NEW YORK (June 4)—”As the United States begins to normalize our relations with Cuba, we have the potential to empower a nation and end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere,” said President Barack Obama on the occasion of National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, which kicked off this week with ceremonies and activities.

Encouraging all Americans to celebrate the history and culture of Caribbean-Americans this month, Obama noted Americans have been united with their Caribbean neighbors for centuries, not only by friendship and economic cooperation but also by common values and ties of kin.

“From a region of extraordinary beauty, generations of immigrants have brought their enormous spirit, unique talents and vibrant culture to the United States. Their contributions have enriched our nation and strengthened the deep bonds between our peoples. This month, we celebrate the Caribbean-Americans whose legacies are woven into the fabric of our nation, and we reaffirm our belief that throughout the region, we all share a stake in one another’s success,” the president declared.

As partners, our nations have reached for progress together, and in our diverse cultures and complex histories, we see a common trajectory toward a more free, equal and prosperous community, he noted.

“Throughout the Caribbean, courageous peoples have thrown off the yoke of colonial rule, seizing the right to chart their own destinies, and they have overcome the stains of slavery and segregation to widen the circle of opportunity for all. Here in America, Caribbean-Americans have followed in the footsteps of their ancestors, joining their voices with the chorus of patriots and carrying forward the baton of justice, from the battlefield and the outfield, in places like Selma and Seneca Falls, and through powerful song, poetry and prose.

“Just as our nations’ pasts are shared,” he noted, our futures are inextricably linked. “As millions of Caribbean-Americans continue to innovate and thrive in the United States, my administration is committed to lifting up hardworking individuals throughout the Caribbean and partnering with governments to build the foundation for the next century of progress and prosperity. We are investing in young business leaders and civil society activists, working to expand what is possible for the next generation of Caribbean leaders, and supporting entrepreneurship, student exchanges and more effective job training. With new partnerships, we are helping to move the region toward cleaner, more affordable energy. America is and always has been a nation of immigrants, and today, as pillars of family and leaders in their communities, Caribbean-Americans strengthen every aspect of our society,” the president asserted.

“We must ensure our nation remains a magnet for the best and the brightest around the world,” he continued. “Because of my 2012 DACA policy, thousands of Dreamers from the Caribbean have been able to live up to their potential, and last year, I announced my intent to take action that would allow more high-skilled immigrants, graduates, entrepreneurs and families to contribute to our economy, including by expanding the existing DACA policy and creating a new policy to provide temporary relief to certain undocumented parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents. And I continue to call on the Congress to finish the job by passing comprehensive immigration reform.

“Caribbean-Americans have shaped the course of our country since the earliest chapters of our history, and they continue to drive our nation to realize the promise of our founding. During National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, we honor the courage and perseverance of the Caribbean-American community, and we rededicate ourselves to building opportunity and protecting human rights for all our citizens.”