Former Cuban-American Congressman and current Attorney at Law Lincoln Díaz-Balart started The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) in 2003 to raise up a new generation of Latino leaders. His goal was to expose Latino college students to Washington, D.C. so they could see the diversity of thought in the district.
CHLI is a non-profit organization that provides internship opportunities for students in both the government and private sector offices. Students are able to gain valuable work experience and learn priceless information.
“A leader has to firmly believe what he or she is all about. When a young person comes across somebody who firmly believes in something, it makes a difference an impact.” Díaz-Balart believes that when young Latino adults gain exposure and experience to the diversity of thought along with how the government and private sector work, they are able to form personal beliefs and opinions and fight for what they believe in. As a student, the most experience in D.C. Díaz-Balart received was a visit to the Library of Congress while in law school.
During his time as a Congressman, he saw the high school students come from his Florida district to visit him in his Congressional office as incredibly blessed. “I would say, ‘Do you realize how lucky you are?’ I would have been fascinated if I could have come here at your age.” Today, Díaz-Balart sees the opportunity he created for students to gain first-hand experience in D.C. as his source of joy. Diaz-Balart said, “I feel proud that CHLI has been able to help so many young people come to D.C., come to Capitol Hill, get internships, and learn about how Congressional offices work.”
According to Díaz-Balart, the Latino leadership potential in the Nation can’t be ignored. He noted that there are already three Latinos running for President. Although Jeb Bush is not an ethnic Latino, he’s married to a Mexican woman and has fully embraced Latino culture. It’s time to train today’s young Latinos to be the leaders of tomorrow. Díaz-Balart shared a bit of personal wisdom, “While making plans, study hard and if you already have a job, work really hard at it. Even if you want to change jobs, work diligently and responsibly at it. Learn from each stage and it will help you for all your future stages.”