As we bid goodbye to 2018 and embrace the New Year, I feel a little torn between reflecting back on an incredible year and looking forward.
On the one hand, this past year was one of increased stability, unprecedented growth and enthusiastic engagement, culminating in our best convention to date. Over those four days in Cleveland, hundreds of young Hispanics walked away with new jobs. Thousands of connections were made, between members and companies and universities, professionals and students, leaders and emerging leaders, and across generations.
And yet, while it’s essential to acknowledge these accomplishments, I’m so excited to imagine how the year ahead will unveil itself, both for SHPE, our members, and our stakeholders. And, I can’t help but think about how we frame ourselves in 2019 – or in certain instances, reframe ourselves – both as an organization and as individuals.
Recently, I went to the Hispanic Leadership Summit at the United Nations in New York City. The next day, I participated in a Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC) meeting at the headquarters of Morgan Stanley. Over the course of two days, I was blown away by the number of prominent Hispanic leaders and influencers that came together to tackle and proffer solutions to persistent challenges facing the Hispanic community.
There was one concept that came up a couple of times; the analogy of the Hispanic community as a sleeping giant. I have to chuckle at this. Who’s sleeping? We’re out there studying and working – sometimes multiple jobs. We are hustling. We are not sleeping.
There were other takeaways from both events, too many to delineate and describe here. But a handful resonated with me. Some of these I have modified and put in my own words:
1. As Latinos, we are not takers, we are makers.
2. We are not a drain on America’s economy and infrastructure. We fuel and build it.
3. We are America’s greatest untapped resource.
4. Our ethnicity, heritage, and culture is not a limitation, it is an asset.
5. We are not mindless followers, we are passionate pioneers and natural-born leaders.
6. We are resilient optimists.
At the leadership summit, Claudia Romo Edelman, coordinator of the summit, and founder of We Are All Human, gave a heartfelt speech and issued a call to action for more collaboration between and among Hispanics and our respective organizations.
At the LDC, Ana Valdez, CEO of the organization, gave a fascinating presentation full of insightful statistics on how Hispanics have contributed to the U.S economy.
Both these Latina leaders could have harped on the same old statistics during their presentations, regurgitating all the negative hype. Instead, they focused on the positive trends and our upward trajectory – all based on objective data. I wholeheartedly agree with this later approach.
Since onboarding with SHPE, I have felt this sense of urgency for the Hispanic community. A need to “flip the script.” The need for a paradigm shift – a shift FROM framing ourselves (or allowing others to frame Hispanics) in negative terms TO highlighting and showcasing our power and potential that is clearly there.
Heading into 2019, it is imperative that we learn and understand the facts. Real facts. Not just about our society or economy, but about ourselves and our contributions. That we develop a new, more positive narrative for the Hispanic community – for who we are and what we are about. To not only influence the narrative, but to shape and craft it for ourselves. There is no greater narrative than a collective one.
How does this pertain to SHPE? In 2019, I would like for us to develop our part in this greater narrative. A new, more positive “elevator speech” if you will, which includes data and the positive trends and upward trajectory of Hispanics in STEM. As we are doing this, I would like us to think bigger than SHPE. In defining our message, we must understand that we are defining more than our own path. We are having an outsized impact on the Hispanic community at large. Through that, we will be shaping this country – our country.
To develop this elevator pitch, we will need commitment from all of our members, partners and many stakeholders. We will need engagement at all levels. Yet, practically, we also will need those positive statistics on Hispanics in STEM to make our point, and when I mentioned this to Valdez of LDC following her presentation, she agreed.
In fact, she and I are planning to collaborate on that research. In the interim, I asked her if I, and any of us, could use LDC’s data points and stats in SHPE materials. Her response: “Please, use them.” How cool is that?
This type of collaboration, which exemplified our 2018 theme of Better Together, will still be essential to SHPE and all our stakeholders as we enter 2019 and start to write and refine our story. Though the actual theme of 2019—The Power of Transformation—looms large as we come to embrace conscious change and a new narrative.
My New Year’s resolution is an unflinching commitment to a fresh, dynamic narrative for myself and as the CEO of SHPE. As a community, once and for all, I feel we need to burst the many nationalistic bubbles that can sometimes separate us as Latinos. Instead, I encourage us to embrace our shared purpose, this notion that we are a “tribe of tribes.”
Today, I invite you to join me in that commitment. Writing our own story is not without challenges. But, together, and with persistence, we will have the benefit of defining who we are as individuals, as an organization, as a community, and as one familia.
Happy holidays, abrazo fuerte,