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New Monument Honors Cesar E. Chavez, an American Civil Rights Leader

The Secretary of the Interior says he is guided by Chavez’ philosophy that only in service to others do we find the true meaning of our lives.

Today, I had the privilege of joining President Obama as he honored one of the great civil rights leaders in American history in establishing the César Estrada Chávez National Monument in Keene, California.

Located at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (La Paz), the new national monument becomes the 398th unit of our National Park System and will include Chávez’ home, the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) and the Memorial Garden where Chávez is buried.

By establishing this new national monument, President Obama has ensured that future generations will have a place to learn about this extraordinary man and the farm labor movement that improved the lives of millions of workers and continues to inspire us to achieve a more perfect union. 

President Obama’s establishment of the César Estrada Chávez National Monument is especially meaningful as we strive to tell a more diverse, rich and complete history of our nation – one that more fully recognizes the many contributions of women and minorities throughout history.

My own call to service was inspired by César Chávez. My oldest brother, Leandro, and his wife, Loretta, were organizers in the movement to gain dignity and justice for all people. And it was the Farm Workers' eagle of strength and grace that kept our family together in times of great pain and hardship. Even now, we are guided by Chavez’ moral arc that only in service to others do we find the true meaning of our lives.

A prayer written by César Chávez sits on my desk in Washington and encapsulates his spirit:

“Show me the suffering of the most miserable so I will know my people’s plight. Free me to pray for others for you are present in every person. Help me take responsibility for my own life so that I can be free at last. Grant me courage to serve others for in service there is true life.

"Give me honesty and patience so that the spirit will be alive among us. Let the spirit flourish and grow so that we will never tire of the struggle. Let us remember those who have died for justice for they have given us life.

"Help us love even those who hate us so we can change the world.”