Dolores Huerta, a civil rights advocate and labor leader who fought for farmworkers rights alongside César Chavez, was honored with one of the nation’s highest civilian honors — the Presidential Medal of Freedom– on Tuesday.
“I was humbled, thrilled, and surprised,” she said. “I never expected to be nominated.” For more than 50 years, activist Dolores Huerta has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of marginalized communities. She is internationally recognized as a feminist, a farm worker advocate, a gay rights activist, and a labor leader. Alongside activist César Chávez, Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, and then served as the first vice president of the United Farm Workers. As a fearless advocate for civil rights, Huerta has been arrested twenty-two times, and has been severely beaten by police while protesting.
Huerta is now 82 years old, a mother to 11 children, and grandmother to seven. Huerta considers some of her proudest accomplishments to be, “Spanish-language ballots for voters, public assistance for immigrants, toilets in the fields, drinking water protection from pesticides,” and an immigration act which gave legal status to over a million farmworkers. She continues to work tirelessly developing leaders and advocating for the working poor, women and children. As voluntary President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she travels across the country speaking to students and organizations about issues of social justice and public policy.
“The great social justice changes in our country have happened when people came together, organized, and took direct action. It is this right that sustains and nurtures our democracy today. The civil rights movement, the labor movement, the women’s movement, and the equality movement for our LGBT brothers and sisters are all manifestations of these rights. I thank President Obama for raising the importance of organizing to the highest level of merit and honor. It is a unique honor and privilege to be included in this group of distinguished individuals being honored here today and the communities they represent” she said in a statement.
Dolores Huerta spoke at the June 2011 Washington DC screening of Shine Global’s film The Harvest/La Cosecha delivering a heartfelt statement of support for the film and for the ongoing effort to improve the lives of farmworker children and farmworker rights in general, urging every person to take action on these pressing issues.
She has received numerous awards among them the Eleanor Roosevelt Humans Rights Award from President Clinton in 1998, Ms. Magazine’s one of the three most important women of 1997, Ladies Home Journal’s 100 most important woman of the 20th Century, Puffin Foundation award for Creative Citizenship Labor Leader Award 1984, Kern County’s Woman of The Year by California State legislature,the Ohtli award from the Mexican Government, Smithsonian Institution – James Smithson Award, and Nine Honorary Doctorates from Universities throughout the United States. Huerta received the Presidential Medal of Freedom alongside 12 others, including Bob Dylan and Madeleine Albright.