Sunday, December 21, 2014




De Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm, Jr. in Manhattan, the son of Maria (née de Blasio) and Warren Wilhelm.[1] His father was of German ancestry, and his maternal grandparents, Giovanni and Anna, were Italian immigrants[3][4] from the city of Sant'Agata de' Goti in the province of Benevento.[5]
De Blasio was raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[6] De Blasio's mother graduated from Smith College in 1938, and his father graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University. His mother was 44 years old when he was born, and he has two older brothers, Steven and Donald.[7] De Blasio's grandfather, Donald Wilhelm, an author, graduated from Harvard University.[7] Although he was baptized Catholic, de Blasio is nonpracticing. He speaks Italian.[7]
De Blasio has stated that his father first left home when he was seven years old and, shortly after, his parents divorced.[8] In a 2012 interview, de Blasio described his upbringing: "[My dad] was an officer in the Pacific in the army, [and fought] in an extraordinary number of very, very difficult, horrible battles, including Okinawa.... And I think honestly, as we now know about veterans who return, [he] was going through physically and mentally a lot.... He was an alcoholic, and my mother and father broke up very early on in the time I came along, and I was brought up by my mother's family—that's the bottom line—the de Blasio family."[9] In September 2013, de Blasio revealed that his father committed suicide in 1979 while suffering from incurable lung cancer.[10]
In 1983, he changed his name to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm, which he described in April 2012: "I started by putting the name into my diploma, and then I hyphenated it legally when I finished NYU, and then, more and more, I realized that was the right identity." By the time he appeared on the public stage in 1990, he was using the name Bill de Blasio as he explained he had been called "Bill" or "Billy" in his personal life.[9] He did not legally change over to this new name until 2002, when the discrepancy was noted during an election.[11]
De Blasio received a B.A. from New York University, majoring in metropolitan studies, a program in urban studies, and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.[12] He is a 1981 Harry S. Truman Scholar.[13]

Early career

De Blasio's first post-college job was part of the Urban Fellows Program for the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice in 1984.[14][15] In 1987, shortly after completing graduate school at Columbia University, de Blasio was hired to work as a political organizer by the Quixote Center in Maryland. In 1988, de Blasio traveled with the Quixote Center to Nicaragua for 10 days to help distribute food and medicine during the Nicaraguan Revolution. De Blasio was an ardent supporter of the ruling Sandinista government, which was at that time opposed by the Reagan administration.[15]
After returning from Nicaragua, de Blasio moved to New York City where he worked for a nonprofit organization focused on improving health care in Central America.[15] De Blasio continued to support the Sandinistas in his spare time, joining a group called the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, which held meetings and fundraisers for the Sandinista political party.[15] De Blasio's introduction to city politics came during David Dinkins' 1989 mayoral campaign, for which he was a volunteer coordinator.[16] Following the campaign, de Blasio served as an aide in City Hall.[17]
U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel tapped de Blasio to be his campaign manager for his successful 1994 re-election bid.[18] In 1997, he was appointed to serve as the Regional Director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for New York and New Jersey under the administration of President Bill Clinton. As the tri-state region's highest-ranking HUD official, de Blasio led a small executive staff and took part in outreach to residents of substandard housing.[19][20] In 1999, he was elected a member of Community School Board 15.[21] He was tapped to serve as campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton's successful United States Senate bid in 2000.[21]

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