Remarks by the First Lady at the UnidosUS 2022 Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas
[As Prepared for Delivery.]
Good afternoon, Unidos. It's incredibly special to be here with you in San Antonio.
Earlier today, the White House celebrated the signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act—the most significant gun safety law in 30 years.
You know, when Joe and I visited Uvalde, I stood in front of those 21 crosses, and touched the pictures of the bright, beautiful faces that would never again laugh, or open birthday presents, or tell their parents that they loved them. And I knew that a piece of Uvalde would always be a part of me.
Like all of you, Joe and I think about those families—and all who carry that grief—every day.
When we were leaving the school, someone shouted "Do something!" And I'm proud that Joe has. He will continue to do everything he can and to call on Congress to act, including on measures that ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
We are committed to building a safer, healthier, more prosperous, and fair America.
And I know that Unidos is as well—and has been since the very start.
In fact, I was reminded of the transformational power of this organization when Joe awarded your longtime leader, Raul Yzaguirre, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our country's highest civilian honor.
Raul has dedicated his life to working for so many civil liberties: from fighting poverty to improving education to advancing voting rights. But one of the most powerful things that he did through this organization was to bring the Latino community together. Because he understood that unity is powerful. And he challenges us to be just as brave and bold.
It's a reminder that we all need—now more than ever.
A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to give a commencement to Los Angeles City College students. The crowd was a majority Latino, but the students didn't share one story.
There were immigrants, and first-generation Americans, and Angelenos whose families have lived on this land since long before it was called the United States. There were engineers and artists, veterans and students who are going on to four-year colleges.
They didn't share one path or dream. But as I saw the joy in their faces, I could see that they did have one thing in common: Each of them will bring exceptional gifts and talents to their corner of our country—and will make their community stronger by being a part of it.
Yes, the Latino community is unique. But what I've heard from you again and again is that you want what all families want. Good schools. Good jobs. Safe neighborhoods.
You want justice and equality—the opportunity to build a better life for your families.
It's not only what all families want; it's what all families deserve. But we can't get those things on our own.
Raul helped build this organization with the understanding that the diversity of this community—as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio—is your strength.
And yet, it's when you speak with one voice—unidos—that you find your power.
Thanks to the hard work of you and advocates across the country, we have torn down so many of the barriers that kept Latinos out of our seats of power. But your voice hasn't always been listened to, has it?
A few years ago, I met with a group of bright, ambitious young Latino leaders.
And they told me that there were times when they didn't feel heard. They asked me: How can our leaders work for us if they don't work with us?
It's an idea that's always been at the heart of Joe's work. If you want to know what a community needs—ask them. Give them a seat at the table and then listen to what they have to say.
And he's done just that. He's appointed Latinos to the highest offices in his cabinet. He made sure that legislation like the American Rescue Plan focused on equity. His team worked with all of you—Unidos and so many of the affiliates here today—to get Latinos vaccinated, fight hunger, and invest in your small businesses.
And let me say how grateful we are to everyone who has been a partner in that work.
It's because you are on the frontlines that our team can meet Latinos and all Americans where they are.
We've made progress together. And I'm so proud of what Joe has done to pass bipartisan legislation, like the infrastructure and gun bills. I'm proud that he recovered all private sector jobs lost during the pandemic, reopened schools, and cut child poverty in half.
You were right to put your faith in him two years ago. But I also know that we need to do so much more. We will never make the changes we need when so many of our leaders refuse to work together. When politicians block legislation that the majority of Americans want: A ban on guns that only belong on a battle field. The right to make our own decisions about our own bodies. Universal child care, and community college, and ending child poverty.
Congress is supposed to represent the will of the people. And that's why we the people need to speak up. All of us—united.
We need to vote—in races at every single level. And we need to remember that voting is the bare minimum. We have to get involved in the local governments that decide how cities plan their budgets and protect their students. We have to speak up for justice and equity. We have to demand that we the people be heard—to follow the example you have set.
For decades, this organization has brought people together. You've built coalitions and helped this community raise its voice. You've envisioned a better world and done the difficult work to make it real.
You do your part every day—and Joe and I are committed to doing the same. The road ahead won't be easy, but we're with you in this fight—now and always.
Your longtime leader, Raul, once said: "When things aren't going your way, you have to have something to sustain you, and having a love for your community is one thing that will sustain you."
I see that love here today. A love that gives us the strength to speak up, even when we're tired. That helps us come together, to cross any divide. That believes in the best of who we are—and knows that justice is within our reach as long as we never give up on each other.
Your fight is our fight and we will stand with you—in unity, equity, and love.
Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at the UnidosUS 2022 Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/356768