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Pelosi Remarks at Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala

Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks this evening at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 34th Annual Awards Gala at the Washington Convention Center.  Below are the Leader's remarks: 

“Good evening.  I'm very proud to bring greetings and congratulations tonight from the CHCI's many friends in Congress. 

“Thank you Chairman Charlie Gonzalez for your kind words of introduction and for your great leadership.  Under your charge the CHC continues its relentless fight in Congress for America's Latino community, and indeed for all Americans.  I served with Charlie's father, Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez; Henry B. was a founding member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  Today his son leads the way.  How proud he would have been to have heard Charlie or Chairman Gonzalez's great presentation this evening, keeping the promise, promoting unity, building strength and providing leadership.  Thank you, Charlie Gonzalez, for your great leadership and for your great speech tonight.

“Father and son valuing public service is a tradition in the CHC.  That tradition is continued today by Members of Congress who are part of the planning committee for this terrific event.  Congressman Ben Ray Luján, a proud son of New Mexico and a proud son of the Speaker of the House of New Mexico, and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard the daughter of CHC founding Member, Congressman Ed Roybal. 

“I'd also like to acknowledge Congressional Hispanic Leaders who are here - Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, the former Chair of the CHC, the first Puerto-Rican woman ever elected to Congress - and one of the few women in history, the very few women in history, and the first Hispanic woman to chair a full committee in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. 

“We're all very proud of Congressman Xavier Becerra, Vice-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.  It was my honor to name Vice-Chair Becerra to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction - the table of twelve - to which he brings his extensive knowledge, his deep values and his understanding of the need to reduce the deficit by creating jobs.  Thank you, Xavier Becerra.

“I'd also like to thank CHCI's leadership, Esther Aguilera, and the entire CHCI Board of Directors for making this evening such a wonderful success.  I think tonight we have a record number of Members of Congress in attendance.  It's an ever growing number, of course, of the CHC, but also of their many friends in Congress.  I bring special congratulations from Congress to tonight's awardees.  Their stories are the stories of America.

“Hilda Solis was once told by her guidance counselor that she should consider becoming a secretary - and indeed she did - when President Obama appointed her the Secretary of Labor.  She then became the first Hispanic woman to serve as a Cabinet Secretary.  Thank you, President Obama.  With her public service in the California legislature, her service in the United States Congress and now, as a Cabinet Secretary, Secretary Solis is working to build a better future for all Americans.  But you should know that while still in the California State Senate, imagine this young woman as a state Senator in California, received the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award for her courage in legislating.

“Secretary Ken Salazar's roots in the southwestern United States have been great - United States Senator Salazar - date back to the 1500s, as Congressman Gonzales mentioned, Chairman Gonzales mentioned.  His family came in the 1500s to America.  His parents, both veterans of World War II, raised their 8 children on a Colorado ranch that lacked electricity.  Neither of his parents went to college, all 8 of their children did, and Ken Salazar became the Attorney General of Colorado, a United States Senator, and today the Secretary of the Interior.  And as such, he holds a special place, because he is considered one of the closest friends of President Barack Obama.

“As a child migrant worker, harvesting sugar beets, Jose Hernandez first set his sights skyward.  Over his transistor radio in the fields and others say, watching a black and white T.V., where he saw an Apollo launch, Jose learned about astronauts and learned he wanted to be one himself.  When Jose ultimately took to space, he broadcast in Spanish to the galaxies from the American space shuttle.  He's one of the most famous people in America.

“And imagine how proud Vikki Carr's family was when she performed for five United States Senators, excuse me, when she performed for five United States Presidents over the years, for the Queen of England and our troops during wartime.  But part of her great legacy is that hundreds of students who were unable to pursue education, except for her generosity, did.  As she has said, her life's work is to help young Mexican American students achieve their goals through a college education, something myself, she said, was never able to do.

“I take pride in referencing these four stories of tonight's awardees because it demonstrates one truth; the Hispanic dream is the American dream.  Whether serving with great patriotism in our armed forces, pursuing higher education, devoting their lives to public service, to preserving and sharing the culture, with their commitment to family and faith, education and work, the Hispanic community makes America more American.

“As you know the theme of this evening's gala is ‘Keeping the Promise.'  We all come here tonight committed to keeping the promise of opening wide the doors of higher education for all Americans.  For 34 years CHCI has helped ensure the promise of a college education for thousands of young Americans.  I'd like to join so many of you in acknowledging the many alumni of CHCI's fellowship who are here tonight; our current fellows and our alumni.

“More Hispanics--here this: more Hispanics are pursuing higher education than ever before, than ever before.  October 2010, October 2010 set an all-time high for Hispanic enrollment in college.  This is possible in part because of our efforts to increase the maximum Pell Grant by more than one-third.  And under the leadership of Congressman Rubén Hinjosa, who is here tonight, Democrats are proud to have invested over $1 billion in funding for Hispanic-Serving Institutions over the next 10 years.  We had been fighting for years to go from $20 to $30 million, now $1 billion. 

“Keeping the promise means we must continue to fight for and we must pass the Dream Act.

“Last year, under the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus--and I thank the Chairman for his generous remarks--but under the leadership of the Hispanic Caucus, House Democrats passed the DREAM Act.

“Even though it received a majority of votes in the Senate, it did not meet the 60-vote requirement.  But we won't stop fighting.  We won't stop fighting until the DREAM Act is passed and is the law of the land. 

“And we won't stop fighting for comprehensive immigration reform.  To honor the character of America, we must pass comprehensive immigration reform.  We must make it a priority, work together in a bipartisan way, and join with President Obama to get the job done. 

“Thank you to all of you for helping us all to keep the promise. 

“Thank you for honoring America's promise and honoring America's character - working on behalf of the education of our children, the health of our communities, the safety of our neighborhoods.  And thank you to the many of you who have served in the Armed Forces.  Let us all honor our men and women who have served in the Armed Forces now. 

“God bless our troops.  God bless the CHCI.  God bless America. 

“Thank all of you for the privilege of speaking with you this evening.  Thank you.”