Interviewer:
Virginia Sanchez Korrol

A Conversation with
Herman Badillo:
The Early Years

On the Friday afternoon of March 18, 2011, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Herman Badillo before a select audience of scholars, archivists, CUNY faculty, researchers and Centro board members for the purpose of documenting the life experience and extraordinary career achievements of one of our nation’s leading political figures.

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The event was sponsored by the Centro’s Library and Archives Advisory Group, a group of academics committed to documenting the life stories and experiences of a generation of Puerto Rican New Yorkers whose accomplishments helped shape the present and are vital to a historical understanding of the past. This particular conversation highlighted Badillo’s early years—from his days as a young lawyer/politician in El Barrio to the passage of the federal Bilingual Education Act in the early 1970s.
We expect to conclude the conversation at a future session dedicated to more recent times.

I began by reminding Badillo that he once told a tale of encountering a classroom of young learners in an unusual manner. As the guest speaker, then Congressman Herman Badillo, introduced himself to the class in what promised to be the start of an exhilarating lesson in civics. But the youngsters seemed confused, and when questioned about their behavior they responded by questioning how Badillo could possibly be their speaker since they had thought he was no longer among the living. His story, you see, appeared in their history books, and by definition, historical figures are long gone. I can happily assure you that Badillo is alive and well and with us today to share interesting glimpses into his accomplishments.

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