Speech by SEC Commissioner:
Acceptance Speech of Judge Urbina Lifetime Award
Commissioner Roel C. Campos
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
November 1, 2006
Thank you Judge Urbina, for that kind introduction.
Before I begin my short remarks tonight, I would like to introduce quickly my spouse Mini Campos and my son Daniel, who is giving up doing his homework tonight to be here. I also want to introduce my dear friend and fellow Commissioner, a great public servant and staunch defender of American investors Commissioner Kathy Casey. Commissioner Casey certainly had better offers than to hear me speak tonight, but chose to spend the evening with us.
You know when I was informed about receiving the Judge Urbina Lifetime Award, I said to myself, "Wait a minute, have I gotten so old that people are thinking about me in terms of my lifetime?" Oh well.
First of all, I want to sincerely thank the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia for selecting me for this award. To say the obvious, receiving an award like this is humbling. When I think of Judge Urbina for whom this award is appropriately named and his public service and accomplishments over his lifetime, it is clear that I am a Lilliputian standing on the shoulders of a giant in our community. Judge Urbina, I congratulate you tonight for being a continuing inspiration to our community and to many generations of young Hispanic lawyers.
In the few minutes I have tonight, I would like to speak about what I call the Hispanic American Imperative and the role of professionals like yourselves within this framework.
We all know that the Hispanic or Latino population in the United States is at least 42.7 million today. This makes the Hispanic Community, the largest minority community in America with about 14% of the population. Now, our community is not a monolith. We represent every race and every religion. Many are first and second generation. Most of us have Spanish as a language that is still spoken within our extended family. We start more businesses than most any other group. We serve in the military more than any other group. We win more Congressional Medals of Honor than any other group, and, throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century, our young have made the ultimate sacrifice and died for our country, including Iraq, in disproportionate numbers. We participate in both political parties and neither party can take us for granted.
What is also astounding about our community is the demographic tsunami that we represent the incredible growth rate of our community. About one out of every two people added to the nation's population between July 1, 2004 and July 1, 2005 were Hispanic. By 2050, there will be over 103 million Hispanics in America and we will account for one out of every four Americans.
I often say, that, "As Hispanics go, so goes America." Why do I say that? First of all, in this century, Hispanics will provide most of the young people who will become the backbone of our economy in this century the workers and professionals in America. They will be crucial for our economy and to maintain our social fabric and safety net, such as social security. Hispanics in America must be educated and integrated into all levels of our economy or our country will be in serious trouble.
Consider that in this era of globalization, workers from around the world do not have to come to the US to obtain maximum returns for their services. They can maximize their standard of living by staying at home. This is certainly true in India and China, where on a modest salary, engineers can have drivers and servants.
Bottom line: America cannot afford to squander our community!
Where does this lead us in the business and professional world? First of all, every business in America that sell products or services has to continue to connect to its clients and customers and they will increasingly be Hispanic and minority individuals. In some regions, Hispanics will be over 50% of the population. To ensure, that products and services are attractive to this community, businesses will have to obtain expertise in reaching our community, in understanding opportunities and avoiding pitfalls. As a business proposition, you cannot ignore what will be thirty or forty percent of your business base. I once asked Bob Iger of Disney, "Who do you think will be watching your movies in the near future?" Hispanic kids will make up a large portion of the audience for kid-themed movies.
To better market and plan for sales to Hispanics, businesses will need to seek out Hispanics as key executives and for board director positions. During my tenure as a Commissioner at the SEC, I have spent much time trying to educate the business world and the financial community in particular of this Hispanic paradigm.
Essentially, this is a business imperative. This is not a "nice to do" situation. Studies already prove that diversity in organizations produce better results. This is intuitive. When people of different backgrounds are brought together, different perspectives are brought and better economic decisions are made. It is that simple. It is a matter of staying competitive in the business environment.
To bring it to focus on the law business, firms that do litigation and court room work have to consider who will be on the juries that hear cases in major cities of course, many minority individuals, including Hispanics. So, one must consider how to be persuasive to these juries. Will having minority lawyers on the trial team be important? I think so. If I am a client I would want every advantage and would want minorities being part of the team that tries my case.
Consider what Wal-Mart's legal department recently did. It demanded that firms providing legal services to Wal-Mart submit a slate that would include at least one women and a person of color for the relationship role with the company. This could mean a shift of $60 million in billings credit. So, increasingly, business clients are "getting it," although statistics show only 5 percent of law firm partners are minorities nationwide.
Since I have been a Commissioner on the SEC, I have used the informal bully pulpit to push Wall Street firms to hire more Latinos executives and to hire Latino business graduates for their management tracks. I have also challenged public companies to seek diversity on their boards, and to consider qualified minorities and Latinos. I also have challenged Wall Street bankers to make capital available for Latino and minority businesses by issuing my Campos Capital Challenge.
The progress is always slower than one would like. The other day, however, after I gave a speech in New York I was surrounded by six or seven young Latinos who were new hires at Goldman Sachs. Other investment banks are also showing similar results. I know that large law firms are also actively recruiting qualified Hispanic lawyers.
I often represent our Agency internationally. I see first hand the differences that make America uniquely poised to be competitive in the global marketplace. First of all America is the most racially and ethnically diverse country in the world. That diversity produces in America an unrivaled and unprecedented energy and entrepreneurship. America's diversity provides a competitive edge and helps our companies obtain the best analysis and business perspectives, helping us to produce better business ideas and to compete for business internationally. This ultimately makes America the most productive nation on earth.
Additionally, where, but in America, can someone like me and many of you, grow up speaking Spanish as my first language, be dirt poor, and somehow attend some of the best schools in America and end up a Commissioner at the SEC?
I am one version of the American dream, but in this audience tonight, I know that there are hundreds of inspiring individual stories that also make up the collective American dream.
I urge you to continue to create and build up your own individual American dream, but, most importantly, help others in our community achieve their dreams. Of course, by helping others, you ultimately help yourself and our community. History shows clearly, that every immigrant group that has achieved success in America worked together and helped each other, in finding work, in philanthropy, and, of course, getting an education.
There is a larger responsibility on all of us. The American dream has to work for the Hispanic community. If we Hispanics do not become "Exhibit A" that the American dream is alive and well in America, then our America will decline as a nation in the future, and the American dream will become a mirage.
Fortunately, as I look around tonight and see these great numbers of Hispanic professionals, I see that there is nothing to worry about. Therefore, I urge each of you to keep building your personal American dream, helping and mentoring others in our community. We will all be great stewards of this most precious of our country's assets the great American Dream. And we will keep it burning brightly for all the world to see.
Thank you for your kind attention, and for this lovely award.