Today has been deemed “Cesar Chavez Day” by President Obama in his Presidential Proclamation stating the birthday of this American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist as a day that should be marked with service, community and educational programs to honor his legacy.
One of six children, Chavez was born in 1927 to a Mexican-American family in Yuma, Arizona. After his father lost their adobe house, the family moved to California and became migrant farmers. Upon finishing eighth grade, he took to the fields full time so his mother would not have to. Harvesting everything from peas in the winter and cotton in the fall, Chavez faced hardship as a farm worker early on. Hazardous working conditions, dangerous pesticides, unclean drinking water and other necessities denied, Chavez felt the call to social justice.
Through the studies of his heroes, St. Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., boycotts and fasts, Chavez became a lifelong advocate for justice, founding the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Dolores Huerta in 1962.
Obama states, “Cesar Chavez’s legacy provides lessons from which all Americans can learn. One person can change the course of a nation and improve the lives of countless individuals. Cesar once said, ‘Non-violence is not inaction. . . . Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.’
From his inspiring accomplishments, we have learned that social justice takes action, selflessness, and commitment. As we face the challenges of our day, let us do so with the hope and determination of Cesar Chavez, echoing the words that were his rallying cry and that continue to inspire so many today, ‘Sí, se puede’ – ‘Yes, we can.'”
On Friday, Apr. 1, at the Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, a screening of the documentary called “Cesar’s Last Fast” will show never seen before footage, telling the story of the 36-day water-only fast by one of America’s most inspiring Latino leaders.
The Catholic News Service features this prayer attributed to Chavez,
Show me the suffering of the most miserable, so I may know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others, for in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration, so that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle.