Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

4-17 Between Worlds

MON, 4-17-06

MAUI -- OK, so how did Bill Richardson have an Anglo father from Boston and a petite, blond mother from Mexico City and end up looking like an Indian from New Mexico?
If you've not wondered about that, I'm surprised, because I am frequently asked that question. And, frankly, I didn't know the answer until I read Richardson's book, Between Worlds.
The book contains much of what one would expect from a politician with his eye on the presidency. It is Richardson's slant on everything we know about him since he hit New Mexico politics in 1980.
But there is much about Richardson we don't know. He grew up in another country. He was educated on the far side of this country. He worked in Washington until his early 30s, when he first set foot in New Mexico.
What was he doing all that time and how did he convince us it immediately qualified him for the highest elected positions in our state?
We get the answers from Between Worlds -- the stuff we didn't know. Richardson's first 30 years of life were much more eventful than most people's. And his next 30 years have been even more exciting.
In Between Worlds, we learn the inside scoop on Richardson's daring missions to rescue trapped Americans from the world's worst thugs. We read about those exploits in the papers, but there was much Richardson couldn't say at the time for fear of unraveling delicate agreements.
Richardson now reveals the hidden intrigue, the split-second decisions he had to make and some of the quirky comments he hoped would reduce tensions but which sometimes courted near-disaster. Any one of his daring exploits would make a better adventure movie that the fare we are accustomed to seeing.
But that's not the information New Mexicans need to know to understand their governor. We already knew he's an action hero, but what gave him the ability to think quickly in unknown situations, bring warring people together and have the drive to always try to achieve more?
Those qualities were formed early in life, partly from the rather unusual experience of having a proud American father, who always spoke to him in English, and a proud Mexican mother, who always spoke to him in Spanish.
He was between worlds, not quite Mexican to his Mexican friends and not quite American to his American friends. It was uncomfortable. And no matter what he did in school or on the baseball field, his true love, it wasn't good enough for his demanding father. It is a trait Richardson says he inherited and unfortunately carries on.
At 14, Richardson was sent away to prep school in a strange country, where his English wasn't good enough to keep up with his studies or to be one of the guys at Middlesex School, near Boston.
But the coming of baseball season ended that. Richardson's fantastic fastballs and curves made him unhittable -- and a big man on campus. He soon met Barbara Flavin, the blond beauty from across the street. Cars weren't permitted at the school even though it was outside of town. But Barbara had a car. And thus began a lasting relationship.
College took Richardson to nearby Tufts University, his father's alma mater. Richardson pitched there too, but by his junior year, too many curve balls at a young age ended any thought of a baseball career.
It was at that time that Richardson was talked into running for president of his fraternity. It was an uphill battle, but Richardson succeeded and liked it so well that politics became his new passion.
Then came a master's degree at Fletcher School of Diplomacy and a promising career in Washington, accompanying members of Congress on Latin American fact-finding trips.
But Richardson decided he would prefer the life of an elected official. You know the rest. Buy the book, if for nothing but the pictures. You'll learn where Bill got his looks.



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