Monday, April 19, 2010

DR. HECTOR P. GARCIA -- Honored As An American Hero By Law Makers


To view a copy of the bill, click here.

Following are remarks delivered by Ortiz today in the House of Representatives:

“Madam Speaker, I rise to honor an American hero well respected in the Hispanic community. Today, we honor the life and work of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, a recognized leader for better health care for all in Texas, a legendary civil rights advocate and promoter of education for Hispanics.

“My resolution, H. Con. Res. 222, honors the lifetime of extraordinary achievements of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, who lived and worked in my Congressional District in Corpus Christi, Texas, for many years.

“Dr. Garcias family immigrated from Mexico in 1914 and settled in Mercedes, Texas. After graduating from medical school, he served with great distinction in World War II, attained the rank of Major, and earned the Bronze Star and six Battle Stars. When the army learned he was a physician, Dr. Garcia was asked to practice his profession by treating his fellow soldiers. When he moved to Corpus Christi, he opened a private practice, where he treated all patients regardless of their ability to pay. He was a humble man that turned down profit to make life better for all.

“Dr. Garcia first became known in South Texas for his public health messages on the radio. He was on the air three times a week with a Spanish program Your health and welfare. During this time, he struggled to bring attention to severe illnesses, such as tuberculosis, which enabled the public to become better educated about its health needs. His message brought to light the many health issues of the region and the glaring poverty in South Texas.

“A man of tremendous talents, Dr. Garcia prized education and fought for other Americans to also value education. In the 1940s, he struggled to abolish the one room, segregated Mexican schools that one would find across the Texas landscape. As a result of his exemplary leadership, Texas schools in Corpus Christi were eventually desegregated, substandard schools for children of Mexican and Latino descent were closed, and students who previously did not have access to adequate education were given the same opportunities available to others. Because of these efforts, four schools are named after him in Texas and one in Chicago, Illinois.

“Perhaps, most significantly, he emerged as founder of the G.I. Forum, a Mexican-Americans veterans association, to redress the injustices experienced by returning World War II veterans. The G.I. Forum initiated countless efforts on behalf of Americans in the areas of health care and veterans benefits, and now has 160,000 members in 500 chapters in 24 states and Puerto Rico. His civil rights movement would then grow to combat discrimination in housing, education, and voting rights.

“In recognition of these achievements, President John F. Kennedy appointed Dr. Garcia a member of the American Treaty Delegation for the Mutual Defense Agreement between the United States and the Federation of the West Indies. As President Kennedy once said in another context, [i]n each of us, there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone. Dr. Garcia understood this uplifting concept as he fought discrimination against the voiceless, which we should all be proud of.

“In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Dr. Garcia as alternate ambassador to the United Nations where he gave the first speech by an American before the United Nations in a language other than English. Dr. Garcia spoke in Spanish to a captivated audience. President Reagan presented Dr. Garcia, the Nations highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1984, for his meritorious service to his country, the first Mexican American to receive this distinction.

“Americans should do all they can to learn about Dr. Garcia. He dedicated his life to the less fortunate and will always be remembered for giving so much of himself for us all.

“Thank you.”

In December 2009, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) filed a similar bill in the Senate honoring the work of Dr. Hector P. Garcia.

Co-sponsors of the bill are: U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas), U.S. Rep. Joe Baca (D-California), U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-California), U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-New York), U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Illinois), U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Arizona) and U.S. Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands).

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