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Obama names Cesar Chavez home a national monument

Carolyn Kaster / AP

President Barack Obama walks with Cesar Chavez' widow Helen F. Chavez, left, and Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers, as they tour the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument Memorial Garden on Monday.

KEENE, Calif. – Taking a break from fundraising in California, President Barack Obama traveled to this vast, rural Northern California reserve to designate the home of Cesar Chavez a national monument.

The National Chavez Center at La Paz, where labor leader Cesar Chavez lived and organized the first successful farm workers union, is now recognized by the federal government as a national monument.

“Today, La Paz joins a long line of national monuments – stretching from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon – monuments that tell the story of who we are as Americans,” the president said, surrounded by rolling hills and brush as he addressed an outdoor audience of 6,600.

The designation means that the site, which contains Chavez’s carefully preserved office and a memorial garden with his grave, will be tended to by the Department of the Interior, which is charged with coming up with a management plan for the site within three years of the designation.

President Obama commemorated labor leader Cesar Chavez Monday by designating his home a national monument.

During his remarks President Obama praised Chavez as a leader who was able to galvanize a movement in the 1970’s for the rights of an underrepresented group: Latino farm workers.

Chavez was the head of the United Farm Workers of America whose motto was “Si, se puede,” which inspired Obama’s own 2008 campaign motto, “Yes, we can.” Chavez’s work also inspired Obama when he was a young community organizer in Chicago.

Chavez died in 1993; he was 66.

“It was a time of great change in America but too often that change was only expressed in terms of war and peace, black and white, young and old,” Obama said. “No one seemed to care about the invisible farm workers who picked the nation’s food, bent down in the beating son, living in poverty, cheated by growers, abandoned in old age, unable to demand even the most basic rights.

“But Cesar cared,” he continued. “And in his peaceful, eloquent way, he made other people care too.”

Later Monday, the president planned to return to the campaign trail to raise money in San Francisco.

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