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DATE: 31 March 2008


TO: My Political E-Mail List


SUBJECT: Happy Cesar Chavez Day!

March 31st was the birthday of Cesar Chavez; and that’s also the date California has set aside to honor the late, great labor leader ...




Even though we weren’t Latinos, Cesar Chavez meant a lot to my family.


My dad was a working man — a ready-mix cement truck driver — who worked with a lot of Latinos on the job sites; they respected one another as men who worked hard to provide for their families. One of his dearest friends was a Latino, Jim Gomez, who was ultimately Dad’s broker (Dad was an independent owner-operator, who never crossed a picket line): Unlike some others in the business who treated Dad less than honorably, Jim was always fair and square with Dad and the others he represented and with the companies he dealt with. So when Jim and the other Latinos Dad knew spoke highly of Cesar Chavez, Dad listened and told Mom and me to listen well, too.


Mom was a Catholic, and the United Farm Workers’ work on behalf of the “least among us” resonated well with her and with the better angels of our Church. In fact, before coming to the archdiocese of Los Angeles, now-Cardinal Mahoney worked side-by-side with farm workers in his Central Valley diocese — a position that, last I heard, was occupied by a bishop, Stephen Blair, who had once been a young priest at our parish in Temple City, a priest I knew when I served as an “altar boy.”


Dad, Mom, and I looked up to Cesar Chavez because he showed that even those whom society considers as the “lowest” — even though they work the hardest — have as much dignity, if not more, than many of those whom society honors as the “highest.” There was something just decent and right and just in all of that, and Cesar Chavez and those who worked alongside him sacrificed much to make sure that idea was not forgotten (and that society backed up that ideal with some better pay and working conditions).


I think that made Cesar Chavez a great man, representing the very best in what is truly American or simply human; and I’m proud that California chose to honor him and what he stood for with this holiday.




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