Kent State alumnus invited to attend Biden inauguration after fighting for D.C. statehood

Hector Rodriguez (middle) salutes aside members of Veterans United for D.C. Statehood in May 2017.

Zoë Blank Reporter

Hector Rodriguez, Kent State alumnus and founder of Veterans United for D.C. Statehood, said he was honored and humbled to be selected by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia, to accompany her at the inauguration.

Norton, like every other member of congress, was allowed only one guest because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was happy to ask Hector to be my guest,” Norton said in a press release. “Hector not only served our country without voting representation, but he has continued fighting for representation for all veterans and Washingtonians.”

D.C. is not recognized as a U.S. state; therefore, residents are not able to vote for representatives or senators and their delegates do not have a vote in Congress. 

The 30,000 veterans living in the nation’s capital have served their country in the U.S. military while having no voting representation in Congress. Rodriguez organized the Veterans United in 2017 to advocate for equal representation and voting rights.

“I believe that this invitation calls upon me to be much more active in the statehood movement,” Rodriguez said. “I want to leverage the opportunity that I was given to further fight for veteran rights and for D.C. statehood.”

Before fighting for statehood rights of D.C., Rodriguez attended Kent State for several years, eventually graduating in 1965 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. 

After graduating and commissioning through Army ROTC as a second lieutenant, he became a Vietnam-era captain in the U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command. He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1968, where he established himself as a political leader and advocate for veterans and Latino Americans.

In 1970, he served as a special consultant to the U.S. Commissioner of Education to help advance education opportunities for children in low-income school systems.

Years later, he wrote and presented the original proposal to the D.C. City Council, establishing what is now the Office on Latino Affairs, which has generated millions of dollars for D.C. residents in need.

In 1998, he was appointed director of D.C. Office of International Affairs, and worked with embassies and high-ranking officials to develop programs for international trade.

Through his time in Washington, he met his long-time friend Franklin Garcia, former U.S. shadow representative from D.C.

“Hector is one of those people who starts something and doesn’t give up until he finishes it,” Garcia said. “His perseverance, his energy and his passion for things is so inspirational. It is an incredible honor to have someone like him as a personal friend, and I cherish him.”

While continuing to fight for D.C. statehood, Rodriguez likes to spend his time writing poetry, songs and plays. 

He said, “One of the happiest days in my life will be the day we have full and equal representation in the Congress of the United States, for some 715,000 Americans in the very capitol of freedom.”

Zoë Blank covers alumni. Contact her at [email protected]