KEENE, Calif. - Four years after borrowing Cesar Chavez's "si, se puede" motto for his "yes, we can" campaign slogan, President Obama today dedicated a new national monument to the farm worker turned civil rights advocate, a move that could help bolster support from Latino voters.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 6,000 at Nuestra Senora Reina de La Paz, the farm where the late Chavez lived and led his worker movement, Obama paid tribute to the labor leader, saying he "gave workers a reason to hope."
"The movement he helped to lead was sustained by a generation of organizers who stood up and spoke out and urged others to do the same," he said. "It drew strength from Americans of every race and every background, who marched and boycotted together on behalf of La Causa. And it was always inspired by the farm workers themselves.
"Our world is a better place because Cesar Chavez decided to change it. Let us honor his memory. But most importantly, let's live up to his example," he said.
The Chavez National Monument, the first such site to honor a contemporary Mexican-American, will serve as a reminder that "no matter who you are or what you look like or where you come from, this is the place where you can make it if you try," Obama said.
With less than a month until Election Day, Obama appealed to Latino voters, whose support could be critical to winning several battleground states. "The recession we're fighting our way back from is still taking a toll, especially in Latino communities, which already faced higher unemployment and poverty rates," he said. "Even with the strides we've made, too many workers are still being denied basic rights and simple respect.
"But thanks to the strength and character of the American people, we are making progress. Our businesses are creating more jobs. More Americans are getting back to work," he said. "And even though we have a difficult road ahead, I know we can keep moving forward together."
Chavez, who helped found the United Farm Workers union, is buried on the grounds, where his widow Helen still lives. Before delivering his remarks, the president toured the Chavez Memorial Garden and laid a single red rose on the site where Chavez was laid to rest in 1993 at age 66.
"Every time somebody's son or daughter comes and learns about the history of this movement, I want them to know that our journey is never hopeless. Our work is never done," Obama said.
"I want them to learn about a small man guided by enormous faith and righteous cause, a loving God, the dignity of every human being. I want them to remember that true courage is revealed when the night is darkest and the resistance is strongest and we somehow find it within ourselves to stand up for what we believe in."