Speaking to a crowd gathered to recognize the achievements of local leaders in light of Hispanic Heritage Month, Mayor Jim Kenney challenged the divisive, disparaging rhetoric against Hispanic communities that has become so prominent in American political discourse.
“As you know, there are sinister elements in our society that are trying to weave their way into the very fabric of what makes us Americans or what makes America great,” Kenney said. “America doesn’t have to be great again. It’s great right now.
The mayor’s comments were met with applause from the crowd of the more than 150 people attending AL DÍA’s second annual Hispanic Heritage Luncheon on Wednesday at the Union League of Philadelphia.
AL DÍA held the event to honor four Hispanic professionals in Pennsylvania with “Pillars of Leadership” awards for their outstanding accomplishments in their separate fields
The honorees were:
Daniel V. Schidlow, Dean of the School of Medicine at Drexel University, a leader in health;
Juan López, Vice President of Treasury Services at Independence Blue Cross, a leader in business;
And Rómulo Díaz, Vice President and General Counsel at PECO, a leader in civic works.
Kenney said that spotlighting the Hispanic community’s achievements and contributions to American society in this way promotes respect and a better understanding among those who might not personally be familiar with Hispanic people.
The mayor praised the community for its role in “revitalizing many neighborhood schools,” which he said has contributed to the improved average of standardized test scores and reading levels among Philadelphia students. He also commended the Hispanics in Philadelphia for being “essential to the revitalization of our commercial corridors,” encouraging new business and creating jobs, asserting that the economic growth that the city is experiencing “would not be possible” without the Hispanic community.
Despite the efforts of some federal officials to target immigrant communities and stoke a widespread misunderstanding of Hispanics in the U.S., the mayor said the volatile state of American politics presents everyone in the Philadelphia region with an opportunity.
“We can stick together. We can lock arms with each other. We can look at each other squarely in the face, tell each other that we care about each other and we’re going to support each other,” Kenney said. “And we’re not going to let anybody tear us apart.”