Categotry Archives: Politicians


Zhao Ziyang

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Categories: Politicians

Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese Communist Party leader who was ousted from power in 1989 after publicly sympathizing with pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, died on Jan. 17. Cause of death was not released. He was 85.
Born in the central Chinese province of Henan, Zhao was only 13 when he joined the Communist Youth League. He became a full-fledged party member six years later and devoted the rest of his life to public service. Zhao worked underground as a Communist official during World War II. He was named secretary of the Guangdong province after the Communists came to power in 1949. In the 1950s, he helped purged the province of corrupt government officials or those tied to the Nationalists.
During the country’s Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong’s “Red Guards” dragged Zhao from his home and forced him to walk through the streets wearing a dunce cap. Four years after this disgraceful exhibition, he resurfaced as a party secretary in Inner Mongolia.
Zhao became the governor of Sichuan in 1975. He launched an agricultural movement that dismantled the commune system, restored private ownership and raised farm prices. His efforts, which were approved by the late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping, invigorated the economy, but also brought inflation and income gaps between the rich and the poor.
Zhao moved to Beijing in 1980 and spent seven years as premier. He took over as general secretary of the Communist Party, the most powerful post in China, in 1987 after Hu Yaobang was ousted for failing to quell the pro-democracy movement. Zhao also fell out of favor when he argued against the use of force to crush pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing. Accused of “splitting the party,” he lost an internal power struggle and was stripped of his titles.
Following his expulsion, Zhao visited the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square and tearfully apologized to them. Martial law was declared the next day. On June 4, 1989, the army killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed protesters and citizens. Zhao spent his final years under house arrest.
In response to Zhao’s death, the Chinese government banned news agencies from reporting his passing. Popular Chinese Websites were also ordered to restrict any discussion of the former leader and CNN broadcasts to hotels and apartment complexes were blacked out whenever Zhao was mentioned.


Robert T. Matsui

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Categories: Law, Politicians

rmatsui.jpgRobert T. Matsui, a California Democrat who served 26 years in Congress, died on Jan. 1 of complications from myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood disorder. He was 63.

The Sacramento native was born in 1941, three months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He and his parents were forced to live in internment camps for three years during World War II. Due to poor living conditions, his pregnant mother contracted German measles and gave birth to a blind daughter, Barbara.

In the 1980s, Matsui helped pass legislation that apologized for the U.S. government’s internment policy. President Ronald Reagan signed the Japanese-American Redress Act in 1988, which also established a $1.25 billion trust fund to pay reparations to the Japanese-Americans detained in the camps.

Matsui graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and Hastings College of the Law at the University of California. He decided to become an attorney after reading Clarence Darrow’s autobiography. Matsui founded his own law firm and served on the Sacramento City Council. He was working as the vice mayor in 1978 when he won a seat representing the capital city’s fifth district in Congress.

During his 14 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Matsui obtained financing for light rail projects and flood protection for the Sacramento region. He was one of the original authors of legislation that created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Even though it put him at odds with other members of the Democratic Party, Matsui was also a strong supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Matsui was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the past two years and the third-ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. In recent weeks, he had prepared to oppose President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security. Matsui believed that such a proposal would cut benefits, raise the retirement age and reduce retirees’ standard of living. Instead, he proposed updating Social Security incrementally, in order to ensure its long-term solvency.

Re-elected last November with 71.4 percent of the vote, Matsui’s death will trigger a special election for a new representative. His wife, Doris, a former director of public liaison in the Clinton White House, has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Watch Matsui Give a Speech on the Floor of the House

Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Shirley Chisholm


Categories: Education, Extraordinary People, Politicians, Writers/Editors

schisholm.jpgShirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, died on Jan. 1. Cause of death was not released. She was 80.

Born to poor, immigrant parents, Chisholm spent the first half of her childhood living on her grandmother’s farm in Barbados. There she attended a British elementary school and picked up a Caribbean accent. At 11, Chisholm moved back to her parents’ home in Brooklyn and became a star student. She graduated cum laude from Brooklyn College and earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Columbia University.

Chisholm taught at a nursery school, ran a day care center and served as an educational consultant with New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare, then she entered the political arena. In 1964, she campaigned on a Democratic platform and won a seat in the New York General Assembly. Four years later, Chisholm was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first black woman to attain such a position of power.

During her seven terms in Washington, Chisholm championed the rights of minorities, women, the poor and veterans. She added diversity and a spirited voice to the white-male dominated halls of Congress. In her first term, she was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee. Knowing such a position would be useless to her urban constituency, Chisholm defied tradition and requested a reassignment. She was eventually given seats on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Education and Labor Committee.

Chisholm was frequently criticized for denouncing the Vietnam War and demanding equal rights for all Americans. In 1972, she angered the establishment by seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Chisholm was the first African-American to conduct a large-scale campaign for the presidency within the two-party system.

Running under the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed,” Chisholm sought to draw people into politics who traditionally did not participate in the process. But even her most loyal supporters balked when she visited her rival, former Alabama governor and reformed segregationist George Wallace, in the hospital after an assassin shot him on the campaign trail. Despite their ideological differences, she felt it was the humane thing to do. Wallace appreciated the gesture, and two years later he helped Chisholm get the Congressional support she needed to extend the minimum wage to domestic workers. Although George S. McGovern eventually accepted the party’s nomination, Chisholm received the National Organization for Women’s first presidential endorsement and won a federal court order to participate in the televised debates.

In recent years, Chisholm taught at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., and gave rousing speeches on the lecture circuit. The author of two books (“Unbought and Unbossed,” “The Good Fight”), she was also the subject of a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Upon her retirement from Congress in 1982, Chisholm was asked how she’d like to be remembered. She said: “I’d like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts.”

Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Fernando Poe Jr.


Categories: Actors, Politicians

fpoe.jpgFernando Poe Jr., a popular Philippine movie star and former presidential candidate, died on Dec. 14 after suffering a stroke. He was 65.

Born Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, he was the son of Filipino actor Fernando Poe Sr. and Elizabeth Kelley, an American. His elder brother was technically named Fernando Poe Jr., but Ronald later adopted the moniker. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade and took a job delivering messages for a film exchange office. At 15, Poe entered show business as a stuntman for Everlasting Pictures. He made his acting debut in the 1955 film “Son of Palaris.”

Known as “Da King” or simply FPJ, Poe found his niche playing underdog heroes. He appeared in more than 200 films, including several based on true stories, and won the Philippine equivalent of the Academy Award four times. Over the course of his five-decade career, Poe directed nine movies and ran several production companies.

At the urging of his countrymen, particularly ex-president Joseph Estrada, Poe decided to capitalize on his popularity and enter the political arena. The self-made millionaire had no experience in public service and little education, yet ran as the Kilusan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino’s candidate for president in the May 2004 election. Although he was born in the Philippines, Poe’s bloodline came into question during the campaign. After months of attacks, the Philippine Supreme Court declared him a natural born citizen who was qualified to run.

Poe liked to use his famous movie one-liners in stump speeches and ran on a platform that promised to help the poor. (His campaign slogan was “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.”) Despite support from fellow celebrities, Poe lost the election against incumbent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo by 1.1 million votes. In July, he petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify Arroyo’s victory and accused the sitting president of electoral fraud. Arroyo’s campaign team denied any wrongdoing; the court has yet to rule on the matter.

Poe is survived by his wife, actress Susan Roces, and two children.


Chief Roy Crazy Horse


Categories: Education, Military, Politicians, Religious Leaders, Writers/Editors

crazyhorse.jpgChief Roy Crazy Horse, the leader of the Powhatan Renape Nation, died on Nov. 11. Cause of death was not released. He was 79.

Born in Camden, N.J., Crazy Horse lied about his age in order to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. After returning from the South Pacific, he graduated from high school and attended Temple University and La Salle College.

Crazy Horse became chief of the Powhatan Renape Nation, an American Indian Nation and non-profit entity, in 1972. As the executive director and spiritual leader of the Powhatan, Crazy Horse defended the rights of American Indians and publicly criticized the mythology surrounding portrayals of Indians in popular media. He wrote several books on the history of native peoples, including “Morrisville: A Hidden Native Community,” “Holocaust of the American Indians,” “A Brief History of the Powhatan Renape Nation” and “North American Genocide.” He taught classes on Indian studies at Rowan University and lectured at several universities.

Crazy Horse established the Rankokus American Indian Reservation on 225 acres in Rancocas State Park in 1982. Since he was able to trace his tribe’s roots back to the people of the Powhatan Confederacy in Virginia, the state of New Jersey agreed to rent the land for 25 years. The reservation hosts a biannual American Indian Arts Festival and remains open to visitors who tour its heritage museum, art gallery and outdoor exhibits.

Crazy Horse was appointed by Gov. Christie Whitman to the Commission on Discrimination in State Employment and Contracting in 2000. He also served as the chairman of the New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs.

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