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Welcome Remarks: 2022 Aspen Institute Latino Business & Entrepreneurship Summit

October 18, 2022  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the below remarks at the 2022 Aspen Institute Latino Business and Entrepreneurship Summit on October 18, 2022 at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.

Good morning, everyone. I loved that thought we just heard from Philip: “Equitable ecosystem building leads to wealth equity leads to social equity.” That may be our motto.

Thank you to our sponsors, our partner cities, our Board, and of course, our leader, Domenika Lynch, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program, and her great team.

People sometimes ask me, what is the Aspen Institute? We’re a global nonprofit organization founded in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, with communist systems rising and essentially declaring war on both free enterprise and democracy.

Our founders pushed back, believing in something called human dignity, which each person has, and we all possess equally.

They believed in dialogue across the supposed divides of difference, in cultivating values-based leadership, and, importantly, in bringing the business community into the work of creating a free, just, and equitable society.

They understood, as our great trustee Madeleine Albright once said, that for democracy to work, “People need to vote, but they also need to eat. Democracy must deliver.”

That means we need to create an inclusive economy that works for everyone.

One that rewards people who work fulltime and play by the rules with opportunity and financial security.

One that breaks down the barriers to equitable investment in companies of all sizes, especially small and growing businesses.

One that perpetually supports education and lifelong professional skill building so that workers and businesses can adapt fast given today’s tech-fueled accelerating rates of change.

One that takes into account the needs of businesses and nonprofit enterprises for excellent infrastructure, for reasonable regulations, for investments in resiliency, and for the reform and improvement of government procurement policies that, as Domenika knows so well, have the potential to be levers of equitable growth.

The Latinos and Society Program truly embodies the Aspen Institute’s mission and values and purpose by promoting long-term economic strength and growth in Latino communities throughout the United States. And Domenika and her team have the knowledge, the integrity, the deep cultural pride, and, above all, the relentless drive to make purposeful and sustainable change.

Today, they have gathered here a formidable array of industry leaders, policymakers, practitioners, and entrepreneurs who all bring a shared commitment to breaking down barriers and expanding opportunities for aspiring and existing Latino entrepreneurs and small business owners.

They have made it possible for all of us to learn about some of the many innovative efforts taking place nationwide to foster entrepreneurship and wealth creation in the Latino community. Hope, opportunity, and solutions are right before us.

From creating access to capital to expanding technical training, to implementing anti-displacement strategies, to transferring business ownership, to helping entrepreneurs make the journey to scale, to digital upskilling, to inspiring new generations, and so much more.

Today, about one in five Americans identify as Latino. Before long, it will be one in four.

If the Aspen Institute were selling property or technology services, I’d make sure my team knew that this is a robust customer base. But what we’re selling is democracy and shared prosperity, so the strengths and growth of the Latino community is even more important.

More and more, the entrepreneurs, the executives, the inventors, the financiers, the mayors and governors, the college presidents and thought leaders and discoverers of this great country will come from the Latino community and its many vibrant cultures.  That’s a blessing for all.

Right now, there are at least 450,000 Latino-owned businesses in the United States — a community growing faster than any other group. Whether these companies are in construction or in retail or in tech or in wellness or in the arts or in financial services or in the green sector, they are all about striving and family and the future. What an asset to celebrate and understand better and build upon, which is exactly why we’re here today.

We hope that today’s program is like a well-kindled fire.

Led by Domenika, we will shine a light on important efforts by individuals, entrepreneurs, CDFIs, the private sector, local governments, and federal officials. But we also want to increase the heat of these efforts—what Domenika calls “inspired action”—to accelerate Latino small business growth and expansion.

Thank you all for being here—and for helping to renew the promise of the American economy and the American experiment in democracy.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our next speaker, an eminent human being who leads with mind, heart, and spine, Julie Chavez Rodriguez.

She currently serves as Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Joe Biden, and Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, she served as a Deputy Campaign Manager on the Biden-Harris presidential campaign. She was National Political Director and traveling Chief of Staff for then-Senator Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign. During the Obama-Biden Administration, she served as Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Deputy Director of Public Engagement in the Office of Public Engagement.

Among all of this and so much more, she is not only a leader in her community, but the epitome of a selfless public servant who has dedicated her life to her people and her country—just like her heroic grandfather, Cesar Chavez. Please join me in welcoming Julie to the stage.