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12th Annual CHLI Gala & Leadership Awards - A Tribute to Diversity of Thought

Saturday, April 30, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Roberto Cervantes
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12th Annual CHLI Gala &  Leadership Awards -
A Tribute to Diversity of Thought 

For Immediate Release                                                          Contact: Mercy Padilla
April 21, 2016                                                                                   (202) 360-4112

Washington, D.C. – The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) held its 12th Annual Gala & Leadership Awards on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C.  CHLI honored Jeff Denhan, Republican Representative from the 10th Congressional District of California and Mike Quigley, Democratic Representative from the 5th Congressional District of Illinois with the Leadership in Public Service Award and Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuelan opposition leader, with the International Leadership Award.

Members of Congress, government officials, corporate executives, members of national non-profit organizations and CHLI Global Leaders alumni along with leaders from different parts of the world were in attendance.    

“The CHLI gala is a special night because it not only brings community but family together. CHLI helps young leaders with opportunities and honors current leaders. It brings together a community of people in business, government, and non-profits,” said Ray Dempsey, the Vice President and Head of External Affairs at BP America and CHLI’s Treasurer.    

 “This is truly a bipartisan and inclusive event and special place. Two legislators, one Republican and one Democrat demonstrated what leadership is all about—finding a common ground,” said Congressman and CHLI Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mario Díaz-Balart (FL-25). “A political prisoner of two years in solitary confinement because of his pursuit of freedom is receiving an award and it’s such an honor to be here.” 

The gala began with the presentation of the colors led by the Bell Multicultural High School Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26). CHLI Global Leaders Program Alumni from class of 2012, Sharlett Mena, gave the invocation. During her time with CHLI, Mena interned for Congressman Albio Sires (NJ-08) and now works for Congressman Gene Green (TX-29).

Lauren Robitaille, Director of Federal Government Relations for Wal-Mart CHLI Board Member and Gala Committee Chair welcomed approximately 400 guests to the awards gala. “At CHLI, we prepare, connect and honor leaders. Our programs are focused on preparing the next generation of diverse leaders, connecting up-and-coming and current leaders who innovate and inspire their communities and honoring those outstanding leaders who value diversity of thought,” said Ms. Robitaille.

Mary Ann Gomez, CHLI President & CEO Gomez welcomed guests and thanked the members of the Board of Directors, calling them, “the character of CHLI.” She recognized the founders of CHLI, along with the Members of Congress and the representatives from Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Mexico, Tunisia, Panama, Spain and Catalonia.


She also recognized Comcast | NBC Universal | Telemundo, Altria Client Services, Cruise Industry Charitable Foundation, Verizon and Walmart for being premiere partners for the event.

“CHLI has been blessed with visionary leadership, supporters and friends. Like in any family, we have members who have been there from the beginning but do not want to be thanked. This evening we have a surprise for two individuals who have been with us since the beginning and have been extraordinary members of the Corporate Advisory Council,” expressed Gomez before surprising Linda Auglis from the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Omar Franco from Becker and Poliakoff for their deeply appreciated commitment to CHLI.

Inspired by Auglis and Franco’s dedication, CHLI will sponsor two Latino cadets for this year’s Junior ROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge Summer Camp in their name.


“It’s an honor to be part of an organization that can have such a positive impact on today’s youth. CHLI’s support is making a significant impact in helping develop the leaders of tomorrow,” said Auglis.

"I am very happy that CHLI is sponsoring a scholarship that is going to make a real difference in a young student’s life. I read through the thank you letter that the cadet wrote and it was absolutely fantastic,” stated Franco.

Before dinner began, CHLI Chairman and founder, and former Member of Congress, Lincoln Diaz-Balart said a few words on how pleased he was with the impact CHLI has made on individuals.

“How profoundly satisfying it is that CHLI has been able, through internships, to change the lives of over 200 young people. Most from families, where they were the first to go to college. CHLI advances the Hispanic community’s economic progress, with a strong focus on social responsibility. We never forget the oppressed, especially in our own hemisphere, where in 2 countries, men and women are imprisoned because of their ideas.”

He also spoke highly of the honorees, saying Congressman Denham and Congressman Mike Quigley were, “two exemplary Members of the U.S. Congress, who personify the best in American public service and have always stood with the Hispanic community,” and called Leopoldo Lopez, “the ultimate symbol of dignity and peaceful resistance to the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela.”

In regards to Lopez, the Honorable Diaz-Balart continued to recognize him by calling him, “a man whose sacrifice and devotion to his country’s freedom has led to unparalleled moral authority, which will, in turn, lead to political authority when the people of Venezuela are finally allowed to freely express themselves at the polls.”

After dinner, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), a CHLI founding board member and Lincoln Diaz-Balart led the group of Members of Congress to present the awards to the honorees. 

The first Leadership in Public Service Award was given to Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10), and was presented by CHLI Congressional Board Member, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), and Vice President of Federal Government Affairs for Comcast and CHLI Board Member, Juan Otero. 

Congressman Jeff Denham, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, was elected in 2010 and sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Agriculture Committee, and Natural Resources Committee.

“It’s a great honor to receive this award,” said Congressman Denham. “I’ve had the chance to work with young Latino leaders in both California and the rest of the country to empower them and provide perspectives on jobs and upward mobility.”

The second Leadership in Public Service Award was given to Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-5), and was presented by CHLI Congressional Board Member, Congressman Albio Sires (NJ-08), and Director of Federal Government Affairs for Altria, and CHLI Board Member, John Hoel.

Congressman Quigley was elected into Congress in 2009. He co-founded the Hockey on Your Block program, which gives kids the chance to play hockey, regardless of their background and co-sponsored a resolution declaring his community a “fair and equal county for immigrants.”

“It’s a big honor to receive this award,” said Congressman Quigley. “I had the chance to travel to Poland with the Diaz-Balart’s and traveling with them teaches you how to have fun but also how to be a freedom fighter.”

The next and final award was the International Leadership Award presented by The Honorable Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. This year the honoree was Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuelan opposition leader who was incarcerated back in early 2014 and is still in prison.

Fortunately, his wife and fellow human rights activist, Lilian Tintori, was able to join the gala and receive the award on his behalf, accompanied by his mother, Antonieta Mendoza de Lopez.

“I’m very honored to be in the presence of Leopoldo Lopez’s wife because he is the embodiment of how heroes are. He speaks out against injustices for people who don’t have freedom. People in the U.S. take freedom for granted and forget how good freedom is and he fights for something that we have,” said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen.

Tintori was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation, as Diaz-Balart gave a passionate introduction. “You are all currently connected with the Venezuelan people,” she said while conducting a live Periscope session from her phone. The Periscope had nearly 1000 views. 


“In Venezuela, there are no fundamental rights or democracy, because people like Leopoldo have been silenced and I am here to speak out on his behalf,” Tintori said. “My family is constantly under surveillance from the regime. My people suffer under an anti-democratic regime,” she continued.


“Tonight brought in different folks with different ideas and we saw a presentation of an award to the wife of a political activist. I’m hoping many people will learn to do what those people do,” said Congressman and CHLI Congressional Board Member, Henry Cuellar (TX-28).

Before the gala concluded, a video recognizing Leopoldo Lopez was played on the screens, showing his peaceful protests and remarks made by the former and current Prime Minister of Spain, and a prosecutor who fled Venezuela because of the immense amount of pressure he felt by his superiors to continue to defend false evidence.


Once the gala was over, everyone was welcomed to have dessert, coffee and cocktails sponsored by Telemundo.CHLI would like to thank all the CHLI Board Members and Founders, CHLI Corporate Advisory Council members, CHLI alumni, and honored guests for their support. A special thanks to the Latino owned small businesses that made the event happened: Elaine Coronado of Argus Marketing & Events and Eddie Arrossi Photography.

Special thanks and gratitude to Platinum Sponsor: Juan Otero with Comcast |NBC Universal | Telemundo.

Thank you to Gold Sponsors: John Hoel and Altria; Michael McGerry and Cruise Industry Charitable Foundation; Emilio Gonzalez and Verizon; Lauren Robitaille and Wal-Mart.

Thank you to Silver Sponsors: Rudy Beserra and Coca-Cola and Miguel A. Martinez, Jr. and Intuit,

Thank you to Bronze Sponsors: Howard Moon and Amgen; Susan Santana and AT&T; Ray Dempsey and BP America; Christopher Turner and Dell, Inc; Diaz-Balart, PLLC; Joe Avila and Ford Motor Company; Justin Kissinger and Heineken; Linda Auglis and National Beer Wholesalers Association; David Ortiz and Oracle; Silvia R. Aldana and Pacific Gas & Electric Company; Michael Ybarra and PhRMA; State Farm; Lyushun Shen and TECRO; Tonio Burgos and Tonio Burgos & Associates; Pedro J. Torres and Torres Picon Foundation; Bert Gómez and Univision; Zuraya Tapia-Hadley and UPS; and Mario Hernandez and Western Union.

To read CHLI Chairman Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s opening remarks, please click HERE



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About CHLI:

The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) is the premier organization founded by Members of Congress and corporate executive leaders to advance the Hispanic community's economic progress with a focus on social responsibility and global competitiveness. Founded in 2003, CHLI is a 501(c)3 non-profit and non-partisan organization. CHLI is dedicated to fostering a broad awareness of the diversity of thought, heritage, interests, and views of Americans of Hispanic and Portuguese descent. 




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