Dolores Huerta
1,929,699 views • 13:27

I want to start out with quoting Helen Keller, that great woman that we all admire. And she had a statement that is very profound, and this statement is that science has been able to find cures for many evils, but never the greatest evil of all in human beings, and that evil is apathy.

So, we know that apathy really costs us a lot, especially in our democracy. And when we think of why people do not get involved, why they do not become activists, it's often that people are so worn down with their own familial responsibilities, and women especially.

You know, women, they have so many inhibitions. Many of them have suffered so much trauma in their lives, so many aggressions in their lives. And so it's very hard for them to realize that they have leadership capacities. That they can get out there, and they could change the world. Another thing that many women — we think that we have to do everything. That we are the only ones responsible for our families, and it is so hard for us to delegate and just get others to help us do the duties that we are responsible for. We feel embarrassed or we feel guilty. But we know that we have to make this happen, because if not, we will never have time to be able to volunteer to help on these many causes that are now facing us. One of the areas that women can give up a little bit of time and that is in shopping, OK?

(Laughter)

And especially when we go out there shopping for things that we don't even need.

(Laughter)

You know, you never saw a hearse with a U-Haul behind it.

(Laughter)

We have to live simply, so that others can simply live. And when we think of the kind of inheritance that we want to leave to our children or our grandchildren, think of leaving them a legacy of justice. This is a legacy that they can not only imitate, but they can be proud of for the rest of their lives. If we leave them a lot of material goods, all they're going to do is fight, and they're going to hate each other. Just remember that, when we think about what we're doing.

The other thing that we have to do to liberate our women, eventually, so that we can do the kind of volunteer work that we need to do to change this world, is we have to have a different kind of an education for our young women. Unfortunately, in our societies around the world, women are taught to be victims. Women are not taught that they are going to have to defend themselves, that they're going to have to support themselves and they have to protect themselves. Because, you know, when we actually look at the animal kingdom, and we see who are the most ferocious, the male or the female? We know it's the female, right? So something went wrong with us at the top of that animal kingdom as women.

(Laughter)

So I want to give you an example of how I found my voice. And I was very fortunate in that, when I was 25 years old, I met a gentleman named Fred Ross Sr., who organized a chapter of a group called the Community Service Organization in my hometown of Stockton, California. This was a grassroots organization, and I was recruited to be a volunteer. So, one day, while we were sitting in the office, a farm worker comes in. And he's paralyzed, he can hardly walk, he has a crutch. And he needs help. He needs someone to help him go down to the welfare office and make an application. So, I volunteered to do that. But when I got to the welfare office, they would not let me make an application for this gentleman. So I didn't know what to do, I was at a loss. So I went back to the office, and I told Mr. Ross, "They won't let me make an application." And he said to me, very sternly, "You go right back down to that welfare office, and you demand to see a supervisor. And you demand that they let him make an application." And I thought, "Wow, I can do that?"

(Laughter)

So I thought about it, and I kind of overcame my anxieties and my fears. I went down to the welfare office and I demanded to see the supervisor. Sure enough, he came out, and they had to let Mr. Ruiz make an application for welfare. And he got his disability for himself and his family. But that taught me a lesson. That taught me that I had a voice.

Well, Mr. Ross also taught many of us many other things, including Cesar Chavez and many other volunteers. And he taught us not only that we can make demands of people, especially our public officials. And this is something we should always keep in mind: every public official — guess what — they work for us. Because we pay their salaries with out taxes. And they are actually our servants. Some of them turn out to be leaders, but not all of them.

(Laughter)

Once in a while we get a leader out of there.

The other thing that Mr. Ross taught us is that voting is extremely important. And not just voting, but going out there and getting other people to vote. Going door to door. Phone banking, talking to voters, because many voters have a lot of doubts and they don't know how to vote. And unfortunately, we know that in many countries people are not allowed to vote because we have voter suppression in other countries, like we do here in the United States of America. But the thing is, if we can get out there as individuals and talk to people, so we can remove their apathy and make sure that they can vote.

So, I want to give you an example of a woman in our foundation, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and just to show you that sometimes people have power, but they don't know it. But once they find it, they do miraculous things. So, Leticia Prado is an immigrant from Mexico, only has a sixth-grade education and speaks very limited English. But she was very concerned because the children at the middle school in their town called Weedpatch — this is in California, Central Valley — they couldn't go out and play in the schoolyard, because the air quality is so bad in the southern part of Kern County, California in our United States of America. So she and her husband went out there, and they passed a bond issue to build a brand new, state-of-the-art gymnasium for the kids at their middle school. That was a big success.

Then she heard a rumor that the principal was going to end the breakfast program for the farm worker children, because the principal thought it was just too much paperwork. So, Leticia got herself elected to the school board. And they kept the breakfast program, and she got rid of the principal.

(Laughter)

(Applause)

So there were other rumors about some corruption in the local water district. So, Leticia got herself elected to the water district. Then she looked into all of the finances of the water district and found there was 250,000 dollars missing from their bank account. So, Leticia called in the grand jury, and several arrests have been made. And this is just an example of a woman who never went to high school, never went to college, but she found her power. And in addition, she has recruited other people in the community to also run for public office, and guess what — they've all gotten themselves elected.

So, I take that Leticia really embodies something that Coretta Scott King said. And I want to share this with you. Coretta Scott King said, "We will never have peace in the world until women take power."

(Applause)

Now, I have amended that statement to say that we will never have peace in the world until feminists take power.

(Laughter)

Because we know there is a difference, right? Not only that, but if we want to define what is a feminist — a person who stands up for reproductive rights, for immigrants' rights, for the environment, for LGBT rights and also for labor unions and working people.

(Applause)

Which also means that men can also be feminists.

(Applause)

So when we think of feminization, we should also think of how can we feminize the policies, and not only of our major countries, the wealthy countries like the United States, but all over the world, our domestic and foreign policy.

And one of the things that we can do to stop wars and to have peace is to make sure that the wealthiest countries in the world also help the developing countries. Now, we did this in the past. After World War II, when Japan and Germany were devastated after the war, United States of America gave many tax dollars to those two countries, so that they can rebuild their economies and rebuild their corporations. And we can do that again. And if we can think about how we can help these other countries. And I want to give an example of issues that we are facing in the United States of America, for instance.

We know that right now we have a lot of refugees from Central America that are at the border of the United States. Why do people leave their homes, their beautiful homes that we go to as tourists? Because they don't have opportunities there. And then we think, "Hm, bananas." How many jillions of bananas do we consume in the United States every single day? And throughout the world. Now, do the people in Central America get the profits from the bananas that we consume? No, they don't. The profits go to corporations from the United States of America. And we think that this is wrong. Now, if the people in Central America were to be able to get some of that money that we pay for bananas, then they wouldn't have to leave their homes. They wouldn't have to come as asylum seekers to the borders of the United States of America. And then maybe, many children would not have to be separated from their parents.

Now, we know that there are countries in the world that actually have free education and have free health care for all of the people in their country. And that country is Cuba. Cuba has health care for every one of their citizens, and they have a free college education for every one of their citizens. They're 11 million citizens. Now, we think, if a poor country like Cuba can have these kind of resources, and we know that they're a poor country, then why can't some of the other wealthier countries, like the United States of America, do the same? I think that we can make that happen.

(Applause)

But we know it's not going to happen until we, the people of the United States of America, and people throughout the world, start making sure that they get public officials elected to their governments that really care about the constituents, they care about people, they will commit to make sure that the resources that they have are going to be used for their citizens, and not to be used for war.

So, how do we make this happen? We have to get rid of the apathy, we have to get more people involved. We know that if we can't have a democracy in the United States, we can't have democracies throughout the world, unless people participate. So it is imperative that all of us get out there and we say, "Get rid of the apathy, get off of the sidewalk, come and join the march for peace and justice, let's make Coretta Scott's vision a reality, to have peace in the world."

We recently had midterm elections in the United States of America. And what did we see? We saw that so many more women, young people, people of color, LGBT folks, were all elected to public office. And we know this happened — why? Because so many women were on the march. We had the Women's March in the United States. They had the Women's Marches all over the world. And so we now see that we have this potential. We have this potential to get rid of the apathy. And if we get everyone involved, get everyone committed, then, I think, we can make Coretta Scott's vision come true.

So, I want to just remind everybody, throughout the world, one of the things is, we have power, poor people have power, every citizen has power. But in order to achieve the peace that we all yearn for, then we've all got to get involved.

So, what do we say? Can we do it? We say, "Yes, we can!" And in Spanish, we say, "Sí, se puede."

Thank you very much.

(Applause)