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Judge Nelson A. Díaz speaks at an AL DÍA event in 2016. (Peter Fitzpatrick)
Judge Nelson A. Díaz speaks at an AL DÍA event in 2016. (Peter Fitzpatrick)

Judge Nelson Diaz to be honored with 2020 National Hispanic Hero Award

This is the most prestigious award presented by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute.

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The Hon. Judge A. Nelson Diaz will join a long list of leaders who have been presented with the National Hispanic Hero Award. 

Judge Diaz will be awarded because of his “life-long commitment of service to others as a community activist, an attorney, a judge, and as General Counsel of a major federal department,” Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr., president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI), said in a statement.

In the statement, Andrade praised Diaz for his work towards “the betterment and advancement of others.”

He also praised the support and mentorship Diaz has provided for “some of the best leaders of our generation,” and being “a role model to countless others through [his] career in public service and life of servant leadership.”

Diaz called the opportunity to receive an award from Dr. Juan Andrade, “beyond recognition, as he is one of the few to be honored by the President of the United States.” In 2001, Andrade received the Presidential Citizens Medal from then-President Bill Clinton.

Throughout his decorated career, Diaz has been the first of many. He was the first Latino judge to pass the Pennsylvania Bar Exam, the first Latino to practice law in the state, and the first Latino judge elected in Pennsylvania to serve on the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County. 

To that end, Diaz has spent nearly his entire career as a trailblazer, making sure that while he has often been the first, he won’t be the last. However, he said this award is the first national Latino award he's received in his career. 

“To receive the Hero Award allows us to realize that although we are invisible to the black and white community, we are visible to [the] Latinx [community] as we continue our struggle for equality [and] opportunity in America,” Diaz said in an email. 

Founded in 1982, the USHLI has the mission of fulfilling the promises and principles of democracy by promoting education and leadership development, empowering Latinos and similarly disenfranchised groups through civic engagement and research, and by maximizing participation in the electoral process. Diaz previously served as a board member during the initial years.

"It's been a wonderful experience to see the development of the organization and the development of the Midwest political system that [there] were very few Latinos elected in the Midwest when we started," said Diaz, adding that "there are hundreds of elected officials now."

The annual USHLI Conference has become the premier Hispanic leadership conference in the nation, attracting a complete cross-section of its leadership community and involving all ancestry groups. Over the span of four days, participants hear nationally prominent, quality speakers and attend a series of forums, workshops, and seminars. Roughly 3,000 people attend the conference each year.  

Each year during the conference, the USHLI selects one individual whose shown a life-long commitment to serving the Hispanic community to be awarded with the National Hispanic Hero Award. It is the most prestigious award presented by the organization. 

For Diaz, he hopes the impact of his story will "generate energy and hope" on the large number of students who are expected to be in attendance at the event. 

“The Hero Award will hopefully be a recognition that no matter who or where you are, you can’t give up on yourself,” said Diaz. 

The keynote speaker for this year’s conference will be the Hon. Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of San Juan. Luis Miranda, founding partner of the MirRam Group in New York, will receive the Hank Lacayo Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The awards will be presented on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020 during the 38th National Conference at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. The conference will span from February 20-23, 2020. To register, click here

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