Former United States Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales spoke at the American Values Forum in the Performance Hall of the Renaissance Center in Dickson on Thursday, March 1, 2018. The event was designed to raise scholarship funds for students finishing their college degrees at Freed-Hardeman University/Dickson.
FHU President David Shannon and Dr. Bob Spencer, director of nursing at Freed-Hardeman University/Dickson, conducted the evening in question and answer format.
Gonzales was appointed by President George W. Bush as the first ever Hispanic attorney general. He also served as a justice of the Texas Supreme Court and as general counsel to Bush while he was governor of Texas. Currently, he is the dean and Doyle Rogers Distinguished Professor of the College of Law at Belmont University.
Gonzales said he grew up without hot running water. While his family often struggled financially, he said his father taught him how to always show up and work hard, and his mother heavily influenced his love for education. After high school, Gonzales joined the U.S. Air Force and later graduated from Rice University. Then, he received his law degree from Harvard Law School.
“From my perspective, if I had not gone into the Air Force, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college,” Gonzales said. “So for me and for poor children in this country, often times the military is a way out. You learn a trade, you see the world and because of the G.I. Bill, you are given the opportunity to go to school. So for me, it really represented freedom.”
When asked about his favorite memory while working for the President of the United States, Gonzales said every moment spent in the White House was special.
“If you are an American citizen and you get to go work every day in the White House, it just does not get any better than that,” Gonzales said. “Every day, every moment and every decision is really special, and it’s because the most powerful person in the world is there making decisions, affecting the lives of over 300 million Americans every day… I could go on and on about special moments and special stories, but just showing up to work every day in the White House was a very special privilege as an American citizen.”
While his time spent in the White House was dearly cherished, that does not mean it was without challenges. Gonzales was the White House Counsel during the tragedy of 9/11. He recalled being on the porch of the White House with Karen Hughes, the communications director at the time, waiting for President Bush to return from Florida.
“I was very curious to see his face,” Gonzales said. “When he got off the helicopter, Karen and I greeted him, and he just looked past us. Several of us went into a small room and joined the President, and we began talking about what all of us experienced that day. He made the decision that we were at war. What normally were 10 to 12 hour days at the White House became 15 to 16 hour days.”
In the closing question, Spencer asked Gonzales how his faith has guided him through all aspects of his life. Gonzales emphasized the importance of every decision he made in the White House and how he could not have done it all without a relationship with God.
“In the end, it’s so much bigger than yourself,” Gonzales said. “I do not think you can be an effective, successful President of this country if you don’t believe in God and if you don’t believe in prayer. I fundamentally believe that’s true because the decisions are so big and so hard, and if you don’t have that, I just don’t know how you would make those decisions and sleep at night.”
FHU/Dickson is the only baccalaureate educational institution in Dickson County. It provides junior and senior level classes for transfer students and graduate degrees for those who have already completed baccalaureate degrees. Bachelor’s degrees are available in elementary education, business management, accounting, psychology, social work and nursing. Additional information may be found at fhu.edu/dickson.
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