Smithsonian

Speech by Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez was the leader of the United Farm Workers, which was formed to improve the rights and working conditions of migrant farm workers.

My friends, as we enter a new decade, it should be clear to all of us that there is an unfinished agenda, that we have miles to go before we reach the promised land.

The men who rule this country today never learned the lessons of Dr. King, they never learned that non-violence is the only way to peace and justice.

The powers that be rule over a racist society, filled with hatred and ignorance. Our nation continues to be segregated along racial and economic lines.

The powers that be make themselves richer by exploiting the poor. Our nation continues to allow children to go hungry, and will not even house its own people. . . .

The United Farm Workers are dedicated to carrying on the dream of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. My friends, I would like to tell you about the struggle of the Farm workers who are waging a desperate struggle for our rights, for our children’s rights, and for our very lives. . . .

The same inhumanity displayed at Selma, in Birmingham, in so many of Dr. King’s battlegrounds, is displayed every day in the vineyards of California.

The farm labor system in place today is a system of economic slavery. . . .

Our workers labor for many hours every day under the hot sun, often without safe drinking water or toilet facilities.

Our workers are constantly subjected to incredible pressures and intimidation to meet excessive quotas.

These women who work in the fields are routinely subjected to sexual harassment and sexual assaults by the grower’s thugs. When our workers complain, or try to organize, they are fired, assaulted, and even murdered. . . .