Written By: Fred Blanco

“Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.” -Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez was not known for being an electric speaker. His speeches were not seamless and eloquent like John F. Kennedy’s, nor were they poetic like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s oration. The effectiveness of Chavez’s speeches instead came from the simplicity and truth of his words.

Chavez often conveyed messages that were relatable; he used familiar language and he spoke to experiences that his audience could identify with. This skill can be traced back to memories of his mother, who played a very influential role in his life. Juana Chavez often used well-known parables and old Mexican sayings in conversation. These phrases would later become an intricate part of her son’s speaking style. When connecting with an audience that would not relate to scholarly or lofty speeches, Chavez was able to employ this down to earth approach, which resonated deeply.

This familiar style was balanced by Chavez’s thirst for knowledge. Though he received a limited formal education, he loved to read and remained tireless in his intellectual pursuits. Between his working-class experience and being so well-read, his words appealed to a variety of audiences. From scholars and politicians to farm workers and religious clergy, his messages could be read according to the needs of the audience. He spoke to everyman.

Through his powerful rhetoric and passionate speeches, Chavez transformed as well as inspired his audiences.