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*This portion of the interview can be seen as a video clip.
LESLIE KELEN: May I ask you to scoot a little closer to us.
JUDGE ANDREW VALDEZ: You bet. Am I too relaxed?
LESLIE: I don’t know if you can be too relaxed yet, but I hope you get relaxed.
ANDREW: Haha. I am fine.
LESLIE: Margarita will explain a little bit about who we are and what we’re up to.
MARGARITA: We are affiliates of UCLR, Utah Coalition of La Raza, and we’re a group of high school students getting involved with our Chicano/Latino community leaders, getting to learn [from them] the perspective of their lives.
ANDREW: Chicano-Latino? Who’s a Chicano here? Born in the USA? Yeah, I’m a Chicano.
LESLIE: Do you want to start from this side and go that way? Let’s start with you.
ETHAN: So please tell us when you born?
ANDREW: You want to know my age?
ETHAN: No, I mean like the general time, what was going on?
ANDREW: When I was born, it was shortly after the end of World War II. A lot of the men were coming home from war. My family’s from northern New Mexico, and a lot of people from northern New Mexico and Colorado, Hispanic families, moved to Utah to work in the mines and on the railroadsthere’s no jobs in those hills of New Mexico! I was born in the early ’50s, and my father moved here with his family to join his older brothers who were working at Kennecott and some other underground mines in Lark. So this is where the jobs were. There was a huge migration of Hispanics, Latinos, Chicanos to Utah during that time periodfrom about 1949 to about 1960, I think.
BRENNAN: Can you describe the neighborhood where you grew up?
ANDREW: I grew up over on the west side over by the Guadalupe Church, about a block away, and it was a very impoverished area. Most of the fathers there worked on the railroad or at Kennecott, and there weren’t very many fathers in my neighborhood, most of the fathers had left, including mine. So a lot of kids were raising themselves. We used to hustle [in] uptown Salt Lake City, which was not that far from the Guadalupe Church. In 1927, six Mexican nuns founded Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission on 528 West 400 South in Salt Lake City. Seventeen years later, as many more people from New Mexico were migrating to Utah for work, the mission’s status was upgraded. On January 17, 1944, the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese officially recognized the existence of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which ministered to some eighteen hundred Hispanos living within the boundaries of West Temple and 500 West and 100 and 600 South. In 1948, the Guadlupe Church expded and moved further west to 715 West 200 North. It was this church to which Judge Valdez referred.
We’d go straight up 2nd South and hit the downtown, to shine shoes, sell papers, hustle for money, ’cause, you know, we needed money in the homes.
AURA: So you said that at age 15 you met your dad in California?
ANDREW: No. I didn’t meet my dad ’til [I was] 16 or 17. I can’t remember [the exact date], but I was a teenager.
AURA: So did you not know him before?
ANDREW: I didn’t know him at all, and I didn’t remember him much because he left when I was three. I do remember meeting him when I was in Kindergarten, ’cause I was walking home from Jackson Elementary School, and there was my Uncle Carlos in a car, waiting for me. He jumped out of the car and scared me, and says, “I want you to come talk to this guy,” and it was my dad. So I got in the car with my Uncle Carlos and we rode around, and my dad talked to me for a little while and then he left. I told my mom and she got upset. She told me never to get in a car again with my tio Carlos, or my dad, and if I did she’d beat me up. [Laughs]
MARGARITA: So you were just raised by your mom? And how was that for you, like was she supportive to you, or…? *
ANDREW: Well, she was never home; she had to work. She worked two, three jobs, and I was out on the streets a lot. Was she supportive in terms of what, like?
MARGARITA: Like school, or just…
ANDREW: Yeah, my mom valued education and success. My mom was an educated woman. She came from New Mexico where they literally controlled those communities you know, the sheriff and the mayor and the politicians and the people in power were all Hispanic. So when she came to Utah, it was a completely different world; it was English speaking. There were no [Hispanic] teachers, no officials, and those kinds of things. My mom grew up that way, so she knew the value of an education. And that’s one of the reasons my mom worked so hard is because she knew that if she worked, we would work. There was times where I asked her, “Why aren’t we on welfare like our neighbors, so we can get free cheese, or we can get free powdered milkfree stuff from welfare or from the Mormon Church?” She says, “If I don’t work, you won’t work.” And I didn’t realize the significance of that until later on, but she was very, very, very, very forceful in education and success, the work and success ethic. My mom worked all her life in two, three jobs. But as far as raising me, she didn’tbecause she was never home. The kids were raising each other, essentially.
EDUARDO: Since your brother’s older than you, what was it like having him look after you? *
ANDREW: [Chuckles] My brother tried to protect me. But in the world we lived in, problem solving was done through violence, so he would teach me how to do that. I don’t know if you read my book Judge Valdez’s memoir,No One Makes It Alone, was published in 2008, but there’s an episode where I’m being robbed and bullied by someone, and he [my brother] told me I was gonna have to stab him to keep him away from me. Because in those days, if someone was picking on you, you had to attack that person first; so he was telling me, this is how you can keep this guy off you. And I look back on that now, and I was very lucky that I didn’t do that, because that would have changed my life. And then I met this man who helped me and took me off the streets, and showed me a different way to problem solve, a different way to deal with violent people, and opened up my world to a different world. We lived in like a nine-block radius; that nine blocks was my whole world, so my brother did support me and help raise me, but he didn’t know any better himself. So fortunately this person who helped me also helped my brother, and it had a ripple or a residue effect-impact on my entire family. So, you know, I love my brother, and if I ever give a speech about him, I always say that he was my first hero in life. And he still is, but we were going in the wrong direction, that was for sure.
LUIS: How were you as a child?
ANDREW: I wasn’t a good kid. I wasn’t a good student. I didn’t have much discipline. I don’t know, maybe I had ADHD because my attention span wasn’t that long. I thought I was smarter than all the teachers, and I probably was. So I struggled when I was a little boy, and I struggled in school. I was in trouble a lot, but I always had this lifejacket that was thrown out to me so I wouldn’t completely drownwhich was my identity had become from a street kid to a tennis player who was gonna go to college someday. I knew there was a college… I got exposed to that at a very young age and that’s what I wanted in my life so that was always something that sort of grounded me when I was going too crazy. I used to fight a lot.
ANTONIO: How does it feel to have to contribute to your family, like to work?
ANDREW: Oh, that’s the biggest reward for my hard work and also the blessings I’ve had in my life is I’m able to give back, not only to my family but to the community. I am very proud of, have you seen the movie Pay it Forward? Well, you pay it forward to somebody else, someone gives you something and you give back, so I was raised that way that in order to receive, you need to give, and so I feel very good about that.
LESLIE: Judge, what he’s asking you, I think, is how did it feel as a young person to have to work, to contribute to your family as a young person?
ANDREW: Oh, it was just normal. I’ve been working since I was six years old, and so it was just part of my world that you had to go work and earn money. So I was out on the streets hustling, you know, shining shoes and selling papers. I’ve always worked. I can’t remember any time that I didn’t work. Even if I didn’t have a job, I’d go hustle and, you know, do yard work or do something for somebody to make money. I never felt like it was forced on me. I never felt sorry for myself; I just felt that was part of my world. And that was part of most of the kids I grew up with; they were out there working.
LESLIE: Did it make the rest of your life at that time more difficult, education, school and so forth?
ANDREW: Oh, yes, I was tired. I didn’t do my homework ’cause I had to go to work. I couldn’t give full focus on school and education, even this guy who took me off the streets, I worked for him, but one of the things he required was that I do my homework as well while I was at work. So that was a habit I got into, where I’d do my homework. Even later on in life, through high school and through college, I always worked and had jobs where I could do my homework. Even when I was in law school, I worked at the jail, graveyard shift, and three or four in the morning I’d be doing my homework when there wasn’t people coming in that I had to interview. It’s an adjustment, but it seemed quite normal to me. [Chuckles]
ETHAN: So what kind of discrimination did you face when you were growing up or working?
ANDREW: I didn’t really feel discriminated because of the color of my skin. I felt discriminated against because of our poverty. It seemed that poor people weren’t treated with the same degree of dignity and respect, and I learned that at a very young age; on the streets, poor people weren’t treated well. I didn’t really feel discrimination from race, growing up in my community, because it was multi-ethnic, and we were in charge really, in terms of the streets and the schools and stuff. I grew up in a multi-ethnic community, the west side, and it still is. I’ll tell you when I first felt discrimination is when I got to college and when I got to law school, when I was truly, truly a minority there, and the majority didn’t treat us [well]. And that’s one of the reasons I got involved in student government and activism with the Chicano movement and decided that I was going to be somebody who was a player and not just sitting out on the outside and letting people decide things for me.
BRENNAN: What did you want to do when you were grown up?
ANDREW: I wanted to be a lawyer since I was a little boy. I used to see lawyers on the streets. I used to sell them papers and shine their shoes and they looked good; they had good suits, they carried themselves like they owned the place, and I thought: This is what I want to do. I want to be one of these guys. I didn’t even know what they were; my brother told me. I asked him, “Who are those guys?” because, I don’t know, the drug dealers dressed good, too. But the lawyers, they were always around, and the drug dealers, they’d disappear for years at a time ’cause they’d get busted. But I knew they [the lawyers] had money. I knew they carried themselves with power, and that’s what I wanted to be.
MARGARITA: This man you talk about that you say helped you out a lot and stuff, can you tell us more about him, like how he helped you?*
ANDREW: He was a business owner downtown. He had a print shop about a block and a half from where I used to stand on the corner selling papers. He was a gringo, he was a Mormon, he was not richand I asked him to buy a paper from me, confronted him because he never bought one. And he took an interest in me and gave me a job at his print shop setting type, which really helped me because by setting type for printing, it helped me learn how to read better. He bought me magazines to read, The New Yorker, The New York Times, which are highly-respected magazines and newspapers, so I learned how to read that. And he took me out of that world that I was living in, which was about nine blocks, and taught me how to play tennis, and entered me in tournaments in the country clubs and the University of Utah. He took me up there for the first time in my life to see the university, to play in a tennis tournament, and sponsored me in these tournaments. He was a man who always wanted to belong to the country club, but he never had any money or anything either, so he kinda lived through me. I was his entrance into that world, and he taught me discipline and responsibility, and he taught me honesty and good citizenship and problem solving. He saved my life, I think.
AURA: You say your father’s older brother started the migration of the Valdez familyhow was that experience for them?
ANDREW: It was tough for them, because even though they were born in the United States, they were treated like immigrants. They had the lowest jobs, the lowest paying jobs. My mom, even though she comes from New Mexico and her family had been here for eight generations, was still treated like an immigrant and told, “Go back to Mexico!” And she’d never even been to Mexico. So I think they had a tough life. They lived an immigrant life, even though they were U.S. citizens. They faced a lot of discrimination in jobs and in housing. This was before the Civil Rights Act, so it was tough for them. They wouldn’t let them in unions, there were signs in bars that they couldn’t order beer, they had to order from the sidewalk in Tooele, and that was just a generation ago. So it was a tough life. My dad had enough and he left Utah; he tells me he left because of the racism here, but there’s probably other reasons too.
EDUARDO: Was it hard for you to move from junior high to junior high?
ANDREW: Yeah, that was tough because I got kicked out of four junior highs. There used to be a school called Horace Mann, and then I went to Jackson, and then I went to Northwest, and then after Northwest they kicked me out of there again and I ended up back at Horace Mann. I was having a hard time because I wasn’t doing what I needed to do, and when you went to a new school there were different people there and the teachers already knew who you were. They’d send notes, “This guy’s coming your way,” kind of stuff. Northwest was hard because at that time there was only three or four Hispanics in the whole school. It was Rose Park and it was a new suburb. Horace Mann was my favorite school. It was an urban school, it used to be over there across the street from West High. They tore it down a few years back, but that was my favorite school, because it was more ethnic and kids were there from South side, Central City, West side. I still got in a lot of fights, whenever you go to a new school and you’re a new kid, there’s people who want to test you. It’s funny because the guys I used to fight when I was in junior highI didn’t fight a lot in high school, I started to grow up and listen to what this man was teaching meI ended up as a lawyer defending most of those guys I used to fight. I became their lawyer [laughed], and I helped them.
LUIS: How did you feel when you got kicked out? Didn’t you ever think like what would you do with your life?
ANDREW: I am sorry
LUIS: How did you feel when you got kicked out of the junior highs?
ANDREW: I felt like I wasn’t being treated fairly. Sometimes I’d get kicked out of school because I felt I had been labeled right off the bat and they were watching me too closely. I didn’t ever feel like a failure, though. I felt bad because I disappointed my mom. My mom would get very, very upset with me, and Jack, my mentor, he would punish me in terms of playing tennis, and things that he used to provide for me. But I’ve never felt like a failure, okay. I’ve always had the fear of failing. I never wanted to fail. When I was in law school with my brother, my brother went to law school the same years I did, I was always afraid I was gonna be the brother that failed. So that motivated me to work hard, to behave, to do what I had to do, and it inspired me as well. He inspired me. He was a lot more mature, he was a lot older than me; he’d been to war and all that by the time we got to law school, so he was an anchor for me at that time.
ANTONIO: When did you decide to turn like from a bad guy to a good guy? *
ANDREW: Gosh, that’s a good question, some people might say when I turned 35 years old, but I think it was sooner than that [laughs]. I think when it really hit me was when Jack left. When I was about 13-1/2, almost 14, he moved, and then I went into a freefall. I wasn’t coming home. I wasn’t playing tennis, and the West High tennis coach came to my house and knocked on my door one morning and I wasn’t at school, and he says, “Why aren’t you coming to school?” I just, well, I made an excuse, and he says, “I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do for you. I’m gonna let you on the team, even though you’re not passing your classes. I’m gonna help you with your school work, but these are the things you need to do.” And then other people came to me after that, wanting to know why I wasn’t playing in the city-wide tournaments in the Intermountain area, ’cause I was one of the top-ranked players. And they basically gave me the guidance and direction I needed during that period of time, and I finally decided that if I wanted to accomplish these things with my life, go to college, graduate from high school, and not get locked up like all my friends were, I had to make some changes in my life, and I did. But it was hard to do it alone, see. Somebody had to be there to consistently reinforce those values, what’s valuable in life, you know, like self discipline, being honest, working hard. So I was very lucky I had people come up along the way and reach out and grab me, people who believed in me. Sometimes I had a hard time believing in myself.
LESLIE: Let me just jump in here for a moment. What do you think was the relationship like between you and Jack, looking back at it?
ANDREW: Looking back, he was like a father to me. I look at Jack as somebody who saved my life. He came at a time where I really needed somebody in my life to give me some direction, guidance, and teach me what I’ve been talking about. When I wrote my book, it’s about three and a half years of my life, but those three and a half years were very critical, because at that age, 9, 10, 11 years old is when you’re really starting to choose identity and choose groups, and he made me be involved in a positive group thing, a positive identity, so he changed my identity. I was no longer just a west-side street kid, I was a tennis player. That may seem kinda weird, but it gave me a different identity from what I was. So the relationship was father-son, is what it was.
LESLIE: Did he have a family of his own?
ANDREW: He had a mom, but he had no family. His sister had passed and he was once married and divorced. He had no children. I was his [chuckles], I was his horse that was gonna come.
LESLIE: You were his family in a sense…
ANDREW: Yeah, well, I was. He had a shop right by, on 2nd South and Main Street. He had a print shop in an alley, so I literally grew up in this alley between the Capitol Theater and a building that used to be called the Atlas Building. It’s since been torn down, but we used to eat there and sleep there. In fact, I played tennis with this guy who grew up in country clubs. He comes from a pretty prominent family. His father was the governor and he’s gonna be a federal court judge soon. He read my book, he says, “I had no idea, here you were at the country clubs, playing tennis with us kids, and then you’d go eat out of a can in an alley,” which was the way we were living. I mean not literally in the alley, but the shop was adjacent to the alley. So, back to your question, it was father-son, and then I took care of him in his last years. I found him. You guys haven’t read my book, have you? I’ve gotta get you one. I’ll give you one, okay. I don’t have them here, but you gotta come and get it, I’m not gonna deliver it, okay.
LESLIE: Since you started talking about the aftermath of how you found him again, or that he left here, can you continue the story?
ANDREW: Yeah, he left, he moved, he lost his business. He wasn’t a good business guy and he had a hard time getting along with people himself. He used to cuss a lot, okay. I didn’t put all that in my book ’cause I wanted kids to be able to read the book. Anyway, he left when I was almost 14 years old, he moved to California. We kept track of each other somewhat but not much. I was really going through some hard times then, from 14 to about 17. I was looking for my father, all kinds of things were going on in my life. Anyway, he came back to Salt Lake, and I was in college then. I had gone to college with a tennis scholarship, and there’s a lot of things going on. The bottom line is, we reconnected when I was in college and I got into law school. I’d go check on him and he was really struggling. I think he was mentally ill at the time, and he wasn’t taking care of himself and he couldn’t keep a job. I’d call people to come and clean his home. He had like 32 cats in his home, and it smelled horribly. So I’d call people, he was like a hoarder, he’d just walk in these pathways, so my wife and I called Utah Disaster to come and clean the house. We did that several times and during holidays we’d take him food. He lived over by Liberty Park. And one time I went to his house and he was gone, and I asked a guy, “What happened, where’s Jack?” He didn’t know Jack and he was very rude to me, and apparently he [Jack] had lost the house.
I didn’t see him again for years and I looked for him. I couldn’t find him and I thought he had died. And then one day, I was a judge by then, and I was walking into Smith’s Food King on 9th South and 9th East, and there’s this man standing the doorway. He was like one of those homeless guys. He didn’t have a sign but he was standing there, and he’d peed his pants and he smelled. And the cop was there, yelling at him, or not yelling but talking to him and there was other people talking to him. I looked over there, ’cause you know, you don’t look at these people, you kinda walk past them; you know, they become almost invisible. So I checked him out and our eyes locked and I recognized him; it was Jack. He’d been beat up, he had scabbing, and he smelled real bad, and so I walked up to the police officer and told him this was my friend. I took him home and cleaned him up[gasps] he smelled so bad. I actually took all his clothes and burned them; I had to burn them. Went to D.I. and got him some clothes [chuckles]. And from there I took care of him, but he had onset Alzheimer’s. He had some dementia and he also had hallucinations at night. He was very sick. So I took him to the V.A. Hospital to get some help for him and he was walking real funny. This isn’t in the book. But he was walking real funny, and I thought something was wrong with his feet. So I had the doctors look at him and give him a physical. The doctor said that his toenails on his feet had grown two to three inches and had curved into the soles of his feet. He was walking so funny ’cause he couldn’t take care of himself, he couldn’t cut his toenails.
So we cleaned him up and he came to live at my home, but he was getting worse and worse off with his Alzheimer’s. He’d take off and be on the streets late at night and I’d look for him. Sometimes he’d even come to this courthouse looking for me, dressed in women’s clothes. Don’t ask me how he got those, but, well, a woman’s blouse, okay, not a dress. So they would run him off. Finally I found out he was doing that, so I told the bailiffs that he was my friend, that if he came that they had to come and get me, even if I was in court. Finally, I had to put him in a nursing home because he needed 24/7 care, but they weren’t taking care of him there. I’d buy him watches and money and they’d take it from him, and so finally I took him out of that rest home and put him in one where they had Alzheimer’s people[this was] in Logan, Utah, where they literally don’t let them out, they lock them down, but it’s not like a cell. So the last four years of his life he was at that place in Logan. I’d go see him once a week. I wouldn’t let more than two weeks pass, and then finally he passed away. So it went around, see. The kindness he gave me when I was a little boy came full circle where I was able to help him. His name was Jack Keller. And the good thing about that story is that this was a Gringo, a Mormon, completely different from me, but just by sticking out his arm and reaching out a helping hand, he changed my life. So that kindness crosses all those barriers, all those lines. And so that’s Jack. I wrote a book paying tribute to him. My book isn’t about me. I mean, I’m part of it, but it’s really a tribute to this person and the impact one person can have on a child. It’s a story about a man and a child. It’s not like how I became a judge, although it’s in there. I’ll write my own story someday.
LESLIE: What’s your book called?
ANDREW: No One Makes It Alone. I’ll get you [each] one. I got a couple of free ones I can give. If I’d have known I would have brought some, I usually have some in my car. Okay, who has the next question?
ETHAN: Other than Jack, did you have any role models growing up?
ANDREW: Muhammad Ali. [Laughs] You know, I had teachers that helped me. There was always somebody there that I think was instrumental in helping me. But there was teachers at West High School that helped me; there were professors at the University of Utah that helped me; there was professors at the law school; there were lawyers that helped me when I was a rookie lawyer; and there were judges I’ve looked up to. I think I’ve had a lot of role models. Jack was more than just a role model. He was a surrogate father for me. But if there’s any kind of a hero in my life that I could name at the top of my head besides maybe my brother, [it] would be Muhammad Ali.
BRENNAN: You said that your own people were giving you guilt for wanting to go to college. How did that effect you, and how did you overcome it?*
ANDREW: You know, that’s a good question, because I see that happening even today. I used to be accused of trying to be white, because I wanted to go to school. You think you’re white, or you think you’re better than us. Especially when I’d be running through the west side in all white. You know, I had a white shirt and white tennis shorts, and they looked at me like: Jeez, that guy has fallen off. He’s a weirdo. So I was accused of trying to be white. I think the way it impacted me is that I didn’t like being put down, of course, but I decided early on, and this was through Jack, that I was the one who decided who I was and what I becamenobody else. It didn’t matter what color my skin was, or how poor we were, or how rich we might beit is the power within us, within me, was the power to choose who you become and what you become. So it impacted me, but I didn’t let it change my focus on what I wanted to accomplish in my life. I was pretty goal oriented. Remember, I said I wanted to be a lawyer since I was sixI just didn’t know how to do it. And there were times when I was going off the deep end, but I had this life jacket that I was always grabbing onto, which was the sport and also the associations and the people I met through the sport, which were all educated people. So I knew there was a different world out there. I knew what it would take to become a teacher or a lawyer or a successful person.
MARGARITA: Now that you have children, what kind of advice do you give them?
ANDREW: I tell them the same thing I told you, that they have the power to become what they want and who they want to be. I’ve given my kids a lot of leeway in deciding what they want in life. I have one boy who’s a musician, and he’s sort of doing his own thing. I don’t think he’s gotten a haircut for six years. I have another boy who went in the Marine Corps at a very young age and fought in the war in Iraq, two tours. Now he’s a Salt Lake City police officer and he’s doing what he wants to do. My third boy quit college and joined the Air Force. I got a call from him just the other night. He’s leaving Afghanistan this week and our hearts [have] been just very full for him and he’s gonna come back and he’s gonna finish school, and his adventure is over. My daughter works for Jet Blue and has two kids, has been working for them and called me just the other night and said, “You know what, Dad, I think that I’m gonna go home and spend some more time with my kids instead of working all the time, because we don’t need this extra money. My kids need me more.” So I’ve always supported their decisions and tried to give them love, regardless of what they say or do, because I’ve tried to look at myself as somebody who has to be there for them regardless of what happens. I didn’t have that. Jack filled that need for me. I would love to have one of my kids become a lawyer and become a judge and all that, but that’s me, that’s not them. And so I’m veryI know the term “blessed” is used a lotbut I’m very, very lucky, I like to say “graced,” how’s that, graced, with my kids.
AURA: What were some significant challenges you had to overcome to become a judge?
ANDREW: Doubt, I guess, and people counting you out. I’m the first Hispanic judge in the history of the state. I’m the first defense lawyer ever appointed to the bench, usually they appoint prosecutors or corporate lawyers or legislators or people that have influence. I was a defense lawyer. I defended over thirty murder cases and a lot of real serious, serious people who had committed some very serious crimes, people that no one liked. I defended people who were on death row. I just had a client executed about three months, two months ago that I defended way back when I was a lawyer. A lot of people told me that I’d never be a judge, that they don’t appoint brown judges. That you had to be a Mormon, you had to be Republican, you had to have money, you had to have political clout. A lot of people were counting me outthat it would never happen. Overcoming their doubt and staying focused was something. I think there were a lot of doubters. I never doubted myself, I felt like I could be a judge. I wanted to be the person who makes the decision instead of makes the argument. I always used to watch judges and lawyers and think: I can do that. So the politics involved was something that I was really concerned about, because I didn’t have that juice, that political juice, but it really didn’t matter, you know, in the long run. Because I sat down with the governor, and I told him, “You know, if you want the same thing, don’t pick me. I’m different. I come from a different world, a different voice. I’m a lawyer, I’m a person who’s tried many, many cases and I can make a difference.” And he appointed me and shocked a lot of people, including me [laughs]. I’ve been a judge now for seventeen years.
EDUARDO: What does your sense of justice and fair play come from?*
ANDREW: I think it comes from being an underdog, you know, most of your life, where you don’t have everything going your way. And my mom had a good sense of justice and fair play and Jack and most of the people who have influenced me and been my role models have had that sense of justice and fair play. But mostly it’s being somebody who basically refuses to be on the margins. We belong right there, you know, in the tent, not outside the tent.
LESLIE: Who’s the “we?”
ANDREW: All of us, everyone sitting here. This is, I’myou, every one of you look just like me, even these guys. So I am a reflection of you. That’s what I hope kids see in me: is if you see me, you see yourself. When I give talks to Hispanics or kids that have, you know, Hispanic backgrounds, I say, “It’s nice to be here with people who look just like me.” [Laughs] Of course, the sad thing is this, is you go to the prison, it’s full of brown people. You go to the University of Utah, you don’t see that many.
LUIS: What personal accomplishment do you feel is most important to you and why?
ANDREW: The most important accomplishment, probably chasing my wife until she caught me and married me [laughs]. I think that was my biggest accomplishment, to tell you the truth. I mean, I’m not trying to get sentimental. She’s not here, but marrying her was probably the biggest accomplishment I ever made because she’s such a good person, and she’s naturally good. She doesn’t have to work hard to be nice; she’s just nice. Then, of course, my professional accomplishments are nice and noteworthy, but I think the best accomplishments I do on a day-to-day basis is, if not half hour to half hour hearings is just trying to make a difference in people’s lives for the good. That’s why I love this job, ’cause you can do that. These are good questions! Jeez.
ANTONIO: How did you meet your wife?
ANDREW: I met her at the university.
ANTONIO: What did you like about her? [Several laughing]
ANDREW: Are we on the record? [Laughs]
LESLIE: Just as much as you want to be.
ANDREW: I met her at the University of Utah. I was up there as a student and I saw her at the Union Building. She was part of those Chicano Student Association Group that was there at the time and we met. She was from Midvale, Utah, and I was from the west side. I remember when I saw her, I told my brother, “I’m gonna ask her out.” He says, “She’s got a boyfriend, don’t do it.” I says, “I’m gonna do it,” and he says, “You’re gonna get in a fight.” I says, “Well, I’m just gonna go talk to her.” He says, “You’re gonna get in a fight, I’m leaving!” ‘Cause he thought I was gonna get in a fight with this guy that was with her, and he was afraid we were gonna get kicked out of school. So I walked up to her and talked to her, and it wasn’t her boyfriend, it was her neighbor, ’cause I said, “May I talk to your girlfriend?” He says, “What girlfriend?” I says, “Her.” He says, “She’s not my girlfriend.” I says, “Okay,” and then I asked her out and we ended up dating. I’ll tell you what I love about her, like I just said, she’s just a naturally nice person; that’s her nature. She doesn’t have to work hard to be nice, she’s just nice. I have to work hard to be nice, okay; it’s not easy. So that’s what I love about her, that’s her nature. Dogs have their nature, cats have their nature; that’s her nature. And she’s got a great story. She grew up in Midvale, very, very poor. She wasn’t even gonna go to college, and one of her counselors at school, well, actually it wasn’t even at school, it was like him, you know, somebody who was just involved with young people. She said, “Joyce, why don’t you go to college? You have good grades.” You know what she said? “What’s that?” ‘Cause she’d never been to the University of Utah. And he says, “Well, let’s go check it out,” and took her up there. They got the financial aid and the application, sat down with her mother and literally filled it out for her, and she got in. Now she’s on the Board of Trustees for the University of Utah. She’s like a big shot, isn’t she? Board of Trustees! She’s the one who decides who gets fired, who gets hired, where they’re gonna spend money, what they’re gonna build, what they’re not gonna build? So here’s this young girl, her last name was Pacheco, her dad was a miner, worked underground mines all his life, her mother was a domestic, she cleaned offices, and here she goes to the University of Utah, and now she’s one of this Board of Trustees, who makes all these decisions about this place. Her story’s a great story, too, I think.
LESLIE: Can I ask you a bit more about how you got the appointment? It sounds like you had a road of some kind; you were interviewed. Would you explain that process?
ANDREW: The process is this: when there’s an opening for a judgeship, you apply through what they call a nominating committee. They have these people who look at all the applications and decide, all right, which ones are we gonna interview. When I applied there was forty-one applicants for my job, forty-one lawyers, and they came from all over. I was the only Hispanic, and probably the only defense lawyer. So this group of people, which consisted of the President of the University of Utah and other people in powerful positions who the governor appoints to this committee, looked at all these applicants and decided, okay, we’re gonna interview ten people. I was one of the ten. Everyone thought, “God, he made the top ten! Just great, but you’re not gonna get it, so don’t get too excited about it, okay.” Then they interviewed ten people, and these people sit in this room and you walk in there and they have these faces that are like chiseled; they’re real powerful people. They select three, and I was one of the three. Those three go to the governor, and then the governor brings you in and he interviews all three. And when I got interviewed, there was me, there was a lawyer who’d worked in the juvenile court for like thirty years and he knew the juvenile court, and then there was a lawyer who worked for the LDS Church firm, he used to be a legislator, and so he had all this connection. A lot of people said, “It’s not gonna happen. You’re brown, you’re not Republican, you’re not Mormon. They’re not going to appoint you, so don’t worry about it.” My mom even told, “Mi hijito, I still love you. I don’t care what happens.” My brother told me, “No one likes you anyway, Andy, you’re obnoxious!” So I went in there with everyone telling me it’s not gonna happen. I sat next to the governor, just like this, and I went like this. Boom, ’cause I was crossing my legs, and I kicked him right in the shin! [All laughing] So I says, “I’m so sorry I kicked you.” He’s kinda looking at me like, “Jeez, this guy comes into my mansion and boots me in the knee!” And I panicked, I started getting all sweaty and everything, and he said, “That’s okay, that’s okay, let’s just talk.” So I’m thinking, jeez, I came all this way and then I end up kicking the governor. But he was really good. He was a young governor then, and he hadn’t appointed any judges. He had a lot of interviews but he hadn’t appointed anyone, and we sat and we were supposed to talk for 15 minutes and we ended up talking for like 45 minutes, and I’m thinking, “I’m gonna get this job.” I was just nailing these questions, and then I walked out of there just sky-high and I walked all the way downtown and I called my wife and says, “I think I’m gonna get this job. It just went so well.” She says, “Where’s your car?” I said, “Oh, I left it up there.” I was so pumped I left my car at the mansion, so I had to go back like a bandejo, late at night so nobody sees me, to get my car. I’m thinking, “He’s gonna think I’m so stupid.”
So then I didn’t get it, I didn’t get a call, and then I didn’t get another call. And another week passed and everybody’s saying, “Did you get it?” I’m saying, “No,” then I’m starting to think, well, you know, life’s not fair. I’m not gonna get it, even though I’m the best lawyer. I’m not gonna get it because I’m brown, because I’m [not] Mormon, ’cause I’m not a Republican and I don’t know nobody, and I started feeling all sorry for myself. And everybody’s saying, “Good job, you know, you went further than anybody’s ever gone.” My mom is saying, “Oh, mi hijito, I still love you. You have any money?” You know, that kind of stuff. And then I got the call, and he called me up …
LESLIE: Who’s the Governor? What’s his name?
ANDREW: The governor, Governor [Michael] Leavitt. My secretary says, “The governor’s on the phone. He wants to talk to you.” I says, “Take a message.” She says, “You talk to him!” She’s an old lady, and she’s jumping all over me, “You better talk to him!” So I grab the phone, and he says, “Congratulations, Mr. Valdez. You’re our next juvenile court judge!” And my heart was just pumping, and I didn’t know what to do. I called my wife, I says, “I got the job.” She says, “What job?” I says, “The judgeship!” “Oh, what now?” I says, “I don’t know?” She says, “You think they’re gonna find out about your tio Carlos and his warrants?” I says, “I don’t know!” [All laughing] So anyway, it was a lot of things. I mean, the stars all being aligned and God’s grace. So I was the first and I still am. Okay, are we done?
ALL: No, no.
LESLIE: Can you hang in a bit longer?
ANDREW: Oh yeah, I’m fine. I’m having fun! I’d buy you a Coke, but I don’t know if the machine’s working. Anyone want to take a break?
LESLIE: I think we’re good.
ETHAN: So what do you think stayed the same mostly about you as you grew up and became a judge and such?
ANDREW: That stayed the same?
LESLIE: I guess values and outlooks?
ANDREW: I think that I’ve always been driven to be somebody. I always had this feeling that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. That’s never changed, even to this day. I’ve been asked to apply for other judgeships outside the juvenile court, and I’ve always felt that if I did, I could get the job. But I’ve declined because I feel like I’m making a difference here. I think what’s always been there, too, is that I’ve always wanted to be a decision maker as opposed to just somebody who’s making arguments. I argued a lot before judges when I was a lawyer and I didn’t always agree with their decisions, and sometimes I even felt like I would have made a better decision or a different decision. So I’ve always wanted to be that person. And I think I’ve always been good under stress, I can function well when I’ve got pressure on me. I did death penalty cases where the stakes were life and death. I’ve handled high-volume cases like numbers and tons of cases every day, day after day, and that sort of is how I was when I was a little boy, is I could do a lot of things. I used to work long hours, I’d go to school, I’d play tennis and I always was able to function almost on 15, 16-hour days. That’s still what I do. I don’t know if that answered your question.
BRENNAN: What do you mean that going to college opened up a new world?
ANDREW: Oh, it was beautifulpeople don’t understand how college is really easier than high school. There’s not all these cliques and groups. Colleges have students from all over the world. It has professors from all over the world, real smart people. It has bowling alleys, it has gymnasiums, it has swimming pools, it has beautiful women, girls, for you guys, and smart men [for you girls], and it’s a completely different world. And you have more freedom. And you’re trying to discover who you are and how you fit in, not trying to get straight A’s in chemistry or all this. It’s a time where you really do grow and develop as a person. But you have the room to grow. It’s not like high schoolI didn’t do well in high school. I graduated with maybe a C average, and that was hard. And it wasn’t ’cause I wasn’t smart, it’s just I wasn’t interested in it. I wasn’t part of cliques and I was more of a loner and doing my own thingnot a [complete] loner ’cause I had my group of puppies I picked up along the way, you know, my little crew. But college is a different world. You have the best professors in the country, if not the world. You have students from all over, and it’s very exciting. And it’s not all study. But you still have to do your work. But you grow into it, see. Remember when you went from elementary school to junior highhow you were worried that junior high was gonna be hard, and then junior high to high schoolyou grow into it, it’s part of your development.
LESLIE: Was the Chicano movement also happening for you at that time?
ANDREW: Yeah, and the Chicano movement gave me a group to belong to. It was sort of like a fraternity. This is the group of people that I identify with, and most of those guys that were involved in the Chicano movement ended up becoming successful pharmacists and doctors and lawyers and teachers and social workers, so you latch onto a group of people who have like interests and similarities in their lives and in their backgrounds, and it’s easier to get through that way. That’s what these fraternities do. They all come together, they’re all a lot alike, they all have goals, they all have focus, they all have dreams, they all have this stuff. That’s what the Chicano movement did for me, and some of those people that I was involved with in the Chicano movement, I still see. They’re life-long friends. And some of them I’ve also defended [laughs] in court.
MARGARITA: This is changing the subject. What do you think about what’s going on today with immigration and things like that?
ANDREW: Oh, I think it’s a travesty the way it’s being handled in the press and with the politicians. I think there’s very little discussion as to what’s driving people across the border. There’s wars going on, and there’s abject poverty. The history of the world is a history of migration. People have been migrating throughout the history of the world. You don’t have to look too far back in this country’s history with the dust bowls and that time frame when all these people were coming from Arkansas and Oklahoma to go to California to go to work in the agricultural industry, and those people were being called Okkies and we don’t want them here because they don’t have good values and they don’t take care of their kids, and all that kind of stuff. And these were American citizens being discriminated against by other citizens. The Mormons, why did the Mormons leave Illinois and Nauvoo and Kirkland and all those areas, ’cause they were being discriminated against because of their religion, and they started to migrate to the west to have not only religious freedom, but to live the way they wanted to live and be able to work and support their families. They weren’t welcome here initially. But guess where they migrated to? Mexico. The Mormons came to Mexico, okay. Utah was Mexico, [as were today’s] Texas, California, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada. It was all Mexico. So the Mormons migrated to Mexico to make a better life for themselves and their families. And so all you have to do is look at the history of not only this country but the worldmigration has always been something that’s allowed people to leave one area, leave their families, leave their culture, leave their community and go somewhere else so they can make a better life for themselves and their children. That’s the history of migration. I pulled some congressional records in the 1800s where they’re having this hearing in Washington, D.C. about these people being lazy and they like to drink and their kids are just genetically criminals and all their kids are gonna be criminals and orphans, and they were talking about the Irish. They did the same thing with the Italians, and now look at the Italians. You’ve got two Italians on the Supreme Court. You’ve got the speaker of the house who is Italian, [Nancy] Pelosi. You got judges and politicians and governors. So the way they’re treating the Mexican immigrants is not a new thing in terms of a historical context. Are we gonna be able to survive that? We will. We will.
But there’s so much hate mongering going on, and there’s so much misinformation.
If you look at the crime rates in the border states, it hasn’t increased; it’s decreased in the border states. If you look at the economic contribution of Hispanics to this country, it’s huge, revenue and economic contributions, and also just the cultural contributions. But none of that’s ever being played out. I think it’s a travesty because everything’s based on demonizing Hispanics and immigrants and their families. I’ve got parents who are afraid to come to court because they’re afraid that immigration’s gonna pick them up. I always call them up and cut a deal with them; you won’t get arrested in my court. And we have migration of not only Hispanics that we have to try to show compassion for, but in Chinatown in San Francisco, there’s something like 250,000 illegal Chinese! Do you ever hear about that? No. So I felt like my mom lived the immigrant life even though she was a U.S. citizen. I have benefited from the opportunities in this country, and if I have benefited, certainly everyone who followed me can benefit just as well and just as much, as long as there’s that extension of kindness and opportunity. You know, life is about missed opportunities, not a lack of opportunity.
AURA: If you could go into the past and change one thing to make your life better, what would it be?
ANDREW: My life better? If I had to live my childhood over again, I’d do it the same way. [But] I think I was physically abused when I was little by my mom’s boyfriend and I’ve always looked back at that, and it helps me to understand kids that come to my court who have to go through that, who have to live in fear. I think if I had to change that, I would try to eliminate living in fear. ‘Cause when you live in a home where there’s a lot of drinking and a lot of fighting, it impacts how you grow up and how you deal every day with the situation. I had a little boy come into me recently, he was only 11, and he says, “Judge, a good day for me is when I come home and I find my mom drunk.” I says, “Drunk?” He says, “Yeah, drunk or passed out.” I says, “Why is that?” He’s a little Chicanito, he says, “‘Cause every day my mom tells me how life is so miserable that she’s gonna kill herself, so every day I go to school I worry about that. And I come home and if she’s drunk, I feel like that’s a good day.” And I can relate to living in fear like thatwhere you come home and you worry about how people are gonna act, have they been drinking, are they gonna be mean. So if I could eliminate that fear, that’s what I’d do with my childhood, but other than that, I think I had a pretty good childhood.
EDUARDO: Do you feel differently about yourself now from how you felt when you were younger?
ANDREW: Yeah, I’m getting there. I’m gonna be an anciano [old man] now. But
I feel very fortunate and I feel graced; I feel very lucky. When I was younger I don’t know if I felt like I was lucky, I probably didn’t know any better. But I feel now that everything I went through in my life, my struggles and what I went through, was for a good purpose, so that I can help other people who go through that, or are going through that. So in terms of how I feel, I feel like I’m a lot more wise. You know, I’ve had some wisdom, I think, based on the way I grew up and what I’ve gone through. When I was younger I wasn’t that smart [chuckles], I didn’t do smart things.
LUIS: As a judge, what was one of the most difficult cases that impacted you?
ANDREW: [Sighs] They’re tough cases, whenever you sit in judgment it’s hard. I get babies that are born addicted to heroin and methamphetamine that I take literally at birth from their mothers because their mothers can’t care for them. I get kids who come into my court that are beat up and bruised and broken at the hands of their parents. I get kids that are starved. I get kids that are living in horrible situations and need protection. They’re all difficult cases. One of the most difficult cases I had just recently is where I had a little boy who was 14him and his gang buddies took a kid into a golf course and executed him. I had to decide whether this boy, who is now fifteen, should be certified to the adult system to stand trial there and face the possibility of life in prison without parole, or whether I should keep him in the juvenile system, which could keep him for a maximum of 5-1/2 years. That was a tough decision because it was very emotional. There’s people who packed my courtroom. They were crying on both sides, and there was two lives lost. There was the eighteen-year-old who was dead, and his mother was here every day in court, and then there was this fifteen-year-old whose life was gonna be changed forever in terms of whether he’d ever get out of prison or not. That was a tough case because it kind of cut against my grain. It cut against my purpose for being here [which] is to try to help young people and to try to turn people around and give them a better life. That one I decided to send him up to the adult system, because I felt there needed to be more control over him after 5-1/2 years because of his history of violence and meanness. I just didn’t feel like the public’s safety was something I should sacrifice by just releasing him with no strings attached after 5-1/2 years, ’cause there’s a history of some serious violent behavior on his part prior to him ever killing this kid. That was a tough one. I defended people who were executed later on in life, but it’s hard to just point out one. Every day we open up those doors, we get a lot of people that need help.
LESLIE: Judge, a two-pronged question: You decided to move back to the west side, but you’ve also gotten some death threats out of the west side. I’m wondering if you could talk about moving back to the west side [of Salt Lake City] and the difficulties of being a judge with threats [on his life].
ANDREW: Well, I moved back to the west side when I got appointed to the bench. The reason I did that is because there’s no judges down there, and I wanted to contribute to the community. I felt that it was important for young people like yourselves to see somebody who looks like them and has accomplished the things I have. I remember a little boy in my court saying, “I saw Judge Valdez at my store,” to the probation officer, and the probation officer says, “So?” “Well, he was over there buying hamburger and tortillas.” She says, “So?” “What’s he doing on the west side?” She says, “He lives there.” “No judges live on the west side.” She says, “He does.” I was so proud of that, you know, because that’s why I moved back to the west side is so that I could be there. People who get educated sometimes move out. I moved back. I made this pact with my best friend, Pete Suazo, when we were in school. If we ever become successful we’re gonna move back to the west side and see what we can do to help, ’cause we always felt everybody just moves out. They get educated and move out, and so Pete moved back first, and Pete became a state senator. And he was always hounding me, when I became a judge. He said, “All right, are you gonna move back to the west side now?” I says, “Yeah, I’m gonna move back.” My sister and everyone says, “You’re crazy, what are you moving back to the west side for? That’s why you worked hard all your life, to get out of there.” I says, “That’s not why I did that. I’m moving back because I think I can help,” and we’ve done a lot. And I think it’s important for people to see Judge Valdez on the west side, so they cansee somebody that doesn’t just talk about doing things, but actually does things.
And it [the move] comes with its problems, too. I’ve had death threats and that’s why I didn’t let you guys come to my house because I would have had to get all kinds of security clearance. They check my house all the time. I had this lady who is pretty gang-entrenched, not with young kids but older gangs, and she’s gonna threaten to burn my house down and shoot me and my family, so I’ve had some tight security there, and she’s not the first one. I’ve had half a dozen death threats. And it alters your life. I mean, you have to be careful, you have to have security, [and] you have to have people checking on you. I have to check in. There was one time when the polygamists were threatening to kill me, and I had to take different routes home. Another time I had to leave my home because there was a death threat to me and my kids, and they were going to go to the school so they evacuated us and went and rounded up these people. But I grew up with faith, not fear, and so I have faith that I’m gonna be taken care of. Not necessarily from God, but people will take care of me, and I’m out there. I mean I go to the same stores, I play tennis, I play at Glendale Park with all the Polynesians, you know, and they’re like all big guys, so I’m never worried about that. And I get people who come to my house and leave me pasole or food. One father came one time, he says, “Judge Valdez, my son has this gun, can I leave it with you?” “No.” I says, “Put it here. I’ll call the cops to come and get it.” It was a sawed-off shotgun that had been used in a drive-by. I’ve also had people come to my house and ask me for advice. My daughter’s doing this, or my son’s doing this, and so sometimes I’ll sit down and talk to them. I’ve had gang kids come to my house and play basketball, or ask me if I have any mitts. So I’m part of that community, I don’t live in fear. Whenever there’s graffiti around my house, I’ll walk down the street where I know the gang kids live, and I’ll say, “I want that clean or I’m gonna bring the cops down here.” “We didn’t do it, man, we didn’t do it!” I say, “I don’t care, I want it clean. Somebody’s gotta clean it.” So it’s a community. I don’t know if you guys are from the west side, but I love the west side ’cause I live around people who look like me and are just like me and it has a good sense of community. So I love the west side, I’ll always live there. And Pete Suazo, he was a state senator, but to him, boy, moving back on the west side was our biggest accomplishment in life. Plus my mom still lives there, so I only live a couple of blocks from her. My kids all grew up riding their bikes to her house, and I can go check on her and take care of her. But Pete, boy, to him our biggest accomplishment in life wasn’t that we graduated from college or became anything professionally, is that we moved back to the west side (laughs).
LESLIE: Do you miss him?
ANDREW: I miss him a lot! We went to college together. His goal was to be a judge and my goal was to be the mayor of Salt Lake, and we’ve switched. I didn’t have the thick skin to be a politician, and he didn’t finish law school. So he says, “Well, I guess I’ll run for mayor, you go ahead and be the judge.” So we had that, but we knew each other since we were little boysexcept he didn’t get in as much trouble as me ’cause he had a dad who was tough. Boy, Mr. Suazo, [all chuckle] was a tough guy.
AURA: You talked about what frightened you when you were youngerwhat frightens you now?
ANDREW: I’ve been living with this sense of dread when my boy’s been at war, Afghanistan. Every day I got up and I had this dread. That frightened me. He was my second boy who went to war. When my first boy marched on Baghdad and Fallujah, he fought some big battles. This one was Air Force but he still had to guard convoys. Right before he left, he had a week left and they were sending him on these very dangerous assignments, I was just worried to death. I went to church a lot. War frightens me, and what also frightens me is the level of hate. Hatred frightens me. The polygamists, they don’t scare me. The gangsters, they don’t scare me. My mom scares me! [All chuckle] Oh, yeah! Still. Does your mom scare you? [Yeah, big time] Oh, yeah, you know. Well, in my day, the chacla wasn’t child abuse. Now it is.
EDUARDO: How did you actually go to the University of Utah?
ANDREW: I’ll tell you how this happened. I lucked out because I wasn’t gonna get a tennis scholarship and I was really upset and thinking, well, I’ll go in the Navy, the Vietnam War was going on, I didn’t want to get drafted. My brother was at war, and at that time the University of Utah had something like 24,000 students, and they had seven Hispanics. Seventhat was it! So, I mean Deans McKean and Gibbons were the dean of students, and they were in charge of admissions. They got this grant from the Ford Foundation where they were gonna bring forty Hispanics and twenty Native Americans for a summer University of Utah program to help them with their reading and English and getting them ready for college. Then they’d give them a scholarship to go for the first quarter and see if they could make it. I was lucky because they went to West High and I was gonna go in the Navy, I was getting a tennis scholarship [from the University of Utah]. BYU said, “Come on up here, we’ll find you a place to live, but we can’t guarantee anything,” and that kind of stuff. I thought, BYU? Give me a break! So I was going in the Navy, and then the University of Utah recruiters came to West High, and they went to one of the counselors, “We’re looking for some [Hispanic] students who you think might have some potential to go to college,” and the counselor, bless her heart, said, “Go talk to Andy Valdez over there, he’s got a big mouth. He’s always talking about college. I know he wants to go. He might be somebody who might be interested.” And I had gotten in trouble recently at West, because I had told a teacher off for putting all the Hispanics in the back of the class and just teaching to the front. And the reason she put them all in the back is ’cause they didn’t behave, but I accused her of discrimination, saying, “Yeah, you only teach the first row” and all that. So the next week she put all the Hispanics in the front and they all got mad at me, they wanted to beat me up, ’cause they liked sitting in the back ’cause they could dink around. Anyway, I got in trouble for being rude to her about that. She went and reported me. Anyway, bottom line, they came and got me and said, “You want to go to college?” “Yes.” “Well, we’ll get you into college.” I says, “I want to play tennis for the University of Utah,” and they says, “We’ll get you a tryout with the team, but you come to college and you can stay at the dorm, forty of you, and we’ll see how you do.” That was the big break I got, and so we were at the dorms, and the University of Utah had never seen brown people, the cops, so every time we pulled out of the dorms they’d pull us over and want to know what we were doing. So we had a meeting with the president of the University of Utah, the chief of police, me as a student rep, and a couple other people, and we complained, “They’re always pulling us over. We can’t go anywhere without them pulling us over, searching our car and embarrassing us.” Well, they weren’t used to seeing brown people up there, so they thought we were up there being, you know, crooks. Plus, a couple of people got busted. They were smoking weed in the cars, so they were saying, “They’re over here smoking weed and all this kind of stuff,” so all this stuff going on, and I’ll never forget Frank McKean, did you ever meet Frank McKean, he used to be a vice president of the University of Utah.
LESLIE: I didn’t meet him, no.
ANDREW: He’s a great man. He stood up and just told this chief, “These are our students. They’re University of Utah students. You’re gonna treat them fairly. You’re not gonna pull them over, and if you do, you will not have a job!” And that stunned the cops. After that, they left us alone. And we did great. Most of those people went on, got involved in the Chicano movement, and went on and did good things with their life. So I lucked out, and then I went on the tennis team and I made the team. And so that helped.
ANTONIO: Was it tough like seeing some of your friends going different ways, bad ways?
ANDREW: Yeah, it was because when I was at the college, I thought, you know, it’s only a matter of time before all these people follow me, because I know people that are a lot smarter than me, and so I kept waiting for this wave of people to come, and they never came. They didn’t have the breaks I did in life, I guess. Although let me tell you another story before you leave, and it’ll be my last story. I ran into this guy named Willie, and he’d just gotten out of prison. He’d been in prison for like 27 years off and on, and he was sitting over there by the federal courthouse and he saw me and he says, “Andy, are you still a lawyer, or are you still a judge?” and I says, “Yeah.” He says, “Hey, it’s good to see you, man, I just got out of the joint.” I says, “Jeez, Willie, how many times you gotten out?” He says, “Oh, you know, half a dozen, but I keep going back,” so the trick, of course, is not to get out, it’s to stay out, and he hasn’t been able to stay out. He says, “Jeez, we’re really proud of you. You’ve done so much in life.” I says, “You know what, Willie, I was lucky in my life. I had a lot of people who helped me and gave me guidance and direction, and I had good mentors.” You know what he said? He says, “So did I.” I says, “You did? You had people who helped you along the way?” He says, “Yeah, so did I. I just didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. I missed all those opportunities, Andy.” And he was right, ’cause he went to Horace Mann with me. He was a smart guy, was a good-looking guy, tall, good guy, but everyone who tried to help him and give him direction, he basically said, “Nah, I’d rather go party. Nah, I’d rather go do this with my friends. I don’t need to go to school. I don’t need this.” See. But I thought that was really a telling comment: “So did I, Andy,” because I thought it was only me. That only me, only I had received these graces, only I had received these people reaching out. But that’s not the case. That’s why I say life is about missed opportunities, not a lack of opportunity. We don’t get all the opportunities, I think, us, as a lot of people do, but so what!