What Alberto Gonzales Should Have Learned in Kindergarten
Teachers are always looking for those opportune moments in time when real life provides a chance to give students a rich example to consider. For those who teach history as well as those who seek to teach the development of character, there has perhaps been no greater opportunity to teach about American government or about ethical decision-making than to follow the recent issues surrounding Alberto Gonzales.
When he resigned last Friday, Gonzales put an end to several months of speculation regarding his future. His tenure as Attorney General was fraught with mis-steps and his inability to separate loyalty from right and wrong. As the man expected to be the symbol for the rule of law in America, the inability to separate loyalty from right and wrong will make him a future case study for those who seek to teach ethical decision-making.
If there were any doubts as to whether or not Gonzales was capable of handling his leadership role at the department of justice we need only turn to his own words. There was the obvious, “public service is honorable and noble” and the not so obvious, “I have lived the American dream” as he referred to where he had started in life. But in direct indication of his inability to grasp his true role, Gonzales also stated his “worst days as attorney general have been better than my father’s best days.”
Could a son insult the man who raised him any more? His father was said to be a hard-working immigrant, a construction worker who provided for his family until his death in a work-related fall in 1982. The father of eight children built the family home that would have only two bedrooms, lacked hot water, and was without a telephone until Alberto was in high school.
In fairness to Gonzales, his words were no doubt meant to honor his father. Yet, one should ask, what was a good day for his father? A day of honest, hard work and a job well-done? Building a home and a life for a wife and eight children? Taking pride in doing what was right and then raising a family to do the same? Watching his son achieve things a father could only dream of?
As a father, all of those moments would transcend the material side of life. Alberto may have money today. Alberto may also have risen to a position of extreme power. But he leaves under a cloud of suspicion that features a real perceived lack of integrity. He also leaves with the clear indication that he was not up to the job he was asked to do, lead the justice department of the world’s greatest county.
Yet somehow he says his “worst days as attorney general have been better than his father’s best days?” In uttering those words, Alberto Gonzales probably revealed more about himself than at any other moment in his public life.
Unfortunately, they are the words of someone who simply does not understand what being a public servant truly means. And with his choice of words, Gonzales manages to insult his father, a man who apparently actually understood what it meant to be a leader, and all others who toil with integrity outside the public limelight.