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Public Statements

Remarks by the President at Screening of "Cesar Chavez: An American Hero"

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House. We are here to celebrate the life of an American hero. Cesar Chavez was a man who devoted this brief time that we have on Earth to making sure that this country lived up to some of its lofty ideals, the words of our founding, the idea that all of us are created equal -- a man who organized others to widen the circle of opportunity not just for the people he knew, but for future generations.

And some of those future generations are here today. Cesar's son, Paul, is here. (Applause.) There he is. I was looking for him. Some of his children -- some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are here. I did not have the honor of knowing Mr. Chavez, but I'd imagine that he'd be pretty proud to know that his granddaughter works in the White House. (Applause.) And not only does she know how to deliver an outstanding introduction -- (laughter) -- but she also does just an extraordinary job carrying on his work organizing people, but now all across the country, to engage on issues that are of importance to all Americans. And Julie just does an extraordinary job. We're so proud of her. So, thank you, Julie, for the great introduction. (Applause.)

A couple of other acknowledgements -- I want to acknowledge an outstanding Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) The great Dolores Huerta, our dear friend who co-founded the United Farm Workers along with Cesar. (Applause.) Rosario told me she was playing Dolores, and I thought I can see that -- there's the same fire. I did have to say Rosario is a little taller. Just a little bit. (Laughter.)

I want to thank the UFW's current president, Arturo Rodriguez, a great friend of ours. Thank you. (Applause.) And I want to thank Diego Luna and the entire cast of "Cesar Chavez." (Applause.) I told him I loved "Y Tu Mamá, También." But we can't screen that at the White House. (Laughter.) It's a great movie, but this is a little more family-friendly here. (Laughter.)

This movie, this film tells the story of a man guided by an enormous faith -- faith in a righteous cause and a loving God, and the dignity of every human being. And it reminds us how throughout our history that faith has been tested, and that it falls to ordinary Americans, ordinary people, to fight and restore that faith.

Cesar himself said that he spent his first 20 years working as an organizer without a single major victory. But he never gave up. He kept on going, and the world is a better place because he did. And that's one of the great lessons of his life. You don't give up the fight no matter how long it takes. No matter how long the odds, you keep going, fueled by a simple creed -- sí, se puede.

Sometimes people ask me -- in fact, while we were backstage, somebody said, oh, you look pretty good. You look better than I expected. (Laughter.) The implication being that there might be reason for me not to look good. (Laughter.) But part of what sustains me and part of what I've said in the past -- and some of you who have been in meetings with me when we've experienced setbacks or frustrations on particular issues -- I've tried to remind people change is hard. It doesn't happen easily. It doesn't happen smoothly or painlessly. It happens because you put your shoulder behind the wheel and you keep on pushing. And then, sometimes it's going to roll back a little bit on you. And then, you got to dig in and you've got to push some more.

And Cesar Chavez understood that. You have to push and you create this space. And sometimes you won't even see all the victories that are achieved, but you've invested that time and that effort, and you've inspired others. And, eventually, things change, and you pass the baton and future generations then continue this process.

So we've got a lot of causes that are worth fighting for. We've got to keep fighting to make sure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care. We were very persistent about getting that website fixed. It's fixed now. (Laughter and applause.) And we've got more than 5 million people signed up. But we've got two more weeks to sign them up. (Applause.) So cuidadodesalud.gov -- (laughter) -- get on the website, spread the word.

We've got to keep fighting to make sure that our economy rewards the hard work of every American with a fair and living wage and equal pay for equal work. We've got to keep working to fix our broken immigration system. This is an example of where this is hard, but we've made progress and we are going to get this done. This is going to happen. It's not a matter of if, just a matter of when. And I want it to happen now, so we are going to keep on pushing. (Applause.)

Mr. Chavez once said, "When you have people together who believe in something very strongly -- whether it's religion or politics or unions -- things happen." And today, we've got labor leaders and CEOs and faith leaders and law enforcement, and they've come together and they've said it's time to fix this broken immigration system. We've got Democrats and Republicans who have now passed in the Senate a comprehensive bill. And if we stay united, things will happen, things will get done.

None of us can claim to know exactly what Cesar would have said about this fight, or any other. But I do think he would want us to remember that the debates we have are less about policy than they are about people. They're about the lives of men and women, the young and not so young, who want nothing more than the chance to work hard, support their families, provide a future for their kids and their grandkids, earn their place in our American story. That's what this is all about. They're about our highest hopes and aspirations for this country that we love -- and the country that we leave for future generations.

As this film reminds us, that was the cause of Cesar Chavez's life, and I hope this afternoon it's going to inspire all of us in the causes that we have to fight as well.

I cannot stay for the screening. I've been promised by our director that I'm -- or producer or somebody is going to get me the CD.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: DVD.

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever. (Laughter.) I'm a little technologically challenged. (Laughter.) The DVD. (Laughter.) The point is I'm going to watch it this weekend. (Applause.) Michelle and the girls are on their way to China. It's very lonely at home, so nothing better than to see an inspiring film. And I'm really looking forward to seeing a chronicled life of one of my heroes and one of the people who inspired me to get into the work that I've gotten into. So thank you for sharing it with us. (Applause.) God bless. (Applause.)


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