President Obama hosted a screening of Cesar Chavez: An American Hero at the White House today, telling the crowd in the South Court Auditorium that the late UFW founder “was a man who devoted this brief time that we have on Earth to making sure that this country lived up to some of its lofty ideals, the words of our founding, the idea that all of us are created equal.”
The crowd of about 125 included members of the Chavez family, United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez, Valerie Jarrett, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The film, set for March 28 release, is directed by Mexican telenovela star Diego Luna and features Michael Peña as the union leader. America Ferrera stars as Helen Chavez and Rosario Dawson is cast as Dolores Huerta.
“I told him I loved Y Tu Mamá, También. But we can’t screen that at the White House,” Obama quipped of a racy 2001 film starring Luna.
“This movie, this film tells the story of a man guided by an enormous faith — faith in a righteous cause and a loving God, and the dignity of every human being. And it reminds us how throughout our history that faith has been tested, and that it falls to ordinary Americans, ordinary people, to fight and restore that faith,” Obama said of the Chavez film. “Cesar himself said that he spent his first 20 years working as an organizer without a single major victory. But he never gave up. He kept on going, and the world is a better place because he did.”
Obama used this to segue into remarks about himself.
“Part of what sustains me and part of what I’ve said in the past — and some of you who have been in meetings with me when we’ve experienced setbacks or frustrations on particular issues — I’ve tried to remind people change is hard. It doesn’t happen easily. It doesn’t happen smoothly or painlessly. It happens because you put your shoulder behind the wheel and you keep on pushing. And then, sometimes it’s going to roll back a little bit on you. And then, you got to dig in and you’ve got to push some more,” he said.
“…So we’ve got a lot of causes that are worth fighting for. We’ve got to keep fighting to make sure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care. We were very persistent about getting that website fixed. It’s fixed now.”
Obama also promoted “a fair and living wage” and immigration reform. “This is going to happen. It’s not a matter of if, just a matter of when. And I want it to happen now, so we are going to keep on pushing.”
“None of us can claim to know exactly what Cesar would have said about this fight, or any other. But I do think he would want us to remember that the debates we have are less about policy than they are about people. They’re about the lives of men and women, the young and not so young, who want nothing more than the chance to work hard, support their families, provide a future for their kids and their grandkids, earn their place in our American story. That’s what this is all about. They’re about our highest hopes and aspirations for this country that we love — and the country that we leave for future generations.”
The president didn’t stay for the screening, adding that the “director… or producer or somebody is going to get me the CD.”
“Whatever. I’m a little technologically challenged. The DVD,” Obama replied when an audience member corrected him. “The point is I’m going to watch it this weekend. Michelle and the girls are on their way to China. It’s very lonely at home, so nothing better than to see an inspiring film. And I’m really looking forward to seeing a chronicled life of one of my heroes and one of the people who inspired me to get into the work that I’ve gotten into.”