Remarks on Signing the National Hispanic Heritage Week Proclamation

 

September 11, 1987

 

It's a great pleasure, as always, to have you here to join me in commemorating National Hispanic Heritage Week. Many of you know I was just in California, and every time I return home it reinforces a deep appreciation for the role that Hispanics have played in developing American culture. Of course there, in the Golden State, most of our major cities, as is evident by their names, were originally Spanish settlements. Our architecture reflects this; it can be heard in the music that we listen to and the art we enjoy and in the food we eat. It's a recognizable part of a way of life of which all Californians are very proud. [Applause.] There's a Californian here.

 

California is only one of the many States that has rich Hispanic traditions. And even those States that were not originally settled by Spanish immigrants now have numerous Hispanic residents. Today we acknowledge the many contributions made by Hispanics over the 200 years of our Republic and the role Hispanics continue to play. As we celebrate the bicentennial of our Constitution, we must reflect on the fact that this great nation of ours is made up of immigrants, immigrants who have brought their culture, their traditions, and their values. They were attracted to this nation by a common element: by the love of liberty and justice. And I can proudly say that nowhere have I seen these values more cherished and protected as they are by the Hispanic community.

 

Hispanics have also brought with them their talents and aspirations, as is witnessed in the people joining us today. We have a group of individuals who I understand will be honored at another function as outstanding Hispanic media professionals. Having earned my living in the media, as I did, and understanding its importance in the shaping of our society, I'd like to add my congratulations to those being honored. Since some of them are present in the audience, I'd like to ask them to please stand so they can receive a strong round of applause. Marta Casals Istomin -- [applause] -- she is the artistic director of the Kennedy Center; Jose McMurray -- [applause] -- senior producer at National Public Radio; Eduardo Zavala -- [applause] -- founder of ZGS - TV Productions, and Arturo Villar -- [applause] -- publisher of Vista magazine. Congratulations, and thank you all.

 

Now, we also have in the audience the DC Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers. Where are you? Oh, they're holding up hands. Well, there, two stood up. [Applause] All right. Thank you all. Because I would like to thank them for this wonderful poster designed by Jesse Almazan commemorating this week. And I would also like to thank all of you for joining us today and for your valuable work in fostering the presence and role of Hispanics in the Federal Government. Your commitment is impressive. I applaud this important role you play in increasing the number of Hispanics in the Government.

 

This administration remains wholly dedicated to freedom and justice for all. And don't let anyone tell you that those we nominate to high positions, especially to the Supreme Court, do not share in our commitment to the ideals of freedom and equality that all Americans hold dear. The highly charged rhetoric that is coming from the ranks of those opposing Judge Bork is irrational and totally unjustified. Judge Bork is a qualified, highly respected judge. He has a superior intellect, a high moral character, and is a champion of individual freedom. Any suggestion to the contrary is pure politics -- if politics can be pure. [Laughter]

 

And this brings me to this administration's commitment to increasing the number of Hispanics in government. I have appointed individuals of high caliber to serve in key Federal Government positions, such as Katherine Ortega, United States Treasurer, and Jose Manuel Casanova, Director of the Inter-American Development Bank. And now I'd like to take this time to announce my intention to nominate Grace Hughes as Director of Community Relations Services at the Department of Justice. And I'm sure you're familiar with all the other appointees throughout the executive branch. They've served with dignity and courage and exemplify the hard work and commitment found in Hispanic Americans.

 

The great achievements of all these individuals, in the media and in the Federal Government, serve as an inspiration to all young Americans. This special week provides the rest of us a chance to express our deep appreciation for contributions that are made across the spectrum of American life by our fellow citizens who come from Hispanic backgrounds. It allows us to reflect on the fundamental meaning of democracy, which must be synonymous with opportunity for all people.

 

So, I will now sign the proclamation designating next week as National Hispanic Heritage Week. And in doing so, say thank you, gracias, to Hispanic Americans.

 

[At this point, the President signed the proclamation.]

 

I know that the ceremony is over, and you want to get back in the shade, and I don't blame you. But I can't resist telling you that standing here in front of you I often wish that I could speak in that lovely language. I wished it very much at a time when, as Governor of California, I was representing the President of the United States at a meeting in Mexico. And I spoke and then sat down to very scattered applause. I was embarrassed. And when the next speaker began getting applause at almost every sentence, I had to hide my embarrassment and started to applaud louder and longer than anyone else -- until our Ambassador leaned over and said, ``I wouldn't do that if I were you. He's interpreting your speech.'' [Laughter] Thank you all.

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:15 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.