César Chávez: Human Rights Leadership in Action

March 31st is a day when a few states in our nation recognize and celebrate the life of the late César Chávez. California has declared a state holiday and a day of service is acknowledged in Arizona, Texas, and Colorado.

As a noted human rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later known as the United Farm Workers) in the 1960s with Dolores Huerta, he is remembered for his contributions to social and economic justice.

Chávez took his leadership to the streets and implemented similar principles of non-violence used by Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. With boycotts, fasts, strikes, he mobilized farm workers and took action. He did not wait for the official nod from those who stood in his way.

In his quest advocating for fair wages and workers’ rights he did not forgot a community-based approach embedded within his cause. “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Finally, Chávez established allies among other civil and human rights activist. He earned respect from other community leaders and aligned himself, for instance, with the Filipino American farm workers who fought against injustice. By taking time to align himself with others, he engaged advocates who shared concerns about the atrocious working conditions for migrant farm workers.

When the entire nation celebrates the contributions of Chávez this year, collectively there can be a reinvigorated commitment to advocate for human rights. ¡Sí se puede!

Dawn McCoy, author of Leadership Building Blocks: An Insider’s Guide to Success

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