Celebration of Latino Alumni: Where we’ve been and where we’re going
“We need to encourage and harness professional development in the next generation,” San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro ’00 said in a keynote address. His talk was part of the Celebration of Latino Alumni, held at HLS from Sept. 27 to 30. Like many panelists during the event, Castro trumpeted significant Latino advances in politics, government, and business and at Harvard. But he also acknowledged that Latinos in the U.S. have a long way to go before their numbers as leaders in boardrooms, elected office and government match their segment of the population. Indeed, Castro lamented the backlash against Latinos via anti-immigrant and voter identification legislation. As daunting as those hurdles are, however, he said that they have stirred many Latinos to action in California and Arizona.
The second Celebration of Latino Alumni, held at Harvard Law School, drew nearly 200 alumni and guests to the school to share their experiences and reflect on the path of social change.
In addition to Julián Castro’s keynote address, one of the highlights of the event was a gala dinner Saturday night that featured a keynote address by Mario L. Baeza ’74 and a presentation of the Harvard Law School Association Award to Joaquin G. Avila ’73, a nationally recognized expert on Latino voting rights. Avila, who is recovering from a stroke, was unable to travel to Cambridge to accept his award. Andres W. Lopez ’95, HLSA Latino Alumni Committee chair, described Baeza as “an American success story.” “He represents the very best of Harvard Law School and the Latino community that’s going to make a mark and change this country,” said Lopez.
Ambassador Abelardo L. Valdez LL.M. ’74 led the Friday morning plenary titled “Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going” by hailing the growth in numbers in the student body and the prominence of the Latino alumni.
“We have a lot to celebrate,” said Valdez, who served Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter. “We have had a quantum leap since the 1970s,” when only a handful of HLS students were Latino, none of them female, to the present 10 percent of the Class of 2012. But, he added, “We have a long way to go.”
In a “Conversation with the Dean” on Saturday, Dean Martha Minow said that hiring Latino faculty members is a high priority and that, in her first year as dean, a permanent offer was extended to a candidate. Minow said, “We will continue to make sure that we have the very best people, and we know the very best people will look like America.”
Marcus R. Donner