Rudolph Giuliani: Faith in work, God, and himself
The former New York mayor's sense of discipline, which stemmed from a childhood living with a devout Catholic father and attending parochial schools, has shaped his career in public service.
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Giuliani, then a liberal Democrat, was such an ardent admirer of President John Kennedy that he once skipped school to see him in New York. Powers, always a Republican, remembers the delight they had in challenging each other's ideas.Skip to next paragraph
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"He and I spent hours, days, months debating things we were on the different sides of," he says. "We were like two dogs on a bone, but I realize how lucky I was to have a close friend that I could really disagree with – we really challenged each other's beliefs."
Although named "Class Politician" in his senior yearbook, Giuliani says he thought seriously at the time about becoming a doctor or a priest. He even visited several seminaries. Ultimately, he decided against the priesthood because of his "budding interest in the opposite sex," he says in a Monitor interview.
But the idea stuck with him through college. He even thought briefly about converting to become a Lutheran or an Episcopalian, so he could be a priest and get married. But he says he couldn't because of his father.
"In most Catholic families it's the mother who's really devout. But in my family it was my father," Giuliani says. "And he wasn't just devout, he rooted for the Catholics."
And so the son went on to Manhattan College and then New York University Law School.
Discipline and order
If Giuliani's 37-year career as a public servant reveals anything, it's that he's a law-and-order guy.
First as a US attorney who with equal zeal took on Wall Street titans and Mafia dons, and then as a two-term mayor who made safe streets his top priority, Giuliani found high-profile outlets for righting what he believed were wrongs and bringing order where there was chaos.
"Rudy's moral, ethical, and issues core comes from his Catholicism," says Doug Muzzio, a longtime Giuliani watcher. "The fact that he went to Catholic grammar school, high school, and college fundamentally shaped his orientation and character – the discipline and order."
That sense of discipline is evident in his own work ethic, say those who know him. Indeed, a chapter in his book is entitled "Prepare Relentlessly."
"It's striking – his emphasis on work and discipline," says Fred Siegel, author of "The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life." "Work is central to his self-definition and his sense of what people should be."
His drive to correct what needs correcting was matched by a certain ingenuity in approach, say admirers. Giuliani wasn't the first US prosecutor to use a federal racketeering law to go after the Mafia, but he was the first to use it in a big way, indicting 11 organized-crime figures at once in 1985. His stated goal: "to wipe out the five families" that ran La Cosa Nostra, according to a Time magazine article.
Likewise, when he was elected mayor in 1993, Giuliani saw an opportunity to "fix" his hometown. Four years earlier, a Time magazine cover had dubbed it the ungovernable "Rotting Apple," and it was still dirty, crime-ridden, and deeply in debt when he moved into City Hall. With the ardor of an operatic protagonist and the discipline of a Yankee-in-training, Giuliani took on the city's vested interests. He cut taxes, slashed the budget, and forced the mob out of the fish markets.
"Part of what motivates me is [a desire to] straighten things out, make them better, have an impact on problems," he told the Monitor.
Giuliani gradually came to feel he'd have a better chance of having an impact as a Republican. In the 1970s, he'd registered as an Independent so his prosecutions as a US attorney wouldn't be seen as political. In 1980, he switched to the GOP, hoping for a job in Washington in the newly elected Reagan administration – which he got within a month.
On the campaign trail, Giuliani is quick to tout his New York accomplishments.