At a time when being the first African-American to achieve something great is still celebrated, David Soares says he’s not impressed.
Recently, Tish James became the first African-American and first woman to be elected attorney general in New York state. Soares himself was the first black district attorney in Albany County when he was elected in 2004.
"I’ve never considered that," he said. "I’ve never taken inventory of that, because my objective has always been not so much about the first, but making sure I’m not the last."
He’s grateful for all the firsts and says America should be celebrating, and not just during Black History Month.
"But at the same time, you can’t help but look at some other aspects of our society and say 'OK, we still have problems ... the fact that we have more people of color in prison than in graduate school," Soares said.
He’s been doing his part, he says, to try to deal with some of those problems, given his position today. Many of his policies as Albany County DA are focused on reducing street gun violence through non-traditional means and restoring neighborhoods.
If you asked a young Soares about his future plans, top prosecutor wouldn’t have been on the list. The 49 year old-came to the U.S. in the early 1970s, when he immigrated from Cape Verde with his parents. The Cape Verdean islands are off the coast of Africa. Most of the hurricanes we experience here emanate from the winds in the islands.
"There are two things that come from Cape Verde — me, my family and all of the storms," Soares joked.
Soares says he and his family settled in a very small blue-collar community in Rhode Island. While he wasn’t at the top of his class, Soares says his parents were instrumental in giving him a strong work ethic.
He was also an argumentative kid with a major attitude problem. And that’s how the seed to become an attorney was planted by his middle school assistant principal.
"He was the first person that actually saw in me what I thought was always a fault," Soares said. "He was the first person to actually turn that flaw into a strength."
After graduating from Cornell University, he went to Albany Law School. Today, Soares is serving his fourth term in office, enjoying all the accolades from his peers – you can tell by scanning through all the awards and trophies on his mantle at the office. But his parents and the community where he grew up are still the secret to his success.
"I wasn’t allowed to fail, even though I wanted to fail, even though I failed myself many times," Soares said. "I was never allowed to fail because of the strength of those people in those neighborhoods."