For the 2nd time in a year, the LEAP Center Ambassadors met with–and gained valuable advice from–former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
It was also the 2nd time that LEAP Ambassador Austin Campbell had the honor of introducing Gonzales.
And there was a lot to cover in the introduction: Gonzales was the first Hispanic partner at Vinson and Elkins, one of the largest law firms in the US and the largest in Texas. He was then appointed by President Bush to the Texas Supreme Court. When Bush won the Presidency, he asked Gonzales to be White House counsel. When Bush was re-elected, Gonzales was appointed as US Attorney General.
But last week, he was an advisor to LEAP Ambassadors by morning and advisor to Dr. Heather Evans’ Political Science class by afternoon.
In both sessions, he opened with a video of his time in the White House. With soaring music, patriotic symbols of the US, and some of the premier leaders of the last 20 years, it was a stirring video. It was a fitting accompaniment for what General Gonzales called the “best place I’ve ever worked.”
In both meetings, he hit on interesting topics, particularly for those interested in POLS or pre-law:
- Advising the President on Law: It’s not intimidating. The President took my advice on the legal aspects of matters. If a policy was illegal, it was the end of discussion. But if it was legal, the President typically relied on other advisors for the wisdom of such policies.
- The Hours in the White House: You work 7am-8pm on weekdays, significant hours on Saturday, and you work many Sundays. You need an understanding spouse to work in the White House, and the pay isn’t great, but it’s an honor.
- Ethnicity and Success: I think race has helped me at times and hurt me at times. Some people rooted against me to become the first minority partner in my law firm. But President Bush also explicitly said that my ethnicity was a factor in picking me for the Supreme Court of Texas. Texas has a significant Hispanic population, and he wanted that fact reflected on the Supreme Court.
- Merrick Garland and a Senate Vote: Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland deserves a vote by the US Senate. A senator can vote for or against according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, but the nominee deserves a vote and the public deserves to know how each senator voted. (This point was particularly appropriate in Dr. Evans’ US Congress class, in which we were covering Legislative-Executive relations).
- Working in the White House: It was “great.” I didn’t miss a day because of illness, because I wanted to be there and had much work to do. It was an honor every day to go into work.
Gonzales also provided career-specific advice. He encouraged us to open up as many doors as possible, noting that you never know when a person in a position of power might be paying attention to who is and who isn’t working hard and worthy of additional opportunities.
With these words of encouragement in mind, the LEAP Ambassadors headed off to their classes, to study, or to their LSAT Prep Courses, hoping for additional opportunities!
The LEAP Center would like to thank Colonel David Yebra for arranging these meetings!