The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release - March 23, 2012
Presidential Proclamation -- Cesar Chavez Day, 2012
CESAR CHAVEZ DAY, 2012
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
One of our Nation's great civil rights leaders, Cesar Estrada Chavez came of age as a migrant farm worker, witnessing the injustice that pervaded fields and vineyards across California. Facing discrimination, poverty, and dangerous working conditions, laborers toiled for little pay and without access to even the most basic necessities. Yet amidst hardship and abuse, Cesar Chavez saw the promise of change -- the unlimited potential of a community organized around a common purpose. Today, we celebrate his courage, reflect on his lifetime of advocacy, and recognize the power in each of us to lift up lives and pursue social justice.
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other visionary leaders, Cesar Chavez based his campaign on principles of nonviolence, which he called "the quality of the heart." Through boycotts, fasts, strikes, and marches that demanded both endurance and imagination, he drew thousands together in support of "La Causa" -- a mission to ensure respect, dignity, and fair treatment for farm workers. Alongside Dolores Huerta, he founded the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), an organization tasked with defending and empowering the men and women who feed the world.
As a tribute to Cesar Chavez's life and work, my Administration designated the Forty Acres site in Delano, California, as a National Historical Landmark last year, forever commemorating the birthplace of the UFW. In May 2011, the United States Navy named the USNS Cesar Chavez in recognition of his service during World War II. And this month, we honor ten Americans as Champions of Change for their commitment to realizing Cesar Chavez's dream of a more just tomorrow. Decades after his struggle began, Cesar Chavez's legacy lives on in all who draw inspiration from the values of service, determination, and community that ignited his movement.
On the 85th anniversary of Cesar Chavez's birth, we are reminded of what we can accomplish when we recognize our common humanity. He told us, "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." As we honor his broad ambitions and expansive vision, let us pledge to stand forever on the side of equal opportunity and justice for all.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2012, as Cesar Chavez Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Cesar Chavez's enduring legacy.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-third day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
See Proclamation HERE
When Barack Obama campaigned to be the nation's 44th president, he used the simple mantra, "Yes We Can" -- a translation of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez's chant, "Si se puede."
As part of his courtship Hispanics, hoping they will vote in support of social justice and on the illegal immigration issue rather than according to their values, much more in live with the GOP, he designated today Cesar Chavez Day. It is part of the Team Obama divide and conquer campaign plan.
Now, nearly four years after the presidential election, Obama's paying homage to the man whose words helped him win office, decreeing Saturday, March 31st of 2012, the 85th anniversary of the civil rights icon's birthday, Cesar Chavez Day.
The civil rights leader, who fought for fair wages and humane treatment for California's farm workers in California, championed principles of nonviolence through boycotts, fasts,and marches. In conjunction with Dolores Huerta, Chavez founded the United Farm Workers of America, an organization devoted to defending the rights of farmhands and field workers across the country.
Earlier this week, the White House honored ten local leaders who "exemplify Cesar Chavez's core values," inviting the activists, farmworkers, and professors to speak at a panel called, "Champions of Change," hosted by HuffPost LatinoVoices blogger, Viviana Hurtado.
One of those "champions" was Rogelio Lona, a farm worker, activist, and community organizer who worked in the fields of California for more than 47 years.
Unbearable working conditions lead Lona to join Chavez's UFW in 1972.
"We were treated as slaves, we did not have any representation in society, we were discriminated against and there were neither benefits nor labor protections," Lona wrote in a blog on the White House website.
Lona said that he accepted the award on behalf of all of those working in America's fields, and was adamant that he will never be done fighting.
"Rogelio, the struggle will never end, we must always be prepared,” Lona recalls Chavez telling him.
Many of the panelists that spoke on Thursday focused on the importance of placing Cesar Chavez's legacy in a modern context. A few of the activists said Cesar Chavez's words should be remembered in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, the Dream Act, and the on-going struggle to end harsh state immigration laws like those in Arizona and Alabama.
Activists in Tucson, Arizona say that Chavez's fight against discrimination is especially alive in their city. After the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) banned the city's Mexican-American studies program, organizers say that the annual Cesar Chavez march would no longer be held at a local high school because of further censorship from the school district.
According to Laura Dent, an organizer of the Arizona Cesar Chavez Holiday Coalition, the TUSD stipulated that there could be no mention to the elimination of Tucson's Mexican-American studies program in order for it to be held at Pueblo High Magnet School, where it has been held for more than a decade.
"So the Chavez Coalition decided that with that kind of level of censorship, we would just move the staging area of the event," Dent told NPR.
Viviana Hurtado, the moderator of the White House's commemorative panel, told The Huffington Post that she was able to chat briefly with Cesar Chavez's son about what advice his father would give his fellow Latinos and civil rights activists in a modern context.
According to Hurtado, Chavez's son believes his father would say, "Don't just be frustrated with the situation ahead of you. Get up and do something. Take action."...