If Ronald Reagan can become President of the United States, why not Eva Longoria?
While many political observers would rate the idea of the Desperate Housewives star as the leader of the free world as "the stupidest thing I ever heard," after observing Longoria at the University of Houston, where she was the keynote speaker at the Center for Mexican American Studies 17th annual scholarship banquet Saturday night, I think it could happen.
As soon as she entered a Hilton University of Houston ballroom, it was clear that Longoria has star power. Wearing a tasteful-yet-sexy body hugging navy-and-white dress — similar to one she had been photographed in while at the opening of the art gallery Museum Jumex in Mexico City Friday — she thrilled the crowd as she graciously posed for photos and easily mingled with notables, including, banquet chair Roman Martinez, Texas Sen. Sylvia Garcia, Minerva Perez, Cyndy Garza-Roberts and CMAS director Tatcho Mindiola.
The person who inspires young Hispanics to vote in large numbers will change Texas — and the world. Judging from the students' enthusiasm, Longoria could be that person.
"Do I look like I go to college?" Longoria laughed as she posed for a photo surrounded by around 50 star-struck UH students, some of whom had arrived several hours earlier for the chance to meet her.
But Longoria is more than a pretty face. At a brief press conference before the banquet, she demonstrated her abilities as an accomplished speaker, with a passion for advocating the causes of Latino empowerment sure to play well as the nation's fastest growing minority group realizes its political clout. The person who inspires young Hispanics to vote in large numbers will change Texas — and the world. Judging from the students' enthusiasm, Longoria could be that person.
"When you're talking about the Hispanic community, you're talking about the American community, particularly in California and Texas and Miami," Longoria said. "The growth is exciting, but we just can't be a big number, we have to be a market, we have to be a movement, we have to be a very powerful voting bloc. We have to be united in what we want to see and the change we want to see.
"It's a little more difficult for our community because we're not monolithic. We're very factioned — we're Mexican Americans, we're Cubans, we're Puerto Ricans, we're Central Americans. Obviously, immigration is what made this country so beautiful. When you talk about things like immigration reform, you're not talking about a moral imperative to pull these people up out of the shadows. You're talking about an economic imperative. It's very important for us to pull these people up, making sure they have the infrastructure of opportunity to succeed in our country."
Importance of volunteerism
Asked by a reporter for the Daily Cougar why she chose to fit a visit to UH in her schedule, Longoria recalled that when she was a Corpus Christi third grader, she attended a Career Day event where she meet a young Latina who owned a car dealership.
"I never forgot her name or that a woman can be successful. That's also part of the reason I went back and got my master's (in Chicano Studies from California State University, Northridge) because I'm a huge believer in education. I did it at the height of my career, when I was filming Housewives, going back and forth. I wanted to prove to young Latinas when they say, 'I don't have time,' if I can do it you can do it."
"I love telling people what to do, and I'm really good at it."
Coming from a south Texas family where volunteerism was mandatory, in part because her sister has special needs and activities revolved around the Special Olympics and other volunteer happenings, Longoria said she knew she would make that an important part of her life, especially when her fame afforded her the opportunity to get people's attention.
"I get a hundred requests a day — save the dolphins in Japan, AIDS in Africa, sex trafficing in Thailand and there's so many important causes, but I knew I needed to be focused on the impact I want to make and I chose helping Latinos in the United States because that's who I am," she said. "And I also chose to help Latinas in particular because of all the women who inspired me. They are the pillar of our community."
She started the Eva Longoria Foundation to help Latinas overcome cultural and economic barriers to achieve their dreams with scholarships and other aid. "Whatever the obstacle is, I know there are ways around it," she said. "The only way for economic mobility for our community is through education."
All this sounds like political talk, but even though Longoria co-chaired President Obama’s re-election campaign last year and has been outspoken on immigration reform and the banning of Mexican American studies programs in some states, she professes no interest in moving back to Texas to run for office.
"I'm so proud to be a Texan," she said. "I always tell people that I'm a Texan first and then we're Americans. I come from the country of Texas. But I have no desire to be a political figure. I love the role that we all have as citizens. I think it's a way more powerful role than being a politician."
"I love the role that we all have as citizens. I think it's a way more powerful role than being a politician."
"I want to continue to do the advocacy that I do for the communities I care about in the way that I'm doing it. There's always a two-hander to changing policy — privately, like my foundation, or publicly, through the political system. You need both arms to create change — and I think Texas is going to be at the forefront of that change."
But she's only 38, and who knows what her interests will be when Sen. Ted Cruz is up for reelection in 2018? By then, Texas is likely to be a purple state and a Longoria Senate win could propel talk of a White House run. If Reagan could overcome Bedtime for Bonzo to achieve the nation's highest office and Arnold Schwarzenegger could parlay the Terminator movies and a bad accent into two terms as California governor, why couldn't Longoria find success in a political career?
For now, she is concentrating on producing TV shows, as well as writing and directing, in addition to her advocacy work. She is directing the season two-opening episode of Devious Maids (she also produces the Lifetime series) and recently directed a film short that is part of Canon's "Project Imaginat10n," headed up by director Ron Howard.
What does she like most about directing?
"I love telling people what to do," she said, "and I'm really good at it."