Anna Escobedo Cabral isn't a gambling woman, but if she were, she would know who she'd put her money on in this weekend's NCAA Final Four.
"The George Mason Patriots," she said. "I think they're going all the way."
Cabral, in case the name rings a vague bell, is the current treasurer of the United States. She was sworn in by President Bush in January 2005. Every American greenback released since then has her signature in the lower left-hand corner.
It's mind-boggling to think how much money has Cabral's name on it.
Almost as mind-boggling as conjuring up the odds of the George Mason University Patriots, a suburban commuter school in northern Virginia that didn't become a stand-alone university until 1972, appearing in the Final Four.
Three weeks ago, George Mason's at-large selection into the 65-team national tournament was roundly criticized, most notably by CBS announcer Billy Packer.
But that was before the Patriots went on a tear and beat three recent national champions Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut to qualify for the Final Four this weekend in Indianapolis.
Prior to the team's March Madness run, Cabral a law student at the school's Arlington campus was George Mason's most famous student.
Now she's got plenty of competition with overnight sensations like 275-pound scoring star Jai Lewis and coach Jim Larranaga.
Although it's probably safe to say she's still the school's most sought-after autograph.
Cabral was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule this week to talk George Mason basketball.
"The buzz about the basketball team is really all over the city," she said from her desk in the Treasury Department in Washington. "That's all anyone is talking about."
Cabral said she was at the Verizon Center in D.C. on Sunday to watch the Patriots defeat Connecticut. She won't be in Indianapolis, but her daughter and fellow George Mason student and tuition-payer, Catalina, "an enormous Mason fan," will be there.
Cabral is in her second year at the law school, by the way, and she attends classes only at night keeping her days open for her day job. She has a political science degree from California-Davis and a master's degree in public administration from Harvard, but just because she already has two degrees, she's the national treasurer and signs all our money, it hasn't dissuaded her from going for more.
Education has allowed her to reach amazing heights. Her grandparents emigrated to California from Mexico, and her father was a migrant farmworker. One of five children, Cabral was the first in her family to attend college. She worked at a variety of government jobs, including almost nine years with U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah on the Senate Judiciary Committee, before being appointed treasurer.
"At first, just the thought of my name being on millions of bills was quite intimidating," she said. "I honestly had a tough time putting pen to paper. But then I realized that it's a small way of thanking my parents and grandparents, people who always told me to believe in the American dream and what I could do and where I could go."Not unlike her school's basketball team.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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