Sunday, January 29, 2006

PCN Profile: Pedro Cortes

I signed up to be a team member at the PCNTV blog some time ago but have never been able to catch all of a program. Usually I get an hour of a three hour hearing and that's not enough to blog about. Tonight, though I did see an entire program. This is cross posted to the PCNtv blog.

Tonight’s PCN Profile was of Pedro Cortes, Secretary of the Commonwealth (Secretary of State for Pennsylvania). Bill Bova conducted the interview. I imagine it was a re-broadcast.

Cortes grew up in Puerto Rico, with his mother and sister, and only came to mainland after high school. His early jobs included paperboy and grocery cashier / bagger. He wanted to go to school and have a professional job. An aversion to blood took medicine out of the running. A lack of math skills did the same for engineering. He has always loved to read so he decided on the law.

His high school had a program that helped students who aspired to go to college find a school that would be a good match for him. At that time his English was limited and the program suggested three schools. He was accepted by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Once he was at college he wanted to make sure he could get a job and support himself. The school counselor said the college had two programs that would provide such a guarantee, fashion marketing and hotel administration. Thus, he switched from pre-law to hotel administration, but took the pre-law curriculum also. The first setback in his legal career was coming down with chicken pox when he was scheduled to take the law school admissions test. (I had to delay the final exams in my last semester of college for the same reason – it’s a nasty thing to have as an adult.)

His future wife nursed him through his illness and he decided to find a job and stay in the area until she finished school. After that, they decided to settle in Pennsylvania since Cortes’s sister had married and moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Cortes and his wife moved to Mechanicsville where he worked as a theater manager. His wife worked for the state in the welfare office.

With his wife’s encouragement he went to law school at Dickinson College in Carlisle, specializing in labor and employment law, and graduating in 1999. He worked for the civil service and was later tapped to be on the Governor’s Advisory Commission for Latino Affairs by Gov. Ridge, even though Cortes has been a lifelong Democrat. Gov. Rendell nominated him for the Secretary position, which led to Cortes becoming the first Latino in cabinet member in the state’s history.

Interesting quotes or comments – if anyone says they did something on their own be very suspicious because everyone has mentors or a supportive spouse or other help along the way. His definition of stress is being unemployed and not able to care for his family.

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