By Constance Gabel
Imagine overlooking the South Lawn of the White House—the Washington Monument in the distance, honking cars passing on 17th Street. It’s a beautiful day in the Nation’s capitol, made even more magnificent because you are standing on the Truman Balcony of the White House with the President of the United States. This was the life of Alberto Gonzales, who served as White House Counsel and US Attorney General during the Bush Administration. Thanks to Lt. Colonel Yebra at SHSU, General Gonzales made a visit to our University, where LEAP Center and a smattering of other students engaged in an hour and a half discussing with the former Counselor to the President.
Born in Humble, Texas, Al Gonzales truly came from humble beginnings. His success, he says, comes from his parents and the attitudes they instilled, despite a lack of material comforts. In fact, he didn’t even have indoor plumbing as a child. As an adult, however, he excelled academically and occupationally. He graduated from Rice with his Bachelor’s Degree; he later graduated from Harvard Law. These accomplishments laid the foundation for becoming the first Hispanic male to make partner at Vinson & Elkins and the first Hispanic US Attorney General.
When asked about life’s turning points, Gonzales couldn’t pinpoint a single event. Instead, he noted that taking opportunities as they come along is a key to success. Nor, he said, did he seek out mentors. In his case, a mentor—George W. Bush—found him, another opportunity that he was quick to take.
General Gonzales spent little time discussing the controversies surrounding his White House years, but he did describe the job as perhaps the most difficult in the cabinet. While this took a toll on his family, he remains grateful for his time in the White House, and positive about his life in general.
For students, most of whom weren’t paying attention to politics during the Bush years, it was a positive, career-affirming discussion. LEAP Center member Austin Campbell introduced the former Attorney General, and students asked approximately 20 questions, with Gonzales answering them all patiently and even cheerfully, repeating his refrain to stay positive and take opportunities.
Speaking of which, we are very grateful to Colonel Yebra for this opportunity, and we plan to implement General Gonzales’s advice!