My father, Pablo Gonzales, was born in the small Texas town of Kenedy during the Depression era of the 1930s.
As the eldest of 13 children, he took on a caretaker’s role early in life, and dropped out of school in the second grade to work and help provide for his poor family.
He spent most of his adult life picking crops and working construction.
I remember, as a boy, watching him and his brothers build the small two-bedroom house that was home to me and my seven brothers and sisters.
Until the day he died in a job-related accident during my last semester in law school, my father left for work every morning at dawn because he believed he was accountable for himself and his family.
He was a man of few words, and I never heard him complain about his job or ask for help from neighbors or organizations. He did not want government assistance, nor did he think he was entitled to it. As long as he was healthy, he was working.
I learned from his quiet example of personal responsibility and accountability.
What is important to Hispanics?
During a presidential campaign, this question is easy to ask, but hard to answer because Hispanics are diverse even within our community. Mexican Americans in Texas have different histories and experiences than Cuban Americans in Florida and Puerto Rican Americans in New York.
However, there are values that unite most Hispanics I know.
We believe in opportunity, not more government. We want a job, not a handout. We want to be judged on our achievements, not our skin color. We are risk takers willing to bet on ourselves and start small businesses. We believe in God and in family. We love America, a country that gives us so much opportunity.
This is who we are and what I believe.
Today, there is a debate in America over the appropriate role of government.
According to one recent estimate, one in five Americans is completely dependant on government assistance or subsidy.
Without question, our government should help needy citizens who are sick, elderly, or disabled if help is not otherwise available from family members, churches, and local organizations.
However, there appears to be a growing number of people in our society who believe they are entitled either to certain kinds of jobs or to government benefits if those jobs are not available.
My father, a proud man who worked hard for everything we had and every meal we ate, would not understand such thinking.
"Just give me a chance to succeed,” was his prayer.
If he were living in today’s tough economy, he would find work in the fields, on the docks and in the kitchens if necessary because he believed it was his responsibility to provide for himself and his family.
That was just his way. That used to be the American way.
Alberto R. Gonzales is the former United States Attorney General and the former Counsel to President George W. Bush. He is currently the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law at Belmont University, Of Counsel at the Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden, and a regular columnist for Fox News Latino.