It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to legislative work.
This week, Puerto Rico’s Democratic representative in Congress, Res. Cmmsr. Pedro R. Pierluisi, discusses his trip on Air Force One and working as a staffer.
Q. While you were attending law school at GWU, you worked as an aide to then-Res. Cmmsr. Baltasar Corrada del Río. How did working as a congressional staffer prepare you for returning to Capitol Hill as a member of Congress?
A. I remember walking with him at a fast pace, in between the office and committee hearing room and trying to talk to him about this or that. And seeing the way that he handled himself — always welcoming people from Puerto Rico. What I do when people come in — the way I run this office — is similar to the way he ran it.
Q. After serving as Puerto Rico’s attorney general for four years, you practiced law in the private sector for a decade. Why did you decide to run for public office again?
A. I was approached by then-Res. Cmmsr. Luis Fortuño — he was going to be running for governor. He approached me and proposed that we run as a ticket from day one. Two out of [my] four [children] had already graduated from college. So I had two out of four and I said, “Well, if I’m going to ever do it, let me do it now.”
Q. You were one of five children, so can you describe what it was like growing up in a large family?
A. I was the middle child so I was a bit spoiled by my mother. … When I was in her belly she had an oven — estufa — a stove that blew up. And she was like six months pregnant or something like that when it happened. And she burned herself badly so she was so worried about me. And so when I was born it was like a gift of God that I was alive and well.
Q. In 2011, President Barack Obama visited Puerto Rico, the first sitting president to do so since John F. Kennedy. What is your fondest memory from his trip?
A. My Air Force ride back with him. I came back with him, pretty much on our own with a couple of people and the Secret Service. And you know he was in his office and so on and I was at the VIP area having dinner, watching a movie. Right after the movie ended, the president comes in. So he says, “So did you have a good time?” “Yeah the dinner was great, I watched a movie.” He said, “So what did you see?” And I said, “Unknown.”
And then he says, “Is it any good?” And I said, “You know what, yeah, it’s pretty good. But you know this plane is too noisy. I think I’m going to have to rent it at home because I missed half of the dialogue.” So he laughed because I think I’m the first one who’s on Air Force One and I’m complaining about it! He’s cracking [up] — like saying, “This guy’s a character, look what he tells me!”
Q. What is one thing you would like your fellow members of Congress to know about Puerto Rico?
A. People from all over the world live in America and you can be an American and yet also be very proud of your ethnic, racial, cultural, roots. That’s Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico’s what America’s becoming.