President Biden attended the keystone event celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in Washington.
Organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), the Annual Awards Gala hosts a who’s who of Latinos in politics, culture and advocacy.
Biden’s attendance at the 45th annual gala is the first by a president since former President Obama delivered an address at the 39th edition in 2016.
“It’s an example of the commitment of our nation’s highest ranking leaders to our community and desire to engage with us directly – to speak to us, to hear from us, to learn about our needs and desires,” said Marco Davis, the CEO of CHCI.
From 1979 to 2016, every sitting president was invited to address the gala, and only former President George H.W. Bush was unable to attend during his time in office.
But in 2017, CHCI broke with tradition and didn’t invite former President Trump after he pardoned Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and announced a plan to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
CHCI’s main function is to train young Hispanics who want to work in government, and its intern classes usually include a number of DACA beneficiaries.
“The president was not invited this year based on his slanderous comments and strongly disagreeable actions for the Latino community in the United States,” then-CHCI Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said at the time.
Trump also did not attend or address the following galas, and the coronavirus pandemic forced CHCI to take the event online in 2020 and 2021.
Biden participated twice as a keynote speaker in the virtual editions, sending video messages as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020, and as president for the 2021 gala.
“When we were virtual it was definitely a very different experience. I will say that the president did send a video message that we were able to air when we were virtual last fall, so technically he participated … but him being [there] in person is a very different thing,” said Davis.
The gala’s return is a boon for Beltway Hispanics, who sometimes refer to the event as “Latino Prom” or “Brown Prom,” in reference to the White House correspondents’ dinner tongue-in-cheek moniker of “Nerd Prom.”
Although CHCI and its parent institution, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, are nonpartisan, both groups are more closely associated with Democrats.
Still, the CHCI gala has historically brought together Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated Hispanics with an interest in political leadership.
The 2022 event will posthumously honor Celia Cruz, the famed Cuban American singer, with the 2022 Medallion of Excellence Award. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will receive the 2022 American Dream Medallion Award.
Also receiving awards will be retiring Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Kenia Seoane López, and Marvin Figueroa, a CHCI alumnus who heads the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs.
Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off on Sept. 15, Mexican Independence Day, and runs through Oct. 15.