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Obama: 'Today we celebrate Cesar Chavez'

Attendees lined up early to be shuttled in to see and hear the President at the Chavez Center in Tehachapi, California Monday October 8, 2012
Attendees lined up early to be shuttled in to see and hear the President at the Chavez Center in Tehachapi, California Monday October 8, 2012
Peter Switzer

President Barack Obama arrived in Keene California to establish the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument to a rousing crowd of over 6,600 California residents, out of state residents, several hundred Central Valley students, Chavez family members and distinguished guests.

The early morning was clear and cool in the valley where La Paz nestles amidst the picturesque Tehachapi Mountains. The temperature would warm up moderately as the morning went on.

The newly dedicated monument would be the 398th installment in the national parks system and is located at the home and headquarters of the labor leader, civil rights activist, head of the farm workers movement who together with Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association.

The movement is recognized world wide.

Upon arrival at La Paz President Obama joined Helena Chavez (Cesar Chavez's wife), Paul Chavez, Dolores Huerta and UFW President Arturo Rodriguez to pay respects in the memorial garden at Cesar's modest grave. Obama laid a single rose on the civil rights icon's grave.

This is the fourth time Obama has used executive power to designate a monument under the Antiquities Act.

United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez spoke for several minutes and introduced the president to the anxious crowd.
Obama spoke of Cesar's life, farm worker struggles, the sacrifice, Cesar's beliefs and his undying determination to make possible a better future for his family, the farm workers, the community, for everyone:
"Cesar didn't believe in helping those who refused to help themselves, but he did believe that when someone who works 12 hours a day in the fields can earn enough to put food on the table and maybe save up enough to buy a home, that that makes our communities stronger, that lifts up our entire economy.

He believed that when a worker is treated fairly and humanely by their employer that adds meaning to the values this country was founded upon, and credence to the claim that out of many, we are one. And he believed that when a child anywhere in America can dream beyond her circumstances and work to realize that dream, it makes all our futures just a little bit brighter.

"It was that vision, that belief in the power of opportunity that drove Cesar every day of his life. It's a vision that says, maybe I never had a chance to get a good education, but I want my daughter to go to college. Maybe I started out working in the fields, but someday I'll own my own business. Maybe I have to make sacrifices, but those sacrifices are worth it if it means a better life for my family.

"That's the story of my ancestors; that's the story of your ancestors. It's the promise that has attracted generations of immigrants to our shores from every corner of the globe, sometimes at great risk, drawn by the idea that no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, this is the place where you can make it if you try."

The President spoke for approximately thirteen minutes ending with the labor leader's well established:

"Si se puede,
Si se puede,
Si se puede."

The crowd responded with the same.

Prior to Obama speaking Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Chavez's son Paul all spoke of their experience's and connections to Chavez.

Long time UFW activist and friend of Cesar's, musician and actor Kris Kristofferson played "Here Comes That Rainbow Again" which is a tune apt for the day and The Cause.

"God Bless" Kristofferson said "and vote for President Obama" as he left the stage.

All the while the Secret Service Counter-sniper team was taking their positions on the roof.

Central Valley area school bands took turns commanding the stage prior to and in between speakers.


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