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President Obama Speaks at the 39th Annual CHCI Public Policy Conference & Annual Awards Gala

President Obama Speaks at the 39th Annual CHCI Public Policy Conference & Annual Awards Gala


The President:
Buenas noches! (applause) It is always great
to be here, with one of the most festive — (applause) — maybe a
little wild — (applause) — caucuses in
Congress, especially to kick off Hispanic
Heritage Month. (applause) I want to thank
Michelle for her introduction, for
her leadership. And give it up for your
outstanding Chair, Congresswoman
Linda Sanchez. (applause) CHCI’s new
President and CEO, Domenica Lynch. (applause) And all the tremendous
public servants that we have here tonight,
especially everybody in the Congressional
Hispanic Caucus. “Amen” — is that
what I heard? (laughter) Amen. (laughter) Now, I’ve got to admit
that I am having trouble accepting
that this is my final trip here
as President. Audience: Aww — The President: But
on the bright side, Michelle is not having
trouble accepting it. (laughter) Audience Member:
We love you, Obama! The President:
I love you, too! (applause) But it is hard to believe
that it was eight years ago I came here as a
candidate for this office. And I had no gray hair. (laughter) I said that we could
create opportunity not just for those at the top,
but for everybody who was willing to work hard, so
that they could afford health care, and college,
and retirement, and give their kids a better life. What Sarah Palin called
“that hopey-changey stuff.” (laughter) Well, tonight,
I’m back here as President
to say thank you. (applause) Thank you for your
support, thank you for your friendship, thank
you for your tireless efforts to deliver
on that promise. (applause) Because for all the
places that we’ve fallen short, and for all the work
that remains to be done, I am back here tonight
more optimistic about the future of America
than I have ever been. And why not? Together, we fought our
way back from the worst recession in 80 years. We turned around an economic
freefall, we helped lift our auto industry to set new
records, our businesses create more than 15
million new jobs. Together, we declared
health care is not a privilege for a few, but
a right for everybody. (applause) And we have secured
health insurance for another 20 million
Americans, including 4 million Hispanic
Americans. (applause) Our high school
graduation rate is at an all-time high. More Hispanic students
are graduating high school and college
than ever before. (applause) We strengthened our
relationship with Mexico and Central
America, and opened up a new chapter with
the people of Cuba. (applause) We brought nearly 200
nations together around a climate agreement that
could save our planet. (applause) We affirmed that
love has no limits, and marriage equality is
now the law of the land. (applause) Just this week, we
discovered how much our efforts are starting
to pay off in ways that really matter to
American families. Audience Member:
Thanks, Obama! The President:
Thanks, Obama! (laughter and applause) We learned that
last year, across every race,
across every age group in America, incomes
rose and poverty fell. (applause) The typical household
income grew by about $2,800 — which
is the single-biggest one-year increase
on record. We lifted 3.5 million
people out of poverty, the largest one-year
drop since 1968. (applause) The number of Americans
without health insurance continues to fall. And in each of these areas,
Latino Americans made some of the largest gains —
the fastest income growth. The biggest drop in
the poverty rate. The greatest gains in
insurance coverage. That’s why, all in all,
Hispanic families are feeling more optimistic
about their prospects today than they did
eight years ago. (applause) By so many measures,
our country is stronger and more prosperous
than it was when we started this journey together. And we couldn’t have
done it without the Congressional
Hispanic Caucus, who has been with me
every step of the way. Now, none of
this was easy. There were some
tough years in there. You had fiscal showdowns
and government shutdowns, and pandemics and oil
spills, and pirates. Ya’ll remember
the pirates? (laughter and applause) I mean, the only thing
we haven’t had to deal with is, like, the
asteroid or aliens. (laughter) Audience Member:
Don’t jinx us! The President: That’s
true, good point. (laughter) (President knocks
on wood podium) Shouldn’t have
mentioned the aliens. (laughter and applause) But we overcame all that. We overcame all that, and
most of all, we proved that change doesn’t happen
overnight, it doesn’t happen in one term, it
doesn’t happen even over the course of
one presidency, but change is possible. Progress is possible. Audience Member:
Si, se puede! The President: Si, se puede. (applause) We’re here again tonight
because we know that we’ve got more work to
do, but we know that if we put in the effort,
change can happen. You know firsthand
the challenges we still face —
challenges that often affect the Latino
community harshly. When governors refuse
to expand Medicaid, that hits Latinos
harder than most. When folks block
an increase in the minimum wage or refuse
to expand paid family leave, that hurts the
pocketbooks of millions of Hispanic families. So we’ve got to make sure
this recovery reaches all Americans. We’ve got to help
more students not just get to college,
but finish college. (applause) We’ve got to reform our
criminal justice system, and we’ve got to
protect our children from the madness
of gun violence. (applause) And yes, we’ve got
to finally make meaningful, effective
immigration reform a reality in
this country. (applause) Now, I’m proud of the
executive actions I’ve taken to
modernize our system. I’m proud of the work we’ve
done to help show more than 740,000 DREAMers that the
country they grew up in — the country they love —
believes that they are worthy of this country’s
blessings, just like your kids, just like my kids. (applause) But if we’re truly
going to fix this broken system, then we’re
going to have to push back against bluster and
falsehoods and promises of higher walls. We need a comprehensive
solution that works for our families and our
businesses; that grows our economy and
enhances our culture. We need an approach that
upholds our tradition as a nation of immigrants
and a nation of laws. And it is possible
to do that. It’s possible to insist on
a lawful and orderly system while still seeing students
and their hardworking parents not as criminals,
not as rapists, but as families who came here
for the same reasons that all immigrants
came here — to work and to learn and to
build a better life. (applause) And look, throughout
this political season, the talk around
these issues has cut deeper than
in years past. It’s a little
more personal. It’s a little meaner,
a little uglier. And folks are betting that
if they can drive us far enough apart, and if
they can put down enough of us because of where
we come from or what we look like or what
religion we practice, then that may pay
off at the polls. But I’m telling you
that’s a bet they’re going to lose. (applause) We’ve seen this
kind of ugliness and anger and vitriol before. That kind of politics
sometimes may carry the day in the short term — I know
that there are a lot of folks who had this notion
of what the “real America” looks like, and somehow it
only includes a few of us. But who is going to decide
who the real America is? (applause) Who is to determine
that in this nation of immigrants, in a
nation where, unless you are a Native American,
you came here from somebody —
someplace else — (applause) — that you have a greater
claim than anybody here? So we can’t let that
brand of politics win. And if we ban together
and if we organize our communities, if we
deliver enough votes, then the better angels of
our nature will carry the day, and progress
will happen. But it’s going to
take all of us. This is not something that
a President can do alone. It’s not something the next
President will be able to do alone either, no
matter how tough she is. (applause) So we’ve got to work
to get a Congress that’s willing to act
on immigration reform. That means we need more
than just the people in this room tonight —
we’re going to need some fresh faces under
the Capitol Dome. It’s going to take work
on all of our parts. And I have faith, because
over these last eight years, every time I’ve fallen
short, every time I’ve faced doubts or been
taught a tough lesson or experienced a loss,
what got me through has been you. You’ve picked me up. CHC has picked me up. (applause) It’s knowing that I’ve
got allies like Linda and Rubén and Charlie and
Nydia fighting tooth and nail on the Hill and
back in your home states, even on tough votes. It’s knowing that
you’re fostering the next generation of
leaders, including more than 40 of your former
fellows that have helped lead the way in my
administration. (applause) It’s knowing you’re
giving folks like Diego Quiñones a chance. Where’s Diego? (applause) Is Diego here? There he is, back there. So when Diego was seven
years old, Diego moved to Arkansas from Mexico
with his parents. And his dad took a job
repairing and building wooden pallets, which
is a lot of hard work — calloused hands. A few years later, his dad
opened up his own business. So Diego was waking up at
5 a.m., and loading and unloading pallets by hand,
working every weekend through high school. And his family didn’t
have a lot of money, but they had belief,
faith in America. Because as he says —
and I’m quoting here — “If you come here and
work hard, eventually you will succeed.” And today, thanks to
DACA, Diego’s the first in his family to
graduate from college. (applause) And now he’s a
fellow here at CHCI. (applause) And one day he hopes to go
into government himself, and make things
better not just for Latino kids like him, but
“for every single person in the United States.” (applause) It’s young people like
that that keep me going — folks who prove that
immigrants aren’t somehow changing the
American character; immigrants are the
American character. (applause) That’s who we are. It’s the DREAMers
full of optimism. The moms and dads
working long hours to give their kids
a better shot. The entrepreneurs who
came here to start new businesses and put
Americans to work. The teachers and the
nurses and the lawyers who wake up at the crack
of dawn to get ahead. And the folks who
clean up after us. And the folks who care
for our grandparents. (applause) The folks who are
so proud of this country that they carry
a pocket Constitution in their breast pocket. (applause) That’s the
America I know. (applause) That’s the America
I believe in more strongly than ever. So thank you for
picking me up every step of the way. Thank you for making
this country great. We’ve got more
work to do. But we will keep on
making progress and create a brighter
future for everybody in this country we love. Si, se puede. Thank you. (applause) Thank you, CHCI. God bless you. God bless the United
States of America. Thank you. (applause)

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