Obama spoke to a crowd gathered at the U.S. Interior Department in Washington at an American Latino heritage forum organized by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, one of the top Hispanics in government.
"Diversity has always been America's strength," the president said. "We are richer because of the men and women and children who've come to our shores and joined our union. ...
"And nowhere is that more true than with the Latino community. Right now, there are 54 million Americans of Latino descent -- one-sixth of our population. Our neighbors, our co-workers, our family, our friends. You've helped us build our cities, grow our economy, defend our country. And today, for the first time in history, there is a Latina in my Cabinet and a Latina [Justice Sonia Sotomayor] on the bench of the highest court in the land. [U.S. Labor Secretary] Hilda Solis is doing an outstanding job."
Acknowledging high Latino unemployment, Obama said, "That's why I put forward the American Jobs Act. That's why I sent Congress a jobs bill made up of the kinds of proposals that, traditionally, Democrats and Republicans have supported. Independent economists who do this for a living have said the American Jobs Act would lead to more growth and nearly 2 million jobs next year. No other jobs plan has that kind of support from actual economists -- no plan from Congress, no plan from anybody.
"But apparently, none of this matters to Republicans in the Senate. Because last night, even though a majority of senators voted in favor of the American Jobs Act, a Republican minority got together as a group and blocked this jobs bill from passing the Senate," the president said.
Obama was introduced at the forum by Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, a Medal of Honor winner.
"We are so proud of him," the president said. "He is an inspiration to all of us. And he is the latest in a long line of Latino heroes to wear America's uniform."