Who Is Herman Badillo?

President Barack Obama has signed a bill honoring Herman Badillo by renaming a post office in the Bronx for him.

Rep. Jose Serrano was one of the sponsors of the bill to make this change, and he was joined by 25 other sponsors, from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Badillo was the first U.S. Congressman born in Puerto Rico. He was born August 21, 1929, in Caguas, Puerto Rico, came to New York to live with family members after he was orphaned at an early age. He attended public schools in New York City and completed his law degree at Brooklyn Law School as valedictorian. He became a Congressman and then Deputy Mayor of New York. He worked for the city in many positions before returning to private practice in 2005.

Badillo stood up for Puerto Rico. In the 1970s, he pointed out that residents of Puerto Rico were eligible for the draft, but not for school lunches. “I am fully prepared, he said, “to offer amendments, where necessary and appropriate, to all pending and future measures to place Puerto Rico on a basis equal with the States.”

Badillo stood up for human rights for others, too. He supported immigrants, famously saying, “Everybody says that their parents and grandparents came here and couldn’t speak English and they were poor. And in my case it wasn’t my parents and grandparents. It was me.” He worked for all his constituents and was famous for his willingness to work with everyone in the community and among his colleagues in the government, regardless of their political positions, in order to make changes in his community.

President Obama said that the renaming of the post office would remind people who visited it that people who faced difficult circumstances, economic limitations, and discrimination could nonetheless make a big difference in their world.

Badillo believed that Puerto Rico should be able to choose statehood if they so desired.  It is time for Puerto Rico’s choice to be honored.

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