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Remarks to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)


Wednesday, April 1, 2009



Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)
National Press Club
Washington, D.C.

Thank you, Arturo Vargas, and thanks to all of you who have joined in this monumental effort to accurately count every resident of the United States in the 2010 Census.

The 1980 census was the first time the Census Bureau had a printed form available to Spanish-speaking residents who wanted to participate in the Census. We have come a long way since 1980. One of the ways we got there was through partnerships likes the ones we have with NALEO, and others of you in this room.

We have also had a long and productive partnership with Arturo, who has been involved in census issues since the ‘90s. I want to give a special thanks to Arturo for his many years of service on the Secretary’s Census Advisory Committee, and for his vision.

Today is only my third day on the job, and I will not be able to stay, but I wanted to tell you how significant your partnership with the Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau is to the success of the 2010 Census.

I arrived here in Washington at 2 a.m. Monday morning. At 9 a.m., my first duty as Commerce Secretary was to speak to many of you and more than 300 other organizations that participated in the Census Bureau’s National Partnership briefing.

It is a measure of just how critical a priority the Census is for the Commerce Department and for me personally as its secretary.

You also can be assured that the Obama Administration has taken the need for the appointment of a Census Director very seriously. This is a priority for me as well.

Tom Mesenbourg, the Acting Census Director, whom you all know very well, is here, and I want to thank him again for his vigilance in helping to plan and execute a successful census of all those living in the United States.

Our team—you, me, Tom and the other career civil servants at the Census Bureau—is united in our goal of conducting the best census ever.

The good news is: participating in the Census is easy and it’s safe. All it takes is completing 10 questions in 10 minutes. And all information collected is prohibited from being shared with any government agency.

Our partnership and your trusted voice send a powerful message that the Census belongs to each of us as residents of the United States.

We all recognize what is at stake:

  • More than $300 billion in federal funds is distributed every year based on Census numbers for vital services like disaster relief, health care, schools, transportation, and legal services;
  • Bringing the right numbers to your communities means bringing economic empowerment.

And you have not left the work to the Census Bureau alone. You are leading the way and taking charge of your destiny. Yes. It is time.

The Census is at the core of our democracy. It is not partisan, it is American—and it belongs to everyone living in America. It is about equality and full representation, regardless of economic status, race or ethnic origin.

The President provided $1 billion in economic recovery funds to the Census Bureau to put additional resources into advertising and community outreach—something the President knows about first hand.

For the first time, the Census Bureau will be mailing a bilingual form in English and Spanish to areas with a high concentration of Spanish-speaking households. These forms will be available in your communities at Be Counted sites, and Census representatives will provide assistance at Questionnaire Assistance Centers—all right in your neighborhoods.

The economic recovery funding will also help expand the Census in Schools program, which will help Spanish-speaking children understand the Census. My two kids bring home a lot of information from school that lets me know what is going on. I’m glad the Census in Schools program will help kids encourage their parents to participate in the Census.

A final use of economic recovery funds will be to create jobs. Hundreds of local folks around the country will be hired to reach out to Spanish-speaking and service organizations, and thousands of others will be hired directly from your neighborhoods to assist in our door-to-door counting efforts.

As we approach Census Day 2010, I want to remind you that you and every other person in this country has the right and the responsibility to participate in the Census.And you have the right to absolute security of the information you provide to the Census Bureau.

You have my commitment and the commitment of the Census Bureau to ensure your opportunity to be counted and that your rights will be protected. Our goal is straightforward: Count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

Thank you for your time, your resources and your commitment to a successful census.