Willie Velasquez developed and organized the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) in 1974. The SVREP effectively challenged political establishments by convincing Hispanics that the key to political representation was to register to vote. As the Voting Rights Act caught hold in the Southwest, Velasquez’s SVREP registered millions of Hispanics in 13 states. ALthough his life was cut short at age 44 in 1988, his legacy lives on in the thousands of Hispanics elected and appointed across the nation. Dedicating his life to ensuring that Hispanics have an equal opportunity to participate in the American Political landscape, Velasquez was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential medal of Freedom, in September 1995. (Photo Courtesy of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting)