Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the keynote speech at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) conference today. Below are her remarks, as prepared:
“Thank you, Xavier Becerra, for your friendship and for your talented leadership in the Congress. As Assistant to the Speaker, Xavier is an indispensable part of the Democratic Leadership.
“Just last month, Congress passed and the President signed into law Congressman Becerra's bill to study the creation of a National Museum of the American Latino at the Smithsonian. Thank you, Xavier Becerra.
“We also thank Adolfo Carrion for his strong leadership of NALEO and as Bronx Borough president.
“President Carrion has worked hard on a priority that is close to my heart--greening the Bronx--by adding bike paths and increasing mass transit solutions. He also worked very hard to ensure that the Bronx Bombers will always be the Bronx Bombers. We look forward to seeing the All-Star Game played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx next month.
“I also thank Pete Gallego for serving as today's emcee and his service to the people of Texas. The first Latino to chair the Texas House Democratic Caucus, Pete Gallego is a nationally recognized leader for his work on higher education and expanding access to college.
“And I want to thank Arturo Vargas, NALEO's Executive Director, who has done so much to bring together the Latino community and to ensure that all Latinos have a meaningful voice in the American political process.
“Your convention theme is fitting for this time in our nation's politics. For many years, Latino influence has been growing in politics and across varied fields, culminating in this year when Latinos will have a major voice in who becomes our next president.
“Your convention's theme -- ¡Ya es hora! (Now is the time!) -- is truly fitting for a year in which Latino voters will make the difference in who becomes our next president of the United States.
“Your convention's agenda of mobilizing and maximizing the votes of Latinos this November will ensure that your voices are heard and that your priorities will be at the top of the legislative agenda of our next president and the next Congress.
“The next president and Congress will not be allowed to forget that they owed their victories to the votes of Latinos. NALEO will not let them forget. And I pledge to you that as Speaker, I will always remember the part Latinos played in what I believe will be an historic election.
“Four years ago, I spoke to you of the shared vision and values of the Democratic Party and of Latinos across America--values of faith, family, hard work, love of country, and respect for diversity.
“Today, I am proud to say that the Democratic Congress is putting those values into action and taking America in a New Direction--and Latino members are leading the way.
“Fighting for jobs and minority-owned enterprises is Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez of New York of the Small Business Committee--the first Latina to chair a House committee.
“Protecting America is Silvestre Reyes of Texas--the first Latino to chair the House Intelligence Committee.
“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, led by Congressman Joe Baca of California, continues to be a force in Congress.
“Joe Baca and Congressman Dennis Cardoza of California also helped pass a Farm Bill that includes the largest investment in nutrition assistance in history to help families struggling with the high price of groceries. Thank you, Congressman Baca. Thank you, Congressman Cardoza.
“As Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Task Force on Health, Congresswoman Hilda Solis of California is a co-author of comprehensive legislation to expand access to health insurance, increase research and prevention of chronic diseases that are having devastating impacts on minority communities, and provide culturally and linguistically appropriate health care services.
“There are also nine Hispanic Members of Congress who are subcommittee chairs.
“I take great pride in the accomplishments of the 110th Congress--and equal pleasure in the fact the New Direction Congress is the most diverse House majority party in our country's history.
“With every victory--whether raising the minimum wage, protecting home ownership, making college more affordable, insisting on a humane immigration policy, or making health care more affordable--we are focused on creating jobs so that Latinos and all people can build an American Dream of their own. Job creation is job number one in the New Direction Congress.
“To jump start the economy and create new jobs, we enacted Recovery Rebates, which families are now receiving.
“In my state of California, for example, 14.7 million families are receiving an average Recovery Rebate of $844--a total of $12.4 billion in job creating stimulus for California alone. And--for the first time ever--families in the territories and in Puerto Rico are receiving a rebate. They pay taxes, serve in our armed forces with pride, and they deserve a tax cut, too.
“By the end of the year, our Recovery Rebates will help create half--a-million new jobs for America.
“And while 8.5 million Americans are still looking for work--almost one million of them Latinos--we have an obligation to extend unemployment benefits. Despite Republican opposition, we did that for America's workers. They paid into the system; they deserved a helping hand.
“This week, in Congress, we are also focused on fighting to reduce gas prices for American families.
“This week, and in the weeks ahead, we will act on legislation that fights price fixing at the pump and market manipulation that drives up oil prices. We have already passed legislation making mass transit solutions more affordable. We will build an energy future for America that is cleaner, greener, more energy independent and more affordable. That is essential for our economy.
“To boost our economy and create jobs, we are also ensuring that Head Start, Pell Grants and other education initiatives are robustly funded so that every child has a chance to grow, thrive, and achieve the dream of a college education.
“As part of our plan to cut student loan interest rates in half, student loan interest rates will drop from 6.8 percent to 6 percent on July 1st. By the time the full rate cut is in place, rates will fall to 3.4 percent, save the average borrower $4,400, and open the doors of college to working families.
“We are also fighting for a fair and humane immigration policy because that is critical for America's economy and essential if our nation is to be true to its highest ideals.
“A humane policy includes putting an end to immigration raids that are unfair, ineffective and undertaken only to score political points at the expense of Latino children and families. We urge the President: stop dividing families--put an end to this destructive practice.
“When American goes to the polls in November, voters look over their ballot this November, we should use a simple test. We should ask every voter: which candidate stands up for good paying jobs, for affordable health care, and for a quality education?
“There is only one candidate in the race for president who has always and will always stand up for and fight for those issues. That candidate's name is Barack Obama. Si se puede!
“With the votes of Latinos, and the support of millions of Americans, Barack Obama will help us create a new beginning, free of a disappointing and tragic past, and looking forward to a more prosperous and peaceful future. Together we can create that future, with a growing Democratic majority in Congress, and a youthful, forward-looking, and talented leader for America, the next president of the United States, Barack Obama.
“Almost 60 years ago, the founder of NALEO and of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Ed Roybal, was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council. In those days, when Councilman Roybal would bring his family to receptions and events at Los Angeles hotels, they would stop him at the door. He had to explain that he was a member of the L.A. City Council before they would let him and his family inside.
“As his daughter Lucille remembers, her father would tell his family that they had every right to be there--just like everybody else. Throughout his life, Ed Roybal would fight to throw open the doors of opportunity to all Latinos.
“In 1962, Ed Roybal would be elected to Congress. In 1976, he and others would found NALEO and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to amplify the voices of Latinos in government.
“By 1992, his own daughter--Lucille Roybal-Allard--who witnessed those early days of discrimination would be elected to Congress, continue his legacy, serve on the Board of the very organization that her father founded, and build a strong record of her own.
“Today, in 2008, Latinos now hold the key to the White House. Latino voters will decide the next president of the United States!
“That is power. Use it. ¡Ya es hora!
“Thank you, NALEO, for all you do to bring Latino Americans closer to their American Dream. Thank you, and may God bless you all.”