Before anything else, I'm a dad, a husband, a son and a brother. After that, I'm also a lawyer, political junkie, and amateur photographer.
Perhaps it's the small town in me, but neither life nor politics is that complicated. For me, it's always boiled down to one simple sentence; a solid bit of advice I got from my parents: "Do the right thing."
I've had a lot of adventures on my journey and learned many things the hard way. I live my life with no regrets - and I'm tremendously thankful for the many opportunities that I've had.
The greatest opportunity - and the most important job - I've ever had is being a dad. Now, I try to pass on the core values, history and heritage that were passed on to me. I add in a few tidbits of experience I've picked up along the way.
I still give the super simple one-sentence advice my parents gave me, but I've added one more sentence. This is a quote from my favorite author:
Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Father. Husband. Attorney. Former U.S. Congressman. 13th President of Sul Ross State University.
The Gallego family arrived in the area around Alpine, Texas, in the 1880s. Two generations later, my parents met on the steps of Lawrence Hall on the Sul Ross State University campus in Alpine in 1946. My dad was a local boy just back from World War II and looking to change the world. My mom was from neighboring Fort Stockton; and she wanted to change the world, too.
My parents married in 1947. He stayed in college. She helped run a restaurant that my grandparents had opened in 1917. The restaurant soon became the local gathering spot. Using the restaurant as a springboard, my father ran for a seat on the local school board and became the first Latino ever on the board.
Together, my parents set about ending the segregation in Alpine's public schools. Many others joined in. When the local bank declined to make loans to Latinos, my parents again joined in with others to form their own credit union, which was run off of my parents' dining room table.
These experiences had a huge impact on our family. My parents endured threats and boycotts, sour faces and bad words. They risked everything for an important principle - and they persevered. Their grit and determination continue to be my example and my inspiration.
I graduated from Alpine High School in 1980, from Sul Ross State University in 1982, and from The University of Texas School of Law in 1985. I was elected to the Texas Legislature in 1990 and to the United States Congress in 2012. Along the way, I became the first Latino from our district elected to the Legislature; the first freshman lawmaker and first ethnic minority member elected to chair the Texas House Democratic Caucus; and the only person from rural Far West Texas ever to serve in the US Congress.
In 2014, the voters suggested that I spend more time with my family. That year, I also got a camera as a Christmas present. My new hobby was born. I've gone back to being a lawyer as well as a full-time dad and husband, but now I've added "amateur photographer" to my list of achievements. I'm having the time of my life.