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President Obama speaks at the first White House Hispanic Policy Conference

On July 11 &12th, President Obama and his administration held the first-ever “Hispanic Policy Conference.” It was organized by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Attending the conference were 160 Hispanic leaders from 25 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico, joined by over 100 administration officials to discuss the President’s agenda and its impact on their overall community.

In the last census, it was established that there are 54 million Hispanics in the country. The Hispanic community is no longer found in a handful of states, but in every state across the country. It is the largest and fastest growing minority group and critical to the future of our nation.

The purpose of the conference was three-fold: Relationship Building – connecting national leaders to key

Breakout session 4 at policy conference

administration decision makers; “Obama Administration 101” – ensuring folks gained a deeper understanding of the multifaceted ways this administration’s agenda connects to the Hispanic community; and Working Together – allowing participants to connect with each other and administration officials to address how they would improve access and outcomes for this community.

During the two-day conference, there were interactive, informal, small group conversations driven by the Hispanic leaders and not administration officials. There were no lectures, no power point presentations, or talking points led by administration officials. This was an opportunity for Hispanic leaders to meet, talk, and initiate relationships with 35 administration officials and 19 White House office and cabinet agencies.

This was an extremely innovative approach to reach out to the largest minority group in the country. At the end of the first day, President Obama spoke and urged all the participants to take the conversation back to their communities.

 

 
 
 
 
 
In 2012, the Hispanic community will play a pivotal role in the president’s re-election campaign. Now is the time for the president to connect to the Hispanic community and understand the nuances that make their culture different. This conference was a breaking of the ice, and now the administration is getting to know who the power brokers are in the Hispanic community.
 
There will always be a language barrier in the Hispanic community, because most Americans do not speak Spanish. There is also an immigration dilemma in the Hispanic community that the Obama administration will be forced to address. Nevertheless, these initial steps make it easier to build a political infrastructure, which focuses on their community’s needs.

Black leaders meet with Obama at White House

As the Obama Administration continues to reach out to other minority groups, the question must be asked, “When will the White House specifically reach out to the Black community?” Many of the same problems in the Hispanic community can also be found in the African American community. There is a need for the African-American community to request or demand their own policy or agenda conference.

There is still reluctance for the President to specifically identify and address Black problems and initiatives. The Black community and leaders are more involved in family feuds and bickering, than reaching out to the unmet needs in our community.

The key message in the Hispanic community is that it is not a monolithic community with a diversity of issues and problems. Jobs, education, health care and the economy are the most important challenges impacting the Hispanic community.

If the White House is able to hold a Hispanic Policy Conference, then it also has a responsibility to hold an African-American Policy Conference. Our leaders and representatives should request and petition the White House and President Obama for a policy conference of our own.

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During the Thanksgiving holiday, President Obama was playing basketball and received a swollen lip which required 12 stitches. The media is digging and trying to find out who gave the president a swollen lip and on the other side of the world, South Korea and the United States are implementing military exercises with the 70,000 ton aircraft carrier, USS George Washington accompanied by 10 other smaller warships.

This operation is a direct response of North Korea shelling the small island of Yeonpyeong, on Tuesday, November 23, 2010, which killed four people and destroyed dozens of houses. The North said it was responding to live fire from the South into its waters.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war due to the reckless plan of those trigger-happy elements to stage again war exercises targeted against the North,” said North Korea’s news agency. “The army and people of North Korea are greatly enraged at the provocation of the puppet group of South Korea, if they dare encroach again upon North Korea’s dignity and sovereignty even in the least.”

President Obama and the United Stated have aligned itself with South Korea, and China has aligned itself with North Korea. There are 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and the Pentagon is quick to point out the naval exercises are “defensive in nature.” The Pentagon also acknowledged that this joint exercise is a reminder of U.S. military strength and American’s allegiance with South Korea.

The Korean peninsula is a very complicated region, and the Yellow Sea impacts the borders of the country of China. China has been low-key with its response to North Korea’s shelling of the island, and there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity with the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and Chinese diplomats.

President Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao have a scheduled meeting in January 2011 in Washington DC, and a war between North Korea and South Korea would make the meeting extremely awkward. As a result, both countries are asking for restraint, and the world and the citizens of the United States are waiting for an official statement from President Obama.

China is protesting the United States and South Korea’s joint exercises following North Korea’s artillery attacks on Tuesday. China opposes any military operations near its territorial waters. “The Korean peninsula situation is highly complicated and sensitive, and all parties concerned should stay calm and exercise restraint,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei in a statement.

As this tense situation continues, President Obama must walk on a tight rope, because China and the United States have common interest with the economic factor being the most important. The United States has a trade deficit with China of $226 billion and Chinese businesses are heavily invested in American markets. China needs American businesses and American businesses need the Chinese population to grow their business markets. The difference in ideological and government systems explains why the two countries do not trust each other and are neither friends nor partners.

The war exercises in the Yellow Sea started on November 28, 2010, and will last for four days. There are six South Korean War Ships and four other U.S. vessels: the USS Cowpens, USS Lassen, USS Stethen, and USS Fitzgerald. The participating forces will carry out firing and bombing drills, and these exercises will involve thousands of service personnel in the four-day drill.

No one can predict the outcome of this drill; however it is not helping to resolve the crisis and problems between South Korea and North Korea. Playing war games during a tense explosive situation can turn into an all out war where no one wins and everyone loses.

Check out Roger’s other columns at presidentobamawatch.blogspot.com