156 Thought-Provoking Quotes By Cesar Chavez That Prove Nothing Is Impossible
Civil Rights Activist
Founder / Co Founder:
National Farm Workers/United Farm Workers (UFW).
Cesar Chavez was a famed Latino-American civil rights activist and labor leader whose tale is an extraordinary one. The story of his struggle and battle for the rights of farm workers using non-violent means is truly inspiring and engrossing. It is also assumed that the hunger strikes that he did for the rights of workers eventually led to health issues which resulted in his sudden demise. He had faced a lot of adversities as a child and was able to relate well with the challenges that farm workers repeatedly faced. His cause of making the lives of farm workers better received support from all over. He called for embargoes, led several protests and went on numerous hunger strikes throughout his life. Following is a corpus of thoughts and opinions of Cesar Chavez which are till date quoted broadly. Let us browse through simple, sensible and inspirational quotes and thoughts by Cesar Chavez.
We do not need to kill or destroy to win. We are a movement that builds and not destroys. However important the struggle is and however much misery and poverty and degradation exist, we know that it cannot be more important than one human life. Our union represents a breaking away...represents sharing a power, represent questioning, represents a new force...however long it takes, we are geared for a struggle. If you give yourself totally to the nonviolence struggle for peace and justice you also find that people give you their hearts and you will never go hungry and never be alone. I think one of the great, great problems...is confusing people to the point where they become immobile. In fact, the more things people can find out for themselves, the more vigor the organization is going to have. If you win non-violently, then you have a double victory, you have not only won your fight, but you remain free. We're going to pray a lot and picket a lot. The strike and the boycott, they have cost us much. What they have not paid us in wages, better working conditions, and new contracts, they have paid us in self-respect and human dignity. Non-violence has suffered its biggest defeat in the hands of people who most want to talk about it. We are organizers at heart. Most of us in the movement take great pride in being able to put things together. In non-violence the cause has to be just and clear as well as the means. Violence just hurts those who are already hurt...Instead of exposing the brutality of the oppressor, it justifies it. Organizing is an educational process. The best educational process in the union is the picket line and the boycott. You learn about life. We are certain God's will is that all men share in the good things this earth produces. You know, if people are not pacifists, it's not their fault. It's because society puts them in that spot. You've got to change it. You don't just change a man - you've got to change his environment as you do it. Look at the John Birch Society. Look at Hitler. The reactionaries are always better organizers. The only ones who make things change are fanatics. If you're not a fanatic around here, you can't cut it. If we are full of hatred, we can't really do our work. Hatred saps all that strength and energy we need to plan. Non-violence exacts a very high price from one who practices it. But once you are able to meet that demand then you can do most things. Non violence means people in action. People have to understand that with non-violence goes a hell of a lot of organization. We need, in a special way, to work twice as hard to help people understand that the animals are fellow creatures, that we must protect them and love them as we love ourselves. The basis for peace is respecting all creatures. I would not take one cup of coffee from a grower...There's not a good one. I hate them. A few presents, a little talk, then the noose. That's how capitalism works. If you're not frightened that you might fail, you'll never do the job. If you're frightened, you'll work like crazy. The non-violent technique does not depend for its success on the goodwill of the oppressor, but rather on the unfailing assistance of God. Years of misguided teaching have resulted in the destruction of the best in our society, in our cultures and in the environment. When a man or woman, young, or old, takes a place on the picket line for even a day or two, he will never be the same again. What is at stake is human dignity. If a man is not accorded respect he cannot respect himself and if he does not respect himself, he cannot demand it. The first principle of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating. Do not romanticize the poor...We are all people, human beings subject to the same temptations and faults as all others. Our poverty damages our dignity. In the no-nonsense school of adversity, which we did not choose for ourselves, we are learning how to operate a labor union. A symbol is an important thing. That is why we chose an Aztec eagle. It gives pride...When people see it they know it means dignity. Nonviolence is really tough. You don't practice nonviolence at conferences; you practice it on picket-lines. Talk is cheap...It is the way we organize and use our lives everyday that tells what we believe in. Self dedication is a spiritual experience. It takes a lot of punishment to be able to do anything to change the social order. We are suffering. We have suffered. And we are not afraid to suffer in order to win our cause. When any person suffers for someone in greater need, that person is a human. When you sacrifice, you force others to sacrifice. It's an extremely powerful weapon. Our very lives are dependent, for sustenance, on the sweat and sacrifice of the campesinos. Children of farm workers should be as proud of their parents' professions as other children are of theirs. In 1968, I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry, and unhappy like we do.. There are many reasons for why a man does what de 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. Just as Dr. King was a disciple of Gandhi and Christ, we must now be Dr. King's disciples.
Dr. King challenged us to work for a greater humanity. I only hope that we are worthy of his challenge. I'm not going to ask for anything unless the workers want it. If they want it, they'll ask for it. The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature. Because we have suffered, and we are not afraid to suffer in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything - even our lives - in our struggle for justice. What I do shows people what kind of person I am. When you have people together who believe in something very strongly - whether it's religion or politics or unions - things happen. [We believe that unions have always been about much more than the industries in which they operate.] The fight is never about grapes or lettuce, ... It is always about people. There is enough love and good will in our movement to give energy to our struggle and still have plenty left over to break down and change the climate of hate and fear around us. Together, all things are possible In the final analysis it doesn't really matter what the political system is...We don't need perfect political systems; we need perfect participation. Never, never is it possible to reach someone if you become angry or bitter only love and gentleness can do it. Maybe not this time but maybe the next or the hundredth time. We must understand that the highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest measure of discipline. There's no reason to be non-violent. There's no challenge unless you are living for people. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. Concentration is inspiration. You must be completely overtaken by your work and your subject. Only then do all your influences and experience come up to the surface. I've always maintained that it isn't the form that's going to make the difference. It isn't the rule or the procedure or the ideology, but it's human beings that will make it. There's no turning back...We will win. We are winning because ours is a revolution of mind and heart... Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well with others. I am an organizer, not a union leader. A good organizer has to work hard and long. There are no shortcuts. You just keep talking to people, working with them, sharing, exchanging and they come along. When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering, and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours. Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. It's ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves. Being of service is not enough. You must become a servant of the people. When you do, you can demand their commitment in return. In giving of yourself, you will discover a whole new life full of meaning and love. Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak... Non-violence is hard work. Kindness and compassion toward all living things is the mark of a civilized society. Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life. The people united will never be defeated. True wealth is not measured in money or status or power. It is measured in the legacy we leave behind for those we love and those we inspire. To make a great dream come true, the first requirement is a great capacity to dream; the second is persistence. As long as we have a poor country bordering California, it's going to be very difficult to win strikes. There is no law for farm labor organizing, save the law of the jungle. Without a union, the people are always cheated, and they are so innocent. Farm workers are society's canaries. Farm workers - and their children - demonstrate the effects of pesticide poisoning before anyone else. If you want to remember me, organize! There is no substitute for hard work, 23 or 24 hours a day. And there is no substitute for patience and acceptance. Who gets the risks? The risks are given to the consumer, the unsuspecting consumer and the poor work force. And who gets the benefits? The benefits are only for the corporations, for the money makers. The burdens of generations of poverty and powerlessness lie heavy in the fields of America. If we fail, there are those who will see violence as the shortcut to change. What we do know absolutely is that human lives are worth more than grapes and that innocent-looking grapes on the table may disguise poisonous residues hidden deep inside where washing cannot reach. Since the Church is to be servant to the poor, it is our fault if that wealth is not channeled to help the poor in our world. In some cases non-violence requires more militancy than violence. We learned many years ago that the rich may have money, but the poor have time. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us to be men! When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines the kind of men we are. From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength. If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him... the people who give you their food give you their heart. We farm workers are closest to food production. We were the first to recognize the serious health hazards of agriculture pesticides to both consumers and ourselves. We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure. There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence. The end of all knowledge should be service to others. You are never strong enough that you don't need help. The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people. We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community - and this nation.
Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students. What better books can there be than the book of humanity?
Students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn to think and act for themselves - and be free.
Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.
Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.
We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.
Though many of the poor have come to see the affluent middle class as its enemy, that class actually stands between the poor and the real powers in this society - the administrative octopus with its head in Washington, the conglomerates, the military complex. Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. Cesar Chavez Address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Nov. 9, 1984