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2011 Hispanic Heritage Month Events-34th Annual Awards Gala

CHCI’s 34th Annual Awards Gala

Once again this year, CHCI’s Annual Awards Gala drew an impressive array of the Washington elite, including important, national decision makers. While CHCI’s Public Policy Conference had the participation of Cabinet secretaries, White House officials, ambassadors, and more than 20 members from both houses of Congress, the 34th Annual Awards Gala drew them all, plus Congressional leaders, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, international royalty, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the President himself for the fourth year in a row.

The President and the First Lady Stand with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus 

The Annual Awards Gala is the pinnacle event and culmination of the organization’s Hispanic Heritage Month events, which raise the majority of our revenue to fund CHCI’s critical activities—Ready to Lead (R2L), Scholarships, Congressional Internship Program, Public Policy Fellowship Program, Graduate Fellowship Program, and our robust online Education Center. The CHCI Gala is the largest Latino celebration during Hispanic Heritage Month and often referred to as the official launch. Not only does this event raise critical funds for our award-winning programs, but it also serves as a national stage to highlight the many contributions of Latinos to the fabric of this nation and honor outstanding Americans in our community.

Medallion of Excellence
Vikki Carr
Vikki Carr

CHCI’s highest honors this year recognized two outstanding members of the Latino community with 2011 CHCI Medallions of Excellence. Four-time GRAMMY® winner and legendary star of the stage and screen Vikki Carr has captivated audiences nationally and abroad for over 50 years with her melodic voice. Respected as an artist and humanitarian, Carr’s commitment to education and leadership development for Latino youth extends throughout her career. She established the Vikki Carr Scholarship Foundation in 1971, which offers scholarships to Latino students in Texas to pursue their dreams of a college education. To date, the foundation has awarded more than 300 scholarships totaling over $250,000. Her philanthropic support extends beyond the Latino community to many health-related charities, several which benefit children and their families.

The second Medallion of Excellence recipient for 2011 is engineer and astronaut José Hernández, who has been a lifelong advocate of Latino youth pursuing their dreams and offers his own success story as evidence that hard work and education offer lasting rewards. Hernández, who was a field laborer as a child, was the first person to use Spanish language in space through his tweets during the 2009 space shuttle mission STS-128. He founded the Reaching for the Stars Foundation to provide scholarships to students pursuing careers in science and engineering.

Medallion of Excellence
Jose Hernandez
José Hernández
2011 Chair's Award
Hilda Solis
The Honorable
Hilda L. Solis

The Honorable Hilda L. Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor, and the Honorable Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, were on hand to accept the 2011 Chair’s Award. With passions that extend from affordable healthcare and stronger, working families to protecting the environment and promoting clean energy jobs, Secretary Hilda L. Solis has been serving the public since 1985. Her most recent position as U.S. Secretary of Labor—a position she’s held since 2009—marks the culmination of a career that has been dedicated to improving the lives of others, especially Latinos. Secretary Ken Salazar has spent much of his career protecting America’s natural resources and beautiful spaces. Prior to being confirmed as the 50th secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior on January 20, 2009, Salazar served as Colorado’s 35th U.S. Senator. He served on the Finance Committee, which oversees the nation's tax, trade, Social Security, and healthcare systems. He continued his service by volunteering on the Agriculture, Energy and Natural Resources, Ethics, Veterans Affairs, and Aging Committees. Through his work on these committees, he further supported responsible use of the nation’s national resources and rights for all Americans.

2011 Chair's Award
Ken Salazar
The Honorable
Ken Salazar

The evening’s festivities included performances by Prince Royce, Luis Enrique, and Gilberto Santa RosaPrince Royce opened the Gala with a melodic salute to first responders through his powerful performance of “Stand By Me.”  He also performed a moving rendition of the national anthem.

Prince Royce Performs the National Anthem   The Prince of Salsa Luis Enrique   Gilberto Santa Rosa Rocks the Post-Gala Concert

Luis Enrique, who had participated as a guest panelist on immigration during CHCI’s Public Policy Conference, delighted the crowd with his charismatic style and compelling voice.

The legendary Gilberto Santa Rosa performed at the post-gala concert to a crowd eager to dance and keep the party going.  His special tribute to Latin music icons included Celia Cruz and Tito Puente.  Celebrating decades of salsa music during the post-gala concert was a fun and fitting close to CHCI’s outstanding 2011 Hispanic Heritage Month Events. 

PResident Obama Addressing CHCI Gala Attendees 

President Barack Obama returned once again with a special message to the Latino community. “I don’t have to tell you these are tough times,” he said, noting that Hispanic families have been particularly hard hit in the recession. “Problems in the Latino community are problems in the entire American community,” he said. “Our future is tied to the Latino Community.” Click here to read President Obama’s entire Gala remarks. He and the First Lady joined members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus onstage for a historic and powerful photo.  The President and the First Lady once again enthusiatically greeted guests as they walked the rope line for the second year in a row.

View the Photo Gallery of CHCI’s 34th Annual Awards Gala.

Next year marks the 35th anniversary of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and another exceptional series of events is currently being planned.  Mark your calendar for September 23-26, 2012, and check www.chci.org later this year for more details.