Talking Law with Judge Gonzales

By Morgan Robertson

Last week, the LEAP Center invited SHSU students to ask questions and engage in conversation with Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. With top students participating in this small-group session, Judge Gonzales shared his experiences as Attorney General and various other positions he has held throughout his career.

SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Pre Law, Attorney General, TX Supreme Court, White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales

After a brief introductory video…

SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Pre Law, Attorney General, TX Supreme Court, White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales

… Judge Gonzales launched into his background, explaining how he became who he is today. Having grown up in Humble, Texas, Judge Gonzales talked of his upbringing and about how, upon graduating high school, he enlisted in the air force. Judge Gonzales was flagged as a good candidate for the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), which he attended for three years. Following his attendance at the USAFA, Judge Gonzales received a degree from Rice University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Pre Law, Attorney General, TX Supreme Court, White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales

With a natural aptitude for practicing law, Judge Gonzales worked hard and became a partner at Vinson & Elkins, one of the largest law firms in Texas. Judge Gonzales eventually left the private sector to serve on the Texas Supreme Court, after which he was asked to serve as the White House Counsel to President George W. Bush. After that, Judge Gonzales was appointed the first Hispanic Attorney General.

SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Pre Law, Attorney General, TX Supreme Court, White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales

Judge Gonzales then shared about his experience during September 11th, 2001 as White House Counsel. For most of us, our knowledge of 9/11 consists of what we have learned from classroom settings or our parents’ own accounts. Judge Gonzales was able to share a new and enlightening, yet chilling, perspective on that day. On the morning of the attack, Judge Gonzales was meant to fly out of Dulles Airport to give a speech. Following the first attack, all airplanes were grounded, and Judge Gonzales felt it necessary to return back to the White House and await President Bush’s arrival. After finally securing a mode of transportation via navy pilot, Judge Gonzales was able to return back to the White House. Judge Gonzales recalls watching President Bush walk off of Airforce One, walk right past him without a word, and into the White House to prepare to address the nation.

SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Pre Law, Attorney General, TX Supreme Court, White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales

Toward the end of the event, Judge Gonzales opened the room to questions and discussion. Questions ranged from inquiries about his current position as Dean of Belmont College of Law, his time as Attorney General, the tough decisions made regarding national security, and a few little known facts about the White House.

SHSU, Sam Houston State University, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Pre Law, Attorney General, TX Supreme Court, White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales

Judge Gonzales shared with the students that while intelligence is important, hard work and dedication are even more important. There will always be times when easy decisions are impossible, but the perseverance of the individual is vastly required. Judge Gonzales encouraged us to strive for excellence and continue to surpass our own expectations for ourselves.

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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