A small boy hunches over a patch of cabbages in the burning sun; his shirt and brow saturated with sweat. As he wearily harvests the vegetables, he daydreams of a better future, one where he and his family can buy their farm back and sleep on their own land. This was the life of young Cesar Chavez, a young Mexican-American who had a very difficult life and who constantly struggled to acquire sufficient money and necessities for himself and his family. However, he did not focus on his own misfortunes; instead, he chose to divert his attention to the other migrant farm workers less fortunate than he.
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On March 31, 1927, he was born to his parents, Librado Chavez and Juana Estrada, on their farm in Yuma, Arizona. When he was just ten years old, he and his family lost their farm during the Great Depression. As a result, he was forced to work as a migrant farm laborer from a young age. In addition, as a Mexican-American, Chavez also had to deal with much racial prejudice toward him. In spite of his indigent background, he became one of the most gifted leaders of his time. In the 1960s he established an organization called the United Farm Workers, whose goal was to improve the lives and working conditions of migrant workers. A true hero must possess tireless perseverance and bravery, as well as enough compassion to make sacrifices for others. Cesar Chavez's unyielding steadfastness, tremendous bravery, and benevolent heart makes him the epitome of a true hero.
Cesar Chavez's tireless perseverance, displayed even during the bleakest of times, is one of the main factors that plays into his title as hero. Endlessly, he persisted in his fight for the rights of laborers and for improvements in working conditions for migrant farm workers. Concerned for the health of the migrant workers and the public, Chavez protested over the indiscriminate use of pesticides, which were known to cause cancer. According to a Gale research article, "He believed the pesticides were dangerous. He called for another boycott, and in 1988 he fasted for thirty-six days. Although his fast again gained national attention, the boycott did not take hold as earlier ones had." (Gale Cengage Learning). Since Cesar Chavez only believed in the use of peaceful protest, he fasted many times in his lifetime to get the attention of the state government. Although authorities often overlooked these lengthy fasts, he was willing to endure them even if it meant that there was a chance to improve the lives of laborers. Both optimistic and encouraging, "Chavez's motto was "Si, se puede." (meaning "Yes, it can be done.") and he proved it to be true." (Enchanted Learning). The fact that this was his motto showed that he was not a quitter. He held the faith that if one perseveres, he or she can definitely succeed in whatever he or she wants to do. For instance, although not all of his protests were successful, he was not discouraged and simply tried again until he triumphed. Chavez's tenacity was a trait that allowed him to overcome adversity in his lifetime.
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Cesar Chavez's great courage helped make him one of the greatest civil rights activists of his century. He once said, "I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. " (United Farm Workers). Chavez believed that only a true man would have the heart and bravery to sacrifice for others. By holding firmly to this belief, he lived up to this ideal in reality and lived as a "true man"; one who is brave and selfless, and puts other's more dire needs in front of his or her own. The many injustices against the laborers sparked him and the UFW to organize many strikes and peaceful protests against powerful farming authorities. Though Chavez came from a poor background, he did not let that discourage him in getting the attention of them. Chavez told his followers, "Those that oppose our cause are rich and powerful, and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our own bodies and spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons." (United Farm Workers). He demonstrated this bravery and defiance against the wealthy organizations when he organized a march to California's state capitol to inspire farm workers to join the Union. By always staying courageous, Chavez proved to be a true hero. He was not intimidated by the immense wealth and status of the rich organizations that he fought against. Chavez's unceasing courage led him to become a success and inspiration to others around the world.
Since he was very altruistic, Chavez had a great amount of compassion that he practiced regularly. He believed that he should always help the people who need it. For example, many laborers were housed in cruel living conditions, such as chicken coops, shanties, shacks, barns, etc. (Gale US History in Context). These injustices to the toiling laborers made their lives exceedingly difficult. Since Chavez grew up working as a laborer as a child, he could deeply empathize with their daily hardships. This helped to fuel his will to give his all in the fight for what he knew was right. According to Peter Matthiessen, "For most of his life, Cesar Estrada Chavez chose to live penniless and without property, devoting everything he had, including his frail health, to the UFW" (New Yorker). Instead of living a relatively average life as a farm laborer, he chose to devote his life to the less fortunate. He wanted the best for them, and sought to improve the lives of farm migrant workers all across the country. Regarding himself, Cesar Chavez stated, "It is my deepest belief that only by giving of our lives do we find life." (Chavez). He realized that living a life only for oneself is a life not lived well and that only a life of altruism and love for others is a life worth living. Choosing austerity as a lifestyle, Chavez sought to improve the conditions for migrant workers regardless of their ethnic background.
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Cesar Chavez was a persevering, courageous, and compassionate leader venerated as one of the greatest heroes of his century. Inspiring millions of people to dare to fight for what is right, Cesar Chavez has emerged as an international hero. Instead of taking a passive role when there was a serious issue at hand, Chavez decided to take a stand when the rest of the world was silent. He did not falter when all of the other organizations rose up against him; he simply strengthened his resolve and courage instead. Another quality that is admirable about him is his immense heart; even though he had nothing himself, he chose to dedicate his life to the other mistreated migrant farm workers in similar or worse conditions. These qualities spur me on to be the best person that I can be. His life and accomplishments are proof that no matter how 'small' I may seem, if I am determined, valiant, and benevolent, I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. A small act of kindness or victory is like a ripple; though a single ripple may be invisible in a pond, a hundred ripples can form a giant wave that sweeps over the whole surface. Chavez's numerous 'ripples' drastically affected the lives of laborers and their families all over the world. Additionally, his story influences millions with its international message that one should always fight for justice, even when no one else will. The life of Cesar Chavez will always be celebrated and remembered as a tale that crosses cultural, language, and age barriers.
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