Cinco de Mayo took on added significance this year for one UTD student, who traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a White House ceremony with President George W. Bush commemorating the May 5 Mexican holiday.
Victoria Neave, a junior government and politics major and the newly-elected SGA vice president, was among 10 students chosen by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to meet with Bush at the White House.
The group of students, along with Mexico’s ambassador to the United States Tony Garza, White House Counsel Judge Al Gonzales and other Latino legislators and dignitaries opened their visit with a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
“Welcome to the Casa Blanca. This is the people’s house, and we’re glad you’re here to celebrate Cinco de Mayo,” President Bush said in his opening remarks to the gathering. Bush went on to acknowledge the dignitaries gathered and to highlight aspects of past and present relations between the United States and Mexico.
“It was a surreal experience just because you see him all the time on television,” Neave said.
Before leaving for Washington D.C., Neave said Bush was not “Latino friendly.” After her return, Neave said she was unimpressed with the lack of hard issues brought up in the President’s speech, and her views on the President haven’t changed.
But, she said she was “really impressed with (Bush) taking the initiative to invite the people he did.”
Bush’s speech honored the contribution of Latino-Americans to society, but Neave said it “didn’t have much that stuck out.”
The visit was not Neave’s first to the White House to meet with a President. She visited with former President Bill Clinton in February 2000.
“With Clinton it was totally different. We were talking in a more casual atmosphere,” Neave said, adding she did not have the opportunity to address the President personally because of the way the event was organized.
Neave was chosen to represent LULAC by its national president, Hector Flores. She is the civil rights chair of LULAC on campus and has dealt with issues of racial profiling.
“I was expecting more (content discussed at the event), but I’m glad that (Bush) made the effort,” Neave said. “It was an honor to be a few seats back from where he was and to be one of the few invited people that were there.”