Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a White House Reception for the National Coalition of Hispanic Mental Health and Human Services Organizations

September 23, 1982

The President. Well, good afternoon, and welcome to the White House. Thank you for letting me be a part of this program honoring five very deserving young people and, also, for supporting the fine efforts of COSSMHO's National Hispanic Youth Institute. Your work is a model for community projects that can make a real difference to the future of our country.

To these five young people and to all of you, mi casa es su casa. And in this case it really is su casa. [Laughter] It belongs to you and all Americans, and we're happy to have you with us here today.

Today, of course, we focus on youth—our nation's most precious resource. The future of our nation will be determined more than anything else by the character of our children. And particularly significant is the role Hispanics are playing in shaping the future of America. The makeup of your community is the most youthful of any American ethnic group. Over 50 percent are under age 25. So the guidance and inspiration you offer is very significant. The five young people that we honor here today are fine examples of the values and traditions for which your community is known. Their families, their country, and their President are proud of them.

Miss Felicia Martinez, for example. Felicia, will you come up here? Felicia is from Tucson, Arizona, where she's a senior at Salpointe Catholic High School. She's in the honor society, as well as the speech and Red Cross clubs. Felicia is active in her church and has served as a receptionist at St. Augustine's Cathedral. She's an accomplished speaker—has spoken before the Hispanic Youth Forum and various community programs. When writing about her future, she explains, "I plan to go into pediatrics. I'm choosing this career because I love children, I'm interested in medicine, and I enjoy helping others."

Felicia, it's a pleasure to recognize you today as an outstanding young person and fine example to other Hispanic youth.

Ms. Martinez. Thank you.

The President. Now, also with us is Hemesio Rosado, Junior. [Laughter] And he tells me that his friends call him "Junior." So, if it isn't too presumptuous, I'm just going to include myself as one of your friends, Junior. [Laughter]

Born in Puerto Rico, he graduated from Charlestown High School in the Boston area and is now on active duty in the United States Navy. He's studying to become a fire control technician and is learning how to work sophisticated electronic equipment. He's always been close to his family, particularly his grandparents, whom he credits with instilling in him a deep respect for religion.

Writing about himself, he says, "What makes me happy is having a good time with my friends and spending holidays with my family and getting good news, because when I have a rotten day, I need something to cheer me up." [Laughter] ,

Junior, I know' exactly how you feel. [Laughter]

And for the future, he writes, "I want to finish my 4 years in the Navy, then put to use what I learned, because I want to be able to support a family, plus I want to be able to help my mother."

Junior, it's a pleasure having you here today.

Mr. Rosado. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. He's an outstanding young person and a fine example of the Hispanic youth of this country.

And next, we have with us Kennedy de la Pefia from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He told us in a letter that his full name is actually Kennedy Richard de la Pefia, because his father was a Republican and his mother was a Democrat. [Laughter] Well, Kennedy, we're proud of you.

He is currently enrolled in New Mexico State University and is working toward a degree in business administration. Over the years he's had a number of jobs, ranging from selling chili to janitorial work and clerking. On top of all of that, he's been a volunteer, helping at nonprofit church bingo for the last 7 years. In high school he was captain of the soccer and basketball teams.

Of his goals, he writes, "My current goal is to receive a degree in business administration. My long-term goal is to run for public office and win"— [laughter] —"my prime goal is to be happy and content, and to help others be the same."

You're a fine young man, and we're happy to honor you today.

Mr. de la Pena. I'm happy to be here, Mr. President.

The President. And then we have Sheila Renee Ortiz. She is from a military family. She's from Oklahoma City, she's from a military family, and she moved around a lot in her younger years. Still, she managed to make the honor roll in school as well as being in the student council and serving as junior and senior class president. Sheila was active in basketball and volleyball. Her favorite subject is history, because, she says, "I was always interested in what happened in the past and how America became what she is today." Sheila works in a grocery store and plans to take college courses in the fall. In her letter she wrote, "I hope President Reagan thinks I'm a good example of Hispanic youth."

Well, Sheila, I certainly do, and I'm proud to have you with us here today.

Ms. Ortiz. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. And finally, there is Rodolfo Rene Fuentes of Weslaco, Texas, currently a junior in high school and in the top 10 percent of his class. Simultaneously—and get this—while going to high school, this young man is enrolled as a freshman in Pan American University and plans to have completed 30 hours of college credit by the time he graduates from high school. In high school, he has been active in debate, football, drama, and track.

What did you play in football?

Mr. Fuentes. Guard.

The President. What?

Mr. Fuentes. Right guard.

The President. Right guard, myself. [Laughter] It gets busy down there in the middle of the line.

Mr. Fuentes. Yes, it does. [Laughter]

The President. He's an officer of the student council and is a member of Christian Athletes, the National Honor Society, and the Catholic Youth Organization. Outside of school activities, Rodolfo is a captain of a volunteer ambulance unit. Of the future, he writes, "My personal goal is to develop into an effective leader. At present, my interests are not focused on one, specific career; nevertheless, I've rounded the field to three-medical, judicial, or political." [Laughter]

Well, you're certainly developing yourself into an effective leader, and we are proud to honor you today.

Mr. Fuentes. Thank you, sir.

The President. I congratulate all five of you for all you stand for. Because of your courage and hard work, you're not only bettering your own lives but offering other young people examples of what they can accomplish.

I thank, again, the members of COSSMHO and all of you here today for doing your part in a very worthwhile program and wish you the best of luck at the festivities tonight. Gracias, muchas gracias to all of you.

Guests. De nada.

The President. And especially to these wonderful young people, Vaya con Dios.

Mr. Fuentes. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, del fondo del corazon de los miembres del COSSMHO, muchas gracias. From the bottom of our hearts, the membership of COSSMHO thanks you for being so gracious in having this reception for the National Hispanic Youth Institute of COSSMHO. And to show our appreciation, I present you with this painting that commemorates this event. We are very pleased. It projects—the message is the part of sharing culture and wisdom, and it is painted by one of our famous Mexican American artists, Amado Pefia, from the State of Texas and also New Mexico.

The President. Thank you. For those of you too far away to see, it is appropriate. It shows the older man speaking to the young people. [Laughter] I hadn't thought about it that way— [laughter] —all of you helping him.

Well, again, thank all of you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:40 p.m. in the East Room. The President and Mrs. Reagan hosted the reception, which preceded the first annual benefit event for the National Hispanic Youth Institute.

The National Coalition of Hispanic Mental Health and Human Services Organizations (COSSMHO) is a nonpartisan coalition of 250 agencies. The five young people were chosen by the coalition from Hispanic communities across the country for their outstanding leadership and community service.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a White House Reception for the National Coalition of Hispanic Mental Health and Human Services Organizations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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