Friday, July 17, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor LULAC Rally Speech of Secretary Kenneth McClintock!

Sonia Sotomayor LULAC Rally keynote address

By Kenneth D. McClintock

Secretary of State

United States Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Madame President, Mrs. Zoraida Fonalledas, former Senator José Garriga-Picó…Someone just announced that Sonia Sotomayor’s family members are running late. Actually, today, we are all Sonia Sotomayor’s family, whether we live in Barrio San Antonio in Aguadilla or the city of San Antonio in the state of Texas---Somos Familia!

496 years after Puerto Rico’s first Governor, Juan Ponce de León, reached the shores of La Florida to become the first European to discover what would once become the continental United States and had been discovered by Native Americans long before…233 years after 56 men risked their “vidas” and their “haciendas” to declare that Britain’s colonies in America, which included citizens who still spoke Dutch, German, Spanish and French better than they spoke English, citizens who practiced different religions, and citizens who lived in distinct agricultural, urban or industrial communities, would thereafter be a separate nation defined, not by geography, or language, or climate, or religion but by common values set forth in a Declaration of Independence…

222 years after those 13 former colonies agreed to establish a common national government, a republic with three separate and equal branches that would bring stability to the post-colonial experiment begun eleven years before…164 years after the United States of America began annexing lands populated by Hispanos…Seven-score and six years after that nation abolished slavery in the midst of the bloodiest and most painful of wars, a civil war…

111 years after that nation added and retained a Spanish-speaking territory, Puerto Rico…

97 years after our nation has at least six states it names in Spanish---California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Nevada and Nuevo México,…48 years after a President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, appointed Reynaldo Garza as the first Hispanic Federal District Court Judge...

30 years after another President, Jimmy Carter, made Judge Garza the first Hispanic to sit as a Federal Circuit Court Judge28 years after President Ronald Reagan appointed the first female member of the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor…President Barack Obama, the first man of color in the Oval Office, has appointed the third female, and first Hispanic, to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor…

As a puertorriqueño I feel a great pride, un gran orgullo, that Puerto Rican blood flows through Sonia Sotomayor’s veins, the same blood that Puerto Ricans have shed for our nation in every war from the First World War to Afghanistan.As residents of the Bronx or citizens of New York, many of you feel the same orgullo that Sonia was born in your borough, in your city and in your state.As Hispanos, whether we live in East L.A., toil the fields in Idaho, live near the border in Tejas, Nuevo Méjico or Arizona, whether we hail from México, Cuba, Sur América, Centroamérica or el Caribe, we should all feel proud that one of our own has finally been selected to sit in the highest court of the land.

She is Hispana, but will not judge us as a Hispanic. She is Puerto Rican, but she will not be there to decide on the basis of any particular Puerto Rican perspective. She is a New Yorker, that state of so many colors, religions and cultures, but she’s not there to favor her home state. She is a woman, but she’s not there to tilt the balance in favor of her gender.Sonia Sotomayor is an American and she’s going to America’s Supreme Court to follow America’s Constitution, to look after the rights of every American, whether black or white, Latino or Oriental, male or female, Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist, straight or gay, Democrat or Republican.There are still a few fellow Americans that can’t get used to the idea that while all men and women are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we are all equal but can never be exactly the same.

For 34 years, only older people sat on the Supreme Court until President Madison appointed 32-year old Joseph Story to sit among justices many years his senior.For nearly 190 years, only white men sat on the Supreme Court, until Thurgood Marshall stepped away from the plaintiff’s lectern and rose to sit on the bench as the first of two African-American justices.

For nearly 200 years, only men, white or black, sat on our highest Bench, until Sandra Day O’Connor broke the gender barrier.This year, 222 years after our Constitution was drafted, Sonia Sotomayor is poised to become our 111th American, the third woman and the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court of this nation.A nation of over 311 million people, over 150 million of which are women, and over 50 million of which are Hispanics.Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee, a committee composed of 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans, 17 men and only 2 women, and none of the Senate’s two Hispanics, begins hearings on Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.Today, the rubber meets the road. For months, opposition research has scrutinized every breath she’s taken, every document she’s written, every thought that has crossed her mind and they’ve found zilch, nothing, ¡nada!

Today, the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee can begin to unify this nation, proudly assuring this nation, Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike, that Sonia Sotomayor is qualified to sit where John Marshall, Thurgood Marshall, Franfurter, Earl Warren and Sandra Day O’Connor have sat.Today, each member of that Judiciary Committee has to choose between using this confirmation process to divide a nation that needs no more division or turn this into an opportunity to help this nation mature, grow and become more united.

Today, the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have the golden opportunity to restate that all Men and Women are created equal and that we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights, that Sonia Sotomayor’s life has been devoted to protect the liberty of all Americans in their pursuit of happiness, regardless of race, color, creed or ethnic background.

¡Que viva Sonia Sotomayor!And may God bless America and all Americans, from Alaska to the Virgin Islands, from Maine to Guam, including Hispanic American leaders meeting here today in America’s Shining Star in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico.

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