2012 Hispanic Heritage Month Award Ceremony Keynote Speaker:
Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrates 24 years at Stony Brook
Hispanic and Latino Americans have made distinguished contributions to the United States in all major fields, such as the military, music, literature, philosophy, sports, business and economy, science and politics. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination and confirmation as the first Hispanic American appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States is a source of pride for all Latinos. Latinos this year are also at the forefront of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and Department of Labor.
These victories are important because large challenges loom ahead for us especially in the area of immigration reform and the anti-Latino bias that is associated with that issue. Two national reforms would translate our numbers into political influence; The Democracy Restoration Act that would restore voting rights in federal elections to Latino American citizens returning to their communities from incarceration and the Voter Registration Modernization Act which will automate and expand voter registration to millions of eligible Latino Americans and simplify the voting process.
Our accomplishments are not the culmination of our journey, but rather an important mile marker along the way. This year’s theme was chosen to commemorate not only the striking advancements made by Latinos but to point out that by increasing political awareness and education today, success is inevitable tomorrow. Let us all use our potential to make great gains for our communities and our country in 2013.
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402. The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.