Latinos take on bigger role in Obama inauguration

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 21, 2013 at 12:37 am •  Published: January 21, 2013
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San Antonio philanthropist and business leader Henry Munoz III, who coordinated the Latino inauguration event with Longoria and other Obama supporters, said this is a special moment when the Latino community is positioned to take an expanded role in shaping the country's future.

"Without question, the presidential election of 2012 proves that Latinos are perhaps the most important influence from this point forward in the election of the president of the United States," Munoz said. "It's important that the leadership in Washington view us not as a narrow interest group but as a vibrant political force" that carries not just votes, but influence and financial resources.

Organizers planned a series of symposiums, dinners and events ahead of the inauguration to keep people talking about issues that matter to Latinos, from immigration reform to building a Latino history museum on the National Mall. Munoz led a presidential commission that called on Congress in 2011 to authorize such a museum within the Smithsonian Institution, but Congress has not yet passed such a bill.

Munoz said it's important to keep Latinos engaged through the inauguration and beyond.

"Our work is not done. It doesn't end," he said. "We have a tendency to look at this phenomenon as ending on Election Day, when the reality is now it's time to get to work."

Longoria said this is her first inauguration. She has taken on a new role as political advocate since her days on "Desperate Housewives," pushing for a Latino history museum in Washington and raising funds for Obama's re-election.

Even though this is Obama's second inauguration, Longoria said there is still much to celebrate, including Sotomayor's role swearing in the vice president.

"There's something special about seeing a president recommit himself to the people of this great nation," she said before the show.

Longoria said she hopes to help influence policies, including immigration reform, and hopes Obama will make that his top priority as an economic issue. She called the Latino fundraising effort for the president a historic turning point.

"I think we have a permanent seat at the table, and now we're going to be able to have influence on what affects our communities," Longoria said. "I take civic responsibility very seriously, and I want to do what I can to help my country."

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