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Rep. John Lewis Commemorates Cesar Chavez Day

March 31, 2015
Press Release

As we celebrate the life and enduring legacy of a great leader and man of the people, Cesar Chavez, we must recommit to his ideals of fellowship with all who struggle under the burden of poverty.  He was a tireless champion asserting the rights of farm workers for a living wage, humane working conditions, and respect for the contributions of their labor.

I was fortunate enough to have worked with Cesar Chavez on Sen. Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1968.  Sen. Kennedy tasked both of us to knock on doors and help get out the vote before the primary in California.  Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. built a strong relationship while King lived, and afterward Cesar Chavez became a longtime supporter of Coretta Scott King, The King Center and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  In fact in September of 1966, Dr. King sent Mr. Chavez this message via Western Union:

"As brothers in the fight for equality, I extend the hand of fellowship and good will and wish continuing success to you and your members (of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee).  The fight for equality must be fought on many fronts--in the urban slums, in the sweatshops of the factories and fields.  Our separate struggles are really one--a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity...."

As we commemorate Cesar Chavez Day, his life should inspire us all to speak up and speak out against injustice, discrimination, and hate.  It should encourage us to look beyond ourselves and our communities to understand that the struggle for human dignity reaches beyond the narrow limitations of race, class, religion, age, language, gender, sexual orientation and nationality.  Freedom is the longing of every soul, and when we win victories for a people, as Cesar Chavez did, we champion the cause of all humanity.