tv A Conversation with Representative Ruben Gallego D-AZ CSPAN April 7, 2015 9:00pm-9:24pm EDT
he talks about his experiences his family, and his new life in washington. this is a little over 20 minutes. >> congressman seventh congressional district of arizona, a couple months as a freshman -- what is it like? >> it is fascinating. every day brings a new challenge. every day i get to do something very interesting and every day i miss home. but i am glad i am here -- i feel like i am doing good work. >> how that somebody who was born in chicago and up in arizona? >> i followed a woman out there who was not my wife. what happened was i was in new mexico with my wife, working in the 2004 election. while there, i got activated and sent to iraq. when i returned, my wife have
established yourself in arizona with a good job in-house. i had just left the military. once you are done you are done so i didn't have a job and arizona was a good option. >> let's take a step back>>. your family is originally from mexico and central america. they came to the u.s. when? >> my mom came to the 1970's. >> by chicago? -- why a chicago? >> a lot of industrial, good paying jobs, cheap housing. that was a good draw. the second and third largest latino populations. >> raised by a single mom -- when did your dad leave? >> around 11. >> any memories? >> many, and that is what made him -- he was a construction
worker. i worked on the farm and looked up to him as a father figure. but when everything went south it went bad. i don't think he reacted well to it and it caused a lot of problems. that is why it hurts so much to see someone i looked up to abandon us. >> can i ask you what happened? >> a lot of things happened, that essentially he had a construction company that was employing a lot of people. he also didn't pay his taxes and everything fell apart, and he started selling drugs. for somebody who i thought was a good moral compass ended up not being that. >> how did your mom keep
everything together? >> i couldn't tell you. she has done an amazing job. there were some tough times -- i remember some hard times and she is an amazing woman. today is her birthday. i won't say how old she is. >> that you could talk to your dad, what would you tell him? >> something. i have moved on. -- nothing. i have moved on. i had to become a father figure for my sister. i have closed that chapter in my life and i am here to move on and be a good husband and maybe a good father. >> you went on to harvard -- how did that come about? it is not a cheap school. >> i realized, once things have settled down, we were pretty
poor. in order for me to go to college, i was going to have to get scholarships. i realized that i had to make sure i had the best rates possible, score the best on my tests. by freshman year of high school, i committed myself that i was going to apply to harvard. if i got myself ready for that, no matter where i went, i would get a scholarship. i started taking exams in my freshman year, started reading as much as i could. i applied to harvard -- i did a lot of research about how i could prepare myself to make myself qualified. i ended up doing very well on my tests. passed a lot of ap exams. they gave me nearly a full ride and i got into a lot of the schools for the same thing. my goal was accomplished, to get there and not be a burden on the
family. >> what it tasted your mom give you? >> the advice my mom gave me>> was more emotional support than anything else. my mother is a hard-working person and she applied to college out of high school, but it was very difficult for her to understand the paperwork. now she got it down pat. but she really supported me and gave me a lot of emotional support. also just making me stay focused. while i am working and studying, she made me realize that there is also the important focus family making sure i had still had time for my sisters and realizing that is what is important. >> you are in high school, you get the letter accepted a harvard, what was your reaction? >> i was really shocked.
i was working that day at a hot dog stand. i knew what time the mail came and my boss let me go. he let me go home to look at the mail. i went and i saw the letter, the big packet, which is a good sign. i called my mom and she was still at work. she started crying. i told my sister's and then went back to work. my boss was very proud of me. i went back to work. [laughter] flipping those burgers was one more step on the path. >> how did your mom support you? over the years. he said she had many jobs. >> no, she was a secretary for
most of her life, a legal secretary. she supported the emotionally but she worked some very hard jobs. legal secretary and administered at secretary. those were great experiences for me, going to work with her and seeing professional people walking around, wearing suits. for me it was a good example because growing up the idea of work was about whether -- everyone had a goal, and for some reason i thought it was i was supposed to do. it is honorable work and it pays well but i didn't know that there were these other options and being exposed to other professionals was important. my mom really taught me about the dignity of work. we didn't make much, but she did
teach me that we should be proud that we are working. she brought home enough pay, we were never wanting for food. our clothing wasn't fancy but we always left the house looking like a million bucks. what mattered was how we carried ourselves, not how much we had in the bank account. >> the remember the name of the hot dog stand? >> 95th street, still there. >> when did that teach you about customer service and do you apply it today? >> a lot of what i was doing was in the back. i was flipping the burgers and making the hot dogs. what it did teach me was because of the interactions you have every day -- people were coming in from all walks of life.
a lot of them are having bad days, coming from work are going to work. what it taught me is that i needed to treat everyone the same even if you are being mean, even if you didn't have a great day i am going to treat you professionally, make you the best hotdog or sandwich or hamburger. a lot of the other jobs have always taught me -- if you treat people professionally you will be treated the same. even if you are not, you are still better off being professional. >> power the burgers at what was the most popular item? >> the hot dogs were more popular than the burgers. the hot dogs were chicago style. and our area, a lot of people bought those hotdogs. most people -- it was pretty good. >> you are at harvard and then you withdraw to join the marine
corps -- why? >> i wasn't getting along well at harvard. it wasn't harvard's fault -- the culture was very drastically different from where i came from. it is a very rich school. some great students there, and they got along well, but i had a very tough adjustment. a lot of things i look back on, i think i had always imagined myself going to harvard, because i felt it woas what i was supposed to do. in the back of my mind, i was going to join the marine corps first and then go to college. but i got onto this track and it was taking me somewhere putting me off my goal of joining the marines. i wasn't getting good wd grades and so i went off and joined the marines reserves.
i haven't regretted it. >> once a marine, always a marine. what do you remember about your time in the military? >> just the friends i made, the friends i lost. i got to serve with some of the -- sorry. i served with some great man. i don't think i would be surrounded by people -- >> what do they teach you? >> they taught me about humility. they taught me about being there for each other. the marines taught me about discipline. the marines i served with taught me about what it truly means to care about another human being
you are not related to. what you are willing to do to keep them alive. >> let me follow up on that. it wasn't without loss or sacrifice. can you explain? about the losses you witnessed? >> i lost my best friend, and i lost a lot of platoon members. we lost a lot of good men in combat. for reasons i think were incorrect. we didn't have the proper armor in our vehicles. i think we were also in an area that should have had more manpower than what we had. but to this day, the fact that i lost such still haunts me --
such close friends still haunts me. >> how do you apply your experiences to the debate? >> i look at the budget or may perspective of the ground pounder. every operation, whether it ends or begins, is going to involve the platoon. when it comes to the budget, i always look at how it is going to affect infantryman. when it comes to what types of airplanes they should be buying, i'm going to look at what does the infantry guy need? that is where the ordinance will be dropped. lastly, i think -- i think it is also important to our military personnel that are retired and
we are trying to change how we do our benefits, and i know for a fact that as a member, a veteran, there is nothing worse to join the military where you were guaranteed something and then finding out that is not the case. they are serving it as a budget priority -- how fast can we get in a war zone? how much they will spend on a war. that has to happen when it comes to military benefits. what you promised somebody is what they should be getting, and they should be taking shortcuts. >> you are dealing with a lot of information and constituents -- how do you filter through all the data, the letters, the e-mails, the reports, the bills? >> i don't really sleep much. just my nature.
i like being motivated. i enjoy getting a lot of information. most of the time, when i need to go deeper, i will start asking questions. for me, i enjoy it. it is enjoyable to hear from my constituents. i like the challenge. a lot of it is more about the speed -- i love my staff but sometimes they can keep up with me. i just do it. i don't really think about it because for me it is part of the job and it is enjoyable. >> is this trouble you expect it so far? >> to some degree, yes. as a state legislature you understand what it means to be a minority. but there are other aspects of it that i have enjoyed.
right now, we are working on the peace process to be helpful to the u.s. government. that has been a good opportunity for us to get involved. the armed services committee has been very helpful listening in and trying to figure out what to do with the aumf. getting to the weeds on that has been enjoyable but very difficult. just being involved in all the other small projects -- it is a lot of fun. even while we have the structure that is led by the republicans we have found ourselves to do different ways. >> how did you meet your wife? >> she got me edit date auction. >> you have to explain. [laughter] >> she was walking back from some late-night class, and she
saw her girlfriend on the street walking to some event. they hadn't seen each other in forever so her friend invited her to come to this event and it was a date auction done by harvard to benefit the 9/11 fund. i happened to be auctioned off at night. coincidently, this woman was a mutual friend of ours that we had never met. i started getting auctioned off and her good friend and my good friend -- she urged himer to bet on me. it was going well and i wondered who this beautiful woman was. other friends were in the room. as the bidding was going up she stopped bidding and a friend was
about to win me, and i asked the auctioneer to ask kate one more time. i wanted to see who this lovely woman was. that he did. kate said she had run out of money. i said if she did for me one more time i will pay half. that is how we met and we ended up going out on our first date a week later. >> how much did they raise? > $44 the second-most for that day. >> was your mom here when you took the oath of office? >> absolutely. >> what was that like for her? >> i think for her it was a great feeling. i don't think there is anything else we can do to reiterate how great she has done. her proudest moment was seeing
all four of her kids graduate from college. that is very hard to do nowadays. the fact that she did it, she did it being by herself, really shows her strength and what a great mother she is. an obviously -- but obviously these things make her happy because she knows i am fulfilling -- i have another sister who was in medical school. i am sure -- as soon as one of my sisters becomes a doctor she will be the favorite. i think my mom was very proud mostly for me. i think she knows she did a great job. >> when you took the oath of office, what was going through your mind? >> i had three members from my platoon hold the bible.
what was going through my mind was that i am here and it is my charge to do my best for my country and for my district. i was thinking about the weight, that pressure, that i needed to fulfill what people wanted me to do to come here and be a strong advocate for everyday people, for veterans, and not shy away. >> how do you know if you have achieved that? what is your benchmark? >> for me it is -- if i feel that i have put it all on the table, that i have pushed where i can push, and even if i fail, i know that i did my best -- that is an internal check i have all the time. sometimes it is just looking at the mirror and saying, did i do
what other people would be proud of? it i have to answer yes or no to that and hopefully i can answer honestly. >> you said being a husband and father and son sunday -- -- someday, what would you tell your kids about your career? >> i would tell them i was blessed to be born in this country. opportunity will give you 50% of the way and you have to go the other 50%. just because i made it doesn't mean i can forget what got me here, the people that got me here how i can be of service to them, to their families.
i think especially, someone like me i especially over it to a lot of our veterans to stay here and do my job and help them and their families. >> thank you very much for your time. >> thank you so much. >> each night this week, at 9:00 p.m. eastern, conversations with a few new members of congress. >> when you raise your hand and took the oath of office, what were you thinking? >> i knew my mom would be crying. and my dad showed up and he usually walks with a cane, and he showed up and he didn't have his cane. i said, do i need to send someone to the hotel? he straightens and says -- i am in the capital, i don't need a cane today. he walked without his cane for the entire day. >> five newest members of
congress talk about their careers and personal lives and share insight about how things work on capitol hill. join us for all their conversations, each night at 9:00 eastern on c-span. >> coming up on the next "washington journal oh a debate over u.s. immigration policy. our guest is mark rosenbaum. then, ross eisenberg of the national association of manufacturers and michael livermore of the university of virginia law school discuss the cost and benefits of federal regulation. washington journal is live every morning at 7:00 a.m. eastern and you can join the conversation with your phone calls and comments on facebook and twitter. announcer: during this month c-span is pleased to present the winners of the student cam competition, the annual