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Gary Leonard Ackerman was born in Brooklyn, New York, into the family of Eva and Max Ackerman, children of Jewish immigrants who came to America in the beginning of the last century from the Kingdom of Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, and from Russia proper. 
 
His political career started in a very uncommon way. After graduating from the Queens College in 1965, he decided to dedicate his life to teaching and became a teacher at a public school. In 1969, after the birth of his first of three children from Rita Ackerman, he tried to get an unpaid paternity leave from the NYC Board of Education, but was denied, since at the time only women could go on a childcare leave. Ackerman sued the Board and eventually won, in the process creating the basis for the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and jumpstarting his political career in the process. Symbolically, when he was already a U.S. Representative, his signature went onto the very document!
 
And in 1970 he made a difficult decision to leave teaching, and started a weekly newspaper called The Flushing Tribune and later - Queens Tribune. Ackerman became a member of the New York State Senate in 1979, serving for three terms - until 1983, when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He represented the central Queens area until 1992. In addition, Ackerman was the Congressional delegate to the United Nations.
 
Ackerman was well known for his peculiar style (he wears a white carnation boutonnière every day) and his lifestyle preferences – while in Washington, he lives with his wife Rita on a houseboat named The Unsinkable II.
 
Ackerman's personal legislative achievements are numerous and can be envied by many a Congressman. One of them was the far-sighted ban on selling the meat of downed animals in supermarkets and restaurants – the ban which was at first denied but then hurriedly enacted by the President after the Mad Cow disease scare of 2003. Then there was the first ever federal ban of use of handheld cell phones while driving, the much debated consumer protection measure requiring banks and financial companies to notify consumers when negative information is placed on their credit reports, as well as the law enacted after the Enron and WorldCom scandals and prohibiting accounting firms from consulting for the companies they audit.
 
He was also very active on political issues, including sponsoring the law requiring then-president George W. Bush to impose sanctions against the Palestinian Authority for not complying with peace agreements with the U.S. and Israel, and becoming the first person since the Korean War to cross the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) while on a visit to North and South Korea, as well as forcing the German government to establish a US$110 million fund to compensate 18,000 Holocaust survivors and to investigate 3,300 former Nazi soldiers now living in the U.S. for war crimes.
 
The congressman ended his political career in 2013, when he decided not to run for another term. 
 
Sources: 
Ackerman, Gary L. (January 2, 2013). "My Last Day in Congress". The New York Times
The Center for Media and Democracy
www.ancestry.com

 


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