As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, we remember a man for his leadership in the civil rights movement. Most importantly, I remember his fight for peace, equality and justice. We must never forget he supported human rights and social justice for all people. Dr. King supported new generational leaders including Cesar Chavez, who led Latino civil rights and demanded equality and justice for farm workers. It is through this leadership and fight that I often happily shout out, “I am living the dream!”
Yet, we must teach future generations that King’s contribution was far beyond his “I Have a Dream” speech. In fact, my favorite quote of his is this: “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualist concerns to a broader concern of all humanity.” It is in this mindset that many people volunteer in their communities as a way to honor this day. We as Americans make this country better through the contributions we make to it.
I was raised by two hard-working parents who believed in the opportunity and dream that America had for them. They instilled the importance of education, hard work and community service to all their children. My father, a railroad carman and community volunteer at heart, supported my stay-at-home mother who raised their nine children. It is through their values and the accomplishment of the civil rights movement that within my family alone, we contribute as teachers, nurses, community volunteers, developers, social workers, policemen, firemen, accountants, TV producers/directors, lawyers and marketing professionals. Our contributions make America better.
Many Latino families continue to believe in and hope for the best this country can offer. They seek an education for their children and embody a new entrepreneurial spirit. This is visually evident on Central Avenue in Kansas City, Kan., or Independence Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. This makes America better.
According to the Immigration Policy Council in Washington, the purchasing power of Latinos is $5.6 billion in Kansas and $4.9 billion in Missouri. Latino-owned businesses in Kansas have sales and receipts of $1.3 billion; it’s $1.4 billion in Missouri. Immigrants continue to be important to this nation’s economy as workers and taxpayers. This has made a better America.
Latinos continue to grow in population but our participation has soared. It is the rise of minority representation at the tables where issues are discussed, developed and decided that King would be proud of today. These contributions will make America better!
As we celebrate what would have been King’s 84th birthday, share his message but challenge yourself to make our America better.
Irene Caudillo recently left a position at Swope Health Services to join El Centro Inc. as chief program officer.