Addressing the foundational leadership characteristics of every
strong president, the Honorable Alberto Gonzales, who served as the 80th
attorney general of the United States, compared the administrations of
President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush before an
audience at Regent University.
Gonzales spoke to more than 300 guests at the Thursday, Sept.
27, Executive Leadership Series (ELS) luncheon. Held each month, ELS
brings together businessmen and women in Hampton Roads to hear from
business and leadership experts. Gonzales also spoke to more than 150
Regent University students from the School of Law, Robertson School of
Government and College of Arts & Sciences before the luncheon.
"Everyone in this room has a dream," Gonzalez began, explaining that one
of the best ways Americans can exercise their pursuit of the American
dream is by voting. "We all work and strive to realize that dream," he
said, adding that at a time in which the world can change on a dime, the
next president will have unique influence over whose dreams come true
and whose don't.
"The person we choose to work in the Oval Office will have to work with
Congress on a number of substantial issues," he said. Those issues
include the domestic and global economy, the Arab Spring, terrorism,
Iran's nuclear capabilities, military funding and strategy, and
immigration reform, just to name a few. "Our country cannot find answers
to these questions without leadership," he said.
Gonzales outlined the kind of leadership a president of the United States must have.
"A great president is a great leader. Our president must have the
courage to be lonely, to make decisions for our country that may be
controversial," he said. Listing choices made by former presidents that
were controversial, Gonzales placed Bush's decisions surrounding 9/11
next to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and Truman's atomic bombs
Great leaders cannot be indecisive or inconsistent, Gonzales continued.
"Don't judge a leader by what he says, but by what he does."
Great leaders, he added, are also wise. "No one is born with wisdom;
wisdom is earned," he said. "A great president must also be moral."
The office of the president carries ultimate responsibility for the
nation, Gonzalez added. "There's a sense of awe when people visit the
West Wing, and it's because the leader of the free world is there making
history every day."
Gonzales had the rare opportunity to be in the room with Bush on 9/11,
noting the determination of the president as he made decisions to direct
"Today, as our government weighs the recent attacks by Islamist
extremists on the American embassy in Libya, resulting in the death of
Ambassador Chris Stevens, our president has developed a better
understanding of [Bush's] terrorism policy," Gonzales said.
Gonzales then outlined several similarities between the Bush and Obama
administrations, pointing out that many measures implemented during the
Bush administration continue under Obama, particularly in the areas of
war and the exercise of executive power.
"It's much easier to criticize on the campaign trail, but when you put
your hand on the Bible and vow to protect and defend the Constitution of
the United States of America, your perspective changes," he said.
Gonzales, whose mother and father were poor migrant workers in southern
Texas, left the crowd with his own story of the American dream,
encouraging them that it's still possible to achieve. "America is still a
beacon of hope in the world," Gonzales said. "It's still worth fighting
"My mother never dreamed that I'd take her from the cotton fields to the
Oval Office," he concluded. "I still believe anything is possible in
Gonzales served as Attorney General of the United States from 2005-2007,
becoming the highest-ranking Hispanic in executive government to date.
Gonzales also served as White House Counsel from 2001-2005. Prior to his
service in Washington he served as General Counsel to the Governor of
Texas, Texas Secretary of State and Justice on the Supreme Court of
Presently, Gonzales is counsel at the Nashville, Tenn., law
firm of Waller Lansden, and is the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of
Law at Belmont Law School in Nashville.
By Amanda Morad