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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks by Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor
CHCI Awards Gala Acceptance Speech
September 14, 2011
Washington, DC

Good evening everyone! Buenas noches!

Thank you, CHCI!

And thank you, Charlie for that wonderful introduction and for giving me this incredible honor tonight. I was in San Antonio last week and I can tell you that the people there are so proud of you and your work on behalf of our community. So Charlie, for your leadership and for all that you do, muchisimas gracias!

Distinguished colleagues, amigos y amigas, I am honored to be here with you.

This award has special meaning to me. CHCI has meant so much to me and to so many people. As a former member of Congress, a member of the CHCI board and certainly now as Labor Secretary, I've had the unique privilege to grow alongside this organization and to see first-hand the incredible progress it has made not only for our Latino youth, but for our community and for our nation as a whole.

I thought about that progress last Thursday as President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act before Congress. I was honored to have a seat in the front row. The President spoke a lot about choices that night — "real choices about the country we want to be."

Sitting there, I thought about my parents and about their choice to come to this country in search of a better life — a choice I know many of your parents made as well. They believed that America offered a promise of opportunity. To them, this country was a place where hard work and loyalty were rewarded with a livable wage, good benefits and a spot in the middle class. They taught me that if you did the right thing, you could make it — anybody could make it in America.

That's what I heard from the President last week — a bold plan, with ideas from both sides of the aisle that honors hard work and will help secure the promise of this country for generations to come.

We know that our American family will only be as strong as our growing Latino community.

That's why the President is offering tax cuts that will benefit hundreds of thousands of small Latino businesses so that we can hire veterans, the long-term unemployed and Latino youth who want to get off the streets and into good jobs.

And it's why he's fighting to extend unemployment insurance which will benefit more than 1 million Latinos — and why he's fighting to expand the payroll tax cut which will benefit 25 million more.

We know that 2 million construction workers — many of them Latino — have lost their jobs since the start of the recession. The American Jobs Act invests billions to revitalize vulnerable communities — rebuilding our schools, bridges, highways, homes and businesses. There's work to be done. These workers are ready to do it.

For them, for our children, and for the broader pace of our economic recovery, Congress must pass this bill and they must pass it now!

So friends, President Obama is right. We do have some real choices to make about the country we want to be. And in the coming weeks, Congress will have to decide whether America is still a nation that keeps the promise our parents passed down to us — or a nation that erodes it.

You can help inform that decision. We need you to lift your voices in your workplaces, at your churches and to your elected officials. And not just about creating jobs. We need your voices to pass immigration reform, and to once and for all pass the DREAM Act for millions of young people in this country!

We need build a movement for change outside of Washington, one our opponents cannot stop. One that's greater than this community. One with ganas!

I know we can do that. That's what CHCI is all about. And that's what I'm all about.

We're a people that look out for one another. We rise and we fall as one community — as one nation. We're a people who will do whatever it takes to make sure our children have the opportunities that our parents gave us — better opportunities than they gave us.

That's what binds us together. And that's why this honor means so much to me.

CHCI: For more than 30 years of securing the promise of this country for Latinos everywhere, thank you.  Muchisimas gracias y Si Se Puede. .