Q & A With US Congressman John Sarbanes

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Elected in 2006 as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District (comprising parts of Baltimore City, plus portions of Baltimore, Howard, and Anne Arundel counties), John P. Sarbanes has established moderate-to-liberal political bona fides over his two-plus terms, focusing on health-care, education, and environmental issues. He voted for the landmark health-care overhaul, to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding gays in the military, and against a bill that would have denied federal funds to Planned Parenthood.

Currently, Sarbanes sits on the Natural Resources and the Space, Science, and Technology committees, as well as on four subcommittees, notably the one overseeing national parks, forests and public lands.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Sarbanes graduated from Gilman in 1980, from Princeton University in 1984, and then earned a law degree from Harvard in 1988. He spent the next 18 years working as an attorney at Venable. (Oh, his first job: whipping up milkshakes at the Prevas Brothers stall in Fell’s Point’s Broadway Market.) 

His father, Paul, served as a U.S. Senator from Maryland from 1977 to 2007, exiting Congress just as John entered it. 

Married with three children, Sarbanes, who turned 49 on May 22, lives in Towson. 

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.

Treat people with respect and don’t get ahead of yourself. 

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

My most important personal goal is to provide for my family. I defined that when I got married and started a family. Beyond that, to be a good citizen who is contributing to my community in some way.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

If something seems too good to be true, it is. 

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered? 

I try not to be surprised by the truth.

What is the best moment of the day?

When I walk into my house at the end of the day.

What is on your bedside table?

The Collected Stories of James Thurber and The Collected Stories of J.D. Salinger.

What is your favorite local charity?

The Public Justice Center.

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

Do the job you have well and the rest will take care of itself. 

Why are you successful?

If I’ve had success, I attribute it to being a good listener.

If Congress lifted its ban on earmarks for a day and permitted you to submit one piece of locally related legislation, what bill would you push for passage?

Sufficient funds to clean up Baltimore Harbor. 

What is your favorite film about American politics — and why?

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, because it shows you can be idealistic and also make a practical difference.

What music are you into right now that might surprise us?

I’m always into bluegrass.



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1 COMMENT

  1. John Sarbannes is one of the most authenic persons I know, a sterling character. He absolutely does treat everyone with great respect and therein lies his greatness. When people disparage politicians, I think of John and say that they are wrong. Maryland has produced great politcal leaders of which Congressman Sarbanes is one. We are grateful.

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