Mexican American Leadership Initiative

MALI is an advocacy and support network founded by the U.S.-Mexico Foundation in 2010 to provide a national mechanism by which Mexican American leaders may contribute to strengthening American society’s relations with Mexico. Then-Secretary Clinton helped to publicly launch MALI at its first national conference in May 2011. MALI leaders like Henry Cisneros, Maria Echaveste, David Ayón and Jose Villarreal have since acted to mobilize American support for community-based organizations and projects in Mexico addressing a range of needs, primarily in the areas of education, health, economic opportunity, environmental protection and the challenges faced by at-risk youth. Working with the secure channel established by the U.S.-Mexico Foundation, MALI fosters partnerships between the people of the U.S. and Mexico, recognizing the two countries’ shared destiny and certainly shared responsibility for the health and prosperity of the region.


On Saturday, November 9th, Southwest Airlines participated in the annual event of one of its community partners, the U.S.-Mexico Foundation (USMF), as its Mexican American Leadership Initiative (MALI) honoring former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The MALI Hermandad Award is presented annually to outstanding leaders who have advanced the Foundation’s goal of building bridges of understanding and constructive partnerships between the people of the United States and Mexico that enhance opportunity for the people of Mexico. Clinton was recognized for her efforts in creating civil society diplomacy and diaspora initiatives while at the State Department, which included a task force of Mexican American leaders that became the USMF’s MALI.

The 2013 MALI Awards Brunch was attended by over 400 of the most prominent national Latino leaders throughout the United States, featuring former Cabinet Secretaries Carlos Gutierrez (Commerce) and Henry Cisneros (HUD), as well as Monica Lozano, CEO of ImpreMedia and Publisher of La Opinión newspaper in Los Angeles. Secretaries Gutierrez and Cisneros are members of the USMF Board of Directors. Cisneros and Lozano are among the founders of MALI.

“The positive response that our MALI program received at this launch on the West Coast is overwhelming and we are thrilled with the turnout and to receive such support,” said Martha Smith, President and CEO of the USMF. “We are eager to involve this outstanding group in efforts to engage more with Mexico and support Mexican civil society.”

During her remarks, honoree Hillary Rodham Clinton reminded the audience that the U.S.’s future is linked to Mexico’s, just as Mexico’s is to the United States, “I believe that our best allies and partners, for all of our sakes, are right here, nearby,” said Clinton. “What we have in common with Mexico, what Mexican Americans can help us understand better and implement, is a shared future. Not just a shared responsibility, but a vision of what is possible for us and our children and our children’s children…We need more connectivity in North America. We need more connectivity all through our hemisphere.”

Thanks to Southwest Airlines, the USMF has been able to significantly increase the size of the MALI network by holding a major outreach meeting in Las Vegas during which MALI recognized the efforts of the Honorable Raul Yzaguirre. The Las Vegas meeting united over 200 prominent leaders in education, business, rule of law and the judicial system and elected officials. Similar meetings have been held to raise awareness and add MALI members in Portland, New Orleans and Los Angeles. Southwest’s support allows USMF staff, such as President and CEO, Martha Smith, and MALI Director Zuraya Tapia, to travel throughout the U.S. engaging innovative leaders in the area of education, obtain funding to help launch transformative programs in Mexico, such as the Teach for America/Teach for All model in Mexico (Enseña por México), introduce the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) into Mexico and promote MALI and the People to People initiative.