From Site of Congressman Bernie Sanders:
On January 3, 1991, when Bernie Sanders was sworn in as Vermont's at-large member in the House of Representatives, history was made. Sanders became the first Independent elected to Congress in 40 years. He has since been re-elected five times. He is the longest-serving Independent in the history of the House of Representatives.
Sanders is married to Dr. Jane O'Meara Sanders, who shares many of the Congressman's political interests and has worked with him in a variety of capacities for the last twenty years. Bernie and Jane are the very proud parents of four children.
Bernie was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1941, the son of a paint salesman who immigrated to this country as a young man. His mother raised her two sons in a small apartment while his father earned a steady but limited income. Sanders' family circumstances, in which money was often tight, heavily influenced his understanding about the financial difficulties that face many working class families.
Sanders graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn, and spent one year at Brooklyn College. He then transferred to the University of Chicago, where he graduated in 1964. That same year, Sanders and his first wife purchased land in Middlesex, Vermont.
In 1971 his interest in progressive politics took him to a meeting of the newly-formed Liberty Union Party, a third-party alternative to the Democrats and the Republicans. He left that meeting as the Party's candidate for the U.S. Senate, and ended up with 2 percent of the vote. He ran three more races as a Liberty Union candidate - once more for the U.S. Senate, and twice for Governor. During all of his campaigns, Bernie focused on issues of importance to working people and the class nature of American society.
In 1981, with overwhelming support from the working class wards, Bernie pulled off one of the biggest political upsets in Vermont's history. Running as an Independent, he defeated the six term Democratic incumbent - by 12 votes! He would go on to win three more terms as Mayor of Burlington, defeating Democratic and Republican candidates.
In his years as Mayor, Sanders and the Progressives established a Youth Office that developed a city-run day-care center, a teen center, after-school programs and many other activities for kids. They started a Women's Council that became one of the leading organizations in the state in the fight for women's rights. The City also established an Arts Council.
In 1990, after spending a year teaching at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University and at Hamilton College in upstate New York, Sanders ran for Congress again and won.
In recent years, Bernie has been extremely active on two initiatives that started in Vermont but have had major national implications. In 1999, in order to fight against the outrageously high prescription drug prices that Vermonters and all Americans are forced to pay, he led a nationally publicized bus trip across the Canadian border with Vermonters to buy prescription drugs. As a result, the nation learned that the pharmaceutical industry sells the exact same medicine in Canada, and every other country, at far lower prices than they are sold in the United States. This trip greatly accelerated efforts in Vermont in which Vermonters are now going across the border in large numbers for medicine and, in the process, are saving significant sums of money.
When Bernie took office in 1991, he was concerned that there was no organized group in the House of Representatives to represent the economic interests of the average American. Along with four other members of the House, he founded the House Progressive Caucus that has helped lead the effort in Congress to protect the interests of the ordinary citizens of this country who cannot afford to contribute large sums of money to buy political influence.
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