Hispanic Heritage Month: Embracing, enriching, enabling America

Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. -- Sept. 15 begins the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

According to hispanicheritagemonth.org, this date marks the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This celebration also includes the declaration of independence of Mexico on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18, and Belize on Sept. 21.

According to DEOMI.com, this year’s theme invites us to reflect on Hispanics and Hispanic Americans not only embracing America and its culture, but also bringing their own traditions, culture, language, values, work ethics and ideals to the vitality and meaningful legacy in this nation’s cultural framework. This year’s theme is broken into three distinct areas:

Embracing the ideals that founded this great nation.
Enriching the culture through diversity, hard work, compassion, passion, and unwavering commitments.
Enabling greatness in America by contributing to every facet of American society.

One such individual who possessed all of these traits was Franklin Chang-Díaz. According to biography.com, he was born and raised in a poor family in Costa Rica until his parents sent him to the live with relatives in 1967. He had dreams of becoming a scientist and studied hard to achieve his goal. He was very grateful for the opportunities he was afforded by being in the United States, and very proud to become a U.S. citizen. In May 1980, Chang-Díaz was the first Hispanic person selected to enter the space program. He became an astronaut in 1981. He is a veteran of six space missions and has spent nearly 1,300 hours in space. Other accomplishments include receiving the Liberty Medal from President Ronald Reagan in 1986, and the Medal of Excellence from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 1987.

Franklin Chang-Díaz is one example that embodies “Embracing, Enriching and Enabling America” and represents the very essence of Hispanics and Hispanic-Americans, a group of people who have long played an integral role in the building of this great nation. During this month, take a little extra time to acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of Hispanics and Hispanic-Americans.