WYDEN, RONALD STEPHEN


WYDEN, RONALD STEPHEN (1949– ), U.S. senator. Ron Wyden is the son of a German Jewish refugee, Peter Wyden, who was the author of Stella, a book about the most beautiful girl in his class in Germany who used her beauty as a weapon in survival. One of his grandfathers edited the works of Schopenhauer. His father worked for the St. Louis Dispatch and Newsweek, so Ron Wyden grew up in St. Louis and Washington, D.C. Among his classmates was Hubert Humphrey III, son of the senator and vice president. He then moved to Palo Alto where he played basketball in high school and at the University of California Santa Barbara before an injury ended his playing days. Only then did he begin to take his studies seriously, and he graduated from Stanford before moving to the University of Oregon to study law.

In Portland, he worked as a campaign aide to Senator Wayne Morse and then as director of the Gray Panthers organizing the elderly. His first effort in politics was to sponsor a referendum for reducing the price of dentures. He ran for Congress at the age of 31 from Portland and, after Robert Packwood resigned, he ran for the Senate in 1996, defeating Gordon Smith, who later became his Senate colleague, by a small margin in a tight race. It was the first race in the country to use mail ballots alone.

In the Senate he worked with Charles Grassley to insist on disclosures of senatorial holds. He was known for his work on behalf of the elderly. During the Reagan Administration and again in the George W. Bush Administration he was an ardent defender of Social Security. He joined with Republican colleagues of the Senate and the House to ensure that the Internet be tax-free, and restricting spam. He was active concerning the environment, sponsoring with Henry Waxman the Clean Air Act. He was also active in the campaign against tobacco. Although he opposed Oregon's assisted suicide law, he defended it against Congressional efforts to override state law with federal regulation. He was a strong advocate for a woman's right to choose and sought to bring RU 486, the morning after pill, to the United States. He also served on the Senate Intelligence Committee and was a firm voter against the Iraq war.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

K.F. Stone, The Congressional Minyan: The Jews of Capitol Hill (2000); L.S. Maisel and I. Forman (eds.), Jews in American Politics (2001).

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.