Quiet Voices Can Have a Big Impact

By Kathy Gurchiek Jul 19, 2016
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The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, reporting on events relevant to the HR profession. SHRM was the only HR organization at the convention and had a contingent, led by Henry G. "Hank" Jackson, SHRM president and CEO, representing SHRM members and the HR profession. SHRM attended the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia the following week.

  • For SHRM's complete coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention, click​ here.​​​​​​​
  • For SHRM's complete coverage of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, click​ here.​​​​​​​

CLEVELAND—Gaddi Vasquez, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture and former director of the Peace Corps, was one of the honorees at the Latino Leaders Network luncheon held during the opening day of the Republican National Convention on July 18.

In his remarks, Vasquez told of an unforgettable experience years ago when a friend invited him to tea to meet the friend's godmother.

Vasquez recalls walking into a room and seeing a tiny woman at the table. It was Rosa Parks—the woman whose refusal to give up her bus seat in 1955 sparked a boycott that ignited the civil rights movement in the U.S.

At the time of Parks' famous bus ride in Montgomery, Ala., buses were segregated. When seats at the front, which were designated "white only," filled up, bus drivers made black passengers sitting at the back of the bus give up their seats to white passengers. Black passengers evicted from their seats would have to stand or get off the bus if there was no more room.

Vasquez didn't say how much tea he drank, but he did drink in the experience of meeting Parks.

"I was mesmerized" over the next two hours listening to her, he said.

The lesson that hit home: "You don't have to be the tallest person in the room ... and you don't have to have the loudest voice" to be effective, Vasquez said. Parks was small and quiet, but she made a huge impact on history.

"When those elements can come together, you can change the course of history, like Rosa Parks taught us," he said. 

Rudy Beserra, former special assistant to President Ronald Regan and senior vice president of Latin affairs at Cola-Cola, also was honored at the luncheon. He and Vasquez join a stellar list of honorees over the years that have included:

  • Thomas E. Perez, current U.S. Secretary of Labor, one of nine people presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is considering as her running mate.
  • Astronaut Jose Hernandez.
  • Hilda Solis, former U.S. Secretary of Labor.
  • Actress Eva Longoria.
  • Omar Minaya, former general manager of the Montreal Expos and New York Mets and current senior vice president of baseball operations for the San Diego Padres.
  • Antonio Villaraigosa, Democratic Convention Chair in 2012.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the most senior Rep​ublican member of the U.S. Senate, applauded the work of Latino leaders. Vasquez later referred to Hatch as "a Latino at heart" for his work on behalf of improving the U.S. immigration system. In 2015, Hatch was the keynote speaker at the League of United Latin American Citizens 86th annual convention in Salt Lake City.

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