BY JIA-RUI CHONG
La lucha continua. The struggle continues.
This was the theme of April 23's ¡Viva César Chávez! Commemorative Celebration, and the rallying cry of the keynote address delivered by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.
"It's easy to admire César Chávez -- so high his principles, so humble, so strong, so determined, so focused, having helped so many people. The challenge is to follow him -- to stand for what he stood for, to embrace his values," Jackson said at the ninth annual celebration, spearheaded by El Centro Chicano.
Jesse Jackson spoke at the ´¡Viva César Chávez! Commemorative Celebration. In the background were, left to right, ASSU President Matthew Brewer, ASSU Vice President Christine Cordero and Provost John Etchemendy. Photo: L.A. Cicero
Jackson, who worked with Chávez on labor and environmental campaigns, took the stage at Kresge Auditorium with his fist in the air. He encouraged the audience to join his organization, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, in its mission "to defend, protect and gain civil rights."
In a speech that focused on the need for equal access to opportunity and democracy in a range of issues from the living wage campaign at Stanford to Secretary of State Colin Powell's Middle East peace mission, Jackson thundered, "The struggle is an 'is,' not a 'was.'"
Criticizing the Bush administration and mainstream politics, he repeatedly told Stanford students to be courageous in taking stands and "going counterculture."
"That's what makes César Chávez worth honoring. Beyond culture, beyond color, beyond language is character. That's the stuff that makes for justice at home and in the world. That's what makes peace more secure," he said.
Stanford students have a special obligation, Jackson added. "Don't reject the privilege of Stanford. Rather, use those privileges to serve. Higher opportunity gives higher obligation to serve."
Students' efforts to improve the standard of living for all people, he suggested, could begin with the working-class people on campus. He encouraged students to treat service employees as their own relatives and fight for their living wage.
He also suggested that the Stanford administration consider creating an "inside track" for the children of Stanford employees similar to the one for children of alumni. "How marvelous it would be for janitors, maids and cooks to watch their children graduate from Stanford. This is when truly the entire community benefits," Jackson said.
(Officials in Stanford's Office of Admission and Financial Aid say that while no candidates for admission have an inside track, the office values members of the Stanford family -- including the sons and daughters of alumni and the sons of daughters of faculty and staff at all levels.)
These actions would help advance what Jackson called the fourth and most difficult stage of the civil rights struggle: equal access to capital, industry and technology. Although three stages of the struggle -- ending slavery, ending legal apartheid and securing all people the right to vote -- mostly have been accomplished, Jackson said there still was much to do on this fourth front.
Jackson's trip to the Bay Area also included meeting with state officials, local church leaders and corporate executives about the "digital divide" as part of the Rainbow/PUSH Silicon Valley Project's annual Digital Connections conference.
"There's nothing new about the digital divide except the numerator," he said; there always has been some sort of divide, whether it was based on race, gender, class or education. Technology is not a solution, but a tool, Jackson said. It should be used to help the next generation live together and fulfill the American dream of inclusion.
Chávez's work for fair wages, medical coverage and better living conditions for farm workers was an inspiring example for how to deal with a changing economy, Jackson said. "In changing times, there must be changeless values."
Jackson's return to Stanford was warmly received. At a reception before the commemorative celebration, Veronica Juarez, a student speaking for El Centro Chicano, thanked Jackson for his past support in efforts to create a more multicultural curriculum at Stanford and uphold affirmative action. Introduced by Vice Provost for Campus Relations LaDoris Cordell as "a friend of the people, all the people," before his keynote address, Jackson received a standing ovation at the end of it.
Junior Robin Thurston said she was "thoroughly impressed" by Jackson's speech, as well as by the rest of the night's programming, which included a presentation of the student winners of the César Chávez Art and Essay Contest and a performance by La Paz, a socially conscious hip-hop act.
"What I think was most important was his emphasis on treating
all people the same," Thurston said. "I respect his strong values
-- which he's not reticent about expressing."
Stanford Report, May 1, 2002