Governor relishes his role as a global troubleshooter
By Lesley Clark
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
By Lesley Clark
WASHINGTON — Days before Bill Richardson was due to arrive in the world, his mother, at her husband's insistence, boarded a train from Mexico City to the United States.
Richardson's father, who was born on a boat heading to Nicaragua, insisted that there be no ambiguity about his son's birthright. Thus Bill Richardson was born a U.S. citizen in Pasadena, Calif.
That was the first in a long line of paternal decisions that ultimately would imbue Richardson with determination, an ability to move effortlessly between cultures and a knack for perpetual motion.
At 12, Richardson, raised and educated in Mexico City and fluent in Spanish, was sent north to the Middlesex School in Concord, Mass.
By his junior year, he was organizing a field trip for his classmates to Mexico, where, pal Ralph Cygan said, the American boys stayed with local families, toured the city and "were uniformly crushed" by the amateur Mexican baseball teams they played.
"When I see his exploits with Saddam Hussein and the North Koreans, pulling rabbits out of hats, I think back to what he accomplished as a schoolboy, bringing those cultures together," Cygan said, referring to Richardson's frequent stints as a global troubleshooter.
Even now, about 35 years after his father's death, Richardson acknowledges his father's influence.
"I believe that the fact I am driven is because of him," he told ABC News recently. "He'd be driving me now. He'd be telling me to lose weight, to give better speeches. He'd be giving me advice on where to go, where to campaign."
Drive is something that Richardson never lacked. He turned up in New Mexico in 1977 with a few years experience as a Capitol Hill staffer, no ties to the state and a focused ambition: to win elective office. He was gunning for Congress, he wrote in his biography, "Between Worlds."
As a congressman, Richardson made a mark in foreign affairs. He hopscotched the world, negotiating with dictators and bringing hostages home from Iraq, North Korea and Cuba. Friends said he was a natural for the job, bringing to bear his experience since childhood of bridging cultures.
President Clinton appointed Richardson U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1996. The U.N. job ended when Clinton tapped him to become energy secretary, but his tenure there was overshadowed by scandals over nuclear security at the national laboratories. Richardson acknowledges that he "made mistakes" at the agency.
He returned to New Mexico in 2002 and won election as governor. Championing tax cuts and economic development, he was re-elected in 2006 with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
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