Grade Level: 9-12
Student: Lindsay Glass
Teacher: Gary Blenner
Chapter: San Juan TA
An Inspiration for Americans
César E. Chávez was a true American hero who fought for what he believed in. He was a common farmer with an uncommon vision for humanity, who stood for equality, justice, and dignity for Americans. A second generation American, César Chávez was born in 1927 in Yuma, Arizona. His family became migrant farm workers after losing their farm in the Great Depression. His life as a community organizer began in 1952 when he joined the Community Service Organization (CSO), a prominent Latino civil rights group. His dream, however, was to create an organization to protect the rights of farm workers. All of his principles remain inspiring and motivating for people, even today. Of those principles, there are two that are truly evident in my life, those being, teamwork and cooperation and the principle of non-violence.
César Chávez formed the United Farm Workers and was able to organize a strike against the growers to obtain union contracts and improve conditions for agricultural laborers, but this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his family and other followers. Without living by the principles of teamwork and cooperation, César Chávez’s vision for a better life for farmers never would have happened. In my experiences, teamwork always leads to victory. I have been captain of my soccer team for the last seven years and from this responsibility I have come to learn just how powerful teamwork can be. We are an amazing team that never gives up hope for a victory, but this is only because we all work together as “one” unit and we all believe in each other. Without everyone’s collaboration on my team, we would never win a game. César Chávez needed his followers’ cooperation to all work together because it was only with this that he was able to successfully improve conditions for laborers and, that his legacy is still living today. Also, experiences with my family have demonstrated just how important teamwork is in order to keep everyone’s spirits uplifted even in hard times. My father was diagnosed with colon cancer sixteen months ago and since then, he has endured over a year of intense chemotherapy. My dad is unlike any person I’ve met; he is brave and powerful and stronger than any cancer cell. But, it is still so hard to watch him grow weaker with each dose of chemotherapy. However, through all of this, my family and I now completely understand the power of teamwork. No matter what hardship is happening in life, collaborating with family and friends for support will provide the strength to endure it. César Chávez knew that without cooperation from his own family and friends, his achievements would have been more difficult to accomplish. And, now I realize that my family’s teamwork and support will ultimately help in fighting and curing my dad’s cancer. César Chávez is known for his inspiring legacy that he left behind for the rest of the world, and many of those principles have motivated me in my life.
César Chávez was a strong believer in the principles of non-violence, similar to those practiced by Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. His approach to non-violence is best exemplified in the following quote by him. “Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak. Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.” César effectively engaged in peaceful approaches to his commitment to social change, including boycotts, strikes, fasts, and pilgrimages. He endured fasts up to thirty-six days to affirm his personal pledge and that of the farm labor movement to non-violence. However, my idea of living a non-violent life is rather different than that of César Chávez. Instead of fasting, boycotting, and going on strikes, I go through life without “hate.” To me, life is worth living “each moment as if it were my last because one day, it will be.” Life is too short to hate anyone or anything that I don’t agree with and one can get much farther in life without being judgmental or hating. Every person is unique in this world, with their own set of ideas and values. While we may not always agree with those ideas or values, we need to celebrate the differences among us, rather than judge or hate people with different views, cultures or religions. Even though César Chávez expressed non-violence in a different way than I do, we still share the same belief in living a peaceful life.
For more than three decades, Chávez led the first successful farm workers union in American history, achieving dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, and humane living conditions for thousands of farmers. However, Chávez never would have accomplished all of this without embodying his life principles, especially those of teamwork and non-violence. Life magazine installed César Chávez into the Life Hall of Heroes, calling Chávez “the Ghandi of the fields, who rose to become one of America’s greatest forces in the labor and civil rights movements.” His motto in life – “si se puede” (it can be done) demonstrates the invaluable legacy he left for the benefit of the world. His principles of teamwork and non-violence are an inspiration to me in my life. Through my experiences, I have learned how powerful teamwork and non-violence can be and how these two ideas can help anyone achieve their remarkable visions for humankind.