State Assemblyman Peter Rivera Friday said "empowerment" is a crucial concept for the Hispanic community as the next century approaches.
The Bronx Democrat delivered the keynote speech at the third annual Hispanic Conference of Upstate New Yorkat the Adam's Mark Hotel in Buffalo.
Rivera singled out several issues as being of special interest to the Hispanic community in upcoming elections:
Bilingual education. He said it could be an important component of schooling for Hispanic children, if properly administered. "The problems with bilingual education are in the method, not the message," he said.
Census sampling. According to Rivera, more than a million Hispanics were left uncounted after the last census, and he urged those attending the luncheon to express their support for switching to a sampling method, which would calculate population makeup from a sample census taken from each region.
The court system. The Assemblyman urged the audience to push for a Hispanic appointee to the Supreme Court.
Political representation. Rivera said low voter turnout among Hispanics was one reason that other ethnic communities had a greater voice in state, local and federal government. In addition, he said the continuing influx of new immigrants into areas that traditionally have been Hispanic political strongholds may continue to erode the community's political power.
Assimilation. He cautioned that the Hispanic community must be careful not to lose its own identity as it moves closer to the mainstream of American society.
In order to overcome these, and other issues, Rivera said the Hispanic community must work together, for collective, and not individual, empowerment.
"We must succeed collectively," he said. "Together, we can transform the American dream into our dream."
The conference concludes today after a three-day program of speakers, performances, events, exhibits, lectures, concerts, and an black-tie evening party.
The conference is being chaired by Niagara Common Council Member Robert Quintana.