Address to Migrant Workers in Support of Cesar Chavez

March 10, 1968


Delano, CA

This is a historic occasion. We have come here out of respect for one of the heroic figures of our time—Cesar Chavez. But I also come here to congratulate all of you, you who are locked with Cesar in the struggle for justice for the farm worker, and the struggle for justice for the Spanish-speaking American. I was here two years ago, almost to the day. Two years ago your union had not yet won a major victory. Now elections have been held on ranch after ranch and the workers have spoken. They have spoken, and they have said, “We want a union.”

You are the first—not the first farm workers to organize, but the first to fight and triumph over all the odds, without proper protection from federal law.

You have won historic victories…You have won them with your courage and perseverance. You stood for the right; you would not be moved.

And you will not be moved again.

The world must know, from this time forward, that the migrant farm worker, the Mexican American, is coming into his own rights. You are winning a special kind of citizenship. No one is doing it for you—you are winning it yourselves—and therefore no one can ever take it away.

And when your children and grandchildren take their place in America—going to high school, and college, and taking good jobs at good pay—when you look at them, you will say, “I did this. I was there, at the point of difficulty and danger.” And though you may be old and bent from many years of labor, no man will stand taller than you when you can say, “I marched with Cesar.”

But the struggle is far from over. And now, as you are at midpoint in your most difficult organizing effort, there are suddenly those who question the principle that underlies everything you have done so far: the principle of nonviolence. There are those who think violence is some shortcut to victory.

You are serving under a leader of this union who is committed to the principle of nonviolence. And that’s so important for any success that you are going to have in the future—that we respect the principle of nonviolence. If there was anything that the union learned and others learned during the 1930s, it was the fact that violence brought no answer. And if there is anything that we’ve learned during the 1960s, all of us who are here, it is that violence is not the answer to our problems.

And let no one say that violence is the courageous way, that violence is the short route, that violence is the easy route. Because violence will bring no answer: it will bring no answer to your union; it will bring no answer to your people; it will bring no answer to us here in the United States, as a people.

And that is why I come here today to honor Cesar Chavez, for what he’s done and what he stands. How desperately you, and the people of the country—of our country—need him today. I come here today to honor you for the long and patient commitment you have made to this struggle for justice. And I come here to say that we will fight together to achieve for you the aspirations of every American: decent wages, decent housing, decent schooling, a chance for yourselves and your children. You stand for justice, and I am proud to stand with you.

Viva La Causa.