Dr. Leonel Fernández Meets with DANR Leaders in New York

April 29, 2017

During the afternoon of Wednesday, April 26, 2017, GFDD/Funglode´s President, Dr. Leonel Fernández, met with Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR) Chairman Nestor Montilla Sr., DANR Senior Vice President Alejandro Benjamin, professor at Bergen County Community College, Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla, President of the Institute for Latino Studies and businessman Fernando Aguasvivas at the headquarters of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) in New
York City.

President Fernandez welcomed the officers and displayed his intent to  continue, as he has for many years, collaborating on matters of mutual interest for GFDD/Funglode and the Dominican American National Roundtable. The meeting was a follow-up conversation about advancing priorities of the Dominican Republic and its Diaspora.

DANR Senior Vice President Benjamin elaborated on strategies in higher education and particularly on the promise
and role of community colleges in preparing and retooling the labor force in both the USA and Dominican Republic.

“The idea of a collaborative project between universities such as Universidad Autonoma de
Santo Domingo and Community Colleges in New Jersey and other states was discussed, and put on the agenda for consideration,” said DANR Senior VP Benjamin who, on behalf of Bergen Community College President, B. Kaye Walter, Ph.D., extended President Fernandez a formal invitation to speak at the college in the Fall of 2017. President Fernandez gladly accepted.

President Fernandez discussed the need to advance identity scholarship by promoting the
essence of Dominicanness. He invited DANR to join him and GFDD/Funglode in the coordination of advocacy throughout the United States. Dr. Fernandez asked DANR to collaborate on a two-part initiative that will go a long way in spreading information about all aspects of Dominican society: a soon-to-be published Dictionary of Dominicanisms, and The Dominican Encyclopedia, an online clearinghouse of all things Dominican, that includes historical to geographic content, and material
aboutculture,arts, music, cuisine, etc. The Dominican Encyclopedia will serve as an educational resource and provide general information to the world. This multi-purpose tool will assist in efforts to counter international misinformation about the Dominican Republic.

Dr. Maria Teresa Montilla expressed to Dr. Fernàndez her concerns about the preservation of the Dominican Republic’s national patrimony and cultural heritage.  Fresh from a trip to some
historical sites, Ms. Montilla shared her observations of many historical sites’ advanced state of deterioration.

DANR Chairman Nestor Montilla, Sr. proposed collaboration between GFDD/Funglode and DANR to conduct research about the first and second generations of Dominican immigrants in the United States. A survey/census would bring forth an accurate account of how many such children there are, and where they are in the United States.

Considering that Dominicans seem compelled to permanent interaction with their motherland and vice versa, Chairman Montilla’s discussion with President Leonel Fernández centered on the need for US-born Dominican children to ‘formalize’ their ties with the Dominican Republic by claiming dual citizenship rights and privileges, including participation in the electoral process of both countries. “As of 2013, US Census reports estimated the
Dominican US-born population (806,000) was approaching parity with the Dominican foreign born population (982,000),” said Chairman Montilla.  “The average age of the Dominican US-born population was estimated at 15 and the foreign born at 43. In practical terms, by 2013 there were 180,000 US-born Dominicans under the age of 18 and 345,000 older than 18 years of age.”

“Children born in the United States with at least one
Dominican parent have the option to acquire their Dominican citizenship at 18 years of age,” Chairman Montilla indicated.

“Tackling the hurdles of motivating U.S. born Dominicans to claim and exercise their dual citizenship rights will be crucial,” said Chairman Montilla. “It will entail restoring confidence in the Dominican social, economic and political system as well as improving safety, civil rights protections and promoting
good governance, to improve the DR’s reputation among its Diaspora and throughout the international community.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Fernández expressed his gratitude to DANR officers on behalf of all Dominicans in the United States and the Dominican Republic for their time and efforts, and commissioned Ms. Yamile Eusebio Paulino, GFDD acting co-executive director to follow up on what was discussed and outline next

The Dominican American National Roundtable is the only non-profit, non-partisan 501 (c) (3) Corporation based in Washington, DC advocating for the educational, socio-economic and political development of our diverse communities and all people of Dominican origin in the United States of America, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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