The farm worker movement is proud to support a grassroots campaign urging President Obama to posthumously award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Fred Ross Sr., one of the greatest, although unheralded, community organizers of 20th Century America.
Fred Ross was the trailblazing organizer who inspired, trained and mentored Cesar Chavez. In Cesar's words, "Fred did such a good job of explaining how poor people could build power I could taste it."
Over a remarkable career spanning seven decades, Fred Ross also inspired, recruited, trained and mentored thousands of Latino, labor, civil rights and community leaders and activists, including Dolores Huerta, Jessica Govea and Gilbert Padilla.
During the late 1930s, he ran the federal farm labor camp south of Bakersfield immortalized by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath. He helped Japanese Americans return home from internment camps during World War II. Beginning in the late 1940s, Fred organized the Community Service Organization (CSO) that elected Edward Roybal as the first Latino Los Angeles city councilmember since the 19th Century and organized East L.A. Latinos to become civic and political activists. Fred and Cesar built CSO into the most militant and effective California and Arizona Latino civil rights group of the 1950s and early '60s.
Fred worked for years helping train UFW organizers and boycotters across the country. Fred Ross Sr. joined his son, Fred Ross Jr., in the 1980s to train a new generation of organizers to challenge U.S. support for the contra rebels in Nicaragua and to wage an international boycott of Salvadoran coffee.
Cesar once said, “Fred Ross gave me and so many others a chance, and that led to a lot of things.” President Obama said Cesar Chavez inspired him to go to Chicago to become a community organizer in 1985. But it was Fred Ross who inspired and trained Cesar to become a community organizer in 1952.
Now is the time for President Obama to recognize the enduring contributions to our country of Fred Ross. Please sign the petition appealing to President Obama to award Fred Ross the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
* We would sincerely appreciate it if you would add your personal comment as well as signing the petition.