Statement by Reverend Luis Cortes, founder, President & CEO, Esperanza

One of the most important founding principles of our nation is the idea of the equality, dignity, and inalienable rights of every human being. This principle is so important, in fact, that we refer to it as a self-evident, God-given truth.

In practice, we have struggled and fought to ensure and protect equality and dignity for all. Our democracy, though imperfect, has always been characterized by our persistent effort to enshrine these values in the code of laws that govern our society. It will always be a work in progress, forged by our predecessors through many years of hard work and compromise, and it is now our responsibility to carry forward. The path can sometimes become difficult to navigate, as the complexities of our society make our decisions more difficult and consequential.

During this presidential campaign, we witnessed our nation struggling. Now that the election has passed, I hope we can enter into a time of introspective reflection. Divisions exist within our country, and that is normal within a democracy. But disagreement must not prevent us from also choosing civility, mutual respect, and the space to dissent without violence or punishment. We can uphold the values of respect, integrity, and difference of opinion in a democracy.

In the wake of the election, we have already begun to see emotional responses from voters of both parties, and attacks targeted at each other. We call on our elected leaders from both parties – including our President and President-elect, and the leadership in Congress – to take a strong and unified stance in denouncing any violent or hateful behavior from their supporters. Every person must be protected, regardless of whether their candidate won or lost. Everyone must be ensured safety, the freedom of expression afforded by our Constitution, and the right to peaceful protest. We urge our elected leadership to set the tone for our country to move forward constructively, and we pray that our new leader will embrace our country’s diversity and use this new beginning as an opportunity to rebuild our civic virtue.

Our next President will be responsible for addressing many grave challenges during his tenure, including education inequality, a broken immigration system, and deep-seated wealth disparity. This is an opportune time to examine the causes of these systemic injustices, and to work together to identify concrete, actionable solutions. It is our responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable to our needs, and we can do so by continuing to raise the issues and engage in civil discourse.

We must remain steadfast and not grow weary of focusing on the priorities of our time – including the recognition of Latinos, and the need for their enfranchisement in all aspects of government and their inclusion as full participants in our democratic endeavor. We will continue relentlessly advocating for: A Department of Education that respects and supports community charter schools and assists in public education funding; an increase in college grants and the Pell program; and increased funding and support for programs that address adult education, English language proficiency, and pathways to citizenship. And we will give voice to the need for the President to pursue harmonious foreign relations with Mexico and the Americas, a continued openness toward Cuba, and a productive stance toward Puerto Rico in its economic plight.

Our success in building a better nation for our children will depend upon our ability to see beyond the contention and strife of the past year. The democratic election process is behind us, and the season ahead of us requires solidarity, openness to dialogue, and willingness to develop real solutions. Our dialogue must be inclusive, thoughtful, and substantive, not hateful and divisive. We must leverage the advantage we have as a nation of diverse talents, skills, and ideas. We must continue the work of generations before us – the work of forging the democratic ideals that make us strong.

– The Reverend Luis Cortes, Jr.