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UCLA Magazine Winter 2003
The Rising
Honorable Intentions
The Cardinal of Westwood
The Littlest Bruin
Sensing the Future
Dershowitz, For the Defense
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Winter 2003
The Cardinal of Westwood
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Congressman Lewis and Bruin
Bruin, Lewis' bichon frisé-poodle mix, is a constant companion, inside and out of his Capitol Hill office

This was a busy fall for
Congressman Lewis.

In late September, he led the first congressional delegation to visit Iraq since the United States launched its military attack in March. When he returned, Lewis spearheaded the adoption of President George W. Bush's $87-billion supplemental spending bill to fund the war and resupply U. S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the ink barely dry on that bill, he was at the president's side a few weeks later as Bush signed an emergency spending measure to provide disaster-relief funds to victims of the devastating fires in Southern California.

Despite his stature as one of the elite members of the "College of Cardinals" — the appellation given to the chairs of the 13 appropriations subcommittees — Lewis remains remarkably grounded, and his responsiveness to his constituents in the 41st Congressional District, which includes most of San Bernardino County and parts of Riverside County, has earned him a reputation as a politician for the people. Throughout his career, Lewis has remained true to those individuals and institutions that have contributed to his success, and that includes the university from which he graduated.

The son of an engineer and one of five children, Lewis grew up in a small house in San Bernardino. This spring, at the dedication of the Jerry Lewis Family Swim Center in his hometown, he recalled how as a kid he and his three brothers would collect bobby pins around the pool to trade for free passes. Later, he worked as a locker boy and lifeguard at the pool.

Lewis had dreams of turning a love of animals into a career. He began studying veterinary science at UC Berkeley but soon decided it wasn't really for him. In the fall of 1954, he transferred to UCLA, majoring in political science. Closer to home, and closer to his true ambitions, Lewis quickly placed his name on the ballot for student-body president.

"That takes quite a bit of chutzpah to come into a new school and run for student-body president," recalls classmate Ed Peck '56. "Jerry always had a tremendous amount of confidence and always had his eyes on the prize."

That election may be the first and last that Lewis ever lost. He did, however, serve as junior-class president, becoming increasingly engaged, both intellectually and politically, at UCLA.

"I used to work in the research laboratories at night and my political science professors would join me in the rat room to talk politics," Lewis recalls. One of those professors, Ivan Hinderaker, became a key mentor for Lewis. Hinderaker went on to serve as chancellor of UC Riverside from 1964 to 1979 and was a member of the Minnesota Legislature.

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