It may sound insignificant but you be the judge.  Two weeks ago the National Association of Hispanic Publications, the most grassroots organization comprised of Hispanic media, held its annual legislative conference in Washington, DC.  Among the many activities slated for the publishers group was a visit to the U.S. Senate.

During the visit, according to NAHP executive director Mary Ann Gomez, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid presented the board of directors with a resolution that had been passed the week prior (S.Res.325) declaring National Hispanic Media Week.  The resolution was co-sponsored by Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mark Udall (D-CO) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and passed 5-0 but no Republican senator voted for it.  (Read the Huffington Post story on this by clicking here).  Was this a slight or is it just that Republicans are upset with Reid over his leadership regarding the healthcare overhaul?  The jury’s out but you decide.

Below are the remarks Sen. Reid made to the Hispanic publishers:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Remarks to the National Association of Hispanic Publishers
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First, I want to thank:
·         Clara Padilla Andrews, NAHP President;
·         Mary Ann Gomez, executive director of the NAHP; and
·         my good my friend Eddie Escobedo, a fellow Nevadan who is the reason we are all sitting here. We wish him a full and speedy recovery.

Just blocks from this Capitol building stands a beautiful new part of the Washington landscape, one dedicated to the profession you each pursue.  It’s called the Newseum, and I imagine many of you have seen it.

This museum of news appropriately sits right where Pennsylvania Avenue meets Constitution Avenue.  And its façade bears the words of the First Amendment, etched into a huge stone wall that reaches several stories into the sky.

Those words are as central to our country as they are to that façade.  They remind us of the important place the press occupies in our country.  They highlight the fact that the media is the only industry with rights explicitly spelled out in our Constitution.

That is no accident.  The architects of our nation knew that a democracy cannot function properly without a robust media that keeps its citizens informed, that keeps its leaders honest, and that serves as forum to air grievances and share new ideas.

That First Amendment may have been written in English, but it applies to media and protects reporters in every language spoken in our diverse nation.

For more than 200 years, the Spanish-language press has played a central role in enfranchising Latinos in our country and contributing to our democracy.  El Mississippi of New Orleans was the first Spanish newspaper in the United States, and only the first of many.  Scores of Spanish-language publications rolled off the presses in the Northeast during the early 19th Century.  These papers helped spread the values of American democracy to Latinos who would later take them back to their native countries and help fuel independence movements across the hemisphere.

So I want to thank you for keeping alive a strong tradition that thrives on honing and refining the ideas of million.

Know that the work you do does not only inform your own communities.  It informs the work I do in Congress on a national and state level.  Eddie’s newspaper, El Mundo, and also El Tiempo in Nevada, tell me what I need to do for Hispanic Nevadans.

The work in papers such as La Opinion in California and El Diario in New York give us a valuable perspective of the concerns of the Hispanic community at the national level.  Each day Congress works to address many of those needs.

This week for example, I am working to defeat an amendment from Senator Vitter that would force the Census Bureau to include a question about immigration status on the 2010 questionnaire.  This amendment aims to hurt undocumented people, but it could also negatively impact legal permanent residents.  I cannot tell you how often we have to fend off amendments that are not as widely publicized as this one, amendments that would do injustices to minority communities of all backgrounds.  And it is thanks to you that we understand what those effects could be.

As I work with my Senate colleagues and President Obama to reform our health insurance system, we look to your publications to learn what you need.  Whether it is about mixed-status families, or the lack of access to health care, or prevalent health disparities, the information you provide us about the Hispanic community’s needs is vital in our decision-making process.

For example, although undocumented immigrants won’t be covered by the reform, we can’t ignore the reality of mixed-status families. An issue as complex as how to help mixed-status families with subsidies to buy health insurance can easily fall through the cracks in a bill as contentious as this one.  Many Latino working families stand to lose a lot if undocumented family members aren’t counted— but their family income would— as some would like us to do. We all know that a family of four living on $30,000 is not the same as a family of two living on the same amount.

Senator Menendez and I convinced Sen. Baucus to fix this in the Finance version of the bill, and now a family of four will be treated as a family of four.  Not all will get coverage, but the family will receive the help they deserve.  There is still a long way before all is said and done, but you can bet we’ll keep fighting to pass the best bill possible for all.

The work you and your fellow journalists do humanizes issues that can easily become abstract in the noise of other media.  Your work reminds us why we do our work.

Because this is so important, I worry, as I know you do, about the economic future of journalism. Newspapers are closing all over the country, and Spanish-language media are no exception.

At the same time I am encouraged that my hometown papers, El Mundo and El Tiempo have strong, modern websites that combine the traditional newspaper with cutting-edge technology.

Spanish-language newspapers have evolved since the days of El Mississippi. Your craft has survived wars, national disasters, bad legislation and good legislation

Certainly, the challenges you face today are formidable. But you will survive – not just because of your resiliency, but because the mission you serve is too important and great to fail.  You are part of the fabric our founding fathers engineered to guide our nation, one edition at a time, toward a more perfect union.

Thank you.”

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