Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Walter Block: I Ran With a Commie Presidential Contender

Senator Bernie Sanders, President?

By Walter Block

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has now tossed his hat into the presidential ring, challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

I think the last sight I had of Bernie was his rear end receding in the distance in a half mile track race somewhere in Brooklyn. Nor was this the only time. We were both on the track team of Madison High School in Brooklyn; he was one of the best runners in the city in anything from the half mile up to cross country (2.5 miles) and I was a mediocre runner. So the view of his butt moving away from me in a distance run was far from a rarity.

We had other things in common. We graduated from Madison in the same year, 1959, and even spent a year together, right afterward, at Brooklyn College as freshmen. We lived not too far from each other so would sometimes walk to and from school together. I don’t remember what we talked about; probably, girls, track running, girls, our teachers most of which we had in common, girls, the other members of the track team, girls, our track coach Nate Krinsky, girls, and other such subjects. We certainly did not discuss politics or economics, because this was long before I got interested in those subjects. Probably, our views were very similar: of two Jewish boys from socialist Brooklyn this could be expected.

I had one other conversation with him, much later in life, via e mail. We agreed that our two political economic philosophies had diverged from one another.

Madison High School is an interesting place. It boasts of 3 U.S. senators (Chuck Schumer, NY; Bernie Sanders, Vermont; Norm Coleman, MN), a Supreme Court Judge (Ruth Bader Ginsberg) and four Nobel Prize winners, see below. Here ( is a list of distinguished alumni of James Madison High School (too bad I’m not on it; I guess I’ll have to try harder):

Dmitry SalitaCal Abrams (1924-1997, class of 1942), Major-league baseball player.
Maury Allen (1932-2010, class of 1949), sportswriter.
Gary Becker (1930-2014, class of 1948), Nobel Prize winner, economics.
Mimi Benzell (1918-1970), opera singer.
Harry Boatswain (born 1969, class of 1987), former professional football player.
Andrew Dice Clay (born 1957 as Andrew Clay Silverstein), comedian.
Stanley Cohen (born 1922, class of 1939), Nobel Prize winner, medicine.
Norm Coleman (born 1949, class of 1966), U.S. Senator (Republican of Minnesota).[9]
Robert Dallek (born 1934, class of 1952), historian.[3]
Roy DeMeo (1942-1983, class of 1959), mobster.[10]
Harry Eisenstat (1915-2003, class of 1935), Major League baseball player[2]
Devale Ellis (born 1984), professional football player.[11]
Sandra Feldman (1939-2005, class of 1956), president of the American Federation of Teachers.[3]
Norman Finkelstein (born 1953) political scientist, activist, professor, author.
Sonny Fox (born 1925), TV personality.[12]
Leonard Frey (1938-1988, class of 1956), actor.[13]
David Frye (1933-2011, born David Shapiro), comedian.[14]
Sid Ganis (born 1940, class of 1957), motion picture executive.[3]
William Gaines (1922-1992, class of 1939), founding publisher of Mad magazine.[15]
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born 1933, class of 1950), Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court.[5]
Marty Glickman (1917-2001, class of 1935), Olympian and broadcaster.[5][16]
Ron Haigler, basketball player.[17]
Stanley Myron Handleman (1929-2007, class of 1947), comedian.[12]
Garson Kanin (1912-1999, class of 1927), writer and director of plays and films.[5]
Stanley Kaplan (1919-2009, class of 1935), test preparation entrepreneur.[16]
Buddy Kaye (1918-2002), songwriter, musician, producer, author and publisher.[12]
Carole King (born 1942 as Carole Klein, class of 1958), singer and songwriter.[18][19]
Paul L. Krinsky (born 1928, class of 1946), U.S. Navy rear admiral.[3]
Martin Landau (born 1928), Academy Award-winning actor.[5][12]
Rudy LaRusso, five-time All-Star NBA basketball player.[16]
Mell Lazarus (born 1922), cartoonist.[12]
Andrew Levane (1920-2012, class of 1940), professional basketball player.[20]
Elaine Malbin (born 1932, class of 1948), opera singer.[3]
Bruce Morrow (born 1935, class of 1953), radio personality.[3]
Herbert S. Okun (1930-2011, class of 1947), diplomat.[3]
Martin Lewis Perl (born 1927, class of 1942), Nobel Prize winner, physics.[21]
Sylvia Porter (1913-1991, class of 1930), economist and journalist.[16]
Deborah Poritz (born 1936, class of 1954), N.J. Attorney General then Chief Justice, N.J. Supreme Court.[3]
Chris Rock (born 1965), comedian and actor who withdrew before graduation.[22]
Norman Rosten (1913-1995), poet, playwright and novelist.[5][16]
Dmitry Salita, professional boxer.[23]
Murray Saltzman (born 1929, class of 1947), Reform Jewish Rabbi.
Bernard Sanders (born 1941, class of 1959), U.S. Senator, (Independent of Vermont).[24]
Ted Schreiber (born 1938), Major League Baseball player.[2]
Chuck Schumer (born 1950, class of 1967), U.S. Senator (New York)[9]
Irwin Shaw (1913-1984, class of 1929), playwright, screenwriter and novelist.[5]
Judith Sheindlin (born 1942, class of 1961), television personality (Judge Judy).[3]
Robert Solow (born 1922, class of 1940), Nobel Prize winner, economics.[4][25]
Irving Terjesen (1915–1990, class of 1934), All-American college basketball player for NYU and early professional.[26]
Frank Torre (born 1921, class of 1950), professional baseball player.[2]
Sidney Verba (born 1932), political scientist.[27]
David Wohl (born 1954, class of 1971) Television and film character actor.
Joel Zwick (born 1942, class of 1958), film, television and theater director.[3]

The above originally appeared with


  1. Quite a list. But Dr. Block certainly deserves to be high up in it. (With the "B's" actually haha).
    Carol King AND Chris Rock! Nuff said.

  2. "
    I had one other conversation with him, much later in life, via e mail. "

    Dr. Block, thank you for not including the entire email exchange.