I am excited to host next week the first Hispanic Leadership Summit ever convened by We Are All Human. It will focus on one question: What unites us? At the Summit, more than 350 participants will join me as we work together to answer that question in an effort to define how we move forward as one community.
In my opinion, our success depends on five keys.
(1) Recognizing that the time is now for unifying.
Not two years from now. Not in ten. Now. Latinos in America have never been stronger or more relevant. We account for more than 18.1% of the U.S. population, $2.13 trillion of GDP, 46% of employment growth, and, by 2020, 31.5 million voters. And we’re the youngest majority in America.
You know this. But many of your Hispanic and Latinx brothers and sisters across the country do not, and it’s a knowledge gap that we must correct if we’re going to realize our potential as one U.S. Hispanic and Latinx community.
As our 2018 Hispanic Sentiment Study showed, 77% of Hispanics are often surprised to hear of the many business and education accomplishments of their community. The fact that so much has been accomplished is the result of decades of hard work and dedication by you, the Hispanic leaders, that I pay tribute to.
Imagine what will happen when the majority of our community begins to appreciate how far we have come and how important we are to America’s future. When we begin to understand and internalize this, we begin the journey of realizing our potential.
(2) Appreciating we have a distinct window of opportunity before us.
There will be a presidential election in 2020. The U.S. economy’s current strength won’t last forever. All of this suggests our window of opportunity is now and that we must begin to act with urgency.
First, our young people, meaning Latinos under the age of 25, are getting disillusioned and less optimistic versus their first-generation counterparts, as their confidence in the American Dream has wavered and as they have begun to question whether their vote is valued. We should do whatever we can to prevent that kind of pessimism if we want a strong American middle-class and a vibrant U.S. Hispanic community. Traditionally, America’s younger generations have been it's most optimistic, but we cannot take that kind of optimism for granted, including within our Hispanic and Latinx community.
So, if you desire to have an impact on the 2020 elections, or on future legislation, act now — harnessing the influence, connections, intelligence and energy of our community, so we have the right issues and the right opportunities for representation identified and supported. The link between Hispanic priorities and American priorities needs to be made, but it won’t be established overnight. We can’t miss this chance.
(3) Having the courage to address what gets in the way of our potential.
In my heart, I know we are ready to have our place at the table, to be seen and to be heard, to get the respect we deserve for our contributions to America, as one community and with one voice. But it means overcoming some of our weaknesses, so we can harness our strengths.
This begins by understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats. That we are better when we rely on each other. We need to bust the bubble where we are now. Inside the bubble, we feel our own little world, as defined by our own personal perspective, be it Mexican, Cuban, Colombian, etc. And there’s no room for anyone else as the air feels limited. But if we bust the bubble, we will find that there’s unlimited air to breathe for all and that everyone can have a place in the table of American success.
I’m sure that if asked, every Hispanic would say they are ready to focus beyond our differences if it means that we will be paid equally and not at half of the rate of the rest of the country, that we will be represented in government, and that we will get rid of the stereotypes in which Latinx are portrayed in the media. And they would also say they’re ready to work hard for this country that we love.
It’s time for Hispanics to talk to Hispanics about the beauty of Hispanics. We need Hispanic leaders to step forward and speak up not only about our strength but also about our need to unify, about the imperative of not focusing on our differences but on our similarities in order for all of us to do better. We need to stop thinking in 26 different origins to start thinking in ONE, one powerful community. We need to change that 77% of Hispanics not knowing their own power to 50% and then to 30% and then zero.
(4) Believing our goals our achievable.
Even if you have been cynical at some point and rolled your eyes thinking that we have heard far too long that the sleeping giant will wake up and roar, and wonder if it will ever happen. Even if you are skeptical and think that Hispanics will never support each other as we are simply too different from each other. Or that we will never sing from the same song sheet and will not find a common goal to fight for. Or that the “rich” Hispanics have nothing to do with the others and don’t ever mix. Or that we will forever be elbowing each other, and that once you “made it” you never turn around and forget you are Hispanic. Well, I say we have to break those myths.
Through my career as a humanitarian, working on global affairs, I have learned that ambitious goals cannot be achieved by one single sector of society and that we have to work with people from all walks of life to make change. And that to get all parts involved, it is essential to have a shared agenda, common goals that we all agree on and that are the catalysts for true change. And let me reassure you: I have witnessed change, transformation and progress. It is p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e. I’m not only being optimistic, I’m being a possibilistic, because it is achievable.
When I was working on HIV/AIDS there were a lot of really important efforts, but extremely fragmented. Religious leaders were sheltering people while maintaining a posture against the distribution of condoms. Advocates were tying themselves to congressman’s desks, lobbying against hiring policies that required the disclosure of one’s HIV status. So many individual efforts were underway and we were still losing the fight. People were dying every day. Donors were getting tired of funding with no results and the stigma was growing. It was only when all the different parts, from religious leaders to politicians to non-profits got together to discuss what were the three things that they could do together to change the future of millions of people that things did actually change.
You have seen those transformations yourself too. The LGBT community rallied together to fight for marriage rights. In the process, they became a community that went from being invisible and cautious, knowing their very identity could be detrimental to their career, to being proud and even probably being more likely to be promoted because of it.
(5) Accepting this invitation to act.
I would like to offer my experience and provide a neutral platform for Hispanic leaders to get together and create a common dream. The Hispanic Leadership Summit aims to set the fundamentals of this creation. We’re setting its foundations, to have a vision 2020 with three objectives that we all share and agree on. We’ll decide together what they’ll be and we’ll convene again, in 2019, to see what each of us has done to achieve them.
Ninety percent of Hispanics, according to the Hispanic Sentiment Study, said that they identify with Hispanic values, they feel Hispanic. It gives me hope because the jump between feeling Hispanic and acting as a Hispanic community is not that big. It is feasible. Let’s all be possibilistic about our future.
I’m inviting all of you to step forward. It’s time to unify. Unidos we are strong. If this calling appeals to you, join us. We need all of us to change our destiny together.