Q: Who were your early mentors?
A: My parents and my older sister.
Like I said, my parents were glass-factory workers who had four kids, and
our house, our home, operated like
clockwork. Despite doing backbreaking
work in the glass factory, they made
small miracles happen every day with
having us up and ready for school,
always on time, making sure that we had
our homework done.
And just really, really, not only giving us
good values, but living them by example.
They had me in the airport before I took the
plane to go to Harvard, and they sat me
down and said, “We never went to college.
We’ve done the best job we can, but from
here on out you have to sort of figure some
things out on your own. But you can always
fall back on all the lessons we taught you.”
That’s really sort of carried me.
Q: And professional mentors?
A: Tom Melsheimer has been incredible.
He’s really taken a personal interest in
my career to make sure I get staffed on
good cases and get good experience.
When I decided to run for Congress,
outside my family he was one of the first
people I told, and he didn’t blink an eye.
He said, “I want to be the first person
to make a donation, and also, I’d be
honored if I could serve as treasurer.”
Professor Charles Ogletree at Harvard
Law School has continued to be phenomenal
as a mentor to me. He’s been a mentor to
President Obama and Michelle and many
folks who’ve graduated from law school. And
Ron McCray, who’s co-owner of the Boston
Celtics. … They’ve been so phenomenal.
Q: So what was it like to run for
A: Unsuccessful, but it was a phenomenal
experience and one of the most fulfilling
things I’ve ever done. There’s a great
saying, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” I got
tired of sort of just sitting around and
seeing the issues fester … and decided
to step up. I really value standing up
for people and being an advocate. A
lot of the skills that I’ve developed as a
lawyer I thought I could bring to bear
as a congressman, where you’re being a
champion for others.
Q: Any future political aspirations?
A: We’ve decided I’m not going to run in
the short term. I gave it my all this go-around. If I do go for elected office, it will
have to be after the kids are grown. But
we’re both committed to being involved
politically and community-wise.
Q: You and your wife have been strong
supporters of President Obama.
A: When I was a student at Harvard Law
School, I had really good relationships with
a lot of professors, and they knew I was
interested in politics. This was before Obama
really hit the national scene, when he was
still a state legislator, and they said, “Put this
guy on your radar, Taj, he’s impressive, and
he impresses the Harvard faculty,” which is
really hard to do. When he announced for
the presidency, my wife and I got involved
immediately and started fundraising for him
and served on his Texas finance committee.
The first time my wife and I met him at an
event, he was getting background on us, and
he says, “What are you guys planning to do?”
And my wife was like, “We want to turn Texas
blue and we want to have an impact,” and he
was like, “I’m going to hold you to that.”
Q: Your campaign drew a lot of attention,
and even a comparison or two of yourself
and your wife to the Obamas.
A: To have people compare me to someone
I greatly admire like Obama, it’s flattering.
For a congressional race in Texas to have
an article featured in The New York Times
and to be featured in Politico multiple
times and The Huffington Post, to create
that buzz about issues that are so
important, it was flattering.
Q: What would you say is the most
important lesson that you’ve learned
A: One important lesson is that hard work
trumps almost everything when you’re
striving for success. It overcomes talent,
it overcomes intelligence, it overcomes
a lot of God-given attributes. Even more
important is that time is so precious. You
really don’t want to take a second with your
loved ones for granted.
This interview has been condensed.