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Louis Caldera: 1956—: Educational Administrator

Rose From Cadet To Army Secretary

Caldera recalled his early years and the shame he felt when his parents were forced to turn to food stamps at times to feed the children. "Kids like me weren't supposed to go to college, weren't supposed to succeed," he said in the interview with De la Garza, citing an uncle in Mexico who was a metallurgist as one of his earliest role models. "I was really determined that a kid from my background could achieve those things." A studious teen, he scored well on the Scholastic Aptitude Test in high school, and won a spot at the U.S. military academy for the Army, West Point. This four-year college in upstate New York and training ground for officers, like its counterparts at Annapolis, Maryland, and Colorado's Air Force Academy, was notoriously difficult to enter, and even more challenging for cadets once inside. But Caldera survived his four years, graduating in 1978 and entering the Army as a second lieutenant. He served five years, finishing as a captain and earning several honors and decorations along the way, including the Meritorious Service Medal.

At a Glance . . .

Born on April 1, 1956, in El Paso, TX; son of Benjamin Luis (a hairdresser) and Soledad Caldera; married to Eva Orlebeke (an attorney); children: Allegra, Sophia, Camille. Education: U.S. Military Academy at West Point, B.S., 1978; Harvard University, M.B.A., 1987, J.D., 1987. Politics: Democrat. Military Service: U.S. Army, commissioned second lieutenant, 1978, attained rank of captain before 1983 discharge.

Career: O'Melveny and Myers, attorney, 1987-89; Buchalter, Nemer, Fields and Younger, attorney, 1990-91; served as deputy counsel for Los Angeles County, 1991-92; elected to the California State Assembly representing 46th District, 1992-97; Corporation for National Service, managing director and chief operating officer, 1997-98; US Secretary of the Army 1998-00; became vice chancellor for university advancement in the California State University system, Long Beach, 2001–.

Awards: Awarded several military honors and decorations, including the Meritorious Service Medal.

After his stint with the Army ended, Caldera earned dual law and business degrees from Harvard University in 1987. He practiced law at the firm of O'Melveny and Myers, spending two years there before a stint in the U.S. Army Reserves and then a year at another firm. In 1991 he began a post as deputy counsel for Los Angeles County, and the following year ran for a seat in the California State Assembly representing the state's 46th District, a section of downtown Los Angeles. He served five years in Sacramento as a Democrat, focusing heavily on education issues. His talents earned him a political appointment as managing director and chief operating officer for the Corporation for National Service, the federal grant-making agency that oversees the volunteer-service programs AmeriCorps, the National Senior Service Corps, and Learn and Serve America.

In June of 1998 Caldera was confirmed by Senate vote to serve as secretary of the Army when Clinton's first-term pick, Togo West, left to become secretary for Veterans' Affairs. The Army secretary post is the highest civilian office in this branch of the service; it was once a far more influential post, but after World War II the cabinet posts of the Army and Navy secretariats were combined into a new office, the Department of Defense. Nevertheless, the Army job still carried some major responsibilities: Caldera became leader of roughly one million service personnel—regular Army enlistees and officers, as well as those who serve in the National Guard and Army Reserves—and more than quarter-million civilian employees. He oversaw a budget of $70 billion, and the main focus of his job was to ensure that this branch of the military was combat-ready.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyLouis Caldera: 1956—: Educational Administrator Biography - Rose From Cadet To Army Secretary, Emphasized And Improved Education Opportunities In Army, Worked Toward Diversity In Army And Universities