Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders officially kicked off his presidential campaign on Tuesday night at a rally in Burlington complete with a zydeco band called Mango Jam and free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Sanders is a welcome addition to the list of Democratic presidential candidates, which includes Hillary Clinton and…Sanders. If he manages to overcome Clinton in the primaries, Sanders could be the first president from New York since Franklin Delano Roosevelt — and the first ever who hails from Brooklyn.
Sanders was born in 1941, his father, Eli, a Polish Jew, having immigrated to the U.S. in 1917. Of the family Eli left behind, none survived the Holocaust. Sanders’s mother, Dorothy, was American-born, the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants. Dorothy, Eli, and their two sons, Bernie and Larry (no, not that Larry Sanders; this one), lived in Flatbush, in a three-and-a-half-room apartment on East 26th Street. When Bernie was just 19, his mother died at age 46, never having fulfilled her dream of moving out of the cramped apartment and into a proper house.
Sanders attended Brooklyn’s James Madison High School — also the alma mater of New York Senator Chuck Schumer — where he was captain of the track team. (In 2008 he even made the school’s Wall of Distinction!)
Sanders’s Brooklyn roots didn’t stop at high school, either. After graduating in 1959, he went on to Brooklyn College before transferring to the University of Chicago, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1964. He then moved to Vermont, and in 1981 was elected mayor of Burlington.
Reporters love to point out Sanders’s Flatbush accent; in 2010, responding to a speech Sanders gave on the Senate floor, Tom Robbins wrote in the Village Voice, “Sanders is Brooklyn born…which explains the fine Flatbush emphasis that gives his spiel an extra heft:
‘Many of the nation’s billionaires are on the warpath. They want mawah, mawah, mawah. Their greed has no end.’ ”
If Sanders is elected president, at 75, he’ll be the oldest person to have accomplished that feat. Way to go, Bernie! We wish you luck and all the artisanal pickles you can eat!