Mel Martínez
Public servant
Born: Sagua La Grande, Cuba

The first Cuban American appointed to a Cabinet-level position, Mel Martínez was the nation’s twelfth Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He has served the public in many forums, from private law practice to local and federal positions in Florida and Washington, D.C.

“The traumatic experience of emigrating alone taught me a certain self-reliance and discipline that have stayed with me.”

In 1962, to escape religious persecution in Cuba, Martínez’ parents decided to send their 15-year-old son to the United States through Operation Peter Pan, a Catholic humanitarian effort. Speaking virtually no English, Martínez lived in youth facilities and in foster care before being reunited with his parents in 1966.

“I believe that we, as Hispanics, have to ask our community not what someone is doing for us, but how we are contributing to making America great.”


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Mel Martínez, public servant. Photograph by Héctor Méndez-Caratini, taken at the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington , D.C.

Mel Martínez, public servant. Photograph by Héctor Méndez-Caratini, taken at the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C.

 

Martínez was elected chairman of Orange County, Florida, and also served as president of the Orlando Utilities Commission and chairman of the city's Housing Authority. As HUD Secretary, Martínez was dedicated to empowering more minority families to achieve the American dream of homeownership. He also served as the Bush Administration's liaison to the Hispanic community on a broad range of issues.

I'm an American in a position of leadership who is very proud to be Hispanic. We need to step up and be involved in the public arena, in voting, in informing ourselves.


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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