-- As President Obama was received by an audience chanting, “Four more years!” he broke into some Spanish, welcoming the friendly crowd gathered in the East Room of the White House with, “Buenas tardes, Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Bienvenidos a la Casa Blanca.”
He called the annual celebration, which featured the Mexican rock band Maná, “one of our best fiestas of the year.”
“We all know the story of Cinco de Mayo,” Obama said. “One hundred fifty-four years ago, the French, one of the strongest armies of the 19th century, marched on the tiny town of Puebla. An ill-equipped and hastily-trained band of Mexican patriots grabbed whatever weapons they could find, and they fought off the opposing forces, and eventually regained full independence.”
Obama said he spoke with Mexican President Peña Nieto today about, “shared work on advancing the prosperity and the security of Americans and Mexicans.”
“So I wished him a happy Cinco de Mayo,” the president said. “He asked me to extend the same to you, so I’m doing my duty here. It’s a reminder of not just a holiday, but the incredible bonds that our two countries share.”
The president then reminded the audience of his administration’s accomplishments geared toward the Latino population, including increased high school and college graduation rates, cutting the Latino dropout rate by more than half since 2000, ensuring that more than 700,000 DREAMers, “have the opportunity to reach their potential,” and fighting to fix the immigration system.
“The fact that we weren’t able to get it through Congress has been one of the most frustrating aspects of my presidency, but our ability to take actions within my legal authority to make our immigration system fairer and smarter and more just I continue to believe are going to help pave the way for us to finally get the law passed through the next Congress,” he said.
“And I've got to tell you, I’m going to keep on working on this not just as President, but as a citizen -- once I’m leaving here -- because I think it’s one of the most important things we can get done,” he added.
The president concluded his remarks, crediting the people who have worked to, “push this country forward, even just a little bit, and then handing it off in better shape for future generations.”
“For that, I think you've all earned a few margaritas,” Obama quipped.