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Kineño Remembers

From the King Ranch to the White House

By Lauro F. Cavazos

Publication Year: 2008

On September 20, 1988, Lauro Cavazos became the first Hispanic in the history of the United States to be appointed to the Cabinet, when thenvice president George H. W. Bush swore him in as secretary of education. Cavazos, born on the legendary King Ranch in South Texas and educated in a two-room ranch schoolhouse, served until December 1990, after which he returned to his career in medical education and academic administration. In this engaging memoir, he recounts not only his years in Washington but also the childhood influences and life experiences that informed his policies in office. The ranch, he says, taught him how to live. These pages are full of glimpses into life on the famous ranch. Cavazos tells of Christmas parties, cattle work, and schooling. In his home, he was introduced to a natural bilingualism: he and his siblings were encouraged to speak only English with their father and only Spanish with their mother. Cavazos describes the high educational expectations his parents held. After service in World War II, Cavazos went to college and earned a doctorate from Iowa State University, launching him on a career in medical education. In 1980 he returned to his alma mater, Texas Tech University, as its tenth presidentthe first Hispanic and the first graduate of the university to serve in that post. As secretary of education, Cavazos stressed a commitment to reading. Indeed, he once told a group of educators that the curriculum for the first three years of school should be “reading, reading, and more reading.” His career is as interesting as it is inspiring, and Cavazos’ memoir joins the ranks of emerging success stories by Mexican Americans that will provide models for aspiring young people today.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Perspectives on South Texas Series, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Kingsville


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

This book records my memories of a journey from the King Ranch in Texas to my work in Washington, D.C., as U.S. secretary of education. I had the honor and privilege to work for two presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In 1988, I was the first Hispanic appointed to the Cabinet in the history of the United States. I am pleased that, in...

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1. Lessons from the King Ranch

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pp. 3-38

At a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, on September 20, 1988, Vice President George H. W. Bush swore me in as U.S. secretary of education. I was the first Hispanic appointed to the Cabinet in the history of the United States. A few weeks before, President Ronald Reagan had asked me to join his Cabinet, and I was unanimously confirmed...

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2. Life as a Kine

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pp. 39-67

My mother, Tomasa Quintanilla Cavazos, was born in 1900 at Rancho Santa Cruz on the King Ranch. Her father,my grandfather Don Francisco, ran the Rancho Santa Cruz for the King Ranch. He was a caporal or leader of horsemen on the Santa Cruz until the day he died of pneumonia...

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3. To School and the Barrio

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pp. 68-84

In the early 1930s there were no kindergarten classes on the ranch. Therefore, by the time I was four years old Dad had tried to teach me the alphabet and how to count. I was not a scholar, and my preparation to start school “ready to learn” was minimal. When I turned six years old, however, it was off to school, where I joined my sister Sarita, a third...

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4. Vallejo

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pp. 85-111

Next to my parents, the person most responsible for shaping my early childhood was Vallejo. I list him as one of my great teachers. It was in 1936 that I first met Vallejo. I was nine years old, and I will never forget the first time I saw him. He was a slightly stocky man, about five feet, eight inches tall or so, and in his early twenties. I watched as he pushed...

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5. The Road from Kingsville

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pp. 112-129

Shortly after graduating from high school in 1944 I enlisted in the army, and I reported for duty as soon as I turned eighteen. In September 1946 I was put on terminal leave and honorably discharged at Fort Lewis, Washington. I was given one hundred dollars as discharge pay, a train ticket on a chair car to San Antonio, and a bus ticket to Kingsville. The...

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6. A Companion for the Road

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pp. 130-139

In late June 1954, a week after graduation, I left Ames for Ann Arbor to enroll in the neuroanatomy course at the University of Michigan Medical School. The course was of the highest quality, and by the end of the summer I felt confident I was qualified to teach all of the disciplines of...

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7. Moving to Concord

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pp. 140-176

Peggy and I had ten children, five boys and five girls and only ten years between the oldest and the youngest. Eight of the children were born in Richmond. They were Lauro Fred III, Sarita Maria, Ricardo Esteban, Alicia Maria, Victoria Maria, Roberto Sebastian, Rachel Maria, and Veronica Maria. Tomas Martin and Daniel Nicolas were born in Con-...

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8. Back to Texas

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pp. 177-204

In 1979 Dr. Maurice Cecil Mackey resigned as president of Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and the board of regents launched a nationwide search for his replacement. Peggy and I were spending a week on Nantucket when I received word of Mackey’s resignation and the presidential...

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9. Recruited to Washington

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pp. 205-225

On a bright sunny day in Lubbock in July 1988, Sharon Nelson entered my office at Texas Tech University and told me a Mr. Robert Tuttle was calling from the White House. Tuttle was the White House director of personnel, and he told me President Reagan was seeking a replacement for William Bennett, who had recently announced his decision to step...

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10. Serving as Secretary

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pp. 226-248

Peggy and I moved to Washington at the end of September 1988. Although we were excited about my new job, we quickly missed our children and grandchildren. It was the first time we had been by ourselves since before our first child was born in 1956. This move and these circumstances meant major adjustments for Peggy and...

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11. Education for Hispanics

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pp. 249-264

Improving the educational attainment of Hispanic Americans has long been one of my major goals. It was a special focus of mine during my time as secretary of education, and to this day I continue in the effort. Long before my arrival in Washington, I was troubled by the often minimal educational achievements of Hispanics and worked to improve...

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12. The Rear View Mirror

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pp. 265-276

It was a bright, sunny December day in Washington, D.C. John Cleveland, my driver, skillfully and quickly moved the car from downtown Washington to the West Wing of the White House. Earlier in the day I had spoken to the commission appointed by President Bush to push the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities...


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pp. 277-284

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444408
E-ISBN-10: 1603444408
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440448
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440445

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 18 b&w photos. Map.
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Perspectives on South Texas Series, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Kingsville