Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks at the First Annual Banquet of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.

July 29, 1976

Thank you very much, Fernando. My good friend, the minority leader of the House, Congressman John Rhodes, Congressman Manny Lujan, Ben Fernandez, distinguished members of the administration, guests, and ladies and gentlemen:

It's wonderful to be here tonight, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your very warm and friendly welcome. Obviously, I am honored to be here with the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in this month of our national Bicentennial, when we are giving special recognition to our rich national heritage--including our Hispanic heritage.

America's recognition of its Hispanic components involves much, much more than history itself; it includes your vital and growing role, as well as contribution, at all levels of leadership of the United States of America--our country. Your organization has provided an inspiration--and results, I might say-for men and women of Hispanic origin. With your help we have done much, a great deal to mobilize the great wealth of talent and dedication of Hispanic Americans in our Federal Government. And I am especially proud of your contributions, your dedication, your leadership.

In recognition of our mutual desire to increase the number of Hispanic Americans in leadership positions, I am particularly proud in this administration to have appointed many of those that I see here tonight. But as I look across the room, I see not only those who have been appointed and recognized in the past, but I am very pleased to introduce some of my most recent Hispanic appointees. You are proud of them, just as I am.

First, my new Special Assistant for Hispanic Affairs at the White House, Tom Aranda, Jr. Tom, where are you? If you have any trouble in the White House, call Tom. [Laughter] We hope you have no reason to call him, and we will try to avoid it, but that's his job. And we are proud to have you on board, Tom.

My new Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior, Albert C. Zapanta. I think most of you recognize that the Department of Interior has vast responsibilities, and I can assure you that we have great faith in the fine job that Albert will do. Congratulations.

We have two diplomatic appointments: Phil Sanchez, he's our new Ambassador to Colombia, a very important post--and congratulations, Phil--and Ignatio Lozano, whom I have nominated to be our Ambassador to El Salvador. It, likewise, is a position of responsibility and an area where we must have a greater and greater influence and interest. And I am sure that both of these two outstanding appointees will do a fine job--and the very best.

And, of course, we have Sam Martinez. Where is Sam? There he is. Sam, of course, came from Denver, and we brought him to Washington to fill a very important post. And I am confident that this very difficult, very vital position of responsibility as Director of the Community Services Administration will be in excellent hands with Sam's experience and ability and dedication. Thank you very much, Sam, for coming to Washington.

I think these appointments plus the others that have been made is very indicative that this administration wants a vigorous involvement of Hispanic Americans in governing our Nation. Just as you need more advocates in government--and we are seeking to achieve and to accomplish that--America needs more Hispanic representatives in Congress like my good friend Manuel Lujan, of the great State of New Mexico.

I would like to thank Congressman Lujan for not only his help and assistance when I was the minority leader--and I know he is doing the same for Congressman John Rhodes--but to thank him for the extraordinary effort that he made under the most difficult circumstances when we had a State convention down in the State of New Mexico. Manny, I think that your efforts will be vindicated in several weeks.

But let me say that our common goal is to make life better for the Hispanic community in the United States by assuring a number of very broad but very important rights, such as the full voting rights; by improving the standard of living for all; expanding the educational opportunity, particularly the quality education, including bilingual programs; by including greater participation in the minority business enterprise program; and by continuing our successful efforts to reduce inflation and unemployment for all Americans. These are programs that have a special focus and a particular interest to all of you, but they improve the quality of life and the betterment for all of us throughout this country.

Several months ago, as some of you may recall, I issued orders that resulted in speeding up the naturalization proceedings for new citizens from Cuba1--and I might add parenthetically, we're monitoring that to see that the greater number of employees produces more results. But, nevertheless, on a broad scale I strongly welcome the growing political involvement and vigorous and talented efforts by new Americans at all levels of government--State, local, as well as Federal.

1 See Item 148.

On a broader basis involving an issue where all of you are interested and I'm certainly deeply concerned, let me say in the following several sentences what this administration stands for. My administration will continue a policy of friendship toward the people, and I underline the people, of Cuba. But, I add very emphatically, we will not accept intervention by the Fidel Castro regime in the affairs of other countries. We will not accept the counsel of those who would give in to Fidel Castro. And let me illustrate by another example: The free choice of the Puerto Rican people will be vigorously defended. My administration and the Government of Puerto Rico view any outside intervention into Puerto Rican affairs as an unfriendly act. We shall strongly resist any such intervention.

Freedom of choice is precious not only for the Puerto Ricans but for all Americans. After 200 years of freedom, we are approaching another day when the American people again give their consent to be governed and choose their elected representatives.

I call upon all Hispanic Americans to join me in my campaign to achieve a greater realization of that wonderful American dream. I think you know where I stand. You know who I am. You know my record in our National Government--a record that I am glad to say you helped to achieve. Let us go on working together, as partners, to obtain full participation for all citizens in the political process. I ask your help--I need your personal involvement--to complete the work of the last 2 years.

Hispanic genius, Hispanic energy, Hispanic pride, and the Hispanic dedication have strengthened our political system. You have advanced our goals in the best interests of the highest aspirations of all Americans.

I need your abilities and your skills for America and for the Republican Party. The Republican Party is a channel for a new era of Hispanic involvement , from California and the Southwest, from Florida, from New York, from Arizona, and from all over this great land.

We are united here today to preserve the principle of America and dedicated to continuing our progress next January. And I think in the words of Cervantes, "Todavia no habeis visto nada," which translated as I understand it, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Note: The President spoke at 9:34 p.m. at the Mayflower Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Fernando Oaxaca, Associate Director for Management Operations, Office of Management and Budget, and Ben Fernandez, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks at the First Annual Banquet of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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