Obama spoke Wednesday in front of more than 500 people at the Forum on American Latino Heritage. The event,hosted by the White House and the Department of Interior,was part of Hispanic Heritage month festivities and served to discuss the legacy and needs of the Latino community.
Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry,who was presented the Medal of Honor three months ago by Obama,introduced the president at the event. Petry described how in the battlefield there is no race distinction; they all see each other as brothers.
“He is the latest in a long line of Latino heroes to wear an American uniform,” Obama said.
Obama also thanked Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for organizing the event and was proud to point out that for the first time in history there is a Latina in the Cabinet,Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
Obama pointed out the strength that the nation has found in the diversity of its people. The U.S. has 54 million Americans of Latino heritage decent,Obama said.
“Diversity has always been America’s strength,” Obama said. “We are richer because of the men and women and children who’ve come to our shores and joined our union.”
Obama said the perseverance and determination of the Latino community is what keeps the American dream alive,but recognized that many times their efforts and achievements have gone unnoticed.
“The land of opportunity hasn’t always been the land of acceptance,” Obama said.
The Latino community has been harshly affected by the economic decline. Latino households faced an income decrease of 2.3 percent from 2010 to 2011,according to the latest data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Obama said in his speech that Latinos also have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
Even after a Republican minority in the Senate blocked the Jobs Act from passing Tuesday night,Obama said he would not stop fighting for the bill. He said he couldn’t give up on a bill that will lead to two million jobs next year and can potentially help 25 million Latinos.
“Anybody who fights for our country should not have to fight for a job when they come home,” Obama said.
Obama encouraged the audience to remind Congress whom they work for.
He referred back to 1966,the year that Cesar Chavez received a telegram from Martin Luther King Jr. in which King offered to join the fight for equality.
“Here in America we are united by more than the color of our skin or the language that we speak.” Obama said. “We are connected by the future we want for ourselves and our children. And we determine our own destiny here.”
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