America’s growing diversity is a sign that the nation has a bright future, Henry Cisneros, a cabinet member for former President Bill Clinton, told an audience of more than 100 Wednesday night.
“I’m convinced that this country’s best days are still ahead,” Cisneros said. “They may look a little different, different skin colors and hard-to-pronounce last names, but a whole lot of brain power.”
Cisneros, who was Clinton’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, spoke as part of CSU’s diversity conference in the Lory Student Center ballroom. His speech centered on the changes America is facing because of its growing diversity.
Keeping a firm tone, Cisneros passionately praised immigrants’ contributions to the country, and how America’s growing diversity is what will give it an upper hand in the future.
“What America needs to realize,” Cisneros said, “is that the country’s immigrants are America’s saving grace.”
Cisneros spoke about Japan’s declining population due to its lack of immigration and said that although America has its issues, a lack of integration and immigration is not one of them.
Student Lori Santistevan agreed with Cisneros that minorities are the future of America.
“I think he had a very powerful voice,” said Santistevan, a junior health and exercise science major. “Minorities are going to soon be the majority. It’s important to accept them.”
Cisneros, the first Hispanic-American to become mayor of a major U.S. city – San Antonio – also addressed the question of illegal immigration, saying that this was one of the only issues he agreed with President Bush about.
“We can’t leave 12 million people in the shadows,” Cisneros said. “They’ve sustained our economy. Companies could not function without (minorities).”
Cisneros touched on Bush’s immigration plan, saying that he agreed with a guest worker program, and that immigrants need a way to become citizens and assimilate into American culture.
He also spoke about the importance of higher education, and the importance of education and creativity of minorities.
“I really just appreciated his optimism in diversity,” said Erika Lindgren, a junior human development and family studies major. “I think diversity is something we need to start embracing instead of fighting.”
Despite his plentiful successes as HUD secretary, his time working under Clinton wasn’t always smooth. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of lying to the FBI about money paid to a former mistress. In 2001, Clinton pardoned Cisneros.
Cisneros said he was hopeful about America’s future, but also said that in order for the future to be successful, people have to work toward that idea.
“America, you have to commit to the possibility that America’s best days are ahead,” Cisneros said.
Staff writer Tiffany Heien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.