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EFE News Service

Clinton Gives Presidential Citizens Medal To Three Latinos

by Santiago Tavara

January 8, 2001
Copyright © 2000 EFE News Service. All Rights Reserved.
Source: World Reporter (TM)

Washington - U.S. President Bill Clinton on Monday handed out awards to U.S. citizens for distinguished service to the nation - in the form of the Presidential Citizens Medal - to Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali and other distinguished citizens including three Latinos.

The Presidential Citizens Medal, established in 1969, is the second most important U.S. citizens' award next to the Medal of Freedom.

Clinton, who in two weeks will leave the presidency, awarded the Citizen's Medal to 28 distinguished individuals in such areas as civil rights, human rights, health and medicine, religion, education, disability advocacy, government service and the environment.

The three Latinos awarded this honor include Chicago activist Juan Andrade for his campaign to register new voters, pediatrician Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias for her work in the health field and former California legislator Edward R. Roybal for his legislative efforts to help the needy.

As Clinton awarded the medal to Andrade, founder of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, the president said the honor was "for giving so many more Americans a voice in their own destiny." Andrade organized more than 1,000 voter registration drives that enfranchised more than one million new voters.

Andrade said that in the past Latinos suffered "systematic discrimination," and added that he was arrested in Texas for teaching students in his native language, Spanish.

Upon receiving the medal, Andrade acknowledged the efforts of the many different organizations that have insisted in spurring greater Hispanic participation in U.S. politics.

California lawmaker Lucille Roybal-Allard accepted the award on behalf of her father, who in 30 years of legislative work and as president of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus (HCC) protected the rights of Hispanics, the elderly, the poor and the disabled.

"I am very proud to have accepted this award in the name of my father who worked during a very difficult time when Latinos did not have the aid and services they have today," Roybal-Allard, current head of the HCC, told EFE.

Pediatrician Rodriguez-Trias, a Puerto Rico native who was on the governing council of the American Public Health Association and served as medical director for the Aids Institute in New York state, said she was flattered to have received the award and reaffirmed her promise to work to improve medical services for Latinos.

"We have to keep working" so that the new administration of President-elect George W. Bush responds to the health needs of Latinos, Rodriguez-Trias, accompanied by one of her granddaughters, she said.

"My granddaughter gave Clinton a message," the pediatrician said.

When the child was asked what her message to the president was, Rodriguez-Trias' granddaughter replied that she told the President she wanted "the U.S. Navy to leave Vieques ."

The girl was referring to the U.S. military training exercises that the United States has been commandeering for decades on the island municipality of Vieques in Puerto Rico.

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