National Hispanic Heritage Month is the annual celebration of Americans of Hispanic origin. Each year from September 15 to October 15 we single out the achievements of the Hispanic community and enjoy the richness of its culture. The theme for this year's National Hispanic Heritage Month is "Embracing the Fierce Urgency of Now!" It reflects that, although Hispanic-Americans are an essential part of America, they still face considerable challenges on the road to success.
This year brings cause for special celebration as Hispanic Americans celebrate the successful confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor became the first person of Hispanic descent to serve on the Supreme Court. Her rise from humble origins to the highest court in the nation serves as inspiration to the next generation of Hispanic youth. Her distinguished 17 year record on the bench demonstrates a commitment to fair and impartial application of the law, and respect for the values embodied in our Constitution. Judge Sotomayor has proved that she has the necessary character, competence and integrity to serve on the Supreme Court.
This is just one example that the Hispanic community is quickly becoming an essential part of the nation's productivity and its security. Over 1.1 million members of the armed forces - our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines -- are of Hispanic origin. Businesses owned by members of the Hispanic community now number over 1.6 million, and generate $222 billion in revenue throughout the nation. But, Hispanic-Americans still lag behind the rest of the nation in health care coverage and access to education. Roughly 33 percent of all Hispanics lacked health insurance, and the poverty rate for the community is over 20 percent.
I have been a proud supporter of programs like LaCausa Charter School and the 16th Street Community Health Centers, which assist young and elderly members of the Hispanic community achieve education success and get much needed health care. Programs like these, and others that assist Wisconsin's Hispanic community, will help them fully realize the opportunities our country holds for every American.
As the community grows and prospers, it will allow the next generation to build upon today's accomplishments and continue to make this great nation an even better place. I congratulate the achievements of Hispanic-Americans, and wish them continued success during this month of celebration.