U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez gave a powerful speech on Tuesday night to a coalition of community members who want to bring diversity to the Western New York workforce.
Secretary Perez echoed President Barack Obama, saying that the most important word in a democracy is “we.” As he preached the word’s power, the audience of faith, labor, and business community members quickly became enraptured.
“The power of ‘we,’ in my judgement, is always about building a bigger table instead of a higher wall,” said Perez.
Perez said there are three principals to effective workforce development – being demand driven, recognizing the gifts and talents of every person, and building partnerships throughout the community. He emboldened the last point on a smaller scale, reminding his audience that there are many people who don’t know where to find opportunity.
“And I talk to young people, and they’re smart and they’re saying, ‘Tom, I’ve got game. I want to be a nurse, but I don’t know anybody who’s a nurse.’ So if you’re wondering, ‘What can I do here?’ what you can do is open up your heart, open up your rolodex, open up ladders of opportunity for folks,” Perez said.
Perez was among a number of government leaders who was asked if he would support the work of VOICE-Buffalo and the Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope. Along with everyone else, he said yes.
“You have our commitment, starting with the President and moving on down, to build a human capital system,” said Perez. “This is about infrastructure investment, folks. We talk about our physical infrastructure, but equally important is our human capital infrastructure.”
Perez said his native Western New York has a great deal of opportunities that must be seized. He urged that the power of ‘we’ can make it happen.