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9 February 28, 2002
9 9:00 a.m.
10 Mayflower Hotel
11 Washington, D.C.


1 Participants:
2 Frank Hanna
2 Patricia J. Mazzuca
3 Micaela Alvarez
3 Norma S. Garza
4 Dr. Alexander Gonzalez
4 Miguel A. Hernandez, Jr.
5 Rev. Jose Hoyos
5 Francisco J. Paret
6 Altagracia Ramos
6 Enedelia Schofield
7 Christopher J. Barbic
7 Jose G. Canchola
8 Jaime A. Escalante
8 Charles P. Garcia
9 Ofelia Saenz Vanden Bosch
9 Dr. Rene Vazquez
10 Octavio J. Visiedo
10 Secretary Mel Martinez
11 Dr. Antonio Flores
11 Ana Maria Farias
12 Leslie Sanchez


1 MS. FARIAS: Today it is my
2 absolute pleasure, first of all, to thank
3 Leslie Sanchez, Executive Director of this
4 commission. She and I worked very closely a
5 year ago. When she told me what she was going
6 to be doing, I thought, I feel bad for those
7 people who are going to work for her. She is
8 going to work them all the time.
9 Periodically, I do hear some of
10 the young ones complain about how hard they
11 are working for her. I want you to know
12 something. I worked for her for six months on
13 a volunteer basis. I used to get home -- she
14 used to take me home. I would get home at
15 10:30 at night. That was on a volunteer
16 basis.
17 So, yes, Mr. Secretary, I am very
18 glad now I am getting paid.
19 Today it is my absolute pleasure
20 to introduce to you the person, Secretary of
21 Housing and Urban Development. Believe it or
22 not, he is the third Cabinet Secretary I


1 worked for. The first one was my college
2 professor, William J. Bennett. I worked with
3 him for four years at Education. That's where
4 I first met Mr. Jaime Escalante. He received
5 under President Reagan the second award of the
6 Hispanic Heritage Awards. I had the absolute
7 pleasure of meeting him and James Almos, who
8 was playing him in the movie Stand and
9 Deliver.
10 The second Cabinet member that I
11 worked for was Secretary Lee Martin, a woman.
12 Imagine my absolute delight when I was
13 interviewed by the White House. They said,
14 based on your credentials, you can go to HUD,
15 you can go to Labor, or you can go to
16 Education. Go interview with them and then
17 tell us where you would like to go. First
18 they have to make an offer.
19 Imagine my delight, after having
20 worked for Secretary Bennett and Secretary Lee
21 Martin, to go and be interviewed by Melquiades
22 Martinez. Some of his friends call him Mel.


1 Some white people call him Mel because they
2 cannot pronounce Melquiades. And I am very
3 happy to note Farias Gutierrez can pronounce
4 Melquiades Martinez.
5 When I was offered the job and I
6 called my mom and she said, "Who is he?" He
7 is the Secretary." She said, "You have an
8 Hispanic for a Secretary?" I said, "Yes,
9 ma'am." I go, what makes him one of our role
10 models, like a lot of you who have come from
11 poverty, or some of you whose parents probably
12 had it a little bit better but you had to come
13 to this country under very difficult
14 circumstances, he went through the same thing.
15 He came here from Cuba by himself and he lived
16 here and lived in an orphanage for three
17 years.
18 So that is what my grandmother
19 used to say was you do not get rated when you
20 are successful. You get rated when you are
21 down and they want to see how you react to
22 those adverse conditions.


1 Where our secretary at a very
2 young age, an adolescent age, was in an
3 orphanage for three years. That's what my
4 grandmother used to say. That is what gives
5 you humility. That is what gives you
6 character. I am very proud as an Hispanic
7 American, a Texan, to now say every day that I
8 work for Secretary Melquiades Martinez.
9 SECT. MARTINEZ: Good morning.
10 One of the keys to success in Washington, I
11 found out, is to make sure the person who
12 introduces you works for you. Any time we can
13 work that out, it works great.
14 Mr. Chairman, it is nice to be
15 with you this morning. I am so delighted to
16 have a chance to spend a few minutes with you
17 to tell you a little bit what is in my heart
18 about the mission you are about to undertake.
19 I should say welcome to
20 Washington. I have been here now a little
21 over a year. It doesn't totally feel like
22 home but it is beginning to feel more like


1 home. It has been a very, very interesting
2 year, as I am sure all of you know, from all
3 of the events that have transpired. I have
4 never been more proud to work for the
5 President that I serve and to have the
6 opportunity to serve the country in the
7 capacity of a Cabinet Secretary.
8 As important as that might be, I
9 think the work you are about to undertake is
10 incredibly important. It is something that
11 for a long time I have wondered, I wish I
12 could do something about this problem of
13 Hispanic education performance. It is
14 something, obviously, that any of us who have
15 -- I will tell you a little bit about my
16 story. We all have a story. I think everyone
17 who has grown up in this country -- and I know
18 a couple of the members of this commission are
19 also Cuban Americans. I know the
20 circumstances of your lives is similar to
21 mine. But there are others who migrated here
22 or maybe whose parents migrated here.


1 The bottom line is I think all of
2 us as Americans of Hispanic heritage all have
3 a story we all can tell. The thing that has
4 allowed us to be in this room and to have this
5 opportunity is the educational opportunities
6 that we have. The fact that someone cared for
7 us allowed us to achieve and develop and grow
8 and mature in a way that allows them to
9 exercise the leadership opportunity.
10 I find it so distressing when I
11 think about the future of our Hispanic
12 Americans, the fact that this educational gap
13 is an intolerable problem. It is also
14 something that I think is going to damage or
15 harm the ability of our people to progress and
16 to develop in what is an increasingly
17 demanding society. The world of the
18 millennium in which we just embarked is a very
19 different world from the world a hundred years
20 ago. Educational achievement, educational
21 opportunities are going to make the
22 difference.


1 We are now the largest minority
2 group in the country. With that I also noted
3 recently that we also are the largest minority
4 business owners in the country.
8 percent
5 of the businesses in the United States are
6 owned by a Hispanic or someone from an
7 Hispanic families.
8 I did notice that Asian Americans
9 own in proportion larger than their percentage
10 of the population. I believe that is because
11 of the exceptional educational achievements of
12 the Asian American minorities in this country.
13 I believe that for us to continue to develop
14 these entrepreneurial skills that are so much
15 a part of us, the very obvious love of family
16 or togetherness that we have as a people,
17 these things can best be expressed by also
18 doing what we can to ensure the educational
19 opportunity of our next generation.
20 When I came here, as with many
21 others, I did not have the opportunity to know
22 the English language. I was thrown in a


1 school where there was no bilingual education
2 and where there was no real understanding -- I
3 am not sure this is very different for anybody
4 in my generation. All of these things came
5 much later.
6 I often tell people, I am not an
7 educator and I am not going to opine too much
8 on the merits of bilingual education and
9 things like that. But all I can draw on is my
10 own personal life experience.
11 I have to tell you that I believe
12 it is a very important thing that our young
13 people become a part of the culture in which
14 they live. I think that is more important
15 than even learning the language skills. I
16 think the language skills will be acquired if,
17 in fact, they are not separated in an enclave
18 and live different lives but are allowed to be
19 a part of the mainstream of American life.
20 To me the good fortune is that I
21 was in a place where I was allowed to, because
22 I was in such a small minority in Orlando,


1 Florida in
1962, that there was no choice for
2 me but to just simply move ahead and evolve in
3 a culture that was welcoming but also
4 challenging. At the end of the day, I think
5 that was a great blessing for me and a great
6 opportunity.
7 Not every one of our children is
8 going to have that opportunity. They are
9 going to be in places where there is enough of
10 them around where they won't be forced to
11 learn the language or become a part of the
12 culture. I think that becoming a part of the
13 culture -- and I don't mean that as forgetting
14 our heritage, forget who we are, where we come
15 from. I believe that's a basic, important
16 part of allowing us to have the confidence to
17 achieve in life is to know who we are, to have
18 pride in our heritage and understand it. But
19 at the same time to understand the world in
20 which we live and to be able to evolve and
21 develop.
22 I am rambling a little because I

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President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans
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