"Our relationship has been quite intense for a long time," Mr. Cisneros said. "USHLI is the most impressive Latino organization in the country in terms of mobilizing young people. Since the late 1980s, I have observed Juan Andrade's efforts to develop young people by recruiting them from around the nation to leadership development courses and literally as many as 10,000 young people at some meetings."
Gaddi Holguin Vasquez, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, in Rome, Italy, and the first person of Hispanic descent to head the Peace Corps, also has been a guest speaker at USHLI's conferences. He fondly remembers that Cesar Chavez was being honored at the first conference he attended.
"I was overtaken by the level of participation, the level of enthusiasm and energy and taken by the amazing leadership of Juan Andarade, who has had an amazing journey in life, but also the fact that he has maintained this organization and taken it to some real levels of accomplishment," Mr. Vasquez shared. "One of the great dynamics of USHLI is the fact that it brings young people of all ages together with role models and mentors and individuals who are leaders in their own right to share their experience, to inspire and motivate them to dream big dreams."
Hopeful, but Not Satisfied
Since 2000, USHLI has published four editions of The Almanac of Latino Politics. It's a comprehensive survey and analysis of national Latino voting patterns and trends, plus a detailed survey of Latino voter registration, voter turnout and voting behavior in all presidential elections since 1976.
"It's referred to as the bible of Latino politics," Mr. Andrade said.
For Mr. Vasquez, the almanac helps celebrate the fact that Hispanics have made substantial progress and "that's evident as recently as this election," he said. "Our vote is the ultimate equalizer. It doesn't matter where you sit on the social economic ladder in American society. At the end of the day when you step into that ballot box, you are an American citizen casting a vote," Mr. Vasquez said.
For Mr. Gonzalez, maintaining the organization's grass-roots effort is key and one he intends on holding true to.
"People have a tendency to focus on the presidential election. Well, the reality is where you get better schools, better sanitation, better quality of life for you and your family is local politics and so a grass-roots strategy is what makes sense," he said. "(People at the local level) are the ones with the enthusiasm, passion and compassion, and the work ethic to get things done."
With the recent 2010 election, the United States saw the first Hispanic female become a state governor, but Mr. Andrade still isn't satisfied. A recipient of the Presidential Medal--one of only two Hispanics to receive the honor--Andrade plans to continue his efforts to promote leadership within that Hispanic community.
"We're still seriously underrepresented. There are still cities that are trying to elect their first (Hispanic) city council member and school board," he said. "We should be electing second-generation members of city council. I'm not satisfied at all, but we know what we do works but it's going to take a lot more work and we're going to need more help in getting the job done."
Considering he was working in the fields at age 4, during a time when the government made it nearly impossible for his father to vote in America, he has come a long way and brought with him new generations of Hispanic leaders.
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