Alberto Gonzales on the Changing Nature of Latino Politics: Interview with United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

Article excerpt

Alberto Gonzales was sworn in as the nation's eightieth Attorney General on 3 February 2005 and is the first Hispanic to hold the post. Prior to serving at the Department of Justice, Gonzales was commissioned as counsel to President George W. Bush in January 2001. He has also served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and as Texas' one-hundredth secretary of state. Among his duties as secretary of state, Gonzales was a senior advisor to then-Governor Bush, chief elections officer and the governor's lead liaison on Mexico and border issues. Prior to that, Gonzales was the general counsel to Governor Bush for three years. Before joining the governor's staff, he was a partner with the law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP in Houston and taught law at the University of Houston Law Center.

Among his many professional and civic activities, Gonzales was elected to the American Law Institute in 1999. He was a board trustee of the Texas Bar Foundation from 1996 to 1999, a board director for the State Bar of Texas from 1991 to 1994 and president of the Houston Hispanic Bar Association from 1990 to 1991. He was a board director of the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast from 1993 to 1994 and also served as chair of the Commission for District Decentralization of the Houston Independent School District and as a member of the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions for Rice University in 1994. Among his many honors, Gonzales was inducted into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Alumni Hall of Fame, honored with the Good Neighbor Award from the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce and received President's Awards from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the League of United Latin American Citizens. In 2002, he was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of Rice University by the Association of Rice Alumni and was honored by the Harvard Law School Association with the Harvard Law School Association Award. The Hispanic National Bar Association recognized Gonzales as the 1999 Latino Lawyer of the Year and he received a Presidential Citation from the State Bar of Texas in 1997.

Born in San Antonio, TX, and raised in Houston, Alberto Gonzales is a graduate of Texas public schools, Rice University and Harvard Law School. Gonzales served in the U.S. Air Force between 1973 and 1975 and attended the U.S. Air Force Academy between 1975 and 1977. He and his wife, Rebecca Turner Gonzales, have three sons.

Cynthia M. Martinez conducted the interview 6 January 2006. Originally from Edinburg, TX, Martinez will receive a master in public policy degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2007. She is a 2005 graduate of Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and has spent the last eight years working with the National Hispanic Institute.

HJHP

Recently HISPANIC Magazine named you the Hispanic American of the Year. In fact, it seems that when any Latino publication or organization comes out with its list of the most influential Latinos in the country, you are at the top of it. Is it overwhelming, and how seriously do you consider your obligations to the Latino community in your role as the attorney general?

Gonzales

Well, this is a very important position, ensuring that every American is protected [and] enforcing our civil rights laws. So it's a great privilege to serve in that capacity. I think as a Hispanic, there's special pride in the Hispanic community that there is a Hispanic in this position.

And I think the very nature of the job ensures that I'm going to be involved in certain high-profile issues and that's why people delegate someone that generates a level of influence throughout and within the administration, and perhaps nationwide. But it all comes with the job of being attorney general of the United States, which is very significant and a very special responsibility.

HJHP

Recently you've been cited as stating that after your tenure at the Justice Department, you'd like to return to Texas political life. …