Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta:
One of the most memorable pieces
of advice was from my mother when she always said that when
you see people that need help, you have an obligation
to help them, and you shouldn’t wait
for people to ask. And so once I learned
organizing skills, then I felt that I had an
obligation to be able to help folks to teach them how to
come together and, you know, be able to fight for the
rights that they need. First of all, to be named in the
category of individuals that are being honored today, I
believe that only this, only this president,
Barack Obama, would recognize the importance
of organizing at the grassroots level. And this is what I have been
doing all of my adult life in, you know, going out to
marginal communities, helping people come
together so that they can organize themselves. And by civic participation,
by doing (indiscernible) registration,
getting out to vote, we’ve been able to pass very
significant legislation that would help people, like
unemployment insurance for farmworkers, the
right to organize, ballots in the Spanish
language in California, the (indiscernible)
program, where we legalized 1,400,000 farmworkers. And so much of this has been
done because people themselves, and I would say the change
comes from the bottom, but you’ve got to be able to
organize those folks at the bottom to be able to get out
there and make the changes that they need. And of course if you
don’t have organization, then you don’t have a democracy. Because it’s when people can
come together with the right of association, the
freedom to associate, that then they can
build organization. And that’s what sustains
our country and keeps it a democratic institution. I think a lot of times people
feel like they don’t have any value, that they don’t
really have any worth, that their involvement
doesn’t mean anything. But if we look at the history,
when we see all of the changes that have been made, they’ve
always been from the bottom up, whether it’s the Civil Rights
Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Labor Movement,
the LGBT Movement, the Environmental Movement. It’s people building from the
bottom that really makes the changes, the big changes
that we have in our society. People in our United States
have good hearts, and so, and we are the
majority but, again, if we don’t have organization,
we don’t have a voice, we don’t have representation,
and we have to make our influence felt. But we can’t do it unless we
get out there and actually work at it.

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