State of Dominicans in the United States: “What we have become”

By Dr. María Teresa Montilla, President

Dr. María Teresa Montilla, DANR Eight President.

Transcript of speech delivered at the 14 Annual National Leadership Summit of the Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR) and The National Dominican American Council (NDAC) held at Lehman College of The City University of New York, Friday, October 78, 2011.

Thank you! 

Ambassador Raul Yzaguirre, President Ricardo Hernández, Vice Chancellor Hersherson, Senators Adriano Espaillat, Jose Peralta, Gustavo Rivera, Juan Pichardo, Assamblymen Guillermo Linares, Nelson Castro, Rafael Espinal, Keith Wright, Carl Hastie, Freeholder Tilo Rivas, Councilmen Ydanis Rodríguez, Julissa Ferreras, Fernando Cabrera, Julio Tavarez, Julio Guridy, Ministro José Ramón Fadul Fadul, Dr. Ramón Antonio Veras, distinguished panelists and speakers, corporate partners ATT&T, Ford, Cibao Meat Products…Dominican and Latino Leadership of the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and Latinos and other leaders who have convened here, the 14th Annual Summit of The Dominican American National Roundtable and its National Council.      

It is a great pleasure for me to be among all of you today, as it is, I think, an exciting time to be Latino, Dominican in the United States. Major events and changes are happening in our world today. In the United States, as part of that world, also, that will change the way we live, do business and raise our families. 

We are, by our presence and contributions, in the middle of it all: the changing market, the economic crisis, global and continental conflicts, changes in governments, legal, social and scientific breakthroughs. We, as small in numbers as we might seem in comparison with whole countries, or other groups; are here, in the world’s capital, and surrounding states, working, learning, living and leaving our mark.

The US Census 2010 said we’re 1.4 million -we all know that figure hovers around 2 million – 300,000 in the Bronx alone. Among those with an interest in the political implications of population growth, the question for  2010 is the same as for the 1990s–and that for the 1980s, when will the decade of Latinos finally arrive? Or When will Latinos begin to have something close to the political power seemingly inherent in their rapidly growing numbers? 

Having made our presence felt, and having laid the groundwork in, as this summit’s theme reads, Education, Economic Development, and Community Empowerment, we move towards expanding and perfecting our role in this society. 

Three areas are to be perfected if we are to achieve success, as a group. And I venture to say, they must proceed forward in unison.

The first –  and most important –  is Education.  Our children must remain in school and finish college. The times when having a High School diploma was a decent thing to do, is long gone.  We must, and can be among the educated and educators in institutions of higher learning. We must be part of the administration of these institutions. We must be among the scientists, inventors, writers, astronauts, legal minds, artists, mathematicians, and financiers who with their daily work make invaluable contributions to society.

The second is Economic Development. We can and must be at the high, medium and low spheres of the financial world. The number of Latino-owned businesses in the United States has continued to rise dramatically, and Latinos now have a buying power that exceeds $650 billion annually. Dominicans continue to dominate in ownership and operation of the small businesses where they concentrate, and are beginning to make inroads in major corporations, banking, and Wall Street. 

True Economic Development has to reach our small business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as Dominicans on Wall Street.

The third is Community Empowerment. Along with getting on the Education Train to success, and developing our potential in the world of finance and business, we must achieve inclusion in the government of this great nation, we have adopted as ours; in the political establishment that designs and decides all aspects of our lives. That our voice can be heard where laws are passed and changed; budgets are submitted and approved; and policies are created. 

Two tools should be used in our efforts for empowerment: The current Redistricting Process; which affords us the opportunity to create the conditions for electing Dominicans at the municipal, state and federal levels. Submitting and requesting adoption of maps for city council, assembly, senate and .congress that reflect the growth of our population is one basic step we are taking, towards true inclusion. 

Creating Coalitions is the second most important step in our journey to empowerment, as we acquire greater strength in U.S. politics. Coalitional politics through compromise has been one of the most effective strategies for empowerment. Fortunately, it seems to be welcomed by the political mood of a new generation of Latino and other leaders who are prepared to coalesce. 

Coalitional politics is essential to broadening our power base, and working to support or defeat legislation and advocate for issues of common interest.

May the next decade find us laboring hard and succeeding in these areas, that the US Census 2020 may reflect, more that how large our population is, a profile of what we have become.