Herman Badillo came to New York City from Caguas, Puerto Rico as a young boy after his parents died of tuberculosis. Determined to succeed, he was an excellent student who went on to graduate first in his class from Brooklyn Law School. Entering politics, he served as New York City’s housing preservation and development commissioner before becoming Bronx borough president in 1966.
When he was elected to Congress in 1970, he became the first Puerto Rican-born congressman to represent a district in the continental United States. While in Congress, Badillo became a champion of federal funding for bilingual education and promoted a voting rights act with the inclusion of language access provisions. Later on in his political career, however, he changed his views and opposed bilingual education as an obstacle to successful assimilation.
Although Badillo became deputy mayor and president of the City University of New York’s board of trustees, he never fulfilled his dream of becoming the city’s first Hispanic mayor, despite several campaigns. Switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party, Badillo alienated a portion of his Hispanic political base. He began to advocate more conservative solutions to educational and social problems, emphasizing self-help and a stronger work ethic.
How political leaders influence a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the significance of this document in encouraging civic participation by new immigrants.