Henry Cisneros, chairman of American City Visa and former US Housing and Urban Development Secretary, delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the First Forum on Binational Thought, about Mexicans living in the US, held in Mexico City, 28 April 2004. (Hector Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images)

Henry Cisneros to speak at the first American Latino National Summit

Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has a clear message for American Latinos; aspire to be successful.

Cisneros, currently the Executive Chairman of the CityView companies, is one of the opening speakers at the first American Latino National Summit tomorrow.  He hopes to set a new tone and help refocus attention on what is of most importance for the American Latino going forward.

“This is not for Latinos or by Latinos,” Cisneros says.  “This is the U.S. recognizing that it will not be able to sustain itself at the level of progress to which we have been accustomed to unless Latinos are fully integrated.”

The all-day summit, co-hosted by the New America Alliance (NAA) along with the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, the NALEO Education Fund, the National Council of La Raza and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled to take place at Miami Dade College’s Wolfon Campus in downtown Miami, Fla.

Cisneros, who is also the co-founder of NAA, an organization created to help advance the economic development of the American Latino community,  says Latinos cannot continue to be marginalized in areas of education, wages, decision-making, economic opportunities and small business strategies.  What is important, he adds, is that Latinos  “focus on a positive agenda and on finding common ground” among one another for a better future.

“The Mathematics don’t compute, we are far too many,” he says.  “The longer we wait on parity – in regards to education and so forth — the more society will suffer.”

In 1981, Cisneros became the first Hispanic-American mayor of a major U.S. city when he became mayor of his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.  Appointed Secretary of HUD in 1993 under the Clinton administration, Cisneros is credited with helping revitalize many of the nation’s public housing developments during his term.

Tackling media next, Cisneros became president and chief operating officer of Univision Communications in 1997 and then in 2000 finally founded CityView, an investment firm which has generated more than $2 billion in urban investment in 45 communities across the nation.

But that’s just a snapshot.

His advice for the new generation of American Hispanics?

Cisneros advises young Hispanics to focus on their education, to never doubt their place in American society and to proceed in life without being defensive or hesitant.  Now, more than ever, more is needed and more is expected, he says.

“Do not keep standards low, and reach for the stars because they’re there,” he says.

Cisneros credits a lot of his success to the neighborhood he was brought up in San Antonio, Texas, where he says children grew up with messages of positive affirmation, self-pride, self-esteem and encouragement.

A “cocoon of Latino pride,” as he calls it, Cisneros says this gave him the platform he needed and that he just assumed it could all be done. And so he did.

“What I see in the next 20 years is Latinos represented in every aspect of society, with posts in leadership, entrepreneurship – holding top posts in politics, corporations, religion, academia, and as heads of foundations and in every aspect of American society,” he says.

“We’ll be that source of youthful energy that the country needs but the decision will hinge on whether or not we invest in education and build the road towards a middle class,” he says.

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