10 Things You Didn't Know About George Pataki
1. George Elmer Pataki was born June 24, 1945, in Peekskill, N.Y. He grew up on a vegetable farm, surrounded by a large extended family. Adults and children were expected to work in the fields and at the family's produce stand. In addition to the farm work, both his parents held jobs his father, Louis, was a mail carrier, and his mother, Margaret, was a waitress. Pataki refers to his time on the farm often, drawing lessons from it such as "pray for a good harvest, but keep hoeing."
2. Pataki is of Hungarian descent (his last name means "creeks" in Hungarian). His paternal grandfather, Janos, came to America in 1908, working in factories until he could save enough money to buy a farm. This family history influenced George Pataki's politicsseeing his grandparents' and parents' reactions to the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary in 1956 caused him to identify as a conservative.
3. In Pataki's 1998 autobiography, he described himself as unpopular and "geeky" in high school, yet he was elected class president his senior year. He was also salutatorian of his graduating class and a member of the basketball team.
4. Though he came from a humble background, Pataki attended Yale University and Columbia Law School, on scholarships. He was politically active during his school years, serving as head of the Conservative Party at Yale and, at Columbia, protesting in support of the Vietnam War. (He did not serve in the war, however, because of poor eyesight.) Some of his classmates recall that he would skip class on occasion but would always make up for it by studying hard to excel on final exams.
5. Pataki met his future wife, Elizabeth Rowland, in dramatic fashion in 1971 while bodysurfing off the coast of Long Island, the two crashed into each other in the water. The couple now has four children: Emily, Teddy, Allison, and George Owen.
6. After graduating from Columbia Law School, Pataki took a position with a Manhattan law firm. After several years, however, he decided to leave the city and return to his hometown of Peekskill. There he continued to practice law and run the family farm, beginning his political career in 1981, when at 36 he was elected the youngest mayor in the city's history.
7. Pataki has never lost an election. For each new office he sought, he overcame long odds to unseat a powerful incumbent. Most recently, this was Mario Cuomo, whom he defeated in 1994 to become the first Republican governor of New York since 1971.
8. Pataki's favorite room in the governor's mansion in Albany was the family room, where family and friends would gather to watch football or play poker.
9. Pataki once sang the praises of jogging in Peekskill, calling its "hills and valleys, twists and turns" a "great preparation for politics." He also likes hiking, bird-watching, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
10. Pataki is a big fan of rock music. Among his favorites are Bruce Springsteen, the Band, the Who, Eric Clapton, and the Rolling Stones. In 1972, he went to a Rolling Stones concert but never removed his suit jacket.
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