5:22 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Beautiful. Thank you very much. I appreciate you being here. And I’m really thrilled, once again, to welcome so many of my friends to the White House to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. That’s a big month. (Applause.) That’s a big month, right? (Applause.)
And I want to thank all of our incredible representatives that are here, and a very good friend of mine who’s done a fantastic job, Vice President Mike Pence. Where’s Mike? (Applause.) Mike. Thank you, Mike.
Today we come together to honor the incredible contributions Hispanic Americans make to our communities, our culture, and our country every single day. You know it. (Applause.)
Hispanic Americans embody American values: devotion to faith and family, commitment to hard work, enterprise and community service, and a fierce patriotic pride. Does that sound like you? I think so. (Applause.) Right?
Throughout all 50 states, Hispanic Americans enrich our nation in countless ways — from small businesses to support our neighborhoods, and to innovations that improve our lives, and through military service that protects our people and our great American flag. (Applause.)
One such American joins us tonight. He opened tonight’s ceremony with an inspiring rendition of our National Anthem: Vietnam Veteran, Daniel Cortez. Where’s Daniel? (Applause.) Where’s Daniel? Good job. I heard that. I heard it. It was good. You’re blessed. You know that? You’re blessed.
CORTEZ: I’m blessed because you’re our President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Ah, thank you. Thank you very much. Very nice.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Mr. Trump! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. We’re out there fighting for you, that I’ll tell you. You know it. Thank you very much. And thank you, Daniel.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. What a lot of spirit. But I know that about you. I know. (Laughter.) I know all about your spirit. You got great spirit. Thank you very much everybody. I appreciate it.
And we’re honored to be joined by Secretary Alex Acosta. Great guy. (Applause.) Great guy. Thank you, Alex. And the Treasurer of the United States — that’s a very big position, huh? — Jovita Carranza. Thank you. Jovita. (Applause.) That’s a very big position. Thank you, Jovita.
Thank you, as well, to the many ambassadors joining us, some of whom were just credentialed earlier today. They came over to the Oval Office. We took pictures. We said hello. Some great, great people. Put your hands up wherever you may be. Put your hands up. Yes. Yes. (Applause.) Great people. Thank you. You’re going to have a good time. (Applause.) And congratulations to all of you. Congratulations.
And thank you to all of the state and local leaders who are here with us this evening, including New Mexico’s great Governor, Susana Martinez. Susana? Susana? (Applause.) Thank you, Susana. Great job. Thank you, Susana. And Puerto Rico’s Lieutenant Governor, Luis Marín. (Applause.) Where’s Luis? Luis — come up here, Luis. Great job. (Applause.) That’s a great job. You did a great job. Well, I didn’t mean the stage, but that’s okay. Come on up here anyway. Hey, Luis. Why don’t you all come on up? Come on, you’ve been so incredible. Come on up, Mike. Come on up, on the stage. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
That wasn’t in the playbook but I think they deserve it. Do you agree? Right? (Applause.) Come on up. Good, Susana. Good. Great job.
I want to thank Luis for his partnership with our agencies during the unprecedented disaster that you saw what happened, and everybody saw what happened — the recovery and all of the efforts we made in Puerto Rico. It’s been an incredible, tough situation. But we fought, and we are winning that one big. And I want to thank you, Luis, and everybody. I want to thank you and the people of Puerto Rico. (Applause.)
And we stand with Puerto Rico, and we are helping them to rebuild stronger and better than ever before. And that’s what’s happening too. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Luis. (Applause.)
As we speak, our fellow citizens are being affected by the devastating impact of Hurricane Florence. Nearly 20,000 federal and military personnel are deployed to support response efforts along the Southeast Coast. These are incredible people that are going through a lot right now. We will do whatever it takes to keep the American people safe.
To every family who has lost a loved one in these really devastating hurricanes and storms: All of America grieves with you. Our hands are folded in prayer and outstretched with love. We will never, ever leave your side. (Applause.)
Today, as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we share our gratitude for all the ways Hispanic Americans make our country flourish and prosper. These are incredible people. You know you’re incredible people, don’t you? Huh? (Applause.) You know that, don’t you? Especially with that beautiful Trump hat on. Thank you. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible) Puerto Rico!
THE PRESIDENT: That’s good. That’s good. Great. Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s beautiful. Thank you very much.
From our courts to our classrooms, from large boardrooms to small businesses, from statehouses to the White House, Hispanic Americans uplift our citizens and inspire our nation. You really do. You inspire our entire nation. And I want to let you know that personally.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, darling. Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Viva Trump! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Very nice. Thank you.
We especially thank the quarter of a million Hispanic Americans who serve in our military — and serve well. (Applause.) We will always honor the men and women who serve in uniform, and we are truly proud that we have secured the largest pay raise — now, unless they want to give it back. (Laughter.) Okay? Anybody want to give it back? No, don’t bother. For our troops — the largest one in a decade. So we are, really, very proud of that. And they deserve it, and they deserve it very much.
Our military, we’ve rebuilt. And we’re rebuilding our military — $700 billion. And we’re rebuilding our military. I won’t even say the second number. But the second number for the second year is $716 billion. So that’s a lot of money, but there’s nothing like what we’re doing. And it needed it. It was tired. It was depleted. But on top of that, we got those pay raises for our great military people. (Applause.) Thank you.
We also honor our great veterans, including our 1.5 million Hispanic veterans. And thanks to the passage of Veterans Choice — big thing — and Veterans Accountability — they’ve been trying for over 40 years to get those two — we are giving our veterans the care they so richly deserve. Finally. Finally. Been a lot of years. (Applause.) They’ve been waiting a lot of years.
At this event last year, I also promised that our massive tax cuts and regulation cuts would deliver tremendous prosperity to Hispanic Americans. You remember everybody said we weren’t going to be able to get them; it wasn’t going to happen. It happened. Nobody has cut regulation like we have. In less than two years, we’ve cut more regulation than any other President, and that could be for a much longer period of time. And we also delivered the biggest tax cuts ever, and reform — and tax reform.
So now we have the best economy in the history of our country. (Applause.) Big one. That’s a big one. We have created more than 4 million new jobs since the election, and the Hispanic unemployment rate has recently reached an all-time historic low in the history of our country. (Applause.)
I don’t know. I don’t know how you beat that in an election. When we say, Susana — when we say that Hispanic has reached the lowest unemployment rate in the history of our country, how does somebody beat that? Say, oh, they’re going to do better? I don’t know. I don’t think so. They’re not going to do better. In fact, it will start going in the wrong direction.
Middle-class income has reached a new all-time high, and household income grew fastest among Hispanics. Did you know that? Median income for Hispanics rose by 3.7 percent and surpassed $50,000 for the first time ever in history. (Applause.)
The poverty rate for Hispanics just reached a new all-time historic low. Nearly 350,000 Hispanics were lifted out of poverty in 2017. That’s pretty good. (Applause.) These are very hard numbers to beat. I better win the Hispanics next time, right? (Laughter.) But we did well. We did well. Did a lot better than anyone thought. But we better win it, Alex, okay? I’m going to put that on you. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY ACOSTA: We’ll make it happen.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you very much.
Nearly 40 percent of the reduction in the overall poverty rate is the result of poverty reductions among Hispanic Americans. Home ownership among Hispanics is at the highest rate in nearly a decade.
Hispanic-owned businesses now make up more than 10 percent of all businesses in the United States. That’s an incredible number. (Applause.) They contribute nearly half a trillion dollars to our economy last year alone.
The growth in Hispanic-owned businesses is over twice the national average. That’s something. That’s really — these are amazing statistics, when you think. Right? These are amazing statistics. Be proud of yourselves. That’s incredible. Of course, I’d like to take full credit. Can I take full? (Laughter and applause.) Huh? I don’t know. I wasn’t the one getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning to go to work, I know that. But I get up at five for other reasons. (Laughter.)
According to recent studies, Hispanic-owned small businesses are increasingly confident in our nation’s economic future, and 77 percent plan to grow their business over the next few years. That’s optimism.
With us today is Irina Vilariño. How do you like that? Was that good? (Applause.) They wanted me to get that little emphasis on the “O.” Who is from Miami Beach, Florida and is a beautiful person. Irina is expanding her family’s restaurant business that began in the 1980s as a fruit stand after her family escaped from Cuba. And we did great with the Cuban people, didn’t we? Huh? (Applause.)
Irina, please come up and say a few words. Where is Irina? Come here.
VILARIÑO: I’m here, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Where? Good. Good, I thought so. (Applause.)
VILARIÑO: Thank you. Hi. Thank you. Thank you, everyone.
Good afternoon, Vice President Pence and Mr. President Trump. It is a privilege to be here in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. And while I’m very proud of my origins, I am even prouder of what we have accomplished in this great country.
This is why I propose we have an American Heritage Month. (Laughter and Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll need it.
VILARIÑO: Right? Had it not been for the principles on which this country was founded on for its generous nature and that of its people, my family and millions that conform our Cuban-American community in South Florida, I would not be telling this story here today — the story of white rice, black beans, and the American Dream. (Applause.)
My father was a political prisoner in Cuba, and we had the opportunity to immigrate to the United States in 1980, during the Mariel Exodus.
Four years later, we opened our first restaurant, Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine, in Hollywood, Florida. Today, we employ over 400 employees in South Florida in 15 locations.
While we have worked hard, I am fully aware that our success is not solely merited on our persistence, but on the attribute of the free market principles and the opportunities available to all Americans, whether you are from Cuba, Cambodia, or Kansas.
Bureaucratic policies, senseless spending, red tape, and increased taxes do not help entrepreneurs or the middle class or anyone who is attempting to aspire above their means. On the contrary, they stifle upward mobility.
Thank you, Mr. President, for recognizing — (laughs) — how am I doing?
THE PRESIDENT: You’re doing great.
VILARIÑO: Good. (Laughter.) Thank you, Mr. President, for recognizing we were deviating from this path, and that in order to preserve these opportunities for future generations, we must keep America great. (Applause.) Which is exactly what your tax plan, and like many other initiatives and policies you have accomplished, have done for our community.
Where there is order, law, and prosperity, there is peace. Thank you again. It’s truly an honor.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Irina.
VILARIÑO: My pleasure. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
VILARIÑO: My pleasure. Absolutely. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Irina. That’s beautiful. Thank you. Great job. That’s a lot of employees, too, isn’t it? Big business.
VILARIÑO: Well, not half as many I would like, but we’re working on it. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. I have no doubt.
Joel Garza is also here. Joel is a proud owner of 45 Sonic Burger franchises. (Applause.) It’s in the Houston area. How are they, Joel? Pretty good, huh? He employs more than 1,500 people, and that number has grown considerably in the last year. Really successful person.
Joel, please join me on stage, say a few words, and tell us a little about your success. Thank you. (Applause.)
GARZA: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s an honor to be here representing the Hispanic community, and (inaudible) on the shoulders of my family and many Hispanics that work hard every day to make America great.
Mr. President, I want to thank you for the tax reform. You know, it was, to us, a huge impact in our business. We — just last year, we opened three more restaurants and we created about 100-and-something jobs in the Houston area. (Applause.)
It’s been a lot easy for us to go to institution financials, and get — borrow money in the last few years, the last two years, than before. That’s another huge achievement that you help us to have access to capital.
THE PRESIDENT: We made it much easier.
GARZA: A lot easy.
THE PRESIDENT: Make sure you pay back the money. (Laughter.)
GARZA: That’s another thing. (Laughter.) I want to thank my lovely wife that she been with me since day one. Because when we start, it was not easy. Angie. (Applause.)
And like a typical Hispanic, my daughter Gigi (ph), my son Joe, Jr., and my son Andy, my parents, my grandkids, and especially a real good friend of mine that make this possible to be here with you, Rick Figueroa and Mario. I don’t know where they at. (Applause.)
And all we ask is that God give you health; that way you can be with us and guide this country in the right direction. (Applause.)
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s beautiful. What a beautiful statement that is. So I want to thank Joel. America is winning again. And Hispanic owned-businesses are leading the way. They are winning again. (Applause.)
Hispanic Americans are not only living the American Dream, but their incredible efforts are unlocking the American Dream for citizens all across our land. You’re doing a fantastic job.
Today and every day, we honor, cherish, and celebrate Hispanic American workers, families, students, businesses, and leaders. You have great leaders. And we also remember that America is home to people from many backgrounds, with many different stories, and hailing from every single walk of life.
But we are all one people. We are all part of one great American family. And we are all in this together, saluting one flag, singing one anthem, and pledging allegiance to one nation under God. (Applause.)
God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you. God bless America. (Applause.)
5:41 P.M. EDT