31 March 2011

Hail, César

Long recognized as a state holiday in California (also recognized in Texas and an optional holiday in Arizona and Colorado) intended to promote service to the community in honor of César Chávez's life and work, March 31 now carries full national backing, complete with official Presidential pomp and circumstance. Not sure exactly who César Chávez is? Or, perhaps you've heard the name, but don't really understand what all the fuss is about. Check out the César Chávez Foundation for more info. Already know loads about Chávez? Then please contribute to public knowledge by editing the César Chávez Wikipedia entry. 

From the most regal of food blogs, Obama Foodorama, I proudly present a reposting of...


President Obama today issued a Proclamation in honor of Cesar Chavez, the Mexican American social justice activist who became the leader of the movement to unionize agricultural labor in America. The President proclaimed March 31 "of each year" as Cesar Chavez Day; it is the anniversary of his birth.

"A true champion for justice, Cesar Chavez advocated for and won many of the rights and benefits we now enjoy, and his spirit lives on in the hands and hearts of working women and men today," President Obama wrote in his proclamation.

Chavez (above) was born in 1927, and was the founder of the United Farm Workers with Dolores Huerta, which the President, in his Proclamation, describes as "one of our Nation's most inspiring social movements."

"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," the President wrote.


The President is such an admirer of the social justice leader that he included Chavez among the American heroes in his children's book, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters. Candidate Obama also borrowed his campaign slogan, "Yes we can!" from Chavez, whose "Sí, se puede!" became an international rallying cry, after he used it during a hunger strike in 1972. (Above: The illustration of Chavez from the President's book)

The text of the President's proclamation:

Our Nation's story of progress is rich with profound struggle and great sacrifice, marked by the selfless acts and fearless leadership of remarkable Americans. A true champion for justice, Cesar Chavez advocated for and won many of the rights and benefits we now enjoy, and his spirit lives on in the hands and hearts of working women and men today.

As we celebrate the anniversary of his birth, we honor Cesar Chavez's lasting victories for American workers and his noble methods in achieving them.

Raised in the fields of Arizona and California, Cesar Chavez faced hardship and injustice from a young age. At the time, farm workers toiled in the shadows of society, vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Families like Chavez's were impoverished; exposed to hazardous working conditions and dangerous pesticides; and often denied clean drinking water, toilets, and other basic necessities.

Cesar Chavez saw the need for change and made a courageous choice to work to improve the lives of his fellow farm workers. Through boycotts and fasts, he led others on a path of nonviolence conceived in careful study of the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and Mahatma Gandhi, and in the powerful example of Martin Luther King, Jr. He became a community organizer and began his lifelong advocacy to protect and empower people. With quiet leadership and a powerful voice, Cesar founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Dolores Huerta, launching one of our Nation's most inspiring social movements.

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."

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 of each year as Cesar Chavez Day. (emphasis added)

I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and educational programs to honor Cesar Chavez's enduring legacy. (emphasis added)

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

BARACK OBAMA
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end reposting from Obama Foodorama