Classroom Activities

  1. Discuss how Chavez speech meets the expectations and fails to meet the expectations of the typical nomination speech, and then identify ways that the speech might be rewritten to meet those expectations.
  2. Study the nomination speech for Jimmy Carter by Representative Peter W. Rodino, Jr. of New Jersey and compare that speech to the one delivered by Chavez.
  3. Discuss whether or not it was appropriate for Chavez to violate the norms of nomination speeches by talking more about the issues of social justice that Chavez felt most passion about than about Jerry Brown’s nomination for the presidency.
  4. As a class attempt to write a generic acceptance speech that would work for any Democratic candidate.
  5. Listen to clips of Chavez’s speeches accessed in the on-line sources listed in the bibliography that accompanies this Voices of Democracy unit. Does Chavez’s delivery enhance or detract from the persuasiveness of his message?
  6. Discuss the role of religion of religion and spirituality in social movements. How do Chavez’s strong religious beliefs impact his role as a leader of the farm workers movement? Were his activist strategies unique because of such religious commitments in his fight for social justice issues?
  7. Do you think that Jerry Brown should have persisted in being nominated at the Democratic National Convention in 1976 even though he lacked the number of delegates to receive the nomination? Is such a practice productive for democracy?

Student Research

  1. Read speeches by Chicano activists like Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, Reies Lopez Tijerina, and Jose Angel Gutierrez.  Compare the language, tone, and argument used by Gonzales, Tijerina, and Gutierrez to Chavez’s speech.
  2. Study speeches by famous labor orators like Eugene Victor Debs, John L. Lewis, Walter P. Reuther, and Richard Trumka.  Compare the language, tone, and argument of those speeches to Chavez.
  3. Study materials on ceremonial speeches.  How does Chavez’s speech meet or violate the expectations of those speeches?
  4. Research the history of Mexican-American dissent in the 1960s.  Detail Chavez’s significance in that dissent. Discover why Chavez was successful while other leaders were not.
  5. Select several speeches by Chavez.  Identify the similarities and differences in those speeches.
  6. Research an earlier union like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).  Compare and contrast the rhetoric used by leaders of that union like William Dudley “Big Bill” Haywood to Chavez’s discourse.
  7. Study the 1964 and 1968 Democratic National Convention to see how the nomination speeches differed from Chavez’s.
  8. Research a convention speech that seemed to be a failure such as Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1988.  Compare that speech to a successful one.

Citizenship Resources

  1. Dissenters throughout the history of the United States have faced difficult obstacles in getting their message before the public.  As students of public address you might consider the role of public address in presenting unpopular messages to the public by examining a contemporary political dispute that involves an activist organization seeking political change.  How is the contemporary movement changing the political discussion or seeking to impact policy decisions? Is the movement successful or unsuccessful? What obstacles does the movement face?
  2. As students of public address you might consider your own willingness to undertake and espouse an unpopular cause.  You might consider whether you are willing to suffer the consequences of such an act. Have you participated in such protest activities? If not, what kind of issue might encourage you to act?
  3. Cesar Chavez gave up an important position in the Community Services Organization (CSO) to face an overwhelming task in organizing farm workers.  As a CSO leader he was already making significant contributions to poor people in registering voters, helping individuals achieve citizenship, and in challenging unjust laws.  You might consider how and why a person is willing to give up a relatively secure style of life to undertake a task that most individuals felt was impossible.  What kind of courage and commitment does it take to undertake such a difficult task like the creation of a union among the poor and downtrodden? Can you think of contemporary examples where individuals demonstrate such a strong commitment?
  4. Establishments have created a series of techniques and laws that limit the ability of citizens to express unpopular opinions.  Study how establishments have attempted to limit dissent and how successful dissenters like Cesar Chavez have overcome those tactics. What laws exist to regulate such dissent?  How can you use the establishment’s tactics to challenge entrenched ideas?
  5. In our contemporary world, there are more outlets for messages than at any time in history.  How can an individual use the internet, facebook, twitter, and other outlets to effectively express their message to the public.
  6. Contemporary media outlets such as television news have a powerful effect on messages that are presented to the public.  As a citizen, how can you use this large number of media outlets to get your message to the public?

Last updated March 23, 2016