March 25, 2005

César Chávez: An Ordinary Man With Extraordinary Vision

By Assemblywoman Shirley Horton


On March 28, Californians will commemorate César Chávez Day. It’s a day set aside to honor a principled and determined man who used his life experience to inspire and motivate change.

He believed in service. Chávez claimed, “We must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us, so it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are.” Although he never amassed great wealth, he was influential in changing conditions for immigrant farm workers.

He believed in equity and justice. He preached values that inspired people to contribute to their communities, care for the needy and promote fairness for all people, regardless of their financial status.

He believed that leadership was a great honor, and a grand responsibility. He said, “There are many reasons for why a man does what he does. To be himself he must be able to give it all. If a leader cannot give it all, he cannot expect his people to give anything.”

He believed in the power of non-violence. Chávez was a strong believer in the principles of non-violence practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He promoted and used tactics such as fasts, boycotts and pilgrimages as a way to get his message across. 

He believed in hard work and perseverance. Chávez’s motto in life was “Sí se puede” – “it can be done.” He was fearless and passionate about his work.

He believed in family and community. Chávez was born in 1927 near his family’s farm in Yuma, Arizona. He migrated across the Southwest, exposed to many of the hardships of farm worker life. While working in the vineyards of Central California, he met Helen Fabela, and ultimately settled in east San Jose. Before his death, his family grew to eight children and 31 grandchildren.

He believed that even the most humble person can change the world. César Chávez was a humble leader, an ordinary man who promoted extraordinary changes. He is considered by many to be one of the nation’s great humanitarians and communicators. While his politics may not be shared by all, his determination to bring about important reforms should be an inspiration to all of us. Our lives are our greatest opportunity to impact our communities – to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

César Chávez once said that “we can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better world for our children.” What a noble sentiment to keep in our hearts and share with the next generation as we commemorate César Chávez Day this year.

Assemblywoman Shirley Horton (R-Chula Vista) represents the 78th Assembly District, which includes portions of the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista, and the County of San Diego, as well as the City of Lemon Grove and community of Spring Valley.

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