LULAC Presidential Awards Banquet

Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC


Doña Rosa Rosales, Presidente de LULAC,

LULAC Delegates,

Ladies and gentleman,

It is a great honor and a pleasure to be here with you tonight to close the highly successful 79th LULAC National Convention. It is a testimony to the prestige of this organization that during the past few days you have had the opportunity to listen to both the Democratic and Republican presumptive candidates. Their presence among you also underscores the growing relevance and electoral importance of the Hispanic community in this country. The Latino vote could well be a determining factor in key battlegrounds during this next election, and both Senator Obama and Senator McCain clearly understand this. But more importantly, behind this recognition, lies one of the most exciting stories unfolding in contemporary America: the coming of age of the Latino community in this country.

Hispanics in this great nation have enormous pride in their heritage, and rightly so. But they also know that the United States thrives as a country because it welcomes newcomers, who, in turn, embrace its values and way of life. The League of United Latin American Citizens, from its inception in Corpus Christi, Texas back in 1929, grasped this basic fact, recognizing that as individuals and as a community, Latinos have time and again shown both the willingness and ability to integrate into the fabric of American society. This philosophy was and is in perfect tune with what it means to be an American. “American” describes a oneness that points to the citizenship, and not the place of birth or nationality, of the men and women it designates. E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one.

The work of LULAC has precisely been focused on ensuring that Hispanics integrate and become full and empowered citizens, fighting against any and all who would have it otherwise. This is why it is a cause of great satisfaction and pride for Mexico to see how Mexican-Americans, like my dear friend Rosa Rosales, and Hispanics in general, influence and contribute to the political, economic, cultural and social vitality of the United States. And this is as it should be in a country of immigrants. Unlike many other multicultural states, the strength of the US as a country flows not from the practical demands of governing a diverse people, but precisely from being a country made of and, I would add made great, by the diversity of its people.

However, over the past couple of years we have witnessed a worrying surge in anti-immigrant sentiment in this country, and a discourse that has achieved considerable echo as it is bombastically beamed through the airwaves.

Those of us who believe in plural, tolerant, and just societies must respond: we must make use of the bully pulpit, we must occupy the vacuum, and we must push back. Let us tonight unequivocally and loudly underscore a self-evident and undeniable truth: migrants are not and have never been a threat to the national security of the US; they are important actors in the fabric of what makes America great. These are hardworking, often taxpaying, ambitious, and brave young women and men whose solid values and work-ethic enrich this great nation. These are people who have been willing to bleed for their country, during the First and Second World Wars, in Korea and Vietnam, and now in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They say that men behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. Over the last few years and months, many ideas have been proven wrong and are becoming exhausted, and I therefore truly believe that the reasonableness, the inevitability, and the need of a comprehensive immigration reform will soon regain the middle ground of American politics.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is why Hispanic unity is more important than ever today. We need to actively encourage a responsible and intelligent civic engagement and empowerment of our communities. In this endeavor, organizations such as LULAC, play a key role.

Politics is the science of who gets what, when and why. It is a science that LULAC has clearly mastered. For 79 years now, LULAC has worked tirelessly for the advancement of the Hispanic population of the United States in every dimension and aspect of their lives: economic, political, educational, and social. In its long and highly successful history, it has had to fight against much prejudice, often formalized into rules and regulations that openly discriminated against Hispanics, but also has had to confront more hidden, though no less real, obstacles. They also have had to contend with a lack of information on countless issues that, as we know all too well, can easily degenerate into prejudice and lead to xenophobia or nativism. At the same time, LULAC has helped the Hispanic community develop the tools that have enabled it to gain full access to the political process and the educational system, and to thus become citizens in every sense of the term.

As the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, I cannot but support LULAC in all that they do in favor of the millions of Hispanics who live and work in this country. This is why tonight we recognize Pablo Martinez, the New Mexico LULAC State Director, with an Ohtli Award bestowed upon him by the Government of Mexico.

The work of Pablo Martinez, like that of all other LULAC activists throughout the US, contributes greatly to the empowerment of Latinos and their example is an inspiration to us all to persevere in this endeavor.

Congratulations Pablo and congratulations to all of you tonight!