Ken Salazar was elected to the United States Senate in November 2004 as Colorado's thirty-fifth U.S. senator, making history as one of the few Mexican Americans to serve in the United States Senate.
Prior to the Senate, Salazar served as the thirty-sixth attorney general of Colorado for six years. He has served as chief legal counsel to the governor, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, and chairman of the Rio Grande Compact Commission.
Salazar is a fifth-generation Coloradoan born on 2 March 1955 and is one of eight brothers and sisters. He and his family have been farmers and ranchers in the San Luis Valley.
He attended St. Francis Seminary, graduated from Centauri High School in Conejos County in 1973, and received a political science degree from Colorado College in 1977 and his law degree in 1981 from the University of Michigan. Salazar also received honorary doctorates of law from Colorado College in 1993 and the University of Denver in 1999.
Salazar has been a farmer and rancher in the San Luis Valley, natural resources lawyer, and small business owner much of his life. He and his wife have owned radio stations in Pueblo and Denver and own and operate a Dairy Queen in Westminster, Colo. He also practiced water, environmental, and public lands law for eleven years in the private sector.
The senator currently serves on the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Energy and Natural Resource; and Veterans Affairs.
Senator Salazar and his wife, Hope, have two teenage daughters, Melinda and Andrea. Ken's older brother, John Salazar, was elected to the United States Congress in November 2004 from Colorado's third congressional district.
Milagros "Mimi" Aledo and Rafael J. Lopez, senior editors of HJHP, and Liz Montoya interviewed Sen. Ken Salazar on 17 February 2005. Ms. Aledo, a native of Florida, recently spent a year serving as an AmeriCorp volunteer in Lafayette, Colo. She will receive a master in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2006. Mr. Lopez, a native of Watsonville, Calif., most recently served as an elected council member of the Watsonville City Council and was the founding executive director of First 5 Santa Cruz County. Ms. Montoya, a native of Sante Fe, N.M., most recently served as a special assistant to President William Jefferson Clinton in the Office of Presidential Personnel. Mr. Lopez and Ms. Montoya will both receive a master in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2005.
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed by the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy. We know how busy you are as a new senator and are honored to include you in this year's Journal. Sen. Salazar, what motivated you to run for the United States Senate, and what are your three top priorities during your first term?
I ran for U.S. Senate because Colorado deserves a U.S. senator who will always fight for all of [its citizens]. My entire life I have had a saying that the joy is in the journey--I truly find joy in working towards solutions that make life better for people. I grew up poor, one of eight siblings, in a rural agricultural community in southern Colorado. My parents worked hard to ensure that all of us received a college education. I understand the hopes, dreams and needs of all the people of Colorado. Being a U.S. senator presents a tremendous opportunity to continue that journey and build upon the progress of past generations.
First, above all else, my number one priority is to always put the interests of the people of Colorado first, above partisan or any other interests. As senator, I want to prioritize what I think is our number one domestic issue--homeland security. I want to shine a spotlight on the forgotten America--our rural communities--because for a long time now they have been left to wither on the vine while other, more populous areas get needed attention. …