WASHINGTON — Lawmakers and community leaders from across the country gathered to talk health, baseball and resiliency at the fifth Annual Dominicans on the Hill event on Wednesday.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), the first Dominican American to serve in the House, hosted the event. He said the conference was meant to bring together the Dominican diaspora across the U.S., unite over common community issues and recognize growing civic engagement. 

“Our job as legislators is to either bring government, or for you to come to the seat of government, so that you can engage government and tell government face to face what your needs are,” Espaillat said.

This year’s theme, “¡Dominicanos, bateando con las Bases llenas!”, tied together Dominicans’ love of baseball with a message of optimism about the political present and future of the community in the U.S. Guest speakers and panelists included former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and baseball hall-of-famers Pedro Martinez and Juan Marichal. 

Speakers honored Dr. Anthony Fauci, former chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, with a Special Recognition for his pivotal role in the U.S.’s response to COVID-19. Espaillat said Fauci had saved “millions upon millions” of lives because of his early attempts to curb the pandemic.

Fauci, a native New Yorker, thanked Espaillat for helping him appreciate the “extraordinary warmth and vibrancy” of the Dominican community in the U.S.

He also discussed the continuing public health implications of COVID-19, several years since the beginning of the pandemic. He emphasized the disproportionate impacts COVID-19 has had on people of color, including the Dominican and broader Latino community.

“Although we can and should all go about our lives and try as best as we can to get to a strong degree of normality, be it economically, in our schools and our social interactions, we should not be complacent,” Fauci said. 

Several of the speakers were from New Jersey and New York, and referenced their large Dominican populations — particularly in parts of Washington Heights, Harlem and the Bronx, the New York City neighborhoods Espaillat represents. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who was also Espaillat’s guest at the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, was met with a standing ovation when he took the podium. He praised the Dominican community for the “prosperity” they have brought to the city, saying they exemplify the American dream.

“Everyone knows that I was born in Alabama, but I’m Dominican, baby,” Adams said to laughs from the crowd. “New York City is the Santiago of America…I’m the mayor of New York City because of the Dominican community.”