As a politician, Al Gore has had a very successful career—from representing the 4th and 6th districts of Tennessee at the U.S. House of Representatives to being a Senator for Tennessee to being the Vice President of the United States. He started shifting away from politics after a controversial defeat by George Bush during the 2000 U.S. Presidential Elections.
Writer, Environmentalist, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Al has also written numerous books, many of which have been included in the bestseller lists. In his books, he strongly emphasizes the need for a global awareness on the issues concerning the destructive effects of how we treat our planet. His writings on how we can make a change in turning from the destructive path that the planet is heading to have received numerous awards.
Al Gore’s film documentaries that focus on the current state of the planet and where it is heading have greatly helped educate many people on how to take care of the environment and have moved many environmental organizations into action.
He supports many environmental organizations and has even founded several of them, including the Alliance for Climate Protection, Generation Investment Management, and The Climate Reality. Al goes around the world constantly giving lectures and speeches on topics regarding how people can start a change for the betterment of the environment and ultimately, the society.
Al is also a recipient of many awards, the most famous being the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in preserving the environment. His well-known film documentary entitled “An Inconvenient Truth” garnered an Academy Award for Best Documentary, and his book “An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It” has won a Grammy Award.
Al Gore’s belief that while not every one person can make a big difference, all the little differences made by each and every one will eventually sum up, has greatly influenced many common folk to do their part in saving the planet. From buying efficient products to taking part in community programs, many of those who have heard Al Gore speak often tell of how his words could compel any person into action.
His political prowess isn’t just something that he learned as he grew up. Born in Washington D.C. to Albert Gore, Sr., a United States Representative and later on Senator from Tennessee and Pauline LaFon, who was one of the pioneer graduates from Vanderbilt Law School, it seems that politics has always been in Al’s blood all along. He was the youngest in his family, his older sister being Nancy LaFon Gore.
Al’s ancestral roots can be traced back to the Scottish-Irish immigrants who first arrived and settled in Virginia in the mid–1700s, and moved to Tennessee in the aftermath of the American Civil War.
His childhood was quite a mix of the urban highlife and rural, simple living. On school days he would stay with his family in the Embassy Row of the Fairfax Hotel in Washington D.C., where he would often observe the busy lifestyle in the city.
During his summer vacation, however, Al would visit and stay in the Gore family farm in Carthage, Tennessee to work on the fields with his other family members, tending cattle and growing tobacco and hay. In one of his interviews, Al remembers how his childhood experience allowed him to note the differences in both the modes of living and the environment in the places where he stayed in, and how it molded his concept in saving the environment.
Al studied in St. Albans School, an all-boys educational institute based in Washington D.C. in 1956. While there, he became the captain of the school’s football team and participated in several sports, such as the discus throw and basketball. He also engaged in other curricular activities, such as arts and government.
Graduating Cum Laude and Marrying Tipper Aitcheson
Even as a young kid, he had charisma, causing many of his classmates and teachers to be drawn to him. Upon his graduation in 1965, Al ranked 25th in his class of 51 students. It was also during this time when he met Mary Elizabeth “Tipper” Aitcheson, who would go on to follow Al to Boston to attend college.
Upon entering his collegiate year in 1965, Al applied for Harvard College and was immediately accepted. He planned on majoring in English so he can become a novelist, but he instead decided on taking up a major in government. He shared a room with Tommy Lee Jones and they became good friends.
During his college years, Al already demonstrated his leadership skills. On the second day of his stay in Harvard, he won the presidency of the freshman student council. Al’s charismatic and magnetic personality drew people to him.
His first couple of years in Harvard was not very productive, with Al spending most of his time watching television or shooting pool (and even smoking marijuana in several occasions), which caused him to receive low grades, he started to take things seriously when he entered his junior year. He started getting high scores and grades, surprising his teachers. In his senior year, Al attended a class that was taught by oceanographer Roger Revelle.
Al often states in interviews that it was in Revelle’s class that he finally got interested in the effects of global warming and what people can do to stop it. Prior to his graduation, Al wrote a thesis entitled “The Impact of Television on the Conduct of the Presidency, 1947-1969,” where he received an A for his outstanding research and documentation. He graduated cum laude and earned a degree in arts (B.A.) in 1969.
In 1970, after Tipper graduated from Boston University, Al married her. The ceremony was held at the Washington National Cathedral. Tipper bore Al four kids, namely: Karenna (born in 1973), Kristin Carlson (born in 1977), Sarah LaFon (born in 1979) and Albert Gore III (born in 1982).
Because Al entered college during the Vietnam War, he often witnessed student anti-war protesters rallying. Al did not like war, but never once participated in any of their rallies. He would often say that it was silly and juvenile to go against the school just because they were against the war. John Tyson, a good friend and former roommate of, Al once recalled:
"We distrusted these movements a lot.... We were a pretty traditional bunch of guys, positive for civil rights and women's rights but formal, transformed by the social revolution to some extent but not buying into something we considered detrimental to our country."
Instead of joining the violent protestors, Al and his father wrote an anti-war address to the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Joining the Military
In spite of opposing the Vietnam War, Al joined the military when he became eligible for the draft. In his interviews, he pointed out that while he was against the United States participating in the Vietnam War, it was still his civic duty as an American citizen to serve his country. Aside from this, Al’s father was also running for reelection in 1970 and by joining the Army, Al believed that he could help improve his father’s image in the elections. Unfortunately, Al Gore Sr. lost in the senatorial elections largely due to his liberal positions in the Vietnam War and Civil Rights.
Al’s decision to enlist in the Army was met with both amazement and disappointment. Most of his friends, such as Tommy Lee Jones, were quite surprised but at the same time amazed at Al’s decision. Tommy often quotes that he could have just sat it out but, nevertheless, went on anyway. Others, on the other hand, criticized him for his decision to fight in the war.
Upon returning to Harvard, just after his enlistment to say goodbye to his adviser, the crowd jeered him. Al said in one of his interviews that he felt the students at Harvard really “hated” him.
Writing for The Army Flier and The Tennessean
He did basic training at Fort Dix and, afterwards, was assigned to be a journalist, writing articles for “The Army Flier,” the newspaper of Fort Rucker in Alabama. Al even became the “Soldier of the Month” in April 1970.
Seven months before his enlistment ended, Al was sent to Vietnam to be under the 20th engineer brigade in Bien Hoa (where he became a journalist for the paper “The Castle Courier") as well as the Army Engineer Command in Long Binh. Originally planned to have been sent earlier, Al’s departure for Vietnam was halted for quite some time, with Al suspecting the government at that time feared that if something was to happen to Al in Vietnam, his father would receive more votes due to sympathy. Al was honorably discharged from the Army in May 1971.
It was in Vietnam where he learned to value freedom and liberty more, witnessing how many South Vietnamese were willing to die for it. While the experience never changed Al’s view of the war for being a mistake, it did instill a further sense of appreciation in him regarding the fact that he is living in a country which exercises democracy.
Upon his return to the United States in 1971, Al attended the Vanderbilt University Divinity School under a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship, despite his parents wanting him to go to a law school. Al stated in interviews that his decision to enroll in a divinity school was inspired by his desire to “explore spiritual issues,” so he can make sense of the issues regarding social treatment.
While studying, he also took a part-time job at The Tennessean as an investigative reporter. One of his most notable investigations was that of corruption in the Nashville Metro Council, which resulted in the trial of two councilmen.
In 1974, Al took a leave of absence from The Tennessean and enrolled at the Vanderbilt University Law School. His decision for studying law was fueled by his time as a journalist, where he was able to expose corruption but could not do anything to change it. During his time in law school, he became one of the school’s top students.
An Unopposed Candidate
Although Al aimed to become a good attorney, he wasn’t able to finish his studies and stopped school in 1976. This was due to a vacancy in the 4th congressional district seat in the state of Tennessee, after representative Joe Evins announced his retirement. This opened a door of opportunity for Al to pursue politics, and immediately filed his candidacy, which surprised even himself.
During the campaign, Al informed his father to stay out of it, not wanting to run under the shadow of his father. Eventually, Al won the congressional seat with 32 percent of the vote. In the following elections for House Representative in 1978, 1980, and 1982, Al successfully got the people’s votes—in two elections he was unopposed and in the other one, he won 79 percent of the people’s vote.
Al was active during his time in the House of Representatives, joining different committees. He became a chairperson for the Committee on Energy and Commerce as well as the Committee on Science and Technology. He also became a part of the House Intelligence Committee and introduced a plan—the Gore Plan—for arms control in 1982.
He was also named one of the “Atari Democrats,” a nickname that was given for representatives who had passion for environmental issues, such as the effects of technology to the environment, global warming, and biomedical research.
Al Gore also partially influenced the development of the Internet, as he co-chaired the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future. While there, he was often described as “nerdy” and “geeky” by his colleagues due to his interest in fiber-optic technology, artificial intelligence, and high-speed communications.
He was known to often give speeches on how speedy communications could have a wide impact on the growth and stability of the nation. It was also in his time in the House that Al started dealing with the issues regarding climate change and global warming, becoming the first one to hold the very first congressional hearing to address these issues.
After spending four terms in the House of Representatives, Al decided that it was time to move up the ladder. In 1984, he ran for Senator for Tennessee after Howard Baker vacated the position, which Al won unopposed despite having Ronald Reagan—a member of the opposing party—win the state of Tennessee in his re-election bid.
Even in the Senate, Al kept actively participating in committees that he believed mattered most, such as the committees on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Armed Forces, and the Rules and Administration. He also continued promoting the importance of the development of computers and high-speed communications, which eventually led to the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, greatly enhancing and improving the Internet.
Prior to this, he was also the one who introduced the Supercomputer Network Study Act and conducted hearings on how advanced technology can be used to help government agencies coordinate with each other to respond to a crisis.
Al Gore first made a presidential nomination bid with the Democratic Party in 1988, where he was defeated by Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson. Had he won the nomination, many believed that he would have been the “youngest serious Presidential candidate” since John Kennedy.
During the primaries, which many dubbed “Super Tuesday” due to having 12 Southern States perform their primaries all at the same day, Al won only five states. Although this brought great disappointment to the young Al Gore, it did not shake his resolve and continued to serve actively in the Senate.
In 1989, after watching a baseball game, Al’s six–year–old son, Albert, got hit by a car while running to see his friend. Al watched helplessly his son being thrown 50 feet away. Al recalled in an interview after the accident:
"I ran to his side and held him and called his name, but he was motionless, limp and still, without breath or pulse… His eyes were open with the nothingness stare of death, and we prayed, the two of us, there in the gutter, with only my voice."
Fortunately, two nurses were in the area and hurriedly tended to young Albert and brought him to the hospital. Al stayed with his son for the next month, constantly praying and encouraging his son to get strong and live. This event contributed greatly in Al’s decision to not run for president in the 1992 elections, stating that while he did want to become president, he was also a father, and he did not want to lose his family simply so that he could win the presidency.
First Book: Earth in the Balance and Vice Presidency
In 1991, Al released his first book entitled “Earth in the Balance.” The book was well received and made it to the New York Times bestseller list—the second book written by a sitting U.S. Senator to do so.
In 1992, Al was nominated as the running mate of Bill Clinton, who was running for President of the United States. Originally hesitant of such a move, Al accepted the offer after a clash with the Bush administration over the issue of global warming. When Clinton was interviewed, he stated that the reason he chose Al as his running mate was because of Al’s experience in foreign policies, environmental work, and family commitment.
Although many criticized Clinton for his choice of Al Gore as vice president, this did not discourage Al from accepting the nomination. During the 1992 elections, Clinton and Gore won the Presidency and Vice Presidency respectively, being the youngest partners in the history of the presidential elections.
During his time as Vice President, Al pursued to further develop and improve information technology, reduce waste, fraud and the abuse of power, cut back on the bureaucracy, and deal with environmental issues. It was during his term as Vice President where the United States experienced record-high surpluses, record-low poverty rates, and lowest unemployment rates.
Al Gore and Bill Clinton also pursued the development of information and communications, which led to the development and creation of the National Information Infrastructure. Al also devoted his time in addressing issues pertaining to the use of technology in preserving the environment. He launched the GLOBE program in 1994, which extensively used the Internet to increase awareness of the environment. He also promoted the idea of a NASA satellite constantly observing Earth.
As Vice President, Al did get into a number of controversies. One would be the 1996 campaign finance controversy, where Al admittedly stated that he mistakenly attended an event in California, not knowing that it was a fundraiser. Al also had to face the Clinton controversy, where he pledged full support to President Clinton. Despite these controversies, Al continued on his work, never letting these things weigh him down.
Losing Presidential Bid to George W. Bush
In the 2000 elections, Al ran against George W. Bush for the presidency. Prior to his candidacy, he contended with Bill Bradley for the nomination, which he won. Although Al initially won the count, a Supreme Court recount declared Bush the winner. Although Al strongly disagreed with the court’s decision initially, he eventually conceded in order to preserve unity among the people.
Al Gore remained active in public service even after he left the government. He constantly monitored current events and spoke against the United States going to war against Iraq. Although he was one of the signatories in favor of the Gulf War, he strongly opposed the 2002 war due to the difference in circumstances. He also spoke in defense of the way the Arabs in America were treated after the September 11 attacks, stating that it was wrong to see all the Arabs as terrorists.
During the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina, Al was contacted by David Kline, the doctor who operated on Albert many years ago during his accident, of the desperate conditions of the hospital. Al immediately sent relief goods and equipment to the hospital using his personal finances to help rebuild the hospital and take care of the sick.
In 2005, Al helped establish Current TV, a liberal news channel. According to the Associated Press, Current TV shared a common mission with Al-Jazeera, an Arab News Network, “to help people who are not typically heard and give them a voice, and to tell the stories that no one else is telling.”
An Inconvenient Truth Wins Academy Award for Best Documentary
After leaving government service, Al Gore devoted much of his time and efforts into engaging environmental issues. Although he has been actively taking part in caring for the environment since 1976, Al stated that he was able to devote more time to the campaign after leaving politics. In 2004, Al co-launched the Generation Investment Management, an investment management firm dedicated to promoting social and environmental responsibility while blending equity research focusing on sustainability factors.
In 2006, Al founded the Alliance for Climate Protection as a means of promoting public awareness of climate change, its effects and how people can participate in saving the planet. In that year, he also launched his documentary entitled “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
In 2007, Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize as well as an award from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his active participation in engaging environmental issues. He has also received numerous awards not only for being an environmental activist, but also for his efforts in promoting the Internet, making it the way it is today.
In 2010, after 40 years of marriage, Al Gore and Tipper Gore decided to mutually separate, after a long and careful consideration. Although the separation did sadden Al, he maintains a friendly connection with his former wife, dividing his time between his homes in Tennessee and California. Currently, he is dating Mary Elizabeth Keadle, a fellow environmentalist and Democratic supporter.
In recent events, Al Gore has made positive statements about president Barack Obama’s choice of people whom he appointed into addressing environmental issues, calling it an “exceptional team to lead the fight against the climate crisis.” When asked if he is still interested in going back to politics, Al would simply leave a smile and say, “You won’t get me there.” He has also made a decision to sell the news television station that he co-established, Current TV, to Al-Jazeera.
Al Gore’s life serves as an inspiration to many in spite of many controversies against him. He stood tall and continued to serve. He doesn’t let any negative criticism deter him and instead uses them as a stepping stone to reach higher fields in life. His lifelong passion in the preservation of the planet is exemplary and is a true testimony of what it means to serve your fellow men.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- The Climate Reality Project
- The Climate Project
- Our Choice
- Live Earth
- An Inconvenient Truth
- Generation Investment Management
- Alliance for Climate Protection
- Avoided Deforestation Partners
- Clinton Global Initiative
- Conservation International
- Stop Global Warming
- US Doctors for Africa
Political Career History
- 1977-1983: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee’s 4th District
- 1983-1985: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee’s 6th District
- 1985-1993: United States Senator from Tennessee
- 1993-2001: Vice President of the United States
Awards and Achievements
- 1993: Received First Annual Cisco Systems Circle Award
- 1998: Received the Toshiba America Leadership Award for Education
- 2005: Received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Webby Awards
- 2006: Won the Quill Awards for History/Current Events/Politics
- 2007: Received an Academy Award for Best Documentary for his documentary An Inconvenient Truth
- 2007: Received the Sir David Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking
- 2007: Received the Prince of Asturias Award
- 2007: Won the Quill Award for History/Current Events/Politics
- 2007: Received the Founders Award from the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
- 2007: Won the Gothenburg Prize for Sustainable Development
- 2007: Became a runner-up for the Time Person of the Year
- 2007: Received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Television
- 2007: Won the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- 2008: Won the Dan David Prize for Social Responsibility with Particular Emphasis on the Environment
- 2008: Named as one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals
- 2008: Received the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum
- 2008: Had a resolution named after him (The Gore Resolution HJR712) that was passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives in honor of Al Gore’s efforts to curb global warming
- 2009: Received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It
- 2009: Received the Chairman’s Award at the NAACP Image Awards
- 2009: Won the Roger Revelle Prize from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
- 2009: Awarded the Berkeley Medal from the University of California in Berkeley
- 2012: Inaugurated as member of the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society
- 2007: Honorary Doctorate, Concordia University
- 2007: Honorary Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 2008: Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Carnegie Mellon University
- 2008: Doctor Honoris Causa, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
- 2010: Honorary Doctorate, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
- 2010: Honorary Doctorate, Tilburg University
- 2011: Honorary Doctorate, Hamilton College