Major Executive Speeches

Louis Quijas, Assistant Director, FBI
Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration
FBI Headquarters
October 3, 2003

Thank you Director for your kind introduction.....

President John F. Kennedy once said ....Just because you can't see clearly the end of the road is no reason for not setting out on the essential journey...... On the contrary, great change dominates the world and unless we move with change we will become its victim.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It is indeed an honor to have been asked to join you today.... I'm honored to join you as we continue on our essential journey down a road much like that described by President Kennedy.

It is my hope that our journey today will bring us to a better understanding of the importance of diversity and the many challenges organizations face when trying to make diversity in the work force a reality.

I can't think of a better time to discuss the important, but sometimes uncomfortable topic of diversity than during National Hispanic Heritage Month. It is during this time of the year that all Americans can join in and celebrate the rich history and culture of the Latino people. For Latinos, it is a time to reflect on the past, assess the present and look down this long and scary road we call our future. As we focus on the past and the present, I think we will clearly see the important role diversity has played in the many advancements we have made.

Professionally, I think many of us would agree that if it were not for the FBI's commitment to diversity and its willingness to face the many challenges and changes it brings to an organization.... many of us would not be here today. I don't know if we ever get used to change..... but change is a part of our reality...... and, as Latinos, we must be prepared for that change. The future will continue to bring change to Latinos and we must greet it with continued education, understanding and dedication in order to realize success. We don't have to look far to see the progress we have made over the last several decades.

Today, all one has to do is turn on the TV...... read any of the major publications.... or tune into your favorite radio station to realize that Latinos are a significant part of the tapestry of America.

Who would ever have thought that on any given night we could turn on the TV during prime time and find Latinos represented in virtually every program...... a guy named George Lopez would be the star of one of the top sitcoms...... or that one of the year's most watched awards program would be the Latin Grammy Awards. Oh, how things have changed!

Outside the entertainment world we have individuals like Major General Ricardo Sanchez who commands the US Army's V Corps and ALL the coalition ground forces in Iraq. He is the trusted face America sees nightly giving updates on the war in Iraq. This past year we saw a breakthrough in the corporate world of sports as Arturo Moreno became the first Latino owner of a major league sports franchise when he purchased the California Angels. And, down the street, at the White House, we find Alberto Gonzalez, Senior Advisor to the President who holds the very important position of White House Counsel. These significant achievements signal to me that Latinos have confronted change and made significant progress. We as a people, have opportunities to make things even better...... doors are opening to us politically as well as professionally..... now more than ever. For those of us in leadership positions, our challenge will be to ensure that our young people are educated and prepared to step up to the plate and take advantage of these opportunities. African/Americans, Latinos, Asians and other minorities are increasing in numbers and in the next 20 years the US and its work force will become even more diversified.

The Director has already shared some statistics with you... I would like to share some interesting information I think makes my point on the changing racial make-up of our country and the challenges we face.

Jose" has become one of the most popular name for male babies born in California and Texas over the last several years.

The only city in the world that has more Mexicans in it than Los Angles, CA, is Mexico City.

Virtually every political office in the Miami/ Metro Dade area is held by a Latino.

2/3 of Latinos in the US are 25 years of age or younger.

1/3 of the Latinos in the US are under the age of 18.

These notable changes have not happened overnight. In 1980 there were 15 million Latinos in the US... it is now predicted that by the year 2020 that number will be a womping 55 million Latinos.

In short, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is our future.

These are exciting times for Latinos but we should always be mindful that the road on which we travel is filled with challenges. One of those challenges for those of us in leadership positions will be creating an environment that promotes diversity.

Diversity is more than numbers. It is building a culture of respect and equality. It is creating opportunities for all people...... to have their skills and competencies recognized and rewarded..... and it is appreciating differences and what they contribute to the fabric of America. These are the challenges I speak of.....

We must be prepared and ready to conquer the road we travel..... because it is our future.

In Charles Handy's book THE AGE OF UNREASON, he states "the future we predict today isn't inevitable. We can influence it if we know what we want it to be............ We can take charge of our destiny in a time of change."

To be in control of one's destiny is to be behind the wheel of life on a road to a certain destination....... We, as Latinos, know the way but can't assume all will go smoothly.

As we prepare for our journey, we must be ready for unexpected challenges. Much like the driver behind the wheel we, as Latinos, face an unpredictable, challenging and ever-changing landscape ahead of us. We need not fear what's ahead...... the wiser course of action is to take control, open our minds to new ideas, solutions and alternatives and use change to help create a better future.

Many of you will agree that change can have a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful, it is threatening because it means that things could get worse..... to the hopeful, it is encouraging because things could get better.... but to the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better. Many private and public organizations are already planning for the future and implementing policies and improving strategies to help diversify their work force to better mirror our ever-changing population.

Many progressive and innovative public agencies are vigorously creating opportunities to put more minorities into their respective career pipelines and helping prepare them to move into future leadership roles...... Many private and public agencies have also set lofty goals of having their agencies racially mirror the communities they serve..... but, I can say from personal experience that recruiting and retaining quality minorities in public service has become very difficult and extremely competitive.

As Latinos are in demand professionally, this has heightened competition..... but, as you heard from the Director, the FBI is committed to being competitive and is dedicated to seeking out the best and brightest in the Latino community. It is this intense competition for quality people that makes it so important for those of us in leadership positions to respect and treat with dignity those minorities who are currently in our ranks, and have shown a true commitment to public service.

Many of these individuals have passed up golden opportunities to work in the private sector and make more money...... but yet, have opted to serve their country.

So, the question that begs to be answered is........ "Why is it important to have a diverse work force that runs through all levels and ranks of the organization?..... The obvious responses would be...... the enrichment brought about by diverse ideas, visions, background and life experiences. In fact, some experts contend that under-representation of minorities within an organization leads to distrust and limits creative energy.

That's why it is so important that organizations make the recruitment, retention and promotion of minorities the centerpiece of their diversity strategy. It is inevitable that as the population grows and the demographics change, Latinos must be given the opportunity to climb the career ladder as others have in the past. The efforts of promoting minorities within an organization is made a whole lot easier and less controversial when meaningful attention is given to the mentoring and grooming of qualified individuals.

I'm sorry to say that outside of government service the tension and frustration over career opportunities or, some would say, a lack thereof are harder to identify and address.

During my tenure as a police chief I saw how these raw emotions took the form of riots and civil unrest that destroyed and divided many communities..... Of course, those of us in government service are not as extreme in our actions but we do share some of the same concerns and frustrations.

Someone once said that with information comes understanding and, with understanding we reduce the likelihood of hostility. To help promote this understanding, many organizations, including the FBI, offer diversity training to its members..... The goal of our training is to help promote the understanding that is critical to the diversity process. Our training focuses on the differences of people and their culture and allows our members to work together in groups to discuss problems as well as solutions. Research indicates that one of the most successful approaches to combating bias is to have people of different races working together for shared goals. A psychologist at Hope College says, if people are working together for shared goals it breaks down the negative stereotypes they have of each other.

Last but not least, we need to fight isolation. We can't get so absorbed in our brownness, blackness and whiteness..... We need to make an effort to step out of our comfort zone, to mingle, to get to know others of different cultures....... But, this is a challenge as there is a natural tendency for us to gravitate to those who look, talk and act as we do.

I don't have the answer to the diversity question...... but I would ask that we not give up hope. We can't let the status quo remain and do nothing.

Celebrations like this are a positive and important step in building understanding, trust and bridges between organizations and their members.

I want to commend the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity for organizing this great event...... and helping promote a better sense of understanding, cooperation and collaboration.
We, as an organization and as a people, need to seize these types of opportunities to learn as much as we can about, and from one another especially as it relates to the need for and benefits of diversity. Simply put, Ladies and Gentlemen, the one thing we all have in common is that we're different.... which is the root of diversity.

In closing..... just this past Monday I had the opportunity to welcome 39 delegates representing 17 Latin American to the start of the Training Division's LALEEDS program. I was moved by the smile on the faces of these high-ranking Latino law enforcement executives when they learned that I was a Latino and held the position of Assistant Director with the FBI..... This experience only reinforced to me how great this country is and has been to Latinos. For someone whose grandparents came to this country from Mexico for a better life...... I have lived the American dream. As I look out into the audience, I see a very diverse group of people. With the exception of our Native American friends, I would venture to say that most of our parents and grandparents came from someplace else. There reason for coming to this country, I'm sure was much like my grandparents which was to provide a better life for their families and the opportunities it offered.

I have no doubt that when my grandparents came to this great country in search of a better life they never imagined that one day their grandson would be in the nation's capitol, a member of the FBI and introduced by the Director of the FBI as keynote speaker for this celebration we call National Hispanic Heritage month. Over the years I've been asked who I thought were great Americans. This question is easy for me to answer.... Antonia Quijas, my grandmother. Even though she spoke no English, she could hum the national anthem and recite the pledge of allegiance. It was her love for this country that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that we don't live in America...... America lives in us.

Thank you....