Yesterday marked the end of a month-long celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month across the Obama Administration, an opportunity to reflect on the invaluable contributions the Hispanic community has made to our nation’s rich diversity.
At the beginning of October, President Obama delivered a speech at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 37th Annual Gala. At the event, the President discussed important milestones that Latinos have reached recently: the high school dropout rate amongst Latinos has been cut in half
, and Latino unemployment continues to decline. The President also reaffirmed his support for commonsense immigration reform and emphasized that he would take executive action, within the scope of his authority, to fix our nation’s broken immigration system by the end of the year. Director of the White House Domestic Policy Cecilia Muñoz spoke to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials about the Administration’s education priorities and initiatives to help more Latinos gain access to high-quality education.
The President’s Administration understands that the success of our country is inextricably linked to the success of the Hispanic community and has dedicated countless resources to ensure a bright future for our nation’s Latinos, and all Americans. To reaffirm this commitment, the Administration’s Cabinet Secretaries participated in conferences, roundtables, and policy forums to highlight the impact our Administration on improving the everyday lives of Latinos throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Castro spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Summit and laid out his priorities of boosting homeownership and helping to lower rent costs to make it easier for millions of Latinos to achieve the American Dream. Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet hosted a roundtable with Latino business owners at the White House to discuss strategies for enhancing small business development and sustainability, given that Latinos are the fastest growing segment of people starting small businesses in the United States. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews-Burwell hosted Latino leaders at HHS to discuss ways to increase Latino enrollment during the upcoming open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace. These are just a handful of the Administration-wide efforts this year to not just recognize the contributions of Latinos but to make sure we have a seat at the table.
Additionally, to honor this country’s everyday heroes, the White House celebrated the hard work and dedication of Latino educators who are doing extraordinary work in their communities to educate the next generation of Americans. The White House honored these 10 individuals as “Champions of Change.”
To celebrate diversity within the Administration, Univision Noticias launched a special series on their website called “Los Hispanos del Presidente” (“The President’s Hispanics”), which highlights the important contributions Latinos make in the Administration. This piece featured 15 influential Hispanic White House staffers, who shared stories about their Hispanic heritage, childhood, path to the Administration, and how their work impacts Latino communities. This full digital view book is available online and across Univision’s social media platforms, but also aired on their Sunday morning and nightly news programs.
Finally, the Administration has also celebrated Hispanic leaders across diverse disciplines, such as Carlos Vives, the International Development (USAID) Inclusion Ambassador and popular Latin pop and vallenato singer and song writer. Vives has helped the Administration promote diversity and inclusion in Colombia year-round.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the legacy of the Hispanic community. Expanding from a small, regionally concentrated population of about 6 million in the 1960s, to a now a vibrant presence of 50 million Latinos across the country, Latinos will continue to enhance our country’s progress, and make an indelible mark on our future for generations to come.
Katherine Vargas serves as the Director of Hispanic Media at the White House