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Louis 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

Louis Caldera: 1956—: Educational administrator.

Louis Caldera made a surprise return to his first career when U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed him to serve as secretary of the Army in 1998. A West Point graduate and former army captain, Caldera proved both an enthusiastic and somewhat maverick leader, stressing the need for this branch of the military to provide better educational opportunities for its rank-and-file soldiers as well as officer corps; doing so, he argued, would create a smart, prepared force ready for the twenty-first century and its global challenges. Caldera often spoke publicly about the military and the chances for advancement it offered to minorities, and once called it the most integrated institution in the United States.

This dedication to the military and its character-building aspects reflected Caldera's own humble origins as the son of Mexican immigrants in an El Paso, Texas family. St. Petersburg Times journalist Paul De la Garza asserted that "Caldera's life story is the kind from which political legends are crafted." Born in 1956, the second of five children, Caldera grew up in a bilingual household that struggled financially for many years. When he was five, his parents moved the family to East Los Angeles. Upon entering kindergarten, Caldera spoke so little English that school officials suggested to his parents that he might be developmentally disabled. His father resolved to correct this impression, and strongly emphasized the need for all of the children to learn English. Caldera once recalled that his father even liked to have them call the time and weather services on the telephone to improve their skills.

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