September 13, 1988

Well, good afternoon. We're here today to commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Week, and I'd like to thank the White House Hispanic Heritage Week Host Committee for their help in making it possible. I'm delighted to see Governor Bob Martinez here today and Donna Alvarado of ACTION.

And I'm honored to welcome Colonel Gil Coronado [USAF]. Due to his efforts, we're not just here to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Week but to announce that in 1989 the period between September 15th and October 15th will be Hispanic Heritage Month. It's an honor well-deserved. And you can thank Colonel Coronado, who's been a stout defender of his Hispanic heritage and the United States of America. You know, Gil has so many medals and awards on his chest I'm amazed he can still stand up straight. [Laughter]

And among the civilians here, we have three honorees with us who are going to be celebrated this week, too: publisher Dr. Nicolas Kanellos, artist Orlando A.B., and master teacher Jaime Escalante. You know, if I were still in the movies, I would have loved to play Jaime in "Stand and Deliver.'' [Laughter] But at my age, they'd have to call it "Sit Down, Take a Load Off, and Deliver.'' [Laughter]

Yes, we gather to salute the Hispanic heritage. It's not only the heritage of these 19.4 million Americans of Spanish-speaking descent, it's part of my heritage, too, and my family's heritage and the heritage of every American as well. We have all been enriched by the contributions of Hispanics in every walk of American life. The Hispanic heritage is many and many things. It's the abrazo, the hearty and heartfelt greeting that binds the community together. It's the iglesia, a place for contemplation and confession and communion with God. It's the escuela, where children learn to understand the world around them. And most of all, it's the casa, the almost mystical center of daily life, where grandparents and parents and children and grandchildren all come together in the familia. As the great poet Octavio Paz has said: "In Hispanic morals, the true protagonist is the family.'' Well, there's a special intimacy here and a sense of continuity between past and future that is more precious than rubies.

These traditions are the bedrock of all Hispanic culture. They're what Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans and Cuban-Americans and all other Hispanics have in common. And they're traditions that suffuse the American experience as a whole. But I fear that too often, in the mad rush of modern American life, some people have not learned the great lesson of our Hispanic heritage: the lesson of family and home and church and community.

I want you all to know that in this administration George Bush and I have worked hard to support these bedrock traditions -- family and hope and church and community. We fought for the tax cuts that gave all Americans more of their own money to build a better future. We sponsored tax reform that removed an estimated 450,000 disadvantaged Hispanic families from the Federal income tax rolls. We've stood up for the principle that every child should have the right to say a prayer in school. We've seen to it that the violent criminals who prey on our community are given what they deserve -- a jail term instead of a slap on the hand.

And our commitment to the sanctity of the family is stronger today than it ever was. George has proposed an innovative measure to help families in need of child care assistance with a tax credit. Now, this will allow parents to choose among a variety of options if they need child care assistance. Like many Americans, Hispanic families often look to grandparents or other family members to help with their child care. Experts like Penelope Leach tell us what common sense always has: The best people to take care of children are family members. And that's the kind of care that George Bush's plan will help provide -- tender, loving, family care.

Now, compare this plan with the one offered by the liberals. They've written a bill that gives assistance not to the parent but to the person who provides the care. And why? Because they want to make sure that they have control over the kind of care your child receives. And that means if you want to leave your child with his grandmother during the day she will have to be licensed under Federal standards if she's to be given assistance for helping to raise her grandchild. Licensing grandmothers -- can you believe it? Well, I think it's terrible, and I don't think the American people are going to stand for it.

Instead of listening to these new and untried ideas about our children, I believe we should listen to the glorious traditions at work in Hispanic culture -- the tradition of caring for your own. Children are the future, and they deserve the best. And that's why education is so strong a part of Hispanic life and why you've been so stout in demanding that your children be given every opportunity to learn. In Texas your concerns led to the overhauling of an inefficient State school system, providing a model for the rest of the country to follow.

A prominent Texas educator will soon be America's leading educator -- Lauro Cavazos, my nominee for Secretary of Education. Dr. Cavazos is a living tribute to the Hispanic heritage, a model for Hispanics and all Americans to follow.

All America is becoming ever more aware of the contributions that Hispanics have made to American life, American culture, and America's destiny. The strength of your heritage gives you hope for your children. For, as someone once said, "If only we are faithful to our past, we shall not have to fear our future.''

Well, I hope that all of the Members of Congress who are present here have heard how bothersome those airplanes are, coming off of National [Airport]. [Laughter]

But thank you all, and until next year and Hispanic Heritage Month, God bless you all. And now I think I have some signing to do.

Note: The President spoke at 1:32 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to Gov. Robert Martinez of Florida and Donna M. Alvarado, Director of ACTION.