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If you like Alberto R. Gonzales's story, you might also like:
David Boies,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Rudolph Giuliani,
Anthony M. Kennedy,
George J. Mitchell,
Antonia Novello,
Anthony Romero,
Barry Scheck and
Antonio Villaraigosa

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Alberto Gonzales
Alberto Gonzales
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Alberto Gonzales Interview (page: 5 / 6)

Former Attorney General of the United States

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  Alberto Gonzales

What's the hardest part of your job as Attorney General, or in any of the positions you've held advising the President?

You never like to say no to the President, but you have to. And maybe that's one of the reasons why the President likes to keep me around is because he knows that I'll be honest with him and tell him what I think. To be effective, to be an effective lawyer, either as Counsel or as Attorney General, you have to say no. And not no just to the President, but sometimes no to other cabinet officials, no to other members of the White House staff who want to pursue or push a particular agenda that's important for the President, and you've got to say, no, you can't do that, and so sometimes that's pretty tough. The other thing that's sometimes difficult is -- and this is a lesson that I've learned from our President is -- there are limits to what can be done, even for the Attorney General and even for a president. You do the best you can, and sometimes we see problems, and what I love about this job is, we can see a problem and throw the entire weight of the Department behind it, and often times we can get it solved or at least make progress in solving the problem. But there are some things that I know that are just -- I can't get solved, at least during my tenure as Attorney General. And I think you have to have sort of a maturity and a faith in knowing that you've done the very best you can, and at the end of the day you move on, comfortable in the knowledge that you've done your best.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

What gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction?

Alberto Gonzales Interview Photo
My family. There's no question about it. As I talk to young lawyers and students, I caution them about learning their profession well. You've got to be able to provide for yourself, so learn it well -- but not to ignore your family. You always have to make time for your family. There is nothing as satisfying as spending time with your kids, having your kids hug you, or having your wife give you a warm embrace. Nothing is as comforting when times get tough, and they do get tough. When they get tough, you need to have your family with you. As I grow older, I really feel how important it is to spend time with the family. I wrestle with these important issues now, but they get resolved somehow. They have to get resolved. Ten years from now, those issues will seem inconsequential, quite frankly, but my relationship with my wife and my relationship with my sons will mean everything. It'll still be there. Sacrificing that is too high a price to pay, so there's got to be the proper balance between family and profession.

Nobody can hold the positions you have, whether in Texas or in Washington, without controversy. How do you deal with that criticism?

I have learned that the media often times writes things that are incorrect because they don't have all the information, and so you learn to live with it. I mean that's just the way it is. There's some information that cannot be shared, should not be shared, and so you don't share it. And so people write stories, and it's really hard on the family sometimes because they feel it and it's frustrating for them, but that's part of the business, and if you can't handle the criticism, then you shouldn't be in government, because it's a fish bowl, it really is. Everything you say and everything you do is certainly analyzed by critics and by the media. If you make a mistake, everybody knows about it, and so it's something that you just have to learn to deal with. And, you know, criticism or analysis is not a bad thing. I think that we should be accountable to the American people. We are their public servants, and so that's not something that I think is a bad thing, I think that it's a good thing. I wish more of it was accurate. But to the extent that you're talking simply about the analysis or criticism or scrutiny of the way that we do our jobs, absolutely, we should be totally accountable to the American people.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Do you ever second-guess yourself?

Do I ever second-guess myself? One of the things -- I really have enjoyed watching President Bush make decisions, because he's very good about getting information, hearing all sides. I think he would have made a good judge in that respect. But what he does, he gets his information, and then I'm sure he thinks about these big issues, and he makes a decision, and he moves on, and sometimes there's criticism. It doesn't matter. He's made a decision, and you move on. And so I think I'm a little bit like that. You have to be. There are too many decisions to make. I've learned that, certainly at the Department of Justice, there are too many big decisions to make to second-guess yourself. You surround yourself with a good team -- people that you trust, whose judgment you really value. And they make recommendations to you, and based upon those recommendations, you make your decision, and then you move on, because you've got other big decisions to make. You really -- you have little time to second-guess yourself.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

What do you think are the important qualities for leadership, for achievement, based on your experience?

I think you have to have a vision about where you're going. You can't expect to bring others along with you if you don't know where you're going, I think that's very, very important. You have to be courageous, because you're going to be making some decisions that are going to be unpopular and you have to accept that. You cannot make decisions based upon what everyone is going to like, it just doesn't work that way. And so sometimes that happens, where you're going to be criticized. You know you're going to be criticized, but you know it's the right thing to do and you have to do it, and if you can't do that, you're not going to be an effective leader, as far as I'm concerned. I think loyalty is something that's also very, very important, and that's a lesson that I really have learned from our President. To inspire loyalty really motivates the troops. People want to serve, and they want to succeed. They want the agenda of our President to succeed because of the tremendous loyalty and affection that we hold for our leader, and I think that's really a very important trait that all successful leaders have.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Is there anything that you'd do over again, given a chance?

When I think about that, I think about the decisions that I've made that had a tremendous impact, or tremendously affected the road I've traveled, like the decision to go to Alaska instead of Key West, the decision to leave the Academy, the decision to leave a lucrative partnership in Houston and go work for this political newcomer, George W. Bush. I was fortunate, I made good decisions during those times. I don't think I would change anything in my life, because I'm not sure I would end up where I am today. Were there mistakes? Yes. Were there things that I wish never happened, people that may have been hurt? Yes, but I have no complaints about my life.

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