120+ Best Cesar Chavez Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Cesar Chavez was an American union leader and labor organizer. He dedicated his life to improving the treatment, pay and working conditions for farmworkers. Along with Dolores Huerta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, later renamed the United Farm Workers union. Inspirational Cesar Chavez quotes will make you think and never get out of your head.

If you’re searching for quotes from civil rights activist that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of powerful Susan B. Anthony quotes, inspirational Aretha Franklin quotes, and Ruby Bridges quotes.

Most Famous Cesar Chavez Quotes

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. – Cesar Chavez

Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures. – Cesar Chavez

To make a great dream come true, the first requirement is a great capacity to dream; the second is persistence. – Cesar Chavez

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. – Cesar Chavez

True wealth is not measured in money or status or power. It is measured in the legacy we leave behind for those we love and those we inspire. – Cesar Chavez

We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community – and this nation. – Cesar Chavez

I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings. – Cesar Chavez

Farm workers are involved in the planting and the cultivation and the harvesting of the greatest abundance of food known in this society. They bring in so much food to feed you and me and the whole country and enough food to export to other places. The ironic thing and the tragic thing is that after they make this tremendous contribution, they don’t have any money or any food left for themselves. – Cesar Chavez

From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength. – Cesar Chavez

We are confident. We have ourselves. We know how to sacrifice. We know how to work. We know how to combat the forces that oppose us. But even more than that, we are true believers in the whole idea of justice. Justice is so much on our side, that that is going to see us through. – Cesar Chavez

Never, never is it possible to reach someone if you become angry or bitter only love and gentleness can do it. Maybe not this time but maybe the next or the hundredth time. – Cesar Chavez

Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers. – Cesar Chavez

I am an organizer, not a union leader. A good organizer has to work hard and long. There are no shortcuts. You just keep talking to people, working with them, sharing, exchanging and they come along. – Cesar Chavez

You are never strong enough that you don’t need help. – Cesar Chavez

The name of the game is to talk to people. If you don’t talk to people, you can’t get started…You knock on twenty doors or so, and twenty guys tell you to go to hell, or that they haven’t got time. But maybe at the fortieth or sixtieth house you find the one guy who is all you need. You’re not going to organize everything; you’re just going to get it started. – Cesar Chavez

The people who give you their food give you their heart. – Cesar Chavez

Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students. What better books can there be than the book of humanity? – Cesar Chavez

The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature. – Cesar Chavez

I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us to be men! – Cesar Chavez

We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better and more just world for our children. People who make that choice will know hardship and sacrifice. But if you give yourself totally to the non-violence struggle for peace and justice you also find that people give you their hearts and you will never go hungry and never be alone. And in giving of yourself you will discover a whole new life full of meaning and love. – Cesar Chavez

Being of service is not enough. You must become a servant of the people. When you do, you can demand their commitment in return. – Cesar Chavez

Those who are willing to sacrifice and be of service have very little difficulty with people. They know what they are all about. People can’t help but want to be near them. They help them; they work with them. That’s what love is all about. It starts with your heart and radiates out. – Cesar Chavez

Society is made up of groups, and as long as the smaller groups do not have the same rights and the same protection as others – I don[‘t care whether you call it capitalism or communism -it is not going to work. Somehow, the guys in power have to be reached by counterpower, or through a change in their hearts and minds, or change will not come. – Cesar Chavez

It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease. When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn. – Cesar Chavez

When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering, and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick. – Cesar Chavez

It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. – Cesar Chavez

Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well with others. – Cesar Chavez

We must understand that the highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest measure of discipline. – Cesar Chavez

Perhaps we can bring the day when children will learn from their earliest days that being fully man and fully woman means to give one’s life to the liberation of the brother [and sister] who suffers. It is up to each one of us. It won’t happen unless we decide to use our lives to show the way. – Cesar Chavez

The people united will never be defeated. – Cesar Chavez

History will judge societies and governments – and their institutions – not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless. – Cesar Chavez

Grant me courage to serve others; For in service there is true life. – Cesar Chavez

We have suffered unnumbered ills and crimes in the name of the Law of the Land. Our men, women, and children have suffered not only the basic brutality of stoop labor, and the most obvious injustices of the system; they have also suffered the desperation of knowing that the system caters to the greed of callous men and not to our needs. Now we will suffer for the purpose of ending the poverty, the misery, and the injustice, with the hope that our children will not be exploited as we have been. They have imposed hungers on us, and now we hunger for justice. – Cesar Chavez

Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak… Non-violence is hard work. – Cesar Chavez

The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people. – Cesar Chavez

Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose our cause are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our bodies and spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons. – Cesar Chavez

In giving of yourself, you will discover a whole new life full of meaning and love. – Cesar Chavez

Students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn to think and act for themselves – and be free. – Cesar Chavez

You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. – Cesar Chavez

What I do shows people what kind of person I am. – Cesar Chavez

Together, all things are possible – Cesar Chavez

You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. – Cesar Chavez

Non-violence is a very powerful weapon. Most people don’t understand the power of non-violence and tend to be amazed by the whole idea. Those who have been involved in bringing about change and see the difference between violence and non-violence are firmly committed to a lifetime of non-violence, not because it is easy or because it is cowardly, but because it is an effective and very powerful way. – Cesar Chavez

When any person suffers for someone in greater need, that person is a human. – Cesar Chavez

It’s ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves. – Cesar Chavez

We have looked into the future and the future is ours. – Cesar Chavez

If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart. – Cesar Chavez

It is not good enough to know why we are oppressed and by whom. We must join the struggle for what is right and just. Jesus does not promise that it will be an easy way to live life and His own life certainly points in a hard direction; but it does promise that we will be satisfied (not stuffed; but satisfied). He promises that by giving life we will find life – full, meaningful life as God meant it. – Cesar Chavez

We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure. – Cesar Chavez

There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence. – Cesar Chavez

When we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us. So, it is how we use our lives that determines the kind of men we are. – Cesar Chavez

There is no substitute for hard work, 23 or 24 hours a day. And there is no substitute for patience and acceptance. – Cesar Chavez

In some cases, non-violence requires more militancy than violence. – Cesar Chavez

It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity. – Cesar Chavez

Who gets the risks? The risks are given to the consumer, the unsuspecting consumer and the poor work force. And who gets the benefits? The benefits are only for the corporations, for the money makers. – Cesar Chavez

We are organizers at heart. Most of us in the movement take great pride in being able to put things together. – Cesar Chavez

We’re going to pray a lot and picket a lot. – Cesar Chavez

I’ve always maintained that it isn’t the form that’s going to make the difference. It isn’t the rule or the procedure or the ideology, but it’s human beings that will make it. – Cesar Chavez

Talk is cheap…It is the way we organize and use our lives everyday that tells what we believe in. – Cesar Chavez

Until the chance for political participation is there, we who are poor will continue to attack the soft part of the American system – its economic structure. We will build power through boycotts, strikes, new union – whatever techniques we can develop. These attacks on the status quo will come, not because we hate, but because we know America can construct a humane society for all its citizens – and that if it does not, there will chaos. – Cesar Chavez

Imagine the National Guard being called against a group of peaceful people. How far can we get; how disgraceful can it become? It’s the most disgraceful, the most wicked thing I’ve seen in all my years of organizing farm labor. – Cesar Chavez

There’s no turning back…We will win. We are winning because ours is a revolution of mind and heart… – Cesar Chavez

There are vivid memories from my childhood-what we had to go through because of low wages and the conditions, basically because there was no union. I suppose if I wanted to be fair, I could say that I’m trying to settle a personal score. I could dramatize it by saying that I want to bring social justice to farm workers. But the truth is that I went through a lot of hell, and a lot of people did. If we can even the score a little for the workers, then we are doing something. Besides, I don’t know any other work I like to do better than this. I really don’t. – Cesar Chavez

The picket line is the best place to train organizers. One day on the picket line is where a man makes his commitment. The longer on the picket line, the stronger the commitment. A lot of workers think they make their commitment by walking off the job when nobody sees them. But you get a guy to walk off the field when his boss is watching and, in front of the other guys, throw down his tools and march right to the picket line, that is the guy who makes our strike. The picket line is a beautiful thing because it makes a man more human. – Cesar Chavez

Every time we sit at a table at night or in the morning to enjoy the fruits and grain and vegetables from our good earth, remember that they come from the work of men and women and children who have been exploited for generations… – Cesar Chavez

The life of the union depends upon more people getting to share the limelight, because with the limelight also comes responsibility and with the responsibility comes a little sharing of the load. There isn’t enough money to organize poor people. There never is enough money to organize anyone. If you put it on the basis of money, you’re not going to succeed. – Cesar Chavez

Organizing is an educational process. The best educational process in the union is the picket line and the boycott. You learn about life. – Cesar Chavez

Money is not going to organize the disadvantaged, the powerless, or the poor. We need other weapons. That’s why the War on Poverty is such a miserable failure. You put out a big pot of money and all you do is fight over it. Then you run out of money and you run out of troops. – Cesar Chavez

There are many reasons for why a man does what he does. To be himself he must be able to give it all. If a leader cannot give it all he cannot expect his people to give anything. – Cesar Chavez

These observations tie in directly with the whole question of organizing. Why do we have leaders? We put some people out in the fields and all of a sudden they hit, they click. Everyone’s happy with them and they begin to move mountains. With other people there are problems and heartaches. They just don’t go. When we look and see what’s happening, almost invariably the differences are along the lines of willingness to sacrifice and work long hours. – Cesar Chavez

In non-violence the cause has to be just and clear as well as the means. – Cesar Chavez

There’s no reason to be non-violent. There’s no challenge unless you are living for people. – Cesar Chavez

…people think non-violence is really weak and non-militant. These are misconceptions that people have because they don’t understand what non-violence means. Non-violence takes more guts, if I can put it bluntly, than violence. Most violent acts are accomplished by getting the opponent off guard, and it doesn’t take that much character, I think, if one wants to do it. – Cesar Chavez

Farm workers everywhere are angry and worried that we cannot win without violence. We have proved it before through persistence, hard work, faith and willingness to sacrifice. We can win and keep our own self-respect and build a great union that will secure the spirit of all people if we do it through a re-dedication and re-commitment to the struggle for justice through non-violence. – Cesar Chavez

Nonviolence means people in action. People have to understand that with non-violence goes a hell of a lot of organization. – Cesar Chavez

Non-violence has suffered its biggest defeat in the hands of people who most want to talk about it. – Cesar Chavez

Non-violence is very weak in the theoretical sense; it cannot defend itself. But it is most powerful in the action situation where people are using non-violence because they want desperately to bring about some change. Non-violence in action is a very potent force and it can’t be stopped. The people who are struggling have the complete say-so. No man-made law, no human ruler, no army can destroy this. There is no way it can be destroyed… And so, if we have the capacity to endure, if we have the patience, things will change. – Cesar Chavez

When workers fall back on violence, they are lost. Oh, they might win some of their demands and might end a strike a little earlier, but they give up their imagination, their creativity, their will to work hard and to suffer for what they believe is right. – Cesar Chavez

…many have the idea that organizing people is very difficult, but it isn’t. It becomes difficult only at the point where you begin to see other things that are easier. But if you are willing to give the time and make the sacrifice, it’s not that difficult to organize. – Cesar Chavez

I think one of the great, great problems…is confusing people to the point where they become immobile. In fact, the more things people can find out for themselves, the more vigor the organization is going to have. – Cesar Chavez

If they had $2.00 for food, they had to give $1.00 to the union. Otherwise, they would never get out of the trap of poverty. They would never have a union because they couldn’t afford to sacrifice a little bit more on top of their misery. – Cesar Chavez

If you win non-violently, then you have a double victory, you have not only won your fight, but you remain free. – Cesar Chavez

The consumer boycott is the only open door in the dark corridor of nothingness down which farm workers have had to walk for many years. It is a gate of hope through which they expect to find the sunlight of a better life for themselves and their families. – Cesar Chavez

What, then, is the effect of pesticides? Pesticides have created a legacy of pain, and misery, and death for farm workers and consumers alike. The crop which poses the greatest danger, and the focus of our struggle, is the table grape crop. These pesticides soak the fields. Drift with the wind, pollute the water, and are eaten by unwitting consumers. These poisons are designed to kill, and pose a very real threat to consumers and farm workers alike. – Cesar Chavez

I would not take one cup of coffee from a grower…There’s not a good one. I hate them. A few presents, a little talk, then the noose. That’s how capitalism works. – Cesar Chavez

We don’t know how God chooses martyrs. We do know that they give us the most precious gift they possess – their very lives. – Cesar Chavez

If you’re outraged at conditions, then you can’t possibly be free or happy until you devote all your time to changing them and do nothing but that. But you can’t change anything if you want to hold onto a good job, a good way of life and avoid sacrifice. – Cesar Chavez

The only ones who make things change are fanatics. If you’re not a fanatic around here, you can’t cut it. – Cesar Chavez

If we are full of hatred, we can’t really do our work. Hatred saps all that strength and energy we need to plan. – Cesar Chavez

Today, the growers are like a punch-drunk old boxer who doesn’t know he’s past his prime. The times are changing. The political and social environment has changed. The chickens are coming home to roost – and the time to account for past sins is approaching. – Cesar Chavez

The basis for peace is respecting all creatures. – Cesar Chavez

Just as Dr. King was a disciple of Gandhi and Christ, we must now be Dr. King’s disciples. Dr. King challenged us to work for a greater humanity. I only hope that we are worthy of his challenge. – Cesar Chavez

Look at the John Birch Society. Look at Hitler. The reactionaries are always better organizers. – Cesar Chavez

Concentration is inspiration. You must be completely overtaken by your work and your subject. Only then do all your influences and experience come up to the surface. – Cesar Chavez

We shall strike. We shall organize boycotts. We shall demonstrate and have political campaigns. We shall pursue the revolution we have proposed. We are sons and daughters of the farm workers’ revolution, a revolution of the poor seeking bread and justice. – Cesar Chavez

In the no-nonsense school of adversity, which we did not choose for ourselves, we are learning how to operate a labor union. – Cesar Chavez

People who have lost their hunger for justice are not ultimately powerful. They are like sick people who have lost their appetite for what is truly nourishing. Such sick people should not frighten or discourage us. They should be prayed for along with the sick people who are in the hospital. The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature. – Cesar Chavez

There is a great fear of our Union – a fear that I do not fully understand, but that I know is present…What is it that causes some men to act so hastily and so cruelly? It cannot be that we are so powerful. Is it so much to ask that the poorest people of the land have a measure of justice? – Cesar Chavez

We are certain God’s will is that all men share in the good things this earth produces. – Cesar Chavez

If you give yourself totally to the nonviolence struggle for peace and justice, you also find that people give you their hearts and you will never go hungry and never be alone. – Cesar Chavez

We are convinced that non-violence is more powerful than violence. We are convinced that non-violence supports you if you have a just and moral cause…If you use violence, you have to sell part of yourself for that violence. Then you are no longer a master of your own struggle. – Cesar Chavez

Violence just hurts those who are already hurt…Instead of exposing the brutality of the oppressor, it justifies it. – Cesar Chavez

Non-violence exacts a very high price from one who practices it. But once you are able to meet that demand then you can do most things. – Cesar Chavez

You know, if people are not pacifists, it’s not their fault. It’s because society puts them in that spot. You’ve got to change it. You don’t just change a man – you’ve got to change his environment as you do it. – Cesar Chavez

The first principle of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating. – Cesar Chavez

Nonviolence is really tough. You don’t practice nonviolence at conferences; you practice it on picket-lines. – Cesar Chavez

When a man or woman, young, or old, takes a place on the picket line for even a day or two, he will never be the same again. – Cesar Chavez

…there has to be someone who is willing to do it, who is willing to take whatever risks are required. I don’t think it can be done with money alone. The person has to be dedicated to the task. There has to be some other motivation. – Cesar Chavez

I have met many, many farm workers and friends who love justice and who are willing to sacrifice for what is right. They have a quality about them that reminds me of the beatitudes. They are living examples that Jesus’ promise is true: they have ben hungry and thirsty for righteousness and they have been satisfied. They are determined, patient people who believe in life and who give strength to others. They have given me more love and hope and strength than they will ever know. – Cesar Chavez

Years of misguided teaching have resulted in the destruction of the best in our society, in our cultures and in the environment. – Cesar Chavez

The strike and the boycott, they have cost us much. What they have not paid us in wages, better working conditions, and new contracts, they have paid us in self-respect and human dignity. – Cesar Chavez

When you have people together who believe in something very strongly – whether it’s religion or politics or unions – things happen. – Cesar Chavez

In this world it is possible to achieve great material wealth, to live an opulent life. But a life built upon those things alone leaves a shallow legacy. In the end, we will be judged by other standards. – Cesar Chavez

Because we have suffered, and we are not afraid to suffer in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything – even our lives – in our struggle for justice. – Cesar Chavez

Self-dedication is a spiritual experience. – Cesar Chavez

We know we cannot be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them — exploiting animals in the name of science, exploiting animals in the name of sport, exploiting animals in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food. – Cesar Chavez

The road to social justice for the farm worker is the road of unionization. Our cause, our strike against table grapes and our international boycott are all founded upon our deep conviction that the form of collective self-help, which is unionization, holds far more hope for the farm worker than any other single approach, whether public or private. This conviction is what brings spirit, high hope and optimism to everything we do. – Cesar Chavez

We know what unions have done for other people. We have seen it and we have studied, and we have cherished the idea of unionism. We have seen the history and development of unions in this country and we tell the growers that we want nothing more, but that we want our own union and we are going to fight for it as long as it takes. – Cesar Chavez

The poor, you know, have a way of solving problems…they have a tremendous capacity for suffering. And so when you build a vehicle to get something done, as we’ve done here in the strike and the boycott, then they continue to suffer – and maybe a little bit more – but the suffering becomes less important because they see a chance of progress; sometimes progress itself. They’ve been suffering all their lives. It’s a question of suffering with some kind of hope now. That’s better than suffering with no hope at all. – Cesar Chavez

The thing that we have going for us is that people are willing to sacrifice themselves. – Cesar Chavez

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