chli Honors Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen at its 14th Annual Gala Leadership Awards
Washington, D.C – The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) hosted its 14th Annual Gala & Leadership Awards on Wednesday, April 11, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in Washington, D.C.
The Annual CHLI Gala & Leadership Awards are held each spring, honoring extraordinary leaders. This year’s Gala honored Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a woman whose public service and international leadership has made a meaningful impact on the U.S. community.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has a long history of advocating for human rights in our country and throughout the world. Her record of driving change and engaging with local and global communities has made her an effective member of Congress, and a voice for many who need to be heard in the corridors of power. She has worked tirelessly to give voice to the people of Tibet. She has stood up for the LGBT community. Actor and Humanitarian Activist Richard Gere and Olympic Gold Medalist and Transgender Activist Caitlyn Jenner, both whom the Congresswoman has worked closely with to advance human rights issues, joined CHLI’s special tribute as speakers at the Gala.
The Bell Multicultural High School Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), led the celebration with the presentation of the colors, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance by Congressman Bill Flores (R-TX).
The invocation was led by CHLI Alumni Alejandro Alba, CHLI Class of 2014, and Lucinda Borque, CHLI Class of 2016.
Mistress of Ceremonies and award-winning journalist with Univision, Sandra Peebles, welcomed the ballroom full of CHLI family, friends, Members of Congress, and international dignitaries before introducing CHLI Founder & Chairman, The Honorable Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
“For years a group of us had been thinking about starting a non-governmental organization to give voice to the great diversity of thought which exists in the U.S. Hispanic community,” said the CHLI Chairman. “CHLI has provided internships in Washington to over 200 young people from throughout the United States – most from families where they were the first to go to college, changing young people’s lives forever.
CHLI’s foundation lies in leadership. CHLI prepares, connects and honors leaders. CHLI prepares future leaders through internships. CHLI connects public service and business leaders through briefings on the Hill. CHLI honors leaders at the Annual Gala & Leadership Awards.
“Tonight we’re only presenting one award. The board has renamed the international award, which will continue to be awarded each year, as The CHLI Ileana Ros-Lehtinen International Leadership Award. Tonight we are awarding it to a truly historic leader, CHLI founder, my sister in the trenches in the fight for freedom – Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,” stated Chairman Diaz-Balart.
The evening continued with a premiere of We Belong, CHLI’s social good documentary examining the lives and professional success of three former CHLI interns who, despite their life’s circumstances, found their way to Washington, DC. Regardless of their origin, there’s a realization amongst these past interns that they must lead like no other—for an evolving American society depends on it.
CHLI Vice-Chairman, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), accompanied by CHLI Board Member and Chair for the Gala Committee, Nathalie Rayes with Grupo Salinas, acknowledged the Elected and Appointed Officials and Members of Congress who joined CHLI that evening to honor Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, and also recognized the Gala’s Platinum Sponsor, Juan Otero with Comcast NBC Universal Telemundo.
CHLI Gala Chair, Nathalie Rayes, expressed her appreciation towards the Congresswoman, “It is my honor to chair this year’s gala as we celebrate a distinguished and an extraordinary person. An example to all, and personally, a role model to me …Tonight, we are all here to honor you.”
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Nathalie Rayes recognized Maytee Sanz, Ileana’s Chief of Staff, who played a key role in assisting with the planning of this special evening.
Throughout the course of the evening, CHLI celebrated the life and journey of honoree, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, with videos showcasing her from Educator to Global Leader.
Chapter One: The Child Refugee
Chapter one was a tribute of Ileana’s early life. Having been born in Havana, Cuba, Ileana fled the oppressive Castro regime at the age of eight, with her family. The family settled in Miami, Florida and years later Ileana earned an Associate of Arts degree from Miami-Dade College, a Bachelor and a Master’s Degree in Education from Florida International University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Miami.
Ileana began her career as a Florida certified teacher and was inspired to enter public service by many of the parents and students she met, to fight on their behalf for a stronger educational system and a brighter economic future.
Former U.S. Attorney and Ileana’s husband, Dexter Lehtinen, led chapter one by sharing Ileana’s story and dedication, “[Ileana] is always looking forward to a new challenge rather than looking back at yesterday’s mistake.”
Chapter Two: Pioneer Public Servant
Chapter two of Ileana's life covered her time as a public servant. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Hispanic woman ever elected to Congress.
In 1982, she was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate in 1986, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve in either body. In 1989, Ileana was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives -- becoming the first Cuban-American and Hispanic woman to serve in Congress -- and she has been overwhelmingly re-elected to Congress ever since.
CHLI Vice-Chairman, Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX), and CHLI President & CEO Mary Ann Gomez Orta recognized the representatives from the international community. They also recognized the Gala’s Gold Sponsors: John Hoel with Altria Client Services; Joe Avila with Ford Motor Company; Nathalie Rayes with Grupo Salinas; and Emilio Gonzalez with Verizon, who made it possible to host CHLI Alumni for the evening.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen and Patricia Lehtinen Silva, children of Ileana and Dexter Lehtinen, spoke about having known their mother, Ileana, to always be a leader, “At home, abroad, and in our community. She’s an inspiration for people everywhere.”
Chapter Three: Global Leader
Chapter three focused on the global impact the Congresswoman has had during her career and being a longtime advocate for human rights in our country and throughout the world.
The evening included special messages from some of Ileana’s closest friends including: Former President and First Lady George and Laura Bush, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Emilio and Gloria Estefan.
The Honorable Lincoln Diaz-Balart, invited all the Board Members, Members of Congress and Speakers to join the stage and presented the 2018 CHLI Ileana Ros-Lehtinen International Leadership Award.
CHLI Madrina, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, expressed her appreciation for the recognition, “It has been the highest honor of my life to represent the great people of South Florida. I am excited to start a new challenge, opening the doors for those who, like me, are inspired to improve our slice of paradise. Thank you again, Lincoln, CHLI, for this wonderful night of celebration. Muchísimas gracias!”
The program concluded with the Nathalie Rayes encouraging the audience to keep the celebration going by joining CHLI in Miami on June 15 for a special reception honoring Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen.
CHLI Board Member and Platinum Sponsor, Juan Otero with Comcast NBCUniversal, thanked the guests for joining CHLI in honoring Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, “On behalf of the CHLI Board, we want to thank you all for supporting the CHLI internship program as we prepare, connect and honor leaders.”
CHLI would like to thank the following sponsors for their continued support:
Juan Otero, Comcast NBCUniversal
John Hoel, Altria; Joe Avila, Ford Motor Company; Nathalie Rayes, Grupo Salinas; Emilio Gonzalez, Verizon;
Beverly Gilyard, AARP; Christina Carrica Haley, Akin Gump; Patrice Webb, American Beverage Association; Susan Santana, AT&T; Ray Dempsey, BP America; Peter Villegas, The Coca-Cola Company; Cindy D’Aoust, Cruise industry Charitable Foundation; Christopher Turner, Dell Inc.; Embassy of the United Arab Emirates; Chanelle Hardy, Google; Justin Kissinger, Heineken; Silvia R. Aldana, Pacific Gas & Electric Company; Mike Ybarra, PhRMA; LaKeitha Anderson, RAI Services; Harold Patricoff Jr., Shutts; Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office; Pedro J. Torres, Torres-Picon Foundation; Victoria L. Jeffries, Univision; Sara Decker, Wal-Mart
Friends of CHLI
Howard Moon, Amgen; Jim Ryan, Constellation Brands; Angela M. Arboleda, Herbalife; Sam Tatevosyan, McDonald’s; Linda Auglis, National Beer Wholesalers Association; Rheana Thornton, Next Era Energy; Ezra Garrett, Oportun; Maria Del Carmen, Pacific Cable Televisio; Roy Cosme, Pfizer; State Farm™; Mario Hernandez, Western Union