Cesar Chavez's Commonwealth Club Address (1984)

Cesar Chavez's address to The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco on November 9, 1984 seeks support for the United Farm Workers. This speech starts with a description of a tragedy that highlights the mistreatment of migrants and ends with the belief that the descendants of Hispanic farm workers are the future of California and their accomplishments will enrich the entire nation.
E-text available .

Start learning with an activity...

  • Practice

    Answer a few questions on each word. Get one wrong? We'll ask some follow-up questions. Use it to prep for your next quiz!
  • Spelling Bee

    Test your spelling acumen. See the definition, listen to the word, then try to spell it correctly. Beat your last streak, or best your overall time. Spellers of the world, untie!
  • Vocabulary Jam

    Compete head-to-head in real-time to see which team can answer the most questions correctly. Start a Jam and invite your friends and classmates to join!

Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. excrement
    waste matter discharged from the body
    Today, thousands of farm workers live under savage conditions--beneath trees and amid garbage and human excrement--near tomato fields in San Diego County--tomato fields which use the most modern farm technology.
  2. implement
    a piece of equipment or a tool used for a specific purpose
    Farm workers are not agricultural implements--they are not beasts of burden to be used and discarded.
  3. flourish
    grow vigorously
    That dream was born in my youth. It was nurtured in my early days of organizing. It has flourished. It has been attacked.
  4. chattel
    personal as opposed to real property
    That dream, that vision grew from my own experience with racism--with hope--with the desire to be treated fairly and to see my people treated as human beings and not as chattel.
  5. exploit
    use or manipulate to one's advantage
    It grew from the frustration and humiliation I felt as a boy who couldn't understand how the growers could abuse and exploit farm workers when there were so many of us and so few of them.
  6. assert
    insist on having one's opinions and rights recognized
    We experienced some successes in voter registration in politics in battling racial discrimination--successes in an era when Black Americans were just beginning to assert their civil rights and when political awareness among Hispanics was almost non-existent.
  7. infamy
    a state of extreme dishonor
    The UFW was the beginning! We attacked that historical source of shame and infamy that our people in this country lived with.
  8. rhetoric
    high-flown style; excessive use of verbal ornamentation
    Farm workers acknowledged we had allowed ourselves to become victims in a democratic society--a society where majority rule and collective bargaining are supposed to be more than academic theories or political rhetoric.
  9. dignity
    the quality of being worthy of esteem or respect
    The union's survival--its very existence--sent out a signal to all Hispanics that we were fighting for our dignity.
  10. ironic
    displaying incongruity between what is expected and what is
    How ironic it is that the same forces which argue so passionately that the union is not influential are the same forces that continue to fight us so hard.
  11. diminish
    decrease in size, extent, or range
    Our union will forever exist as an empowering force among Chicanos in the Southwest. And that means our power and our influence will grow and
    not diminish.
  12. intimidation
    the act of scaring a weaker person to make them do something
    It means the right to be free from threats and intimidation by growers is an empty promise!
  13. negotiate
    discuss the terms of an arrangement
    It means the right to sit down and negotiate with your employer as across the bargaining table--and not as peons in the field--is a fraud!
  14. clout
    special advantage or influence
    The other trend that gives us hope is the monumental growth of Hispanic influence in this country--and what that means in increased population, increased social and economic clout, and increased political influence.
  15. ravage
    a destructive action
    The growers only have themselves to blame as they begin to reap the harvest from decades of environmental damage they have brought upon the land--the pesticides, the herbicides, the soil fumigants, the fertilizers, the salt deposits from thoughtless irrigation--the ravages from years of unrestrained poisoning of our soil and water.
  16. wanton
    indulgent in immoral or improper behavior
    Thousands of acres of land in California have already been irrevocably damaged by this wanton abuse of nature.
  17. subsidy
    a grant paid by a government to an enterprise
    Growers only have themselves to blame for increasing attacks on their publicly-financed hand-outs and government welfare: water subsidies; mechanization research; huge subsidies for not growing crops.
  18. subjugate
    make subservient; force to submit or subdue
    For generations, they have subjugated entire races of dark-skinned farm workers.
  19. covet
    wish, long, or crave for
    These are the sins of the growers--not the farm workers.
    We didn't poison the land.
    We didn't open the door to imported produce.
    We didn't covet billions of dollars in government handouts.
  20. pessimistic
    expecting the worst possible outcome
    I am told, these days, why farm workers should be discouraged and pessimistic: The Republicans control the Governor's Office and the White House.
  21. inevitability
    the quality of being unavoidable
    We have looked into the future and the future is ours! History and inevitability are on our side.
  22. humiliate
    cause to feel shame
    You cannot uneducate 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.
  23. thrive
    grow vigorously
    The consciousness and pride that were raised by our union are alive and thriving inside millions of young Hispanics who will never work on a farm!
  24. idealism
    impracticality in thinking of things in a perfect form
    The day will come when the politicians do the right thing by our people out of political necessity and not out of charity or idealism.
  25. creed
    any system of principles or beliefs
    And on that day, our nation shall fulfill its creed and that fulfillment shall enrich us all.
Created on March 13, 2014 (updated March 14, 2014)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, sheffieldwind.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.