By Sen. Chris Dodd
In our continuing series of guest posts from the candidates running for nomination in the 2008 election for President of the United States, we welcome Senator Chris Dodd.
Senator Dodd is among only two candidates running for office who speaks fluent Spanish. He learned it while living in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer.
On his return to the United States, Sen. Dodd began his long pursuit of public service. He started his congressional career in 1974 representing for three terms Connecticut’s Second District in the House of Representatives. In 1980, he was elected to the US Senate where he is currently serving his fifth term.
Senator Dodd has built a reputation for advocating on behalf of children and families. His nickname is the “Children’s Senator.” He formed the first Children’s Caucus in the Senate and spent seven years working to enact the Family and Medical Leave Act.
He has authored and helped enact landmark childcare legislation and was named “Senator of the Decade” by the National Head Start Association.
He is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is recognized as an expert on Latin and South America.
Senator Dodd announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 11, 2007 on the “Imus in the Morning” radio show.
I’d like to thank Marisa TreviÃ±o for inviting me to come talk to the readers of Latina Lista. One thing I’ve learned quite clearly on my campaign for the presidency is that blogs like Latina Lista are creating new points of contacts between politicians and different communities with different interests.
I’m glad to be here today to talk about why I’m running for President.
I firmly believe that the best way to tell what kind of results someone will get for you is to ask them what results they’ve gotten already.
I take great pride in the work I have done for America’s families, America’s children, and the Latino community in particular. I’m proud of the fact that I have lived in Latin America, as a Peace Corps volunteer and that I speak Spanish fluently.
I have close personal relationships with many of Latin America’s political leaders, and on the first day I am in office, I will call them, speak to them in their own language and say, “Los problemas de ustedes, son nuestros problemas tambien. Los sueÃ±os de ustedes, son nuestros sueÃ±os.”
When I was a young man, I heard President Kennedy’s call to be a part of something greater than ourselves. I heard that call and took it to the rural hills of the Dominican Republic, where for the next two years of my life, I served as a member of the Peace Corps. At the time, I barely spoke a word of Spanish.
But I was also full of optimism and a sense of what was possible. And with that energy and determination, we built a maternity hospital, schools, a youth club and a library — los corazones de nuestras comunidades.
And it was in the Dominican Republic that I saw such a vibrant sense of community — a community where people looked out for one another and lifted each other up.
These are values I know the readers of Latina Lista nurture every day.
And so, in many ways, it was in the mountains of the Dominican Republic that I saw just how important America’s example was, what America meant to the rest of the world — the hope we could inspire, and most importantly, the things we could accomplish for our families and yours.
It’s that example that I’ve tried to carry on as a United States Senator and will in the White House.
I believe by investing early in our children’s future, we can provide a foundation for learning that will pay dividends throughout a lifetime.
I have made it one of my highest priorities in the Senate, having written the first federal child care law since World War Two to help parents better balance work and family.
I have championed and fought to expand access to Head Start, which for 40 years has provided comprehensive child development, literacy, and family services to nearly 20 million pre-schoolers. And as President I will make universal Pre-K a reality for every four-year-old in America.
I have consistently fought to ensure Equal Pay for equal work for all women. And I have worked to make college affordable and preserve Affirmative Action so that all Americans have access to a college education helping to ensure for them a better job with better benefits.
I was the author of the Family and Medical Leave Act that has let 50 million Americans take care of a new baby or a family member who is sick without fear of losing their jobs. Now I’m taking that guarantee one step further by working to make family and medical leave paid leave.
But few things are as synonymous with the American Dream as investing in our communities by expanding homeownership.
While two-thirds of the nation’s households own homes, less than half of the nation’s Hispanic and Latino families are among them. There are several reasons for this — high-housing costs, discrimination, and insufficient outreach to the Latino market.
Among the biggest reasons, though, is predatory lending. Doing something about this practice has been one of my top priorities as chair of the Senate Banking Committee — and it will continue to be a priority when I am President.
We’ve all seen lenders targeting vulnerable people like immigrants who do not speak English, as well as, the elderly. No one should be taken advantage of because of how much they earn, what language they speak, how much education they have, their age or the color of their skin. Ending predatory lending is as clear a matter of economic and social justice as any.
I’m proud of the relationship I have built with the Hispanic community throughout the years. The hopes, the dreams, the sense of community I saw in the Dominican Republic all those years ago – I know they are very much alive today here in this country.
Those hopes, those dreams are what I would bring into the Oval Office with me.
Cesar Chavez once said, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”
I believe it is — and in this election, for Latinas, for all of us, let us seize it.