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If you like Alberto R. Gonzales's story, you might also like:
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Alberto Gonzales
Alberto Gonzales
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Alberto Gonzales Interview

Former Attorney General of the United States

June 3, 2005
New York City

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  Alberto Gonzales

Let's start at the beginning. What was it like for you growing up in Houston, Texas?

I have memories of a great childhood. Like many people that I've talked to around the country who came from impoverished backgrounds, you really don't have an idea about how poor you are until a certain age. But I had a father who provided for his family, a mother who worked at home taking care of eight children. We learned some basic values, learned discipline, learned the value of hard work, learned the value of education, and so my memory of my childhood is a very positive one. And, you know, it's something that I think laid a very strong foundation for me and is one of the primary reasons that I think that I've been as successful as I have been.

What can you tell us about your parents?

My parents met as migrant workers when they were young. Once they got married and they started having children, they had to settle down, and so they settled in Houston, and my father worked construction. My memories of when I lived at home were of my father working construction and going with him on some Saturdays to the construction site, and I would play around as he did construction work. And later on, as I got older, probably in high school and in college, he got a job working at a maintenance crew at a rice mill. And my mom worked in the home, worked very hard in the home the whole time that I lived at home. And it was not until my father died, during my last semester in law school, that she began working outside the home. In fact, it wasn't until about then she learned how to drive. And so, as you might imagine, we only had one car. In fact, my early memories, we didn't have a car, and I still remember my dad walking down the street as he would go to work at his construction site to catch a bus, and we were running outside and waving to my dad goodbye, and so we didn't have a car for some time. And we finally got a car. Of course, my dad used that to get to work. And I remember whenever we would have to go somewhere during the day, like to go down to the health clinic or something like that, my mom would pack us all up, all the kids, and we'd walk down to the bus stop and take the bus to where we needed to go, because we only had the one car, and my mom didn't know how to drive, and it wasn't until after my father died that she learned how to drive.

Eight children? Are you and your siblings close?

I had seven siblings, one of my brothers died when he was a relatively young man, but I'd say we're fairly close. They all still live in Houston. I'm the only one that has ventured away from Texas.

Growing up, what was hard for you? Were there things you didn't like to do, or things you had difficulty doing?

I don't know if there were things that I had difficulty doing. There were obviously hardships in my life and in my family.

My father had a terrible drinking problem. He was an alcoholic, and there were many nights when I remember him coming home and, you know, severe arguments with my mother and throwing the pillow over my head and just trying to not listen to all of that. I mean, unfortunately, those happened way too often. But one story I do like to tell about my father is, no matter how much he drank on a particular night, if it was a work day the next morning, he was always up and he was always gone to provide for his family, so I learned that lesson very early on. But, you know, in that respect, I mean there were some difficult times in my family.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

Alberto Gonzales Interview Photo
Did you have other role models?

You know, I'm often asked that question. The three biggest influences of my life, in terms of maturing me as a person, were my mom, my dad and our President, who's given me some wonderful opportunities. I've learned a lot from him in the various roles that I've seen him in, as a father, and as a governor, and as a president. So I'd say that he, next to my parents, has had the biggest influence in my life, outside, of course, my beautiful wife, Rebecca, and our three sons.

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This page last revised on Jun 29, 2013 17:40 EDT
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