Welcome Remarks to 2009 Cesar Chavez Day Celebration
March 24, 2009
Interim President Anthony A. Frank
In preparing for today’s remarks, I did a bit of on-line research, rechecking my background understanding of Chavez. In taking my youngest daughter to school this morning, I asked her about Chavez and after she had finished, I concluded I didn’t need to recheck my background — I only needed to ask my 14 year-old. That’s progress.
But after I dropped her off, I listened to the NPR story on Juarez — a lack of progress where a lack of resources, a lack of education, indeed a lack of hope, have recreated the sort of cycle that that enslaves human potential and degrades all of our society.
It’s easy to listen to such seemingly recurring, intractable problems and think that poverty, ignorance, hunger will always be with us. Easy to ask, “What can we do?” Easy to become refractory.
But it’s also easy to become frustrated with such problems. Easy to become angry. Easy for them to even lead to violence as a mechanism for change.
And not so easy to take the path that Chavez took. Rising from a child migrant worker in the great depression to the leader of a non-violent movement that became an inspiration to people worldwide, to become a leader who was unfailingly humble, humane and untiring in service to our nation’s most disenfranchised citizens. To the point where he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 — our nation’s highest civilian honor.
While many of us recall Chavez and think of the United Farm Workers, he would remind us, “The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”
As so we celebrate Cesar Chavez by celebrating people — by continuing to open doors and create opportunity, by helping — together — to support those who struggle in the face of bigotry, poverty and lack of education. And we celebrate Chavez by never giving up and becoming refractory; and by not giving in to the temptations of frustration, anger and violence.
Chavez said, “You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future — and the future is ours.”
The future IS ours — let us learn from Chavez’s example and help make real a future where all people are respected, valued and given the tools they need to participate fully in society.