Schäuble grew up in the southwestern tip of Germany, the son of a financial tax adviser. He studied law and economics at the University of Freiburg and University of Hamburg, obtaining a doctorate in 1971. A year later, at 30, he was elected to the German Bundestag, making him the longest-serving member of parliament today.
He was appointed federal minister for special affairs and then federal minister of the interior by the time the Berlin Wall came down. And in 2009, he ascended to his current position heading the finance ministry. His marriage has proven even longer-lasting: He and his wife, Ingeborg, an economist, are celebrating their 45th anniversary and have four children.
The unification of Europe had been Schäuble’s political dream for years, ever since German reunification on Oct. 3, 1990. Days later, his life was shattered when he was shot by a mentally ill man. The attacker fired twice, crushing Schäuble’s jaw and spine; a third bullet wounded his bodyguard.
Six months after the near-fatal incident, and permanently confined to a wheelchair, Schäuble was back at the Bundestag, delivering his most famous political speech.