LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On Saturday, November 9th, the U.S.-Mexico Foundation’s (USMF) Mexican American Leadership Initiative (MALI) honored former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at its second annual MALI Awards event.
The MALI Hermandad Award is presented annually to outstanding leaders who have advanced the Foundation’s goal of building bridges of understanding and constructive partnerships between the people of the United States and Mexico that enhance opportunity for the people of Mexico. Clinton was recognized for her efforts in creating civil society diplomacy and diaspora initiatives while at the State Department, which included a task force of Mexican American leaders that became the USMF’s MALI.
The 2013 MALI Awards Brunch was attended by over 400 of the most prominent national Latino leaders throughout the United States, featuring former Cabinet Secretaries Carlos Gutierrez (Commerce) and Henry Cisneros (HUD), as well as Monica Lozano, CEO of ImpreMedia and Publisher of La Opinión newspaper in Los Angeles. Secretaries Gutierrez and Cisneros are members of the USMF Board of Directors. Cisneros and Lozano are among the founders of MALI.
“The positive response that our MALI program received at this launch on the West Coast is overwhelming and we are thrilled with the turnout and to receive such support,” said Martha Smith, President and CEO of the USMF. “We are eager to involve this outstanding group in efforts to engage more with Mexico and support Mexican civil society.”
During her remarks, honoree Hillary Rodham Clinton reminded the audience that the U.S.’s future is linked to Mexico’s, just as Mexico’s is to the United States, “I believe that our best allies and partners, for all of our sakes, are right here, nearby,” said Clinton. “What we have in common with Mexico, what Mexican Americans can help us understand better and implement, is a shared future. Not just a shared responsibility, but a vision of what is possible for us and our children and our children’s children…We need more connectivity in North America. We need more connectivity all through our hemisphere.”
Clinton also shared with the audience – many of them very close friends of hers – a little known fact during her remarks; not only did she work as a young lawyer defending Latinos’ right to vote in the Southwest, but as a young girl she volunteered with her church helping Mexican farmworkers care for their children, “Even though I didn’t speak Spanish, I understood love, I understood pride, I saw the look in their eyes,” she said about volunteering on ranches in Illinois.
In selecting Clinton for an award, MALI co-chair, David R. Ayón said the group was impressed with her decision to encourage Mexican Americans to become more involved in supporting Mexico. It's something many have been reluctant to do amid ongoing anti-immigrant sentiment and a feeling that they need to prove their loyalty to America, he said. “Having the support, the endorsement, the encouragement of the Secretary of State [at the time] really just blew away those inhibitions,” Ayón said.
Henry Cisneros, USMF Trustee, said about the USMF MALI initiative, “Mexican Americans can play a functional operative bridge between the U.S. and Mexico…Why engage with Mexico? First, because it’s our heritage…second, a strong Mexico means a strong United States, and third, because it’s up to us to act as a bridge of understanding between our two countries.” Carlos Gutierrez, USMF Trustee, added, “We need to be strategic as a region, and involvement with Mexico is the smart and strategic thing to do.”
Sponsors and partners of the MALI Awards brunch included Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Union Bank, ImpreMedia/La Opinión, Univision, Entravision, Walmart, Mozido, the Latino Caucus and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) at USC. Photos of the event are available here.
The brunch also featured a special appearance by the Latin Grammy-nominated Trio Ellas and took place on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC). For more information on the Foundation’s work in Mexico, or the MALI Awards Brunch, please visit the Foundation website at www.usmexicofound.org.
MALI is an advocacy and support network founded by the U.S.-Mexico Foundation in 2010 to provide a national mechanism by which Mexican American leaders may contribute to strengthening American society’s relations with Mexico. Then-Secretary Clinton helped to publicly launch MALI at its first national conference in May 2011. MALI leaders like Henry Cisneros, Maria Echaveste, David Ayón, and Jose Villarreal have since acted to mobilize American support for community-based organizations and projects in Mexico addressing a range of needs, primarily in the areas of education, health, economic opportunity, environmental protection and the challenges faced by at-risk youth. Working with the secure channel established by the U.S.-Mexico Foundation, MALI fosters partnerships between the people of the U.S. and Mexico, recognizing the two countries’ shared destiny and certainly shared responsibility for the health and prosperity of the region.