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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 (page: 3 / 6)

Former Attorney General of the United States

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  Alberto Gonzales

You didn't go on college right away after high school?

No, I didn't. As I said,

I enlisted in the Air Force, and my first assignment was at Fort Yukon, Alaska, it's a little remote radar site north of the Arctic Circle. There were about 100 GIs there, and the nearest civilization was an Indian village about a mile away. There were 600 native Americans who lived there. And the only way you could get to Fort Yukon during the winter was by airplane, in the summer by airplane and by boat, down the Fort Yukon River. But it was a very isolated assignment. I took that assignment, I volunteered for that assignment because the Air Force told me that during my four-year commitment, that I would have one remote assignment in Alaska, and I could choose to do it up front or wait until it came up in my rotation. And my first assignment was Key West, Florida, and so I made the decision to bypass Key West and go to Fort Yukon because I wanted to get the hard stuff out of the way first. And it really -- it was one of the best decisions I ever made, because when I was stationed there, there were two Air Force Academy graduates, and I listened to them talk about their experiences at the Academy, and I thought this is something I'd like to do. So I began the process of seeking an appointment to the Academy and was fortunate enough to get in.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Alberto Gonzales Interview Photo
What was it like for a young man from Texas being north of the Arctic Circle?

It was a great adventure. I was single, 18 years old, and I had never been out of the state of Texas. In fact, I had never been in an airplane until my flight to basic training in San Antonio. The Northern Lights and playing softball at midnight, it was really a great adventure for a young kid. I think it would have been hard for someone who had a family and kids, to be away for a year. You were allowed a 30-day leave at some point during your year, but otherwise, being away from your family would have been tough. But for someone who was single, it really was a great adventure.

You went to the Air Force Academy, but you didn't stay there, did you?

No, I didn't. I was there for two years.

The (Air Force) Academy was tough for me because there's such a concentration on engineering and physics and chemistry, and my strengths lie in English and history and political science and law and government. And so I did well in terms of being on the dean's list every semester, but I struggled. It was hard. I had to work very, very hard. I was the freshman class council president, and so I assumed responsibility early while I was at the Academy. Because I did as well as I did, I was able to participate in a gliding program during one summer, so I learned how to fly gliders. I mean it was a great experience.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

But I started thinking things over, probably towards the end of my freshman year or the beginning of my sophomore year.

I really began wondering whether or not I should pursue a military career. I realized as I was taking some of my history courses and political science courses at the Academy, this was something that I had more of an interest in. And so I thought about applying to a school, Rice University in Houston, and this was a school I did used to dream about attending when I was a small boy, because when I was 12 and 13, I got a job selling soft drinks at their football games, Rice University football games. And I would watch the students stroll back to the campus, their dorm, and I would dream about what it would be like to be a student there. But that was it, it was just a dream. But when I was at the Academy and began thinking about my future, I sort of put it in God's hands and applied to transfer to one school, and that was Rice. And if I got accepted, then I knew it was meant to be to go back home to Houston and maybe pursue a career in law, and if I wasn't accepted, then I would stay at the Academy -- and hopefully at the time, I was very interested in becoming a fighter pilot -- and so I was accepted, and then I transferred to Rice University.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

So you went from there to Harvard Law School?

From there to Harvard. I did well at Rice. When I got to Rice, I realized I didn't have to take any more engineering and science and math courses. I had satisfied all the requirements for those kind of courses at the Academy, so I was able to take courses that I really liked, and I did really well. As a result, because of how I did at Rice, and also because of my being a veteran and of my experiences at the Academy, I think, I was fortunate enough to be accepted at Harvard Law School.

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