'Privileged Class'?

RAY JENKINS

November 03, 1991|By RAY JENKINS

George Herbert Walker Bush -- scion of a wealthy Connecticut banking family, son of a U.S. senator, graduate of Phillips Andover and Yale, millionaire oilman from Texas -- has accused members of Congress of being a "privileged class."

And who are the members of that "privileged class"? Well, consider 10 from Maryland:

1. Paul S. Sarbanes, born of Greek immigrant parents, educated in the public schools of Maryland's Eastern Shore, made it on his record to Princeton, where he won a Rhodes Scholarship. Graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. After serving one term in the state legislature, defeated an entrenched political machine to enter Congress in 1970; moved up to Senate in 1976.

2. Barbara S. Mikulski, granddaughter of Polish immigrants who ran a grocery story in East Baltimore. Graduate of Roman Catholic parochial schools and the University of Maryland. Social worker, elected to Baltimore City Council in 1971 as a community activist, then to Congress in 1976, then to the Senate in 1986. Specializes in issues such as docks, child protection, Social Security.

3. Wayne Gilchrest, born in a New Jersey suburb of New York, product of public schools and small colleges, former Peace Corpsman, teacher and house painter, resident of Chestertown, elected to Congress in 1990 as a moderate Republican over a conservative Democrat tainted with defense-contractor money and staff scandal.

4. Helen Delich Bentley, born of Yugoslavian immigrant parents in a small town in Nevada, educated at a state university. Newspaper woman at home on the docks of Baltimore despite her diminutive frame. Elected to Congress in 1984 as a pro-union Republican over an entrenched Democrat. Lives in a modest home in Lutherville.

5. Benjamin L. Cardin, descendant of 19th century Jewish immigrants to America, educated at public schools in Pikesville, then state universities. Elected to Maryland House of Delegates at the age of 24, served five terms, the last two as Speaker. Elected to Congress in 1986 to represent the blue-collar neighborhoods of "Bawlamer." Legislative interests include public works and transportation.

6. Tom McMillen, son of a small-town dentist and college teacher in Pennsylvania, product of public schools, won scholarship to play basketball at University of Maryland, then a Rhodes Scholarship. After 11 years in professional basketball, chose Maryland as his permanent home, built his own successful business. A centrist who calls himself an "entrepreneurial" Democrat, was elected to Congress in 1986. Specializes in banking affairs, space, science, technology and has become a leading policy maker in college and professional athletics.

7. Steny H. Hoyer, born in New York, product of public schools, attended University of Maryland. Lawyer, elected to Maryland Senate at age of 28, then to Congress in 1981 from a Washington bedroom community made up largely of lower- and mid-level government employees. In 10 years has risen to front ranks of his party's leadership in the House of Representatives.

8. Beverly B. Byron, born into middle class family in Baltimore, attended Hood College. Elected to Congress in 1978 to succeed her husband who had died in office. Conservative Democrat with special interest in defense matters as a member of the hawkish House Armed Services Committee.

9. Kweisi Mfume, product of inner-city Baltimore and its public schools. Adopted an African name. Graduate of Morgan State University, talk-radio show host, elected as a maverick city councilman of Baltimore in 1979. Earned a masters degree from Johns Hopkins while serving in city government, elected to Congress in 1986 to succeed the legendary Parren J. Mitchell. Legislative interests and skills run from hunger to high finance.

10. Constance A. Morella, born into an Italian immigrant family in working-class suburb of Boston. Educated in public schools, mother of three who also raised six of her late sister's children, taught college English, began political career late, in 1979, as a liberal Republican in the tradition of Sen. Charles McC. Mathias. Served two terms in Maryland legislature, elected to Congress in 1986. Devotes legislative attention to civil service matters and problems of the aging.

These are but 10 of 535 men and women from across America who are the bone and sinew of the Congress of the United States -- people who President Bush maintains belong to "a privileged class." Not one of the 10 inherited substantial wealth, and only Tom McMillen, who made it as a basketball superstar and then as a businessman, is a millionaire.

Go back now, read President Bush's background, and ask, who really deserves to be called a member of the "privileged class"?

Ray Jenkins is editor of the editorial pages of The Evening Sun.

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