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In addition to All in the Family, Lear wrote and produced a host of other controversial shows that dealt with pressing social issues. In 1972, he introduced Maude on CBS, whose caustic, liberal title character provided a foil to the conservative Archie Bunker. Lear also brought black families into starring roles on primetime television with Good Times (1974-1979) and The Jeffersons (1975-1985). While Lear's shows were often criticized for their sharp political bent,
he vociferously defended his right to incorporate his personal views into his writing. "Why wouldn't I have ideas and thoughts," he said, "and why wouldn't my work reflect those ideas?"
In order to have a more direct impact on social change, in 1981 Lear decided to leave the world of television for political activism. In that year, he founded People for the American Way, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting First Amendment rights, strengthening public education, and promoting electoral and immigration reform. In 2000, Lear founded the Norman Lear Center at USC to support research investigating the intersection of entertainment and society. Four years later, he founded Declare Yourself, a nonpartisan youth voter registration initiative. For his work in both television and political activism, President Bill Clinton presented Lear with the National Medal of Arts in 1999, stating that "Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it."
Lear lives in Los Angeles, California with his second wife Lyn Davis Lear. He has six children and four grandchildren. Together the couple continues to participate in political causes; in 2009, they founded Born Again American, a group committed to reviving informed citizenship.
Asked by an interviewer to sum up his influence on American television and society, Lear recalled one night when he was riding in an airplane. "I remember looking down and thinking, hey, it's just possible, wherever I see a light, I've helped to somebody laugh."
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