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President Obama says Cesar Chavez offers inspration

October 9, 2012 |  4:01 am

The Cesar E. Chavez National Monument was formally dedicated Monday by President Obama, who was joined by other top leaders and those who followed the late farm labor leader.

The site in Keene in Kern County served as both home and operational headquarters for Chavez and his United Farm Workers movement.

“It's a story of natural wonders and modern marvels, of fierce battles and quiet progress. But it's also a story of people, of determined, fearless, hopeful people who have always been willing to devote their lives to making this country a little more just and a little more free,” Obama said.

The dedication of the Cesar Chavez National Monument came not through legislative action but executive authority under the Antiquities Act. Though White House officials said it was a process long in the making, the formal dedication came as Obama’s campaign shifts toward a more intensive get-out-the-vote phase of its operation, one that includes a major focus on the Latino vote and will be augmented by labor muscle.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who attended the dedication and is also a national campaign co-chairman for the president’s reelection effort, said it was a fitting moment because of how Obama fits into Chavez’s legacy.

“I think that the president, a former organizer, was inspired by Cesar Chavez much as I’ve been inspired by Martin Luther King. And I truly believe that the president understands how important Cesar Chavez has been to giving him the opportunity to be president of the United States and help America to be a more open, more equal and more equal country,” he said.

Obama, who acknowledged Sunday that his performance in last week’s debate was lacking, said Monday that the nation could draw inspiration from one particular facet of Chavez’s decades of advocacy for farmworkers.

Chavez “worked for 20 years as an organizer without a single major victory,” the president said. “But he refused to give up. He refused to scale back his dreams. He just kept fasting and marching and speaking out, confident that his day would come.”

The nation today continues to work to fulfill his promise, the president said, noting the toll the recent economic downturn had taken on the Latino community specifically.

“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,” Obama said. “And even though we have a difficult road ahead, I know we can keep moving forward together.”