Remarks at a White House Ceremony To Unveil a Commemorative Stamp Honoring Hispanic Americans

October 31, 1984

Welcome to the White House.

Having spent so much of my life in California, I've always been aware of the many contributions that Americans of Hispanic descent have made to our country. And the pride, the dignity of the Hispanic community has been a source of strength, a deep well, of inspiration from which America has drawn in good times and bad, during peacetime and in times of danger and conflict.

Americans of Hispanic descent have added so much to our way of life, in government service, in the private sector, in the arts, and in every aspect of our culture. And today we gather to pay a special tribute to Americans of Hispanic descent who have placed their lives on the line in the defense of America.

The Postmaster General, at our suggestion, today is issuing a stamp commemorating this awe-inspiring record of courage and valor. And this stamp is the result of a concerted effort on behalf of the 10 surviving Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients, the United States Postal Service, and the Department of Defense. It's a fitting tribute to the men and women who have given such service to the cause of freedom.

It was 174 years ago when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bells in his village. Like the sounding of our Liberty Bell, he was proclaiming to the world his people's resolve to live in freedom. That same love of freedom still rings in our hearts today, especially in the hearts of our fellow citizens of Hispanic descent that's been demonstrated time and again.

When danger threatened our Republic, Hispanics, as this stamp underscores, have been in the forefront of the defense of our freedom and independence. Thirty-seven of them, an incredible number, have received our highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It was my honor to have presented the Medal of Honor, the last one awarded, to an Hispanic-American, to Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez. I've gotten to know Roy. He and the nine other Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients visited me here at the White House this spring. And when I met and spoke with them, I could clearly see that it was the values they were taught as children that gave them the strength to be the kind of men they grew up to be.

These values -- devotion to family and respect for God, love of country and respect for honest work -- these are the ingredients that have molded the character of Americans of Hispanic descent. This is the stuff of which heroes are made.

There's a place in Illinois that underscores what I'm saying. In the town of Silvis, in an Hispanic neighborhood, there's a street on which lived 22 very special American families. From these 22 families, 84 men served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The two Sandoval families on that street sent 13 men, 6 from one family, 7 from the other. Three Sandoval sons never came back. They and five others who gave their lives for our freedom are honored by a special monument. Their street, once just plain Second Street, is now Hero Street, U.S.A.

There's an even bigger monument, and it's the one in the heart of every man, women, and child in this country who are thankful for the precious liberty we enjoy and grateful to those to whom we owe such a debt. The stamp that we issue today is our way of giving a heartfelt message to our wonderful Hispanic neighbors who have fought for their country, individuals to whom we owe so much. And the message is: You are truly American heroes.

I'd like to thank all of you for joining with us here today in this tribute. Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.