Leader Cantor Remarks to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) addressed the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The text of his speech, as prepared for delivery, appears below:

Buenos días mis amigos.  Es un placer estar aquí con ustedes.

Good afternoon and thank you, Javier for those kind words.

Today, our country faces enormous challenges. Unemployment is high, our national debt is on the rise and too many uncertainties confront us.

As a husband and a father of three, I often wonder what lies ahead for my children.  I dream of a future for them that is bright....an America where impossible dreams are truly possible. 

But nowadays too many Americans have come to know all too well, it’s just gotten a lot harder to raise a family.  There are millions of Americans for whom dreaming about the future has become a forgotten luxury.  Too many Moms and Dads have been laid off from their jobs, families torn apart by financial insecurity - working Americans struggling just to make it through the month.   

The last several years have resulted in millions of Americans feeling left out, desperately trying to make their life work again.  And there is much work to be done here in Washington to conquer these challenges.  Our primary focus has got to be to pursue policies that help more and more of these families regain their sense of confidence, and brighten their futures.   That way, the dreams WE have for OUR children can be shared by all. 

The backbone of a healthy America has always been a quality education.   Without it, our future is bleak.   Today, our education system is failing too many of our kids and their families.  If we want to help those who've been left out,  and grow our economy, we have got to finally commit to going all in on reforming our schools. 

One of the problems is, Washington often thinks that the solution to any problem is reached by spending more tax dollars. Since 1965, the federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to revamp schools in low-income communities…but to what end? The results are not there, and it’s time for us to explore other options. 

Friday a week ago, I went to New Orleans.  While there, I met a young mom named Essence Jackson. Last year, her daughter, Ma’loni, attended pre-K at a public school. Midway through the year, Ma’loni’s teacher pulled Essence aside and told her that her daughter couldn’t get what she needed at that school…that Ma’loni was too bright, and needed more opportunity to thrive.

The teacher told Essence to apply for the Louisiana Scholarship Program which would ensure that Ma’loni had a way out of the failing school and would give her an opportunity to attend the school of her choice. One that could offer her, a real avenue to advancement and a quality education.

Ma’loni now attends kindergarten at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Elementary School as a participant in the Louisiana Scholarship Program.

Although there is a lot of controversy surrounding the scholarship program, Essence is a believer.  She told me she would do anything she could to make sure Ma’loni could stay at Our Lady of Succor. 

The things Essence likes at Our Lady of Succor are the caring teachers, motivated administrators, and above all – a safe environment to learn.

Essence is praying that the Louisiana Supreme Court throws out the case challenging the scholarship program. So are the teachers at Ma'loni's school. The results of the program have been impressive with the students showing significant improvement in their statewide accountability tests.  

Who would want to deny this opportunity to Ma'loni?

Essence is fighting for Ma'loni. She's volunteering her time to be a community advocate, rallying support among her neighbors.  She is willing to work as hard as she can for her daughter's future.  We have got be prepared to do the same, for the sake of all our children and grandchildren. 

One of my priorities this Congress will be to move heaven and earth to fix our education system for the most vulnerable. Doing so will give America the best chance of protecting tomorrow for a generation of smart and capable kids.

Currently, in the House of Representatives, we are working on a series of reforms to help families like Essence and Ma'loni succeed.  

You see, Essence is putting herself through college right now. And she told me that if she had to quit school and try and find part time jobs to keep Ma’loni enrolled at her school - she would. It makes that much of a difference.

Today, an estimated 12 million Americans do not have a job and are looking for work -- the situation Ma'loni may face. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 3.6 million jobs currently unfilled. With so many people searching for a job, how can this be so?

The problem stems in part from a current workforce training system that is making it too hard for workers to access important jobs skills and training.

President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, said that he wanted to “cut through the maze of confusing job training programs” to provide workers the help they need.

Just last week the House passed a bill that would help people who are in the position Essence envisioned - it's called the SKILLS Act. The Act streamlines 35 overlapping federal workforce training programs, creating a one-stop-shop for individuals looking to gain the necessary skills for today's workforce. 

The SKILLS Act is the right solution, and I'm hopeful the administration will work with us to clean up this mess.   Millions of unemployed Americans would be the better for it.  So would employers. 

You all know how difficult the business environment has been over the last few years.   Seemingly endless regulations and red tape coming from Washington have contributed to a slow growth outlook.  And even more challenging for all of us will be the full implementation of Obamacare on January 1, 2014 - just nine months from now.  Business owners as well as individuals are expected to be impacted by "rate shock" - the explosion of healthcare insurance cost due to the mandates of the new health care law. 

These impediments make it harder for you to create jobs.

Despite this, President Obama’s former jobs council predicts there could be a potential unmet demand for up to 1.5 million college graduates by 2020. There are persistently 400,000 to 500,000 job openings in the healthcare sector alone, as well as thousands of unfilled positions in the booming natural gas industry.  Already, we're witnessing a shortage of applicants with the skills necessary to fill the jobs in today's workforce.  And it's only predicted to get worse.  

So, something's not working. 

Suppose colleges provided prospective students with reliable information on the unemployment rate and potential earnings by major.   Armed with this knowledge, students and their families could make better decisions about where to go to school, and how to budget their tuition dollars.  

Armed with this knowledge, students would actually have a better chance of filling one of those job openings.  This just makes common sense.   Helping people choose the course of education and training that will lead to a prosperous future has to be our goal. 

Congressman Duncan Hunter and Senators Rubio and Wyden have a proposal which addresses this goal. I look forward to working with them and Chairman John Kline in pursuing legislative action in the House.

Since its founding, the United States has always been a nation of immigrants who came here aspiring to find a better place to raise and educate their children for a brighter future.  In the debate surrounding immigration reform, we must never, ever forget the importance of America remaining the Statue of Liberty to the world.

“The New Colossus,” a sonnet by Emma Lazarus, was engraved on the Statue of Liberty in 1903. Part of it read:

“Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome…I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The image of that great statue is a constant reminder of our immigrant past and our humble beginnings. It is the very reason that I'm able to stand here before you this afternoon.

At the turn of the last century, my grandparents fled the violent anti-Semitic pogroms of Russia in pursuit of the American Dream.

My Grandfather died at a young age… and with little but faith, thrift and determination, my Grandmother worked seven days a week and to raise her two sons atop a grocery store that she and my Grandfather had opened when they first arrived.

She worked tirelessly to ensure my Dad and Uncle could live the promise of this great country. Her belief in America never wavered.

Today, my family stands as proof of the possibility to what once may have seemed to my grandmother like an impossible dream.

We in this room come from different places and all of us will make it to different destinations… but it is the belief in the American Dream that unites every one of us. 

The dream that inspired my Grandparents to come to this country is the same dream that Essence Jackson in New Orleans has for her daughter Ma’loni… and it is the same dream that will continue to inspire American families for generations to come. 

It is now our responsibility to make sure that vision never fades…so working families in America can thrive and achieve what we all desire; a strong, safe and prosperous nation to hand over to our children and grandchildren.

It is a goal and a dream that we can all achieve together.

Gracias por la invitación.  Yo espero trabajar con ustedes en el futuro.

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