Today, I joined President Obama in welcoming the family of Cesar Chavez to the White House. On what would have been his 83rd birthday, the President honored his family and his life’s work by proclaiming March 31, 2010 “Cesar Chavez Day.”
Chavez was raised in a family of migrant farm workers. In his youth and later in life, he led the charge for fair wages and safer working conditions after witnessing the abuses suffered by workers simply trying to earn a living. At the time, farm workers were deeply impoverished and often exploited by employers. Rarely did they have access to safe drinking water or basic necessities like bathrooms, and they were routinely exposed to the harsh chemicals used to treat crops and fields.
Chavez could not sit idly by while such abuses occurred. He became an organizer, a leader and a voice for justice, bringing farm workers together to demand change through boycotts, strikes and other nonviolent demonstrations. He established the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), which continues to champion his cause to this day. In fact, several of his family members continue to lead the UFW today.
The legacy of Cesar Chavez is one that is alive and well, even within the walls of the White House. Like Chavez, President Obama is also committed to giving communities the tools they need to grow stronger, more sustainable and more prosperous. The President knows that lasting change does not come from the top down, but rather, it comes from the bottom up, and he has encouraged all Americans to answer the call to public service—whether that means tutoring a child, creating a community garden, or helping needy residents to access necessary health care.
Valerie Jarrett is the Senior Advisor to the President