Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi Remarks to Second Annual Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

May 15, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke this morning to the Second annual Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. Below are her remarks:

"Buenos días! Gracias.

"Reverend Martinez, for your kind introduction; Reverend Luis Cortés, for the invitation to be here and for your tremendous leadership on behalf of Hispanic Americans; Members of Congress; and, all the pastors from across the country, including those who traveled so far from California and the Bay Area.

"Thank you for such a warm welcome, but even more for your compassion and your saving help to so many Hispanic Americans who look to you for what they need most – nueva esperanza. Muchas gracias.

"I bring the greetings of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. There are more Hispanics serving in the House of Representatives today than at any time in American history. This includes Congressman Silvestre Reyes and and Congressman Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Democratic Caucus - the first Latino in history elected to the Leadership in Congress. I want you to know that being here means a great deal to me personally. I have been blessed in my life with the example of men and women whose lives of service were rooted in their deep and abiding faith.

"Among them was Father Miguel Vega, former pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Los Angeles. A decade ago, after Proposition 187 threatened California’s Hispanic community, Father Vega organized churches and community groups cross the country – perhaps some of your congregations – to help Hispanic immigrants become American citizens.

"And when Father Vega ran up against the federal bureaucracy, those of us in the California delegation worked with him to go over the federal bureaucracy – right to the Vice President of the United States. And as a result, tens of thousands of Hispanic immigrants became Hispanic Americans and today are full and active citizens of this nation of immigrants.

"That is the difference a single individual can make. That is the difference each of you are making every day. Father Vega said, 'It’s time for our people to have a voice.' For so many Hispanic Americans, those of you in this room are their voice.

"As we say in California – where one in three of our neighbors is Hispanic – the beauty of America is in the mix. Diversity is our pride. And diversity is our strength. Indeed, Hispanics now comprise the largest minority group in the nation.

"But your influence flows not just from your numbers. It flows from your tremendous contribution to every part of American society – economically, politically, and culturally.

"Your commitment to community and family, your values and faith, are woven through the fabric of our nation. You reinvigorate the American Dream and strengthen the ties that bind us as a people.

"In recent weeks, Americans have been reminded that the qualities that define our national character – faith, family and love of country – are the values we share, regardless of history or heritage.

"In the war in Iraq, Hispanic Americans served their country with distinction. I visited with some of them at Bethesda Naval Hospital where they were recovering from their wounds. They are an inspiration. Anything the rest of us do or say for freedom seems so small compared to their willingness to give the last full measure of their devotion.

"Other Hispanic Americans made the ultimate sacrifice. Their names form a roll of honor; names like Garibay, Gonzalez, Martinez-Flores, Menusa, Padilla-Ramirez, Suarez and Tejeda.

"And in their last letters home, we have been moved by their faith – in each other, in their country, and in God. Army Private First Class Diego Fernando Rincon – an immigrant from Colombia and one of ten non-citizens to sacrifice their lives for a country that was not yet their own – wrote to his mother: I 'try to keep the faith and pray for better days.' 'I believe God has a path for me.'

"Marine Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, an immigrant from Guatemala, told his American foster mother: 'I don’t know what it is. But I know God has me in this world because there is something special that I’m going to do.'

"In their deaths, Private First Class Rincon and Lance Corporal Gutierrez were granted the citizenship they deserved. I pledge to you today: Democrats in Congress will work to make it easier and faster for immigrants serving in our Armed Forces to become citizens of the country that they defend every day.

"Today, we pray for our forces and their families. And we resolve to let their service remind us of our mission as a nation – to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

"That future starts with you because you hear the prayer of the poor. You know the struggles that too many Americans face every day in finding and keeping a job in affording a home and health care in keeping kids in school in keeping neighborhoods safe and healthy.

"As a nation, we can ensure, as the Bible says, 'the needy shall not always be forgotten and [that] the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.'

"We can build an America that reflects who we are – a nation that is diverse in heritage and faith but united in our values and ideals.

"We can build a safe and prosperous America with good jobs and good wages; a strong, vibrant economy; and quality education and health care for our children.

"We can give everyone in this nation the opportunity to realize the American Dream – whether they have been here for generations or just arrived to our shores.

"Thank you for giving so many Hispanic Americans nueva esperanza.

"Thank you being here in Washington to help build the future we all want.

"God bless you and your ministries. And God bless the United States of America."


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