Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.
William A. Ramos is the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
As Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Secretary, I have the privilege to serve President Obama and the Department of Commerce Secretary promoting their policies, programs and initiatives with state and local elected officials as it relates to the 12 bureaus within the department. In a city where politics and government looks inward toward Capitol Hill, I have the unique opportunity to look toward the 50 states and five territorial capitals, the 3,068 counties, and thousands of cities, townships and villages and their governmental associations. From the 2010 Decennial Census, promoting the National Export Initiative, to NOAA’s work with governors and mayors and everything in between, the work with these elected and appointed officials is important to the President, the Secretary and to our nation.
I do this work with the assistance and collaboration of 12 very dedicated Bureau Directors of Intergovernmental Affairs, who stand ready to assist state/local and territorial officials and their staffs to improve the understanding of the Department of Commerce’s critical work across the country and around the world by conducting outreach and education activities.
Prior to my appointment to the Obama Administration, I was Director of the Washington, DC office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, leading a team that represented NALEO’s mission of empowering Latinos to fully participate in the American political process by advocating on Capitol Hill and the Administration on policy issues related to immigration, naturalization, the Census, voting rights protection and representation in the administration. I began my career at ASPIRA of Florida, a youth leadership development organization, and have worked in governmental relations with America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth and the YMCA of the USA here in Washington, DC. I was also the Director of Policy and Legislation for a Miami-Dade County Commissioner.
Growing up in such an international city as Miami, Florida, I had the opportunity to work and learn within an environment where Latino participation was very strong in business, the media, government, education and non-profit work. As the son of a retired chef and elementary school cafeteria worker, both of whom were community activists; my parents instilled in me a passion for community service, social and racial justice, and the empowerment of the Latino community and communities of color that spans a twenty-five plus year professional career. Whether it was helping develop leadership through education among Latino youth; serving as a board member for a senior center and a housing and economic development non-profit; or advocating for Latinos to fully participate in the American political process it has always been important to me that all voices are heard and are part of the decision making process on the issues that affect our community and our nation.
It is the cross section of my life-long professional advocacy and my role at Commerce that made one my duties working with state and local elected officials across the country, one of the most important and rewarding ones; the 2010 Decennial Census. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it is important to note that data from the 2010 Census provide insights to our ethnically diverse nation. According to the 2010 Census, 308.7 million people resided in the United States on April 1, 2010, of which 50.5 million (or 16 percent) were of Hispanic or Latino origin.
The Latino population increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010, accounting for over half of the 27.3 million increases in the total population of the United States. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, which was four times the growth in the total population at 10 percent. Additionally, 3.7 million were counted in Puerto Rico.
As a Puerto Rican in the Obama Administration, one of the most rewarding opportunities for me has been to serve as an advisor to the President’s Task Force on the Status of Puerto Rico as it relates to the Department of Commerce. Working with colleagues from across the administration gave me greater insight to the kind of work that other departments do not only in Puerto Rico but across the country, and provided a better understanding to how each bureau at Commerce can help the island’s government improve its economy. It also afforded me the opportunity to be witness of something that hadn’t happened in 40 years, a Presidential visit to the island. The arrival of Air Force One and President Obama this past June, and the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Summit surrounding his visit, confirmed the President’s and his administration commitment to Puerto Rico.
Having started my career as a Latino youth leadership development counselor, I encourage all young Latinos to be involved with their local and state governments, because at one level or the other, many of the issues that everyone cares about are affected by governors, mayors, council members and state legislators. The Latino community in this country will continue to grow and this country needs dedicated and passionate elected officials of every race and ethnicity to continue leading it forward and Win the Future.