The Heritage of a Better Future
In the lives of the 41.3 million Hispanics who live in the United States, there was a moment when each one, or someone in their families, made a decision to pack bags, leave his or her land and head out on a new path.
It’s an act of courage. It takes more than a little effort for someone to break away from family, friends and a known environment, to set out to a new land to begin again. It’s not an easy task to go back to square one, to set a new foundation and build a life from scratch.
There is sacrifice. There’s an enormous cost of packing memories and bidding farewell to loved ones until a long next time before you see them again. It is a simultaneous act of detachment from yesterday in favor of tomorrow. And this is what also makes it an act of optimism. The journey to this country, our nation of immigrants, is a step of faith.
That step demonstrates hope in God and a better future, which sustains an immigrant through the tough times. This hope drives him to learn, to plant roots, to work hard; and to grow. These shared values connect the immigrants of today with the settlers who established Jamestown and Plymouth nearly 400 years ago, and those who have been coming ever since. I believe that America continues to be the greatest nation on earth largely because of this constant renewal.
This is what the Hispanic heritage is about: it’s about handing down values like those described above. It involves passing down different elements of a rich and vibrant culture, but as Hispanics know, it’s also about transferring opportunities.
President Bush believes in the equality of opportunity, and has taken measures to extend the “promise of America” to everyone. With the help of Congress, the President has increased the budget for elementary and high school education by 48 percent since 2001. Parents now have options regarding the educational future of their children and resources to complement their instruction with tutoring and other reinforcements if necessary. Around the country, Hispanic children have improved their scores in reading and math, narrowing the achievement gap between themselves and their peers.
More doors are opening up for Hispanics to reach their potential and develop their enterprising spirit. Last year the U.S. Small Business Administration surpassed its lending record with entrepreneurs of Hispanic origin. Today more than 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses fuel the American economy. In five years since 1997, Hispanic-owned small businesses increased by 31 percent and their receipts increased 22 percent, to $ 226.5 billion.
Similarly Hispanics are becoming home owners in larger numbers than ever before. The Census Bureau reported Hispanic homeownership hit a record 49.7 percent in the first quarter of this year. Nearly half of Hispanic families have reached home in the fullest sense of the word. More will.
So this September, when we celebrate the many contributions of Hispanics, we celebrate also the inheritance of the better future they have found here. How very American that is. ¡Congratulations!