President Obama: 'Today We Celebrate Cesar Chavez'
By BEN FELLER AP White House Correspondent
KEENE, Calif. (AP) - President Barack Obama on Monday designated the home of Latino labor leader Cesar Chavez as a national monument, calling Chavez a hero who brought hope to millions of poor, disenfranchised farm workers who otherwise might have remained "invisible" to much of the nation.
"Today, we celebrate Cesar Chavez," Obama said at a ceremony at La Paz, the California farmhouse where Chavez lived and worked for more than two decades. "Our world is a better place because Cesar Chavez decided to change it."
Chavez, who died in 1993 at age 66, is buried on the site where the monument was dedicated. His widow, Helen, still lives there.
The 187-acre site, known as Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or simply La Paz, was the union's planning and coordination center starting in 1971. Chavez and many organizers lived, trained and strategized there.
Obama's action designates 105 acres at the site near Bakersfield, Calif., as a national monument, the fourth monument he has designated under the Antiquities Act.
The action could shore up support from some Hispanic and progressive voters for Obama, whose 2008 "yes we can" slogan borrowed from Chavez's motto, "Si, se puede."
When the Arizona-born Chavez began working as an organizer after World War II, "no one seemed to care about the invisible farm workers who picked the nation's food," Obama said. "Cesar cared. And in his own peaceful, eloquent way he made other people care, too. Where there had once been despair, Cesar gave workers a reason to hope."
As head of the United Farm Workers of America, Chavez staged a massive grape boycott and countless field strikes, and forced growers to sign contracts providing better pay and working conditions to the predominantly Latino farmworkers. He was credited with inspiring millions of other Latinos in their fight for more educational opportunities, better housing and more political power.
Obama seemed to tie Chavez to his own re-election campaign, saying: "Even though we have a difficult road ahead, I know we can keep moving forward together. " Obama's 2012 campaign motto is "Forward."
Helen Chavez and son Paul Chavez were among those attending the ceremony. Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Chavez of the UFW, and current union president Arturo S. Rodriguez also were present, as were Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other officials.
Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Fresno County Sheriff's Deputies say three teens went on a crime spree in 'Old Fig Garden.' Investigators say the three men broke into one home and there might have been more burglaries. SurveillanceMore >>
Fresno County Sheriff's Deputies say three teens went on a crime spree in 'Old Fig Garden.'More >>
A Hanford homeowner is hoping someone recognizes the picture of a woman who stole his metal flamingo out of his front yard on Wednesday night. The bold bandit had no idea that Nathan Olson's securityMore >>
A Hanford homeowner caught this woman on his security camera stealing a piece of lawn art on Wednesday night. He's hoping his neighbors will recognize the woman and contact Hanford Police.More >>
A 7.5 earthquake hit coastal Guerrero, Mexico in Petatlan around 7:30 a.m. between Zihuatenejo and Acapulco.Shaking was reported to the east in Mexico City lasting for 30 seconds.People got out of theMore >>
A 7.5 earthquake hit coastal Guerrero, Mexico in Petatlan around 7:30 a.m. between Zihuatenejo and Acapulco.More >>
Fresno police are now beefing up patrols after a vicious beating outside a bar that was caught on camera.It happened in a parking lot near Cedar and Shields.The footage shows two groups of guys fightingMore >>
Fresno police are beefing up patrols after a vicious beating outside a bar was caught on camera.More >>
A Fresno father of four is paralyzed from the waist down after a pickup truck hit him on his bicycle and then took off. Now the family of the victim hopes a tip comes in. The hit and run took place TuesdayMore >>
A Fresno father of four is paralyzed from the waist down after a pickup truck hit him on his bicycle and then took off.