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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

As Prepared for Administrator Johnson, Beyond Translation Forum, Washington, D.C.

09/15/2008
Thank you, Bill (Briggs), for that introduction.

It is quite an honor for me to join you today to address this important national forum.

Beyond Translation was set in motion three years ago when EPA employees in Dallas realized that, in addition to translating documents into Spanish for outreach and education of the Hispanic community, it was important to improve the quality and availability of environmental and public health information.

Region 6 hosted Hispanic community leaders and representatives of non-profit organizations, leaders in business and academia, the media and local and state government officials, led discussions on environmental challenges and opportunities, and explored ideas for improving the Agency’s service to Hispanics.

In an effort to encourage greater involvement of the Hispanic community in EPA’s efforts to protect human health and the environment, today we’re going one step further, we’re launching this discussion on a national level.

As the title of this forum indicates, it is time to go “Beyond Translation” of materials and engage the Hispanic community in Washington, D.C. and across the nation.

This morning you had an opportunity to hear about environmental challenges that exist in high Hispanic density areas as well as ways in which we – EPA and the Hispanic community – can work together to advance the Agency’s mission.

We at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are proud of our nation-wide effort to protect the environment. Our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our land is better protected than just a generation ago. And with the help of the Hispanic community, we will continue our environmental successes.

Hispanic Americans have made many vital contributions to our nation and have provided some of America’s “greats” in business, literature, music and the arts, not to mention medicine and science. One notable example is Dr. Mario Molina who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 for his work on the CFC-ozone depletion theory, an issue of significance even today.

As further evidence of the Hispanic community’s commitment to environmental protection, I would like to note that five of the seven recipients of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize are Hispanic.

The Goldman Environmental Prize is bestowed annually to grassroots environmental heroes from the six inhabited continents whose work too often goes unrecognized. One recipient, Ms. Rosa Hilda Ramos from Puerto Rico, has led a movement in the U.S. territory to permanently protect the Las Cucharillas Marsh, one of Puerto Rico’s largest wetlands ecosystems. Ms. Ramos has also worked with EPA in the past as a member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Commission or NEJAC.

Just as we recognize the many ways Hispanic Americans have strengthened and enriched our nation, at EPA we also recognize the many ways Hispanic Americans have strengthened and enriched our Agency.

Currently, Hispanic Americans represent just over five percent of EPA’s workforce. But their outstanding accomplishments and valuable contributions are helping leave our environment a cleaner, healthier place than when we found it. I would like to thank our Hispanic employees throughout the Agency for their commitment in their chosen fields and making a difference in their communities.

As the United States continues to change both demographically and culturally, it is important that EPA evolves with that change.

Therefore, as part of my priority to build a stronger EPA, we are working to ensure the Agency continues to have a talented, highly-skilled and diverse workforce. We know that a workforce with these qualities will ensure our nation’s environmental progress continues.

And by building an Agency that represents the diverse makeup of our country, we can better protect the interests of all Americans.

As someone who joined EPA right out of college, I believe our effort to build a talented and diverse workforce should begin with our nation’s institutions of higher learning. That is why EPA has reached out to a number of predominantly minority colleges and universities – including the University of Texas at El Paso – to enhance the capacity of these universities to develop environmental specialists for potential employment. I look forward to the Agency’s workforce reaping the rewards from these efforts and our nation’s environment reaping the rewards from these talented young men and women.

At EPA, we also recognize that reaching out to the Hispanic community must go beyond this event.

Just last summer, we put our commitment to cooperate with the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC – the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization – in writing. Through a Memorandum of Understanding, EPA and LULAC are increasing the collaboration between our agencies and accelerating the pace of environmental protection in communities across the country.

With the U.S. Census reporting that approximately 18 percent of the total U.S. population over the age of 5 speaks a language other than English at home, EPA has also been working to eliminate language barriers as a way to improve environmental understanding.

Last year, we launched a Spanish-language version of our web site to provide the Hispanic community with information on a variety of environmental issues, including the dangers of pesticides, how to avoid and prevent lead poisoning and the importance of recycling.

In addition, our new blog, “Greenversations,” regularly addresses issues of concern to the Hispanic community and features blog posts in Spanish.

Finally, EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force – formed in November 2006 – translates many of our documents into other languages – including Spanish. Thanks to the Task Force’s hard work, we are sharing this information with all citizens.

President Bush has often said that America’s diversity enriches us as a nation, and makes us stronger. I know all of us here would agree.

EPA remains committed to providing Hispanic Americans with the information and opportunities they need to continue to enrich the quality of the Agency, and the quality of our great nation.

Thank you for participating in this forum. I encourage you to attend other upcoming Beyond Translation events at EPA’s Research Triangle Park Campus, in North Carolina, at EPA’s Region 6 Office, in Texas, and at EPA’s Region 3 Office, in Philadelphia.

Regardless of our heritage, we all have the same interest in a clean, healthy environment. Hispanics, with their deep sense of family and community, can help EPA spread the ethic of environmental stewardship to all segments of our society.

Thank you.