Bill Richardson's early childhood was characterized by an atypical
biculturalism, strong family bonds, and a consistent commitment to
giving back to the community.
Bill Richardson was born on November 15, 1947 in Pasadena, California to William Richardson and Maria Luisa Lopez-Collada. William Richardson was a banker who had been working in Mexico City for decades and he settled his family there shortly after Bill's birth.
Growing up in Mexico City, Bill Richardson experienced a unique blend of American and Mexican cultures. His parents wanted to make sure their children were proud of both their countries and felt comfortable in both cultures and languages. Hamburgers and hotdogs were served on the Fourth of July, and parties were held on September 16th, Mexican Independence Day.
William and Maria expected great things from Bill and his younger sister Vesta. Governor Richardson attributes his work ethic and striving nature to the lessons his parents taught him. "My father made it very simple, he used to say, 'If you're going to do something, be the best at it, that usually means you have to work harder than everyone else.'"
Vesta and Bill also learned that giving something back to your community was part of what it meant to be successful. These lessons have driven Vesta's career as a successful pediatrician in Mexico, and have been a constant stream in Bill's life of public service as Congressman, Energy Secretary, UN Ambassador and Governor of New Mexico.
In 1961 a young Bill Richardson left his family in Mexico City to attend high school in Massachusetts. It was tough for teenage Bill to be the new different looking kid at his school; he was the only Hispanic student there. But with the help of a coveted slot on the Varsity baseball team, and a few good friends, he began to bridge the divide between these two worlds.
Barbara Flavin and her family lived across the street from the school, and they had heard about the new student from Mexico with a vicious breaking ball. One afternoon Barbara saw Bill walking out of town. She offered him a ride back to school. The next January, Bill left a sombrero and a love note on her porch. They were married in 1972.
Bill followed in his father's footsteps and entered Tufts University in Boston in 1966. His interest in politics was sparked while on a school trip to Washington, D.C. during which Senator Hubert Humphrey stopped to talk to Bill and his classmates about American values and the power of public service. Governor Richardson calls this a turning point in his political awareness: "Senator Humphrey was a proud Democrat and presented his convictions with such strength, that I began to realize how a progressive vision could change the world."