6 minutes reading time (1113 words)

Under Oath: Moses Zapien

Under Oath: Moses Zapien

Moses and I met at a Starbucks coffee shop where he is a regular. The baristas all know him well. We settled in and the questions began.

Q. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A. “What comes to mind is: having dinner with my family; a nice evening out with friends; relaxing on a patio, having a good conversation and watching a beautiful sunset; and doing work that I am passionate about that makes a difference in people’s lives.

Q. What is your greatest fear?

A. “I think, not living up to my potential.”

Q. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A. “I tend to be a perfectionist. I have a strong desire to get things done right the first time and will keep working until I am satisfied. That takes up a lot of time—especially in the legal profession. There is a need to find a balance in your work. You can always research more, gather more data, and continue to improve your work, but you have to come to the point where you know something is acceptable and then know when to walk away.

Q. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A. “Bad taste in music!” I joked that I would refrain from asking him to give his definition of “bad music,” to which he replied, “I appreciate that!”

Q. What is your greatest extravagance?

A. “I once had steak AND lobster at a fancy restaurant when I was on a date in college. She had the same. I really wanted to impress her so I spent my monthly food budget on our meal! It was a great extravagance given the circumstances.”

Q. What is your favorite journey?

A. “The journey I am on right now. I’ve had the honor to serve on the City Council for three years now and it’s been the most exciting and fulfilling time of my life both professionally and personally. Our City is going through a crucial recovery and I am fortunate to be a part of it. Few people have the opportunity to represent his or her community like I’ve had. This has been truly the opportunity of a lifetime for me.”

Q. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

A. Conformity. There is entirely too much pressure in society today to fit a particular mold or to look a certain way. I find value in standing out in the crowd.

Q. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

A. “Maybe that I have to shave so frequently. I have a 5 o’clock shadow at 3! I actually didn’t shave this morning because I am flying out to DC tonight. I’m kind of excited, I actually won’t shave until Sunday.”

“No one will recognize you,” I said.

I know!”

Q. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

A. “I love the word collaborative. I see so much potential in collaboration so I use that word a lot.”

Q. What is your greatest regret?

A. “Not asking Tom Keeling how he did on his interview.”

Q. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

A. “That answer would have to revolve around my family. Both my grandparents and parents originally are from Mexico, and they started off in the U.S. as farmworkers picking tomatoes and onions. My father then opened his own business when he was 21. They worked extremely hard to give my siblings and me opportunities to succeed. My accomplishments and achievements have been possible in great part because of the strong foundation they laid for me. They paved the way. My family is my greatest source of strength, inspiration, and support. I love them deeply.”

Q. When and where were you happiest?

A. I am happiest when I can fulfill a sense of purpose through my work in a way that makes a positive difference in my community. I am also happiest at the end of a wonderful meal.

Q. Which talent would you most like to have?

A. “I’d really like to be a great dancer. I like dancing, I would just like to be good at it!”

Q. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A. “To quote Tom Keeling, making it through this interview!”

Q. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what would you like to be? A. “If it were possible, I would like to come back as a flowing river somewhere in the mountains. I love being around nature; rivers provide a basic resource for plants, animals and humans to thrive. I would like to be able to help things around me thrive.”

Q. What is your most treasured possession?

A. “My photo albums and letters people have written to me. The photos of my parents and grandparents and photos of when my siblings and I were children and the letters I’ve received over the years have an incalculable value. ”

Q. What is your favorite occupation?

A. “What I am doing right now—being an attorney and serving on the City Council—is the work I love the most. I love the challenge of working in law and there is a lot about public service that I love, most of the time. Sometimes I love it a little less than other times!”

Q. What is your most marked characteristic?

A. “I sometimes can be overly formal in my interactions with people. I grew up in a traditional Mexican-American household, where good manners, decorum, and respect for one’s elders was greatly emphasized. I tend to treat people with a great sense of formality when I first meet them because of that.”

Q. What do you most value in your friends?

A. “Truthfulness, sincerity, a good sense of humor and the ability to engage in meaningful conversation. And it helps if they have a good taste in music too!”

Q. Who are your favorite writers?

A. “Does Lexis Nexis count?” he smiled. “Right now, I’m reading a book by Matt De La Pena, an author who grew up in Stockton.”

Q. Who is your greatest hero of fiction?

A. “The Legend of Tom Keeling.”

Q. Who are your heroes in real life?

A. “My parents. Then the real Tom Keeling of course.”

Q. How would you like to die?

A. “Having been known as someone who tried his best and exceeded expectations.”

Q. What is your motto?

A. “The title of a book I really like is, We Were Here. And I really like the meaning behind it. Letting people know that you were here through your work, good deeds, and contribution to society. Let people know, that you were here.”

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