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It Can Be Done
I have written this research paper upon a man that has been very inspirational to the people of my culture and whose work has served as a symbol of determination, strength, and courage. This man, a hero to many, was the voice for the people who didn’t have one and has given a voice for the people of today, he has also been a source of strength and courage for my generation and those generations coming, this man is the pure definition of pride and bravery for not only the Hispanic community but for all who seek guidance and help. This amazing man goes by the name of Cesar Chavez.
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -- Christopher Reeve
Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona near his family farm on March 31, 1927. He was born a second-generation American and was the second of the six children his parents, Librado and Juana, gave birth to. Most of Chavez’s childhood was spent moving from farm to farm, and living in migrant camps with his family and in their car in California, since his father had become a field worker after losing his business because of the Great Depression. Chavez was forced to attend more than thirty schools before the sixth grade because of his family’s economic situation. Through all this Cesar Chaves faced cruel discrimination as a Mexican-American. He never was an outstanding student, a valedictorian or anything of that sort, since he dropped out of school after finishing the eight grade, but he “possessed an insatiable intellectual curiosity , and was self-taught in many fields an well read throughout his life”(CEC Foundation).
His impact started when he joined the Community Service Organization in 1952 as community organizer. As a member of this Latino civil rights group he helped with voter registration drives and campaigns against discrimination both racial and economic. He later became the CSO’s director receiving a stable paycheck.
Chavez knew that he could make a greater impact to society by making one of his dreams come true. He withdrew from the Community Service Organization in the early sixties to make the United Farm Workers of America, formally known as the National Farm Workers Association. This is when his name began to become an icon.
One of his first major boycotts for laborers occurred during these first important years. Cesar Chavez believed in non-violent movements to better the conditions for farm workers. In 1968 he fasted for 25 days to show his dedication and position of his principle of non-violence which he believed in due to Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A few years earlier in 1965 he led five years strike with California grape pickers to improve wages, in doing so he asked all Americans to boycott “table” grapes to show their support for the situation. Robert Kennedy gave Chavez his entire support when the Senate looked into the issue.
Not only did Cesar perform fasts, boycotts, and strikes during his more than three decades of helping farm workers, he was able to form the first really successful farms workers union in the history of America. His dedication and effort aided the passage of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which protects the rights of farm workers to unionize (CEC Foundation)
Cesar Chavez not only fasted for those long 25 days in 1968 but also in 1972, and in 1988. In that year of 1988, at the young age of 61, he did a “Fast for Life” in which he fasted for 36 days to bring attention to the impact of pesticides on labor workers and their families. His “Fast for Life” movement is one of his most famous and was one that brought the most national attention. When Chavez finished his 36 day fast on August 21, Reverend Jesse Jackson began where Cesar Chavez had finished, he did so by fasting on water for three days. When Rev. Jesse Jackson finished his showing of support; other celebrities and leaders showed theirs. Some of the celebrities who were involved were Danny Glover; Kerry Kennedy (the daughter of Robert Kennedy); Reverend J. Lowery; and Whoopi Goldberg, along with many others who showed their strong support. The Fast for Life would be Cesar’s first and last major fast of his life.
Cesar Estrada Chavez passed away in San Luis, Arizona, which is only miles away from were he was born, on April 23, 1993 at the age of 66 leaving behind a legend to his name. It is said that Chavez’s life cannot be measured in material items (CEC Foundation) since he was never a millionaire and never even owned a house but the impact he made on the Latino community and even the entire American society is amazing. His motto throughout most of his life was “Si Se Puede” which means “It can be done”, this phrase is coined as his legacy. On April 29th more than 50,000 people attended his funeral at the place of his first fast, it was called “The Last March with Cesar Chavez”. On August 8, 1994 Helen Chavez, Cesar’s widow, accepted the Medal of Freedom for Cesar Chavez from President Clinton at a White House Ceremony(UFW), the medal of freedom is the highest civilian honor. His legacy lives on as many of his supported have named schools, streets, libraries, and even parks after him as he will never be forgotten.
"Cesar, we have come to plant your heart like a seed . . . the farm workers shall harvest in the seed of your memory."- Luis Valdez (UFW)
Sahlman, Rachel . "Cesar Chaves." Spectrum Bioghrahies . Spectrum Home and School Network. 1 June 2008
"American Hero." Biograhpy. 1 The Cesar E. Chavez Foundation. 1 June 2008
"The Story of Cesar Chavez." Research . 1 United Farm Workers. 1 June 2008