Mike Pence photo

Remarks by the Vice President at a National Hispanic Heritage Month Reception

October 11, 2017

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, saludos!

AUDIENCE: Saludos!

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And welcome to Hispanic Heritage Month and this great celebration at the Naval Observatory, which I can say with great humility and gratitude is the official residence of the Vice President of the United States of America.

So, welcome. We are so honored to have you all here.

And thank you to Secretary Acosta not only for that kind introduction, but your extraordinary and eloquent words, and your example of leadership. Would you all join me one more time in thanking the 27th Secretary of Labor of the United States of America, Secretary Alex Acosta. (Applause.)

I know how much you all are enjoying this cooling mist that has just arrived. (Laughter.) But I don't want you to be concerned -- we're told that this is the worst it's going to get for a while. So I'm going to share our remarks with you nonetheless. And I thank you for being here.

You know, the Secretary is a member of the President's Cabinet, a person of high position, but he's not the highest-ranking authority at this house. Would you all join me in welcoming and thanking the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence. (Applause.) And the Second Lady's staff put together this wonderful event, and Karen is just doing an amazing job traveling around the world representing our nation with great distinction. (Applause.)

And on behalf of my wife Karen, we're both honored to welcome all of the outstanding and distinguished Hispanic American leaders, who are here, to this historic place to join in this celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Thank you again for being here.

And join me in thanking our two sponsors, organizations that do so much to promote the wellbeing of Latinos across America: The Latino Coalition Foundation and the LIBRE Institute. Thank you so much for co-sponsoring this event. (Applause.)

And I bring greetings from a great champion of Hispanic Americans and of opportunities for every American: the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

Many of you had the opportunity to be at the White House just a few short days ago to celebrate the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, but the President wanted us to open this home as well, to extend his and our entire administration's gratitude for all that Latino Americans do to enrich the life of our nation.

The President signed a proclamation in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, in which he said -- and I quote -- "We are grateful for the many contributions Hispanic American men and women make to our society and to the vibrancy they weave into our American culture." And I couldn't have said it better myself.

Our administration is proud to continue the tradition of Hispanic Heritage Month. This time of celebration actually dates back nearly 50 years to 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, Congress and President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a full month to better honor Hispanic heritage in America.

As President Trump said last week, when he hosted more than 200 Latino business, faith, and community leaders, "From our earliest days, Hispanic Americans have enriched our country and helped shape our history." And all of you here today are great examples of that contribution, and living proof that men and women of Hispanic descent are integral to the leadership of the United States of America. (Applause.)

Gathered here around this pool are many extraordinary Latino Americans -- and Karen and I are humbled to have you here -- men and women who have contributed to every facet of American life.

In addition to Secretary Acosta, we're honored to be joined by the 44th Treasurer of the United States, Jovita Carranza. (Applause.)

I'd also like to recognize all of the distinguished Hispanic Americans serving in Congress today. Were it not for their voting schedule this evening, I know many of them would have been here to celebrate with us.

But I'd also like to recognize leaders in the life of business, the life of faith, and from so many other walks of life. I know Congressman Bill Flores was here. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. He still is here! (Applause.) Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and so many others. We have such great, great examples of Hispanic leadership in the Congress, and we're honored to have you here.

And would you all join me in thanking the United States Army Latin Combo and the mariachi band, Estupendo. (Applause.) Wow. Great job.

You know, the truth is that from the arts to the Armed Forces, from the sciences to sports, Americans with Latino roots have made a lasting impact on our nation.

Just look at our economy. Today, Hispanic Americans own more than 4 million businesses in this country, and that number is only growing larger every day.

Over the last decade, the number of Latino-owned businesses has nearly doubled. And as a great testament to the strong, pioneering spirit of Hispanic women, Latina-owned small businesses are the fastest-growing sector of the entire economy. (Applause.)

And Hispanic American patriots have long served with courage in the uniform of the United States among our armed forces. At this very moment, more than a quarter million Latinos are serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the Coast Guard, and the Reserves. (Applause.) Sixty Hispanic Americans have received the Medal of Honor, starting with Joseph De Castro, who received that distinction for his bravery in Pickett's Charge in the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

And today, I'm particularly honored to be joined by two of the Navy's senior leaders and great Hispanic Americans: Admiral Tina Alvarado and fellow Hoosier, Admiral Moises Del Toro. Thank you so much for honoring us with your presence. (Applause.)

As this occasion demonstrates, Latino Americans make up one of the most vibrant threads of our national life, and the wide variety of cultures and traditions is really beautiful to behold.

I had the privilege of experiencing many rich Latino cultures firsthand, when in the past few months, at the President's direction, we visited several countries in Latin America, on America's behalf, including Colombia, Argentina, Chile, and Panama.

Karen and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in each of these great countries, and we're inspired by their example and their commitment to freedom and free markets. To each of them, we brought the President's commitment to strengthen our ties in commerce, in security, and in our shared devotion to freedom and a brighter future for all of our people in this hemisphere.

In June, I expressed a similar commitment to the nations of the Northern Triangle and all of Central America when we traveled to Miami to join leaders in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador for the inaugural Conference on Security and Prosperity.

Before I go further, let me take a moment to thank all the notable diplomats who are with us tonight representing their Latin American home countries here in Washington. We have officials from Argentina, Colombia, Honduras, Chile, and Mexico. And we are tremendously honored by the ambassadors who are with us tonight. (Applause.)

Let me also say how our thoughts and prayers, and the prayers of every American, are with everyone affected by the devastating earthquake in Mexico that took place just a few weeks ago. As the ambassador knows, shortly after the earthquake, President Trump sent a search-and-rescue team to Mexico and pledged to continue close coordination with our southern neighbor in this challenging time.

This year, on the President's behalf, I've also spoken with Venezuelan and Cuban communities here in the United States. This summer, we visited Dominoes Park and Manuel Artime Theatre in Little Havana, and I saw the spirit of the Cuban exile community in this country firsthand.

On that same day, President Trump announced a new policy to ensure that U.S. dollars will no longer prop up a military monopoly that exploits and abuses the Cuban people. (Applause.) Under this administration, it will always be "Que viva Cuba libre!" (Applause.)

And when it comes to Venezuela, President Trump has brought the full measure of American economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on the oppressive Maduro regime, because the President believes, as every American believes, that the birthright of the Venezuelan people has always been, and will always be, libertad. And we will fight for libertad for the people of Venezuela. (Applause.)

America will always stand for freedom in this hemisphere and beyond -- because we cherish our values and because we cherish all those in America with Hispanic roots.

Last week, Karen and I visited another vital Hispanic community in our country, in Puerto Rico. (Applause.) We traveled to Puerto Rico at the President's request, only a few days after he and the First Lady Melania had visited, to stand with our fellow Americans in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

I must tell you, we were deeply moved by the resilience and the faith that we saw lived out by the people of Puerto Rico. We were inspired by the efforts of the thousands of Americans in our armed forces and in FEMA who continue to work at this very hour to restore and rebuild Puerto Rico. (Applause.)

I'm also honored today to be joined by a friend of my who I served with in the Congress but would go on to be the Governor of Puerto Rico, and a man who loves that territory and loves the Puerto Rican people like very few others -- Luis Fortuño. Thank you for being with us and for your leadership. (Applause.)

Probably the most inspiring time for Karen and me was when we visited a Puerto Rican church in Kissimmee, Florida, even before we left, where we helped load a truck with donations for people impacted by the hurricanes. We saw people connected to the Puerto Rican community who themselves were recovering from a hurricane that had crossed Florida just a few weeks before. But there they were, donating their time and their talent and their treasure to help the fellow Americans in Puerto Rico.

Throughout our trip through Puerto Rico, we expressed our administration's unwavering commitment to the people of Puerto Rico as they rebuild and recover. It was heartbreaking, frankly, to see the destruction wrought by those historic storms, as we walked through Puerto Rican communities with Governor Rosselló and with Congresswoman Gonzalez.

But as I said before, we were inspired to see the faith and the courage and the resilience of the Puerto Rican people shining through, for as Father Peña, a priest from San Juan, told me personally, they may be without electricity, but they are not without light. (Applause.) And we saw that light when we were there shining from the faces and the hearts of the brave people of Puerto Rico.

And so we know the people of Puerto Rico will recover, and we will be with them every step of the way. And as the President said on his visit to the island earlier in the week, and I said as well, and I say to all of you gathered here today to the people of Puerto Rico: We are with you, we stand with you, and we will be with you every single day until Puerto Rico is restored bigger and better than ever before. (Applause.) Puerto Rico se levanta!

And so as I close, let me just say we're honored that you're here with us today, and we hope that this fellowship and this hospitality just demonstrates in some small way the enduring admiration of President Trump and our entire administration for the contributions that Hispanic Americans make to the life of our nation.

And like all of you, I count among the greatest blessings of my life the fact that I can call myself an American. Alex got into this a little bit in his remarks, but I'll close with it as well. The truth is, we're -- with very few exceptions -- we're all descended from those who didn't have that blessing, people who came here, people who strived with all their might to become Americans.

It was nearly a century ago, as Alex said, that my great-grandmother handed her son, Richard Michael, a one-way ticket from Ireland to America. The legend in our family is that my great-grandmother walked him up a hill just outside a little house in Tubbercurry, Ireland -- a house that I would visit when I was a young man; a two-room house where she raised eight children, among whom was my grandfather. The word is that she looked out to the west over the Ox Mountains and she told my grandfather, "You have to go to America because there's a future there for you."

Well, Richard Michael Cawley, who stepped off onto Ellis Island as a young man on April 11, 1923, is how Michael Richard Pence became Vice President of the United States of America. (Applause.)

My grandfather made his way here. He drove a bus for 40 years. He was the proudest man I ever knew. He put down roots. He built everything that mattered -- a good name, a good family.

He raised a precocious redhead whose blue eyes and red hair still flame to this day. (Laughter.) She married a fast-talking salesman who took her down to southern Indiana, where I showed up.

But my grandfather's story, my mom's story, and my story are like the stories of so many of you gathered here today -- and I know that. It's just the story of the American Dream.

My grandfather was an Irishman by birth, but he became an American by choice, and he was proud of it. And when he went home to be with the Lord in 1980, he left behind a family and a grandson who will be forever grateful for his courage and his willingness to come. Because the truth is, I got to think, if my grandfather is looking down from glory, seeing his grandson living in this place, having the privilege to serve in this capacity, he's probably come to two conclusions: Number one, I expect he's very surprised -- (laughter) -- because he knew me pretty well. And secondly, I'll bet he's come to the conclusion that he was right about America; he was right to come. He was right to believe that anybody could be anybody in this land of freedom and opportunity.

And that's what's true today. My family, and for all of you gathered here today, for your forebears that came to this land: They came here with courage, they came here with determination, they came here believing in the promise of America. But, in most cases, they also came with one other quality, and that's the quality of faith -- faith in the goodness of all who call America home; faith in the self-evident truths that bind us together as Americans. But they also had that other kind of faith -- faith that Karen and I witness every time we're in the Hispanic community in this country.

We visited communities, large and small, all across this country and a little bit around the world. And we never failed to be inspired by that light of faith that radiates from people in the Hispanic community.

We saw that at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Doral; at El Rey Jesus International Ministry in Naples; at Iglesia de Dios in Kissimmee; and we saw it in Santa Bernardita in San Juan. We saw faith and resilience, and generosity and compassion, of a people who know two promises: that He will never leave you nor forsake you, and that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Him.

That's the faith of this community that I've seen. It's a faith that enriches America every day and it convinces me that the best days for the Hispanic American community and for this great country are yet to come.

So thank you for all that you mean to America. Thank you for your inspiring examples, your courage, your resilience and your faith. May God bless the Hispanic American community, and may God bless the United States of America by them. (Applause.)

Mike Pence, Remarks by the Vice President at a National Hispanic Heritage Month Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/331619

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