Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver presents Eric Vasquez with the 2023 JFK Award on behalf of the DPLA at the JFK Dinner Saturday evening at Pig+Fig Café in White Rock. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
2023 JFK Award recipient Eric Vasquez celebrates his award with his wife, New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard Saturday evening at Pig+Fig Café in White Rock. Courtesy photo
Gathered to honor 2023 JFK Award recipient Eric Vasquez, from left, DPLA Chair Andrea Determan, Vasquez, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, Santa Fe County Clerk Katharine E. Clark, State Rep. Christine Chandler and U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post
During a special event Saturday evening, the Democratic Party of Los Alamos County (DPLA) honored Eric Vasquez with the prestigious 2023 JFK Award during the annual JFK Dinner at Pig+Fig Café in White Rock.
The JFK Award honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the Party. Vasquez was honored for his longtime dedication and for leading a group of Democrats in 2010 to revitalize the local Party.
U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján delivered the Keynote Address at the event. He commended Vasquez for his significant contributions and described him as a “very good man” who prefers to remain in the background.
“Eric is a person who quietly helps people … many of whom we never hear about,” Sen. Luján said.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver presented Vasquez with the 2023 JFK Award on behalf of the DPLA. Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Los Alamos Historian Nancy Bartlit were among the many officials attending Saturday’s event. Vasquez served as senior policy analyst for Denish for four years under the Gov. Bill Richardson Administration.
Not being one to enjoy the limelight, Vasquez utilized ChatGPT to create his acceptance speech. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI. The “Chat” in the name is a reference to it being a chatbot, and the “GPT” stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer—a type of large language model. Many at Saturday’s dinner were amazed at how well the speech captured Vasquez’s unique personality.
The JFK Dinner memorializes John F. Kennedy as the first sitting President to visit Los Alamos. The tradition began in 2012 and is held annually (except during COVID) near Kennedy’s May birthday, which is May 29, 1917. The dinner honors President Kennedy’s legacy and features a local honoree.
Vasquez joins a notable list of JFK Award recipients:
- 2012 Bernard “Bun” Ryan
- 2013 Nancy Bartlit
- 2014 Kyle & Mike Wheeler
- 2015 U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman
- 2016 Karyl Ann Armbruster
- 2017 Christine & George Chandler
- 2018 Ed & Amy Birnbaum
- 2019 Robyn Schultz
Vasquez is executive director of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area. The Mission of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area is to sustain the communities, heritages, languages, cultures, traditions, and environment of Northern New Mexico through partnerships, education and interpretation. He is married to New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard and the couple has two children.
DPLA Chair Andrea Determan introduced local singer and actress Amy Storey who concluded the evening’s festivities with a musical interlude.