Jimmy Carter photo

Ceremony Honoring Hispanic Americans Remarks at the Swearing-ln Ceremony for Richard J. Rios as Director of the Community Services Administration and the Signing of a Proclamation.

July 31, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Congressman Kika de la Garza, Congressman Ken Hance, Congressman Corrada, Senator [Representative] Claude Pepper, and other distinguished representatives of areas of our Nation where many Hispanic citizens are living:

Bienvenidos a la Casa Bianca. Es un gran placer para nosotros tener tantas de mis amistades aqui en este importante celebration. [Welcome to the White House. It's a great pleasure for us to have so many of my friends at this important celebration.]

As a President here on the South Lawn of the White House, the symbol of freedom, the symbol of a nation which has always clasped to its breast immigrants and sometimes refugees, I'm thrilled by this ceremony. It is indeed a pleasure to have you here today representing more than 12 million Americans all around this country with Hispanic backgrounds. We even have three Georgians here who are struggling against our non-Hispanic background to learn your beautiful language, so that we can participate even more closely in matters that concern you and the people that you represent as leaders of this great and growing community.

This Nation was founded on a common belief in freedom, in justice, in equality of opportunity, in hope, in progress, confidence in one another, and a spirit of unity whenever our Nation was threatened with great challenge, great doubt, or great concerns. We're a nation with a vast common geography and a diversity of history, a diversity of language, a diversity of cultural background. We're made up of people from all over the world. It's one of our great strengths, because when our Nation faces an international problem, we have people here who are loyal Americans in the fullest sense of the word, who have ties of knowledge and blood kin and understanding to every one of those individual nations.

We've come here for betterment of our own lives and to guarantee a better life for our children and for their children. This aspect of American culture is just as important today as it was 200 years ago or 300 years ago. Newly arrived Hispanics, who may have been here only a few weeks or a few years, join generations who, as you well know, were here generations before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Had the history books we studied been written in Spanish instead of English, we would know that much more clearly.

When I visited the river area of my own State of Georgia or when we vacationed recently on the coastal islands of Georgia, we were reminded. of this proud Spanish heritage, Latin heritage, by the ancient buildings there and the culture that still remains. At Pensacola, St. Augustine, in the Midwest and Far West of our Nation, we still have viable communities, growing, that have never forgotten this great Spanish heritage.

I think I know well, much better than 3 1/2 years ago, the special problems of those who don't speak English well when they first come to this country. Our Nation has experience that well qualifies us to deal with that new evolution in the life of a person seeking a better life. And I'm also aware of the great contributions in science, art, culture, education, medicine, politics, the Nobel Prize winners, who represent the Hispanic culture so well.

And I'm also aware of the unrecognized contributions of thousands or even millions of average Hispanic citizens, going about their duties, carrying out their responsibilities as citizens, and having an exemplary record in keeping the family structure so closely bound together and so strong, which is the foundation of any nation, and particularly a democracy. In these citizens, who embody the deepest and best characteristics of our heritage, we join today to celebrate.

As President, as you know, I'm called on to make hundreds of difficult decisions every week. The Oval Office, just to my left, and the desk within it is where problems arise that cannot be solved in a family's home, in a county courthouse, in a city hall, in a State legislature, or among the business and labor and other leaders of our country. These are the problems that are most difficult. And the decisions that I make, along with those of the Members of the Congress, are the ones that shape the present and future lives of Americans, particularly those troubled Americans and those relatively new Americans who are being assimilated into our culture as have the ancestors of almost everyone who's assembled here.

When I came into this office, I was determined that there would be nothing from the Oval Office or in the decisions that I made that perpetuated any degree of discrimination because of race or language or cultural background or economic or social status. We have not yet fully won this battle in our Nation for complete equality of opportunity. There are still some elements of discrimination left, some perhaps deliberate on a small community basis, others inadvertent when deprivations and needs are overlooked by public officials at all levels of government. But we are determined that no man or woman shall lack a job or a job opportunity because of that background, and I think this special time to recognize our Hispanic community, which I will commemorate in a few minutes with my personal signature, brings this vividly to the minds of us all.

I'm determined that every child in every family and every community of this Nation will have a chance to take whatever talent or ability that child might have been given by God and develop it to the greatest, whether that child ultimately will be a great business leader or a doctor or a teacher or political leader or a carpenter or a scientist or common laborer, who joins together to make our Nation even greater. That's why in 3 years we have increased our Head Start program by more than 70 percent.

The Congress, along with me, has increased the allocation of Federal funds for education in just a short period of 3 years by 73 percent. We've now been able to form a new Department of Education that can focus special attention, undeviating attention on the special needs of those who are searching to broaden their minds and to open their hearts. Our Secretary of Education is here today, Shirley Hufstedler, who's particularly eager to see special programs enhanced. We've already increased bilingual education funds, for instance, by 117 percent. And we're not through yet.

Part of the role that I have as President is constantly to expand those programs specially designed for American citizens who need them most. The powerful, the influential are not the ones who suffer when a Federal program does not work well; it's the person who is struggling for a better life and a better opportunity, so that that particular person can, in the future, bear the responsibilities, the enjoyments, and perhaps even the burdens of leadership in our society.

Next week we'll send to the FEDERAL REGISTER new regulations on bilingual education dealing with a sensitive issue. Those regulations will be published in the FEDERAL REGISTER, and we want all of you to participate, along with Secretary Hufstedler, in evolving them in a better way for your own families and your friends and those whom you represent.

I won't go into detail about all the progress that we have made, because we've got a long way to go. We know that. But in Job Corps and in minority-owned businesses, we've tried to focus the advantages to those who had formerly been excluded.

In contracts for the carrying out of major public works programs, for instance, we've put a mandatory provision that at least 10 percent of those contracts would have to be awarded to businesses with minority ownership. Many said we couldn't do it; the Congress passed it. Many said we couldn't implement it; we have more than met the 10 percent—almost 15 percent. This program has been challenged all the way to the Supreme Court, and as you know, within the last few weeks the Supreme Court ruled that this was indeed a legitimate exercise of congressional and Presidential authority. And we will continue this program to guarantee that when your Federal tax moneys are spent that minority-owned businesses will get their fair share for the first time in the history of this country.

I've been fortunate to have good advice from those who have a special interest in you. We have brought in to the Government many great Hispanic Americans to lead agencies which were crucial to the lives of those about whom you care so deeply. We have increased Hispanic employment greatly, although our overall Federal employment has actually dropped in the last 3 1/2 years. For instance, before the new Education Department was split off from Health and Human Services, we had increased Hispanic employment by 37 percent, and in the Labor Department, primarily responsible for jobs, we had increased Hispanic employment 100 percent. This is not enough. We are still making progress, but as you know, it's very difficult to overcome literally generations of discrimination. With your help, we will continue to make this progress.

And I have also been particularly sensitive to the special needs of Spanish speaking citizens in the administration of justice. For that reason, I have put a lot of time locating and appointing distinguished jurists from the Hispanic community as Federal judges. I have already, in a short period of not much more than 3 years, appointed more Spanish-speaking Federal judges than all other Presidents combined who've ever served our Nation. As you know, those judges will be interpreting the law and protecting your rights and the rights of your children far beyond the end of this century.

And I think that one of the most complex and difficult issues which I face is that of immigration. Ours is a nation so great that it's attractive to those in foreign countries for various reasons: in some communist nations, just to escape personal prosecution and to find human freedom; in others, to join loved ones who've already come here; in other cases, to find a better life and a better opportunity economically. How to assimilate this influx of would-be American citizens and those who come here on a temporary basis and intend to return to their former home is a very difficult question, indeed.

But I've had two fine men to serve with me, and I'm very grateful to Leonel Castillo and now Matt Garcia, who will be heading up the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Our Nation is at peace because we are strong and because we are united and because we don't deviate in our commitment to basic principles. Part of our responsibility is to make sure our Armed Forces are strong and that they are free of discrimination, as well. And I'm very proud to have as Secretary of the Navy Mr. Hidalgo, who's in the second row here. And I want to express my deep appreciation to you for serving with us.

This Monday we had a Cabinet meeting, and Victor Marrero, who's the Undersecretary of HUD, was sitting in the Secretary's seat, one of the few times in the history of our country. Is Victor here? I think all of you know that HUD is the agency responsible for the revitalization of communities and for the repair of damage that has been done when economic circumstances afflict the lives of people who live in those communities. And to have Victor there in the top position in that great department is indeed of value to me.

I would now like to sign the proclamation, authorized, indeed directed, by Congress, and I know that these Members of Congress sitting on the front row are indeed proud to participate with me. I'd like to ask them to come and join me now as I sign this proclamation. And then following that, we will have a ceremony to administer the oath of office to a new and great Hispanic leader who will perform his duties subsequent to this meeting.

Would the Members of Congress please come and join me for this next part of the ceremony?

This is a very brief proclamation, but I'd like to read it, if you don't mind.

[At this point, the President read and then signed the proclamation.]

I'd now like to ask Richard Rios and his family to come forward and those who will participate in the oath of office ceremony.

I spoke earlier of the many talented Hispanics I have been able to bring into the Government. Richard Rios, the new Director of the Community Services Administration, is typical of those concerned and dedicated and capable public servants. He follows' another outstanding administrator in that same post managing this major agency, Graciela Olivarez.

Before assuming his new duties, he was director of the California State Office of Economic Opportunity and his background ranges from working with juvenile offenders to employment development to multicultural and educational programs at the college level.

Richard, I want you to understand something from the very beginning. I've not appointed you to manage antipoverty programs. I've appointed you to lead people out of poverty. Your job is to make programs work for people and to let people help themselves by working when they're able. For that reason, I'm pleased to witness your formal oath of office here at the White House lawn before this distinguished gathering of Hispanic Americans and to call upon everyone here today to help you in this fight to bring economic opportunity not only to Hispanics but to all Americans.

And now we'll have the oath of office, following which our new Director of this major department will say a few words.

[At this point, Judge Lucian Perkins administered the oath of office.]

MR. RIOS. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, honored guests:

I feel privileged and honored to have been chosen as the Director of the Community Services Administration.

In choosing a former community action agency director, you have once again made visible your continuing commitment to the poor. This opportunity to serve will permit me to serve, will permit me to focus on assisting our administration to more adequately meet the needs of all low-income citizens, who, as you know, are both young and old, male and female, and include all races. Once again, let me say how proud I am to be able to represent this vital national effort and your critical concern.

It is fitting that this swearing-in ceremony takes place before my family, my amigos, and my peers on such an historic occasion, the signing of the proclamation designating September 14th through the 20th as Hispanic Heritage Week. Our coming together reflects the desire of this administration to serve all people throughout America. We look forward to your signing of a similar proclamation for the next 4 years, during which time we will continue to strengthen the programs and policies serving the poor.

Thank you very much for this honor.

THE PRESIDENT. Esteban? Abelardo? Come on. I just want to call a couple of my good advisers up. They help to keep me straight. If you have any problems with me, see them and they'll get me straight.

In closing, let me say that to have a major White House adviser constantly at my elbow in times of crisis and difficult decisions is very valuable to me and to you. And of course, when we have any foreign visitor come to our Nation, the one who is responsible is the director of protocol, with the title of Assistant Secretary of State. And of course, if he has a beautiful wife, that makes us get two noted achievements and services for the price of one. Won't you stand up just a moment?

Again, you've honored me and Rosalynn—and I see Amy came in—by being with us. Thank you all. Vaya con Dios. [May God be with you.]

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:06 p.m. on the South Grounds at the White House.

In his closing remarks, the President referred to Esteban E. Torres, Special Assistant to the President for Hispanic Affairs, and Abelardo L. Valdez, Chief of Protocol, Department of State.

Jimmy Carter, Ceremony Honoring Hispanic Americans Remarks at the Swearing-ln Ceremony for Richard J. Rios as Director of the Community Services Administration and the Signing of a Proclamation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251432

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