Honoring the Legacy of Cesar Estrada Chavez

Yesterday would have been Cesar Estrada Chavez's 81st birthday. This week we commemorate his life and legacy and pay tribute to Chavez, a man who dedicated his life to championing the rights of farm workers and all working families.

I recently returned from India where I visited the Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Like Gandhi, Chavez believed that non-violence is the most powerful tool to achieve change, including social and economic justice. Cesar Chavez believed that "non-violence is not inaction... (it) is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win."

Cesar Chavez changed the course of history for Latinos and farm workers. As a result of his actions, many have been empowered to fight for fair wages, health care coverage, pension benefits, housing improvements, pesticide and health regulations, and countless other protections for their health and well-being. These changes have meant considerable improvements for the life of the farm worker, three-fourths of which are Latino.

Cesar Chavez's work inspired me to find ways to help others and led me to civil service. I believe it's important to preserve his memory for future generations, which I was introduced H.R. 359, the Cesar Estrada Chavez Study Act, which would authorize the Department of Interior to study lands important to the life of Chavez for possible inclusion in the National Park System. The stories of his struggles and triumphs need to be communicated and preserved for all Americans. I hope the Senate will swiftly pass this legislation.

Cesar Chavez's work to protect health, the environment and workers' rights paved the way for people like me to use my voice to fight for greater equality, to be courageous, and to bring justice to those who cannot achieve it themselves. We should be grateful for and never forget Cesar Chavez' efforts to improve civil rights and working conditions for Latinos and all Americans.