Grade Level: 9-12
Student: Parampreet Singh
Teacher: Vanessa Jara
Chapter: Lodi EA
The Legacy of César Estrada Chávez
According to Senator Robert F. Kennedy, César Estrada Chávez was “one of the heroic figures of our time” and many people would agree with him. Throughout his lifetime, César E. Chávez accomplished various tasks that seemed to be unrealistic dreams for a great deal of people. Early in his childhood, he persevered through obstacles such as poverty and injustice, obstacles that many Americans still face today. Chávez was forced to become a farm worker in order to help his family. Though Chávez was only in eighth grade, he continued to self-educate and envision a better life for not only him and fellow farm workers, but for all Americans.
Chávez was a modest man who served his community endlessly by making sacrifices. In 1952, he joined the Community Service Organization. There Chávez organized registration sites for voters and led campaigns to end discrimination against people of different races and financial statuses. Chávez empowered those who were disenfranchised by serving them, giving them confidence and boosting their self-esteem. He modeled the significance of serving one’s community through being sacrificial. For example, he never bought a new car and he lived in a two-room apartment with his wife and eight children. As a result of the decisions he made, farm workers thought of him as a genuine leader who did not want to get rich, but only wanted to improve their lives by ending their struggles. This very aspect of Chávez led many farm workers to unite and join his cause. Community service has a great impact on my life as well. I believe that it is essential to serve others and that making sacrifices for a beneficial purpose is the right thing to do. Serving my community means helping in every way possible to improve it, even if it is an action as insignificant as picking up someone else’s litter or giving up family time on Thanksgiving Day to serve food to the less fortunate. Small actions can turn into huge movements, as did Chávez’s, and if even one life is made better, one life is made stronger, one life is made happier, then all the efforts and actions put into it are significant.
Along with living by the principle of servicing others, Chávez also combined the principles of teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration to achieve success. These principles also have a great influence on my life. For instance, these principles are all key aspects when accomplishing anything, whether it is ordinary or remarkable. At my school I am involved in Key Club and Student Government, and my participation in these two activities has taught me that collaboration and cooperation are necessary to complete any task. In Key Club, I act as a secretary, and when I fill out monthly reports, I need information from other members of our board, such as the treasurer and the president. Without their help, my reports would be incomplete and nearly useless, but we cooperate and work together to get the necessary information of our monthly activities. In Student Government, I am only a Student Senator, but when other Student Senators and I work together, we plan dances, activities, and fundraisers, as well as make these events successful and exciting. However, we have to work as a team; otherwise the events we put on would not create a positive outcome. Apart from extracurricular involvement, cooperation is important in classroom settings as well as at home. When my teachers or my parents ask me to do something I am obliged to put forth my effort and follow their directions and I try my best to do so. These beliefs have not only affected my life, but also my community. At my church, a parade is held each year in April, and the Sikh community comes together as a whole to help decorate the church and floats, make food every day, and provide any other necessities for the whole month. It was amazing to see everyone take responsibility for various tasks and errands to make our parade the best event of the year.
I have noticed that when people come together to create something, a sense of unity, agreement, and harmony is also created, as was created when Chávez founded the National Farm Workers Association, later renamed United Farm Workers of America. In 1962, Chávez fulfilled his dream to create an organization that would protect, assist, and serve other farm workers who lived lives similar to his own. This union was able to accomplish many things such as getting farm laborers fair incomes, medical insurance, retirement funds, and proper living conditions. In 1965, Chávez led the grape boycott for five years until farm workers finally received contracts that ensured them secure working environments and better incomes. However, it was because of the efforts of all the members of his union, and countless other Americans, that made the farm workers’ contracts and ensured rights possible, which demonstrates the importance of teamwork and cooperation.
Chávez peacefully led other strikes and boycotts as well, showing that he was a man who believed in tranquility instead of making reforms in a violent manner. He followed the values of St. Francis of Assisi, Mohandas Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which included serenity instead of nonviolence in order to make changes. Again he showed farm workers how to solve their problems through the use of collaboration and cooperation. Chávez motivated others to be self-determined and confident so that they could demand the rights they deserved. This changed many Americans’ viewpoints on how to achieve success. Through Chávez’s demonstrations other movements and unions were created. In 1966, people in Texas marched to Austin to support the rights of fruit workers, and the United Farm Workers of America were there to help as well. Two self-sufficient unions, the Obreros Unidos and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, were also created because of the inspiration of Chávez. The United Farm Workers of America won the enactment of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which allowed farm workers to have cooperative bargaining rights.
As one can see, Chávez achieved various rights and privileges for farm workers; furthermore, he left an inspiring legacy for all Americans. He turned the impossible into the possible by leading the first successful labor union in America. He taught not only farm workers, but all Americans that if you work hard, have confidence, and work together, no dream is out of reach. Most of all, he provided hope for people in difficult times by continuously saying and believing, “Si, se puede,” meaning “Yes, it can be done.” Even though César Chávez died on April 23, 1993, his encouraging words and incredible contributions will always live on and teach future Americans how to be great, yet humble, leaders.