Dick Gephardt grew up in the same working class neighborhood on the south side of St. Louis, Missouri, that he represents today in the U.S. Congress.
Gephardt's father, a milk truck driver and Teamster, taught him the value of hard work. His mother, a secretary, taught him an appreciation for the value of community and caring about the needs and aspirations of others. While his parents didn't finish high school, they instilled in him a lifelong desire to strive and succeed.
Gephardt was able to continue his education past high school with the help of a church scholarship and student loans. Shortly after Gephardt graduated from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan Law School, he began a career in public service as a grassroots organizer in St. Louis politics.
Dick Gephardt served in the Air National Guard, achieving the rank of Captain.
Gephardt also served in the Air National Guard from 1965 to 1971. He enlisted in the National Guard in 1965 and became an officer as Judge Advocate for the 131st Combat Support Squadron based in St. Louis. He achieved the rank of Captain before being honorably discharged.
Elected Alderman in 1971, Gephardt learned firsthand how government policies could help or hinder the working families he represented. He saw how families, senior citizens, small business owners, and others yearned to have lawmakers who would listen to them, care about their circumstances, and commit to working on their behalf.
From the very beginning, Gephardt understood that Democrats could be counted on to give people a fair opportunity, to defend Social Security and Medicare, and to make sure that government worked for the many, instead of the few.
Now, after 26 years in the Congress, Gephardt is an accomplished lawmaker and leader in the Democratic Party. Passionately committed to raising the level of debate in American politics, Gephardt has forcefully spoken of the need to put aside the "politics of personal destruction" and instead focus on the issues central to America's future.
In 1989, Gephardt was elected to be the House Democratic Leader. Among his most notable accomplishments was House passage of President Clinton's economic plan to slash the deficit, invest in education, cut taxes for working families and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share.
As the Democratic leader, Gephardt steered this initiative to passage without a single Republican vote. The GOP asserted it was a job killer, but in fact this economic plan led to the single longest economic expansion in history, the highest home ownership ever, the lowest inflation in a generation and over 24 million new jobs.