The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) announced that its founder and President Emeritus Edward R. Roybal was posthumously honored with the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Barack Obama presented the prestigious award to Roybal’s daughter Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard at a ceremony at the White House earlier today.
“We are extremely proud to have NALEO’s founder and President Emeritus Edward R. Roybal presented with the nation’s highest civilian honor,” stated NALEO President California State Senator and Secretary of State-Elect Alex Padilla. “A trailblazer, Roybal paved the way for increased Latino representation at the nation’s highest levels of office. Each day, we strive to honor his life’s work and legacy by working to help Latino elected and appointed officials acquire the skills and tools necessary to become better advocates for their communities.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
A devoted public servant for 43 years, Roybal was at the forefront of efforts to advance civil rights, protect civil liberties, establish mental health programs, fund AIDS research and improve support services for veterans and the elderly. He began his career in public service when he was elected to represent the Ninth District on the Los Angeles City Council in 1949, a position in which he served for 13 years. After being elected as the first Mexican-American from California to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in nearly a century, Roybal went on to serve in Congress for more than thirty years.
In 1976, Roybal founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, creating a national forum for Latino issues and opening doors for new generations of Latino leaders. Congressman Roybal guided the organization from being an idea to becoming the nation’s premier civic participation organization. He served as NALEO President from 1976 until 1999, when he was named President Emeritus by the NALEO Board of Directors.
To honor his legacy, the Edward R. Roybal Award for Outstanding Public Service was established by NALEO in 1996. The award provides an opportunity for Latino elected and appointed officials to recognize the exemplary leadership provided by their colleagues in communities throughout the United States. Each year, NALEO presents the award during the annual NALEO Edward R. Roybal Legacy Gala in Washington, D.C. This year’s event will take place March 24, 2015.