40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders

Trista - February 24, 2019

If you thought you knew Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Presidential campaign, it’s nothing compared to what you’re going to learn with these 40 facts. In February of 2019, Sanders stated he would once again run for president in 2020. Of course, in a time where the nation remains politically divided between Republicans and Democrats, Sanders’ announcement was met with both praise and dislike.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders on Capitol Hill in January 2019. Andrew Harnick / Associated Press / vpr.org.

40. While He Is Running As A Democrat For President, He’s Independent In The Senate

Usually, when presidential candidates run for office, they don’t change the political party they represent in the Senate. For example, if they are Democrat in the Senate, they run as a Democrat for president. However, like many other things Bernie Sanders had done in his life, he didn’t follow this unwritten rule. When he ran for president in 2016 and now again in 2020, Sanders changed the Independent political title he holds in the Senate to Democrat in the presidential run.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders in September of 1981. Donna Light / Associated Press / New York Times.

39. Before Becoming a Senator, Bernie Became a Mayor

The majority of people in politics began their political career a bit more locally before going more national. Bernie followed suit with this when he became Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, which is one of Vermont’s biggest cities. In total, Bernie served four terms as mayor, which equals to eight years. Bernie started his career as mayor on April 6, 1981, and ended his chapter of mayor life on April 4, 1989.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders is playing baseball. The Root.

38. As A Mayor, Bernie Said America Had Its Priorities Wrong

Bernie Sanders has never been one to hide what he honestly felt. He proved this a few times during his time as mayor when he stated that America had its priorities wrong. One of the things he said during the 1980s was that the American government should take money from the military and give it to the areas that need it most, such as health care and housing. However, as mayor, Bernie could do very little to try to change the way America allocated funds.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders after his mayor win in 1981. Rob Swanson / File/ Boston Globe.

37. Because of Bernie’s Socialist Belief, People Felt He Wouldn’t Stay In Politics Long

From the time Bernie Sanders sat in the mayor’s chair, he became open about his socialist views. For many residents in Burlington, these views started to make them uncomfortable with Bernie being in the political power seat. However, many of these residents also stated they weren’t too worried about his socialist views because they knew he wouldn’t have a political career for very long. Many of them felt he wouldn’t make it beyond being the mayor of Burlington. They never thought he would not only become a Senator, but join the presidential election years later.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders as a child. Jacob Kornbluh / Jewish Insider.

36. Bernie’s Father Immigrated to the United States

While Bernie was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 8, 1941, his father immigrated to the United States as a young adult. Elias Ben Yehuda Sanders, Bernie’s father immigrated from Słopnice, Galicia in Austria-Hungary, which, today, is part of Poland. Once he came onto American soil, he became a paint salesman. Bernie’s mother, Dorothy “Dora” Glassberg Sanders lived in the state of New York all her life.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
A portrait of Adolf Hitler in 1938. German Federal Archive / Bundesarchiv, Bild / Wikimedia.

35. Bernie Became Interested In Politics Because of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany

Even though Bernie came into this world in 1941, doesn’t mean he didn’t learn about World War II at an early age. In fact, in his adult life, Bernie would admit to reporters that it was Adolf Hitler who got him interested in politics. Bernie realized that politics were very important when he noted that someone who killed millions of people was believed to be a good leader during his campaign. Bernie learned about the Holocaust early in his life, not just because of his Jewish background, but because several of his relatives died in Nazi Germany.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Agence France Presse / Hulton Archive / Getty Images.

34. Bernie Became An Active Member In The Civil Rights Movement

During the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s and 1960s, Bernie attended college for three years at the University of Chicago. While he was a student, Bernie took an active role in local Civil Rights Movement protests, even getting arrested at one of these protests because he resisted authorities. He also made time to be a participant in the March on Washington in 1963, where Bernie witnessed Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a Dream” speech in person.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders in college. Michael Kruse / Politico.

33. Bernie Also Took A Spot In Antiwar and Peace Movements

Bernie Sanders did more protesting in college than just with the Civil Rights Movement. He also took part in Peace and Antiwar Movements, which was a movement that opposed the Vietnam War. Not only did Bernie become a member of the Student Peace Committee, which often focused on political protests, but he also became a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. This was a Civil Rights student organization. Through these organizations, Bernie became involved in many protests throughout his college years.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders in 1981. Vermont Press Bureau / Jaconin Mag.

32. Bernie Sanders Tried To Get Out of the Vietnam Draft, Which Worked, But For A Different Reason

Throughout the Vietnam War, Bernie Sanders continued to protest the war as he didn’t believe America should be a part of the war. While he never bashed any soldiers, who went off to war, he applied for the “conscientious objector” status. This status allowed people to apply so they wouldn’t get drafted on the basis of opposing the war due to their right to do so as an American Citizen. While the military didn’t accept Bernie’s application, they also wouldn’t accept Bernie because he was too old to take part in the draft.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage in 2017. Office of Senator Bernie Sanders / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

31. While Bernie Advocates For Free College Education Now, He Wasn’t The Greatest Student

Today, Bernie is known for advocating free college education. However, college wasn’t always something Bernie advocated. In fact, as a college student, he barely graduated because he maintained a low GPA, the lowest was a 2.5, throughout his college years. Later in his life, Bernie would admit that he didn’t pay much attention to his college courses because he found them boring. But today, Bernie believes that college is one of the most essential things in the United States.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Liberty Union Party. Libertyunionparty.org.

30. He Spent Time In The Liberty Union Party

One of Bernie’s first big political moves was as a Liberty Union Party member during the 1970s. During this time, he ran for Governor of Vermont in both the 1972 and 1976 elections. He also tried for a seat in Congress in 1972 and 1974. Even though Bernie gained 11,000 votes for Governor in 1976, he lost all elections to Republican and Democratic parties. During the last election of 1976, all the resources within the Liberty Union Party became drained, and Sanders gave his resignation as a Liberty Union Party member in 1977.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Eugene Victor Debs, an American socialist, in 1912. Truth Dig.

29. Sanders Worked In A Historical Society Where He Wrote About Eugene V. Debs

Right after Bernie announced his resignation in the Liberty Union Party, he started to work for the American Peoples Historical Society. Here, his main job turned to working on a document about Eugene V. Debs, a member of the Socialist Party. Bernie not only wrote the 30-minute documentary, but he also produced the documentary which followed the life of Debs, who also ran for President twice in the early 1900s as a Socialist Party candidate.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Vermont Representative Bernie Sanders in 1991. US Government Printing Office – Congressional Pictorial Directory, 104th US Congress, p. 137 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

28. Bernie Received A Seat In Congress In 1990 As An Independent Candidate

In 1990, Bernie received a seat in Congress for the Independent political party. This made Bernie the first Independent candidate to earn a seat in Congress since 1950 when Frazier Reams won a position as an Independent candidate for Congress. He sat in the House of Representatives from 1990 until 2007 when he won a seat in the Senate. Bernie often credits the people of Vermont for sending him to Congress as an Independent political candidate.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders during a Senate hearing in 2018. Alex Edelman / AP Photo / The Nation.

27. Bernie Co-Founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus

Today, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is made up of one Senator and over 70 House of Representative members. It’s known as one of the largest caucuses in Congress. Bernie, along with a few other members of Congress, such as Maxine Waters, Lane Evans, and Thomas Andrews founded the Caucus in 1991. The four points of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are preserving civil rights and liberties, fighting for security and economic justice for everyone, advancing energy dependence and environmental protection, and promoting global peace and security.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders in the recording studio. Toby Talbot / Associated Press / Breitbart.

26. Sanders Released A Folk/Spoken Word Album

Bernie Sanders is known as a politician and not a singer. This notion becomes more apparent if you ever hear his 1987 Folk album called “We Shall Overcome.” Lately, this album is seen as more of a late night comedy segment than anything else. The tracks focus a lot on Sanders’ politics and the history of the United States, starting with songs from the Civil War Era. Altogether there are five songs on this album and nearly 24 musicians to help Sanders.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
The movie “Sweet Hearts Dance.” Duffsflix.

25. Bernie Sanders Had A Role In The Movie “Sweet Hearts Dance”

Bernie Sanders went from singing to having a small role in a Hollywood Movie. In 1988, Sanders had a small role alongside Susan Sarandon, Don Johnson, and Jeff Daniels in “Sweet Hearts Dance.” Sanders’ cameo appearance is about 45 seconds long and occurs when the lead characters are out trick or treating. During this time, Sanders was mayor of Burlington and part of the movie was filmed in Vermont, not too far from Burlington.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders as Rabbi in the movie “My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception.” YouTube.

24. Bernie Tried Hollywood Again In the 1990s

In 1999, a very low-budget comedy came out called “My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception.” While this movie didn’t get good reviews at all, you can still watch Bernie’s cameo appearance as Rabbi online. In the film, he plays a Rabbi during a wedding scene with singer Debbie Gibson. Many people who have watched Bernie’s cameo in the movie says he is one of the better parts of the show.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders campaigned for Hillary Clinton at Nashua Community College in October 2016. Tim Pierce / Wikimedia.

23. He Was Called One Of America’s Best Mayors

Bernie Sanders had always acted in a way that made people either love him or hate him when it came to politics. But this didn’t stop U.S. News & World Report from naming Sanders one of the best mayors in 1987. During his time as mayor, Sanders created a reputation known for giving opinions on a national level, but he always kept his main focus local. For example, as mayor Sanders helped bring minor league baseball into Burlington.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
The Burlington City Hall in Vermont where Bernie Sanders was mayor for eight years. Beyond My Ken / Wikimedia.

22. Burlington Began To See Sanders As A Different Socialist From All The Rest

When someone who knows Bernie Sanders best was asked why Burlington elected him mayor four times throughout the 1980s, he stated because Bernie’s different. Everyone in Burlington knew Bernie as a socialist, which isn’t promising for any political figure. However, they also knew Bernie wasn’t like the other political socialists because he wanted to win. Most of the time, socialists want to lose so they can turn around and blame the system. Burlington never saw Bernie as a “typical” socialist.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders as a senior in high school in 1959. James Madison High School – The Log 1959 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

21. Bernie Lost His Class Presidency

Bernie learned the importance of politics as a young child after learning about Hitler’s rise to power and killing over 6 million Jews, some of whom were Bernie’s family members. The first time Bernie dipped his feet into politics happened at his James Madison High School in Brooklyn, New York. Bernie ran for the presidency of his class but lost. Fortunately, for the Independent political party and his supporters, this wouldn’t make Bernie leave politics.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
A group of Korean orphans brought to the United States by Harry Holt. AP Photo / Ernest K. Bennett / The Nation.

20. Bernie Wanted To Raise Money For Korean Orphans

While Bernie spoke to his classmates before losing the president role for his class, he turned to matters that were important to him at the time. One of these matters included raising money for South Korean children. At the time, many Korean orphans traveled to the United States, but Bernie wanted to try to help them in their home country. Even though Bernie lost the presidency, his James Madison High School decided to raise money for the children anyway.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders speaking to a college class in the 1980s. Hartford Courant.

19. As Mayor, Bernie Spoke At College And Told Students Change Is Possible

Known as a Socialist mayor for Burlington, Vermont, Bernie spoke a lot about radical change. In fact, he even started to take his radical change is possible opinions into the college classrooms. In 1983, Bernie traveled to West Hartford’s University of Connecticut campus to tell his audience that the proof people want radical change is because Burlington elected him as mayor. He would go on to state he wanted all students to focus on radical change for the United States.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders campaigning. Donna Light / AP / Buzz Feed.

18. Bernie Helped A College Kid Get Out Of An Unfair Felony Charge

One day, as Bernie sat in his mayor’s office in Burlington, Vermont, he learned of a student who received a citation for a noise violation during a party the student had. Because the police wanted to make an example out of him, they upped the offense to a felony. Bernie called the student and told him that if he gathered a group of friends and spent time cleaning up the city, he would forget about the felony charge so the student could graduate and go on to get a good job.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders unsuccessful ran for governor of Vermont in 1986. Toby Talbot / Associated Press / New York Times.

17. Sanders Lost His Run For Vermont Governor

Bernie Sanders had a pretty good winning streak as mayor in Burlington, Vermont. However, when he tried to run for governor of Vermont, he didn’t fare so well. The year was 1986 and Bernie announced he chose to run for governor, but he wouldn’t win the race. Making this one of the six elections he’s lost in his career; he’s won 14 times. Bernie also tried for the governor’s seat twice in the 1970s.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders being sworn in as a US senator by then Vice President Dick Cheney in 2007. Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

16. Longest Serving Independent Member Of Congress

When Bernie became a member of Congress under the House of Representatives in 1990, he became the first Independent Political Party member to get elected since 1950. From this moment, Bernie Sanders has continued to remain an essential part of the Independent Political Party in Congress. Bernie also holds the record of the longest serving Independent Political Party member in Congress in the history of the United States. And with Bernie running for president in 2020, it doesn’t look like he’s going to end his reign any time soon.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders in a recording studio. Toby Talbot / Associated Press / Mother Jones.

15. He Hosted A Television Program In the 1980s

Bernie Sanders has completed and tried a variety of things during his time in politics. Not only did he release a folk album and have a cameo in a couple of smaller movies, but he also decided to try hosting his own television program. For two years, during 1986 and 1988, Bernie Sanders not only hosted but also produced his television program called “Bernie Speaks with the Community.” This might be one of the reasons Bernie’s mayor legacy lives on in Burlington, Vermont.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders meeting with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1993 to discuss healthcare. She would become his future rival in the 2016 Democratic primaries. White House / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

14. As Mayor, Bernie Saw An Opportunity To Change Things

When Bernie Sanders decided to run for mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he saw a window of opportunity which would allow him to change some things in the city. He began this right away, such as the time he helped a college student get out of an unfair felony. However, Bernie continued to bring more positive changes to the city of Burlington, Vermont. Today, the city is known as one of the best places to live in the nation and many people contribute this to the work of Bernie Sanders.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders smiled during a keynote session at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Texas in 2018, David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images / Huffington Post.

13. Bernie Tried His Hand At Teaching

Along with speaking at college classes while he held his position as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie also spent time teaching. In the 1960s, Bernie graduated with a Political Science degree, and while he tried to get into the political world right away, he ended up teaching at Hamilton College and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where he taught Political Science. Neither teaching job lasted long as Bernie had other ambitions, such as winning the election for mayor in 1981.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
US Senator Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, spoke at the Putting Families First Presidential Forum in Des Moines, Iowa. Gage Skidmore / Flickr / Wikimedia.

12. Sanders Always Includes Women And Children In Politics

Bernie Sanders started his political life early but became more locally known in the early 1970s. During this time, women weren’t a huge part of politics and Bernie wanted to change this. While he went to meetings for the Liberty Union Party in 1971, Bernie brought his young toddler, Levi, to a meeting with him. In many other conferences, he included not only his children but also his wife. While other members of the party did this too, many viewed it as an unusual move for a politician.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders meets with students at Milton High School in Milton, Vermont to discuss funding for education, healthcare, and how government affects their lives. Office of Representative Bernie Sanders / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

11. Sanders Received An Honorary Degree

While Bernie Sanders received a college degree in his life when he graduated from the University of Chicago with a Political Science degree, he also obtained honorary degrees. Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, which is Bernie’s home town, honored him with a degree. On May 30, 2017, they awarded Bernie with an honorary degree in Doctor of Humane Letters due to Bernie’s work in the political field.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
The ‘Don’t Take Our Health Care Rally’ featured Senator Bernie Sanders in Columbus, Ohio, in 2017. Becker1999 from Grove City, OH – Don’t Take Our Health Care Rally / Wikimedia.

10. Bernie Doesn’t Talk About Religion

Bernie Sanders grew up Jewish and seems to be proud of religion. However, when it comes to his political life, he follows the rule of separating religion in politics. Whenever Bernie is questioned about his religious beliefs, the presidential hopeful says very little. But, he has stated that he believes in God as he has stated that in one way or another most people believe in a God. He’s also explained to reporters that he isn’t particularly religious.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
A Kibbutznik community. Polaris / Newsweek.

9. Bernie Attended A Kibbutznik

A Kibbutznik is a member of a community in Israel that focuses on various life experiences. While they aren’t trendy today, Bernie took a voyage and stayed in one of these communities during the 1960s. Bernie’s community focused on agriculture and those who were members of the community with him state that he learned a lot about the agriculture community and remained very sensible the whole time. It’s believed Bernie joined one of these communities because of his drive to get out of the city life of Brooklyn, New York.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders’ book, “Our Revolution.” Amazon.

8. Bernie Sanders, The Author

Bernie Sanders added to his life of accomplishments when he co-authored and authored a few books during the last few years. His first significant publication called The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class in 2010. He also co-authored a book called Outside the White House, which is a memoir of his political journey in 2015. More recently, he came out with a book titled Our Revolution, which made the New York Times Best Sellers list.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
An example of the Bernie-Arcade game. Flavorwire.

7. In 2006, Bernie Became Featured In A Video Game

Bernie has many supporters who have done a variety of things to show their support for Bernie Sanders. In 2006, one supporter decided to show his support by creating a computer game called Bernie-Arcade. This game came out around the time Bernie ran for an election of the United States Senate. In this game, Bernie is flying a plane, and in order to beat the game, the person controlling Bernie has to beat a variety of right-wing-type obstacles, including mudslingers, fat cats, and hawks.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders in November 2016. Lorie Shaull / Flickr / Wikimedia.

6. A Friend Told Bernie To Run For Mayor of Burlington And He Won By 10 Votes

In 1980, Bernie Sanders had a friend who told him to put his name in the mayoral race for Burlington, Vermont. So, along with a Democrat and the Republican nominee, Bernie put his name in as an Independent. No one expected Bernie to win the mayoral race – as the Republican nominee was a local favorite. But Bernie beat and surprised both the Democrats and Republicans of Burlington when he won the seat by ten votes.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders’ brother, Larry. Rex Features via AP Images / Hollywood Reporter.

5. Bernie Has A Brother Who Is Active In United Kingdom Politics

People have known about Bernie’s interesting and different views in politics since he won the seat for mayor of Burlington, Vermont. These views might run in Bernie’s family as his brother, Larry, who is in the Green Party politics in the United Kingdom holds the same views as Bernie. Larry’s goals in politics include expanding health care and social security in the United Kingdom. In February 2016, Larry became the appointed Health Spokesperson of the Green Party of England and Wales.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders picking up garbage in 1981. Politico.

4. As Mayor, Bernie Picked Up Trash To Help His Community

Bernie Sanders remained open not only about his socialist views when he won the mayor race in 1981 in Burlington, Vermont. He also stayed open about how he ran because Sanders had ideas to help clean up the community – and for Bernie, he meant this figuratively and literally. For months after his win, Bernie would be seen on the streets picking up garbage in a regular t-shirt and jeans. He rarely wore a suit or fancy clothing.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont official portrait. United States Congress / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

3. He Was The First Non-Christian To Win A U.S. Primary

In his life, Bernie has held a few firsts. One of these first is that in 2016, Bernie Sanders became the first non-Christian to win a United States Primary. Bernie is open to the fact that he isn’t big into religion but remains a believer in the Jewish faith, while his family doesn’t attend religious services, he does believe in God. He went to a Hebrew school for some time in Brooklyn and also had a Bar Mitzvah as a child.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders
Ben’s Best Bernie’s Yearning Ice Cream. Samantha Bonar / Today.

2. Sanders Has His Own Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavor

Not only has Bernie Sanders received support through someone creating a computer game for his campaign but he also has his own Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor. This favor is called Bernie’s Yearning and does not get a Ben & Jerry’s label but co-owner of the Ice Cream Company, Ben Cohen created the flavor. If you order Bernie’s Yearning, you will receive mint ice cream with a chocolate disk on top. This disk represents the 1%.

40 Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders played basketball with his grandchildren before claiming victory in the New Hampshire primary in 2016. CNN Newsource / cnycentral.com.

1. He Participated In Athletics In High School

Bernie Sanders spoke about how he participated in sports in high school because of his running skills. During high school, Bernie held the title of captain for the track cross country team. He also called himself a good basketball player and played the sport while he grew up in the community of Brooklyn, including for the high school team. When he won the Primaries in New Hampshire, Bernie proved he could still make a basket.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“What is CPC?” Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Bernie Sanders.” Wikipedia.

“Listen: Bernie Sanders Folk Album ‘We Shall Overcome.'” Daniel Nussbaum. Breitbart, February 2016.

“Watch Bernie Sanders’ Appearance in Terrible ’90s Movie.” Philip Bump, Chicago Tribune. February 2016.

“15 facts you didn’t know about Bernie Sanders.” Matt Levin, Chron. February 2016.

“The Day Bernie Got Me Off The Hook.” J. Brooke Aaker, Hartford Courant. February 2016.

“Bernie Sanders, The Early Years.” Michael Kruse, Politico Magazine. July 2015.

“Seven Interesting Facts About Bernie Sanders.” Infogram.

“55 Things You Need to Know About Bernie Sanders” Politico.