President Obama Urged to Make Cesar Chavez's March 31 Birthday a National Day of Service (SIGN THE PETITION)
"Our opponents in the agricultural industry are very powerful and farm workers are still weak in money and influence. But we have another kind of power that comes from the justice of our cause. So long as we are willing to sacrifice for that cause, so long as we persist in non-violence and work to spread the message of our struggle, then millions of people around the world will respond from their heart, will support our efforts...and in the end we will overcome." -- Cesar Chavez
The United States has embraced peaceful yet powerful heroes such as the beloved Martin Luther King Jr. by commemorating his life with an official holiday -- rightfully so, but there is a major piece of American history that has yet to truly come to light with national recognition: the mission of Mexican-American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.
The iconic labor leader fought for farmers to unionize, have better pay and work conditions as they tried to earn a living picking grapes in the fields of California. He helped create the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. His fight for equality, civil rights, political recognition and environmental justice wasn't just for farm workers, however, but for all Latino workers who were treated unfairly and weren't represented.
Chavez's family, The Cesar Chavez Foundation and the United Farm Workers as well as the cast of the Cesar Chavez biopic (which will hit theaters on March 28, starring Michael Peña, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson and John Malkovich and directed by Diego Luna) are urging President Obama to make Chavez's birthday on March 31, an annual National Day of Service.
During the New York City premiere of Cesar Chavez on March 17, Paul Chavez, who is one of Cesar and Helen Chavez's eight children, shared his thoughts on what it would mean to him, as well as future generations, if March 31 became an annual National Day of Service for his father.
"It's been 21 years since he's passed away, and there have been a lot of commemorations throughout the years -- streets, parks, libraries and holidays. There was a naval ship and national park -- President Obama came to where my father lived and worked and where he was buried to establish the 398th National Parks Service. Last week, I got a call from the city of Tuscon, AZ to establish another city holiday," Paul Chavez who is also the President and Chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, told the Latin Post.
"So commemorations keep on coming and the fact is that my father would be kind of embarrassed by all of this, even by this movie I think. Because he felt that there was so much work to be done and that there would be more important things to be doing. But also he understood that there were so many people who made tremendous sacrifices against great odds whose names were lost in history."
Numerous communities across America pass on Chavez's torch by conducting annual observances and recognitions, having murals made, or naming public places and monuments after Cesar, including six states that celebrate his birthday as an official holiday, including California, Colorado, Michigan and Texas.
According to the Cesar Chavez Foundation, in 2012, San Antonio became the latest of 43 cities to name a major thoroughfare for Cesar, joining municipalities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Albuquerque.
"That year, thousands also witnessed the Christening and launching into San Diego Bay of USNS Cesar Chavez, the Navy's latest 700-foot-long Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship, the first U.S. naval vessel named for a Latino. On Oct. 8, 2012, President Obama traveled to the National Chavez Center in Keene and before a crowd of 7,000 dedicated a small portion of the 187-acre property as the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument -- the 398th unit of the National Park Service and the first to recognize a modern-day Latino. Telling Cesar's story is now part of the park service's mission of telling the story of America."
The state of California became Chavez's home, and the place where he did most of his rallying for farmers' rights. On Aug. 18, California recognized that legacy when Governor Gray Davis signed into law the creation of an official state holiday which will be celebrated starting in 2001 on Cesar Chavez's birthday March 31. A Cesar Chavez day of learning and service in the state's public schools was also established where the state's youth is taught about Cesar and his union.
Cesar Chavez Screening at the White House:
While the Cesar Chaevez biopic was screened at the White House on March 19 and it's been making an impact around the country with pre-screenings before its official release in theaters tomorrow, it's not enough.
In attendance at the White House was director Diego Luna, actress Rosario Dawson, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Cesar's daughter, introduced President Obama, who spoke about the film and the agenda for his remaining time in office.
"This movie, this film tells the story of a man guided by an enormous faith -- faith in a righteous cause and a loving God, and the dignity of every human being," Obama said, according to The Wrap. "And it reminds us how throughout our history that faith has been tested, and that it falls to ordinary Americans, ordinary people, to fight and restore that faith.
"Cesar himself said that he spent his first 20 years working as an organizer without a single major victory," Obama continued. "But he never gave up. He kept on going, and the world is a better place because he did. And that's one of the great lessons of his life. You don't give up the fight no matter how long it takes. No matter how long the odds, you keep going, fueled by a simple creed -- sí, se puede."
Obama's words are all the more reason that Chavez's birthday on March 31 should get the green light to become a National Day of Service.
In advance of the March 28 release of the major motion picture Cesar Chavez, the Cesar Chavez Foundation, Participant Media and Pantelion Films launched a petition drive urging President Obama to proclaim Cesar Chavez's March 31 birthday an annual National Day of Service.
"The goal is to collect 100,000 signatures on the petition so all Americans in each of the 50 states can take part in local service activities."
"I know that while he (Cesar Chavez) would be honored, he would be very uncomfortable with this stuff. What he would push for and what he always pushed for was for people to go out and be of service to others," Paul Chavez told the Latin Post.
"We're asking people to go online at cesarchavezfoundation.org, to sign a petition, urging President Obama to establish March 31 a National Day of Service. We think that getting people from all walks of life, from all communities across this country to help others is morally an important thing to do, but also we think that it would be the best way to honor his legacy."
Check out a video that tells why March 31 should indeed be a Day of National Service for the iconic Cesar Chavez. Click here to sign the petition urging President Obama to declare March 31 a National Day of Service.
Check out the Latin Post's Cesar Chavez Coverage:
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