IN CELEBRATION OF MS. RAFAELA ``LALI'' GARCIA'S 93RD BIRTHDAY; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 182
(Extensions of Remarks - October 23, 2020)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E982-E983]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                          HON. EMANUEL CLEAVER

                              of missouri

                    in the house of representatives

                        Friday, October 23, 2020

  Mr. CLEAVER. Madam Speaker, I rise today with abundant joy and 
immense pride to celebrate the 93rd birthday of Ms. Rafaela Garcia, 
known to friends, family, and community members as ``Lali.'' A 
cornerstone of the Hispanic community in Kansas City, her work as a 
private citizen, as an activist, and as an

[[Page E983]]

office holder has improved thousands of lives in the Kansas City area 
across multiple generations.
  Lali's ambition throughout her career has been clear: ``To make a 
better life for the Hispanic community through [her] involvement in 
various organizations.'' Over the last eighty years, Lali has 
accomplished that goal with conviction and grace. She began her 
activism at the young age of 13, when she first started going to the 
Guadalupe Center in Kansas City. At the time, the Center dedicated most 
of its resources to administering a school and clinic for 
underprivileged immigrants who had settled in Kansas City. Even at 13, 
Lali had a vibrant vision for what the Center could become: an integral 
part, a pillar, in the Kansas City Hispanic community. Serving for 
forty-six years on the Center's Board of Directors, including three 
terms as the Board President, she oversaw a massive expansion of the 
Center, among many critical victories. Today, the Center has grown to 
provide many essential services for Latinos, including healthcare, 
education, financial assistance, childcare, workforce development, and 
much more. Today, the Guadalupe Center, in no small part because of 
Lali's contribution, provides opportunities for newly-arrived 
immigrants to achieve their American Dream while also promoting pride 
in their culture and heritage.
  But Lali, ever the visionary, was not satisfied transforming just the 
Guadalupe Center. She knew that change would not come for the Kansas 
City Hispanic community until they organized and voted for elected 
officials who would advocate for them at every level of government. 
Recognizing this, Lali founded La Raza Political Club in 1989. Under 
her leadership, La Raza worked endlessly to register new voters for 
each election, ensuring for the first time a seat at the table for the 
small but vibrant Hispanic community in Kansas City. Most Novembers, 
you could find Lali at her polling place, trying to convince everyone 
in her community to vote for a more equal, more just, and more 
promising America. Even this year, amidst a global pandemic, she has 
worked with her team to register hundreds of young Latino voters in 
what could be the most important election of their lifetime.
  These actions alone would have been enough to satisfy most of us. But 
Lali has served Kansas City and the Hispanic community in a variety of 
roles throughout her career, and she is always finding new ways to 
effect change. She is a member the Union Cultural Mexicana Ladies 
Auxiliary, a full-time volunteer at the Casa Felix Senior Center, and a 
Board member for the Ethics, Human Relations, and Citizen Complaints 
Commission. She was also appointed to the Guadalajara Sister City 
Commission, as well as the Port Authority Board of Commissioners, and 
has served on the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast Committee since 1987. I list 
these accomplishments not to account for everything Lali has achieved--
an impossible task for such as short time. Rather, I highlight her work 
because it teaches all of us a lesson about what it means to 
participate in our community. The framers of our Constitution knew they 
were drafting a document to govern an imperfect nation, plagued by 
animus and inequality. In the preamble of this document, which serves 
as the foundation for our entire system of government, they instructed 
each subsequent generation to use its articles and amendments to form a 
more perfect union. The system relies on passionate, courageous, free-
thinking Americans like Lali, pushing it towards a more just, tranquil, 
and equitable way of life. The arc of the moral universe bends towards 
justice, but it doesn't do it alone.
  Lali recognized early on that if she could uplift voices and register 
voters, she could change her neighborhood for the better. If she could 
change her neighborhood, Lali knew she could change her city; if she 
could change her city, she could change her state; if she could change 
her state, she could change our nation. Lali represents all that is 
great about America, Madame speaker; she represents the audacious 
notion that one person in one city can change the lives of millions who 
have struggled to realize the full rights and protections of our 
government. I am eternally grateful that fate brought Lali to Kansas 
City and that I have been able to witness her action, advocacy, and 
affection for others during my time in public office. Lali has done 
more than her fair share to make our union more perfect.
  One of the many unfortunate consequences of the ongoing public health 
crisis is the missed opportunities to celebrate and enjoy one another's 
company, whether it is graduations, bar mitzvahs, naturalization 
ceremonies, or the birthday party of a local hero turning 93 years 
young. It is imperative that we take time to celebrate life's 
milestones. Madam Speaker, please join me and Missouri's Fifth 
Congressional District as we forever enshrine our gratefulness for the 
work of Lali Garcia in the Congressional Record and as we wish her the 
happiest of birthdays. It is my fervent hope that we will be 
celebrating her 94th birthday in person, with a celebration fit for a 
local legend.