STORIES
Freedom

Cesar Chavez

by Vidya from San Diego

Cesar Chavez on strike  (tavaana.org ())
Cesar Chavez on strike (tavaana.org ())

Cesar Chavez

"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own" (Cesar Chavez). Cesar Chavez's beliefs and ideas made him the most influential labor leader and civil rights activists in regards to farm workers. Born on March, 31 1927 in Yuma, Arizona Chavez moved to California after his family lost their farm and business. Cesar's family, like the thousands of migrant farm workers, was forced to live on the edge of poverty and experienced terrible working conditions("Cesar Estrada Chavez." American). Despite the setbacks, in 1962, Cesar Chavez was inspired by Fred Ross to become a full-time activist for the Community Service Organization(CSO) and that same year founded the  National Farm Workers Association(NFWA)  which became United Farm Workers Organizing Committee(UFWOC)  in 1966.  These organizations helped Mexican-American farm workers who worked in inhumane conditions. Cesar Chavez caused the passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975 in California, which was the first law in the U.S to help farm workers. Cesar had another boycott on 1987 to ban pesticides from being used, so that migrant farmers would be safe (Levy). Cesar never stopped protesting against injustices until day he died in April 23, 1993 causing him to be inducted into the U.S. Labor Department's Hall of Fame in 1999("Cesar Chavez." Encyclopedia). His dedication of being a labor leader and civil rights activist caused him to turn his dreams into a reality. Cesar's self-sacrificing life in the single-mindedness of helping others makes him a great inspiration, role model for others, and a hero. A hero must possess altruism by selflessly helping out other people in need and persistence to achieve righteous goals. Cesar Chavez had determination to better the working conditions of thousands of migrant farmers, commitment to the different organizations he worked at, and selflessness to risk his health to help other workers making him an American hero. 

Cesar Chavez as an effective leader (www.nationalchavezcenter.org ())
Cesar Chavez as an effective leader (www.nationalchavezcenter.org ())

Determination and hard work drove Cesar Chavez to achieve seemingly impossible goals. Chavez worked harder with every setback he faced: "Instead of giving in to the barriers he faced, Chavez used these challenges as strong foundations to build positive changes: 'From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength'" (Skallerup). Great people are great because they do not follow common belief. By possessing different thoughts, they enable themselves and suppress others. If one thinks about it, many people considered great today share one main similarity. They fought for what they considered to be righteous despite strong adversity. Yet solely possessing these thoughts does not make a person a hero, since there are a lot of people like that. A hero acts on behalf of those thoughts, and even when others abandon their aspirations, they continue. That is what Chavez did. Even if some labor leaders or activists acted to a certain extent, once they faced challenges they backed down and thought it would be impossible to achieve. If Cesar was struggling to accomplish his goal, he possessed even more willpower, resolution and dedication to achieve it. Cesar was a man who wanted to make a difference in the world for the better, and would risk everything and anything to change the injustice he experienced. Chavez was a born leader, a transcendental leader rather than a transactional leader and naturally gained followers and supporters due to his generous and influential demeanor. Due to being a transactional leader instead, Chavez worked towards achieving the tangible, realizable and short-term goals, yet he envisioned larger than life goals as the end result. Because of his hard work, he was not enslaved by union management problems. Therefore, he could surpass the transaction regardless of the difficulties he faced or situation.  He was effective because he could organize and could mobilize his masses.  Because of his intelligence, his well-thought out plans and strategies significantly increased his chances of changing people's lives. Cesar inspired himself and as an embodiment of a Chicano or a male of Mexican descent, he inspired Mexican-Americans as well. One of Chavez's challenges was to bring in a more effective way of educating the nation of the hardships and inequality that thousands of migrant farm workers faced everyday by giving Chicanos their first voice of power. Chavez's creative, intelligent and unrelenting mind allowed Chavez to attain his aspirations. Chavez believed the best way to expand an organization was through publicity and getting more volunteers: "To gain more public attention for their demands, Chavez organized a protest march from Delano to Sacramento.There Chavez announced to a crowd of 10,000 people that Schenley would sign a contract with the strikers"( Skallerup). Chavez had twisted his ankle during the march, yet his persistence caused him to continue marching for the rest of the days like every other person in the organization. Because thousands of migrant farm workers marched with Chavez and more joined the organization during the march, it's obvious that Chavez was a well-respected, positive, well-liked and inspirational man to these migrant farm workers. Chavez strongly believed in 'united we stand, divided we fall', so he as an individual put in more hard work and dedication than any other officer or member in the organization which caused him to plan out the events for the organization he was part of in order to bring more members in to his organization. He was so dedicated to his work that he gave up all the comforts of life, as displayed in this march. Cesar Chavez's mastery of transactional leadership and determination helped him to achieve his goals by strengthening the organizations he worked at. 

Cesar Chavez on strike  (http://tavaana.org/en/content/fighting-farm-worker ())
Cesar Chavez on strike (http://tavaana.org/en/content/fighting-farm-worker ())

Cesar Chavez's commitment to the rights of migrant farm workers provided hope to the forlorn. Chavez was extremely devoted in his organizations and provided benefits to migrant farm workers that he sacrificed his own well-being: "Cesar Chavez set high goals to help improve the pay, treatment and working environment for farm workers. In 1962 Chavez left his job with the CSO and created the National Farm Workers Association"("Cesar Chavez." Newsmakers. ). Whatever organization Cesar was part of he would try his hardest in showing the amount of dedication and loyalty he possessed. Because Chavez would often go door-to-door to request for people to join the organizations, it indicated the amount of commitment he had. Chavez also made sure he was not paid more than the other officers in the organization, and did not take power of the organization or turn it against the migrant farmers. This helped him become a righteous and determined leader who was faithful with the people and the organization he worked at.  Therefore, he was looked up towards as someone great and inspiring. With eight children, Cesar Chavez lives in the depths of poverty, so his organization would have enough money and members to work effectively: "His (Cesar) life was dedicated only to bettering the lives of exploited farm workers. He was a vegetarian, and his weekly salary of $5 was a virtual vow of poverty. Articles often spoke of his 'saintly' and even 'messianic' qualities"("Cesar Chavez." Newsmakers. ). Chavez was very loyal to the organizations he worked at and put all the spare time and money he had into it, because he knew if he tried hard enough, the California growers would end up suffering which would benefit migrant farm workers. Chavez's high level of dedication proved that it is not enough to just believe in something, but you must act upon it. Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to the organization, so enough migrant farm workers would unite to fight off the injustice from their employers. 

Chavez nonviolently boycotting California grapes (www.sfgate.com ())
Chavez nonviolently boycotting California grapes (www.sfgate.com ())

The selflessness Chavez possessed caused him to devote his life for others and want nothing in return. Chavez almost died from fasting for 25 days straight in order to stop the violence that would destroy the hopes of the migrant farmers: "Chavez was willing to starve for La Causa; throughout his campaign for better conditions, Chavez would go on hunger strikes, sometimes to publicize the dire working conditions and sometimes to undo factionalizing within the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). Towards the end of his life, however, Chavez would undergo week-long fasts as part of purification rituals"("Cesar Estrada Chavez" American). Chavez risked his health, spent years of his life, and money to help other people get better lives. Cesar Chavez used creative strategies against the opposition to strengthen the organization when he uses nonviolent means after being inspired by Gandhi. When people start getting desperate, chaos will occur along with violence. Cesar used nonviolence to attract people and to generate power and strength on his side. After people in the organization started to become desperate and more inclined to use violent methods, Chavez decided to fast until members understood that Chavez would not allow violence. Nonviolent means are not easy or cowardly, but a rather effective and very powerful, practical method. Not only did Chavez have to face near-death experiences from being severely physically weakened through fasting, but he also had to have a hard-nosed organization, a minimum of dramatics and a clear understanding of the situation, such as assessing the opposition and being able to win small victories constantly to get beneficial results from the nonviolent act. Because of the stress and self-sacrifice Chavez experienced in times of chaos in his organization, it shows the altruistic and the willingness to not give up in his conquest of bringing happiness to other people's lives. When Chavez fasted until he was very weak, it was a method of calling on followers to refrain from violence of any kind causing Chavez and the message he sends out inextricable. Chavez had the courage to organize thousands of migrant farmers and strengthen his cause knowing that it would benefit thousands of people suffering from bad working conditions: "In such heated times, Cesar Chavez believed, ''the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice"' ("Cesar Estrada Chavez." American). In saying this, Chavez showed that many people are too self-inclined to lead a selfless life and devote their life for helping others in contrast to striving for personal fulfillment. Chavez learned through his mother that helping other people out without accepting anything in return is a very righteous way to live and Chavez never fails to do so, as shown in the countless hours he spent helping other poor migrant farmers without expecting any rewards or fame from it. His selflessness transcends to the next level when he is willing to give up his life for others; something that only true heroes would do. Cesar Chavez always wanted to help other people who were suffering, and as a civil rights activist and labor leader devoted to his work, he selflessly made sure migrant farmers had better lives. 

Chavez made a huge impact on the lives of farm workers because of his resolution, dedication and willingness to sacrifice his life to help others. Chavez is such an inspiration due to being so relentless and persistent in everything he sets his mind to. After he secured better working conditions for migrant farmers, he still fought for migrant farmers to have basic rights. After realizing the amount of effort Chavez sacrificed to help migrant farmers from all over California get better working conditions,  many people saw him as a great leader and respected the work he has done for others. Cesar Chavez was very inspiring to many people through the long, rigorous and near-death fasts he performed if people were committing violence. Chavez looked up to people like Gandhi who had so many followers and supporter through nonviolent methods. Cesar Chavez was a great and humble man who was the moral heart of the American labor movement in the 20th century. Cesar Chavez helped bring communities together and inspired people to be helpful to each other and not act selfishly. He motivated people to never give up or surrender in the fight for justice. He inspires me by teaching me to not just think about myself, but the entire community.  Cesar Chavez will be remembered in society as a leader,an inspiring man, and a hero.  He had the strength and willpower to continue through the most grueling and hopeless situations because he had the determination, loyalty and generosity to be able to achieve anything he committed to which enabled him to change the world for the better.

Works Consulted

"Cesar Estrada Chavez." American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al.Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography in Context. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

"Cesar Chavez." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale,1998. Biography In Context. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

Levy, Jacques E., and Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa. New York: Norton, 1975. Print.

Skallerup, Nellie Eve. "Chavez, Cesar: 'yes, it can be done!'." World and I May 2010.Biography in Context. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

"Cesar Chavez." Newsmakers. Detroit: Gale, 1993. Biography in Context. Web.18 Mar. 2014.


Page created on 4/15/2014 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/15/2014 12:00:00 AM

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