Groundbreaking Women: U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana's barrier-breaking life



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Posted on September 13, 2012 at 6:13 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 13 at 6:19 PM

DALLAS –  “My name is Sarah Saldana, and I represent the United States of America.”

The U.S. Attorney pauses then says, “What more do you want in your life than to say that as a lawyer?”

For Saldana, getting to where she is now wasn't clear-cut. As one of seven children, Saldana watched her mother go off to school to become a nurse.

Her family survived off of $13,000 a year. 

“Did she say, education, education, education? She didn't necessarily use those words. The impression was there that that might make a difference in your life,” she said.

That impression was strong enough to encourage Saldana and four of her siblings to go to college.

“There was something in me saying you ought to stretch a little further, reach a little higher, try a little more, and I did,” she said. 

She was a young girl with a fear of public speaking, but a fire to honor her mom's example had her looking to open new doors. 

“My life was a zig-zag. I started as a school teacher, what is a school teacher doing in this office?,” she asked.

That zig-zag took her to Southern Methodist University law school and, eventually, to the presidentially appointed position she holds now. And while her experiences vary, there is one common denominator.

“Have I done something to help someone else? I do that every day around here,” she said. 

Her district spans 100 counties and 95,000 square miles. And with every case that crosses her desk she thinks back to clerking for a role model in her life: former US district Judge Barefoot Sanders, known for overseeing the lawsuit to desegregate Dallas ISD Schools. 

“He always came back to what is right and what is fair. What more do you want than to have that as a U.S. attorney? To be thinking, what is right, what is fair?” 

That's her foundation. But her strength truly starts at home, with what she learned as a little girl. 

“What you think you can do, you can do,” she said.

That’s a message she likes to refresh, even now. And Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison helped her do that with a recent speech.

What was the senator’s three-word message? 

“You go girl. An inspiration even at my age after all that I've done, I actually thought, ‘I will senator, I will,” Saldana said.


This is the third piece in a series about Groundbreaking Women in North Texas. Yesterday, we profiled Ebby Halliday, one of the mainstays on the region's realty industry. Read that here.