Aztecs commemorate Cesar Chavez

by Antonio Zaragoza

An emotionally charged 11thAnnual César E. Chávez Commemorative Luncheon was held on Friday at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. Students and faculty filled the entire banquet hall to commemorate the former civil rights leader. Chávez co-founded the United Farm Workers of America and altered the course of history for farmers across the U.S. by advocating for equal treatment, better working conditions and fair pay. His nonviolent methods resonated with activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and gained support from prominent politicians, for example Sen. Robert Kennedy who pledged support upon meeting Chávez and witnessed the deplorable working conditions of migrant workers.

The event, hosted by Assistant Dean for Student Affairs in the College of Education Patricia Lozada-Santone, not only pays tribute to Chávez’s legacy but also raises funds which help support the César Chávez Commemorative Scholarship fund. After going through a vigorous selection process, nursing student Maria De Los Angeles Estrada, social work student Jesus Montoya and political science student Dylan Morales received scholarships of $1,000 each. Lozada-Santone discussed the importance of the scholarships and how they affect the community.

“Based on the core values of César E. Chávez, I can truly see that we do have a great future ahead of us. Our students, our faculty and staff have great heart, great skills and great ability to make the world a much better place,” Lozada-Santone said.

San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman spoke to the audience and paid tribute to Chávez’s legacy.

“Thanks to the efforts of César Chávez and those who followed his footsteps, many who are here today, our nation is more just and our university is more diverse and supportive of all of our students,” Hirshman said.

“Today, 30 percent of our students are Latino … and currently we rank 11th in the nation for Latino students earning baccalaureate degrees.”

Rev. Darin Johnson of the Agape House Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry gave a powerful invocation, which left many audience members in tears.

Manager of Latino Affairs for the San Diego Padres Alex Montoya was the keynote speaker. Montoya, a triple amputee, received the 2010 Visionary Award by the César Chávez Commemorative Committee. In his speech, Montoya discussed the importance of having determination to overcome adversity and building community to improve the world.

“We need to stay connected to our ideals and our values, to our mission of making this campus and this world a better place,” Montoya said. “We are connected all day long on cell phones and Facebook, but are you connected to your mission? Are you connected to your purpose of improving this world?”

Soon-to-be retirees SDSU Vice President for Student Affairs James Kitchen and chief financial officer Sally Roush received César Chávez Lifetime Achievement Awards for their many years of service to the SDSU campus community.

The SDSU Mariachi Ensemble gave two short performances at the luncheon to a jubilant audience. To end the festivities, the band played “De Colores” as the entire audience sang along.

Following the event Hirshman reflected on the luncheon and its significance to SDSU.

“It was an inspiring event to hear the love that people have for the legacy of César Chávez and to see the campus’ commonality and dedication to moving his ideals forward is inspiring,” Hirshman said.