tv Southwest Voter Registration Education Project CSPAN December 13, 2020 10:55am-11:11am EST
like american history tv, keep up with us during the week on facebook, twitter, and youtube. learn about what happened this day and history can see preview clips of upcoming programs. follow us at c-span history. >> the c-span cities tour travels the country, exploring americancan can -- story. since 2011 we have been to many communities across the nation. like many americans, our staff is staying close to home due to coronavirus. next, a look at one of our city tour visits. pres. clinton: his name was william c. velasquez, but everyone knew him as willie. willie was and is a name synonymous with democracy in america. through the organization he founded, the southwest voter registration education project, he nearly doubled hispanic voter
registration and dramatically increased the number of latino elected officials in this nation. his appeal to the hispanic community was simple, passionate, and direct. su voto es su voz. your vote is your voice. >> we are going to be talking about the records of the southwest voter registration education project. they are the oldest and largest nonpartisan latino voter registration organization in the country. the collection contains the first 20 years of the organization's existence. they are still in existence
today. it is a very deep and wide collection if you are interested in learning about voter registration, particularly in minority communities. the organization was started in 1974 by willie velasquez. he is from san antonio. as a very young man, he was heavily involved in the chicano movement. when he was in college, he was one of the founders of the mexican-american youth organization, which was involved in doing voter registration drives at local colleges. also involved in high school walkouts. this was in the late 1960's,
early 1970's, when, sort of the height of the chicano movement. the beginning of it and the height of it. so, he was really interested in voter registration and getting the latino community to vote. to register to vote and to realize that they have a voice. and by voting, they have a voice. in fact, the motto is "su voto es su voz", your vote is your voice. in 1974, willie was able to successfully apply for 503c and he became -- the organization became a national nonprofit. so here we have the articles of incorporation. so he would sit down and he would start calling. hey, are you registered to vote? did you know tomorrow is election day? eventually the organization expanded to not only texas, it also all of the southwest. so, arizona, new mexico, california, utah, colorado, nevada, and they grew to have a
full-time staff. they had a board of directors. and they had a lot going on. they still have a lot going on. there were three main departments. the field organizing department, the legal department, and the research department. the field organizing department focused mainly on voter education and training. and they hit the pavement not only in san antonio, not only texas, but they came up with a whole system for identifying coordinators in the various regions, different counties, all over the southwest and they created very detailed training manuals for how to put together a voter registration drive. everything you need to know. it would start with a field
coordinator. here you can see, they tell you what you need to prepare for a voter registration drive. for example, it is saying you really need to know your state election laws. you need to be able to answer these questions. if you don't know the voting law or the election code, you don't look as informed as you should be. so, they are telling these field coordinators, you need to know your stuff and that the whole principle of this organizing campaign is unity. you want to get the community together, you want to organize the community and be united in this effort. all of this, the coordinators manual, it tells you exactly what you need to do. you need to get local politicians on board, you need to talk to local churches, you need to talk to
everyone in the community and say, this is what we are trying to do. once you have all that together, then they had a program where you can apply for a grant, essentially. you would have to fill out a form that said how you were going to do the drive, how many volunteers you have been able to secure, what your budget is, the dates, everything had to be figured out ahead of time. they would send in their application. it would get approved. and then they would get the training. here is the field training manual. and it tells you everything from sample canvassers, household contact sheets, it has information on the media and how to deal with the media, what to say to the media.
procedures and administration of a voter registration project. every single thing that you need to know to have a successful voter registration drive. and these regional planning committees, the files that we have, there are hundreds of them. hundreds. and by the 1980's they were organizing on average 100 voter registration drives a year. and for all of those regional planning committees, as you can see here we have one from yuma county in arizona. and we just have hundreds and hundreds of these from counties all over the southwest. what is cool about this one is we actually have photographs. they sent in photographs when they sent in their information about their registration drive. what is great about these is that i often get asked for photographs. really, considering how large of a collection it is, we don't
really have that many photographs. i have asked lydia camarillo, who is the current president, about that. she has been involved with the organization for a long time. she said, we were too busy to take photographs. we were too busy organizing and registering voters to take photographs. so, it is really great to be able to see what they were doing here in somerton, arizona. some of the regional committee reports from the various counties do have photographs like this, but i think this has the most. here is another example.
this is from robstown, texas. here you can see their reimbursement form for every thing they did. their office supplies, kickoff rallies, everything was accounted for. here we have examples from the research department. the research department was very prolific. they did a lot of work to collect research, they conducted their own research, and they published research reports. the collection contains a lot of census data, a lot of election results data, and they conducted exit polls, opinion polls. they were gathering as much data as they could to get these reports out. in 1985, because this was such a
huge part of the organization, they founded the research arm, called the southwest voter research institute. we have hundreds and hundreds of reports. here you can see, they would do things like a political and demographic analysis of the 27th congressional district. or hispanic political participation. they were polling mexican americans to find out, what are the issues that you face? what are your opinions? what are your voting habits? to really understand how they can reach more mexican americans, how they can produce training material and workshops to make mexican americans feel like they actually have a voice and that they too can participate in the democratic process. in san antonio, some of the issues were basic services, such as roads, sidewalks, education. and from that, this is really
influential in how willie got involved with voter registration. so, sadly, in 1988 willie passed away from kidney cancer. his funeral, there were more than 1000 people at his funeral. it was covered on local news, national news, the new york times had an article about it. even michael dukakis was at his funeral. and a lot of national politicians, when they heard the news, they made statements about how important willie was to the political process and getting
minorities involved in the political process. in 1995, president clinton posthumously awarded willie the presidential medal of freedom. here we have the invitation to misses velasquez for the ceremony, awarding him the presidential medal of freedom. the collection is not only important to san antonio, not only important to the southwest, because they did work across the southwest, not just texas, but it is important nationally. what they have been able to do in terms of increasing mexican-american voter registration, also having an influence on how many politicians, mexican-american politicians we have in office now, they have made a huge impact on getting out the vote to minority communities. >> you can watch this and other programs on the history of communities across the country at c-span.org/cities tour.
this is american history tv, only on c-span3. >> while many holiday traditions will be different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, we can still remember festivities from years past. >> here we are at the state dining room, the last stop of the tour. on the table we have carolers that were handmade by our florist, nancy clark. and then right behind there we have the portrait of abraham lincoln and then the fireplace that created with garland, snow, and ribbon. and then over here is a masterpiece done by what is known as the desert doctor here at the white house, the white house pastry chef. it's a reconstruction of the white house in 1800, when
president adams was the first resident. and back then it wasn't the a brownuse, it was color. constructed entirely of gingerbread, marzipan, and chalk it, the mortar that holds it all together. he had aid was reconstruction of the white house on blueprint and east piece of gingerbread was put together so that it would all come together. there is actually, if you look closely, there are some fun things, like a little taste of texas here, with an armadillo. you will see the first pets here, including willie the cat. you will also see the humor of our pastry chef with the little sign that says beware of barney, the little white house squirrel underneath. >> seasons greetings, from all
>>us at american history tv up next, author james conroy talks about his book, "jefferson's white house: monticello on the potomac," which examines the physical state of the white house during jefferson's presidency and how he utilized the white house as a social and political tool. they white house historical association hosted the event and provided the video. >> good evening. welcome to white house history live. i am a senior vice president at the white house historical association and the director of the david rubenstein center for white house history. the white house historical association is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by first lady jacqueline