The East Room
President George W. Bush is applauded in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Oct. 7, 2005, as he offers remarks in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. President Bush also honored recipients of the President's Volunteer Service Awards at the event. (White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
October 7, 2005
THE PRESIDENT: Gracias, y bienvenidos a
la Casa Blanca. Thank you for coming. It is such an honor
to have you here to help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
It's a month in which we can recognize the contributions
that Hispanic Americans make to our great land.
The Hispanic community is known for its
strong commitment to the familia y fe, and a great love
of our country. Here's what I think: I think Hispanic Americans
-- I don't think, I know Hispanic Americans have helped
build our country and shape our culture, and the United
States is better off because of the Hispanic influence.
I appreciate so very much that members of
my administration have come. I told them they could take
a little time off from work. (Laughter.) Carlos Gutierrez,
the Secretary of Commerce, and his wife, Edi, thank you
for coming. (Applause.) El Juez, the Attorney General of
the United States, Al Gonzales, and his wife, Becky. (Applause.)
Hector Barreto, head of the SBA. Newly confirmed as the
Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Israel Hernandez. Congratulations.
We've got members of the Congress who are
here -- Wayne Allard, thank you for coming. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
Marilyn Musgrave, Henry Cuellar, Luis Fortuno, thank you
all for being here. It's such an honor you're here. Hans
Hertell, an Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, members
of the diplomatic corps, thank you for all for coming. It's
nice of you to join us today. Los Embajadores.
It is good to see my friend, Emilio Estefan.
Thank you for coming, Emilio. Hector Gomez, Major League
Soccer player from the L.A. Galaxy is with us. Christian
Gomez, Major League Soccer player from D.C. United. Strong
right-hander from the Washington Nats, Esteban Loaiza. Gracias,
thank you all for coming. We're proud you're here. I appreciate
members of the Latino organizations who are here today.
Thank you for working on behalf of Latino citizens around
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month,
we honor the promise of freedom and opportunity that brought
either you or your ancestors to America. That's what we're
honoring. We're honoring the fact that this is a free society,
and we recognize our responsibility to ensure that everyone
in this country has a chance to realize their God-given
talents and to realize their dreams. That's what America
is all about. America must always be a land of dreamers,
and people will have a chance to realize those dreams.
The 21st century opportunity begins with
a quality education. You can't be a land of dreams if you
don't educate your kids. One of my biggest concerns was
that sometimes in our public schools, if your parents didn't
speak English, for example, you just got shuffled through.
And that was unacceptable to me, and unacceptable to many
members of the United States Congress.
I came together for the -- with the Congress
to challenge what I've called the soft bigotry of low expectations,
to encourage school systems all around America to raise
standards and raise the bar and measure to make sure that
every child is learning to read and write and add and subtract.
And if not, if they find they're not learning to read and
write and add and subtract, do something about it early
before it's too late.
And so the No Child Left Behind Act became
the law. And that law is beginning to make an enormous difference
in the lives of Latino youngsters. And I can tell you how
I know: it's because we measure. We know. People are learning
to read and write and add and subtract, and that's going
to make America a better place for generations to come.
Secondly, we've got to make sure that this
is a country where work is respected and work is rewarded;
where people who want to work hard to own their own business
are able to do so. I believe it's important to keep taxes
low in order to make sure entrepreneurs are able to get
their business started and keep their businesses running.
I know it's important to have legal reform
and regulatory reform to make sure the environment is such
that entrepreneurs of all walks of life have a chance to
flourish. I am proud to report to you that Latino-owned
businesses are on the rise in the United States of America.
And America is better for it when people are able to create
jobs and own their own business.
I mentioned Hector Barreto being here. The
Small Business Administration has more than doubled the
number of loans to Hispanic-owned businesses since 2001.
Our goal is to get people a chance to realize their dream
of owning their own business. And one of the reasons why
we're creating jobs in America, that Carlos talked about,
is because the small business sector is strong. Any strong
economy must have a strong business sector. And the strong
-- the business sector is going to be even stronger because
of Latino-owned businesses. (Applause.)
I set a goal of 5.5 million new minority
homeowners by the end of this decade. I'm proud to report
the number of minority homeowners has increased by 2.2 million
since I set the goal. See, I love the fact that more and
more people from all walks of life are opening up the door
of their home and saying, welcome to my home. Welcome to
my piece of property. Welcome to a place where I can raise
my family. There's nothing better than home ownership in
America, and this administration is dedicated to make sure
more and more people from all walks of life are able to
open up the door where they live and say, come on in to
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month,
we're also going to honor the strong tradition of service
in the Hispanic community. Hispanic Americans have fought
in every war since our founding. Forty-two Hispanic Americans
have earned our nation's highest military decoration: the
Medal of Honor.
At this hour, men and women of Hispanic
heritage of bringing freedom to people of other lands. They
are laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.
They are making sacrifices to bring justice to the terrorists,
and at the same time, giving people a chance to live in
a free society.
More than 127,000 Hispanic Americans wear
the uniform of the United States of America. I'm proud to
be their Commander-in-Chief, and I want to welcome those
who wear the uniform to this event today. Thank you all
for coming. (Applause.)
The strength of this country is the fact
that every day, thousands of citizens, millions of citizens,
volunteer to make somebody's life better. And that includes
thousands and millions of Hispanic Americans who are volunteering
in their community, people who use their time and their
talent to make a difference in the lives of others, people
who have heard the universal call to love a neighbor just
like you'd like to be loved yourself.
In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,
Hispanic groups around this country provided critical services
and much-needed love to people whose lives were affected
by those storms. In Texas, the League of United Latin American
Citizens -- we call them LULAC -- served food at shelters
and teamed up with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to help
people find housing, as well. In Arizona, Latino groups
sent truckloads of water and food and medical supplies to
Mississippi. The National Council of La Raza established
a relief fund to provide emergency financial aid and housing
assistance to hurricane victims. Acts of generosity from
Hispanic Americans gave many people a lot of hope, and our
nation honors the compassion of Latinos today in this celebration.
The President's Volunteer Service Award
that I'm about to give to six citizens is the highest level
of commendation a President can give in recognition of those
who have contributed their time and energy to helping others.
Today, I'm going to talk about -- you'll
hear the stories of six folks who have served as such a
wonderful example. I mean, not only have these people helped
somebody, but they served as an example for others. They're
true leaders in their own quiet way and their own humble
way: Junior Salazar of Bradenton, Florida, Marie Arcos of
Houston, Texas, Manuel Fonseca of Nashville, Tennessee,
Elmer Carreno of Silver Spring, Maryland, Maria Hines of
Albuquerque, New Mexico, and John Diaz of Crowley, Colorado.
Their efforts are helping children to learn
to read, improving fire safety in schools and communities,
and helping more Hispanics achieve the dream of a college
education. In the wake of the hurricanes, they've helped
set up emergency clinics, provided spiritual counseling
to the displaced, just simple acts, such as reading stories
to children whose families had lost their homes. Today,
we're here to honor your service, and we appreciate so very
much what you have done to help lift the spirit of the country.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month,
we thank the Hispanic community that has helped build and
shape our country in so many ways. America is a better place
because of your contributions. I join all Americans in celebrating
the accomplishments and wishing our Hispanic communities
all across the country continued success.
I want to thank you all for coming. And
now, I'm going to ask the Military Aide to please announce
the Volunteer Service Awards. Y por fin, que Dios les bendiga.
(The awards are presented.)
THE PRESIDENT: I hope you can tell why I
was so looking forward to this event. There's nothing like
being able to thank six quiet heroes, helping to improve
somebody's life, and at the same time, improving the spirit
of the country. What a joyous occasion. Thank you all for
coming. May God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 3:04 P.M. EDT