Remarks on Signing the National Hispanic Heritage Week Proclamation

September 10, 1984

Thank you all very much, and buenas tardes. See, I'm showing off. [Laughter] But welcome to the White House. You know, it's always a pleasure for me to greet people here. We should all be proud that this is one of the few executive residences in the world that's open to the people. So, when I say to you, ``Mi casa es su casa,'' it's literally true.

And just as true, and something none of us should ever forget, is that this country belongs to all of us. Today we celebrate this with the proclamation of National Hispanic Heritage Week, 1984.

Our country often has been described as a nation of immigrants. Well, there is much truth in that description. And yet, today we recognize that the forebears of many Americans of Hispanic descent -- well, it was the United States that came to them, not the other way around.

That's true in Puerto Rico, throughout the Southwest. We Californians fully appreciate the highly developed Hispanic culture that existed in our State prior to its becoming part of the United States. As in the other States of the Southwest, there were thriving Hispanic cities, governments, ranches, and businesses. There was also a mission system built by a remarkable Franciscan priest named Father Junipero Serra, who's now under consideration for sainthood. I might add that all Californians are very proud of these missions.

Out there, when you start thinking of the historic pueblo of Los Angeles or the wonderful restored missions not as just part of the State's heritage but part of your heritage, then you know you've become a true Californian. And most of us Californians came there from someplace else ourselves. [Laughter]

Today, with this proclamation, we're reminding our fellow citizens that our Hispanic heritage is something of which all Americans can be proud. We're also celebrating the contemporary contributions of Americans of Hispanic descent. Having been in the profession I was in for most of my adult life, I knew many Americans of Hispanic descent in the performing arts. Anthony Quinn is showing off some of that talent right now at the Kennedy Center here in Washington.

There are, of course, many more -- the beautiful Delores del Rio, Desi Arnaz, Jose Feliciano, Jose Ferrer, Cesar Romero, Ricardo Montalban, and many more.

In other professions, the list is equally impressive, from ophthalmologist Dr. Castro Viejo to fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. And today we honor them, but more importantly, we honor all those many millions of our citizens who so exemplify the values of family, work, and respect for God and love of country.

And when it comes to these basic building blocks of character, no group of citizens should be prouder than Americans of Hispanic descent. Over the years the contributions made by these people just by being good Americans have had an enormous impact on our way of life. With hard work they've built large corporations and accomplished great things. And when we look for exemplary individuals who have overcome great odds and endured much personal hardship, we know we'll find many in the Hispanic community. We only need to look there to see living proof that the American dream is alive and well. Whether their roots are from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central America, or Mexico, they're here building a better America.

And yet success is not only measured in commercial and business accomplishment. Let us acknowledge the millions of heroic parents throughout the Hispanic community who, even though struggling to make ends meet, manage to raise their children with dignity and pride, see that they receive a good education, and teach them the values that are so important to Hispanic Americans -- the same values that help bind this nation together.

This is the character of the people which we applaud with Hispanic Heritage Week. We also recognize a love of country underlined throughout our history by so many acts of courage and valor. Within the Hispanic community are a host of heroes to whom this country owes a debt we can never repay.

I think of one, Allen Clark, whose mother is Hispanic. He lost both legs while serving his country in Vietnam. when he came home, his body was broken, but his spirit never faltered. He went back to school. He earned his master's degree in business administration. He served his State in a high government post and is now a successful businessman. He's an inspiration to all who know him. And what gave him the confidence to overcome such a life-shattering experience? Well, he credits those values to his mother -- the values that his mother taught him early in life -- as the source of his strength.

Let's be grateful to heroes and to the mothers of heroes, as well. And as we sign this proclamation, let us particularly note the strength and dignity of Hispanic women.

And today it gives me great pleasure to sign this proclamation and to honor the wonderful people with whom we share that most precious title -- American.

God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 1:48 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.