Governor Pat Quinn today honored the life of César Chávez as millions of moviegoers across the nation prepare see the film biography of the legendary activist. The Governor also proclaimed March 31 as César Chávez day in Illinois, and encouraged people across the state to take time to learn about the life of the historic leader and the causes he championed.
"César Chávez organized the United Farm Workers to fight for fair wages, humane living conditions and basic dignity for some of the most oppressed workers on earth," Governor Quinn said. "I had the honor of meeting him in 1974, and his message of "juntos podemos' -- together we can -- has stayed with me to this day."
The movie "César Chávez" traces Chávez's struggle from his early days as cotton-picker, U.S. Navy veteran and union organizer to his legacy as civil rights leader, environmentalist and consumer advocate. The stellar cast includes two award-winning actors with local ties: Michael Peña -- who plays the title role -- was raised by Mexican immigrant parents in Chicago, and John Malkovich is an Illinois native and a founder of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company.
"The movie reminds us of the value of community service and that history is made one painful step at a time," Governor Quinn said. "It also reminds us of the importance of the United Farm Workers union in ensuring fundamental human rights and the power of grassroots organizing."
Chávez, who would have turned 87 on Monday, fused traditional tools of labor organizing such as strikes and boycotts with principles of nonviolence used by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Later in his life, Chavez crusaded for food safety, clean water, animal rights and voter registration. He died in 1993.