All my life, I have been driven by one dream, one goal, one vision: To overthrow a farm labor system in this nation which treats farm workers as if they were not important human beings.
That dream was born in my youth. It was nurtured in my early days of organizing. It has flourished. It has been attacked. ..
All Hispanics–urban and rural, young and old–are connected to the farm workers’ experience. We had all lived through the fields–or our parents had. We shared that common humiliation.
How could we progress as a people, even if we lived in the cities, while the farm workers–men and women of our color–were condemned to a life without pride?
How could we progress as a people while the farm workers–who symbolized our history in this land–were denied self-respect?
How could our people believe that their children could become lawyers and doctors and judges and business people while this shame, this injustice was permitted to continue?
Those who attack our union often say, ‘It’s not really a union. It’s something else: A social movement. A civil rights movement. It’s something dangerous.’ …
Today, the growers are like a punch-drunk old boxer who doesn’t know he’s past his prime. The times are changing. The political and social environment has changed. The chickens are coming home to roost–and the time to account for past sins is approaching.
I am told, these days, why farm workers should be discouraged and pessimistic: The Republicans control the governor’s office and the White House. They say there is a conservative trend in the nation…
But 20 and 30 years from now–in Modesto, in Salinas, in Fresno, in Bakersfield, in the Imperial Valley, and in many of the great cities of California–those communities will be dominated by farm workers and not by growers, by the children and grandchildren of farm workers and not by the children and grandchildren of growers.
These trends are part of the forces of history that cannot be stopped. No person and no organization can resist them for very long. They are inevitable.
Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.
You cannot uneducate 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. …
Like the other immigrant groups, the day will come when we win the economic and political rewards which are in keeping with our numbers in society. The day will come when the politicians do the right thing by our people out of political necessity and not out of charity or idealism.
That day may not come this year. That day may not come during this decade. But it will come, someday!
And when that day comes, we shall see the fulfillment of that passage from the Book of Matthew in the New Testament, “That the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
And on that day, our nation shall fulfill its creed–and that fulfillment shall enrich us all.