The holiday is observed in the United States to commemorate freedom and in the Mexican state of Puebla to commemorate the Mexican army's defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
"But this is really a day for commemorating our shared heritage," Obama told a gathering at the White House Thursday. "Our shared heritage -- Mexicans and Americans. It's a day for remembering that America is a richer, stronger, more vibrant place thanks to the contributions of Mexican Americans to the life of this nation -- contributions in commerce, culture, in language and literature, in faith, and obviously in food."
"It is also a day for honoring the service of the many Mexican Americans who serve proudly in our country's uniform, and we are grateful to them," he said.
"And it's a day we commit ourselves to advancing the aspirations of all Latinos, and reaffirm the ideals that we share as Americans. That means improving the education that we provide to our children; strengthening the social safety net that we build for our seniors and the poor and the sick; living up to our values as a nation of immigrants that built this country into the economic powerhouse that it is and the beacon of hope that it is around the world."
Obama told the audience he wants to work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to "fix this broken (immigration) system so that it meets the needs of our 21st century economy and our security needs" but he said it will require bipartisanship and called on those present to "help make this happen."
The president got applause, and then a laugh, when he said first lady Michelle Obama told him the other day her favorite food is Mexican.
"You do not want to be between Michelle and a tamale," he said.
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