to Rachel’s mother as “Fort Wayne’s Woody Allen,” which might be an insult to Woody Allen, but that’s not the point.
The point is the loyalty Dave had for his friends. In one of his last emails he told me, “You never run out of steam.” That’s because I had Dave Lambert at my back, his booming voice moving me forward even sometimes when I didn’t want to.