Get to Know Rudy Giuliani

Rudolph W. Giuliani grew up a typical Brooklyn boy, whose character was forged by the old-school values his parents' instilled in him. Over the course of his career, he has prosecuted criminals and led New York City through its worst crisis. Now the man whom some have called "America's Mayor" is hoping to become America's president.

ABC's Charles Gibson spoke with Giuliani as part of the "Who Is" series, which features one interview every week with a presidential candidate from now until December, with the focus on their private lives.

Early Life

Born in 1944 to Harold and Helen Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani spent his early years in a middle-class family in Brooklyn. His mother, who'd grown up in Brooklyn herself, had wanted to be a teacher, but when she graduated from high school the financial devastation of the Great Depression forced her to go to work. She got a job as a bookkeeper.


"All her life, she had this frustration of not having become what she wanted to be. So she spent her time teaching me. Gave me a tremendous fascination with learning. I don't think there have been many days in my life when I haven't been reading a book," Giuliani said.

His father, who was from Manhattan, was a boxer, and Giuliani said his personality served as a balance to his mother's doting.

"My dad was a very strong person," Giuliani said.

His father "probably was worried that my mother would dote on me too much. His job, he felt, was to toughen me up. You know, teach me to box, take care of myself," Giuliani said.

"My mother required my father to live in Brooklyn, and he never really appreciated that, because he was living with her family. So he made me a Yankee fan. Kind of secretly. Almost as revenge to my mother's family, because they were all Dodger fans. And I would get harassed constantly as a Yankee fan. And maybe some of my individuality sort of developed with 'well, I'm going to be different. I'm going to be a Yankee fan,'" Giuliani said.

About 10 years before Giuliani was born, his father was arrested. While the younger Giuliani grew up knowing that his father had some kind of criminal record, he said it was always presented to him rather ambiguously.

"I thought he had gotten in trouble when he was more like a teenager," Giuliani said. "And that it was less serious than it turned out to be. Or at least that's the impression he always gave me."

The charge, as Rudy Giuliani later found out, was for armed robbery. His father served time in New York's infamous Sing Sing prison.

Giuliani said that in retrospect, his father's troubled past actually explained his emphasis on honesty and character.

"He was trying, in his own imperfect way, to make up for what he had done wrong," Giuliani said. "It was like he was overcompensating, to make sure the same thing didn't happen to me. Getting me out of Brooklyn. Making sure I went to Catholic schools. It was so important to him that I go to Catholic schools."

Those Catholic schools had an effect on Giuliani; he considered the priesthood as a young man.

"I was very serious about being a priest, twice in my life," he said. "Almost joined the Montfort Seminary after I graduated from high school. Almost went back in the seminary during college. Probably, honestly, it was the celibacy, that first said to me, I can't do this."

He considered medicine and took classes in biology and science at New York's Manhattan College. But those were not the subjects to which Giuliani was drawn.

"I found myself much more interested in history and philosophy and thoughts and ideas, and examining thoughts and ideas. And it seemed to me I wanted to spend more of my life doing that."

Toward the end of his time in college, an adviser gave him an aptitude test that confirmed Giuliani's suspicions. "And he said, 'You have great strengths in logic. This aptitude test shows you have a very logical mind, and maybe you should think of going to law school,'" Giuliani recalled. "And I had always had the impression of law school, that it was about memorizing the law; and he explained to me that it isn't. It's about analyzing the law."

Professional Life

Giuliani went to New York University law school, worked as a prosecutor for the Justice Department, and became the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he went after organized crime and white-collar crime.

In 1989, he ran as the Republican mayoral candidate in heavily Democratic New York City, and lost. He worked as an attorney in private practice, ran again in 1993, and won. In 1997, he was re-elected by a large margin.

Three years later, his second marriage ended in a very public way.

"It's one of the prices that you pay, not just that particular situation, but your entire private life. It's one of the prices that you pay for being in a very high-profile public office," Giuliani said. "And having the ability to, change things and fix things and help things; the downside of it is that the people around you pay a terrible price. And you feel a tremendous amount of guilt about that."

Toward the end of his 7½ year tenure as mayor, New York City was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. At some point while leading the city through the crisis, he decided he wanted to be president.

During the crisis, he realized just how much his term as mayor had prepared him for catastrophe. "I remember having this sense that I can do this. You know, I'm not going to do it perfectly. I'm going to make a certain number of mistakes. But maybe in some ways, it's fortunate I've been mayor for 7½ years."

During that crisis, the man who had at one time considered the priesthood said he turned to God for help.

"At one point I stopped. I'd probably made about 10 decisions. I wasn't sure they were right. And I said to God, 'God, you know, you know how this is going to come out. I don't. And I'm going to make the decisions, and you're going to make them right. You've just got to help me.' That sort of also helped me, sort of focus on -- I just got to do the best that I can to make decisions, and then just hope that they come out right."