Secretary Martinez's Remarks
at the Hispanic Heritage Month
Closing Ceremony

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Washington, DC
September 12, 2001

Well, thank you very much. I must say that, Raul, you did me great by all those descriptives. I really was thinking that you were talking about my guests to my right and my left there for a while and probably could have been about them, too.

But, anyway, first of all, bienvendos, todos, un place dar la bienvenida a el acto concluyendo el mes de la Hispanidad and unfortunately we're beginning this month and ending it almost on the same day because of all that transpired in all our lives over the last many days. But let me first of all tell you how pleased I am to be joined today by our Treasurer of the United States, Rosario Marin. I will be introducing her in a few minutes, and also the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, that one agency that is so important to Hispanics across the country, Hector Barreto, I'm delighted to have him here.

And I want to really thank all of you for taking time to be here. So we'll do this in English for those of you who yet have not learned the language of Cervantes but there'll be hope for you as time goes on.

All our plans really did change on September 11th. You know we had so many ideas on things of what we would do to honor this month and to celebrate it and unfortunately everything really has changed since that day. But it's really just a postponement. As we get our lives back in order to this new normal we do want to go forward with these activities.

But you know we shouldn't forget that 515 Hispanics died on September 11 as the result of the attacks. The fact is that those attackers did not particularly care who they were killing. They were just killers. And so many of our Hispanic brothers and sisters who were working in New York that day who had families, who had loved ones that they cared for and cared for them, their lives were lost needlessly that day.

On a more positive note, however, we do need to understand that we're making a very positive contribution to our country. Economic, I think the economic contributions speak for themselves. They're obvious. As you see more and more of America's traditional advertisers advertising in Don Francisco's Sabado Gigante you get the idea that people want to be exposed to our marketplace so I think there are many.

Our cultural contributions, of course, have been legendary even when we were few in numbers whether it be in music, whether it be in our love of family, in the way in which we express ourselves through our food and the different things that are so unique about our Hispanic heritage but I think now in an emerging way a political way as well. And I think that's very, very welcome as we see some of the people in this room today that are serving our government and I was so glad that Raul talked about people who serve in government as servants because I do believe that all of us are here because we want to serve, because we want to be involved in the lives of others. We want to make their lives better and I think in that sense of public service, the honorable service of serving the public and your country, our numbers of Hispanics are ever increasing and I'm so delighted to be among those people that are trying to make a contribution in that sense.

President Bush, of course, has honored us greatly because he is someone who so well understands our culture, our character, our people. He has had a very strong focus on Hispanic issues in this administration and that's going to continue in spite of the distractions that we've had in the recent days.

The fact is that President Bush has had some very impressive deeds in fact in terms of his appointments. Nine percent of all his appointments have been to Hispanics. Frankly, that's far more than any other administration in history and the best is yet to come.

We have people that we're so proud of, like Alberto Gonzalez, who is counsel to the President, as well as the others that I've talked about here today, and these are people that are not really just in positions of tokenism but in fact very much involved in the heart and soul of this administration and we as Americans all always feel that we're part of this great melting pot that makes us the nation that we are, the unique nation that we are, with the fairness, the understanding we have of other cultures.

This is something that our enemies cannot understand. This is something that they have no clue about, the nature of the American people, the fact that we can welcome in our midst people of different faiths and live together with them, people of different races, of different backgrounds. This is the genius of America.

And it is in that wonderful melting pot that I was so blessed to have the opportunity to come and live here. And so many of us who have immigrated to this country that are Hispanics have had that opportunity.

So what makes us different is that being an American is not determined by who our ancestors were. It isn't a matter of family or blood lines. To be an American means above all to believe in an idea, an eternal and precious idea.

As President Lincoln put it, those who came to our shores after the American Revolution were not related by ancestry to the brave men who had fought for America's freedom in 1776 but they did read the Declaration of Independence, which said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

They believed in that "self-evident truth" about equal rights and human dignity. And then, said Mr. Lincoln, those immigrants felt that by their faith in the truth of equal freedom they really were one with those who fought in the Revolution. They felt "that they have the right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are."

In other words all Americans form a united community, almost a single family, in a bond of living faith that is much stronger than flesh and blood. We are connected to one another through our shared faith in the noblest, most enduring idea that ever gave shape to a nation, the idea of equal rights, the God-given dignity of each human person, an idea Mr. Lincoln called "the father of all moral sentiments" in all Americans.

Hispanics are fully as American as every other person because they share their faith in the enduring truth of the nature of equal rights, freedom, respect, and opportunity. And so our nation is more than just a collection of diverse and beautiful cultures. America is the living foundation on which many cultures can flourish in freedom.

Yes, we as Americans sometimes fail to live up to our own high standards, but America is at its best when it strives to make this ideal a reality, teaching by words and actions that every man and woman on earth is entitled to the same tolerance, respect, and love.

If I may say so, Hispanic heritage is more alive and more honored in this free land than in the nation of my childhood, where my rights, my heritage, and my need to survive are still denied. The American idea also represents a purpose for the whole world.

The streams of immigrants who have joined us or want to and the imitations of our political institutions in other countries show that America's idea of equal rights under the laws of nature and nature's God is not just for us. It's the world's eternal idea. Providence has given us the honor and the burden of keeping it aloft as a light to which men and women everywhere may aspire.

Terrorism is the very opposite of that. It denies the basic God-given rights of life and liberty and the search for happiness to everyone who rejects the terrorist's evil intentions. This is the most important reason why we're fighting today and we must and will win this war against terrorism.

So, I would like to say to all of you that we need to tener orgullo en nuestra cultura y tener fe en Dios y en todos los derechos que nos vienen de El. Y mas que nada y mas que nunca hoy abrazar nuestra cultura Hispana rezar por naciones de todo el mundo en este momento que tambien puedan vivir en libertad and to thank God that America's founders proved for all time that freedom is the rightful heritage of every single human being.

Thank you all very much, and may God bless our country.


Content Archived: March 12, 2010