President Obama’s appearance at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s black-tie gala couldn’t have come at a better time for him. Ever since his address before the joint session of Congress, he has been compelled to stress that no undocumented workers would receive benefits under his health care plan.
But at Wednesday night’s star-studded event, Obama got the opportunity to introduce Sonia Sotomayor, subtly reminding the Latino community that it was he who appointed the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
"Our own royalty, somebody who we have become so extraordinarily proud of, somebody who I've just come to adore, and who is somebody who's going to make us proud for many, many years to come, because she's not term-limited, the newest justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor," Obama said. The packed audience, which included actress/singer Jennifer Lopez and husband Marc Anthony, rose to its feet to applaud Sotomayor.
When she took the bench, Obama said, it was the proudest moment of his presidency.
"As she lifted her right hand to take the oath, our nation took one step closer to fully realizing the founding ideals that the court itself was established to defend. And across America, millions of children's sights are now set higher; their dreams are a little bigger. That benefits all of us."
Obama, who will need the support of Hispanics to get his health care overhaul through Congress, promised increased aid to Latino communities. "Todos somos Americanos," Obama said. "We are all Americans."
It was during Obama’s nationally televised address last Wednesday that Rep. Joe Wilson called him a liar for noting that his health plan would not cover anyone in the United States illegally. The president’s emphasis on this specific provision of the plan, an attempt to quell the backlash sparked by Wilson, has not played well among many Hispanics.
"Even though I do not believe we should extend health coverage to those who are here illegally, I also don't simply believe we can ignore the fact that our immigration system is broken," Obama said at the gala. He also reminded that in addition to his nomination of Sotomayor he has hired more Hispanics in his administration than any other and pointed to senior members of his Cabinet, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.