To get your message across, sometimes you have to speak their language.
Whether Hillary Clinton is elected the first female president on Nov. 8 or not, the Democratic campaign has already made history several times.
Not to overstate the obvious, but this is the first time in our history that a woman is nominated for the highest office in the land. This is the first time a former first lady has gone on to run for the office once held by her husband. This is also the first time a major player in the presidential election is fluent in Spanish.
Most recently, vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine delivered an entire speech to a huge crowd in Phoenix, Arizona … in Spanish.
On Nov. 3, 2016, he spoke at a community center in Maryvale, which is considered the most Latino neighborhood in the Phoenix area. And, amazingly, Kaine took the time to address that demographic in their language.
Kaine learned Spanish over 35 years ago when he spent a year in Honduras with Jesuit missionaries in 1980.
Although he’s proudly shown off his Spanish-speaking chops on the campaign trail with a phrase here and there, he’s never delivered a whole speech in another language.
This time, he delivered the whole enchilada! (pardon the pun)
In this speech, Kaine acknowledged our collective frustrations with the election.
“I feel the same way about this election as you do. With so much talk of the Hispanic community coming into play, it was important for our campaign to address you in a language spoken by so many families across the country,” Kaine said.
Kaine also called for something we all want: unity. He said we need people of all origins to help write the next chapters of our country’s history. Yes, please!
Spanish-speaking parents and grandparents, many of whom don’t speak English, will be voting on Nov. 8, and that’s why this speech was a big deal.
Latinos have a huge deciding power in this presidential election. There are over 27 million of us eligible to vote this year, and we know we’ve got power.
Reaching out to my demographic by using our native language is not only a smart move, but also an empathetic one, which I love. It’s an acknowledgment that not all of us are fluent in both languages. It’s a reach across the divide to meet us halfway. It’s an added effort to make sure we all understand his message.
Kaine’s speech made me feel like my community, the Latino community, matters.
Finally, we’re important enough that one of the major party’s vice presidential candidates is addressing us directly.
Kaine spokeswoman Karen Finney told reporters on the senator’s plane, “No other person on a presidential ticket in the United States has given a full campaign speech in Spanish. So it’s unprecedented and historic.”
If only I could have taken my grandmother, who can no longer walk long distances, to this rally.
I so wish she could have heard his message of unity. I know she would have felt how far we’ve come. Politicians are trying to reach us — us! — the Latino community, by speaking our language.
The bottom line is that Kaine’s effort to speak our language shows that he cares. He knows we’re here to stay. He knows it’s better to embrace everything that brings us together — including language. Whether his speech translates into more votes in Arizona remains to be seen, but I know that for me, the gesture will never be forgotten.
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