Ibarra received the Achievement in Public Service.
“The Latino Spirit Award has particular significance to me because I have a history in Sacramento. While I lived in Washington D.C. now for nearly 32 years, 50 years ago this year, my brother David and I left the foster care in Utah to be reunited with my father Francisco Ibarra here in Sacramento. We attended high school in Luther Burbank and Senior High. It was really in Sacramento when I first learned of my interest in civic engagement, politics, campaigns and elections,” said Ibarra.
Advocacy has always been a way of life for Ibarra, whose father Francisco was born in Oaxaca, México and came to the United States with the Bracero program. After living in Sacramento for three years, Ibarra went back to Utah to go to college.
Like his father before him, Mickey served in the U.S. Army and attended college on the G.I. Bill. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, with a Master’s in Education and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. After teaching at-risk high school students in the Utah public schools, he was hired in 1984 by the National Education Association in Washington, D.C.
Ibarra was appointed Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House by President Bill Clinton in 1997, serving as one of the highest-ranking members of the President’s inner circle. His role was to build support for the President’s policy initiatives and respond to the concerns of state and local officials on a broad range of issues. Following the end of President Clinton’s term in 2001, he launched his own government relations and public affairs firm in the nation’s capital — now celebrating 15 years of service.
Working for President Clinton was a unique experience, said Ibarra.
“It was tremendous. In some ways, it was like trying to take a drink for a fire hydrant everyday (laughs), you had a lot coming at you but it was such a privilege for me to be the president’s liaison with all local and state elected officials, all U.S. territories and all Indian nations, that was my job with a great team to really represent the president’s policy, initiatives and to be a partner in government with all the officials,” he said.
And what does he think of this year’s presidential election?
“ I’ve never, ever witnessed a campaign like the campaign of 2016 for the presidency. Regrettably not all of is good. The division, the subtraction, the violence, the anger, all of that is of concert and yet I also believe that we have an opportunity, as we do each cycle, to come down to candidate A and candidate B. Seldom is everyone happy with the choice, but at the end we have a choice. I believe the choice for 2016 it’s going to be crystal clear about where you want this country to go. I feel very confident of the good judgment of the majority of the American people and the decision will make. I think their decision will be clear, I don’t think this will be a close election,” Ibarra said.
He also added that even though the Latino community has made significant electoral progress, there is still more work to be done.
“ We have more Latino mayors, legislators, more members of Congress than ever before, and yet while we have made progress I see not a single reason to be satisfied. Not one reason. We have much more to do. In part, we, as a Latino community have to assume responsibility,” he said. “For example, I am very discouraged at times for the lack of voter turnout among our community. The reality is that that study voting trends are predicting that 14 million Latinos will vote for the president of 2016, while that sounds pretty impressive then you realize that nearly 28 million are eligible for vote. So should we really celebrate that we have 14 million? We have a lot of progress to make but we have to own that responsibility and we have to show up.”
Does he foresee a Latino president in our future?
“I do, not only that but I am bold to say that I will witness the election of a Latino president. I hope to live that long!” he said with a chuckle.
For our youth, Ibarra has a special message for being proactive and getting involved in public service.
“One of the tips in my book, ‘Mickeyisms: 30 Tips for Success’ I talk about good luck. Mickey Ibarra had an abundance of good luck and I define good luck as an intersection where preparation meets opportunity, that’s good luck. I advice our young people to get yourselves prepared, by that I mean get a good education, first and foremost get yourself prepared for opportunities that you may not be able to imagine,” Ibarra explained. “Do you think little Mickey Ibarra, a little Mexican kid, a foster kid from Salt Lake City, Utah could have ever imagine having a front-row seat in the West Wing of the White House with the President of the United States in a single generation? If it happened to me it can happen to you.
“I say that to young people, get yourself prepared, dream big. Sometimes we put our own obstacles, limitations on ourselves, let go of those, dream big, overcome your fear of failure to be successful.”
Other Latino Spirit Award honorees included Pepe Aguilar (Arts & Entertainment), Samantha Bricio (Athletics), Esteban Hernández (Performing Arts), Marco Lizárraga (Community Empowerment), Kamala López (Advocacy & Entertainment), Mario J. Molina (Science), José Ramírez (Athletics), Bárbara Torres (Public Service)and Porto’s Bakery & Café (Business & Philanthropy.
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