Latinos, last night you got the call to join the Republican Party and help shape America again. I sat with my family to hear Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, deliver a speech that deeply touched me. Why? Because it’s the story of many Latino families who have come to this country to discover freedom and opportunity.
Christie spoke of his mother, the enforcer, and how important rules were in his childhood home. His parents were hardworking and disciplined. Every day, his mother took three buses to get to work.
Christie’s story reminded me of my own parents’ journey to United States. My mother worked 12 hours a day, sewing blouses for five cents apiece, while my father worked two jobs, ensuring we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. They never thought of asking for help, as long as they were able to work and create their own destiny.
Christie also shared one of the most important lessons his mother ever taught him – that there would be times in his life when he would have to choose between love and respect. She advised him always to choose respect – that love without respect was fleeting. How true, I thought.
For many Latinos who have immigrated to this country, fleeing oppressive regimes or moving on from countries with little opportunities, deep in their hearts, they know the meaning of respect. In their home countries, they were not respected. They were not heard. They were taken for granted while their respective governments made decisions that impacted their futures – often in a negative way.
This is why many Latinos originally came to the United States. They were looking for the respect Christie spoke of last night. I think these same people need to remind themselves again of their desire for that respect. They need to look at themselves and their families and decide which political party best resembles their personal values.
Like Christie’s parents, my own parents gave me advice to live by, centering around love and respect. When I was a child, my father would tell me: “Study, work hard and always take care of your family. Love God, and always protect this country.”
And so, now, I smile to myself every time I hear that Latinos are in the pocket of the Democratic Party. I think many politicians want you to assume that we cannot make our own choices, that we will blindly make choices based on outsiders’ expectations, but what these politicians forget is that respect and personal strength are at the core of many Latino families. A political party cannot claim us – we claim the party.