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César Chávez

César Chávez, 1974
Born March 31, 1927(1927-03-31)
Yuma, Arizona, US
Died April 23, 1993 (aged 66)
San Luis, Arizona
Occupation Farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist.
Parents Librado Chávez (father)
Juana Estrada Chávez (mother)

César Estrada Chávez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993) was a Mexican American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist who, with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW).[1] Supporters say his work led to numerous improvements for union laborers. His birthday has become César Chávez Day, a state holiday in eight US states. Many parks, cultural centers, libraries, schools, and streets have been named in his honor in cities across the United States.

Later in life, César focused on his education. The walls of his office in Keene, California (United Farm Worker headquarters) were lined with hundreds of books ranging in subject from philosophy, economics, cooperatives, and unions, to biographies of Gandhi and the Kennedys. He was a vegan.[2]

He is buried at the National Chavez Center, on the headquarters campus of the UFW, at 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Road in the Keene community of unincorporated Kern County, California.[3] There is a portrait of him in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.[4]

Contents

Activism

Chávez was hired and trained by Fred Ross as a community organizer in 1952 for the Community Service Organization (CSO), a Latino civil rights group. Chávez urged Mexican Americans to register and vote, and he traveled throughout California and made speeches in support of workers' rights. He later became CSO's national director in 1958.[5]

Four years later, Chávez left the CSO. He co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) with Dolores Huerta. It was later called the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Chávez speaking at a 1974 United Farm Workers rally in Delano, California

When Filipino American farm workers initiated the Delano grape strike on September 8, 1965, to protest for higher wages, Chávez eagerly supported them. Six months later, Chávez and the NFWA led a strike of California grape pickers on the historic farmworkers march from Delano to the California state capitol in Sacramento for similar goals. The UFW encouraged all Americans to boycott table grapes as a show of support. The strike lasted five years and attracted national attention. In March 1966, the US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare's Subcommittee on Migratory Labor held hearings in California on the strike. During the hearings, subcommittee member Robert F. Kennedy expressed his support for the striking workers.[6]

These activities led to similar movements in Southern Texas in 1966, where the UFW supported fruit workers in Starr County, Texas, and led a march to Austin, in support of UFW farm workers' rights. In the Midwest, César Chávez's movement inspired the founding of two Midwestern independent unions: Obreros Unidos in Wisconsin in 1966, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Ohio in 1967. Former UFW organizers would also found the Texas Farm Workers Union in 1975.

In the early 1970s, the UFW organized strikes and boycotts to protest for, and later win, higher wages for those farm workers who were working for grape and lettuce growers. The union also won passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which gave collective bargaining rights to farm workers. During the 1980s, Chávez led a boycott to protest the use of toxic pesticides on grapes. Bumper stickers reading "NO GRAPES" and "UVAS NO"[7] (the translation in Spanish) were widespread. He again fasted to draw public attention. UFW organizers believed that a reduction in produce sales by 15% was sufficient to wipe out the profit margin of the boycotted product. These strikes and boycotts generally ended with the signing of bargaining agreements.

Immigration

The UFW during Chávez's tenure was committed to restricting immigration. César Chávez and Dolores Huerta fought the Bracero Program that existed from 1942 to 1964. Their opposition stemmed from their belief that the program undermined US workers and exploited the migrant workers. Their efforts contributed to Congress ending the Bracero Program in 1964. In 1973, the UFW was one of the first labor unions to oppose proposed employer sanctions that would have prohibited hiring undocumented immigrants. Later during the 1980s, while Chávez was still working alongside UFW president, Dolores Huerta, the cofounder of the UFW, was key in getting the amnesty provisions into the 1986 federal immigration act.[8]

On a few occasions, concerns that undocumented migrant labor would undermine UFW strike campaigns led to a number of controversial events, which the UFW describes as anti-strikebreaking events, but which have also been interpreted as being anti-immigrant. In 1969, Chávez and members of the UFW marched through the Imperial and Coachella Valleys to the border of Mexico to protest growers' use of undocumented immigrants as strikebreakers. Joining him on the march were both Reverend Ralph Abernathy and US Senator Walter Mondale.[9] In its early years, Chávez and the UFW went so far as to report undocumented immigrants who served as strikebreaking replacement workers, as well as those who refused to unionize, to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.[10][11][12][13][14]

In 1973, the United Farm Workers set up a "wet line" along the United States-Mexico border to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering the United States illegally and potentially undermining the UFW's unionization efforts.[15] During one such event in which Chávez was not involved, some UFW members, under the guidance of Chávez's cousin Manuel, physically attacked the strikebreakers, after attempts to peacefully persuade them not to cross the border failed.[16][17][18]

César Chávez Day

César Chávez's birthday, March 31, is celebrated in California as a state holiday, intended to promote service to the community in honor of Chávez's life and work. Many, but not all, state government offices, community colleges, and libraries are closed, except for K-12 schools. Texas also recognizes the day, and it is an optional holiday in Arizona and Colorado.

Legacy

Colegio César Chávez advertisement in the 1980 Mount Angel Oktoberfest issue of the Silverton Appeal Tribune.

In 1973, college professors in Mount Angel, Oregon established the first four-year Mexican-American college in the United States. They chose César Chávez as their symbolic figurehead, naming the college Colegio Cesar Chavez. In the book Colegio Cesar Chavez, 1973-1983: A Chicano Struggle for Educational Self-Determination author Carlos Maldonado writes that Chávez visited the campus twice, joining in public demonstrations in support of the college. Though Colegio Cesar Chavez closed in 1983, it remains a recognized part of Oregon history. On its website the Oregon Historical Society writes, "Structured as a 'college-without-walls,' more than 100 students took classes in Chicano Studies, early childhood development, and adult education. Significant financial and administrative problems caused Colegio to close in 1983. Its history represents the success of a grassroots movement."[19] The Colegio has been described as having been a symbol of the Latino presence in Oregon.[20]

In 1992 Chávez was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for "Peace on Earth."

César Chávez died on April 23, 1993, of unspecified natural causes in a rental apartment in San Luis, Arizona. Shortly after his death, his widow, Helen Chávez, donated his black nylon union jacket to the National Museum of American History, a branch of the Smithsonian.[21]

On September 8, 1994, César Chávez was presented, posthumously, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President William Clinton. The award was received by his widow, Helen Chávez.

The California cities of Long Beach, Modesto, Sacramento, San Diego, Berkeley, and San Jose, California have renamed parks after him, as well as the City of Seattle, Washington. In Amarillo, Texas a bowling alley has been renamed in his memory. In Los Angeles, César E. Chávez Avenue, originally two separate streets (Macy Street west of the Los Angeles River and Brooklyn Avenue east of the river), extends from Sunset Boulevard and runs through East Los Angeles and Monterey Park. In San Francisco, César Chávez Street, originally named Army Street, is named in his memory. At San Francisco State University the student center is also named after him. The University of California, Berkeley, has a César E. Chávez Student Center, which lies across Lower Sproul Plaza from the Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Union. California State University San Marcos's Chavez Plaza includes a statue to Chávez. In 2007, The University of Texas at Austin unveiled its own César Chávez Statue[22] on campus. Fresno named an adult school, where a majority percent of students' parents or themselves are, or have been, field workers, after Chávez. In Austin, Texas, one of the central thoroughfares was changed to César Chávez Boulevard. In Ogden, Utah, a four-block section of 30th Street was renamed Cesar Chavez Street. In Oakland, there is a library named after him and his birthday, March 31, is a district holiday in remembrance of him. On July 8, 2009, the city of Portland, Oregon, changed the name of 39th Avenue to Cesar Chavez Boulevard.[23] In 2003, the United States Postal Service honored him with a postage stamp. The largest flatland park in Phoenix Arizona is named after Chavez. The park features Cesar Chavez Branch Library and a life-sized statue of Chavez by artist Zarco Guerrero.

The National Chavez Center, Keene, California.

In 2004, the National Chavez Center was opened on the UFW national headquarters campus in Keene by the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation. It currently consists of a visitor center, memorial garden and his grave site. When it is fully completed, the 187-acre site will include a museum and conference center to explore and share Chávez's work.[3]

In 2005, a César Chávez commemorative meeting was held in San Antonio, honoring his work on behalf of immigrant farmworkers and other immigrants. Chavez High School in Houston is named in his honor, as is Cesar E. Chavez High School in Delano, California. In Davis, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Bakersfield, California and Madison, Wisconsin there are elementary schools named after him in his honor. In Davis, California, there is also an apartment complex named after Chávez which caters specifically to low-income residents and people with physical and mental disabilities. In Racine, Wisconsin, there is a community center named The Cesar Chavez Community Center also in his honor. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the business loop of I-196 Highway is named "Cesar E Chavez Blvd." The (AFSC) American Friends Service Committee nominated him three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.[24]

On December 6, 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted César Chávez into the California Hall of Fame located at The California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts.[25]

César Chávez's eldest son, Fernando Chávez, and grandson, Anthony Chávez, each tour the country, speaking about his legacy.

Chávez was referenced by Stevie Wonder in the song "Black Man," from the album Songs in the Key of Life, and by Tom Morello in the song "Union Song," from the album One Man Revolution.

Timeline

Further reading

  • Levy, Jacques E. and Cesar Chavez. César Chávez: Autobiography of La Causa. New York: Norton, 1975. ISBN 0-393-07494-3
  • Dalton, Frederick John. The Moral Vision of César Chávez. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2003. ISBN 1-57075-458-6
  • Ross, Fred. Conquering Goliath : César Chávez at the Beginning. Keene, California: United Farm Workers: Distributed by El Taller Grafico, 1989. ISBN 0-9625298-0-X
  • Soto, Gary. César Chávez: a Hero for Everyone. New York: Aladdin, 2003. ISBN 0-689-85923-6 and ISBN 0-689-85922-8 (pbk.)
  • Ferriss, Susan and Ricardo Sandoval. The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farmworkers Movement. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997. ISBN 0-15-100239-8
  • Handbook of Texas History, Online Edition
  • Jacob, Amanda César Chávez Dominates Face Sayville: Mandy Publishers, 2005.
  • Prouty, Marco G. César Chávez, the Catholic Bishops, and the Farmworkers' Struggle for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press; 185 pages; 2006). Analyzes the church's changing role from mediator to Chávez supporter in the farmworkers' strike that polarized central California's Catholic community from 1965 to 1970; draws on previously untapped archives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Daniel, Cletus E. "Cesar Chavez and the Unionization of California Farm Workers." ed. Dubofsky, Melvyn and Warren Van Tine. Labor Leaders in America. University of IL: 1987.
  • LosEstadosLatinos.com will have a month long tribute to Cesar Chavez in 2008[12]

See also

References

  1. ^ The Extra Mile - Points of Light Volunteer Pathway
  2. ^ http://www.masbakersfield.com/home/ViewPost/6310
  3. ^ a b What is the National Chavez Center?, National Chavez Center, Accessed August 8, 2009.
  4. ^ database of portraits in the National Portrait gallery - César Chávez. Accessed March 20, 2009.
  5. ^ http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/laborhall/1998_chavez.htm
  6. ^ "People & Events: Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)". American Experience, RFK. Public Broadcasting System. 2004-07-01. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/rfk/peopleevents/p_chavez.html. Retrieved 2009-03-31. 
  7. ^ [1]Original UFW Button
  8. ^ [2] Debunking falsehoods about the UFW’s stand on immigration
  9. ^ [3] Official Website of Barbara Boxer "César Chávez Day Timeline"
  10. ^ [4] Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants and the Politics of Ethnicity By David Gregory Gutiérrez at p.197-98
  11. ^ [5]Accuracy in the Media "Why Journalists Support Illegal Immigration" By Reed Irvine and Cliff Kincaid
  12. ^ [6] Strawberry Fields: politics, class, and work in California agriculture By Miriam J. Wells at p 89-90
  13. ^ [7] Beyond the Border: Mexico & the US Today, By Peter Baird, Ed McCaughan at p169
  14. ^ Farmworker Collective Bargaining, 1979: Hearings Before the Committee on Labor Human Resources Hearings held in Salinas, Calif., April 26, 27, and Washington, DC, May 24, 1979
  15. ^ [8] University of California at Davis - Rural Migration News "PBS Airs Chavez Documentary"
  16. ^ [9] Cesar Chavez: A Brief Biography With Documents By Richard W. Etulain at p.18
  17. ^ [10] OC Weekly "The year in Mexican-bashing" By Gustavo Arellano
  18. ^ [11] San Diego Union Tribune "The Arizona Minutemen and César Chavez" by Ruben Navarrette Jr.
  19. ^ Oregon Historical Society "Colegio César Chávez was established in 1973 on the site of the former Mt. Angel College and was the only degree-granting institution for Latinos in the nation. Structured as a "college-without-walls," more than 100 students took classes in Chicano studies, early childhood development, and adult education. Significant financial and administrative problems caused Colegio to close in 1983. Its history represents the success of a grassroots movement." Retrieved March 10, 2007
  20. ^ What Is Cesar Chavez's Connection To Oregon?
  21. ^ "Cesar Chávez 's Union Jacket". National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object.cfm?key=35&objkey=104. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  22. ^ The Life and Legacy of Cesar E. Chavez | Home
  23. ^ http://www.katu.com/news/local/50242262.html
  24. ^ AFSC's Past Nobel Nominations
  25. ^ "Cesar Chavez Inductee Page". California Hall of Fame List of 2006 Inductees. The California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts. http://www.californiamuseum.org/exhibits/halloffame/inductee/cesar-chavez. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Cesar Chavez article)

From Wikiquote

History will judge societies and governments — and their institutions — not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless.

César Estrada Chávez (31 March 192723 April 1993) Labor organizer, social activist.

Contents

Sourced

  • ¡Sí se puede!
  • You are here to discuss a matter which is of extreme importance to yourselves, your families and your community, so let's get to the subject at hand. A hundred and fifty-five years ago, in the state of Guanajuato in Mexico, a padre proclaimed the struggle for liberty. He was killed, but ten years later Mexico won its independence. We Mexicans here in the United States, as well as all other farm workers, are engaged in another struggle for the freedom and dignity which poverty denies us. But it must not be a violent struggle, even if violence is used against us. Violence can only hurt us and our cause. The law is for us as well as the ranchers. The strike was begun by the Filipinos, but it is not exclusively for them. Tonight we must decide if we are to join our fellow workers.
    • Delano, California (16 September 1965) as quoted in Delano: the story of the California Grape Strike (1967) by John Gregory Dunne
  • We don't know how God chooses martyrs. We do know that they give us the most precious gift they possess — their very lives.
    • Indestructible Spirit Conference at La Paz, UFW Headquarters in Keene, California (11 January 1991)
  • We need, in a special way, to work twice as hard to make all people understand that animals are fellow creatures, that we must protect them and love them as we love ourselves... The basis for peace is respecting all creatures... That's the basis, the beginning for peace. ...We know we cannot defend or be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them - exploiting them in the name of science, exploiting animals in the name of sport, exploiting animals in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food.
    • Accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award from In Defense of Animals in 1992.
  • History will judge societies and governments — and their institutions — not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless.
    • As quoted in Cesar Chavez : A Triumph of Spirit (1997) by Richard Griswold del Castillo and Richard A. Garcia, p. 116

The Plan of Delano (1965)

Full text online
  • We, the undersigned, gathered in Pilgrimage to the capital of the State in Sacramento in penance for all the failings of Farm Workers as free and sovereign men, do solemnly declare before the civilized world which judges our actions, and before the nation to which we belong, the propositions we have formulated to end the injustice that oppresses us.
  • Our sweat and our blood have fallen on this land to make other men rich. The pilgrimage is a witness to the suffering we have seen for generations.
  • This is the beginning of a social movement in fact and not in pronouncements. We seek our basic, God-given rights as human beings. Because we have suffered — and are not afraid to suffer — in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything, even our lives, in our fight for social justice. We shall do it without violence because that is our destiny. To the ranchers, and to all those who opposes, we say, in the words of Benito Juárez: "El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz." [Respect for another's right is the meaning of peace.]
  • We seek the support of all political groups and protection of the government, which is also our government, in our struggle. For too many years we have been treated like the lowest of the low. Our wages and working conditions have been determined from above, because irresponsible legislators who could have helped us, have supported the rancher's argument that the plight of the Farm Worker was a "special case." They saw the obvious effects of an unjust system, starvation wages, contractors, day hauls, forced migration, sickness, illiteracy, camps and sub-human living conditions, and acted as if they were irremediable causes. The farm worker has been abandoned to his own fate — without representation, without power — subject to mercy and caprice of the rancher. We are tired of words, of betrayals, of indifference. To the politicians we say that the years are gone when the farm worker said nothing and did nothing to help himself. From this movement shall spring leaders who shall understand us, lead us, be faithful to us, and we shall elect them to represent us. We shall be heard.
  • We seek, and have, the support of the Church in what we do. At the head of the pilgrimage we carry La virgen de la Guadalupe because she is ours, all ours, Patroness of the Mexican people. We also carry the Sacred Cross and the Star of David because we are not sectarians, and because we ask the help and prayers of all religions.
  • We are suffering. We have suffered, and we are not afraid to suffer in order to win our cause. We have suffered unnumbered ills and crimes in the name of the Law of the Land. Our men, women, and children have suffered not only the basic brutality of stoop labor, and the most obvious injustices of the system; they have also suffered the desperation of knowing that the system caters to the greed of callous men and not to our needs. Now we will suffer for the purpose of ending the poverty, the misery, and the injustice, with the hope that our children will not be exploited as we have been. They have imposed hunger on us, and now we hunger for justice. We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.
  • We shall unite. We have learned the meaning of Unity.
  • The ranchers want to keep us divided in order to keep us weak. Many of us have signed individual "work contracts" with the ranchers or contractors, contracts in which they had all power. These contracts were farces, one more cynical joke at our impotence. That is why we must get together and bargain collectively. We must use the only strength that we have, the force of our numbers. The ranchers are few; we are many. United we shall stand.
  • We shall Strike. We shall pursue the revolution we have proposed. We are sons of the Mexican Revolution, a revolution of the poor seeking, bread and justice. Our revolution will not be armed, but we want the existing social order to dissolve, we want a new social order. We are poor, we are humble, and our only choices is to Strike in those ranchers where we are not treated with the respect we deserve as working men, where our rights as free and sovereign men are not recognized. We do not want the paternalism of the rancher; we do not want the contractor; we do not want charity at the price of our dignity. We want to be equal with all the working men in the nation; we want just wage, better working conditions, a decent future for our children. To those who oppose us, be they ranchers, police, politicians, or speculators, we say that we are going to continue fighting until we die, or we win. 'We shall overcome.
  • Across the San Joaquin Valley, across California, across the entire Southwest of the United States, wherever there are Mexican people, wherever there are farm workers, our movement is spreading like flames across ad dry plain. Our pilgrimage is the match that will light our cause for all farm workers to see what is happening here, so that they may do as we have done. The time has come for the liberation of the poor farm worker.
    History is on our side. May the strike go on! Viva la causa!
    • A similar statement (perhaps used in a later declaration) has been quoted at the UFW site: "Across the San Joaquin valley, across California, across the entire nation, wherever there are injustices against men and women and children who work in the fields — there you will see our flags — with the black eagle with the white and red background, flying. Our movement is spreading like flames across a dry plain."

The Mexican-American and the Church (1968)

Speech at the Second Annual Mexican Conference, Sacramento, California (March 1968)

.

  • When we refer to the Church we should define the word a little. We mean the whole Church, the Church as an ecumenical body spread around the world, and not just its particular form in a parish in a local community.
    The Church we are talking about is a tremendously powerful institution in our society, and in the world. That Church is one form of the Presence of God on Earth, and so naturally it is powerful. It is powerful by definition. It is a powerful moral and spiritual force which cannot be ignored by any movement.
  • When the strike started in 1965, most of our friends forsook us for a while. They ran — or were just too busy to help. But the California Migrant Ministry held a meeting with its staff and decided that the strike was a matter of life or death for farm workers everywhere, and that even if it meant the end of the Migrant Ministry they would turn over their resources to the strikers. The political pressure on the Protestant Churches was tremendous and the Migrant Ministry lost a lot of money. But they stuck it out, and they began to point the way to the rest of the Church. In fact, when 30 of the strikers were arrested for shouting Huelga [Strike], 11 ministers went to jail with them.
  • The growers in Delano have their spiritual problems... we do not deny that. They have every right to have priests and ministers who serve their needs. But we have different needs, and so we needed a friendly spiritual guide. And this is true in every community in this state where the poor face tremendous problems. But the opposition raises a tremendous howl about this. They don't want us to have our spiritual advisors, friendly to our needs. Why is this? Why indeed except that there is tremendous spiritual and economic power in the church. The rich know it, and for that reason they choose to keep it from the people.
  • We should be prepared to come to the defense of that priest, rabbi, minister, or layman of the Church, who out of commitment to truth and justice gets into a tight place with his pastor or bishop. It behooves us to stand with that man and help him see his trial through. It is our duty to see to it that his rights of conscience are respected and that no bishop, pastor or other higher body takes that God-given, human right away.
  • What do we want the Church to do? We don't ask for more cathedrals. We don't ask for bigger churches of fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the Church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice, and for love of brother. We don't ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don't ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.

What The Future Holds (1984)

Speech (9 November 1984)
  • Today, thousands of farm workers live under savage conditions — beneath trees and amid garbage and human excrement — near tomato fields in San Diego County, tomato fields which use the most modern farm technology.
    Vicious rats gnaw on them as they sleep. They walk miles to buy food at inflated prices. And they carry in water from irrigation pumps.
  • All my life, I have been driven by one dream, one goal, one vision: to overthrow a farm labor system in this nation that treats farm workers as if they were not important human beings. Farm workers are not agricultural implements; they are not beasts of burden to be used and discarded. That dream was born in my youth, it was nurtured in my early days of organizing. It has flourished. It has been attacked.
  • I'm not very different from anyone else who has ever tried to accomplish something with his life. My motivation comes from my personal life, from watching what my mother and father went through when I was growing up, from what we experienced as migrant workers in California. That dream, that vision grew from my own experience with racism, with hope, with a desire to be treated fairly, and to see my people treated as human beings and not as chattel. It grew from anger and rage, emotions I felt 40 years ago when people of my color were denied the right to see a movie or eat at a restaurant in many parts of California. It grew from the frustration and humiliation I felt as a boy who couldn't understand how the growers could abuse and exploit farm workers when there were so many of us and so few of them.
  • I've traveled through every part of this nation. I have met and spoken with thousands of Hispanics from every walk of life, from every social and economic class. And one thing I hear most often from Hispanics, regardless of age or position, and from many non-Hispanics as well, is that the farm workers gave them the hope that they could succeed and the inspiration to work for change.
  • From time to time, you will hear our opponents declare that the union is weak, that the union has no support, that the union has not grown fast enough. Our obituary has been written many times. How ironic it is that the same forces that argue so passionately that the union is not influential are the same forces that continue to fight us so hard.
  • Today, the growers are like a punch-drunk old boxer who doesn't know he's past his prime. The times are changing. The political and social environment has changed. The chickens are coming home to roost — and the time to account for past sins is approaching.
  • These trends are part of the forces of history that cannot be stopped. No person and no organization can resist them for very long. They are inevitable. Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.
    You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.
    Our opponents must understand that it's not just a union we have built. Unions, like other institutions, can come and go.
    But we're more than an institution. For nearly 20 years, our union has been on the cutting edge of a people's cause — and you cannot do away with an entire people; you cannot stamp out a people's cause.
  • Like the other immigrant groups, the day will come when we win the economic and political rewards which are in keeping with our numbers in society. The day will come when the politicians do the right thing by our people out of political necessity and not out of charity or idealism.
    That day may not come this year. That day may not come during this decade. But it will come, someday!
    And when that day comes, we shall see the fulfillment of that passage from the Book of Matthew in the New Testament, "That the last shall be first and the first shall be last."
    And on that day, our nation shall fulfill its creed — and that fulfillment shall enrich us all.

Lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1990)

Speech (12 January 1990)
  • Dr. King was a powerful figure of destiny, of courage, of sacrifice, and of vision. Few people in the long history of this nation can rival his accomplishment, his reason, or his selfless dedication to the cause of peace and social justice.
    Today we honor a wise teacher, an inspiring leader, and a true visionary, but to truly honor Dr. King we must do more than say words of praise.
    We must learn his lessons and put his views into practice, so that we may truly be free at last.
  • Many people will tell you of his wonderful qualities and his many accomplishments, but what makes him special to me, the truth many people don't want you to remember, is that Dr. king was a great activist, fighting for radical social change with radical methods.
    While other people talked about change, Dr. King used direct action to challenge the system. He welcomed it, and used it wisely.
  • Dr. King was also radical in his beliefs about violence. He learned how to successfully fight hatred and violence with the unstoppable power of nonviolence.
    He once stopped an armed mob, saying: "We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we live by. We must meet hate with love."
  • My friends, as we enter a new decade, it should be clear to all of us that there is an unfinished agenda, that we have miles to go before we reach the promised land.
    The men who rule this country today never learned the lessons of Dr. King, they never learned that non-violence is the only way to peace and justice.
    Our nation continues to wage war upon its neighbors, and upon itself.
  • My friends, the time for action is upon us. The enemies of justice wants you to think of Dr. King as only a civil rights leader, but he had a much broader agenda. He was a tireless crusader for the rights of the poor, for an end to the war in Vietnam long before it was popular to take that stand, and for the rights of workers everywhere.
    Many people find it convenient to forget that Martin was murdered while supporting a desperate strike on that tragic day in Memphis, Tennessee. He died while fighting for the rights of sanitation workers.
    Dr. King's dedication to the rights of the workers who are so often exploited by the forces of greed has profoundly touched my life and guided my struggle.
  • Just as Dr. King was a disciple of Gandhi and Christ, we must now be Dr. King's disciples.
    Dr. King challenged us to work for a greater humanity. I only hope that we are worthy of his challenge.

Quotes about Chávez

  • Our separate struggles are really one. A struggle for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity. ... You and your valiant fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.

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