William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
September 21, 2011

[See photos of this event]

Thank you, Carmen. I truly am honored to be with all of you today in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and to introduce our guest speaker, María Elena Salinas.

I am delighted to have this chance to honor the achievements of the 50 million Hispanics who live in the United States today, and the Latin culture from Santiago to South Beach that enriches all of our lives.

As someone who, nearly thirty years ago, entered a State Department far less diverse than the one we have today, it is a special pleasure to recognize the over 1,000 Hispanic Americans now working here, not to mention the thousands more across the federal government. In the State Department, this includes top officials like Undersecretary of State Maria Otero, Assistant Secretary Jose Fernandez, and Special Envoy for Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual. It includes civil rights heroes-turned-Ambassadors Raúl Yzaguirre in the Dominican Republic, Vilma Martínez in Argentina, and Carmen Lomellin, our Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

And it includes Foreign Service, Civil Service, and locally employed U.S. citizens of Hispanic heritage who are representing the United States with great distinction and advancing American diplomacy each and every day around the world.

All through our national life—in government, the private sector and civil society—people of Hispanic ancestry are building bridges to countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. They are helping to construct the prosperous and secure hemisphere that people throughout the Americas want and deserve, and that represents the highest goal of U.S. policy in the region.

We are determined to have a Department that represents and reflects America and makes the most of the talents of all of our citizens. I want to thank the Hispanic Employees Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies for all of your work: the mentoring, the counseling, and the campus and career fair visits to find the best and brightest and bring them here to serve our country. You haven’t just heeded the call for a more diverse State Department, you have led the charge.

We believe in the importance of Latin America and the Caribbean and we believe in the power of proximity. I took my first visit as Deputy Secretary of State in August to Mexico. And, in less than two months on the job, I have also visited Peru and Chile and met with foreign ministers from throughout the Americas. As I saw again on my visits, this is a region on the rise, full of promise for its people and for American diplomacy. And so we have made it a high priority to increase our political, security, economic, educational, and cultural ties with all of the people and nations of this Hemisphere.

Together, we are working to put forward a broad, positive agenda that offers rights, freedoms, security, justice, social inclusion, and economic prosperity. In a generation, the Americas have transformed from an exception to democratic progress to a powerful example of it. Where we see democracy under threat, we are working with the countries of the region to strengthen it. And where we see democracy taking hold, we are helping to consolidate it and ensure that it delivers results for its people.

As Secretary Clinton likes to say, diversity is one of America’s great sources of strength. We want to celebrate it, but more than that, we want to put it to work. And so we have. The Hispanic Diaspora’s broad and deep connections to Latin America have helped bring Americans more closely together and will help advance our shared goals for the peoples of the Americas.

When you consider the Hispanics of all professions who are building bridges to their ancestral homelands—sending remittances and offering an example of what America has to offer— you quickly realize that our Ambassadors at the State Department are just some of the many ambassadors who represent the very best of our society.

Today we welcome one such ambassador, Univision Network Anchor María Elena Salinas, to the State Department. And we thank her for helping us to highlight Hispanic Heritage Month with her story. Ms. Salinas has been called “the voice of Hispanic America” by the New York Times, and has often been named one of the “Most Influential Hispanics” in the United States. We are delighted to have her with us today.

This is a woman who, for years, has been helping Hispanics succeed in this country and helping them stay connected with current events in their countries of family origin. She has interviewed every U.S. President since Jimmy Carter and has been face to face with dozens of Latin American heads of state, rebel leaders, and dictators. In 2007, she made history co-hosting the first ever Democratic and Republican presidential candidate forums in Spanish on the Univision Network. Her work has earned her four Emmys and many other awards.

Today, Ms. Salinas is the official spokesperson for “Ya es Hora” (It’s Time), a national citizenship and civic engagement campaign that won a prestigious Peabody Award for helping motivate Hispanics to participate in the American political dialogue. She launched a scholarship for aspiring Hispanic journalists working in Spanish-language media. She is a founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and sits on the board of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the International Women’s Media Foundation.

She introduces the news to millions of people, and today I am delighted to introduce her to you. Please join me in welcoming Univision News Anchor María Elena Salinas.