Thank you, Richard [Toscano], for your kind words – and for the outstanding work that you and your colleagues in the DOJ Equal Employment Opportunity Community – and across the Justice Management Division – have done to bring us together this morning.
I’d also like to thank the DOJ Association of Hispanic Employees for Advancement and Development for helping to organize today’s celebration – and for their efforts, throughout the year, to raise awareness about the critical contributions, and the unique concerns, of the Department’s 9,700 Hispanic employees and many partners.
For more than a decade now, Americans have been coming together – from mid-September to mid-October – to learn about Hispanic and Latino culture, and to reflect on how far our nation – and, especially, citizens of Hispanic descent – have traveled on the long road toward equality, opportunity, and freedom. Since the days when they founded America’s oldest city – Saint Augustine, Florida – Hispanics have helped to build, and to strengthen, our entire nation. Today, Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing segment of the population in our country, and their tradition of achievement, innovation, and service continues to enrich – and to inspire – all of us.
The theme for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month – “Many Backgrounds, Many Stories . . . One American Spirit” – serves as a reminder of the many diverse threads woven through our nation’ s history. It calls us to pay tribute not only to the generations of Hispanics who have helped to shape our past – but to those who will be essential to our future success. We can all be encouraged by how far this country has come over the years – and by the fact that this Administration has a record number of Latinos serving in senior leadership positions, and that our Supreme Court finally includes an Associate Justice of Hispanic descent.
But, despite the significant strides we celebrate today, this month is also an opportunity to reflect on the work that remains before us. Without question, we have much to do. Obstacles to learning and employment opportunities remain far-too common. And our future progress will depend on our continued vigilance, our cooperation with one another, and our persistence in the face of the challenges that lie ahead.
Together, we must work to ensure that our civil rights laws are aggressively enforced – and that our nation’s promise of equal justice is – finally – fulfilled. We also must find new ways to build on the contributions that have been made – by DOJ-AHEAD, by our other employee organizations, by our partners within the Hispanic community, and through the Department’s Diversity Management Plan – to promote inclusiveness and opportunity among the ranks of the Department’s career professionals, as well as its leadership.
We are stronger, more credible, and more effective when our workforce includes qualified individuals whose backgrounds reflect our nation’s rich diversity, and when its work environment encourages every employee to grow, develop and thrive – both personally and professionally.
Especially today, I’m proud to count you all as partners in this effort, and to pledge my continued commitment to the goals that we share – and to the work that’s now ours to carry forward.
Our keynote speaker is deeply familiar with the importance and impact of this work. Throughout his life and career, Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr. has helped to drive historic progress – on a national and international level – and to improve and empower countless lives. As President of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, he has lent his voice – and his considerable expertise – to promoting education, civic participation, and leadership development within Latino communities.
In nations all around the world, he has worked to expand opportunities and improve struggling communities. In recognition of his lifetime of service – and remarkable contributions – he has received no less than five honorary doctorates, as well as some of the highest decorations awarded by the governments of Mexico and the United States. And, later today, he will receive the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s coveted Medallion for Leadership.
It is an honor to be among the first to congratulate him on his latest achievement – and to share the stage with him this morning. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr.