November is National Adoption Awareness Month in the U.S., a period dedicated to making us all aware of the adoption system. Adoption doesn't receive a great deal of attention, even though about 135,000 children are adopted per year in the U.S. Adoption has also been a hot-button issue in the fight for gay rights; currently, there is no federal legislation dictating that gay couples are allowed to adopt, so such decisions are made at the state level. Adoption is a topic that is deeply embroiled in our politics, perhaps because it touches so many lives... including the lives of some of our political leaders. A small but prominent group of U.S. political leaders were adopted, and even more have adopted children themselves.
The list of political adoptees includes first ladies, presidents, and senators. One famous U.S. politician who is often confused as having been adopted is Bill Clinton. It's true that Clinton took his stepfather's (Roger Clinton) last name when he started high school, but he never actually adopted the former president. Here's a list of figures who were in fact adopted by at least one of their parents, and who grew up to be well-known in the world of politics.
President Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford's birth parents were divorced when he was a baby. Soon after, his mother married Gerald R. Ford, Sr., who adopted Ford. The future president was named for Ford Sr.
First Lady Nancy Reagan
Before she was first lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan was Anne Frances Robbins. Regan's birth parents were separated when she was a young child. Upon their separation, Regan's mother, Edith Luckett Robbins, pursued a career as an actress, and her father, Kenneth Robbins, was a salesman who was rarely at home. Reagan's birth parents took her to Bethesda, Maryland, where she was raised by Luckett Robbins' brother and sister-in-law.
When Reagan's mother married Loyal Davis, a successful neurosurgeon in Chicago, in 1929, Reagan went to live with the couple, and was later adopted by Davis. She was Nancy Davis until she married Ronald Reagan in 1952.
Representative Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich had a difficult start in life. His father, "Big Newt," left their family when he was still a young boy. Later, his mother, Kit, said that Big Newt told her that he would allow her new husband, Bob Gingrich, to adopt young Newt if Big Newt could skip out on his next several child support payments. Gingrich did not know that he was adopted until he was 15 years old.
Senator Robert C. Byrd
Robert Byrd's mother died of the flu when he was only one year old. Before she died, his mother requested that his father give Byrd to a brother and sister-in-law, who raised him on a farm in West Virginia. Byrd went on to be the longest-serving U.S. senator (51 years in the Senate) before he died in 2010.
John Hancock, the man behind the most recognizable signature on the Declaration of Independence and one of the more famous founding fathers of the U.S., was adopted by his uncle. Hancock was orphaned as a child, and his uncle, who was wealthy and childless, adopted and raised him.