This sample speech for Hispanic Heritage month is intended for use by speakers at Latino / Latina / Latinx events honoring Hispanic heritage. These keynote remarks may be modified to fit the event where you are speaking or used as is.
I’d like to welcome you all to our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and thank you for the opportunity to speak today. It is a great honor.
When we speak of Hispanic and Latino Heritage, we speak of a rich, diverse cultural legacy. From Spain to Mexico, from Panama to Puerto Rico, from Ecuador to Chile, and Peru to the United States of America, Hispanic people are wide-flung. They reflect a wealth of cultural diversity. Along with a common language heritage, they’ve developed their own remarkable blends of music, dance, art, cultural traditions, and of course food. Hispanic cultures around the world are unique in their own ways yet share of common core of similarities, a certain inner pride in what it means to be Latin. Today we celebrate the remarkable achievements of people of Hispanic Heritage, the diversity of Hispanic people and the remarkable and beautiful wealth of Latin cultures around the world and here at home.
In our multicultural society. diversity makes us stronger. Diversity within a society is like a symphony where every instrument contributes to a more beautiful concerto, or a painting where the many splashes of color compliment each other make beautiful art. Hispanic people have a long, proud history and have contributed greatly to our society, helping us thrive as a strong, vibrant nation where we all have something to contribute. Therefore it is fitting that we take time to recognize and appreciate the contributions of Hispanic people.
Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 to October 15 every year. Our theme this year is "_______." (If there is no theme, omit this section)
(AT THIS POINT, IF YOU ARE HISPANIC, YOU CAN TELL PERSONAL STORIES OF WHAT HISPANIC HERITAGE MEANS TO YOU. OTHERWISE YOU CAN TALK ABOUT IMPORTANT HISPANIC PEOPLE, IDEALLY SOMEONE WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE IN SOMETHING RELATED TO THE ORGANIZATION YOU’RE SPEAKING TO, FOR INSTANCE FOR A MILITARY AUDIENCE, TALK ABOUT IMPORTANT HISPANIC SERVICE MEMBERS. FOR A SPEECH AT A SCHOOL, TALK ABOUT AN IMPORTANT HISPANIC EDUCATOR. YOU MAY USE THE FOLLOWING EXAMPLES BUT IT’S BETTER TO FIND A FEW EXAMPLES THAT WOULD BE APPROPRIATE TO YOUR AUDIENCE).
There are so many Hispanic leaders who have made amazing contributions, but I’d like to highlight just a few.
Let me begin by talking about Master Sergeant Leroy Petry (Pee-tree). Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Petry joined the U.S. Army in 1999. After an early career showing great promise, Petry was selected to train to join the elite U.S. Army Rangers. Indeed, Petry was undergoing the grueling ordeal of Ranger training when the attacks of September 11th devastated the United States. As a highly trained, elite combat unit, the Rangers are often sent where the fighting is most deadly and Petry deployed a total of eight times.
During one of his deployments to Afghanistan, Petry who was then a staff sergeant, was leading soldiers in a combat mission against Taliban soldiers. During the battle, he was shot through both legs. Despite his injury, Petry kept leading his soldiers. While sheltering with two other soldiers, a grenade landed near Petry. Risking his own life and without a second to spare, Petry picked up the grenade and threw it away. It exploded just after leaving his hand, severing his right hand and spraying his body with shrapnel. Luckily, Petry was able to receive medical treatment that saved his life. He was awarded the nation’s highest medal for military service, the Medal of Honor, in 2011. He was only the second living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
Petry’s selfless actions and amazing courage in the face of desperate danger saved the lives of the soldiers with him.
Bravery can come in many forms, and there are many Hispanic leaders whose courage has made an impact in their communities.
Another such person was the environmental proponent Berta Cáceres (Kuh-Sare-ez). Cáceres was a Hispanic Indigenous activist who fought to protect water rights for her tribe, the Lencas people, in her native Honduras. Tragically, Honduras is a place of rich cultural heritage yet it is wracked by poverty, violence and the drug war. However Cáceres wanted to protect the country she loved. Despite death threats, Cáceres organized resistance to stop a dam being built on a river sacred to her people that would have had widespread impact on the environment and the local people, including their access to water, food and traditional medicine. Her tireless energy galvanized the people of her community and they were able to stop the dam being built. Cáceres on went to start the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, which advocates for the rights of Indigenous people and supports families in need. Cáceres persevered in her struggle for human and environmental rights despite threats against her life, and tragically, her life was taken from her in 2016, when she was murdered in her home. Her death brought a worldwide outcry against violence against environmental activists, and brought renewed attention to the desperate struggles of the people of Honduras against violence, poverty and environmental degradation.
Another Latina whose courage has made a difference in the world is Lizzie Velásquez (Vel-as-kez). A native of Texas, Velásquez was only 17 in 2006 when a YouTube video naming her "The World’s Ugliest Woman" went viral.
Velásquez has a rare genetic condition which prevents her from gaining weight, and she has never weighed more than 64 pounds (29 kg). Her condition has also given her unique facial characteristics and other health issues. Growing up in Texas, Velásquez was viciously bullied as a child because of her appearance, and the cruel YouTube video bullying her became a decisive moment in her life. However, the video did not make Velásquez hide her face. Instead, she took it as a rallying cry to stand up against bullying, and advocate for the rights of disabled people as well as Hispanic rights. Velásquez became a motivational speaker, appearing on programs such as Ted Talks where her speeches have garnered tens of millions of views, far more than the cruel video about her ever did. Her talks focus on what truly makes people beautiful and in finding inner strength to overcome life’s difficulties. She has written multiple books telling her story and especially supporting teenagers who have been victims of bullying and a movie about her life was featured at film festivals around the world.
Velásquez could easily have chosen to hide herself away from the world but instead she used her perspective and experience to help others.
All three of these leaders chose to give back to their communities by using their own gifts.
Courage; dedication to their community; inner strength; a desire to enrich the lives of others – these are all qualities these Hispanic leaders embodied in their own struggles. Through military service, in community activism or in helping other find their inner strength, these Hispanic leaders all found a way to serve their communities. Truly these are only a few of the ways people of Hispanic heritage enrich our society.
So let me conclude by challenging you. I want to challenge you to make a difference in your own community. Whether you are Hispanic or of another background, we can look to the examples of these leaders and question how we can contribute to our own communities. Big or small, every action has an impact. Whether it’s volunteering with a local organization or making a difference in the environment; donating to worthy causes or advocating for vulnerable populations; mentoring at-risk youth or getting involved in the life of a child, there are always ways to serve.
It is easy to look at the many challenges we face today and feel discouraged, or feel like the problems are just too big and overwhelming to face. Yet, each one of us can make a difference. Positive changes in our world begin with each of us making a decision to try and make our small corner of the world a better place. It’s up to me and it’s up to you. How can you serve? How can you contribute? Today as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month I want to challenge you to follow in the footsteps of the brave leaders who have come before and find the way you can make your own impact.
I’d like to thank everyone whose efforts made today possible. Thank you to (Name of the organization who organized the event) and finally, thank you to all of you for your kind attention.
Let me leave you with a quote by the great civil rights and community activist Cesar Chavez.
To make a great dream come true, the first requirement is a great capacity to dream; the second is persistence.
I wish you all the great capacity to dream and even greater persistence. Thank you.
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