It is El Paso Inc.’s honor to name the El Pasoan of the Year and Community Spirit Award recipients this week. Never before have we had two honorees represent El Paso in the national spotlight like this.

We are a city that has largely been left out of the state, and, to an even greater extent, the national conversation. It’s one of our great frustrations – either no one knows us, or, they have us all wrong.

It’s a tough needle to nudge, but in what seems like one fell swoop, Beto O’Rourke moved it like none before.

It doesn’t matter your politics. Right, left or in the middle – Beto’s historic campaign put El Paso on the map and proved our relevance.

Typical Beto, he’s quick to credit others. When he sat down with El Paso Inc.’s David Crowder he pointed out that there are many people around El Paso, in public and private, pushing El Paso forward outside of our city limits.

But if those people ever needed a leg up, Beto just took it to a whole new level. What other El Pasoan has visited every county in Texas?

It’s tough for a politician to win this award but there is precedence. Not for doing a good or even great job – that’s why they get re-elected – but for doing something truly extraordinary that will change El Paso.

El Paso Inc. asks our former award recipients to weigh in on the nominees each year. “Beto without a doubt,” said one honoree in support of Beto for El Pasoan of the Year. Another said he “connected El Paso to the state and to the nation like no one else in our history.”

“He forever changed perceptions of El Paso,” said another.

For me, beyond the much-needed attention for our hometown, Beto made me really proud. His campaign was authentic, and forgive me for being over-the-top, but he put humanity back into democracy.

“People are really good,” he says on page 11A. I needed to hear that.

If ever someone personified the goodness of people, it’s Community Spirit Award winner Ruben Garcia.

“He is the lynchpin and spark plug for this community-wide effort to assist those who brave the trek seeking a better life in America,” said one past El Pasoan of the Year. “He embraced thousands of desperate people with great compassion,” said another.  

When I called Ruben to tell him that he’d been selected for this award, the first thing he did was point out the people at Annunciation House. That’s true I said, but you are leading the charge – it’s a huge coordinated effort.

I’m pretty sure these awards were the last thing on his mind. But we started getting unsolicited nominations for him all the way back in July.

Current events put Annunciation House in the national spotlight. It can be tough to navigate that distraction, but they have remained steadfast to their mission helping the poorest of the poor.

“His example has sparked El Paso’s humanitarian response. This is El Paso’s community spirit at its best,” a previous honoree wrote me.

We do these awards to show what can be done and to inspire others. Beto and Ruben, thank you for doing exactly that.

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