Defending American Values

Maria Hinojosa salutes Cesar Chavez

Those who fight for the rights of the underpaid, the undocumented, the uneducated and others on the lowest rungs of society are the true defenders of American values.

That was the message brought to Kansas City recently by award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa.

Hinojosa, a groundbreaking news anchor and reporter for PBS, NPR, and CNN, delivered the 6th Annual Cesar Chavez Keynote Address at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Hinojosa’s address, sponsored by the UMKC Division of Diversity, Access and Equity, was the highlight of UMKC’s annual Cesar Chavez Celebration, commemorating the struggle for humane working conditions, dignity, equality and opportunity for all.

“Cesar Chavez became more than just a labor leader, because he was using the democratic process to pursue the long-term goals of justice and democracy,” Hinojosa said. “He became a symbol of American democracy and American values.”

By doing so, she said, he answered a call to duty that is still being heard, and answered, today.

“Now we are faced with a similar historic challenge,” she said. “This is our moment, and we all have to seize it entirely.”

By doing so, she said, Latinos are not just engaging in self-interest, but acting patriotically.

“We are the leaders in saving this democracy – not just for us, but for all of us,” she said. “We have to be fearless, and we have to be filled with love.”

Hinojosa said she, like most Latinos in the U.S., is “living the U.S. mambo: three steps forward, two steps back.”

In 2012, she said, “Latinos showed their power at the voting booth in numbers never imagined before.” Other signs of progress she cited ranged from Sofia Vergara becoming the highest-paid television actress in the U.S., to Sonia Sotomayor being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, to Google placing a salute to Chavez on its homepage on March 31 – instead of a graphic honoring Easter Sunday.

“But all is not well – far from it,” she added, pointing out the “exploding” number of detentions and deportations of immigrants, that Latinas have the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group in the U.S., and that the Latino high school dropout rate remains at 50 percent.

“Surely we can spend as much on that as we do on securing the southern border,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa was introduced by UMKC student Elizabeth Herrera of Kansas City, a recipient of both the Agapito Mendoza and Hispanic Development Fund scholarships offered at UMKC. She is majoring in French with a minor in mass communications. Herrera spoke of the ongoing need for strong Latinos and Latinas to provide leadership for their community and for the nation, and cited both Chavez and Hinojosa as examples of that leadership.

Hinojosa has covered America’s untold stories and highlighted critical issues at home and abroad for more than 25 years. As the anchor and executive producer of her long-running weekly NPR show, Latino USA; and anchor of the talk show Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One from WGBH/La Plaza; she has informed millions of Americans about the fast growing multicultural mainstream in the United States.

Hinojosa launched The Futuro Media Group in April 2010 with the mission to produce multi-media journalism that explores and gives critical voice to the diversity of the American experience. Previously a senior correspondent for NOW on PBS, and currently a rotating anchor for the PBS newsmagazine Need to Know, Hinojosa has reported hundreds of important stories—from the immigrant work camps in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, to teen girl victims of sexual harassment on the job, to stories of the poor in Alabama.

Hinojosa has received numerous awards for her work, including four Emmys; the 2012 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism; the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Reporting on the Disadvantaged; the Studs Terkel Community Media Award; and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Overseas Press Club for best documentary for her groundbreaking Child Brides: Stolen Lives.

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