WASHINGTON – Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (search), President Bush on Wednesday reached out to an important election-year constituency by talking up the benefits to minorities of his education and homeownership agenda.
"I'm proud of your heritage, I'm proud of the ancestry, I'm proud to call Latinos Americans and I'm proud to be your president," Bush said at the White House.
Democrats decried the event as hollow talk from an administration that they said has not addressed Hispanics' real needs.
Attending the annual event in the East Room were ambassadors, actors, sports figures and administration officials — many of whom Bush took care to point out in his remarks, which included some words in Spanish.
"I think it's important to promote a diverse administration, to welcome all cultures," Bush said.
The president celebrated the almost 200,000 Hispanic Americans serving in the armed forces.
Then he promoted his goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by 5.5 million by the end of the decade and a Bush-backed 2002 education overhaul that toughened standards for teachers, schools and student achievement.
"Our mission, our goal, our deepest desire is for every child, every child — including those whose parents don't speak English as a first language — to be able to realize the promise of this country by making sure the public schools have high standards and excellence in every classroom," Bush said.