Lawyer appointed to the Federal Commission: “A boy from Bristol did this”

John Cordisco in his law office last week. Credit: Tom Sofield/LevittownNow.com

When John Cordisco was growing up in Bristol City in the 1950s, he could never have foreseen what was to come. The latest chapter of his life sees him appointed to federal office.

Cordisco, a resident of Upper Makefield Township, has been appointed by President Joe Biden as a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. The commission is tasked with overseeing Eastern and Central European cemeteries, monuments and historic buildings that are associated with the heritage of American citizens, according to the White House.

Cordisco’s career spans decades of public service and legal practice. He served as a Bristol District School Board member, state representative, Bucks County Community College Authority trustee, SEPTA Board of Directors member, Bucks County Democratic Committee chair, and small-town attorney and partner at the prominent regional law firm Cordisco and Saile.

Despite the many roles he has played, Cordisco is particularly honored by his latest appointment.

“This means a lot and it’s a new level,” Cordisco said. “I feel very honoured. A boy from Bristol did this.”

Cordisco hopes that his trip will serve as an inspiration.

“I want kids to see this and know that this is what every kid in Lower Bucks County can do,” she added. “This is a great country. You just have to believe.”

Cordisco said he looks forward to working to shape the government agency as it carries out its important mission of preserving history and heritage.

Among the projects the agency has handled are Armenian Genocide memorials, the protection of Jewish cemeteries, commemoration of Holocaust victims and the camps where they were murdered by the Nazis, sharing history and ensuring a safe future for sites that have served as mass graves.

The commission’s current chairman is attorney, author and television host Star Jones, who serves alongside agency staff and 20 commissioners.

Cordisco will serve on the commission until February 27, 2025.

For Cordisco, being nominated by Biden, an old friend, was even more special.

Cordisco recently met Biden at a political event in Virginia and thanked him for the appointment.

“I have known him for three decades,” Cordisco said of the president. “We get along very well and he is a down-to-earth guy.”

Joe Biden at an event with John Cordisco.

Cordisco said he remembers riding on an Amtrak train with Biden two decades ago and talking about how the two men, raised by working-class families, were doing more than they ever imagined possible.

Cordisco, who grew up on Lincoln Avenue in the Bristol district, remembers his father’s job being on strike and his mother raising him and his siblings. He aspired to be a lawyer, inspired by television shows, and remembers his mother wishing him “good luck.”

“My grandfather always said that you have to believe,” Cordisco recalled.

His grandfather began to see that belief bear fruit when he sat next to Cordisco in Harrisburg as he was sworn in as a 24-year-old state representative.

Newspaper clipping showing John Cordisco, with his grandfather in the background, being sworn in as a state representative. Credit: Tom Sofield/LevittownNow.com

Despite the challenges at times, Cordisco achieved his dreams.

“There were always people looking down on Bristol,” he said. “You had to fight.”

“I saw presidents on television and I felt very distant. I remember seeing JFK, but I never thought I would recognize a president,” Cordisco explained.

The lawyer’s office features a photo with President Obama, and he recently met with President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both of whom know him well.

While many high school students slacked off, Cordisco worked in a factory to pay his tuition at Bishop Egan Catholic High School. When his friends were at college parties, he attended night school.

“It was very hard work. I missed some things,” he said.

John Cordisco speaking with Governor Wolf in 2017.
Credit: Tom Sofield/LevittownNow.com

Cordisco attributes his success to his large family, his close-knit group of friends, those who believed in him and his determination.

As he assumes his role as commissioner, he will continue his law practice but plans to put politics on the back burner.

For Cordisco, the appointment by the president is not just a new role: it is the culmination of his career and determination.

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