Hector M.

Flores LULAC’s 50th JFK Celebration Rice Hotel Lofts Houston, Texas November 22, 2013

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen!, Muy Buenas Noches Senores y Senoras! I am Hector M. Flores, a Past National LULAC President It is indeed a great honor and privilege to be with you on this very important occasion, the LULAC 50th JFK Celebration. Let’s thank all of the LULAC Officers, Members and Friends who have made this event possible and so special. Please stand up and take a bow. Thanks to John Quinones for his presence, fellow Rattler! Can we also recognize those of you that were here 50 years ago when President Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson visited with LULAC and the First Lady addressed the Assembly in Spanish. Please stand and be recognized. You made history for Mexican-Americans and you are making history by being here today with LULAC. Congratulations.

This event is only one of many great projects that the LULAC Officers and Members of Houston have been involved in. Houston LULAC has always been at the forefront of Civil Rights and their historical leadership is second to none in our country. Thanks for your great support of LULAC and its core objectives over many years. When I was asked to speak to you tonight I had to reach back into my own personal history to revisit my memory bank as to John F. Kennedy and his legacy. For one, I remember working the 1960 Presidential Campaign taking the elderly to the Polls to vote because my cousin Juan Flores was the Director of an Elderly Program in Frio County. He coached me as to what to say in the event I had to respond to questions from my passengers. I was instructed to tell my passengers, Dona Columba, Dona Feliz, Dona Lupe, Dona Catarina and others to remember who helped them with their “Old Age Assistance, County Relief Commodities”. We told them that public assistance programs could be reduced or eliminated if we did vote in the right candidates and right party-meaning “una palanga” for the Democratic candidates. Helping the support for the Democratic Party in Texas was the fact that the National Democratic Convention of 1960 had endorsed civil rights, school desegregation, equal opportunity, fair housing and voting rights? Sound familiar?

These were all goals of LULAC then and now. Consequently, many LULAC leaders joined the movement to create political awareness of the Hispanic community in Texas and elsewhere. You may recall there was a so-called Poll-Tax at one time in Texas and in other Southern State to dissuade minorities from voting. Hispanics in Texas gave the Kennedy/Johnson Ticket a 91%majority of their votes during that election which was necessary for them to win. Kennedy-Johnson lost the Anglo vote in Texas by 150,000 but ultimatly won Texas by 50,000 votes.

During 1960 Presidential Campaign, various organizers of the Viva Kennedy Clubs were targeting various cities, including Houston, San Antonio, Laredo, for Votes for KennedyJohnson. Voter Registration Campaigns flourished. The first Viva Kennedy Club was created in Houston. Some of the Leaders of the political movement were Hector P. Garcia, Albert Pena, Henry Gonzales, John J. Herrera, and many other Mexican-American leaders. I recall having a meeting with Mr. Gustavo Gonzales who was organizing in the San Antonio and Laredo areas. LBJ had also taught in the Mexican part of town in Cotulla 16 miles south of my hometown, Dilley. It was easy to get people to support the Democratic Ticket because Johnson was a Texan and Jack Kennedy was Irish, Catholic and with movie star

looks. Jack Kennedy was a very eloquent speaker and campaigner despite his Irish accent. The Kennedy-Johnson team prevailed with great Mexican-American support in Texas and New Mexico and other states with heavy MexicanAmerican populations. No other President has been able to garner that kind of vote from Mexican-American since then. After the 1960 Presidential Election, President Kennedy appointed Reynaldo Garza as a Federal Judge, Raymond Telles, former Mayor of El Paso was appointed Ambassador to Costa Rica. The Viva Kennedy Clubs had played a major role in the campaign for President and President Kennedy showed his appreciation to Mexican-Americans with these appointments. Henry B. Gonzales was elected to Congress in San Antonio with support of the Viva Kennedy Club leadership. Mexican-American political clout began to take shape as a result of the 1960 Presidential Campaign. Much of the Leadership were members of LULAC or the American G. I. Forum. The value of our votes went noticed during this campaign. President Kennedy assumed the leadership role of the USA and was confronted with many issues such as the Cuban Bay of Pigs Fiasco, the missile crises with Russia, first space satellite by Russians, Vietnam and the daily brutal attacks of

African-Americans in the in the South by Officers and Jim Crow Laws. His Policy Programs created the Peace Corp and landing a man in the moon with support of science and exploration. Medicare, civil rights and other issues would be addressed later during the Johnson Administration. The international image of the President and First Lady was one of charm and elegance. Both Jack and Jackie had movie star looks and great class and intelligence. They were an inspirational couple. Their family outings were followed and admired by many on the planet. They were young and vibrant and full of zest for life. They were Royalty, American Style. Jackie Kennedy graced the White House like no other First Lady. She gave style and fashion to the White House.

While it is true that President Kennedy was born to wealth and status, he appealed to Mexican-Americans and others in his call to become catalysts for change and improve the quality of life for all Americans. During November 22, 1963 I was attending San Antonio Community College and I working as a Salesman at the National Shirt Shop Store at St. Mary’s and Houston St. I went to work early because some friends at the college advised me

of his visit to the Alamo City. His motorcade came South on Broadway to Houston St. and turned left to St. Mary’s St. and headed South. As the Presidential Motorcade turned left going South to St. Mary’s Street, the vehicles had to slow down because of the number of people lining the streets. Fellow employees and I crowded outside the store to wave and shout at the couple to get their attention. The crowd went wild as they passed. They waved and smiled our way. They were both dressed impeccably on a beautiful San Antonio day. Later that day they would fly to Houston to attend a political event and the LULAC Gala. The next day, I was picked up from Classes by my roommate Arnold Garcia and he broke the news that President Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas. It was reported that people cried in the streets in many places including Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. We also went into mourning about the assassination and what could have been. President Kennedy, his wife Jackie, their immediate family and the Kennedy Clan had become part of our families and Now he was gone. It still hurts to think how quickly he was taken away from us. He had become our President, our champion of the underdog.

He had so much promise and expectation that he would change our lives and we were going to help him and our country live up to its ideals and principles. His election gave our community hope that things could change politically but we had to help make that change. We identified with him as an Irish American because he had to overcome prejudice and bias against Irish immigrants. We identified with him because of his Catholic faith and large family, much like Mexican-American families. He recognized the needs of Mexican-Americans and placed our group on his political agenda to help create “voting blocs” as the Irish had done in the Northeast and Mass. He inspired young and old alike to work together for the common good of all Americans. His campaign rewarded some of our Mexican-American Leaders to positions of authority in his administration that other political leaders would have to follow. His campaign also galvanized a partisan political network to influence future political campaigns, candidates and elected officials.

I know that President John F. Kennedy influenced me to become a change agent. I joined LULAC forty years ago in Dallas, Texas to fulfill that dream that was inspired by his words. LULAC has been that vehicle that has helped me help others professionally and through my civic involvement most of my life. I miss him to this day. Que Viva Kennedy! Que Viva LULAC!

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