César Estrada Chávez
Though major city streets have been named after him, and a State holiday established in his honor in eight US States, the profundity of César Chávez's humanitarian impact on the lives of virtually millions of people is hard to grasp. Born in 1927 in Yuma, Arizona, Chávez grew up in the Great Depression, assisting his parents on their family ranch. When he was 9 years old, the family was forced to close its business in the poor economy, and relocate to California, where the Chávezes joined a burgeoning community of migrant workers laboring for pennies a day, sleeping on roadsides and in their cars, and working in hazardous conditions. A mere decade later-at the age of 20-after serving with the US Navy in World War II, Chávez began to lead protests amongst the migrant workers against low wages and severe working conditions. Chávez joined Latino civil rights groups, and quickly found a voice leading them, rallying crowds, and demanding worker's rights. In 1965, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW), the labor union that continues to be at the forefront of labor rights in the US. Chávez urged minorities to remember their rights, register to vote, and to fight for equality. Amongst many historical protests, Chávez lead the 5 year strike against Delano Grapes that began as a march from Delano to Sacramento and ended only when the US Senate recognized the movement. The national impact of Chávez's speeches, rallies, and community service may be overwhelming and difficult to measure, but his peaceful message continues its terrific echo across the country.
"Being of service is not enough. You must become a servant of the people. When you do, you can demand their commitment in return."
"We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure."
"The picket line is the best place to train organizers. One day on the picket line is where a man makes his commitment. The longer on the picket line, the stronger the commitment. A lot of workers think they make their commitment by walking off the job when nobody sees them. But you get a guy to walk off the field when his boss is watching and, in front of the other guys, throw down his tools and march right to the picket line, that is the guy who makes our strike. The picket line is a beautiful thing because it makes a man more human."
"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own."