César Chávez

  • Remarks by President Barack Obama

  • The following is an excerpt from "Remarks by the President at the Dedication of the Cesar Chavez National Monument, Keene, CA."

  • Barack Obama

    Growing up as the son of migrant workers who had lost their home in the Great Depression, Cesar Chavez wasn’t easy on his parents.

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  • He described himself as “caprichoso” -- capricious.

  • His brother Richard had another word for him -- stubborn.

  • Barack Obama

    By the time he reached 7th grade, Cesar estimated he had attended 65 elementary schools, following the crop cycles with his family, working odd jobs, sometimes living in roadside tents without electricity or plumbing.

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  • It wasn’t an easy childhood.

  • But Caesar always was different.

  • Barack Obama

    While other kids could identify all the hottest cars, he memorized the names of labor leaders and politicians.

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  • After serving in the Navy during World War II, Cesar returned to the fields.

  • And it was a time of great change in America, but too often that change was only framed in terms of war and peace, black and white, young and old.

  • Barack Obama

    No one seemed to care about the invisible farm workers who picked the nation’s food -- bent down in the beating sun, living in poverty, cheated by growers, abandoned in old age, unable to demand even the most basic rights.

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  • But Cesar cared.

  • And in his own peaceful, eloquent way, he made other people care, too.

  • Barack Obama

    A march that started in Delano with a handful of activists that march ended 300 miles away in Sacramento with a crowd 10,000 strong.

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  • A boycott of table grapes that began in California eventually drew 17 million supporters across the country, forcing growers to agree to some of the first farm worker contracts in history.

  • Where there had once been despair, Cesar gave workers a reason to hope.

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    César Chávez

    “What [the growers] don't know,”

  • Barack Obama

    he said,

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    César Chávez

    “is that it's not bananas or grapes or lettuce.