Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute

LDB 2018 Gala Speech


2018 CHLI Gala & Leadership Awards HONORING

April 11, 2018

For years a group of us had been thinking about starting a non-governmental organization (NGO) to give voice to the great diversity of thought which exists in the U.S. Hispanic community. That community, of over 50 million human beings, is often stereotyped as an always like-minded group.  In reality it is an extraordinarily diverse community.  

A Hispanic NGO that supports free and fair international trade AND human rights – we thought, was needed.  

In its day to day work, the NGO could help Hispanic students from throughout the United States be exposed to Washington, D.C. – to both the political world and the corporate world – changing the lives of young people forever.

In 2003, in Miami, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and I joined together with a small group of business leaders to form the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI).  CHLI supports trade, AND human rights.

CHLI’s mission statement reads: 

The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) is the premier organization founded by Members of Congress to advance the Hispanic Community's Economic Progress with a focus on Social Responsibility and Global Competitiveness.

And CHLI prepares, connects and honors leaders.

CHLI recognizes extraordinary leaders in public service and in international affairs.

In recent years we have honored champions of admirable public service like Senator Bob Menendez, Vice-President Mike Pence, and President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, courageous opposition leaders like Leopoldo Lopez in Venezuela, and heroes of the struggle for freedom such as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet in Cuba. 

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. Yes, changing young people’s lives forever.

Tonight we’re only presenting ONE award.  The board has renamed our 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.