Cesar E. Chavez

Honorary Degrees


California State University, Bakersfield​

César E. Chávez, a labor leader and civil rights activist, led farmworkers movements throughout Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley. In March 1962, he launched a national movement to advocate for the rights of farmworkers and co-founded the National Farm Workers Association which later developed into the United Farm Workers Association of America. From 1965-70 Mr. Chávez led the Delano grape strike against grape growers in Delano, California, and marched 300 miles to Sacramento to give visibility of the movement and the cause.  

The legacy of Mr. Chávez is present in the community. The César E. Chávez National Monument/La Nuestra Señora Reiña de la Paz (Keene, California) which he established as the headquarters in the 1970s for the United Farmworkers was named a national monument by President Barack Obama in 2012. In 2008, The Forty Acres, where Mr. Chávez held his first public fast and where the UFW successfully bargained and signed contracts protecting the rights of farm workers, was recognized as a U.S. National Historical Landmark.  

President Clinton, who awarded Mr. Chávez with a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, stated the following: "The farmworkers who labored in the fields and yearned for respect and self-sufficiency pinned their hopes on this remarkable man, who, with faith and discipline, with soft-spoken humility and amazing inner strength, led a very courageous life. And in so doing, brought dignity to the lives of so many others, and provided for us inspiration for the rest of our nation's history."  

Mr. Chávez’s life’s work was devoted to helping improve the lives of some of America’s poorest, overlooked and most essential workers, and helping empower them to help themselves in the fight for higher wages and better working conditions. His rejection of materialism was reflected in how he lived his life and how he dressed. He is recognized by scholars as the embodiment of fighting with dignity, fearlessness, and perseverance, in the face of great adversity. His legacy continues to inspire Americans in a call to action against injustice, reminding ordinary Americans that one need not be rich and powerful to make a difference, but to reach for success through collective action and power in numbers. 

In recognition of his activism and his colossal impact on agricultural labor in California, the Board of Trustees of California State University and California State University, Bakersfield are proud to confer upon César E. Chávez the posthumous honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.