Radcliffe Day 2019 | Radcliffe Medalist Dolores Huerta

By | September 8, 2019

– Good afternoon, everyone. I’m delighted to kick off the
afternoon portion of Radcliffe Day 2019. Please go ahead and continue
to enjoy your lunch. There are many
special guests who are gathered here in
Radcliffe Yard on this truly beautiful day. And I want to extend a warm
welcome to Harvard President Larry Bacow– please, stand– [APPLAUSE] –Provost Alan Garber– [APPLAUSE] –Dean of the Faculty of Arts
and Sciences Claudine Gay– [APPLAUSE] –and Senior Fellow of the
Harvard Corporation Bill Lee. [APPLAUSE] Thanks, also, to other members
of the Harvard Corporation who are here as well as members
of the board of overseers. Now on a celebratory
note like this one, it’s also really important
to acknowledge the hard work and the leadership that
brought the Radcliffe Institute to this point. And so it’s especially
meaningful for me to have, here, my predecessor
as dean, Liz Cohen– [APPLAUSE] –her predecessor,
Barbara Gross– [APPLAUSE] –and the founding
dean of the Institute as well as Harvard president
emerita, Drew Gilpin Faust. Whoo! [APPLAUSE] We’re also joined by five former
trustees of Radcliffe College. Welcome, and thank
you for being here. Of course, the work
of the Institute wouldn’t be possible
without the generosity and the dedication of our
advisory council, members, and donors. I’m very glad to recognize
current and former members of the Radcliffe
Institute Dean’s Advisory Council and the Schlesinger
Library Council. I also want to
recognize and thank members of the Radcliffe
Institute Leadership Society, and Radcliffe Society, and
our Radcliffe associates. Thank you all for joining us
and for your generous support of the Institute. [APPLAUSE] Last, but certainly
not least, I want to recognize all of our
Radcliffe and Harvard alums. I am so glad you’re here. [APPLAUSE] Radcliffe class of 1941
alumna Evelyn Richman represents the earliest
class year among you. Please join me in welcoming– [APPLAUSE] –and giving round of
applause to Evelyn. I’m also happy to
celebrate with the reunion classes of 1944, 1949, 1954– Whoo! Yes– ’59– [CHEERING] –’64– [CHEERING] –’69– [CHEERING] –’74, ’79, ’84– [CHEERING] –’89, ’94– [CHEERING] –’99– [CHEERING] –2004– Whoo! [LAUGHTER] –2009, 2014– Whoo. [LAUGHTER] –and of course, our newest
graduates in the class of 2019. [APPLAUSE] Gathered here for
this special occasion, we also want to think of our
friends and classmates who are no longer with us. And so let us observe
a moment of silence for all of those we miss today. And now, on behalf of
the Radcliffe Institute, it is my honor to recognize
Dolores Huerta as the 2019 Radcliffe medalist. [APPLAUSE] Dolores Huerta has been
fighting for civil rights for more than 60 years. And as a scholar of 20th
century struggles for equality, I have to say, I’m struck by the
sheer number of critical issues where Dolores has
been in the vanguard. She has fought for the rights
of laborers and Latinos. She has been a powerful voice
for environmental protection, for women’s rights,
for voting rights, for LBGTQ equality,
and so much more. She’s truly a visionary
leader and a tireless advocate for equality. Beginning with her work
as a community organizer in the 1950s, Dolores has made
progress on pivotal causes through organizing,
lobbying, and negotiating, an array of tactics
distinct from the practice of civil disobedience
and litigation, the strategies that are
most often associated with 20th century
social reform movements. This difference reflects both
the specific circumstances of agricultural labor
in the 1950s and ’60s as well as the traditions
of labor and community organizing in the United States. It also reveals something
about our medalist. Dolores has an
unshakeable belief in the power of
marginalized people to achieve justice
for themselves. And she’s still fighting
that good fight. In a 2017 interview, Delores
recalled the famous line by the poet Pablo Neruda. “You can cut all the flowers,
but you cannot keep spring from coming,” Delores said. And she continued, “I do
believe that we are the spring. We’re going to sow
the seeds of justice, and they’re going to sprout.” In individual people and
in entire communities, Dolores has sown the
seeds of justice. She sees and cultivates the
power to advance social change and achieve justice
and equality. That commitment animates
her famous rallying cry, si, se puede– yes, we can. Yes, that was Dolores’ line. In Dolores’ story, we see how
one person, moved to action, has, in turn,
inspired and empowered many others to know their own
strength and to do the same. She was born Dolores Clara
Fernandez in the coal mining town of Dawson,
New Mexico in 1930 during the Great Depression. Her parents divorced. And when she was five, Dolores
moved to Stockton, California with her mother
and two brothers. Dolores has often
said that her mother instilled in her a deep
sense of egalitarianism and modeled how to be an
assertive and independent woman. In her mid 20s, as
a working mother, Dolores found her
calling as a leader of the Stockton chapter
of the Community Service Organization, the CSO. The CSO was a statewide
self-help organization focused on mobilizing
Mexican-American working class communities in urban areas. CSO co-founder Fred Ross
recruited Dolores to this work. And she credits Fred
with showing her that she had a voice and
that she could use it. A skilled organizer,
Dolores became the CSO’s political director. In this leadership
position traditionally held by men, and with her
young children in tow, Dolores lobbied successfully for
landmark legislation securing disability and
unemployment insurance, public assistance, and
retirement benefits for farm workers as well as the right
to register voters door to door and the right to take driver’s
license exams in Spanish. And it was through the
CSO that Dolores first met Cesar Chavez, who had been
recruited to the organization by Fred Ross as well. Eventually, seeking to
focus on farm labor issues, Dolores and Cesar teamed up with
other like-minded organizers. And in 1962, they founded
the National Farm Workers association in
Delano, California. It’s hard to overstate
the magnitude of what this pioneering group
was attempting to do. Organizing a union of
workers, many of whom frequently moved from farm
to farm, had never been done. And it meant standing up to
the Goliath of agribusiness, then the largest
industry in California, and worth $3 billion a year. The farm workers faced
dire circumstances. And it’s especially
striking to note that while many
harvested crops, they struggled with food insecurity. Dolores once recalled, quote,
“Far workers were earning $0.50 an hour when we
started the union. When people ran out of work,
they had nothing to eat. People literally had to go into
the garbage cans to get food. So one of our fights– first fights– was that
we had to get surplus food for the farm workers.” Dolores and other
movement leaders initially focused on recruiting members
in the San Joaquin Valley through the hard work of
community organizing, work that included house meetings,
one-on-one engagement, and storytelling. Then, in September of 1965,
their nascent Mexican-American National Farm
Workers Association heeded the call of
Filipino workers organized under the Agricultural
Workers Organizing Committee, joining them in what became
known as the Delano grape strike. In a brilliant move,
the association announced its decision
to join the strike on Mexican independence
Day, September 16. The following spring, in 1966,
farm workers and organizers marched the 340
miles from Delano to the capital, Sacramento,
to bring greater attention to their cause. Outside of the capitol building,
Dolores proclaimed, quote, “The developments of
the past seven months are only a slight indication
of what is to come. The workers are on the rise. There will be strikes
all over the state and throughout the
country, because Delano has shown what can be done. And the workers know that
they are no longer alone.” Later that same year,
the National Farm Workers Association and the Agricultural
Workers Organizing Committee formally joined forces
to become the United Farm Workers, the UFW. To increase pressure
on agribusiness owners, the new UFW launched
the first in a series of national and international
boycotts of table grapes and other produce. New York was the center of grape
distribution in the country, and Delores directed the boycott
there and along the East Coast, organizing neighborhood
coalitions to successfully picket grocery chains. By 1968, her influence
was such that she stood beside Senator
Robert F. Kennedy when he declared victory in
the California Democratic presidential primary, the tragic
evening of his assassination. It was in New York
where Delores connected with the leader of the women’s
movement, Gloria Steinem– also a Radcliffe
medalist, I should add. Their collaboration broadened
both women’s perspectives, each embracing a
deeper understanding of how gender, race,
and class discrimination overlap and intersect. By 1970, many of the
California growers came to the negotiating table. As UFW vice president
and lead negotiator, Dolores proved formidable. She secured historic
contracts between workers and agricultural
corporations, contracts that, among other things,
increased wages, established employer medical
plan contributions, put strict controls
on pesticide use, and provided for clean drinking
water, toilets, and work breaks in the fields. Yes. [APPLAUSE] Dolores, who is the
mother to 11 children, spoke openly in this period
about balancing a life of leadership with motherhood. Not withstanding
such criticisms, Dolores continued to advocate
for legislative reform. And she was instrumental
in securing passage of the California Agricultural
Labor Relations Act of 1975, which protected
the farm workers’ right to collective bargaining. The first law of its kind in
the United States, the act was modeled after
the New Deal era National Labor
Relations Act, which had excluded agricultural
laborers in deference to legislators from
the Jim Crow South, where African-Americans
worked in large numbers in that industry. It was a remarkable
victory, even though the hard and contentious
work of implementation lay ahead. Over the course of
the 1970s and ’80s, Dolores was at the
forefront of efforts to expose the dangers
of pesticides, which cause increased rates of
cancer and birth defects among migrant farm workers
and polluted the environment. In the years– the
years following, as the UFW’s focus
and tactics evolved, Dolores held fast to her belief
that the key to positive change is empowering people to
advocate for themselves. In 1988, she survived
a brutal assault by a San Francisco
police officer during a rally outside a fund
raiser for Vice President George HW Bush. After a long recovery, she
took a leave of absence from the union and traveled
the country for two years on behalf of the Feminist
Majority Foundation, encouraging latinas to
run for public office. A self-described born-again
feminist, Delores was, and is, a powerful voice for
women’s equality. In a woman of the year interview
with Ms. Magazine in 1998, she recalled, quote,
“For a long time, I was the only woman on
the UFW executive board. And the men would come out and
say their stupid little jokes about women. So I started keeping a record. At the end of the
meeting, I’d say, during the course
of this meeting, you men have made
58 sexist remarks.” [LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] But it gets better. “Pretty soon, I got them down
to 25, then 10, then five.” Yes. [APPLAUSE] Delores remained a key leader
of the UFW through the 1990s, and yet it’s fitting that
her career would culminate in the founding of the Dolores
Huerta Foundation in 2002, a community benefit
organization that promotes, at the grassroots level, the
values that have guided Dolores through decades of advocacy. Dolores asked me to ensure
that Radcliffe Day would be forward-looking,
not just retrospective. That request speaks volumes. She’s wholly focused
on the future and on the work in
the here and now. When Dolores received the
Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, she remarked, “The
great social justice changes in our country
have happened when people came together, organized,
and took direct action. It is this right of association
that sustains and nurtures our democracy.” The Dolores Huerta
Foundation pushes people to exercise that right. It works toward a goal of
building a new generation of community leaders. It also promotes equity
in our country’s schools, including by using
activism and litigation to combat the
school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately harms
black and brown students. And all that it
does, the foundation encourages people,
including youth, to recognize and harness their
own power to achieve change. We at the Radcliffe
Institute are delighted to honor
Dolores Huerta for a lifetime of
fearless work animated by the ethos si, se puede. We celebrate her
countless accomplishments, but we do so with a focus on
the future and on the work that she and so
many others continue to do each and every day. Please join me in congratulating
the singular Dolores Huerta. [APPLAUSE] And now let’s warmly
welcome Dolores Huerta and her conversation partner
Soledad O’Brien to the stage. [APPLAUSE] – How are you? – I’m fine, thank you. – Good. Good. It’s not very often
that I’m kind of freaked out by an interview
I have to do. I want to dive into the
11 children, but I won’t. It is such an honor to have
a chance to talk to you. – Thank you. – Let’s talk about what
other influential people have said about you. Here’s a short list– feminist, activist,
indefatigable, tough– difficult was one I read. How would you describe yourself? – Oh, I think I’m
kind of motivated, maybe focused, maybe– when I get fixed on
something, I really want to make it happen and kind
of push people out of the way if they’re not– if
they’re not ready. – Maybe that’s the
difficult one– – Right, right. – –that I read. – If you go around
the obstacles, I think women have to
do that a lot of times. Because unfortunately,
many times, women, they do want to
do something great and that will help people. But then there’s people that
put obstacles in front of them. And so we have to
figure out a way to go around the obstacles
to make things happen. – Did it feel like that to you– – Oh, often. – –when– when– so at the very beginning, when
you were starting to organize, you were a teacher, really,
before you became an organizer. What made you switch
from one to the other? – Well, seeing the
condition of farm workers, and the families,
and the poverty that they were living in,
and being fortunate enough to have learned how to do
some grassroots organizing, I just felt that I needed to
use the skills that Mr. Fred Ross taught myself
and sets out also, that I needed to use those
skills to help the farm workers organize themselves
to change the conditions. And being in a classroom
with the children and seeing how poor
they were, I was very limited in what I could do. But in organizing the parents
of the children, then that’s the way you make it happen. – What made you think that
you could organize people who mostly didn’t speak English,
overwhelmingly, were poor, and who, I think, most people
are looking at them would say, these people have
no agency at all? And you said, not
only do you– are going to be able
to organize, you’re going to do it yourselves. You’re going to make
this change yourselves. How did you see that? – Well, the main thing that
we do about organizing– and we still do that
today with my foundation– is that we have to teach
people that they have power. They may not speak English. They may not be citizens
of the United States. They may be very, very poor. But the one thing is– and I
think something that all of us have to really understand–
that the power is in our person. This is where the power is at. But we know that,
as individuals, we cannot do anything
by ourselves, that the only way that we can
make changes is when we all come together and we
take direct action. And having learned that in the
Community Service Organization, where we passed a lot of the
laws that were just mentioned, including a really
important one that people who were legal immigrants to
the United States of America could get public assistance–
and that was a biggie. And not only did we
pass that in California, but eventually, throughout
the United States of America. That would be aid to the
blind, aid to the disabled, aid to needy children,
which, people were not able to get that type
of assistance before. And so when you are able to
register people to vote and put pressure on the
different legislators to make things like
that happen, it gives you, really,
a sense of power. And when the people
that are doing this work out there in
the field, they know that they’re
the ones that did it, they’re the ones, by
registering people to vote, and by doing the lobbying
that was necessary, that they were able
to accomplish this. So when we organize,
we literally tell people, OK, people
that look like you, people that are immigrants,
people that are farm workers, people that are hotel workers
or construction workers, they’re able to do– make these
changes in their community. So if they can do
it, so can you. – What were the conditions like? Walk us through details of
what your average farm worker– how they were living, how
their children were living, how much money they were making. – Well, as you heard, when
we started organizing, they were working $0.50–
making $0.50 an hour. Then we were able to– the wages went up to,
like, $0.90 an hour. And so you can imagine–
well, and people didn’t have unemployment insurance. That’s a really big one too. And unfortunately,
we only have that now in California and in Hawaii. Most of the states
in the country still do not have those
benefits for farm workers. And so– and as you
heard also, they were not even able to get food
from the surplus commodities or from the food banks. Because they had all of these
laws against farm workers. For instance, in order
to get any kind of food from the food bank,
you had to live in one area for the entire year. You had to show rent receipts. And farm workers had to travel. So they weren’t able
to stay in one place. Well, once, in 1975, when we
passed unemployment insurance for farm workers, they
could stay in one place. When the crop ended,
they could stay there. The kids could stay in school. And so that was a really big
benefit for the farm workers themselves. – When you started org–
go ahead, I’m sorry. – No, I was just going to say
a kind of an interesting side note. There’s an astronaut
named Jose Hernandez. He’s a Latino. And when we first
started organizing, I remember one of the
farm workers said, we will put a man on
the moon before farmers get– farm workers get
unemployment insurance. And we did. [LAUGHTER] And we did. And well, Jose Hernandez,
who is an astronaut, he actually– once we passed
that law of unemployment insurance, his family
was able to stay in one place in Stockton, California. He was able to go to the
University of Pacific. And guess what, he
became an astronaut. So he was the first
farm worker on the moon. [LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] – Great story. Can you deconstruct some of
the protests and the boycotts around grapes? I mean, a lot of what you
were doing on the East Coast– of course, Cesar Chavez was
working on the West Coast– was dealing with consumers
who, I would imagine– did they care
about farm workers? Did they even really
understand and even think about the people who
were picking their grapes? And what were your concerns and
your worries going into that? – Well, I mean, it
was interesting. Because in the
previous panel, they talked a lot about the boycott
and about how widespread it was. Well, the reason it
was so widespread is because farm workers left
their homes and their farm worker communities, and they
came out to the East Coast. And so they went to– they came to Boston,
and they went to Texas, they were in Chicago. So farm workers went
all over the country, and other young volunteers that
dropped out of college maybe. And then they came, and
they joined the movement. And so we had people
in every major city going to supermarkets,
leafleting, and going to churches
and community groups, labor groups, et
cetera, to spread the word about the boycott. So this is why it became
such a national phenomenon. We had people like Gloria
Steinem and other celebrities that would go out there. Every time they spoke,
they talked about the– that you have to boycott grapes
and help the farm workers out. So this is why it became such a
national movement at that time. And actually, at
the end of it, there were over 17 million Americans
that didn’t eat grapes. And so, you know, we’re– – Effective. – –talking about the
food justice movement. I think it’s got–
we have to do– we have to think in
terms of spreading the food about food justice. It’s got to be the
same kind of a campaign so that you can get every
school, every community group, every church, all
of these organizations that are now established, to
also talk about food justice. – You said that your
strategy was different because you’re a woman,
that you actually approached how you would deal
with the supermarkets and deal with the consumers
very differently than what was happening on the West Coast. What do you mean? – Well, that was
kind of interesting. Because of what I did
in New York City is I started with the small,
independent stores, OK? So we got them to
take off the grapes, because we always had a clean
store to send people to. So we had an AMP, or a
Waldbaum’s over here, or some other store. You could say to people, well,
don’t shop at this store, because they have grapes. But you can go to that
one, because it’s clean. They don’t have any grapes. And so we kind of
worked our way up from the independent
stores to the small chains. And then we took
on the big chains. And so we were able to
clean all the grapes out of the supermarket
in California. Because Cesar,
being a man, macho, they took out the
biggest chain, Safeway. So– – So they went big first. You went small first. – I went small first and
built from the ground up. And so after we got all
the grapes cleaned out of the East Coast, then I
had to go back to California. And I used the same strategy. And we were able to
win in California also. [APPLAUSE] But I think that’s– I think that’s a difference
in the way that women think and the way that men think. – How do you mean? Why? I mean, not just
the macho thing, what do you think–
what you mean by that? – Well, because I think
sometimes we, as women, are more practical in the way
that we approach problems. And yes, you might have to
start at the small areas first, right? And I think sometimes
men just want to– OK, we’re big and
strong, and we’ve got to take on the biggest
opponent, you know? – Why– [LAUGHTER] Why did those boycotts work? I think there were so many
people at the time who were betting against you. And I think they would be
heavily supported by people who would say, they have nothing. People– these
people have nothing. And grapes– you know, listen,
do Americans care enough about not eating grapes? What made it work? – Well, I think
most of the people– the majority of people
in the United States– the vast majority are
people of good heart. And they care. I mean, they really care. They care about people. They care about the
people that feed them. But they had no clue. They had no idea that farm
workers were suffering or were going into
these hardships. But once they knew, once they
heard the personal stories of the farm workers, it made
all the difference in the world. – Were there other women
who were organizing with you and around you? – Oh, we had a lot of women. In fact, in the United
Farm Workers– and I don’t know if people saw
the documentary Delores. If you haven’t seen it– produced by Carlos Santana. But one of the commentators
who was not with the union, but mentioned the fact that
United Farm Workers had more women that were
active in leadership positions than probably, at that
time, any other union in the country at that time. – So then– which is amazing,
and considering the time. – Yeah, and when
they would ask Cesar, why do you have so many women in
leadership positions, he’d say, because they do the work. [APPLAUSE] – You had 11 children. – Mm-hmm – That seems like– years ago, when I
would do interviews– what I would do interviews,
my father would get mad at me. He’d say, you always ask
the women about balance, and you never ask the men. And I was like, that’s a
really good point, dad. So I now make a point
of asking everybody. Because I think managing is
a challenge for everybody. But 11 children is,
like, a large number. How did you navigate
raising your children, keeping them safe–
you were in danger. You were arrested a
couple of dozen times. You were beaten. We saw the photographs. How did you do all that
and also raise your kids? – Well, basically,
asking for help. I think a lot of
times, we, as women, we feel like we have
the sole responsibility for our children,
and sometimes even for our housework, et cetera. And one thing we have to do
is just reach out to people and say, look, I’m
trying to do this work. Can you help me? In the union itself, we actually
had a daycare for our children. And we had somebody to
help with the children. And then, since I was married
three different times, my oldest daughters
especially helped me with the younger kids. So one of my sons says– my youngest son says,
yes, I had three mothers. He talks about his
big sisters that were also the
disciplinarians, you know, and helped with the kids. – When did you realize that
the labor movement was really aligned with the
feminist movement? Was there a moment where
you’re like, wow, this is, or was it a process
over time where you began to see them as really
overlapping on each other? – Well, you know, it’s funny. Because back there
in the ’60s when I was vice president of
the United Farm Workers, there was only one
other woman that had a high position
in the labor movement. And she was the head
of the actor’s union. And she was the only
one that really had– I think her name
was Penny Singleton. So there were only two of us. And now if you look at the labor
movement, it’s really, really– it’s changed dramatically. And so you have many of
the central labor councils, you have heads of unions
now that are women. And I think that’s
very refreshing. – And did you feel like that was
an important coalition in order to gain power and strength? Or did it just feel like this
is a natural coming together? – Well, when we were
working with the union, the labor unions were
very, very supportive. Without them, I don’t think we
would have survived actually. The United Auto Workers Union– you had all these different
unions that supported the UFW and gave us financial support,
and not only financial, but physical support. So especially when
things got pretty rough– the Seafarers Union
were very instrumental. And so it was a– they were very critical, as
were many other organizations. But I think labor
movement was absolutely at the top of our supporters. – How did you
learn to negotiate? Did someone have to teach you? Because you– you were– probably are still, to this
minute, a supremely tough negotiator at the table. – Well, that’s another thing
I like to say to women. Because sometimes there’s
positions that we aspire to. And we feel that we
don’t have the skills, or we’re not competent to do it. And well, I could just say–
well, two things actually. And I say this to
students a lot. To young women, I
say, just pretend you know how to do the work,
just what the guys do, OK? [LAUGHTER] Learn on the job. And I literally
learned on the job. But then, again,
asking for help– when I was put in charge of
the negotiations, right away, I went to some of the big labor
leaders that I had heard about, [INAUDIBLE] with the
Longshoremen’s Union and some of these legendary labor– and I just asked them, tell me
how you negotiate a contract, and they did. And one of the things
they said, never have an attorney negotiate. – That’s still relevant today. – Always have the workers
do the negotiations, uh-huh. – Nonviolence was obviously
very important in the strategy. Why? I mean, I was talking
to Andrew Young, who obviously worked with Dr. King. And I would say to him all the
time, I get it as a strategy. But I sometimes just
want to punch somebody. And so truly, how did you–
was it hard to really– when you’re feeling
passionate, and you’re mad, and these are lives at stake,
and it’s unfair and unjust, how did you continue
to ground yourself in nonviolence, which
I think sometimes could be a hard strategy? – Well, you’ll remember, back in
the ’60s, that there was a lot of violence that was going on. And we were very– from the very beginning,
when Cesar and I– when we started the union,
there were only three of us. It was Cesar, it was his
wife, Helen, and myself. Later on, his cousin and
his brother joined us. But initially, there were
just the three of us. But Cesar and I
planned the union. And one of the things that
we really wanted to follow were the doctrines of Mahatma
Gandhi, the whole doctrine of nonviolence. Because we– and if
you look at the labor history of California,
there were many farm workers that were killed before
we started the union. And so we know that if
we acted with violence that there would be many,
many farm workers killed. Actually, we did end
up having five farm workers that were killed. And in fact, the first
martyr was here, from Boston. She was a young Jewish girl
named Nan Freeman who had– she was a young student who went
down to volunteer in the strike that we had in Florida,
of sugar cane workers. And she was run down by a truck. And then our second martyr
was a Muslim, Nagi Daifallah. And he was killed by a deputy
sheriff in Kern County. And beside them, we had three
other martyrs beside them. But even then, even
when people were killed, what Cesar asked everybody to
do was do a three-day fast, for people to go three
days without eating, OK, and that we– to just reflect and think about
the people that had gotten killed, but definitely keep
our commitment to nonviolence. And I think, because
of that, there probably would’ve been many
more people killed. And it was hard
at the beginning, because workers said, well,
we’re getting beaten up. We’re getting attacked
by labor contractors, by growers and other people. So why should we keep this
commitment to nonviolence? But we were very
strict on that issue. And Cesar said to everybody–
he called everybody together. He made people take a
standing pledge that they would commit to nonviolence. And he said, if,
for some reason, you vote that you
want to use violence, I will just leave and
start another group. And I just want to
also mention this– and people don’t remember maybe. But this year, in
October, it will be the 150th year of Mahatma
Gandhi’s birthday, OK? So hopefully many organizations
will think about that. We’re living in a culture of
violence right now, as we know, in our country. So if people can think about
celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday this year, I think
that would be very good. And talk about the
philosophy of nonviolence. – Just studying it, right? – Yeah. [APPLAUSE] And the other thing is that
when we think about ahimsa– this is the Indian
word for nonviolence– it’s an active word. It’s not a passive word. So it means that we actually
have to work towards peace, you know? We have to work
against violence, not just say, OK, I’m
not going to be violent, and that’s enough. No, we’ve got to
do more than that. – Is it a tough sell
in the environment we’re in today, where, I
think, the idea of nonviolence is almost seen as a weakness and
that strength is being a bully, strength is being loud, strength
is punching someone back harder if they hit you first? – I think exactly what
you said, I think, really calls for
all of us, then, to understand that we
have to actively work to make sure that we do not
have violence at all levels. At the school levels, we
talk a lot about bullying, but also in language. And the fact that we have
to work– and I know there’s a lot of movements right
now, which is really good. We think of the
Violence Against Women. There’s over a hundred
women every day that are killed by
somebody that they know. And sometimes we
don’t reflect on that. And we have to start
teaching nonviolence, I believe, in our school system,
from the time that little boys will understand they have to
be taught to respect women so that they don’t, again– we don’t engender
that whole issue of machismo or domination,
and that women have to– that women are going
to be dominated by men. And also, we have to
teach our young women how to be able to also fight
against that themselves, you know, and not
feed into that. So we have to raise our young
women so they won’t be victims. Because we don’t
do that, you know? We raise our young women
to think that somebody’s got to have to support
them, and somebody is going to take care of them. And no, our young women
have to be raised, you know, they have to take
care of themselves and that they have to
support themselves. – What are the issues,
today, that you feel like we either
need to still tackle or we’re taking
steps backwards on? – Well, I think
there’s a lot of– I know we’ve talked a lot
about a lot about food justice today in the previous panel. But I think that we
have to start making– some of our corporations also
have to take responsibility. And that’s not happening. When we talk about
the use of pesticides, for instance, on our food,
which is still happening today– we had a hundred
farm workers that were poisoned near Bakersfield
a few months ago with one of the pesticides that
Obama tried to ban. And our current president
put it back into action. And just within two
months after he did that, we had a hundred farm
workers that were poisoned. And there’s some actions that
we can take on pesticides by saying all of the–
or what they call– these are chemicals, right,
that are used on our food– that they have to be under
the Health and Human Services. They have to be in
the Health Department. Take them out of the EPA. Take them out of agriculture. But it’s somewhere
where they can be monitored so that
these poisons can not be used on our food if they
are proven to be unsafe. And these are all
things that can be done through
legislation and things that I think
everybody can work on. – Do you think that we’re
in an environment where that’s going to happen? Because with farm workers
obviously so conflated with immigration, I think it’s
a tough time, maybe, to say– for the public,
generally, to stand– a woman in the audience asked
me– she said, you know, if you put a sticker
on that said, “We’re paying farm workers
fairly,” wouldn’t that make some people really mad? Because that is the tenor
of the conversation in much of this country. You’re paying people fairly
who, they don’t think, deserve to be paid. – Well, that’s a
whole other issue, OK? Yeah, I think that’s
a whole other issue. Because we have
a lot of inequity right now in our country
in terms of wealth. I mean, we talk about– we know a lot of the political
candidates are saying, yes, we need to have
free education for all of our citizens. We need to have free health
care, universal health care, like they do in
Europe, like they have in Cuba, which is
a small country that has an economic boycott. But every citizen in Cuba has
free education and free health care. We’re the richest
country in the world. And there’s no reason why our
citizens cannot have that here in the United States
of America, OK? That’s one thing. And we were talking about
the poverty of farm workers. Well, you know what, there’s
one really easy way to end the poverty of farm workers. Let the workers have a union so
they can negotiate their wages, OK? And that really takes
care of the issue. But I think that institutions,
even here, like Harvard– institutions here,
like Harvard, they need to lead the way in
talks about ending poverty when it talks about people
having an equitable wage and a living wage. And yet we know that, right
here at this university, they have not been able
to get a union contract even though they got recognition
over a year ago in May. Justice delayed
is justice denied. And I think institutions
like Harvard, which are– you might say they
have this academic– you might say– position,
or fame, or leadership. But they should
be leading the way in terms of our
country to say, we shouldn’t have any poor
people in our country. We should support labor unions. We have to erase the
inequity of wealth. And it would be wonderful if
every student that came out of Harvard had that commitment
to make our world a more equitable place. When you have a situation
in the United States where you have 1% of the wealthy
families like the Waltons, who own Walmart, that
own 50%– they have 50% of the wealth of the country. When you have 10%
of the corporations and wealthy families that have
90% of the wealth of the United States of America,
something is definitely wrong in our country. We can’t have a
democracy when you’ve got this kind of
inequity and where you have laws that keep
people from organizing like labor unions, you know? – Are you optimistic
that that will change? As you know, very rarely do
people say, oh, I’m sorry. Let me give you
some of my power. I’d love to share it. You know better than anybody
that does not really happen. – Well, nobody is going
to give away their power. Frederick Douglass
talked about that, right? And so we’re not going to say
to anyone, give us your power. We’re going to say, we
have our own power, OK? We have our own power. And with all of the
power of the people which are the majority here in the
United States of America, we will demand that you
share your wealth, you know? We will demand that
you share your power. We will demand that
you be accountable and you be responsible. And you know, we’re coming
up on Robert Kennedy’s– anniversary of Robert Kennedy
assassination in a few days here. And for those people– again, I’m going to refer to
the movie Dolores, produced by Carlos Santana. But there is a clip
in that documentary where Robert Kennedy– just before he’s
assassinated, he says, “We have responsibilities
and obligations to our fellow citizens.” “We have obligations
and responsibilities to our fellow citizens.” And I think if all of us
would take that to heart, but also, to say this to
the major corporations– they also have responsibilities
to our fellow citizens, especially when the wealth
that they accumulate comes from the people
in the country. – How do you get
them there though? Because I’ve yet to hear
someone stand up and say, we have an obligation
and a responsibility to all of our citizens. That sounds very leadership-y. We don’t have that right now. – Well, you do it
by legislation. In California, we’ve
actually passed a law that, if you are a millionaire,
that you have to pay more money in state taxes. And you make $500,000, you pay
2% more, $250,000, 1% more. That legislation that we passed
on a referendum on the ballot brought in $9 billion a year
to our educational system, OK? Now I know that one of our
representatives in California– and I believe
Elizabeth Warren also– is promoting a wealth tax. So if we have a
wealth tax, it has to be really, really tiny,
something like 1% or 2%. You could really bring
in so much money. Some of these billionaires
that have so much money, it doesn’t hurt them to pay
a little bit more in taxes, you know? Because we’ve got to make– we’ve got to make– the
wealth of our country, it’s got to be
equitable for everybody. It’s not fair that people
use our natural resources, they accumulate the wealth,
and they don’t share it with everybody else. – Do you– [APPLAUSE] Do you think that,
in fact, that’s going to happen short window– five years? Two years? One year? Or do you think that
that’s a long dream? – Well, I think the one thing
that we’ve got going for us now that we didn’t have back
there in the ’60s when we’re organizing is all
of the social media. – So you think that that’s
more helpful to you? – Yes. In fact, I was talking
to a friend of mine was with the Dalai Lama. And he asked the Dalai
Lama, do you ever think we’ll have
peace in the world? And he said yes. And he was surprised
by the answer. And he says, why? He said, because
of the internet. And the reason– and
I think because– – And did they say why? Because I think there is
a whole other argument on that on the other side. What is it about the internet
that’s going to bring peace or that’s going to bring
people to see equity as something to really aim
for and that’s achievable? – Well, I think it’s
because people have access to information. People can now
google everything. They’re not going to be
able to hide very much, especially because
our young people– yesterday, we were with
one of the young people from Parkland, Florida,
one of the young students that was in the school when
we had– where they had all those mass shootings at. And she was just amazing. And she was saying when
they planned their march on Washington, they thought they
would have 200 people there. But because of
social media, they had thousands of
people there, which was a surprise even to them. And so we have seen all these
movements like the Women’s Marches, Black Lives Matter, all
of these great movements that are happening right now, the
Me Too movement of women. And that is all being right now. It’s really being
framed and it’s being expanded by social media. – So the internet as
an organizing tool? – Yeah. And I think as people– they learn, and they
understand how things work, and who the perpetrators are,
of violence, or of poverty, et cetera, I think
that that will change, especially when we find ways
to hold them accountable. – What does it mean to
be a born-again feminist? – Oh, well, that was because
of being raised a Catholic. And like many indoctrinated
by the Catholic Church, I had been taught that
abortion is a sin. And then when I joined
the feminist majority movement with Eleanor Smeal,
and Peggy Orkan, Cathy Spiller, then I came to realize that
it’s about women’s bodies. And it’s about us having
control over our bodies. [APPLAUSE] And it’s about
science, you know? It’s really about science. – Does it surprise
you we’re having– we’re continuing to have
that discussion today? – Well, the reason
that the haters– I called them the haters. The reason the haters foc– they focus on issues
like abortion, they focus on issues
like gay rights and LGBTQ rights is because
they want to divide– these are cultural wars. They want to divide people. Because as long as
they keep us divided on some of these
issues, we’re not focusing on the
real issues, which are the economic issues,
the things that we were just talking about. [APPLAUSE] And unfortunately,
we’ve got religion that is ingrained
on this issue also. And it’s really, really sad. But one of the things that– when I talk to Latino
audiences specifically, a lot of Catholics
like myself, then I like to quote the
words of Benito Juarez. And I don’t know if you
knew who he is, Soledad. He was the president of
Mexico after the independence from Spain. And he had a great saying. And his saying was, “Respecting
other people’s rights is peace.” [SPEAKING SPANISH],,
which means if I want to have 11 children
and my daughter Juanita wants to have dogs instead,
that’s her right, right? And also, to marry
somebody of your own sex or to fall in love with,
that is your human right. And I should not try to impose
my values on you, right? And so I think that’s
really important. And we can just spread
that to everybody. And the thing, we should not let
religion tell us how to vote, you know? We should not let any
religious organization control our political views. – How old are you this year? – Oh, I just turned 89. – 89. [APPLAUSE] Congratulations. Is there anything, as you look
back over your last 89 years, that you say, I wish I’d
done that differently? – Well, I think– again, as a woman, I think I
would have made more demands for myself and my children. And again– – How do you mean? Like what? – Well, in the union,
it was very difficult, of course, because we
lived at a poverty level. And I look back, and
I think, well, maybe I could have done more in
terms of supporting my kids. I do have to say my
children turned out fine. My oldest son is a doctor. He’s an M.D. My second
son is an attorney. My daughter Angela is
an oncology nurse, OK? She takes care of cancer
patients, and on and on. My kids came out really–
they all came out really– – I was wondering if we’re
going to go through all 11. – My daughter
Juanita’s a teacher. So my kids all turned
out really, really great. And that’s an
important thing too. Because I think
sometimes we think because people live in
poverty that somehow they’re not going to turn out OK. And they actually can. But we just have to give them
the support that they need. But I think, too, also, a
lot of times, as mothers, we think that– kids are tough. Kids are strong. And we have to involve
them in movement. My kids kind of grew
up in the movement, so they already had the
political savvy, so to speak, and the political commitment. So they’re all very
engaged politically. And that’s important, I think. Take your kids to the marches. Take your kids to the protests. Because that way
they feel the power of people coming together,
and they feel the power of people making changes. So I think that’s
very important. So in that respect,
I think my children– my son Ricky says,
my mother shared us– my mother– how’d he say– my mother shared
the world, but she– but she also– she shared
the world with us, you know? [INAUDIBLE] to the
world, but she shared. And I think it was a very
good upbringing for them. – Final question for you– the Dolores Huerta Foundation– similar message about
the power’s in you. And you deal with a
lot of young people. Do they– is it hard to convince
them, or do they believe it? Does this generation
actually believe, hey, the power is in us, and we
can leverage that power? – I think that we have to
inform them and let them know that they have that power. Because sometimes
they don’t think they have any power at all,
and not just young people, but, I think, older people also. I think Helen Keller
said that the greatest evil in human beings
that science has not found a cure for is apathy. And a lot of people
just don’t feel that they have the competence
or the skills to do anything. And the one thing
that I have learned is that you learn by doing. You just go out there and
start being an activist, and you can make the kind
of changes that you need. And everybody, I
think, right now, especially in these
times that we’re in, we have this responsibility
to become activists, to do something. And I saw the Broadway
show of Michael Moore, the documentarian. And he said there’s three things
that we can do every day– or we have to do every day. You wake up in the morning,
you wash your face, you brush your teeth, and
you call your congressman. [LAUGHTER] So that is a very
simple thing to do. Pick up the phone and call
your state representative. Like right here, farm
workers in Massachusetts, they don’t have
unemployment insurance. Farm workers here do not
have the right to organize. And you do have farm
workers in this area. In New York state,
Kerry Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s
daughter, has been working to try to get some
of the simple rights for farm workers that we’ve had in
California for 50 years. So all of us have a lot
of work to do still. And we have to just
kind of keep informed. I tell people– and I know a lot
of people here in this audience here, they read
The New York Times or they read The
Washington Post. And I tell people, if you don’t
have time to read the paper, just watch Stephen Colbert– [LAUGHTER] –or some of the other
comedians, right? – Because they really
understand what’s happening. – On that note, I just
want to mention this, because it’s something
that I just found out– well, two things. One of them, I was
watching a comedian– and I don’t remember his
name, but he’s an Arab. But he was talking
about the guns. And I don’t know, a lot
of people are questioning. And I’ve lot of people
call me and say, why are all of these
people coming to our border from El Salvador, and
Guatemala, and Honduras? And I thought it
was the poverty. I always like to say bananas. Because the bananas that
we eat, people there don’t get the money. It goes to Dole,
or Chiquita Banana, or American Corporation. But actually, after watching
his show, it’s the gun violence. It’s the gun violence. Because there have
been tens of thousands of people that have been
killed in those countries by guns that come from the
United States of America by this whole selling of guns
sponsored by the NRA, you know? In Mexico– this is
an interesting fact when we think of all
the violence in Mexico. Mexico only has one gun store– one gun store. All of the guns come from
the United States of America. So this whole issue, again,
of violence and gun violence that we have to work on, it’s
a really important issue. And I know a lot of people
here in the audience have been asking
the same question. Because we know the poverty that
has existed in those countries has been for decades,
especially after our wars in Central American when the
United States was in there. And we never went back
to clean up the mess. But I don’t think
a lot of us knew about the influence
of guns in what’s happening in those countries. So when people say that
they’re escaping terror, that they’re escaping
violence, that’s what they’re talking about. And I remember meeting
with some of the refugees there at the Mexican
border in Texas. And some of them were
telling me about– like, one man said, I don’t
want my son to get killed. He said, my nephew
was killed because he wouldn’t join this gang. I don’t want them
to kill my son. So he came north, OK? And so that’s what’s
happening with those families. And we don’t, I think, get
enough of that information. – Right, we hear a
lot of the drama, but not so much the
undergirding of what really is making it all happen. So wash your face, brush your
teeth, call your congressman. I think that’s some good advice. Dolores Huerta,
congratulations to you. [APPLAUSE] What an honor for
me to talk to you. – And Soledad, can
I ask a question? – Sure. – OK. – Hold on. Hold on. [APPLAUSE] – [INAUDIBLE] – Sure, OK. – A question and a request–
and I’ll do the request first. My request to all the
audience here and all of you– – Can you guys hear? Yeah. – –alumni here from
Harvard, please, again, address the president. Say, sign that contract
for your workers, OK? It’s time, OK? [APPLAUSE] And the question I wanted
to ask the audience– and it’s a very simple one. And I hope that when you speak
to audiences that you copy me. And the audience is
a very simple one. Talking about where the
power is, OK, it’s in each– it’s in each and every
one of us as a person. And we have to do
whatever we can do to make our country a better place. But the question I’m going
to ask you is simple. I’m just going to ask
you, who’s got the power? And I want you to say,
we’ve got the power. And when I say,
what kind of power? I want you to say, people power. But I want you to shout this
so loud so the neo-Nazis, and the white nationalists, OK,
the racists, the misogynists, the homophobes, so that
they can hear us, OK– the climate deniers, OK? So the question is simple. I’m going to ask,
who’s got the power? You’re going to say
we’ve got the power. – We’ve got the power. – Let’s go. Let me go first, OK? And shout it very loud. OK, let’s go. Who’s got the power? – We’ve got the power. – What kind of power? – People power. – So we’re going to commit that
we’re going to go out there. We’re going to organize. We’re going to call
our congressmen. We’re going to make
our country better. What do we say? Se puede? – Si, se puede. – All right, let’s do it. We can organize
[INAUDIBLE] together. Let’s go. Si, se puede. – Si, se puede. Si, se puede. – Congratulations. [CLAPPING] – Thank you. Thank you very much. – Congrats on your honor. – Thank you to– thank you. Thank you to Soledad
and to Delores for that fascinating and
inspiring conversation. And now I want to present
you the 2019 Radcliffe medal. And let me read the citation. “She is a civil rights
icon who reminds us that the arc of
the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice. She is a tireless organizer
who has devoted her life to pursuing equity and
dignity for workers, the poor, and the oppressed. She is a visionary leader whose
rallying cry, si, se puede, has echoed far and wide,
inspiring countless people to realize their power.” For all of those
reasons, Dolores, I bestow upon you the
Radcliffe medal for 2019. – Thank you. Thank you so much. You’re wonderful. [APPLAUSE] – Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. – Thank you, to all of
you, for joining us today. Please give a final round of
applause for our medalist, for our moderator, and for
our distinguished speakers. [APPLAUSE] And finally, please
join me in applauding the staff of the
Radcliffe Institute who did all the work that
made this day possible. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, and good afternoon.

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