Postal Service Unveils Cesar Chavez Commemorative Stamp
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2002 The U.S. Postal Service recently unveiled the Cesar E. Chavez commemorative stamp that is scheduled to be issued in April 2003.
The 37-cent stamp honors the former sailor, civil rights and farm labor leader's "tireless work for justice and equality for all people through service to others," postal officials said. He's best known as the founder of the United Farm Workers of America of the AFL-CIO, of which he was president when he died on April 23, 1993, at the age of 66.
The stamp will be issued in April 2003 on the 10th anniversary of his death to honor his life's work and legacy, which continue to inspire millions, postal officials said. They said through the work of the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation of Los Angeles, and postal employees, the stamp will be incorporated into programming and events around Cesar Chavez Day 2003. The day is an official state holiday in California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, as well as in dozens of cities and counties throughout the nation.
Chavez spent more than three decades leading the first successful farm workers union in American history. He's credited with achieving dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits and humane living conditions, as well as countless other rights and protections for hundreds of thousands of farm workers.
His union's efforts brought about the passage of the groundbreaking 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act to protect farm workers. Today, it remains the only law in the nation that protects the farm workers' right to unionize.
Officials noted that the unveiling and issuance of the stamp is a tribute to Chavez's significance in American history and to his legacy's potential in America's future.
Chavez was born on his grandfather's homestead farm in Yuma, Ariz., in 1927. He became a migrant farm worker when the family lost the farm in the Depression. He joined the Navy in 1946, served two years in the Western Pacific, and returned from the service to marry Helen Fabela. The two had met while working in the vineyards of central California, said his son Paul F. Chavez. The Chavezes settled in the East San Jose barrio of Sal Si Puedes ("Get out if you can") and eventually had eight children and 31 grandchildren.
"When my father spoke about his service in the Navy, he often mentioned the discipline he had learned and how it had influenced him as an organizer years later," Paul Chavez said. "He was proud to have answered his country's call to duty and had great respect for those in our armed forces.
"Today, I think his sense of duty and honor continue to influence a new generation of young Americans," Chavez noted. "A good example of this is Andrs Irlando, executive director of the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation, who worked for two years with my father in the early 1990s. Andres was profoundly moved by my father's commitment to the ideals and values of this country. Andrs currently serves as a lieutenant j.g. (junior grade) in the United States Naval Reserve. I sincerely hope my father's sense of duty and service will continue to be passed down to current and future generations."
Chavez said his father believed in the American dream. "It's a true testament to his legacy and to the character of this nation that almost a decade after his passing, his teachings of service, justice and freedom still ring true," he said. "The Cesar E. Chavez commemorative stamp is a powerful vehicle to introduce future generations of Americans to his vital legacy, teaching them that through determination and hard work they can improve their own lives and communities."
He noted that despite the injustices and hardships his father experienced as a migrant worker during his childhood, he never became disillusioned with America.
"He always felt a deep sense of patriotism and believed in the promise and ideals of the United States, but more importantly he believed in the spirit and character of the American people," Chavez said. "It was his faith in the American public and our values as a nation that encouraged him to seek justice, dignity and equality for all people."
In 1991, Cesar E. Chavez, whose motto in life was "Si se puede" ("it can be done"), received the Aguila Azteca ("Aztec Eagle"), Mexico's highest award presented to people of Mexican heritage who have made major contributions outside of Mexico. On Aug. 8, 1994, he posthumously became the second Mexican American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor.