President Barack Obama praised the progress and gains that Hispanic-Americans have made over the course of his presidency, saying he’s optimistic about the future of the community despite the rhetoric heard during the election season.
At a White House’s reception celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on Wednesday, Obama called Hispanics' heritage one of the richest in the world.
"The United States is blessed to share so much of it," he said. "Traditions, food, music, of course, from Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, countries across Central America, South America — it's woven into our daily lives.”
The president said that during his eight years in the White House, 4 million Hispanics have gained health insurance coverage and high school graduation rates among Latinos are at record highs.
The reception, an annual event at the White House, took place in the midst of a heated presidential election.
Obama said he hopes the country will tackle immigration and criminal justice reform in the future.
“We all knew that it was going to take more than one presidency, one vice presidency, to get this done. But we're going to get it done,” Obama said. “We're not going to get there by tearing each other down, demonizing each other, turning on one another, trying to suggest that, somehow, there's one group that's more deserving and others who are outsiders.”
He added: “America still gives people hope, and we want to make sure that we fulfill the promise of this amazing country. You help us do it. And that's why I want to once again say thank you for everything you've done for us. Muchas gracias (Thank you very much).”
Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in the U.S. from Sept. 15 until Oct. 15.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.