Our Inspiration of the Week: Alfredo Gutierrez

For those of us who are a bit more advanced in life, we’ve often had the thought…it would be great to do something, but it’s too late. Too much time has passed, time to move on from that dream and embrace reality. But an Arizona icon recently demonstrated that it’s never too late to pursue a dream.

Enter Alfredo Gutierrez; old hats in Arizona’s political world, or people who are from here for a long time likely know the name, but relatively few know the story. He started out modestly as an Army private in Vietnam and being the first person in his family to attend college, but became one of the most prominent civil rights advocates in the state and rose through a traditionally white state legislature to become the Arizona Senate majority and minority leader, and later a candidate for governor.

But one thing that he never was was a college graduate…until now.

In another example of history being a circle, he was kicked out of Arizona State in 1968 for helping lead protests; however, unlike the protests in college campuses around the country today, those protests were in favor of better working conditions for employees at the school. While he didn’t pay the ultimate price as a result of his involvement in Vietnam, he did pay a significant price for his principles.

While he clearly was a bit sidetracked by one of the most impressive careers in public service in our state’s history, he finally got back to fulfilling his one dream that he had yet to realize, and walked across the aisle and received his degree from ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at the ripe young age of 78.

While the many 22 year olds that also received their degrees that day likely had never heard of him and viewed the entire ceremony as the end of an era in their lives and a modest accomplishment, for those of us who have let a dream die for the sake of embracing our own personal status quos, it’s clearly something more.

Kudos to Alfredo Gutierrez, not just for a long life of public service and standing up for the voiceless, but for never losing sight of his goal and understanding that you’re never too old to learn and achieve. His example is the truest of inspirations for every one of us; it’s never too late.