Born in about 1960, Wes Boyd attended college for a short time before dropping out to pursue his primary passion, software design. After working for several years as a consultant and programmer at UC Berkeley, he went on to design software that enabled visually impaired people to use personal computers.
In 1987 Boyd and his wife, Joan Blades, co-founded the San Francisco-based entertainment-software company, Berkeley Systems, which rapidly became a leader in the industry. Best known for creating the popular-culture trivia game “You Don’t Know Jack” and the “Flying Toasters” computer screen savers, by the late 1990s Berkeley Systems employed 150 people and was registering annual sales of approximately $30 million. In 1997 Boyd and Blades sold the company for $13.8 million and shifted their focus to progressive grassroots political action.
In 1998 Boyd and Blades were angered when the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. They viewed the impeachment hearings not only as unfair to Clinton, but also as a distraction that prevented the president from attending to the necessary business of governance.
In September 1998, Boyd and Blades together launched the public policy group and political action committee MoveOn.org as an online petition against the Clinton impeachment. Calling for a reprimand of Clinton rather than his removal from office, the petition read, simply: “Congress must immediately censure President Clinton and Move On to pressing issues facing the country.” Boyd and Blades then e-mailed the petition to 100 of their friends and invited them to add their names. “It was supposed to be a flash campaign,” Boyd later told Time magazine. “We’re in, we’re out, we’re fixed.” Within a week, however, no fewer than 100,000 people had signed the petition; a few months later, the figure exceeded half a million. So overwhelming was the response, that Boyd and Blades recruited volunteers to hand-deliver printed petitions to House Members and make phone calls to district offices.
On December 21, 1998, the day of Clinton’s impeachment, Boyd said: “On Saturday, we witnessed the most reckless and irrational act in congressional history. The only way to save our system from permanent harm is to insure historic consequences for the perpetrators.”
Once the Clinton impeachment controversy had receded somewhat from public attention, MoveOn expanded its focus to other issues, including gun control, environmental protection, campaign finance reform, and anti-war activism. Boyd and Blades took notice of 9-11Peace.org, a website that featured an online petition urging the U.S. government to respond to the 9/11 terrorist attacks with “moderation and restraint.” Boyd contacted Eli Pariser, the 20-year-old who had recently launched 9-11Peace.org, and offered him advice as well as financial support. In November 2001, Boyd invited Pariser to merge his website with MoveOn, and he hired the young activist to serve as MoveOn’s director of international campaigns. Before long, Pariser became the public face of MoveOn, appearing at demonstrations and giving interviews to the press.
In 2010, Boyd served on the Board of Directors of the Progressive States Network.
Boyd has been MoveOn’s president ever since its founding.