Secretary Martinez's Remarks
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
at the Hispanic Heritage Month
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
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
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
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
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
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
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