Gates Forum: '1 Nation, Diverse & Divided'

At this year's forum, a distinguished panel discussed what's causing so much tension in modern America.

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The audience applauded. 

Chavez: "You can't change history; you can only change yourself." She cited her own boot-strap rise from a dysfunctional home to personal achievement. "We'll do better as a society if we teach our children that."

The audience applauded that, too.

Chavez also mixed it up with fellow Latina Hinojosa, an odd couple if ever there was one. The occasion of the forum was their first personal meeting. 

Chavez: "I believe in the promise of America and what this nation can accomplish when it responds to its higher angels."

Hinojosa: "Assimilation model working well for Hispanics? Sorry, Linda, I disagree. It's people putting their lives on the line that will make this country better." She cited the civil disobedience group of asylum seekers known as the Nine Dreamers. Few in the audience had heard of them before. In fact, by Hinojosa's call for a show of hands, only six Latinos were present.  

Chavez: "I'm an integrationist. When people live, work and go to school together, prejudices disappear."

On at least one issue, the two women had earlier found some backstage kumbayah, agreeing that immigration reforms have fallen short of the mark.

Hinojosa: "Under President Obama, more people have been deported from this country than ever before in history. I don't know that he's truly sensitive to these issues." 

Chavez: "George W. Bush was more simpatico." She added: "I don't pronounce that word as well as Maria does; I didn't grow up in Mexico."