Before his On Topic conversation with President and Chancellor Ken Starr last night, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani sat down with the Lariat for an exclusive newspaper interview on his faith, his legal career, and the time he almost became a priest. Now, even those who didn’t have the opportunity to see Giuliani speak in Waco Hall will have the chance to get some of the former mayor and presidential candidate’s advice.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in politics and the law?
Why did I choose a career in law and politics rather than the thousand other things at one time or another when I was a boy I wanted to be? It was the last one left. I had gone through everything else that I thought I could be.
I took an aptitude test in college, and my guidance adviser, a professor named Cashmon, I remember him forever, Jerry Cashmon, he said, “You know, I look at this test and you are very well suited to being a lawyer. You have a logical mind, you think very logically. That’s all a lawyer really has to have.”
And I said, “You know, I think a lawyer has to memorize things.” And he said, “No, what a lawyer needs is a logical mind.”
So I went to law school not knowing if I’d like it or not, and the first day of law school I fell in love with it. And I have been in love with being a lawyer from the day I started until today. It’s what I consider myself more than anything else. More than a politician, more than a businessman, I consider myself a lawyer. That’s my profession, and I love being a lawyer.
What would your advice be today to students who want to pursue a legal career?
Well, it would be to get the broadest possible education at the university level. I’m not a big believer in starting to be specialized very early. I think the best lawyers are the lawyers with the most knowledge and the most wisdom, which doesn’t mean just about the law. It means about the world. So I always recommend to young people who want to be lawyers, get the broadest possible education in college. Study history, study philosophy, study literature.
Analyzing literature in a good literature class is very similar to analyzing how a Supreme Court decision should be interpreted. If you’re analyzing, what did Emily Brontë mean when she wrote this, it’s not too much different than trying to analyze, what did Judge Renquist mean when he wrote this.
It’s getting the broadest possible education that’s probably the best thing. Then when you go to law school, it’s time to concentrate on the legal specialties. My advice would be just get a darn good education.
Among the many options you considered before deciding to become a lawyer, weren’t you thinking of becoming a priest?
Even though you didn’t choose to be a priest, could you talk a little bit about how your faith has otherwise influenced your career?
I thought a little bit about being a priest. To such an extent that when I graduated from high school, I was headed to the seminary. I decided not to go a month after I graduated, and had to rush and get into college because I was headed off to become a missionary priest that would work in Africa and Haiti. I almost returned to that in my second year [of college]. I almost returned to being a priest. I didn’t become completely convinced that I didn’t want to be a priest until I was about 21 or 22.
[Religion’s] informed me greatly. I have a great love of religion. I consider myself a sort of unofficial expert on most religions. I studied comparative religion. I studied all the Protestant religions. I studied the Qur’an, read it four times. I’ve read the Hadith, the commentaries on the Qur’an.
I’m a spiritual person. I’m a Catholic. I don’t agree with all of the teachings of the Catholic Church. I believe I’m a Catholic. That’s my relationship with Jesus. There might be some Catholic bishops that might not think I am. Although I am anti-abortion personally, would never want to see a woman have an abortion if I could help it, I believe it’s her choice, not mine. I’m pro-gay rights, because I think God makes you that way and you can’t do much about it. Therefore people should be able to have a fulfilled life.
Beyond that I agree with all the rest of the tenets of the Catholic Church and Christianity. I pray. Unfortunately I pray [more] often when I’m in trouble than when I’m not. I love going to religious services. I go to Catholic services, I go to Protestant services, I go to Jewish services. I’ve even gone to Friday afternoon Islam services at the Malcolm X mosque in New York, where Imam Pasha is one of my best friends.
Religion’s a big part of my life, both internally and then intellectually. I enjoy talking about it, I enjoy debating it, I enjoy reading about it.
And then on September 11, it got me through because I realized that September 11 and the attack [were] beyond my capability to handle. Almost as a prayer, I said to my police commissioner, “Bernie, this is way beyond what we planned for and what we’re ready for. So we’re just gonna have to make the best decisions we can think of, and we’ve got to pray to God that it’s right.” That’s probably the time in my life when I prayed to God the most, to have the wisdom to handle that correctly.
What is it that brought you to Baylor?
Well, two things: Mr. Bailey, my good friend Roy Bailey, and his dad who was such an important part of Baylor and the Bailey family.
And Ken Starr, who was my colleague in the Justice Department when we were little boys. Ken was the chief of staff to Attorney General Bill Smith in the Reagan administration, and I was the third-ranking official in the Justice Department, the Associate Attorney General, during the Reagan administration. We spent three years working together and have been good friends, Ken and his wife and I, have been good friends since then.
So, it’s a combination of the Bailey family and Ken Starr that brought me here.