United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Remarks prepared for delivery by
Hispanic Businesswomen's Luncheon
Secretary Mel Martinez
Thursday, September 20, 2001
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your very generous introduction. I appreciate
so much the invitation to join the members of the United States
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce this afternoon.
It is good to see Administrator Barreto here. Hector, you have
come a long way since the days of waiting tables and bussing dishes
at the family's Mexican restaurant in Kansas City. Your father must
be incredibly proud that you are speaking today before the Chamber
he helped to found.
I want to acknowledge Governor Jane Hull and Dr. Terrance Hull
of Arizona, one of the first states that I visited as Secretary.
Congressman Norwood, it is good to see you. Douglas Daft of the
Coca-Cola Company and Leo Mullin of Delta Airlines are here, as
is Brigadier General Bernardo Negrete; thank you for your service.
Thank you to Chamber President George Herrera for everything you
have done to help Hispanic business people become successful business
Welcome to the other corporate CEOs and corporate sponsors with
us here today.
Most importantly, I congratulate and thank all of America's Hispanic
businesswomen. You are paving the nation's streets, like my good
friend Raiza Tamayo, and managing our stock portfolios. You run
the shops along Main Street and the firms along Wall Street. You
head up construction crews and camera crews. If it is bought, sold,
traded, or bartered in this country, you can be certain that a Hispanic
businesswoman is somehow, somewhere helping to make it happen.
And your numbers are growing every day.
I read recently about Monica Medina, a successful business owner
who happens to be Hispanic. Monica explained how her grandfather
always said there were two kinds of people in the world: basement
people and balcony people. Basement people, he would say, are ready
to drag you down into the darkness where evil things lurk. But balcony
people are going to pull you up, and help you reach for a better
It is heartening to look out over this room and know that so many
"balcony people" have joined us here today. Thank you for all that
you do to support, promote, and lift up America's minority entrepreneurs.
President Bush regrets very much that he could not be with us
today, but I know you understand how important it is that he stays
close to Washington this week. He asked that I read you this letter
on his behalf:
It begins: "On September 11, 2001, our Country suffered great tragedy.
Today, I grieve for the lives lost and for the pain of those who
have lost loved ones. We have experienced enormous devastation -
mothers, fathers, sisters, and children taken too soon. Many Hispanic
Americans were among these who gave their 'last full measure.' We
mourn their loss and honor their legacy. To those now suffering,
I say you are not alone. America mourns with you, and I pray God
will comfort you.
"We know that Faith and Hope will help guide and keep us strong
in the days ahead. We will continue in prayer for those missing
and for those lost. And we will pray for those who are giving their
all in the rescue and recovery efforts.
"In the middle of this difficult time, a new spirit of hope has
emerged in our land. We sense a renewed unity, a revitalization
of our common bond as 'one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty
and justice for all.' We now turn the power of justice to punish
those responsible for these cruel attacks.
"I ask you to join me in prayer to our Almighty God, that He may
grant us comfort and courage, sustaining us in our loss and preparing
us for what we must do. May God bless the souls of those departed,
and may he always watch over us."
Signed, George W. Bush.
Will you join me please in a moment of silence.
As our Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush has harnessed
our collective resolve and is leading this nation with toughness
and compassion. "Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it,"
said Winston Churchill. This President has risen to the challenge,
and all Americans are united behind him.
The President has rallied Americans during this dark hour, and
encouraged us to see the light ahead. He has not tried to brush
away the ugliness with pretty word pictures. With blunt talk, the
President describes the attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon
as acts of war, not just acts of terror. He assures us that our
response will be harsh and unyielding against both the cowards who
carried out these despicable actions and any state or country that
provides them safe haven. He warns us that ridding the world of
terrorists will come at a cost, and that victory will not be achieved
He reminds us that discrimination against our fellow Americans
based on religion, choice of clothing, color of skin, or simply
the sound of their name is wrong and will not be tolerated in this
Americans are ready to follow President Bush, because the path
he has lit for us is the one we know we have to travel. Our people
- and our President - are determined that we will not be bullied
So many heroes have stepped forward this week - many of them Hispanic
- whose names most of us had never heard before the morning of September
Dr. Aurelio Rodriguez, for example. Doctor Rodriguez serves as
Head of Trauma at Allegheny General Hospital. He happened to be
in Manhattan that morning, attending a surgical conference, when
someone rushed in to announce the tragedy unfolding at the World
Trade Center. Dr. Rodriguez spent the rest of the day at New York
University Medical Center, where he treated more than 300 victims
of the attack.
Then there is Louis Garcia, New York City's Chief Fire Marshal.
Louis helped launch the rescue effort and witnessed both of the
twin towers plummet to the ground. In an instant, Louis lost 300
of his comrades. Still, no one has been more involved in the massive
rescue effort that continues hour by hour at ground zero.
These heroes happen to be Hispanic, but more than that, they are
Americans. Of course, the very presence of these heroes reminds
us that, as Americans, we lost something last week. Many of us lost
friends, or relatives, or coworkers. Teresa Russell, who works in
the Human Resources Department at HUD headquarters, lost her husband
in the Pentagon attack. All of us lost some peace of mind, and we
will never again look upon the remnants of a terrorist attack elsewhere
in the world and think, "that can never happen here."
But amidst all the loss, we have found something, too. As the President
said in his letter, we have found that whether we are Americans
by birth or Americans by choice, we are united today as Americans.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is in the business
of serving Americans when they most need someone's help. Certainly
this includes times of national tragedy. We want people to know
that we are available to help in any way that we can - because helping
people is what we do.
As a top priority, we are reaching out to families deeply concerned
that last week's terrorist attacks may cost them their homes. Their
lives have already been thrown into turmoil; this government will
not compound their unimaginable heartbreak with financial stress.
To prevent this from happening to families victimized by the attacks,
I directed all FHA lenders last week to avoid taking any action
- or even threatening action - against families that could lead
to the loss of their homes. This applies to the families of anyone
who died as a direct result of the attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon, who were passengers on the hijacked airplanes,
or who lost their lives as rescue workers.
In a time of personal crisis, financial misfortune is the last
thing a family should have to face.
True to HUD's primary mission of providing housing to people in
need, we are taking steps to give temporary shelter to anyone forced
from their homes in New York City. I am announcing that we are making
more than 100 vacant houses available to FEMA for sheltering displaced
families. These families suffered irreplaceable losses, but we will
make sure they have roofs over their heads. Victims and their families
also have immediate access to HUD's housing counseling services.
I am here to assure you that HUD is part of a coordinated federal
response to this tragedy. In the days to come, we will continue
to work together to serve those in need.
The Hispanic business community will have an enormous role in helping
restore stability and solidarity to the nation. You are a backbone
of the labor force, a growing force in the economy, and we need
your leadership now more than ever.
Because many of us chose to live in this country and have become
Americans, we have received much in the way of opportunity to live
the American dream. It is now, more than ever, that we can give
back to this great nation by our patriotism, our work, and our defiance
in the face of terrorism.
The fact that the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce decided
to go forward with this convention, when it would have been so easy
to give in to fear and cancel it, speaks to your commitment. President
Bush has asked us to restore some measure of normalcy in our daily
lives, and I applaud and thank you for following through.
As the Hispanic population soars, Hispanics are creating more opportunities
in this country than ever before. Hispanic-owned businesses continue
to grow in size and number. In 1992, we owned fewer than 800,000
of our own businesses; today over 2 million businesses are Hispanic
owned, and you bring in total annual revenues of almost $300 billion.
One-third of all minority-owned businesses are owned by Hispanics.
I am very pleased that so many of these new business owners are
women. Hispanic women are making powerful contributions in the business
world. In fact, the fastest growing firms within the Hispanic community
are those owned by women.
These statistics are worth celebrating.
President Bush appreciates the contributions of the Hispanic community,
and I have heard him say on countless occasions that American culture
is far richer because of our influence. The President is encouraging
federal agencies to improve the representation of Hispanics within
our ranks, and we have taken this advice to heart at HUD.
Leading by example, the President is appointing Hispanics to key
positions not only in his Cabinet, but throughout his Administration:
Hector at the Small Business Administration, U.S. Treasurer Rosario
Marin, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, to name a few. Nearly
10 percent of all appointments have gone to Hispanics. And more
appointments are coming.
The President has nominated Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary
of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Otto is a good Hispanic
with a good Austrian name. Your support of his nomination would
help President Bush get him out of the Senate and serving as part
of our national security team. His appointment will certainly help
the President in a time of crisis. It will also help the President
craft his dream of a free trade zone of the Americas and help lead
the State Department in our part of the world, which the President
believes is so important.
No one in this country better knows the benefits that could flow
from a zone of free trade than the people in this room. The President
shares your commitment and is actively advancing the cause. As he
said earlier this year in proclaiming World Trade Week, "Trade has
an extraordinary impact on our Nation's economic strength and can
be a powerful force for good in the world."
The Bush Administration is reaching out to Hispanic business people
with a budget for the coming year that supports and encourages even
more activity and growth, and a tax plan that will drop the marginal
tax rates and directly benefit 20 million small businesses.
As the population expands, so do the ranks of America's homeowners.
A record number of us own our own homes today, and this is something
we are pleased about at HUD. At the same time, we are disappointed
that Hispanic families are not sharing equally in the prosperity
that homeownership provides. The President and I have made expanding
the ranks of minority homeowners a priority, and our budget includes
specific proposals to help us achieve that goal.
And even as we respond to the terrorist attacks, this Administration
is not about to forget the other priorities of the American people.
We need an education bill that leaves no child behind. We need Congressman
Norwood's Patient's Bill of Rights, that helps people get proper
care and holds their HMOs accountable. We need to ensure the solvency
of Medicare for this generation and those to come. We need immigration
reform. We need to empower faith-based and community groups to confront
the problems of poverty. We need the President's energy plan enacted
This important work will continue.
It is an exciting time to be a Hispanic businessperson in this
country. But of course, this is a moment in history when concern
for our families and our fellow citizens far overshadows the daily
office worries over balanced books and cash flow.
Because the United States is a strong beacon that has guided many
to freedom, the brilliance of our light sometimes makes us a target.
This is a risk we take in so openly and so passionately embracing
democracy. Tragic events like those of the past week may change
our daily routine, but we will not allow them to change what it
means to be a citizen of the United States of America.
We live in a nation of limitless opportunity and unparalleled
freedom. This is a nation where a woman converts an empty storefront
into an office and builds a future for her family� a nation where
a soldier, freely and without reservation, spills his blood so that
others will not have to� a nation where children are encouraged
to dream big dreams, and then set free to pursue them� a nation
where a young refugee from Cuba can grow up to serve in the Cabinet
of the President of the United States.
Americans are the most hopeful people on this earth, infused with
a spirit no terrorist can extinguish. They have tried. They have
failed. And neither the leaders of this nation nor its citizens
will sleep until our aggressors understand the enormity of that
Today, we celebrate the freedom that is America, we resolve to
preserve it, no matter the cost, and we thank God that his provident
hand is upon us.
Content Archived: March 11, 2010