10/29/2011 11:00 am ET | Updated Dec 29, 2011

50 Million and Growing: Why The Political World Must Pay Attention to Hispanics

It's not what you think. Yes, the Census counts more than 50 million Hispanics in the US. But the new prominence of the Hispanic population shouldn't just matter because of their votes and the 2012 election cycle.

It's time for America as a whole to understand the real value, the unique characteristics and the new types of opportunities that Hispanics can create for the country. The identity crisis that Hispanics are faced with each day has made it difficult for them to advance, thus damaging their identity and limiting their contributions to the economy.

Today, we need the Hispanic professional and the broader Hispanic community in this country to start bringing their unique immigrant perspective to work and to help solve the enormous problems facing America today.

The news media are obsessed with the illegal immigrant discussion, but that should be a side issue in a country overrun with debt, mired in a recession, and -- most importantly -- stuck in a morass of self-doubt.

Who's going to get America moving again? The fiercely competitive global market requires everyone to begin contributing in newly meaningful and purposeful ways to the global economy. Hispanics must embrace this to-do like everyone else. They cannot afford to continue thinking of themselves as victims, and the US economy cannot afford that victim thinking either.

It's time for Hispanics to bring their immigrant values and resourceful thinking to bear on getting America moving again. The crisis of confidence is the important issue now, and Hispanics can help.
The time has come for Hispanics to embrace their unique cultural differences and realize the power that this diversity gives them. Hispanics must recapture their authentic identities and train non-Hispanics to understand them. Hispanics must embrace their immigrant perspective, circular vision, Latin passion, entrepreneurial spirit, generous purpose and cultural promise - the natural characteristics that are inborn in their culture and that allow them to be highly effective contributors to the economy. It's time for Hispanics to take it upon themselves to break out of their identity crisis and claim influence amongst their non-Hispanic peers.

Hispanics need to stop being viewed as victims of lost opportunities in their mother country and start being held accountable as new sources for innovation, economic prosperity, global influence and the economic revival of our country.

It's time for Hispanics to earn the right to be more influential in America. Population growth alone does not entitle Hispanics or any other group in society to own the resources of our great country.
Until Hispanics discover their authentic leadership role, they will continue to be misrepresented and misunderstood. Today, many non-Hispanic whites believe they are financing the Hispanic population growth. Hispanics must seize the moment, take on their responsibilities, and change the role of the Hispanic immigrant in the United States. At 50 million strong, and growing faster than any other group, Hispanics must grow up now.

As I discuss this issue with executives in the boardroom and professors in the classroom, they often refer to Hispanics as second-class citizens. And because of this, Hispanic professionals, adults and children would rather assimilate and reject their essential identities. If this assimilation continues, we will lose the brilliance and innovative flair of the Hispanic population, and the US economy will suffer as a result, in the competition with the rest of the world.