At a Glance
- Career History:
's Department of Defense agency review team (Dec. 2008); Law professor, University of New Mexico (since 2003); President, University of New Mexico (2003 to 2006)Birthday: April 1, 1956
- Hometown: El Paso, Texas
- Alma Mater: U.S. Military Academy at West Point, BS, 1978; Harvard University, MBA and JD, 1987
Path to Power
Caldera was born on April 1, 1956, in El Paso, Texas, to parents who recently emigrated from Mexico. Caldera, the second-oldest of five children, was tagged as retarded in kindergarten because he knew so little English. His father was determined that his son master English. He not only encouraged his children to watch English-language television, he also required Caldera and his siblings to listen to the time and weather recordings on the telephone.
Caldera's family was poor, often using food stamps to make ends meet. They also faced discrimination. "There was a sort of sense that people looked down at Mexican-Americans," Caldera told the St. Petersburg Times. "Kids like me weren't supposed to go to college, weren't supposed to succeed."
Caldera was an active Army Secretary, running his office like a chief executive. He has promoted policies that nurture young members of the Army, such as improving their educational opportunities, training and treatment by officers. "Ask yourself why you want to be an officer in our Army, why you want to be a leader of soldiers," Caldera said in a 2000 speech. "Make sure it is for the right reasons, that you want to be a caring leader for our soldiers." As Army secretary, he also focused on building a "strong base of support and appreciation for what soldiers do."
When Caldera was named secretary of the Army, he was tasked with ensuring the service is prepared to go to war. At that time, the Army was facing a precipitous decline in troop enlistment and size even as its peacekeeping missions were expanded. While in office, he helped lead a $20 billion modernization effort. He also advocated for increasing pay and retirement funding.
Caldera was secretary of the Army when current Veterans Affairs Head Eric Shinseki was Army chief of staff. The two worked together to study and stem the army's attrition rate. During his time in the Clinton administration, Caldera also worked closely with former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.
Caldera also has ties to several Latino organizations, including the National Council of La Raza, where White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs head Cecilia Munoz worked.