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Justice Sotomayor

SCOTUS Justice Sotomayor Leadership Award from Hispanic Heritage Foundation

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), an award-winning nonprofit organization established by the White House in 1987, will be granting U.S Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor the Leadership Award at the 29th Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards.

Justice Sotomayor

US Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks during a Commonwealth Club event as she promotes her new book ‘My Beloved World’ (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The ceremony will take place on September 22 at the historic Warner Theatre in Washington, DC. The Awards will include recognition of other Latino leaders’ contributions and accomplishments in various fields including, among others, actress and singer Angelica Maria and Pulitzer Prize author Junot Diaz.

“The Hispanic Heritage Foundation is extremely proud to be able to honor Justice Sotomayor with our Leadership Award,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. “The decision was not difficult,” he told LatinasinBusiness.us in an exclusive interview.

Jose Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO Hispanic Heritage Foundation

Jose Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO Hispanic Heritage Foundation

Tijerino believes Sotomayor embodies what it means to be an American. “More than anyone, her life represents the values and contributions of a true American who has battled difficult situations. Her story is a story of struggle and triumph through service,” he shared.

Justice Sotomayor, an exemplary life

Sonia Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, New York, from parents of Puerto Rican descent. She lost her father at an early age and her mother worked hard to educate both her and her brother.

As a young activist, she was involved in Puerto Rican organizations such as Acción Puertorriqueña and Third World Center during her college years. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976.

Sotomayor received the Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, established in 1921, awarded to the senior who most clearly manifested excellent scholarship, strength of character and effective leadership.

She then continued her studies at Yale Law School earning her J.D. in 1979 and serving as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. After that, she served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 1979–1984.

Lee la vida de Sonia Sotomayor en espanol

After some years in private practice, in 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, serving in that role until 1998.

Then promoted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Sotomayor was nominated by President Barack Obama as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009. Justice Sotomayor assumed this role on August 8, 2009.

Her life has been focused on service reflected in the story she tells in her book My Beloved World. “Her story is the story of all immigrants; my mother used to say ‘Remember you have to pay double for what you receive because you are an immigrant’ and I have also lived by those words,” Tijerino said.

Presenting America with a value proposition

Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winner/author

Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winner/author, to receive HFF award

“This year more than ever in my 29-year career, I see the imperative need to present America with examples such as Justice Sotomayor and other prominent Latino leaders we are recognizing this year,” the head of the HHF said. “These leaders convey a critical value proposition of what it means to be a true American in the harsh context of immigrant bashing by some political candidates,” he added.

The Awards were established in 1987 by The White House to commemorate the creation of Hispanic Heritage Month in America. They serve as a launch of HHF’s year-round, award-winning programs which inspire, prepare and connect Latino leaders in the classroom, community and workforce to meet America’s needs in priority fields.

“Our obligation is to tell these stories as you, LatinasinBusiness.us, are also doing. The value is there, the talent is there. By promoting these stories, we are creating opportunities for ourselves,” Tijerino said. “We are not victims, ‘no hay que aguantar.’ We need to expose these examples to opinion leaders and stay at it, reminding them that we represent 60 million people in this country,” the CEO concluded.

 

For more information on the mission of HHF visit www.hispanicheritage.org. To attend the 29th Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards, please visit here.

Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar at the 2nd American Latino National Summit

NAA’s Fernandez-Haar on Latinas shaping history

Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar at the 2nd American Latino National Summit

Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar at the 2nd American Latino National Summit

For three consecutive years, I had the opportunity to interview the Chair of the Board of the New America Alliance (NAA) Institute Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar at their annual Wall Street Summit. Having done hundreds of political and business Latino leaders’ interviews, Ana Maria’s friendly personality and savvy approach to the topics at hand made my work extremely easy every time.

This year, NAA’s 15th Anniversary took central stage. Looking back as one of the leaders who was involved in the organization since its inception, Ana Maria believes issues related to Latino political and economic participation are still on the table; however, Latino representation cannot be underestimated. We have made great progress, especially among Hispanic women. Fifteen years at the NAA give her a unique perspective and time frame from which to evaluate progress.

“We live in a data and research-driven environment where no detail of consumer or voter behavior seems too insignificant to measure. Yet at the same time, the democratization of information through social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram has created countless new ways to communicate and connect. All the messages and images are out there, constantly shaping the perceptions that weave the very tapestry of our society,” she said.

Looking at all research available, from the U.S. Census Bureau, Nielsen reports, The Pew Hispanic Center, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and other reliable sources, they show extremely favorable trends for Hispanics, Ana Maria believes.

Their consumer, political and economic clout is clearly on the rise. According to 2013 Census Bureau figures, the drop in the poverty rate among Hispanics – from 25.6 percent in 2012 to 23.5 percent in 2013 and the only demographic group to have increased its economic power–, has impacted the decline in the nation’s overall poverty rate for the first time since 2006.

Who are the Latina pioneers?

“Especially for U.S. Latinas, the future looks promising. Many of our NAA female founding members broke glass ceilings on their own. In fact, Pilar Avila, our first Executive Director, was deemed to be CEO material from the start. It came to pass,” she said.

“In 1999, a Latina Supreme Court Justice seemed but a dream. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has since inspired legions of American Latinas who can now see themselves in law careers. Latinas in business can have a role model in Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), and a NAA member. Her inspiring story has already impacted Latinas in banking and now she’ll show the way from a larger platform,” Ana Maria stated.

This progress in no small part is due to their achievement in higher educational attainments. Dr. Antonia Novello, the first Latina Surgeon General, was an unusual occurrence in 1990, Ana Maria recalls. Today, Elena Rios, MD, is the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, surrounded by many other Latina physicians.

Pilar Avila NAA CEO

NAA CEO Pilar Avila

“On a personal note, when I was 12 years old I couldn’t even imagine a Latina such as Anna Maria Chavez leading the Girl Scouts. If I had, perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so intimidated. Nely Galan’s Adelante Movement is also making a huge difference. She is business, leadership and service in action. And so it goes,” she shared.

Looking for role models in every industry

As a former marketer, Ana Maria never underestimates the power of role models, for that is the first way most young women feel validated and inspired when considering their own paths towards success. If they remain invisible among the high achievers –with media visibility as a measure in the wider society–, that is a message in and of itself.

“But what they see in their own environments counts just as much. No doubt, those who were ‘first’ to arrive are often considered icons; perhaps even statistical outliers. Still, what it possible for one is possible for others. That is a very powerful message, and the message that all NAA women convey every day,” she said.

In the Latina universe those positive representations are increasing much more rapidly now; for instance, among Fortune 500 CEOs, only 50 are women, four are women of color, none Latina. “But if we look at the pipeline, we cannot help to be impressed with the powerful Latinas already in place. That is not counting those making their mark in STEM, tech entrepreneurs, elected office and other areas of government,” she said.

In private industry, women are assuming CEO positions in family enterprises, which used to be unheard. “Remember when companies were named with the family name and added, ‘e hijos’ (and sons)? Adriana Cisneros now leads the Cisneros Group, global leader in media and entertainment, and Doreen Dominguez does the same for the Vanir Construction Group. As I have noted, there is progress on every front,” she remarked.

Political gains also merit mentioning: Susana Martinez, an attorney and governor of New Mexico; Leticia R. San Miguel Van de Putte, a pharmacist and Texas Senator representing the 26th District in San Antonio, and Nelda Martinez, Mayor of Corpus Christie, TX.  “Look at these mid-term elections, a record number of women will serve in the incoming Congress!” she said.

And Ana Maria’s last thought, “Every Latina in the United States is connected to Latin America in some way. So while we wait for the first woman to become U.S.  President, we should keep in mind Latin American presidents such as Cristina Fernandez, Dilma Rousseff, Laura Chinchilla, Michelle Bachelet or think back to Violeta Chamorro. Could this be considered predictive?” she concluded.