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1 am, frankly, not following the speech I
2 prepared.
3 I also come from local government.
4 I was in local government in Orlando before
5 having this wonderful opportunity to serve.
6 One of the things I was very keen on was
7 helping with education. I was very concerned
8 about the educational achievement of Hispanics
9 in Central Florida.
10 The fact is there were a lot of
11 challenges there as there are in every
12 community that each of you represents. The
13 thing I thought was always important is to
14 give these children the opportunity to have
15 people in positions of leadership in the
16 school system that also were like them and
17 understood them. And I think one of the
18 greatest problems I saw, at least in the place
19 I come from, and you know it well, is the fact
20 there was no one in the school board in any
21 leadership position that was Hispanic. And
22 that translated also into a very small number


1 of teachers or principals, and certainly no
2 coaches and no people -- coaches were
3 important to me when I was a kid. The only
4 reason I went to school was so I could play
5 ball. One thing led to the next. The next
6 thing you know, I became educated.
7 The fact is there are a lot of
8 children who really are going to be mentored
9 by people perhaps outside the classroom, in
10 the after school activities and in the other
11 things that go on in school life. I think one
12 of the things we have to address, and that I
13 hope you will address, is how do we transform
14 our educational institutions that sometimes
15 are very parochial and sometimes are not
16 openly hostile but are certainly reticent to
17 open their doors of leadership to people that
18 are going to have the understanding and skills
19 to deal with our Hispanic youth. I think
20 that's a major, major problem.
21 I wish that I had the opportunity
22 to continue to come to all of your meetings


1 and follow your work because I will have an
2 opinion or two, but the fact is I think all of
3 you have had that same life experience I have
4 had. And I think the opportunity you have is
5 so incredible at a time when we have a
6 president who is incredibly focused on our
7 community, who understands who we are as a
8 people, and who is very, very much dedicated
9 to making sure we make a difference.
10 He has done like I would have
11 done. He has given you an assignment. It has
12 a beginning, a middle and very soon end.
13 Because I have already been here over a year.
25 percent, almost
30 percent of this
15 administration is behind us. I am still
16 trying to get people confirmed to my assistant
17 secretary positions. We almost can already
18 see the end in sight.
19 That's not to say that this
20 administration might not extend into a second
21 term, but I think I want to look at it as all
22 the time in the world we have is these four


1 years, so we have to make it count. I am
2 delighted the president has given you an end,
3 if you will, so as to say we've got to get
4 this done, we need to hear what you think and
5 what you recommend so we can begin to then get
6 the wheels of this incredibly slow moving
7 federal bureaucracy to engage in what is a
8 transformation that is going to allow our
9 young people sitting back somewhere in Texas,
10 Florida, California, wherever they may live,
11 that need our help, so desperately do, to be
12 sure we do what we can for them.
13 On one hand, I wish I were with
14 you more frequently for your deliberations
15 but, on the other hand, I don't envy the large
16 responsibility that you have, because there
17 are so many young lives that are depending on
18 the work that you will do and the passion you
19 will bring to this, I think, very, very
20 important task.
21 So I just hope that the message I
22 can bring you is not only the measure of


1 importance of the task at hand but also the
2 fact that this ought to not be viewed as just
3 another study with fancy three-ring notebooks
4 that are going to be put in some shelves
5 somewhere.
6 I know what the President hopes.
7 I know what Secretary Paige would like to
8 have. I know I, as a member of this
9 administration, would like to have a firm,
10 good recommendation from you, what can we do
11 to turn this problem around. This is a unique
12 moment in history, a unique moment in time.
13 You have the opportunity to do it in a way
14 that no one has ever done it before. It may
15 set the standard for what is to come in the
16 years ahead for our young people.
17 I will say to you, find some
18 solutions to the problem. Let's find a way we
19 can do better by our children. The future of
20 our heritage in this country, I think, clearly
21 depends on it. I believe that every time --
22 let me just say, whenever I am asked to speak


1 at a school that has Hispanic kids that are
2 here as immigrants, I accept. I used to do
3 that in Orlando frequently. I have already
4 started it here.
5 I went to this high school not too
6 long ago in, I think, out in Fairfax,
7 Virginia. I still don't know my way around
8 too well. It is out there in Virginia
9 somewhere. This high school is taking young
10 men and women. They are not really children
11 anymore. They are in their
20s. They are
12 recent immigrants. They don't know the
13 language. They have been working at a little
14 odd job and are interested in finishing their
15 high school education. They are taking time
16 from their work to go to the school and try to
17 finish up their high school education, because
18 they know how important that is to their
19 future. Of course,
80 percent of them or more
20 were of Spanish heritage.
21 I got so excited having an
22 opportunity to speak to them. They were


1 listening in rapt attention at how someone who
2 was just like them at one time, sitting in a
3 classroom, not knowing why am I hear, where am
4 I, I don't know the language, I don't
5 understand these people, everything is
6 different, everything is odd, the school
7 system is not like the one I was used to, I
8 don't understand the teacher half the time,
9 but someone who had been in those same
10 circumstances, fast forward
5 or so years,
11 was now in the Cabinet of the President of the
12 United States. It meant so much to them that
13 I was there and they could sort of relate to
14 their lives and what their future might be.
15 And seeing the hope in their eyes
16 is the kind of thing I hope will drive you
17 because it is what drives me, the opportunity
18 to see these lives transformed by the
19 educational opportunities that we were blessed
20 to have, and that others of us that come next
21 to succeed in their lives should also have the
22 opportunity.


1 I wish you well. I commend you to
2 your work. And I hope your solutions will be
3 the ones that will transform the lives of
4 young people of this country that we represent
5 and that we have the responsibility for.
6 Thank you and God speed.
7 Questions?
8 MR. GARCIA: I am from Florida. I
9 am one of the seven members of the Florida
10 Board of Education, the only Hispanic.
11 Orlando still does not have an Hispanic on the
12 local board of education. Palm Beach County
13 just got its first Hispanic two weeks ago in
14 the district.
15 The reason that happened is
16 because there is a group now forming in
17 Florida, Republicans and Democrats, men and
18 woman from all over the state, loosely known
19 as the Florida Hispanic

00. The purpose of
20 that group, which I would hope replicates in
21 other states, is to focus on three things.
22 One is education. The second is to elevate


1 people doing good things, Hispanics in all
2 walks of life, so the citizens of Florida see
3 how important they are. Third is to empower.
4 So when a position opens up in an Orlando
5 school board because somebody steps down, the
6 people that have influence with the governor
7 pick up the phone and call the governor and
8 tell him how important it is for an Hispanic
9 to be appointed to a district where
20 percent
10 of the district are Hispanic.
11 I am a man of action, not words.
12 I would like to invite you as one of the
13 prominent Florideans in the Federal
14 Government, to be part of this group of men
15 and women to help Hispanic children move
16 forward in Florida.
17 SECT. MARTINEZ: After what I just
18 said, how can I say no? I will be delighted.
19 I understand the situation. Even more
20 shameful, they just reapportioned in Orlando
21 and Orange County the school board. They have
22 done it in such a way that it denied an


1 opportunity to
20 percent of the population in
2 Orange County to be represented on the school
3 board. Without representation on the school
4 board there is no pressure for there to be
5 Hispanic principals. There is no pressure to
6 recruit Hispanic teachers. There is no
7 pressure to have a superintendent. The whole
8 thing is just a house of cards, unfortunately.
9 Even at this point in time in history, Orange
10 County, Florida, reapportioned itself in such
11 a way as to deny Hispanic representation on
12 the school board. It is sad. I wish I had
13 time, still was down there, because I would
14 sure be raising hell.
15 I would be very honored. I didn't
16 know about it. I think that it is a wonderful
17 idea, a wonderful thing. I commend you for
18 it. I would be happy to help if I can.
19 MS. RAMOS: You said you don't
20 really have a feeling, one way or another,
21 about bilingual education at this point. In
22 your situation when you came, do you think it


1 would have been a hindrance or would have
2 helped you more had they had that, offered
3 that to you?
4 SECT. MARTINEZ: Let me say, what
5 I said, or meant to say, if I didn't say it
6 clearly enough, is that I have very strong
7 opinions about it. I defer to educators and
8 choose not to express them, usually. But I
9 will tell you since you asked me very
10 specifically.
11 I thought it was an incredible
12 help to me that I was thrown in that
13 classroom. I didn't understand a word for six
14 months but at the end of that time I could
15 speak to you now without an accent. When I
16 was
15 years of age I came to this country not
17 knowing a word of English and I have been able
18 to transform.
19 I believe, if I had to draw a
20 perfect scenario, I think for a short period
21 of time, as to language only, there should be
22 assistance to a new student just to acclimate.


1 But I think the time needs to be short. I
2 think at that point they need to be allowed to
3 be a part of the group and the world. I think
4 to segregate children in a place -- I have
5 gone to speak to them, to ESOL classes in
6 middle schools in Orange County, or whatever,
7 and you see these children that are all weird,
8 are all different, dress different, act
9 different, and they are not part of the school
10 life. They are the ones in special education
11 for children learning the language.
12 I think for a very short period of
13 time, so you can get your bearings, you can
14 begin to learn the language. Young people
15 learn the language skills very quickly. I
16 would say, give them a transitional, remedial
17 thing. That would have been charitable. I
18 think that would have been nice if I had had
19 that. More as a we-care-about-you sort of
20 coddling the children that they need than it
21 was because of anything it did for me. I felt
22 awfully abandoned when I was just in this

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President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans
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