Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) was a Mexican-American labor activist who founded the United Farm Workers labor union to protect the rights of migrant workers. Chavez brought national attention to his cause by organizing nonviolent protests, including hunger strikes, in the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In 1968 he went on a widely publicized twenty-five day fast that ended with an outdoor Roman Catholic Mass. During this fast he wrote the speech included here, a plea for the Church to realize a calling to be God's presence in the world, a calling that in Chavez's view primarily involves serving the world's poor. But Chavez has a radical view of how that service should take place: he exhorts his listeners to engage the poor directly, to take the money spent on food baskets for the needy and use it instead "for effective action to eradicate the causes of poverty." The speech raises hard questions about the best use of charity and about the role of religion in bringing about social change.
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What is the relationship between money and power?What are the best ways to organize people and spur them to action?What does it mean to be an organizer or an activist? What defines this role?How should we respond to people and communities in need?In what ways does having money give us power?What is power? How does it work?Do acts of service lead to social change?What enables change? What gets in the way?