March 25, 2011 | Huffington Post | Original Article

This Is the New Face of America

New Census data confirms what we've been seeing for some time now: America has a new face. Latinos are now more than 50 million strong and represent one in 6 Americans. We accounted for more than half of the U.S. population increase since 2000, and we exceeded estimates in some states. We are the fastest-growing segment of the nation's population and already the second largest.

The numbers suggest that Latinos took seriously the call to stand up and be counted in last year's Census. We placed a high priority on being counted and on being full participants in the American political process. All this despite the inevitable undercount of Latinos due to numerous factors.

Many ponder what it all means. It means that Latinos are an integral part of the America's future; we are and will continue to make vital contributions to our country's economic and civic life. It means that this growth of the Latino population presents a great opportunity for our nation.

The numbers also show a very interesting trend: that Latinos are significantly younger than the rest of the population. Our youth represent a major segment of the future workforce of our nation and are a significant factor in the future economic growth of this nation.

This translates to the need to work toward the full educational attainment and achievement of Latino students. We need to have a population ready for the challenges of the future, and we have to work to integrate Latinos as full participants in all aspects of American life; be in business, employment, education and politics. It also means that we have to have a deliberate strategy from our nation's leaders to guarantee the future success of our growing population.

The numbers confirm that the Latino population had a significant impact in the growth of many states across our nation, including in many key states. The rise in the number of Latino residents in Colorado, Nevada, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Georgia, just to name a few, was staggering and explosive over the last ten years.

We see Latino residents in many regions of the country, including in areas that historically have not been identified as Latino strongholds. Our growth is such that even in states slated to lose congressional representation because of shifts in population -- Illinois, New Jersey and New York, for instance -- the loss would have been greater if not for the Latino population.

As leaders and decision makers we now have to remain committed to ensuring all of us in the community become full participants in the political process and civic life of this great nation. That means being at the forefront of naturalization and non-partisan get-out-the-vote efforts. That means working to create more opportunities for Latinos to live healthy and active lifestyles.

The next step after we fully digest all these numbers is redistricting. The districts created during this year's redistricting process will decide the political landscape for at least the next ten years, and the Latino community deserves the right to participate in the process to create districts that reflect their needs and electoral preferences.

As we pay close attention to that process in the next weeks and months, we can keep in mind one key factor these new Census numbers clearly tell us: we are NOT a minority population, we are a future population. Our nation will succeed because of our nation's Latinos. Count on it.