Cesar Chavez Statue Unveiling
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Remarks by President Bill Powers
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the entire University community, I welcome all of you here to celebrate this historical occasion. Thank you for joining us.
This is a great day for The University of Texas at Austin.
Today we dedicate a statue to one of the 20th century’s truly courageous figures – Cesar Chavez. This charismatic and humble leader organized farm workers and fought for their right to be treated justly, with respect and fair compensation that gave dignity to their labor.
Cesar Chavez once said, “The union’s survival – it’s very existence – sent out a signal to all Hispanics that we were fighting for our dignity, that we were challenging and overcoming injustice, that we were empowering the least educated among us – the poorest among us.” And he continued, “The message was clear: if it could happen in the fields, it could happen anywhere – in the cities, in the courts, in the city councils, in the state legislatures.”
Because of his tireless work and dedication, and his talent for uniting people across the country, the courts and city councils and state legislatures did indeed begin to open their doors and listen to Hispanic voices crying for justice and equality throughout the land.
Today is a proud day for our students. It is they who organized the drive to erect this statue of Cesar Chavez, and it is they who voted to fund the project through student fees. And so we owe a debt of gratitude to the “We Are Texas Too” committee, the Latino Leadership Council, Student Government, and the Orange Jackets for making this moment possible. And we also thank the Chavez Statue Committee for taking on the complex task of selecting an artist. The University family is proud of you all. I ask everyone to join me now in thanking these leaders for their hard work and commitment.
And I want to recognize and thank the artist himself – Pablo Eduardo – for making an icon that will grace our campus from now on.
With the presence of Cesar Chavez on the West Mall, and Martin Luther King on the East Mall, we have united our campus through two of the most powerful voices for freedom, justice, and civil rights in our time.
In fact, the two men admired each other very much. Cesar Chavez once related a story about Dr. King. He said, “During my first fast in 1968, Dr. King reminded me that our struggle was his struggle, too. He sent me a telegram which said, ‘Our separate struggles are really one. A struggle for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity.’”
And so from this day forward across our campus, the sun begins its journey with Dr. Martin Luther King on the East Mall and ends its journey with Cesar Chavez on the West Mall.
And the two inspirational leaders will draw the UT family together:
To embrace diversity.
To teach tolerance.
To accept meaningful change.
And to join hands as one people to recognize our differences and to celebrate what we share in common.
As Cesar Chavez said, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate 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.”
His spirit lives with us on this campus, now and forever. It is a great day for Texas. Tonight, the Tower will glow orange in honor of Cesar Chavez.
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