Academic journal article Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

A History of Political Strength: An Interview with Edward L. Romero

Academic journal article Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

A History of Political Strength: An Interview with Edward L. Romero

Article excerpt

Born in Albuquerque, NM, in 1934, Edward L. Romero is former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra. He is a Korean War veteran and the founder of Advanced Sciences, an international environmental engineering and waste management corporation that recently merged with Commodore Applied Technologies. Fluent in Spanish, Romero has been a member of the U. S. Trade Representative's Services Policy Advisory Committee and has led a number of U.S. delegations to Mexico. He is a founder of the Hispanic Culture Foundation and the National Hispanic Cultural Center in New Mexico. He has served on the president's Hispanic Advisory Committee, was a founding member of the Albuquerque Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the board of directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. He is also a founder of Valor Telecommunications Southwest.

HJHP

You served as ambassador to Spain from 1998 to 2001. What was it about Spain that made you take that position?

Romero

Let me give you the story about how I became the ambassador [to Spain and Andorra]. During [U.S. President Bill] Clinton's first term, [the administration] sought me out as a potential ambassador to an undisclosed country. They wanted to put me on the list to present to the president.... My business wasn't doing very well then, but I declined for many reasons.

[One], I never thought about it. I never sought it--unlike 99 percent [of ambassadors] who seek [the position]. And I really didn't know what it meant to be an ambassador. There are two types of ambassadors: the career type, which is [most] ambassadors and ... presidential appointees.

I found out later that they were looking at me for Costa Rica. I called the director of personnel for the White House at that time, and they said "Send us a letter [to formally take your name off the list]," which I did, and that was it.

Four years later, in 1998, [after] Bill Clinton was reelected, I get a call from Marsha Scott, who was the deputy director of personnel. She called me one day and said, "Mr. Romero, I'm really sorry. I didn't know anything about you, but I just submitted the ... list of potential ambassadors ... and the first thing that [Vice President] Al Gore asked me was 'Where is Ed Romero?' And Mr. Romero, I'm sorry, but we didn't have your name on the list."

I said, "That isn't your fault. If you go through your records, you'll find that there is a letter there saying that I declined four years ago." She said, "We would like to put your name on the list, Mr. Romero, if you'll consider it." But my business was doing so well.... And, once again, I never thought about it. It's hard for people to believe that you don't seek or want ... a position that's so prestigious and so wonderful. I said, "Let me think about it."

I started getting calls from various Hispanic leaders: Henry Cisneros, Federico Pena, etc. By now, they had been told that I was ambivalent. The first time I was decisive, but this time I was ambivalent.

Then I get a call from Bill Richardson, who was the ambassador to the UN at the time.... He starts convincing me, saying, "You're the guy who is always bugging the White House anyway about Hispanic issues." And the more insistent he got, the more defensive I got.... I said, "Bill, it would be a great consideration, but the only thing that would really get me excited is something like Spain."

But Spain, I knew, was already committed to another person from Florida, a Cuban-American friend of mine.... I already knew it was taken. So I figured that was the end of it. I meant it. That would [have been] a wonderful experience for me.

[A few days later], I got a call from Marsha Scott. She said, "Congratulations, Mr. Romero. The president will be calling you tonight to ask you to be his ambassador to Spain."

I said, "Marsha, that's not possible. That position is already committed to our mutual friend from Florida. …

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