U.S. representative, senator, and 45th vice president of the United States, Albert Gore, Jr. (born 1948), was the son of a long-time Democratic congressman from Tennessee.
Albert Gore, Jr., was born in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1948. His father, Albert Gore, Sr., was serving as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee. The senior Gore was to serve in the House and the Senate for nearly three decades. His mother was Pauline (LaFon) Gore. She had the distinction of being one of the first women to graduate from the law school at Vanderbilt University.
Since his father's occupation kept the family mainly in the nation's capital, young Gore grew up in Washington, D.C. He attended St. Alban's Episcopal School for Boys, where he was an honor student and captain of the football team. Gore went to Harvard University. In 1969 he received a B.A. degree, with honors, in government. He was interested in becoming a writer, rather than entering his father's "business" as a politician. After graduation he enlisted in the army, although he opposed the United States' intervention in the Vietnam War.
While stationed in Vietnam, Gore served as an army reporter. He sent some of his stories to a newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee, which published them. After Gore left the military service in 1971, the Nashville Tennessean hired him as an investigative reporter and, later, as an editorial writer. In addition to his journalism career, Gore was a home builder, a land developer, and a livestock and tobacco farmer.
Interested in religion and philosophy, Gore enrolled in the Graduate School of Religion at Vanderbilt University during the 1971-1972 academic year. In 1974 he entered Vanderbilt's law school but left to enter elective office two years later.
In 1976 Gore decided to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Having a famous name, running in the district that sent his father to the Congress for many terms, he won the primary election against eight other candidates and went on to win in the general election. He ran successfully in the three following elections. Gore claimed some early attention in 1980 when he was assigned to the House Intelligence Committee studying nuclear arms. Gore researched and eventually published a comprehensive manifesto on arms restructuring for future security, which was published in the February 1982 issue of Congressional Quarterly. In 1984 Gore campaigned for a seat in the U.S. Senate that had just become vacant. He won that office with a large margin of votes.
While in Congress Gore was interested in several issues. He focused attention on health-related matters and on cleaning up the environment. He worked for nuclear arms control and disarmament, as well as other strategic defense issues. He stressed the potential of new technologies, such as biotechnology and computer development.
The race for the 1988 presidential election attracted Gore. He was only 39 years old at the time. He ran on traditional domestic Democratic views and was tough on foreign policy issues. He failed, however, to develop a national theme for his campaign and was criticized for changing positions and issues. He was successful in gaining public support in the primaries during the early spring and won more votes than any other candidate in southern states. However, he obtained only small percentages of votes in other states and withdrew from the presidential nomination campaigns in mid-April. Two years later he won election to a second term in the U.S. Senate. He chose not to seek the presidency in 1992, citing family concerns (young Albert had been hit by an automobile and was seriously injured). It was during this time that Gore wrote the book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, which expressed his concern, ideas, and recommendations on conservation and the global environment. In the book he wrote about his own personal and political experiences and legislative actions on the environmental issue. One of Gore's statements in the book that sums up his philosophy regarding the environment and human interaction is, "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."
Events took a surprising turn in the summer of 1992. Bill Clinton selected Gore as his vice-presidential nominee. The choice startled many people because it ended a longstanding pattern of a candidate choosing a vice presidential nominee to "balance the ticket." Both men were of the same age, region, and reputation and moderate in political outlook. Clinton's idea was to project a new generation of leadership as a campaign theme. Gore did balance Clinton's strength by bringing to the ticket his experience in foreign and defense policy, expertise in environmental and new technology matters, and an image as an unwavering family man.
The highlight for many who followed the campaigns of 1992 was a series of debates, one of which involved Gore and his opponents, Republican Dan Quayle and Independent James Stockdale. The proceedings were marked by moments of high comedy—Quayle and Gore arguing over the wording of Earth in the Balance; Stockdale admitting his hearing aid was off—and clear party positioning. Qualye attacked Gore's record of environmental concern, claiming Gore was placing endangered species over people's jobs. Gore countered that a well-run environmental program would create jobs while preserving nature. Stockdale pointed out that such bickering was exactly why Congress was engulfed in gridlock.
Clinton and Gore won the election in 1992. Gore was inaugurated as the 45th vice president on January 20, 1993. At the age of 44 years, he became one of the youngest people to hold the position. Clinton and Gore were reelected in 1996, running against Republicans Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.
During his time as vice-president, Gore continued to stress environmental concerns. In 1997 the White House launched an effort to start producing a report card on the health of the nation's ecosystems. This project was carried out by an environmental think tank and initiated by Gore.
Also in 1997, Gore's crystal clear reputation was somewhat tarnished when he was accused of—and admitted to—making fund-raising telephone calls from the White House during the 1996 presidential campaign. Gore held a press conference on March 3, 1997, to defend his actions, saying there was nothing illegal about what he had done, although he admitted it may not have been a wise choice. Gore was also criticized for toasting Li Peng, initiator of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, during a trip to China. In September 1997, Buddhist nuns testified before the Senate panel investigating the abuses of campaign fund-raising. The nuns admitted that donors were illegally reimbursed by their temple after a fund-raiser attended by Gore, and that they had destroyed and/or altered records to avoid embarrassing their temple. Some believe these incidents have further damaged Gore's reputation.
Gore is a devoted family man. He married his college sweetheart, Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Aitcheson, on May 19, 1970. Tipper was born on August 19, 1948, in Washington, D.C. She held a B.A. degree from Boston University and a master of arts in psychology from George Peabody College. She was an active mother and politician's spouse, as well as working to forward her own issues. She gained attention through her efforts to influence the record industry to rate and label obscene and violent lyrics. She was co-founder of the Parents Music Resource Center, which monitors musical and video presentations that glorify casual sex and violence. The Gores had four children: Karenna (born August 6, 1973), Kristin (born June 5, 1977), Sarah (born January 7, 1979), and Albert III (born October 19, 1982). When not in Washington, D.C., the Gores returned to the family livestock farm in Carthage, Tennessee.
Further Reading on Albert Gore Jr
Albert Gore, Jr., wrote Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (1992). Gore also wrote a book with Bill Clinton outlining their 1992 campaign issues and policies, Putting People First (1992). The book includes a brief biography of Gore's public service. His political career can be followed in issues of The Almanac of American Politics by Michael Barone and Grant Ujifusa, which appeared during the years Gore was in Congress. His activity as Congressman and vice president can be followed in the Congressional Quarterly's Weekly Reports. Gore is listed in Who's Who in America (1996) and Who's Who in the World (1996). Peter Goldman and Tom Mathews, Quest for the Presidency: The 1988 Campaign, is one of many books recording the politics of that year. For information on his bid for the presidential nomination in 2000, see National Journal (March 29, 1997; May 31, 1997), Time (April 28, 1997), and Chicago Defender (April 5, 1997). For a report on Gore's encounter in China, see New Republic (April 14, 1997). Science (May 9, 1997) discusses some of Gore's environmental efforts.