Dolores Huerta Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

huerta.jpgWell deserved! Legendary labor rights, immigrant rights, and feminist Dolores Huerta is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom today. The highest civilian award in the United States.

(flickr: Inkyhack)

via OC Register



Dolores Huerta – a labor and civil rights activist, and co-founder of what later became the United Farm Workers of America – will be presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom today by President Obama.

The medal is the country’s highest civilian honor, presented to those who have made contributions to the security or national interests of the United States in world peace, culture and other areas. It was created in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy through an executive order.

Huerta will be recognized at 3:25 p.m. EST along with 12 others, including former secretary of state Madeleine Albright; Israeli president Shimon Peres; astronaut John Glenn; musician Bob Dylan; and (deceased) Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low.

(Click here to view a full list of honorees.)

(Click here to watch the ceremony live.)

“I am honored to receive this award,” Huerta said in a prepared statement. “It affirms the importance of organizing to maintain a democratic society, be it for workers, women, the LGBT community, or immigrants. Organized communities guarantee civic engagement, which creates the path for a just, fair, and peaceful society.”

Orange County resident Sylvia Mendez received the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in 2011. Mendez’s parents participated in the Mendez et al v. Westminster et al school desegregation case in the 1940s. In recent years, she has dedicated countless hours to educating the public on the case and its outcome.

Huerta has visited Orange County many times over the years to lend her support to community groups and causes.

Here is a look at some of her most recent visits:

  • In 2010, Huerta visited Anaheim when Disney hotel workers began a hunger strike to draw support in a two-year contract dispute with Disney. About 100 union members and backers marched in the rain, held a vigil and prayed as they supported 10 members of Unite Here Local 11, who planned to consume only water for a week. Huerta attended the rally and pledged to fast at home for as long as she could.
  • In 2009, she attended the Orange County premiere of “Viva La Causa” – a documentary about the United Farm Workers grape strike of the 1960s – at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana. The event benefited the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
  • In 2008, Huerta lent her support to St. Joseph Health System caregivers who were seeking to unionize. She attended a rally in Orange and met with the health system’s CEO to ask her to reconsider the employees’ request that SJHS adopt jointly negotiated free and fair election ground rules before the election.
  • In 2006, Huerta spoke at a rally at UC Irvine protesting the low wages and lack of benefits given to service workers on the UCI campus. In her speech, Huerta – who served on the UC Board of Regents from 2003-04 – spoke about how the board is made up of millionaires who do not care about service workers.
  • In 2003, she accompanied then-Gov. Gray Davis on a visit to Newport Beach, where he spoke with key Latino leaders about what Davis had done to help the Latino community while in office. At the time, Davis was facing a fall recall election. Huerta told a reporter that many Latinos were mistakenly blaming Davis for the state’s ills and backed Arnold Schwarzenegger instead

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