Influentials, 2009 --> If recent trends in Washington, D.C. are any indication, it's been a breakthrough year for Hispanics across America.
President Barack Obama, this nation's first African-American elected to the nation's highest office, has appointed a record number of Hispanics to key administration positions. Of his first 300 such nominations, 11 percent have been Hispanic – doubling President George W. Bush's record of 5.5 percent.
This year's most high-profile Hispanic nominee was Sonia Sotomayor, who became the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice when she was confirmed this summer. Others also include Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, two members of President Obama's 15-member Cabinet.
But the President isn't the only person bringing more Hispanics to D.C. – the United States electorate is, too. The 111th Congress boasts more Hispanic members than ever.
Due to these historic events, this year's annual listing of 100 influential Hispanic Americans, HispanicBusiness Magazine spotlights Washington D.C., which is in the vanguard of change.
This year's list includes 30 influential dignitaries from our nation's capital, reflecting a broad range of talent from a wide array of endeavors. They include elected Congressmen and presidential Cabinet selections in addition to prominent professors, Census officials, lawyers, lobbyists and ambassadors.
The other 70 luminaries were selected from various disciplines: the corporate world, information technology, health care, education, the media and other areas. This year's list even includes an astronaut who brought a Puerto Rican flag with him during his trip to the International Space Station in March.
But for all the historic leaps of late, there is still more progress to be made.
A decade ago, Hispanic elected officials occupied only a dozen seats in Congress. Today they number 27.
Yet, Hispanics remain underrepresented in Washington. At roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population, the Hispanic demographic is the largest minority group in America. But Hispanic elected officials make up just 6 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives. And only one Hispanic member – Robert Menendez (D-NJ) – sits in the 100-member Senate.
"If our job was done I'd be out of business," joked Arturo Vargas, executive director of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). "Each of these milestones is a major step on a journey we are taking for a destination that is a ways away."
Just as a trickle leads to a stream, trailblazers – who serve as role models – lead the way for the next generation by breaking down barriers and exploring new directions for them to follow.
Legions of future lawyers, for instance, will no doubt be inspired by the story of Sonia Sotomayor, the daughter of a single mother in the Bronx who earned an undergraduate scholarship at Princeton and obtained her law degree at Yale. By the time President Obama nominated her to the high court, Judge Sotomayor had more experience as a federal judge than any other Supreme Court candidate in 100 years.
Role models for a new generation also include President Obama's two cabinet picks: Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, both pioneers in their own right.
Before becoming the nation's second-ever Hispanic Secretary of Interior, Secretary Salazar had already been a groundbreaking political leader in several prominent positions in Colorado. In 2005, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, joining Florida's Mel Martinez as the first Hispanic members to serve in the nation's most respected legislative body since 1977.
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