Naugatuck Valley Community College President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D., and the NVCC Center for Racial Dialogue and Communal Transformation hosted a Conversation with Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month 2019.
The program opened with a chorus of song by NVCC students led by Gil Harel, Assistant Professor of Music. The students sang America the Beautiful, Quisqueya, La Tierra De Mis Amores and This Land is Your Land. Professor Harel commented, “I think the students sensed that it was a very special event. I was very grateful to be a part of it. Today the NVCC music students had the honor of singing during a very special event in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. With many distinguished guests in attendance, the performers opened by singing America the Beautiful, followed by Quisqueya, La Tierra De Mis Amores. Though these songs are fundamentally different stylistically, they share much in common in how they warmly reflect on the beauty of nature and the gift of being alive to appreciate it. While America the Beautiful alludes to sunlit fields of wheat, Quisqueya vividly evokes the imagery of beaches, seagulls, and radiant light. In presenting songs that exalt such diverse scenery, the singers helped set the tone for an afternoon of celebrating diversity itself. Before rejoining the audience, the chorus members closed their set with Woodie Guthrie's iconic folk song This Land Is Your Land. With its infectious lyrics and simple harmonies, This Land warmed the room on a chilly day."
Moderator Kathy Taylor, Esq., Professor, Legal Studies, and chair of the Center for Racial Dialogue and Communal Transformation, introduced President Daisy Cocco De Filippis who was “bursting with pride and gratitude that Congressman Espaillat and Congresswoman Hayes joined us at NVCC for an important recognition of the necessity to support diversity.” In the words of President De Filippis, “There is a fight taking place in Washington D.C. for the soul of America. On a personal level, for all of our sakes and the sake of our students who are the future, I am grateful that we have a much more diverse U.S. Congress, and with us, two outstanding champions of equality, justice and inclusiveness.”
Taylor welcomed Mark Ojakian, President of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, with praise for his work with DACA students. Ojakian expressed sincere admiration for the work of Congressman Espaillat and acknowledged their shared goals for all students. Commenting on the event, Ojakian noted, "The Connecticut State College and University system – much like the state at large – is fortunate to be a diverse and welcoming community. We understand that immigrants from around the world make our system, our individual institutions, our communities, our economy, and our state better. I thank Congresswoman Hayes and Congressman Espaillat for being here today and delivering an inspirational message about the value of diversity in our community, and in the halls of Congress."
Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) commented on the event, “It was an honor to welcome Congressman Adriano Espaillat to my district, my hometown, and my alma mater, Naugatuck Valley Community College, to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. This community is a great example of how cultural diversity enriches the American experience.”
Connecticut State Representative Geraldo Reyes commented, “I appreciated the honesty and interest of all regarding our forgotten Latino and African American history and of the valuable contributions of so many to this country!”
Representing Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, Monroe Webster, Administrative Aide to the Mayor, commented, “It was exciting to be in the presence of a fellow New Yorker, especially one who fights daily for the rights of the people of his district and others.”
Summarizing the event, Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) said, “I was honored to meet the students and leadership of Naugatuck Valley Community College and was delighted to join my House Democratic colleague Congressman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) during yesterday’s program to recognize community leaders during Hispanic Heritage Month. We remain devoted in our efforts to opening doors of opportunity for all Americans and addressing issues of vital importance to minorities’ communities around the nation.”
Event Moderator, Kathy Taylor, noted, “Congressman Espaillat beautifully wove and connected immigration, global warming, and the transatlantic slave trade and reminded all of us of our common humanity and bond. Both Congresswoman Hayes and Congressman Espaillat recognize the importance of representation and the power of using their voice and position to support historically unrepresented communities. Both were firsts and in a diverse Congress, they serve as our representatives on matters that impact so many - public education, affordable housing, and youth programming.”