Christopher Dodd: a worldview shaped by his father and fatherhood.
The five-term Connecticut senator is a strong Roman Catholic who showed an early commitment to social justice.
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Upon his father's return, Christopher became what his family called "his shadow," following him everywhere he went. Throughout the years, he also became a student of his father's thinking.Skip to next paragraph
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"I wish I could tell you how many times I heard my father tell the six of us at the dining-room table, had there been an international criminal court in the 1920s, maybe, just maybe the horrors of the Holocaust of the 1930s and '40s might have been avoided," he told an overflow crowd at a Des Moines synagogue earlier this month.
Family conversations usually focused on current events, Dodd says, although the lessons of Nuremberg and World War II were central to the way his father explained them. So, too, was his Catholic faith, according to Dodd's older sister Martha Buonanno.
"My parents were active churchgoers. They really practiced their religion," says Ms. Buonanno. "Social justice issues were very important to them. You can't grow up listening to that stuff without assimilating it."
Indeed, Dodd says his passion for the law, social justice, and working for the common good comes from the way he was raised. They help form what he calls his "DNA" and have also prompted his run for the presidency.
"I thought about how my father would react [to the Guantánamo detention camp and Abu Ghraib and secret prisons,]" he writes in "Letters From Nuremberg." "I felt I had to press the fight further."
A peace corps 'epiphany'
After graduating from a Jesuit prep school outside Washington, Dodd went on to Providence College in Rhode Island, a Catholic school run by Dominican friars. From there, he went on to serve two years in the Peace Corps in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. He helped build a school, a maternity clinic, and a youth organization. He also urged everyone he could to get an education, according to Domingo Tejada. He was a teenager "going nowhere" when Dodd came to his small village and lived with his family.
"Christopher pressed me to learn English so I could build a better life," says Mr. Tejada, who now owns a real estate company in Reading, Pa. "I am who I am today because of Christopher Dodd. He helped me and a lot of people in my country."
On the campaign trail, Dodd repeatedly refers to his Peace Corps experience. At Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Dodd tells a crowd of more than 100 that he came home a "very changed person."
"It was my epiphany: I remembered what it was to be an American, to be optimistic and confident even at a time [when] the Vietnam War was raging and we were divided," he says. "There was a sense that we were doing good things for our country and for others."
From the Peace Corps, Dodd went to law school and served in the Army National Guard and the Reserve during the 1960s and '70s. He earned a law degree at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and in 1974, he was elected to the US House of Representatives from Connecticut. He easily won reelection and went on to serve in the US Senate starting in 1980.
After a divorce from his first wife in 1982, Dodd was known as one of the Senate's most eligible bachelors, dating the likes of Bianca Jagger and Carrie Fisher. At the same time, he earned the reputation as "the children's senator" for his fierce advocacy of education, child-care, and family issues.
In 1999, he married Jackie Clegg, the former chief operating officer of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Their daughter Grace is now 6 years old, and Christina is 2. "I'm probably the only presidential candidate who receives regular mailings from both the AARP and diaper services," he jokes.