When then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush announced my appointment to the Texas Supreme Court, a reporter asked if the fact that I was Hispanic was a factor in my appointment. The governor responded he wanted to appoint someone who had the qualifications, integrity, and temperament to serve effectively as a justice. He went on to add that he believed also in the importance of diversity in our government.
Critics of President Barack Obama question him for (i) nominating individuals to his Cabinet who are too loyal and supportive of his policies and (ii) failing to nominate a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of America. I happen to agree that a president is entitled to choose his team of advisors; the group of individuals who will promote and defend his policies. The concern about lack of Cabinet diversity, on the other hand, is legitimate. Diversity of life experiences, culture, and education produces advisors with different judgments and viewpoints helpful to a president in identifying the reasons for our nation's problems and developing solutions.
As the leader of a country with a large Hispanic population, the president would be wise to appoint a number of Hispanics to his Cabinet. Having served as Counsel to the President, I know that some well-qualified Hispanics may have no interest in making the sacrifices required to serve in government. Still others may be unavailable because of a background issue that may be embarrassing or a barrier to confirmation. However, a large and growing number of Hispanics now hold leadership positions in companies, organizations, and governments. They are able and ready to serve if given an opportunity.
Cabinet officials shape policy and help the President chart a course for our country. They also serve as role models. Still today, as I speak at events across the country, people tell me stories of their parents and grandparents watching with pride and tears, my confirmation as Attorney General of the United States. These appointments are not just about assembling a team of advisors to execute policy, they are symbolic of the promise of America.
President Obama deserves credit for his appointment of secretaries Ken Salazar and Hilda Solis and his nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Hispanic Americans rewarded him with over 70 percent of their vote in the president's re-election. Based on the projected population growth, the future of the country lies in large part in the hands of Hispanics; and to some degree, so does the president's legacy.
Nothing requires the president to appoint a diverse Cabinet, but in doing so, he makes America stronger and adds to his place in history.
Alberto R. Gonzales is the former U.S. Attorney General and White House Counsel in the George W. Bush Administration. Presently he is the Dean and Doyle Rogers Distinguished Professor of Law at Belmont University College of Law.