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League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Orlando, Florida

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Orlando, Florida

June 17, 2003

Thank you Hector (Flores) for that introduction.

Buenas tardes everyone. It = s great to be here today for LULAC's 74th annual national conference. I appreciate the opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of this Administration to advancing the opportunities for Hispanic-Americans throughout our nation.

One of our country's great strengths is the diversity of our fellow citizens. The American dream is open to all races, all religions, and offers every individual the same promise of freedom, the same opportunity to build a life and a home for our families.

As President Bush has so strongly said, the federal government has a responsibility to celebrate our differences, while at the same time addressing the issues and concerns unique to our respective heritages.

As a group, Hispanic-Americans are the largest and fastest growing minority population in America. With a culture that celebrates family, faith, and hard work, Hispanic-Americans greatly enrich and strengthen our society.

Throughout the federal government this is administration is working to address the issues that impact the lives of Hispanic-Americans, while at the same time making a concerted effort to increase the overall representation of Hispanic-Americans in government positions.

For the past two and a half years, EPA has been in the process of developing and implementing a National Hispanic Outreach Strategy. As part of that work, we have initiated the help of Hispanic stakeholders around the country. Many of you here today have participated in several of the sessions we held to craft this agenda.

Our strategy has four key components B employment and professional advancement, education, economic opportunity, and community partnerships. We have made significant strides in each of these areas, and I= d like to share with you some of that progress.

In the area of employment, we have made a conscious effort to recruit a diverse workforce. We have placed impressive Hispanic Americans in top leadership posts here at EPA including the head of our Enforcement and Compliance office and our regional administrator for the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii.

Throughout the Agency, we have over 850 Hispanic-Americans helping to advance our goals of a cleaner and healthier environment. For the past two years, overall representation of Hispanic Americans at the Agency has grown including at the senior most levels. We continue working to increase this number by actively recruiting at the National Hispanic Environmental Council, National Council of La Raza, and here at the LULAC convention.

While we have made important progress in this area, we can and must do better. An important tool to help ensure that the representation of Hispanic-Americans continues to increase is education. EPA has partnered with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) over the past several years in order to provide young Hispanic Americans with both the tools to enhance their education and the experience of working in the federal sector. Currently, we have 30 HACU interns employed at EPA, participating in a variety of activities designed to give them greater guidance in regards to their future career choices.

We are also in the process of developing an agency-wide mentoring program that will provide career guidance as well as encourage and promote diversity throughout the Agency. We must make sure that every EPA employee, no matter what their heritage, has every opportunity to succeed B every opportunity to reach for and achieve his or her potential. We must not allow the skills, talents, abilities, and energy of even one person to go to waste because of prejudice, intolerance, or bigotry.

Later this year, we will be holding comprehensive assistance workshops across the country that will address each pillar of our outreach strategy. To promote greater economic opportunities for Hispanic-Americans, grant writing sessions will be held as part of these workshops. The goal of this outreach is to provide Hispanics with the necessary tools to compete successfully for federal grant and procurement opportunities. We are looking forward to assisting Hispanic small businesses gain greater access to the federal government for their products and services.

Finally, our work to build partnerships with the Hispanic community represents the foundation of our outreach strategy. President Bush and I both believe that building strong partnerships is an essential tool for accomplishing lasting and beneficial change, especially in our efforts to improve and protect the environment.

As a result, we have worked to partner with the Hispanic community to address environmental and public health issues that are of particular concern to Hispanic-Americans. Lead poisoning, for instance, is a health concern for many Hispanic families. Children with lead poisoning suffer from learning disabilities, brain damage, and other physical problems.

Nationally, Hispanic children are at nearly double the risk of getting lead poisoning compared to white, non-Hispanic children.

In partnership with the National Council of La Raza, we developed Spanish language PSAs on the prevention of lead poisoning to better educate the Hispanic community about the dangers of lead.

Another issue of concern to Hispanic-Americans, and indeed all Americans is protecting the quality of our water resources. Here at LULAC, we are launching a new Spanish language outreach campaign for the proper management of used motor oil.

The greatest threat to America's waterways today comes, not from pollution dumped into them directly, but from pollution that runs-off into them B non-point source pollution.

Countless small acts, such as changing your car's oil in your driveway without cleaning up leaks can add up to big problems. In fact, every eight months, non-point sources discharge as much oil into America= s coastal waters as did the Exxon Valdez spill.

Individual actions do make a difference. Our campaign B Si lo tira, se lo toma (You dump it, you drink it) is designed to educate automotive repair workers and citizens about the actions they can take to dispose of used motor oil in the proper fashion.

Despite the fact that about half of all automotive mechanics in the U.S. are Hispanic, there is very little Spanish language material on this issue. EPA will work to change this by partnering with the Hispanic community to distribute posters, brochures, and bumper stickers to raise awareness and provide information about the safe management of used oil.

In the months ahead, we will continue to work with the Hispanic community on this and other issues as we continue our work to advance our overall Hispanic Outreach Strategy. Our particular work at EPA is only a small part of a commitment by the entire Administration to strengthen the role of Hispanic-Americans in our society and our government.

Indeed, the goal of this conference and our goal as a government are the same B to open the door of opportunity and help Hispanic-Americans realize the promise America holds for this and future generations.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the conference.