Obama visits Chavez monument
For two local residents, Jose Gurrola Jr. and Jill Egland, President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Keene was an inspiring and moving experience.
On Oct. 8, Obama dedicated La Paz, located in Keene, as a national monument. La Paz, the burial place and former home of Cesar Chavez, was named the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument. The monument honors the work of Cesar Chavez, Chavez’s family and the United Farm Workers Foundation. Several people important to the farm workers movement were there to be honored, including Dolores Huerta and Helen Chavez.
Obama spoke of this contribution.
“To the members of the Chavez family and those who knew and loved Cesar, to the men and women who worked so hard for so long to preserve this place, I want to say to all of you thank you,” he said. “Your dedication, your perseverance, made this day possible.”
Gurrola Jr. is a 19-year old Bakersfield College student running for Arvin City Council. Egland is a local musician and vice president of community impact at United Way. They both appreciated the recognition that Obama’s trip to La Paz represented.
“I thought it was about time that the achievement of Cesar Chavez and the farm workers movement were recognized in a way that the legacy will live on,” Gurrola said.
Egland agreed that the recognition was deserved.
“It was very moving being in that place,” he said. “For all of us living here, being acknowledged as being a significant part of history by the whole country.”
As a politician, Gurrola took away the idea of organizing from Obama’s speech.
“Something that Barack Obama said, something that will affect my campaign, something I kind of want to emphasize more is that Barack Obama and Cesar Chavez have an emphasis on organizing,” he said.
Gurrola further explained.
“So organizing your neighbors, organizing the farm workers and teaching them they have rights and then they go ahead and teach others,” he said. “Going door to door talking to voters, talking to them on a personal level. That was something effective for the farm workers. That organization is something I have in my campaign and something Barack Obama has in his.”
The event inspired Gurrola to help people.
“It inspired me to continue to make sure that the farm workers and everyone in general have justice and are being treated fairly,” he said.
For Egland, Obama’s words about the historical significance of La Paz and the history that happened there made a lasting impression.
“He acknowledged the family and that we were at the family home. It was not some abstract place like Mt. Rushmore,” she said. “He said that this was the place where people lived, that plans were made. The way he acknowledged the family and that it wasn’t an abstraction, that these things really happened, it really put it into perspective and brought the history to life for many people.”
Seeing Obama speak about Chavez and his contributions brought things full circle for Egland.
“We [her family] just happened to take a trip to Sacramento when the march to Sacramento was happening, with Cesar Chavez and all the farm workers,” she said. “I was just so young then. I remember all of that, I thought [after going to the event] ‘my gosh, it’s like I’ve come full circle.’ Here I am now as an adult, and I understand the significance of this man, and I understand the significance of that day. I was a little piece of that without ever knowing.”