SEN. HARRY REID NEWS RELEASE:
WASHINGTON, DC—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Annual Awards Gala last night. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Forty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the first National Hispanic Heritage Week. And as the Hispanic population and your contributions to our nation multiplied, so did this annual tribute. Twenty years ago, we started officially celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. And in 2009, we proudly celebrate our nation’s largest minority group every single day of the year.
“From the first days of the New World–in the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine–to today, Hispanic culture has always been inextricably linked with American culture. Your successes are our successes. Your struggles are our struggles. Your work ethic is our work ethic. Your pride is our pride.
“Like America herself, the Hispanic community comprises many races and many backgrounds. And like all Americans, your contributions have built this country, strengthened this country and defended this country.
“On occasions like this, we remember the many Latinos who fought for freedom and justice as far back as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. We honor the hundreds of thousands of Latinos who served in the Atlantic and Pacific during World War II. We read the many Latino names carved into the black granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and thank the many more who today bear the scars of that war. We think of the thousands who continue to bravely fight in Iraq and Afghanistan even as we gather this evening.
“And we rededicate ourselves to improving the lives of those who feel the full force of today’s challenges. I don’t have to tell you that when the American economy suffers, when hardworking families and small businesses suffer, Hispanic families and businesses hurt more than most.
“That is why one of the first things we did this year was improve the Children’s Health Insurance Program, so that low-income families who do not qualify for Medicare and cannot afford private health insurance can still care for their kids.
“That is why we passed a bill to help more families avoid foreclosure and keep their homes. And when we cracked down on mortgage scams, I fought hard to make sure the information that would go out to educate the community was also communicated in Spanish.
“I am proud that we passed a strong new law that says without equivocation and without fear that hate crimes embody a unique brand of evil. We said that we will bring justice to those who target others because of their race, their ethnicity or the country where their parents were born.
“And I am gratified that just days ago, Justice Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina to sit on the Supreme Court.
“I am confident that the steps we’ve taken so far this year–and those we continue to take–will ultimately anchor our recovery. But I also know that we must keep going. We must do more to ensure Americans of every background can prosper.
“We will better protect the planet so the air our children breathe and the water they drink will be cleaner. We will create a clean-energy economy so that we can create jobs–for Latinos and all Americans–and help our economy flourish once again.
“We will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform that brings families together, brings millions of undocumented workers out of the shadows and gives students the chance to realize their potential.
“And we will lower your health care costs and keep insurance companies honest. More than 47 million Latinos celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month that began yesterday. That is roughly the same number of Americans who cannot afford the rapidly rising costs of health insurance.
“Imagine if every single Latino and Latina in America couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, or fill that doctor’s prescription. Imagine if every single one of those 47 million couldn’t change his job without losing his coverage, or couldn’t pay her mortgage because she can’t afford both her home and her health care. Surely we wouldn’t stand for it.
“But this isn’t just about those who don’t have health insurance. It’s also about those of you who do, those of you who live just one illness, one accident or one pink slip away from losing your coverage and everything else along with it.
“Your families did not come to the richest, most powerful nation the world has ever known only to be denied the right to live a healthy life. Millions of people continue to come into our communities every year because the promise of America is greater than that.
“They come from small towns in the heart of Mexico so they can go to big universities in the heartland of America. They work hard to leave the barrios so they can enter the boardrooms, to go from the South Bronx to the highest bench in the land. And some, like Congresswoman Velazquez, grew up as the daughter of a sugar-cane farmer in the corner of Puerto Rico and now leads this critical caucus from the capital of our country.
“You have my word that I will never stop working to ensure those opportunities are less the exception than the rule–because just as your past is our past, surely your future will be our future.”