Obama’s Choice: Appoint a Latino Secretary of Commerce

Here’s a choice to ponder. We can either complain about how we’re not taken seriously, or we can take ourselves seriously.

We’ve been talking a pretty big game about the Census numbers and how Latinos are the fastest growing community in the US, poised to change the country’s workforce, markets and politics. But I’m reminded of something I heard the late Willie Vasquez say more than once, that it wasn’t enough to tear down walls and sit at the same table as everyone else – we need to order from the same menu. A kitschy metaphor but it made the point.

There’s a shuffling going on at the highest level of national politics and Latinos should be part of the mix. Pres. Obama has named former Washington State Governor and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to be the next US Ambassador to China. And this has left an opportune vacancy at the top of the Commerce Department. The latest rumblings say that former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, presently a US Trade Representative, has been tapped for the position, but I know there are several well qualified Latinos of national prominence who would be excellent for the job. But we shouldn’t wait for the President to look our way.

When I was a kid, in Nuevo Laredo, there was a huge empty lot next to our house where I and my neighborhood gang of street urchins would kick a ball around to pass the time. It occurred to us that we could clear the lot of weeds and debris, put up some goal posts and turn it into a decent soccer field. So we got to work, and quickly ran out of steam because of the enormity of the task. This is where my mother stepped in. She was a Tejana, from San Antonio, and understood the concept of petitioning government. So she made some phone calls and a few days later packed the gang into her car and drove us to the office of public works, or mejoras materials, as it was called. We had an appointment with the man who pulled the strings that made things happen. We fidgeted in our seats and asked that a tractor be sent to our little lot to clear the way for a soccer field.

It’s my understanding that this had never been done before – that a group of kids, chauffeured by a lady who took herself very seriously, would dare ask for such a thing. But we made our case and a week later the tractor arrived, cleared the rocks and bramble and we had our soccer field. I’ve never forgotten that that’s how to things get done –  you have to speak up.

I also know that politics plays a huge part in the decisions made at the top-est levels of government. Positions go as favors owed. But, there’s also a big political consideration to be made about appointing a Latino to the Commerce Secretary position. We’ve been talking about it for years and more earnestly in the past few months. Latinos are a huge political force in strategic places. But more than that, there are competent Latinos who would do the job well.

I’ll give you three names: Frank Sanchez, undersecretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce. He’s from Florida, a must win state for Obama’s reelection; Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico, another important swing state; he made a run for the Presidency and was originally tapped for the Commerce position by President Obama, but withdrew his name from the mix because of an alleged pay-to-play scheme. But that political heat has passed, his resume is as long as the miles he’s traveled as US Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of Energy in the Clinton Administration; and Antonio Villaraigosa, the accomplished Mayor of Los Angeles, an important center of Latino politics.

These are all very serious candidates for a very serious position. Reuters summarized the duties of Commerce Secretary:

The Commerce Department is the traditional voice of industry in any administration, but it also houses a diverse collection of agencies ranging from the Census Bureau to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While focusing on issues like exports and business growth, the Commerce secretary serves as one of several top players on Obama’s economic team. Reviving jobs growth is crucial to the president’s re-election prospects in 2012.

That looks like a pretty good item on the menu. I say it should be delivered on a tractor.

Follow Victor Landa on Twitter: @vlanda

[Image courtesy militaryplaques.com]

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED on massive scale to help reunite immigrant children with their families

Victor Landa July 9, 2018

This is an opportunity for experts on Latin America to get involved and lend their expertise. Please also share widely: URGENT HELP NEEDED ASAP!! Center for Human Rights and Constitutional […]

Is THIS the Year Latino Voters Finally Turn Arizona Blue?

Victor Landa July 17, 2018

PHOENIX — “Democrats hope demographic changes will translate into a win in November,” wrote The Nation magazine a while back. “Arizona, the second fastest-growing state … brimming with Latinos and Independents [is] […]

Appalachia has a booming Hispanic business and population — and its growing food scene is making an impact

Victor Landa August 1, 2018

From strip malls to historic downtown landmarks, buildings across Appalachia today are telling stories of a changing region. Former nail salons, once-stately banks and empty storefronts are beginning fresh chapters […]

US officials must now say “illegal aliens,” not “undocumented immigrants”

Victor Landa July 27, 2018

The US Department of Justice wants US attorneys offices to stop referring to undocumented immigrants, the term that media and immigrant advocates have increasingly used to refer to people who […]

Audiences are shrinking for Hispanic- and black-oriented U.S. news media

Victor Landa August 1, 2018

In a fact sheet released this week, Pew looks at how “news media made by and for the two largest racial/ethnic minority groups in the United States — blacks and Hispanics” […]

Declining white population is spawning fears, bias

Victor Landa July 23, 2018

Over the last three decades, demographers have told us that there would come a day when the declining white population would become less than half of the U.S. population. The […]

Today’s Latino News Headlines – August 7, 2018

Victor Landa August 7, 2018

Black Man Who Filmed Latino Workers Striking Is Fired from His Job, Regrets Nothing – The Root Remeber this guy with the running commentary from yesterday’s headlines? He recorded a group of Latino […]

Today’s Latino News Headlines – July 27, 2018

Victor Landa July 27, 2018

Census Bureau Stops Plans For 2020 Census Advisory Committee – NPR According to the letter provided by Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed […]