Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Richard [Toscano], for that kind introduction, and for your outstanding leadership of the Justice Management Division’s Equal Employment Opportunity Staff. You and your team have worked extremely hard to make this ceremony possible, and to ensure that the Department of Justice fields a workforce as diverse as the nation we serve. We are all grateful for your efforts. Thank you, Benjamin [Hernandez-Stern], for helping to lead the department’s Association of Hispanic Employees for Advancement and Development. Thank you to the members of the University of Maryland ROTC, who did such a fine job of presenting our nation’s colors. And thank you to the Springbrook High Chorus for that beautiful rendition of our national anthem. I am delighted to welcome so many good friends, valued colleagues and distinguished guests to the Great Hall this morning. And I am honored to join you as we gather to celebrate the countless contributions that Hispanic Americans have made to our past, and to recognize the vital role they play in shaping our future.
Individuals of Hispanic descent have stood at the center of America’s story since before our founding. They shed blood for American independence during the revolution and they served on both sides of the Civil War. As the United States expanded westward throughout the 19th century, Hispanics became an even greater part of our national life – serving in Congress, playing a crucial role in bringing Texas into the union and making indelible contributions to our culture, our economy, and our society. And in the 20th century, Hispanic Americans did their part to defend liberty abroad, representing the largest ethnic group by proportion to serve in the military during World War II. And they fought to enlarge liberty at home, lending their voice to the struggle for greater civil and economic rights for all Americans. And so in celebrating the history of Hispanic Americans, we are truly celebrating American history.
The theme of National Hispanic Heritage Month this year is “Embracing, Enriching, and Enabling America” – and indeed, Hispanic Americans have embraced and enriched the United States, and they have enabled so much of what makes America great. But unfortunately, they have not always been treated in kind. The Hispanic American story – like the story of other groups in America – is the story of a group that has too often been denied the equal rights, liberties and respect to which they are entitled as citizens of this great country of ours. Their story, like that of so many disparate groups, holds up a mirror to our society as we measure our progress towards that more perfect union. And it is also the story of visionary leadership, inspiring courage and boundless resilience. Thanks to countless activists, artists and leaders – from well-known figures like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, to anonymous individuals who lent their voices to calls for justice – we have slowly brought our ideals into closer alignment with our actions. Today, Hispanic Americans hold prominent posts in all walks of life – from business and entertainment, to academia and athletics, all the way up to the Supreme Court. I was so pleased, last June, when my fellow New Yorker, Justice Sonia Sotomayor – the first Hispanic American to serve on our highest court – agreed to administer the oath at my formal investiture ceremony. And, as this gathering makes clear, Hispanic employees play a crucial role in every aspect of the Justice Department’s work – including our work to keep our country safe, to uphold our nation’s laws, and to ensure that all Americans enjoy equal opportunity and the fair and impartial administration of justice. I want to thank each and every one of you for all that you do to help build a more inclusive, a more diverse, and a more just nation, and I urge you to keep up the good work.
It is now my privilege to introduce this morning’s keynote speaker, a groundbreaking Hispanic American in her own right. President Obama designated Edith Ramirez as chair of the Federal Trade Commission in 2013, making her the first Hispanic American to hold that post. Over the last three years, Chairwoman Ramirez has successfully led the FTC through a time of change and challenge. She has worked tirelessly to defend the American people from fraud and exploitation, leading initiatives to protect consumer data protection, crack down on deceptive payday lenders and promote competition in healthcare and technology. Before joining the commission, she was a distinguished private practitioner in California and she sat on a number of boards, including that of the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, which provides legal advocacy to low-income and primarily immigrant and Latino populations. She has brought that same compassion and concern to the FTC, and we are delighted to have her with us today.
Let me thank you once again for inviting me to join in this celebration and for all that you do for the Department of Justice. And now, please join me in welcoming Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.