Politicos gather at Congressional Hispanic Leadership Inst Gala (VIDEO)

On Wednesday night the Newseum transformed into the center of the Latino political universe as Hispanics gathered at the Washington D.C.’s  establishment for the Seventh Annual Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) gala awards.

Latino leaders from across the country flocked to the sold out event. The diverse crowd of corporate leaders, Members of Congress, grassroots activists, Hill staffers and CHLI interns rubbed elbows while catching a spectacular view of the nation’s capitol as they waited for the official program to start honoring the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, and Cesar Conde, President of the Univision Network.

Members of Congress at the CHLI awards

CHLI — a non-profit organization created by conservative members of Congress, from both sides of the political aisle —  presented the International Leadership Award to the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón and its Corporate Leadership Award to Cesar Conde, President of Univision Networks. These awards are in recognition of their respective contributions to the positive advancement of the U.S. Hispanic Community, which is now the nation’s second largest demographic group, the largest minority according to 2010 Census results, and the second largest economic market with an estimated purchasing power of more than $1 trillion.

The first award was presented to Univisoin President, Ceaser Conde who gave a heartfelt speech as he accepted CHLI’s Corporate Leadership Award. Joined by his immigrant parents (from Peru and Cuba) and his wife, the young executive discussed the major accomplishments made by Univision Network during his tenure, including the first Presidential debates by a Spanish-language station, a nation wide education initiative – Es El Momento, a townhall with President Obama, growth of the network and much more.

Discussing the realities facing the growing Latino community, Conde emphasized that “Latino issues are American issues… When Hispanics succeed the US succeeds ….”

Cesar Conde is a role model for all Hispanics,” said Lincoln Díaz-Balart (FL), CHLI Board Chairman and former member of Congress.

Throughout the night thanks were given to the many dignitaries, elected officials and special guests in attendance. A special video presentation was shown promoting CHLI’s summer intern program for college students and highlighting the dozens of students, many of which were present at the gala dinner. Yet, the main event of the night was the presentation of the International Leadership Award to President Calderon.

The Mexican President gave a strong speech, easily switching from English to Spanish, about the shared history between the two countries North American nations – U.S.A. and Mexico. He said it would be impossible to imagine the prosperity of the United States without the vast contribution of the Hispanic community. From the Napa wine country to foreign battle fields, America’s Latino community has contributed to its success.

Watch and read the full speech of the Mexican President:

“We are honored to salute and recognize President Felipe Calderon of Mexico for his courageous fight for the rule of law in his country.  President Calderon has earned the admiration of all Hispanics,” said Lincoln Díaz-Balart (FL), CHLI Board Chairman and former member of Congress in an earlier statement. Past recipients of the award include President Ma Ying-jeou of the Republic of China (Taiwan), former Prime Minister of Spain Jose María Aznar, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert, Senator Robert Menéndez (NJ), former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), and U.S. Congressman Mike Pence.

One of the most interesting points of the night came during the introduction of President Calderon by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. The Congresswoman asked the Mexican President to change the policies of Mexico and end deportations of Cuba political exiles back to oppressive Cuba, especially in light of the recent death of Cuban dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto.

On a personal note, it was a great event. Seeing many dear friends from my Washington D.C. days. In 2002 I started working for Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart and found a working environment which was constantly challenging and fulfilling. The experience cemented my Republican ideology (especially after watching hours of bi-partisan floor debate). Congressman Diaz-Balart wanted to help young men and women move up in the world, and soon after he, along with various members of Congress, started CHLI. It’s great to see the growth of the organization and its continued positive impact in Washington DC and across the globe.

Mexican President Calderon and Me



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